NEW YORK (Nation Now) – Beloved children’s author Beverly Cleary, whose characters Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins captivated generations of young people, has passed away. She was 104 years old.
She died in her home in Carmel, California according to its publisher HarperCollins.
The acclaimed author has sold over 91 million copies of her books and received several awards, including being named “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress in 2000. She also received a National Medal from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2003.
“We are saddened by the passing of Beverly Cleary, one of the most beloved children’s authors of all time. Looking back, she would often say, “I’ve had a lucky life” and generations of children consider themselves lucky too – lucky to have created the very real characters Beverly Cleary did, including Henry Huggins, Ramona and Beezus. Quimby and Ralph. S. Mouse, like true friends who helped shape their growing years. At HarperCollins, we also feel extremely fortunate to have worked with Beverly Cleary and enjoyed her sparkling spirit. Her timeless books are an affirmation of her eternal connection to the pleasures, challenges and triumphs that are a part of every childhood.
Suzanne Murphy, President and Editor, HarperCollins Children’s Books
Children around the world have come to love the adventures of Huggins and her neighbors Ellen Tebbits, Otis Spofford, Beatrice “Beezus” Quimby and her younger sister, Ramona. They live in a healthy and comfortable environment on Klickitat Street – a true Portland, Oregon street, the city where Cleary spent much of his youth.
A trained librarian, Cleary didn’t start writing books until her early thirties. Her first novel was “Henry Huggins” from the 1950s, based on the children she grew up with in Portland, Oregon. Cleary has written over 30 books, which have sold millions of copies.
Among the titles “Henry” were “Henry and Ribsy”, “Henry and the Paper Road” and “Henry and Beezus”.
Ramona, perhaps her best-known character, made her debut in “Henry Huggins” with only a brief mention.
“All the kids seemed to be just kids so I added a little sister and she didn’t leave. She continued to appear in every book, ”she said in a March 2016 telephone interview from her California home.
Cleary herself was an only child and said the character is not a mirror.
“I was a well-behaved little girl, not what I wanted to be,” she said. “In Ramona’s age, at that time, the children were playing outside. We played hopscotch and skipping rope and I loved them and I always had my knees scratched.
In all, there were eight books on Ramona between “Beezus and Ramona” in 1955 and “The World of Ramona” in 1999. Others included “Ramona the Plague” and “Ramona and his Father”. In 1981, “Ramona and her mother” won the National Book Award.
Cleary was born Beverly Bunn on April 12, 1916 in McMinnville, Oregon, and lived on a farm in Yamhill until her family moved to Portland when she was of school age. She was a slow reader, whom she attributed to illness, and a petty first-year teacher who disciplined her by slamming a steel-tipped pointer on the back of her hands.
His mother set up a library for the small town in a lodge bedroom upstairs above a bank, reported NewsNation affiliate KOIN-TV.
“I had chickenpox, smallpox and tonsillitis in first grade and no one seemed to think it had anything to do with my reading problems,” Cleary told the AP. “I just went mad and rebellious.”
In sixth or seventh grade, “I decided I was going to write children’s stories,” she said.
Cleary is a graduate of junior college in Ontario, California, and the University of California at Berkeley, where she met her husband, Clarence. They married in 1940; Clarence Cleary died in 2004. They were the parents of twins, a boy and a girl born in 1955 who inspired his book “Mitch and Amy”.
Cleary studied librarianship at the University of Washington and worked as a children’s librarian in Yakima, Washington, and post-librarian at Oakland Military Hospital during World War II.
Cleary, a self-proclaimed “fuddy-duddy,” said there was a simple reason she started writing children’s books.
“As a librarian, children always asked for books on ‘children like us’. Well, there weren’t any books about kids like them. So when I sat down to write, I found myself writing about the kind of kids I grew up with, ”Cleary said in an Associated Press interview in 1993.
“Dear Mr. Henshaw,” the touching story of a lonely boy who corresponds with an author of children’s books, won the 1984 John Newbery Medal for Most Distinguished Contribution to American Children’s Literature. It “happened because two different boys from different parts of the country asked me to write a book about a boy whose parents were divorced,” she told National Public Radio as she approached. his 90th birthday.
“Ramona and Her Father” in 1978 and “Ramona Quimby, Age 8” in 1982 were named Newbery Honor Books.
Cleary ventured into fantasy with “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” and the “Runaway Ralph” and “Ralph S. Mouse” sequels. “Socks,” about a cat’s struggle to be accepted when its owners have a baby, is told from the point of view of the animal itself.
She has produced two autobiographical volumes for young readers, “A Girl from Yamhill”, on her childhood, and “My Own Two Feet”, which tells the story of her college and young adulthood years until moment of his first book.
“I feel like I grew up with an unusual memory. People are amazed at the things I remember. I think it came from living in isolation on a farm for the first six years of my life where my main activity was observation, ”Cleary said.
His books have been translated into over a dozen languages and have inspired Japanese, Danish and Swedish TV shows based on the Henry Huggins series. A 10-part PBS series “Ramona” starred Canadian actress Sarah Polley. The 2010 film “Ramona and Beezus” starred actresses Joey King and Selena Gomez.
When the children asked Mrs. Cleary where she got her ideas from, she replied:
Donations can be made on Beverly Cleary’s behalf to the Library Foundation of Portland, Oregon, or to the Information School at the University of Washington, according to HarperCollins.
The Associated Press and KOIN-TV contributed to this report.
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