Cleary died Thursday at her home in Carmel, Calif., Where she had lived since the 1960s, according to a statement from HarperCollins. No cause of death was given.
The author said she had aspirations to write in sixth grade, but first became a librarian. At a library in Yakima, Wash., A young boy kicked off his writing career when he asked Cleary where he could find books on “kids like us.”
Cleary decided she wanted to write about “dirty kids,” she told the Los Angeles Times, rather than the English schoolchildren and girls who seemed to dominate the intrigues of children’s literature at the time.
This led to “Henry Huggins,” his 1950 book about a boy who grew up on Klickitat Street in Portland, Oregon, not far from the street where Cleary herself had lived. There would be six books on Henry and his dog, Ribsy, but it would be eclipsed by Ramona Quimby, who started out as a secondary character in Henry’s books and was eventually celebrated in his own eight-book series.
Ramona was precocious, excitable and brimming with imagination in “Ramona the Pest”, “Beezus and Ramona”, “Ramona the Brave” and other books.
Cleary’s works did not offer heroic tales, life lessons, or great adventures. Instead, they focused on the day-to-day lives of children, telling the story with enough humor to keep young readers engaged and fully understanding how children see the world. She knew what made her readers happy, scared, angry and confused.
“Millions of girls have seen each other in Ramona Quimby. Thank you on behalf of all the ‘bad guys’,” US First Lady Jill Biden wrote on Twitter on Friday.
Cleary told the New York Times that she was fortunate to have strong memories of her own childhood to draw on and that she also used the experiences of her twins – a boy and girl born in 1955. – to feed onself.
“Beverly beautifully captures the essence of childhood,” bestselling writer Judy Blume told The Times. “We might not all have childhoods like this, but there is always something so universal about it. I think kids will always love these books.”
Cleary’s other works included “Ellen Tebbits”, “Otis Spofford”, “Lucky Chuck”, “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” and two memoirs – “My Own Two Feet” and “A Girl From Yamhill”. His books have sold more than 85 million copies worldwide, HarperCollins said.
“Her timeless books are an affirmation of her eternal connection to the pleasures, challenges and triumphs that are a part of every childhood,” said Suzanne Murphy, President and Publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books.
In 1995, the City of Portland created the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden for Children, with statues of Ramona, Henry and Ribsy. A school in the town also bears the name Cleary.
Cleary spent her early years on a farm in Yamhill, Oregon, before her family moved to Portland when she was 6. She wasn’t a big reader until she hit third grade, she said.
The Library of Congress declared Cleary a “living legend” and in 1984 she won the Newbery Medal, awarded annually for the most distinguished contribution to American children’s literature, for “Dear Mr. Henshaw”, a novel about a boy who fights with his parents. divorce because he corresponds with his favorite author.
Cleary, who wrote her last book in 1999, met her future husband, Clarence Cleary, while she was a student at the University of California. He died in 2004.