Celebrated author Beverly Cleary passed away on March 25 at age 104. The author of more than 40 books for children, Cleary was declared a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress in 2000.
Born on April 12, 1916, in rural Oregon, her family moved to Portland when Cleary was in grade school. She was placed in the school’s “low reading circle,” an experience which fostered a lifelong affinity for children who had trouble reading.
Cleary grew to love reading, and after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, became a Children’s Librarian. However, she didn’t begin writing until she was in her early thirties. Cleary said she was motivated to become an author by a boy at her library who asked why nobody writes books about kids like him.
Beginning with her first book, Henry Huggins, Cleary wrote books about “kids like him.” Characters like Ramona Quimby, Ellen Tebbits, and Henry Huggins—not to mention Ralph S. Mouse, Socks the cat, and Henry’s dog, Ribsy—helped generations of children navigate their own often incomprehensible worlds.
Before becoming an author herself, Judy Blume delighted in reading Beverly Cleary books with her children because they were so much fun. However, Cleary didn’t wrap her characters in a cocoon of sugar-coated protective wrapping. The family of her most endearing character, Ramona Quimby, weathers years of financial difficulties. Leigh Botts, the protagonist of Dear Mr. Henshaw, struggles with his parents’ divorce and bullying at school.
Cleary won numerous awards, including the National Book Award for Ramona and Her Mother. Dear Mr. Henshaw won the Newbery Medal, while Ramona and Her Father and Ramona Quimby, Age 8 were both Newbery Honor Books.
In addition to children’s novels, Cleary wrote two autobiographies, including A Girl from Yamhill, which offers a touching portrait of life in the Pacific Northwest during the Roaring Twenties and Great Depression.
Sample some of these favorites and discover why Beverly Cleary was a “Living Legend.”
A GIRL FROM YAMHILL: A MEMOIR
The popular children’s author has written an account of her own early years. Beverly was transplanted to city life in Portland, Oregon, when the family farm failed. There, her father, who loved the outdoors, spent years as a bank guard while her demanding and difficult mother devoted herself to Beverly.
DB 29704; BR 09166
DEAR MR. HENSHAW
Leigh, a sixth grade boy, writes letters to Mr. Henshaw, who has been his favorite author since second grade. Leigh begins writing the letters because of a school assignment, then he discovers that he likes writing, especially when Mr. Henshaw writes back. And Mr. Henshaw’s surprising answers to Leigh’s questions change the boy’s life. For grades 4-7. Newbery Medal Winner. 1983.
DB 21309; BR 15447
A tonsillectomy and a broken arm are the most exciting things in Henry Huggins’ life until a hungry old mutt begs for Henry’s ice cream cone and a home.
DB 35642; DB 58985 (Spanish); BT 02469; LB 04239
MOUSE AND THE MOTORCYCLE
A young mouse named Ralph makes friends with a boy and discovers the joys of motorcycling.
DB 24692; BT 03505; LB 04206
RAMONA AND HER MOTHER
Ramona feels that seven and a half is an awkward age–too young to be home alone but too big to play with pesky little Willa Jean at the sitter’s house. And yet Ramona would like to still be her mother’s “little rabbit.” For grades 2-4. 1979.
DB 24836; BR 09251
RAMONA COLLECTION. VOL 1
Four previously published books, written between 1955 and 1977, featuring the adventures of young Ramona Quimby. In Beezus and Ramona, Ramona provokes her family when she invites fifteen children to a party unannounced. Includes Ramona the Pest, Ramona the Brave, and Ramona and Her Father. For grades 2-4. 2013.