Beverly Cleary, the celebrated child author whose memories of her childhood in Oregon were shared with millions through the likes of Ramona and Beezus Quimby and Henry Huggins, has passed away. He was 104 years old.
Cleary’s editor, HarperCollins, announced Friday that the author died Thursday in Northern California, where she had lived since the 1960s. No cause of death was given.
Trained as a librarian, Cleary did not begin writing books until she was 30 when she wrote Henry Huggins, published in 1950. Children around the world came to love the adventures of Huggins and their neighbors Ellen Tebbits, Otis Spofford, Beatrice “Beezus” Quimby and her younger sister, Ramona. They live in a homey, healthy environment on Klickitat Street, a real street in Portland, Oregon, the city where Cleary spent much of her youth.
Among the “Henry” titles were Henry and Ribsy, Henry and the Paper Route, and Henry and Beezus.
Ramona, perhaps her best-known character, debuted in Henry Huggins with only a brief mention.
“All the kids seemed to be just kids, so I included a little sister and she didn’t go away. It kept showing up in all the books, ”she said in a March 2016 phone interview from her home in California.
Cleary herself was an only child and said that the character was not a mirror.
“She was a well-behaved girl, not that she wanted to be,” she said. “At Ramona’s age, in those days, children played outside. We played hopscotch and rope skipping and I loved them and it had always scratched my knees. “
In all, there were eight Ramona books between Beezus and Ramona in 1955 and Ramona’s World in 1999.
Cleary wasn’t writing recently because she said she felt “it’s important for writers to know when to quit.”
“I even got rid of my typewriter. It was nice, but I hate writing. When I started writing, I discovered that I was thinking more about writing than what I was going to say, so I wrote it by hand, ”he said in March 2016.
Though she put her pen away, Cleary relaunched three of her most treasured books with three famous admirers, actress Amy Poehler and authors Kate DiCamillo and Judy Blume, writing foreword for new editions.
Cleary, who describes herself as “fuddy-duddy,” said there was a simple reason why she started writing children’s books.
“As a librarian, children were always asking for books about ‘kids like us.’ Well, there were no books about children like them. So when I sat down to write, I found myself writing about the kind of kids I had grown up with, ”Cleary said in an interview with the Associated Press in 1993.
It was named a Living Legend in 2000 by the Library of Congress. In 2003, she was chosen as one of the winners of the National Medal of Arts and met George W Bush. Her books have won awards and she is praised in literary circles around the world.
He produced two volumes of autobiography for young readers, A Girl from Yamhill, about his childhood, and My Own Two Feet, which tells the story of his college and youth years up to the time of his first book.
“It seems that I have grown up with an unusual memory. People are in awe of the things I remember. I think it comes from living in isolation on a farm for the first six years of my life where my main activity was observation, “said Cleary.
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, which she attributed to the disease, and a petty first-grade teacher who disciplined her with a steel-tipped pointer on the back of her hands.
“I had chicken pox, smallpox and tonsillitis in the first grade and nobody seemed to think that it had anything to do with my reading problems,” Cleary told the AP. “I just got mad and rebelled.”
In sixth or seventh grade, “I decided I was going to write children’s stories,” she said.
Cleary graduated from college in Ontario, California, and the University of California, Berkeley, where she met her husband, Clarence. They were 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 library science at the University of Washington and worked as a children’s librarian in Yakima, Washington, and a post-librarian at the Oakland Army Hospital during World War II.
His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages and have inspired Japanese, Danish and Swedish television shows based on the Henry Huggins series. A 10-part PBS series, Ramona, starring Sarah Polley. The 2010 film Ramona and Beezus featured Joey King and Selena Gomez.
Cleary was once asked what her favorite character was.
“Does your mother have a favorite son?” She answered.