The beloved children’s author was 104
It was just yesterday when we mourned the death of Arrested Development star Jessica Walter. Now, we’re saying goodbye to beloved children’s author, Beverly Cleary. According to NPR, Cleary died Thursday in Carmel, California, where she’s lived since the 1960s. She was 104.
— HarperCollins (@HarperCollins) March 26, 2021
“We are saddened by the passing of Beverly Cleary, one of the most beloved children’s authors of all time,” says Suzanne Murphy, President and Publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books, in a prepared statement. “Looking back, she’d often say, ‘I’ve had a lucky life,’ and generations of children count themselves lucky, too — lucky to have the very real characters Beverly Cleary created, including Henry Huggins, Ramona and Beezus Quimby, and Ralph S. Mouse, as true friends who helped shape their growing-up years.”
Holding Beverly Cleary’s family and loved ones in my heart. Ramona brought me so much joy as a child and inspired me to ask my Grandma Ginger to quit smoking for my 8th birthday (she did!). Have loved sharing her books with my children.
May her memory be a blessing. https://t.co/SMWPubdPzg
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) March 26, 2021
Cleary has published more than 40 books.
The creator of unforgettable characters, like Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, and Ralph S. Mouse, Cleary started as a librarian in Yakima, Washington and would later become one of the most popular, most beloved children’s authors of all time, selling a staggering 85 million copies. The book that would kick it all off? Henry Huggins, which was published in 1950.
“When it comes to writing books kids love, nobody does it better,” says author and reviewer Ilene Cooper in ALA Booklist.
Cleary was born on April 12, 1916 in McMinnville, Oregon.
Reading was an important part of Cleary’s life. Her mother set up a library for the small town in a room located above a bank, and it was here that a young Cleary started her love affair with books. After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley, where a dormitory is named in her honor, Cleary specialized in librarianship at the University of Washington, Seattle.
Beverly Cleary was a bonafide genius. The grace, authenticity, humor, and heart of her prose lives on. The world is a better place because she moved through it. https://t.co/SqSp6g3O3N
— Shannon "buy stuff from ur local bookshop" Hale (@haleshannon) March 26, 2021
Fast-forward to 1978 and Cleary would receive her first of many awards for her writing: a Newbery Honor for Ramona and Her Father.
In 1982, she received another award for Ramona Quimby, Age 8; and two years later, in 1984, Cleary received the 1984 John Newbery Medal for Dear Mr. Henshaw.
Cleary has also been honored with the American Library Association’s 1975 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, the Catholic Library Association’s 1980 Regina Medal, and the University of Southern Mississippi’s 1982 Silver Medallion. Cleary was also the 1984 United States author nominee for the prestigious international Hans Christian Andersen Award. And in 2000, she was named a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress. She then received the 2003 National Medal of Art from the National Endowment for the Arts; and in 2010, she received the Los Angeles Times Robert Kirsch Award, which was particularly special as this marked the first time the honor was given to a children’s books author.
Beverly Clearly understood children’s inner lives, with all the high stakes, heightened emotions, curiosity, and carelessness, better than probably anybody else.
— Mara “Get Rid of the Nazis” Wilson (@MaraWilson) March 26, 2021
“We at HarperCollins also feel extremely lucky to have worked with Beverly Cleary and to have enjoyed her sparkling wit,” Murphy says. “Her timeless books are an affirmation of her everlasting connection to the pleasures, challenges, and triumphs that are part of every childhood.”
Cleary is survived by her two children, Malcolm and Marianne, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. Her late husband, Clarence Cleary, passed away in 2004.