Beloved children’s book author Beverly Cleary has died at age 104. “We are saddened to share that cherished children’s book author Beverly Cleary passed away yesterday, March 25, at 104 years old,” Cleary’s publisher, HarperCollins, wrote in a tweet on Friday, March 26.
Cleary was one of the most influential and prolific children’s authors of the 20th century, best known for penning the Ramona Quimby series, which included Newbery Honor titles Ramona and Her Father and Ramona Quimby, Age 8. Cleary also won a Newbery Medal in 1984 for her standalone book Dear Mr. Henshaw.
Other popular books written by Cleary include the Henry Huggins series and the Mouse and the Motorcycle series, according to her official website. Cleary’s biography recounts that by the third grade, her school librarian suggested she become a writer. “The idea appealed to her, and she decided that someday she would write the books she longed to read but was unable to find on the library shelves: funny stories about her neighborhood and the sort of children she knew,” her biography reads. “And so Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, Ellen Tebbits, and her other beloved characters were born.”
Beverly Cleary said she had an 'exceptionally happy career'
In 2011, Cleary, then 95, spoke with The Los Angeles Times about her career. She shared that her favorite character she’d written was Ramona Quimby and that whenever she didn’t enjoy what she was writing, she threw it out. “If I don’t enjoy what I’m writing, I put it in the wastebasket,” Cleary told the outlet. “Because if I don’t enjoy writing it, why would anybody enjoy reading it?” Perhaps this was the secret to what she described as “an exceptionally happy career.”
Cleary also explained that she wanted to write about ordinary American children who young readers could relate to (via The Los Angeles Times). “The books I grew up with and found in the library … so many children lived in England and had nannies and pony carts, and I just wanted grubby neighborhood kids,” she recalled.
Cleary was widely considered one of the most influential children’s authors and her 100th birthday on April 12, 2016, led to an annual nationwide celebration called “Drop Everything and Read” (D.E.A.R), per Reading Rockets. “On this day, families are encouraged to take at least 30 minutes to put aside all distractions and enjoy books together,” according to the Reading Rockets website.
Cleary’s husband, Clarence Cleary, died in 2004. She is survived by her two children, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild (via The Washington Post).
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