Cleary published her first book, “Henry Huggins,” in 1950, and more than 40 other books in the years since, according to Harper Collins. Van Cleary’s books have sold more than 85 million copies and have been translated into 29 different languages.
Her protagonists were vermin, goody-goodies, bullies, and daydreamers, sometimes all at once. She reminisced about her childhood and the struggles of children she knew to capture children’s views of the adult world, where fathers sometimes lost their jobs and mothers who were sometimes alone.
“Looking back, she often said, ‘I’ve had a happy life,’ and generations of children consider themselves lucky too – fortunate with the very real characters Beverly Cleary has created, including Henry Huggins, Ramona and Beezus Quimby, and Ralph S. Mouse, as true friends who helped shape their growing years, ”said Murphy.
Born Beverly Bunn in McMinnville, Oregon, on April 12, 1916, Cleary spent her early years on a farm in the nearby town of Yamhill. When the Bunn family moved to Portland, Oregon, a school librarian encouraged young Beverly to write children’s books. The advice stuck with her during her studies at what is now Chaffey College in California, the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Washington in Seattle, where she studied librarian.
In Berkeley, she met her husband, Clarence Cleary, and the two were married in 1940.
‘You can curl up with a book’
After college, she worked as a children’s librarian until she started writing. According to Harper Collins, Cleary’s dream of writing for children was rekindled when “ a little boy glared at me over the circulation desk and said, ‘Where are the books about kids like us? ”
Her books with Henry Huggins, his dog Ribsy and the kids on Klickitat Street, including Beezus and her younger sister, Ramona, found large audiences with young readers.
In 1981 she received the National Book Award for Children’s Fiction for “Ramona and Her Mother” and in 1975 she won the American Library Association’s Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for “a substantial and lasting contribution to children’s literature.”
Dear Mr. Henshaw won the John Newbery Medal 1984 for the most distinguished contribution to American children’s literature. The book is about a lonely boy who enters into correspondence with a children’s author.
In 2000 she was declared a living legend by the Library of Congress and in 2003 she received the National Medal of Art from the National Endowment of the Arts.
“We at HarperCollins are also extremely happy to have worked with Beverly Cleary and enjoyed her sparkling humor,” said Murphy. “Her timeless books are a confirmation of her eternal connection to the pleasures, challenges and triumphs that are part of every childhood,”
Her latest book, “Ramona’s World,” was published in 1999, decades after the eternally conceited little sister first made her debut in “Henry Huggins”.
Her husband died in 2004. She is survived by their two children, Malcolm and Marianne, three grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
In the 1990s, Cleary said she expected children to read her books for decades to come.