Beverly Cleary: The Beloved children’s Author

Date:

By Chandana Ranaweera

“I hope children will be happy with the books I’ve written, and go on to be readers all of their lives.”

— Beverly Cleary

Tomorrow (25) marks the first death anniversary of Beverly Cleary – one of America’s most successful authors of children’s fiction who created the beloved fictional characters; Henry Huggins, Ramona Quimby, Beezuz Quimby, and Ralph S. Mouse. 

Beverly Atlee Bunn was born on 12 April 1916 in McMinnville, Oregon, USA. Her father was a farmer named Chester Lloyd and her mother was Mabel Atlee Bunn who was a teacher. When Beverly was six years old they moved to Portland since his father secured a job as a security officer at a bank. She was enrolled in a school in the city and on a one rainy evening when Beverly was in the third grade she read the children’s book Dutch Twins by Lucy Finch Perkins. The book fascinated Beverly and ignited the bookworm flames within her. She frequented the school library and started reading more and more children’s fiction. When she was in sixth grade, Beverly wrote an essay for a school assignment which immensely impressed her teacher who even went on to predict that Beverly is going to be a renowned children’s book author one day.

She graduated high school from Grant High School in Portland and entered Chaffey Junior College for further education. She completed her undergraduates at the University College of California and later, obtained another degree from the library school at University of Washington.

She started her career as a children’s librarian in Yakima, Washington after her graduation and served at the post until 1940. She then worked as the post librarian at the US Army Hospital on Camp John T. Knight in Oakland, California from 1942 to 1945 and then worked at Sather Gate Book Shop in Berkeley before becoming a full-time children’s books writer. While she was at her first job Beverly married Clarence Cleary and became to be known as Beverly Cleary.

While she was a librarian at Yakima Beverly initiated children’s books reading programme through which she was able to associate with the young readers. She was able to dig deep into the minds of young readers which enabled her to come up with a book that suits the best of children’s interests.  

In 1950 she wrote her first children’s book Henry Huggins. The main character of the book was a young boy named Henry Huggins and his faithful pet dog Ribsy. Other characters included; Huggins’ neighbour and fried Beezus and her little sister Ramona. Beverly took inspiration from her own childhood to write her first book and she based some character of the book on some interesting children she had met through her work as a librarian.

In 1955 she wrote the first book centred on Quimby Sisters called Beezus and Ramona. She went on to publish many stories of Huggins and Quimby Sisters and also published two autobiographies. The first was A Girl from Yamhill (1988) which was based on her childhood and the second was My Own Two Feet (1955) which was about her college years. Her books have been translated into 25 different languages and over 91 million copies of her books have been sold worldwide.

Beverly passed away on 25 March 2021 in a retirement home in California at the age of 104.

Honours and legacy of Beverly Cleary

– Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for ‘substantial and lasting contributions to children’s literature’ (1975)

– National Book Award (1981 for Ramona and Her Mother)

– Newbery medal for children’s literature (1984 for Dear Mr. Henshaw)

– William Allen White Children’s Book Award (in 1073 for Socks)

– Newbery Honours (1978 for Ramona and her Father)

– Newbery Honours (1982 for Ramona Quimby, Age 8)

– National Medal of Arts (2003)

– Nominated for the Hans Christian Anderson Award (1984)

– The Catholic Library Association’s Regina Medal (1980)

– The Children’s Book Council’s Every Child Award (1985)

– Was named a ‘Living Legend’ by American Congress Library for her service to the Children’s literature

– A school in Portland was named after her

– A lecture hall in the University College of California was named after her 

“I didn’t start out writing to give children hope, but I’m glad some of them found it.”

— Beverly Cleary

(Translated by Sanuj Hathurusinghe)

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