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  • Writer's pictureTracy L. Ward

Born on this day: Beverly Cleary

Not many people alive today made it through elementary school without reading at least one book by Beverly Cleary. Known for titles such as Ramona Quimby, Age 8, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, and Henry Huggins, Cleary’s mark on children’s literature is undeniable. Nineteen million books have been sold since her first publication in 1950.

Born April 12, 1916, Beverly Bunn was raised by a farmer and a school teacher in Yamhill, Oregon. An only child, Beverly and her family moved to Portland, Oregon after her father got a job at a bank. The dramatic change from country life to city life caused her to struggle in school. One teacher even went so far as to place her in a special group for struggling readers.

At first, Beverly decried reading as boring saying books were often simple and unsurprising. Eventually, Beverly stumbled upon The Dutch Twins by Lucy Fitch Perkins in the third grade. The book provided her with an epiphany causing Beverly to spend many hours reading at the library.

Beverly entered college with aspirations to be a children’s librarian, eventually graduating from the University of Washington with a degree in Library Science. It was during this time at college when she met Clarence Cleary at a dance. The couple eloped in 1940.

As a librarian, Beverly sympathized with children who often had a difficult time finding books with characters they could relate to and sympathize with. “Kids deserve books of literary quality, and librarians are so important in encouraging them to read and selecting books that are appropriate," she said.

In 1950 her first book, Henry Huggins, was published as the first in a series featuring Henry, his dog Ribsy, his neighborhood friend Beezus and her little sister Ramona. Her first book centering around the sisters, Ramona and Beezus, was published in 1955, around the time Beverly gave birth to her twins; Malcolm and Marianne.

Beverly’s career was long and noteworthy, spanning numerous decades and resulting in countless awards and accolades. In 1975 Beverly won the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award from the America Library Association. She was a nominee for the Hans Christian Anderson Award in 1985 and she received the National Medal of Arts in 2003, to name a few.

Beverly lived for over one hundred years, dying March 25, 2021, eighteen days shy of her 105th birthday.

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