By Megan Lanham
Prolific author Beverly Cleary, who introduced over 70 years worth of young people to the pleasure of reading, passed away on Mar. 25, 2021, at the age of 104 in her home in Carmel, Calif. Her publisher HarperCollins confirmed the news Friday, Mar. 26, in a press conference.
Cleary was an American Award-winning writer of over 40 books, selling over 91 million copies worldwide since publishing her first book in 1950. She was a pioneer in children’s literature, writing with a wit that realistically portrayed the struggles of childhood, particularly in the middle, working class.
One of the most enduringly popular and well-known of Cleary’s series of books revolved around the spunky and vexing Ramona Quimby, being invented as an afterthought when she realized that nearly every character she had written about was an only child. Driving her older sister Beezus up the wall, Ramona was always finding trouble. From baking a cake mixed with her favorite doll in the batter to making a sign to persuade her father to stop smoking with a misjudged space, writing “NOSMO KING”
Her first book “Henry Huggins” was inspired by a question from a child while working as a librarian; “Where are the books about kids like us?” She went on to help not only shape three generations’ worth of readers with the answer to that question but the very foundation of children’s literature itself.
Cleary was born on Apr. 12, 1916, in Mcminnville, Ore. and grew up in Portland, where most of her books take place. In Portland, she is considered a local hero; The Beverly Cleary School, a public school in the city, was named after her, and statues of several of her most famous characters were erected in Grant Park in 1995.