Beverly Cleary

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Beverly Cleary
Beverly Cleary 1971.jpg
Cleary in 1971
Born Beverly Atlee Bunn
(1916-04-12) April 12, 1916 (age 103)
McMinnville, Oregon, U.S.
Alma mater University of California, Berkeley (B.A., English, 1938) University of Washington (Library Science degree)
Occupation Writer, librarian
Spouse(s) Clarence Cleary (m. 1940–2004)
Children Marianne Elizabeth Cleary Malcolm James Cleary
Awards National Book Award
Newbery Medal
Laura Ingalls Wilder Award

Beverly Cleary (born April 12, 1916) is an American writer of fiction for children and young adults. One of America's most successful writers of children's literature,[1] she has sold 91 million copies of her books worldwide.[2] Some of her best-known characters are Henry Huggins, Ribsy, Beatrice ("Beezus") Quimby, her sister Ramona Quimby, and Ralph S. Mouse. She won the 1981 National Book Award for Ramona and Her Mother[3][lower-alpha 1] and the 1984 Newbery Medal for Dear Mr. Henshaw.

For her lifetime contributions to American literature Cleary has received the National Medal of Arts, recognition as a "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal from the children's librarians.

Life and work

Early years

Born Beverly Atlee Bunn in McMinnville, Oregon, Cleary was an only child.[4][5] Until she was old enough to attend school, Cleary lived on a farm in Yamhill, a town so small that it had no library. Still, Beverly learned to love books, due largely to her mother's arrangement with the Oregon State Library to have books sent to Yamhill.[6]

When Cleary was six years old, her family left the farm and moved to Portland, Oregon, where she attended elementary and high school. She blamed her struggles with reading in this new school setting partly on her dissatisfaction with the books she was required to read, and partly on an unpleasant first grade teacher. After six years of living on a farm in the country, city life in Portland took a toll on her health, and she was frequently ill, which provided a further setback to her schoolwork and reading skills.

In the second grade, Cleary studied under her favorite teacher, and by the third grade, had greatly improved her reading ability and found new joy in books. She read The Dutch Twins by Lucy Fitch Perkins, and became a frequent visitor to the library. Her favorite book as a young girl was Dandelion Cottage by Carroll Watson Rankin.[7]

A grammar school librarian was largely responsible for developing her love of reading, and encouraged Cleary to check out books about subjects to which she could relate. The librarian not only encouraged her to read, but also to write her own books, and instilled in her the belief that she, too, could write for children some day.[8]

In 1934, at age 18, Cleary moved to Ontario, California to attend Chaffey College, where she earned an Associate of Arts degree. She worked as a substitute librarian at the Ontario City Library, and went on to attend the University of California at Berkeley. After graduating with a B.A. in English in 1938 from Berkeley, she studied at the School of Librarianship at the University of Washington in Seattle, where she earned a degree in library science in 1939.

During the Great Depression, Cleary was a member of the University of California Student Cooperative Association (UCSCA), which was established to offset the expense of attending college at Berkeley. Students lived in housing cooperatives, where they worked in exchange for lower rent. Cleary lived at Stebbins Hall, the first all-women's co-op created in the association, and referred to her time there as "two of the most interesting years of my life".[9] One afternoon, during a break from her chores, she found herself having a sandwich with a young gentleman named Clarence Cleary, her future husband.[8]

Beverly and Clarence married in 1940 and they moved to neighboring Oakland, California. They eloped because her parents, who were Presbyterians, did not approve of her union with the Roman Catholic Cleary, even after it had occurred. The Clearys had two children, Marianne Elizabeth and Malcolm James, twins, born in 1955. Clarence Cleary died in 2004. Beverly Cleary currently, as of 2015, lives in Carmel, California.[10]:209


Cleary's library science degree allowed her to work with young children at all socioeconomic levels, and she was able to develop relationships with them. Her first full-time job as a librarian was in Yakima, Washington, where she met many children who were searching for the same books that she had always hoped to find as a child herself. Cleary sympathized with children who felt that there were no books written about children like themselves.[11] Their pleas convinced her to help provide young readers with stories to which they could relate.

One example was her first book, Henry Huggins, which was published in 1950. It was about a boy, his dog and their friends, all of whom lived on Klickitat Street in Portland (a street only a few blocks from where Cleary grew up as a child). According to Cleary, Henry Huggins and his friends represented all the children she grew up with, as well as those who sat before her during library story hours.

As she crafted her first book, she recalled advice from her mother and incorporated her beliefs that the best writing was simple and filled with humor. She also remembered advice from a college professor who emphasized writing about universal human experience. Beezus and Ramona, Cleary's first book to center a story on the Quimby sisters, was published in 1955, although Beezus and Ramona made frequent appearances in the Henry Huggins series as supporting characters.

Working with children as a librarian opened new doors for Cleary. She wanted to write books for children, but was unsure if she had the necessary experience to write what she wanted. A publisher wanted her to write a book about a kindergarten student. Cleary felt that she could not write about this, because she had not attended kindergarten, but later changed her mind after the birth of her twins. She learned to add a little wit and charm to her writing for children, with the hope that it would spark an interest in reading among her students and encourage them to read more books like it. She is an international favorite among children's authors.[12]

She has also written two autobiographies, A Girl from Yamhill and My Own Two Feet.

Critical reception

Pat Pflieger, professor of children's literature at West Chester University commented: "Cleary's books have lasted because she understands her audience. She knows they're sometimes confused or frightened by the world around them, and that they feel deeply about things that adults can dismiss."[2] Eliza Dresang, Beverly Cleary Professor in Children and Youth Services at the University of Washington Information School notes: "Those books don't seem so radical now, but they were when she was writing them." She suggests that the areas they cover are portrayed with honesty and accuracy.[13] Twentieth-Century Children's Writers says "Beverly Cleary's impact as a children's writer cannot be overestimated." It goes on to cite "her extraordinary talent in creating memorable young characters whose exuberant spirit and zest for life attract young and old readers alike."[10]:210

Honors and legacy

In 1975, Cleary became the fifth winner of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award from the American Library Association for "substantial and lasting contributions to children's literature", a lifetime award conferred 19 times as of 2013.[14] She was U.S. nominee for the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1984.[15] In April 2000 she was named Library of Congress Living Legend in the Writers and Artists category for her significant contributions to the cultural heritage of the United States.[16] She received the National Medal of Arts in 2003.[17]

Cleary's books have been published in 20 different languages and have been recognized by many awards and honors. She has won the Newbery Medal for Dear Mr. Henshaw (1984); Newbery Honors for Ramona and Her Father (1978); and Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (1982); the 1981 National Book Award in category Children's Fiction (paperback) for Ramona and Her Mother; a William Allen White Children's Book award for Socks (1973); the Catholic Library Association's Regina Medal (1980); and the Children's Book Council's Every Child Award (1985).[18] Cleary's books have been read on PBS and ABC-TV.[12]

In 2012, Ramona the Pest was ranked number 24 among all-time children's novels in a survey published by School Library Journal, a monthly with primarily U.S. audience. The Mouse and the Motorcycle (89) and Ramona and Her Father (94) were also among the Top 100.[19]

Publisher HarperCollins recognizes her birthday, April 12, as National Drop Everything and Read Day (D.E.A.R.), in promotion of sustained silent reading.[20]

In Portland, Oregon, the Hollywood branch of the Multnomah County Library, near where she lived as a child, commissioned a map of Henry Huggins's Klickitat Street neighborhood that resides on its lobby wall.[21] Statues of her beloved characters Henry Huggins, the Huggins dog Ribsy, and Ramona Quimby can be found in Portland's Grant Park.[21] In June 2008, the two-campus K-8 school of the same neighborhood, Hollyrood-Fernwood, was officially renamed Beverly Cleary School. As a child, Cleary attended the former Fernwood Grammar School, one of the two buildings that makes up the school that now bears her name.[22]

In 2004, the University of Washington Information School completed fund-raising for the Beverly Cleary Endowed Chair for Children and Youth Services to honor her work and commitment to librarianship. In 2008, the school announced that she had been selected as the next recipient of the University's Alumnus Summa Laude Dignatus Award, the highest honor the University of Washington can bestow on a graduate.[23]

Cleary has a 220-student residential hall at the University of California, Berkeley named after her, called Beverly Cleary Hall.[24]

Cleary has been mentioned as a major influence by other authors, including Laurie Halse Anderson, Judy Blume, Lauren Myracle and Jon Scieszka.[25]


Henry Huggins series (1950–1964)
Ramona series (1955–1999)


See also


  1. Cleary won the 1981 National Book Award for paperback children's fiction.
    From 1980 to 1983 in National Book Award history there were dual awards for hardcover and paperback books in many categories. Most of the paperback award-winners were reprints, including Ramona and Her Mother (1979).


  1. Shepherd-Hayes, Deborah (1 January 1996). A Guide for Using The Mouse and the Motorcycle in the Classroom. Teacher Created Resources. p. 6. ISBN 978-1-55734-529-5. Retrieved 5 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Beverly Cleary, Age 90". Newsweek. April 2, 2006. Retrieved 2013-04-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "National Book Awards – 1981". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-02-27.
  4. "The Ageless Appeal of Beverly Cleary". The New York Times. April 2011.
  5. "Beverly Cleary's 'exceptionally happy career'". Los Angeles Times. April 2011.
  6. "About Beverly Cleary". The World of Beverly Cleary ( HarperCollins Publishers. Retrieved 2013-04-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Gibbs, Hope Katz (April 2010). "Bevery Cleary's World". Author spotlight. The Costco Connection (reprinted from April 2010, p. 37).
  8. 8.0 8.1 Shaw, Christen. "Beverly Cleary". SPECTRUM Home & School Magazine ( Retrieved 2009-04-04.
  9. Harmanci, Reyhan (Summer 2010). "Extraordinarily Ordinary". California Magazine. Retrieved 2010-10-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 10.0 10.1 Chevalier, Tracy (editor), Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, St. James Press, 1989;
  11. "Author: Beverly Cleary". HarperCollins Publishers. Retrieved 2013-04-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Beverly Cleary". Kidsreads ( The Book Report, Inc. Retrieved 2013-04-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Stewart, Mark (September 2008). "Kids Like Us". Columns. The University of Washington Alumni Association. Retrieved 2013-04-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, Past winners". Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). American Library Association (ALA). Retrieved 2013-06-08.
    "About the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award". ALSC. ALA. Retrieved 2013-06-08.
  15. "Candidates for the Hans Christian Andersen Awards 1956–2002". The Hans Christian Andersen Awards, 1956–2002. IBBY. Gyldendal. 2002. Pages 110–18. Hosted by Austrian Literature Online ( Retrieved 2013-07-14.
  16. "Meet Authors & Illustrators: Beverly Cleary". Children's Literature ( Retrieved 2013-04-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Material contributed by HarperCollins Publishers.
  17. "President Bush Announces 2003 Medal of Arts Recipients". National Endowment for the Arts ( November 12, 2003. Retrieved 2013-06-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> With linked photos and brief biographies.
  18. "Biography: Beverly Cleary". Scholastic Teachers. Retrieved 2013-04-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Bird, Elizabeth (July 7, 2012). "Top 100 Chapter Book Poll Results". A Fuse #8 Production. Blog. School Library Journal ( Retrieved 2015-10-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
      Roald Dahl alone placed four in the Top 100.
  20. "Drop Everything And Read". HarperCollins Publishers ( Retrieved 2010-07-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. 21.0 21.1 "Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden". Multnomah County Library. Retrieved 2010-07-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. Stern, Hank (June 5, 2008). "Hurray for Ramona and Ribsy! Northeast Portland School to be named for Beverly Cleary". Willamette Week. Retrieved 2008-09-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "Headlines – Information School | University of Washington". Retrieved 2010-07-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "Living at Cal – Unit 3". Retrieved 2010-07-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Staino, Rocco (April 11, 2010). "Beverly Cleary Turns 94". School Library Journal. Retrieved 2013-04-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. "Ramona on PBS". TV Guide. Retrieved 2013-04-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links