Author Spotlight: Beverly Cleary
For a lot of readers, Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins were ideal companions through the years between being a kid and becoming a grown-up. Beverly Cleary, the creator of these characters, recently celebrated her 100th birthday.
A Struggling Reader
Beverly Cleary grew up in a small Oregon town that didn’t have its own library. Because of this, her mother had arranged for books to be sent to their town of Yamhill. Her mother was the town’s first librarian in a room above a bank. This was where she learned to love books.
Upon moving to Portland, she was placed in the school’s low-reading circle. This helped her sympathize with struggling readers. She spent most of her childhood in the company of books. Her school librarian even suggested that she become a children’s author when she grew up. She found the idea appealing and decided she would write the books that she never found in their library.
Keeping it Local
She studied junior college in Ontario, California, and the University of California at Berkeley. Afterward, she entered the School of Librarianship at the University of Washington in Seattle, where she specialized in children’s library work.
Cleary often mentions that she gets her ideas for her books from her own experiences and surroundings. Her famous characters, Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, and Ellen Tebbits, were the products of her neighborhood’s stories and the playmates she had growing up. One program, DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) Day, which was mentioned in Ramona Quimby, Age 8, was inspired by the letters that her young fans sent her. When asked for writing tips by young aspiring authors, she tells them to be widely read and that this will help them find their own way of writing.
A Memorable Career
Over the course of her career, Beverly Cleary and her novels were awarded many laurels. She received the American Library Association’s 1975 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, and the Catholic Library Association’s 1980 Regina Medal. She was also presented the Silver Medallion by the University of Southern Mississippi in 1982. These were all in recognition of her contributions to children’s literature. Cleary was also nominated for the 1984 Hans Christian Andersen Award.
Beverly Cleary is the recipient of two Newbery Honors and a Newbery Medal. These awards are the highest recognition given to writers of children’s fiction. In 2000, she was named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress. In 2003, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President George W. Bush. In addition to all these, she has also received 35 statewide awards, all based on readers’ votes.
Cleary retired in 2000, but her stories are still being enjoyed all over the world. Her books are available in over twenty countries and have been translated in fourteen languages. The stories of Ramona, Beezus, and Henry continue to live on.
**Disclaimer: Image is not ours. Credit to their respective owners.