Children’s author, Oregon native Beverly Cleary dies at 104


Beverly Cleary was born in McMinnville

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Beloved children’s book author Beverly Cleary died Thursday in Carmel, California, her publisher Harper Collins said in a press release.

Cleary, who was born in McMinnville, died weeks before her 105th birthday. She had lived in California since the 1960s.

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Beverly Cleary, 2019 (KOIN, file)

She was born April 12, 1916, in McMinnville before eventually moving to a farm in Yamhill.

According to her bio, Cleary’s mother arranged with the State Library to have books sent to her small town since it had no library.

Harper Collins said, “Beverly Bunn spent her early years on the family farm in Yamhill. Her mother set up a library for the small town in a lodge room upstairs over a bank. There young Beverly learned to love books. However, when her family moved to Portland, she found herself in the grammar school’s low reading circle, an experience that gave her a lifelong sympathy for the problems of struggling readers.

Beverly Cleary in an undated photo (KOIN, file)

“As she recounts in her autobiography A Girl from Yamhill, she had a breakthrough one rainy Sunday afternoon:

“The outside world drizzled, the inside world was heavy with the smell of pot roast and my father’s Sunday after-dinner cigar, and I was so bored I picked up The Dutch Twins to look at the pictures. Suddenly I was reading and enjoying what I read! It was a miracle. I was happy in a way I had not been happy since starting school.”

The acclaimed author worked as a librarian until becoming a full-time children’s book writer in 1942. Since the publication of her first book Henry Huggins in 1950, nearly 100 million copies of her books have been sold in 25 languages worldwide.

She received a Newbery Honor in 1978 for Ramona and Her Father and one in 1982 for Ramona Quimby, Age 8. She received the 1984 John Newbery Medal for Dear Mr. Henshaw, which was inspired by letters she’d received from children, her publisher said.

Cleary’s works have earned several awards including the 2003 National Medal of Art from the National Endowment of the Arts.

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A statue of Ramona Quimby in Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden in Northeast Portland (KOIN. file)

Her books have sold more than 85 million copies and have been translated into 29 different languages, which speaks to the worldwide reach and love of her stories, Harper Collins said.

The Beverly Clearly Sculpture Garden in Grant Park in Northeast Portland, features 3 statues of some of her most beloved characters: Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins and Henry’s dog Ribsy.

Her husband, Clarence, died in 2004. She is survived by their two children, Malcolm and Marianne, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

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Tributes to Beverly Cleary

Officials with the Multnomah County Library said they were saddened by her death.

“She was not just a genius whose work influenced generations of children, she was also a tireless advocate for youth literacy and libraries. Using the Northeast Portland neighborhood of Grant Park as a setting in most of her work, Beverly created stories that were of particular importance to the children of Multnomah County. She wrote real characters that were smart, mischievous, crafty, and powerful that every child can relate to. She understood children in a singular way that showed her respect for the child in all of us. … We will be forever grateful to Beverly Cleary for all she has given to our library system, our community and children everywhere.”

Senator Ron Wyden tweeted his thoughts on her passing:

“Grant Park here in NE Portland has many wonderful reminders of how Beverly Cleary drew from her childhood home to capture young readers’ hearts & minds. While we mourn this iconic Oregonian’s passing, we also are thankful for her timeless contribution to kids’ literature.”

Emily Brodowicz of Powell’s Books said they were heartbroken to hear of her death.

“She’s had such an impact on so many people’s childhoods,” she said. “There have been 3 generations of impact.”

Brodowicz told KOIN 6 News they’ve seen “a huge influx of books” inspired by Beverly Cleary’s writings. But it’s the way she wrote that grabbed readers.

“She has this timeless, placeless appeal. Readers are right at that age where things will stay with you the rest of your life.”

“She got at the heart of childhood in such an important way.”

Donations may be made in Beverly Cleary’s name to the Library Foundation of Portland, Oregon, or the Information School at the University of Washington.

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