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Beverly Cleary (1916–2021), award-winning “Ramona” series author

by Linnea Crowther

Beverly Cleary penned award-winning books for children and young adults including the popular “Ramona” series, notably the National Book Award-winning “Ramona and Her Mother” as well as “Ramona the Brave,” “Ramona Quimby, Age 8,” and “Ramona Forever.”

A reluctant reader

Born Beverly Atlee Bunn April 12, 1916, in McMinnville, Oregon, in the heart of the Willamette Valley, Cleary initially didn’t seem destined for a career of writing beloved classics for young readers. Indeed, she was a reluctant reader herself, one who was in the bottom reading group in her first-grade class and didn’t find reading at all interesting. Eventually she found inspiration in the 1911 children’s book “The Dutch Twins” by Lucy Fitch Perkins – delighted to find a book that told a story with a plot she wanted to follow – and a life of reading and writing began.

Career beginnings

Cleary earned a degree in library science at the University of Washington in Seattle, later taking a job as a librarian. It was at the library that the seed of a writing career was planted in Cleary’s mind, as she talked to young readers who were disappointed that there weren’t many books about children like them.

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It wasn’t long before she wrote her first book, “Henry Huggins,” about a boy who makes fast friends with a stray dog. Henry’s adventures with Ribsy served as the jumping-off point for a series of books, which introduced more of Cleary’s enduring characters: Beezus Quimby and her little sister, Ramona.

Prestigious honors

As Cleary’s books struck chords with young readers, she began receiving recognition for her work. In 1975, the American Library Association presented her with the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, an honor for lifetime achievement.

Her 1983 book “Dear Mr. Henshaw” received the Newbery Medal the following year, and Newbery Honors were conferred on “Ramona and Her Father” and “Ramona Quimby, Age 8.” She won a National Book Award for “Ramona and Her Mother,” and she received the National Medal of Arts in 2003. The city of Portland, Oregon, has commemorated Cleary’s contributions with a grade school named after her as well as statues of Henry Huggins, Ribsy, and Ramona Quimby displayed in the city’s Grant Park.

Other popular children’s books by Cleary include “The Mouse and the Motorcycle,” “Socks” and “Ralph S. Mouse.” Cleary also wrote two memoirs, “A Girl From Yamhill” and “My Own Two Feet.”

How Cleary described Ramona

“She was not a slowpoke grownup. She was a girl who could not wait. Life was so interesting she had to find out what happened next.” —from “Ramona the Pest”

Tributes to Beverly Cleary

Full obituary: The Washington Post

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