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 100)
McMinnville, Oregon, United States
Alma mater

University of California, Berkeley (B.A., English, 1938)

University of Washington (Library Science degree, 1939)
Occupation Writer, librarian
Notable work
Spouse(s) Clarence Cleary (m. 1940–2004)
Children Marianne Elizabeth Cleary and Malcolm James Cleary (both born 1955)
Awards National Book Award
Newbery Medal
Laura Ingalls Wilder Award

Beverly Atlee Cleary (née Bunn; April 12, 1916) is an American writer of children's and young adult fiction. One of America's most successful living authors, 91 million copies of her books have been sold worldwide since her first book was published in 1950.[1] Some of her best known characters are Henry Huggins and his dog Ribsy, Ramona and Beezus Quimby, and Ralph S. Mouse.[2]

She won the 1981 National Book Award for Ramona and Her Mother[3][a] and the 1984 Newbery Medal for Dear Mr. Henshaw. For her lifetime contributions to American literature, Cleary received the National Medal of Arts, recognition as a Library of Congress Living Legend, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal from the Association for Library Service to Children.[4]

Early life[edit]

Beverly Atlee Bunn was born on April 12, 1916, in McMinnville, Oregon. Cleary was an only child[5] and lived on a farm.[6] Her mother was a school teacher and her father was a farmer.[7] When she was six years old, her family moved to Portland, Oregon, where she attended elementary and high school.[8]

In first grade, Cleary's teacher placed her in a group for struggling readers.[8][9] Cleary said, "The first grade was separated into three reading groups—Bluebirds, Redbirds, and Blackbirds. I was a Blackbird. To be a Blackbird was to be disgraced. I wanted to read, but somehow could not."[7] With the help of a school librarian who introduced her to books she enjoyed,[10] Cleary caught up by third grade[5] and started to spend a lot of time reading and at the library.[8] By sixth grade, a teacher suggested that Cleary should become a children's writer based on essays she'd written for class assignments.[9]

After high school, Cleary entered Chaffey Junior College with aspirations of becoming a children's librarian. After two years at Chaffey, she was accepted at the University of California at Berkeley, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1938.[7] She also met her future husband, Clarence Cleary, during her time at Berkeley.[11] In 1939, she graduated from the School of Library and Information Science at the University of Washington[12] and accepted a year-long position as a children's librarian in Yakima, Washington. Her parents disapproved of her relationship with Clarence T. Cleary, an auditor and accountant, so the couple eloped and were married in 1940.[11] After the end of World War II, they settled in Carmel, California.[13][14][15]


Cleary obtained her baccalaureate and master's degree in Library Science at the University of Washington. After graduation she served as a children's librarian in Yakima Washington and then as the post librarian at the U.S. Army Hospital in Oakland, California. In 1942 she began working as a full-time writer for children.[16]

As a children's librarian, Cleary empathized with her young patrons who had difficulty finding books with characters they could identify with[6] and she struggled to find enough books to suggest that would appeal to them.[5] After a few years of making recommendations and performing live storytelling in her role as a librarian, Cleary decided to start writing children's books about characters that young readers could relate to.[17] Cleary has said, “I believe in that ‘missionary spirit’ among children’s librarians. Kids deserve books of literary quality, and librarians are so important in encouraging them to read and selecting books that are appropriate.”[10][12]

Cleary's first book, Henry Huggins (1950), was accepted for immediate publication and was the first in a series of fictional chapter books about Henry, his dog Ribsy, his neighborhood friend Beezus and her little sister Ramona.[9][13] Like many of her later works, Henry Huggins is a novel about people living ordinary lives and is based on Cleary's own childhood experiences, the kids in her neighborhood growing up, as well as children she met while working as a librarian.[6][10]

Cleary's first book to center a story on the Quimby sisters, Beezus and Ramona, was published in 1955.[18] A publisher asked her to write a book about a kindergarten student. Cleary resisted, because she had not attended kindergarten, but later changed her mind after the birth of her twins.[citation needed] She has written two memoirs, A Girl from Yamhill (1988) and My Own Two Feet (1995).[19] During a 2011 interview for the Los Angeles Times, at age 95, Cleary stated, "I've had an exceptionally happy career."[9]

Critical reception[edit]

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."[20] Eliza Dresang, professor in Children and Youth Services at the University of Washington Information School said, "Those books don't seem so radical now, but they were when she was writing them." Dresang also said the topics covered were portrayed with honesty and accuracy.[21] Twentieth-Century Children's Writers said, "Beverly Cleary's impact as a children's writer cannot be overestimated... her extraordinary talent in creating memorable young characters whose exuberant spirit and zest for life attract young and old readers alike."[22]:210

Later life[edit]

In 1955 Cleary gave birth to twins, Malcolm and Marianne. Cleary has lived in Carmel Valley, California since before her husband's death in 2004; she presently lives in assisted living center there and has for some time.[23][24]

Cleary celebrated her 100th birthday on April 12, 2016, an event which was noted in several well-regarded news sources.[25][26][27][28]

Honors and legacy[edit]

In 1975, Cleary won the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award from the American Library Association for "substantial and lasting contributions to children's literature".[29] She was U.S. nominee for the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1984.[30] In April 2000 she was named Library of Congress Living Legend in the Writers and Artists category for her contributions to the cultural heritage of the United States.[31] She received the National Medal of Arts in 2003.[32]

Cleary's books have been published in over 25 different languages and have been recognized by many awards and honors. Dear Mr. Henshaw won the Newbery Medal in 1984, and; Newbery Honors were conferred on Ramona and Her Father in 1978 and Ramona Quimby, Age 8 in 1982. She won 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).[8] Cleary's books have been read on PBS and ABC-TV.[33][not in citation given]

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.[34]

Publisher HarperCollins recognizes her birthday, April 12, as National Drop Everything and Read Day (D.E.A.R.), in promotion of sustained silent reading.[35]

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 for its lobby wall.[36] Statues of her characters Henry Huggins, the Huggins dog Ribsy, and Ramona Quimby can be found in Portland's Grant Park in the Hollywood-Fernwood neighborhood.[36] In June 2008, the neighborhood's K-8 school, formerly Fernwood Grammar School and once attended by Cleary, was officially renamed Beverly Cleary School.[37]

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.[12] 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.[38][39]

Cleary has a 220-student residential hall at the University of California, Berkeley named after her, called Beverly Cleary Hall.[40]

Cleary has been mentioned as a major influence by other authors, including Laurie Halse Anderson, Judy Blume, Lauren Myracle and Jon Scieszka.[41]


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


See also[edit]


  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. ^ Springen, Karen (2 Apr 2006), Beverly Cleary, Age 90, Newsweek, retrieved 3 Apr 2016 
  2. ^ Discover Author Beverly Cleary, Harper Collins, retrieved 3 Apr 2016 
  3. ^ National Book Awards — 1981, National Book Foundation, 1981, retrieved 4 Apr 2016 
  4. ^ "Beverly Cleary", The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, Columbia University Press, 2013, retrieved 4 Apr 2016 
  5. ^ a b c Paul, Pamela (8 Apr 2011), "The Ageless Appeal of Beverly Cleary", The New York Times, retrieved 3 Apr 2016 
  6. ^ a b c Gibbs, Hope Katz (April 2010), Bevery Cleary's World. Author spotlight, The Costco Connection (reprinted from April 2010, p. 37) 
  7. ^ a b c Shepherd-Hayes, Deborah (1996), A Guide for Using The Mouse and the Motorcycle in the Classroom, Teacher Created Resources, p. 6, ISBN 9781557345295, retrieved 4 Apr 2016 
  8. ^ a b c d Biography: Beverly Cleary, Scholastic Teachers, retrieved 3 Apr 2016 
  9. ^ a b c d Ulin, David L (17 Apr 2011), "Beverly Cleary's 'exceptionally happy career'", Los Angeles Times, retrieved 3 Apr 2016 
  10. ^ a b c Hewitt, Scott (2 Apr 2016), As her 100th birthday nears, Cleary the subject of a new documentary, Columbian Arts, retrieved 3 Apr 2016 
  11. ^ a b Harmanci, Reyhan (Summer 2010), "Extraordinarily Ordinary", California Magazine, retrieved 3 Apr 2016 
  12. ^ a b c Goldsmith, Steven (10 Feb 2005), "Endowed seat in children's librarianship named for author Beverly Cleary", UW Today, retrieved 3 Apr 2016 
  13. ^ a b "Beverly Cleary", NNDB, Soylent Communications, 2014, retrieved 4 Apr 2016 
  14. ^ Bowman, John S. (1995), "Beverly Cleary", The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, Cambridge University Press, retrieved 4 Apr 2016 
  15. ^ "Cleary, Beverly Bio". Educational Book and Media Association. 
  16. ^ Editors of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica (ed.). "Beverly Clear, Author". Encyclopedia Britannica. 
  17. ^ Warren, Mary (13 Feb 2016), "Beloved Books, Timeless characters", Toronto Star, p. E1-E2, retrieved 3 Apr 2016 
  18. ^ Sollosi, Mary (12 Apr 2016), "Ramona Quimby's greatest mishaps, in honor of Beverly Cleary's 100th birthday", Entertainment Weekly 
  19. ^ Mead, Wendy (12 Apr 2016), "Happy 100th, Beverly Cleary! Celebrating the Kid's Lit Icon", Bio, A&E Television Networks 
  20. ^ "Beverly Cleary, Age 90". Newsweek. April 2, 2006. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  21. ^ Stewart, Mark (September 2008). "Kids Like Us". Columns. The University of Washington Alumni Association. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  22. ^ Chevalier, Tracy (editor), Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, St. James Press, 1989;
  23. ^ "Celebrating Seniors – Author Beverly Cleary is 98 on Sunday". Senior City. 
  24. ^ "Clarence T. Cleary". The Monterey Herald. June 25, 2004. 
  25. ^ Krug, Nora (April 3, 2016). "Beverly Cleary on turning 100: Kids today 'don't have the freedom' I had". Washington Post. 
  26. ^ Maughan, Shannon (April 6, 2016). "Beverly Cleary, on Turning 100". Publishers Weekly. 
  27. ^ Kristof, Nicholas (April 9, 2016). "Happy Birthday, Beverly Cleary". New York Times. 
  28. ^ Chung, Nicole (April 12, 2016). "7 things you didn't know about Beverly Cleary". PBS Newshour. 
  29. ^ "Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, Past winners" Archived April 22, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.. Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). American Library Association (ALA). Retrieved 2013-06-08.
    "About the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award" Archived April 21, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.. ALSC. ALA. Retrieved 2013-06-08.
  30. ^ "Candidates for the Hans Christian Andersen Awards 1956–2002"[permanent dead link]. The Hans Christian Andersen Awards, 1956–2002. IBBY. Gyldendal. 2002. Pages 110–18. Hosted by Austrian Literature Online ( Retrieved 2013-07-14.
  31. ^ "Meet Authors & Illustrators: Beverly Cleary". Children's Literature ( Retrieved 2013-04-07.  Material contributed by HarperCollins Publishers.
  32. ^ "President Bush Announces 2003 Medal of Arts Recipients". National Endowment for the Arts ( November 12, 2003. Retrieved 2013-06-13.  With linked photos and brief biographies.
  33. ^ "Beverly Cleary". Kidsreads ( The Book Report, Inc. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  34. ^ Bird, Elizabeth (July 7, 2012). "Top 100 Chapter Book Poll Results". A Fuse #8 Production. Blog. School Library Journal ( Retrieved 2015-10-30. 
      Roald Dahl alone placed four in the Top 100.
  35. ^ "Drop Everything And Read". HarperCollins Publishers ( Retrieved 2010-07-17. 
  36. ^ a b "Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden". Multnomah County Library. Retrieved 2010-07-17. 
  37. ^ 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. 
  38. ^ "Headlines – Information School | University of Washington". Retrieved 2010-07-17. 
  39. ^ "Alumnus Summa Laude Dignatus Award Winners — Office of Ceremonies". Retrieved 2016-03-29. 
  40. ^ "Living at Cal – Unit 3". Retrieved 2010-07-17. 
  41. ^ Staino, Rocco (April 11, 2010). "Beverly Cleary Turns 94". School Library Journal. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  42. ^ "Ramona on PBS". TV Guide. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 

External links[edit]