Friday, March 26, 2021

Beverly Cleary: R.I.P.

I was very saddened to read this HarperCollins press releasetoday.  Beverly Cleary, R.I.P. 

Beloved Children’s book author Beverly Cleary died on March 25, 2021, in Carmel, California, where she’d lived since the 1960s. She was 104 years old.
Beverly Cleary’s first book, Henry Huggins, was published in 1950, immediately setting a standard for realistic children’s fiction. More than forty published books later, Beverly Cleary has become beloved by generations of children. Mrs. Cleary has also inspired authors, including Judy Blume, to deal with the real issues in young readers’ lives. As the author and reviewer Ilene Cooper said in ALA Booklist, “When it comes to writing books kids love, nobody does it better.”
Suzanne Murphy, President and Publisher, HarperCollins Children’s Books shared: “We are saddened by the passing of Beverly Cleary, one of the most beloved children’s authors of all time. Looking back, she’d often say, ‘I’ve had a lucky life,’ and generations of children count themselves lucky too—lucky to have the very real characters Beverly Cleary created, including Henry Huggins, Ramona and Beezus Quimby, and Ralph S. Mouse, as true friends who helped shape their growing-up years. We at HarperCollins also feel extremely lucky to have worked with Beverly Cleary and to have enjoyed her sparkling wit. Her timeless books are an affirmation of her everlasting connection to the pleasures, challenges, and triumphs that are part of every childhood.”
Born on April 12, 1916, in McMinnville, Oregon, 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.
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.
By the third grade she had conquered reading and spent much of her childhood with books from the public library. A teacher suggested that she should write for boys and girls when she grew up, and the idea appealed to her. But after graduating from the University of California at Berkeley (where a dormitory is named in her honor) she specialized in librarianship at the University of Washington, Seattle (which today honors her contribution to Northwest literature with the Beverly Cleary Endowed Chair for Children and Youth Services).
Her early dream of writing for children was rekindled when "a little boy faced me rather ferociously across the circulation desk and said: 'Where are the books about kids like us?'” Henry Huggins, his dog, Ribsy, and the gang on Klickitat Street, including Beezus and her younger sister, Ramona, were an instant success with young readers. The awards came later, beginning with a Newberry 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.
Mrs. Cleary has also been honored with the American Library Association’s 1975 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, the Catholic Library Association’s 1980 Regina Medal, and the University of Southern Mississippi’s 1982 Silver Medallion, all presented in recognition of her lasting contribution to children’s literature. In addition, Mrs. Cleary was the 1984 United States author nominee for the prestigious international Hans Christian Andersen Award.
In 2000, to honor her invaluable contributions to children’s literature, Beverly Cleary was named a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress; in addition, she was awarded the 2003 National Medal of Art from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2009 her ever-popular Ramona series was made into a movie, Ramona and Beezus, and in 2010 she received the Los Angeles Times Robert Kirsch Award, marking the first time this honor has gone to an author of books for children.
In 2016, to celebrate her monumental one hundredth birthday, three of her books were reissued with forewords by luminaries Judy Blume, Amy Poehler, and Kate DiCamillo. And in 2017, her first series—the Henry Huggins books—was reissued with original art from the late Louis Darling. These six titles included forewords by award-winning authors and artists Tony DiTerlizzi, Marla Frazee, Tom Angleberger, Jeff Kinney, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, and Cece Bell.
Her books have sold more than 85 million copies and have been translated into twenty-nine different languages, which speaks to the worldwide reach and love of her stories.
With all of these honors, of greatest importance to Beverly Cleary were the more than thirty-five statewide awards her books received, based on the direct votes of her young readers.
When children asked Mrs. Cleary where she got her ideas, she would reply, “From my own experience and from the world around me.” Ramona and her classmates participated in the D.E.A.R. program because it was so often mentioned in letters from children who enjoyed “Drop Everything and Read” activities. Today D.E.A.R Day is celebrated nationwide on April 12, in honor of Beverly Cleary’s birthday.
She was predeceased by her husband, Clarence Cleary, and is survived by their two children, Malcolm and Marianne, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

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