Beloved Oregon Children’s Author Beverly Cleary Celebrates 103rd Birthday

By Li Yen, Epoch Times
April 13, 2019 Updated: April 18, 2019

If you grew up reading the Ramona Quimby and the Henry Huggins children’s books, you may be familiar with Newbery Medal–winning children’s writer Beverly Cleary.

We love Cleary’s humorous portrayal of the characters from her very own hometown of Portland in her bestselling books. But how much do you know about Cleary, who created these lively characters out of her wild imagination?

Did you know our beloved children’s book author has just celebrated her 103rd birthday on April 12, 2019?

April is the month we "Drop Everything And Read"! What books will you and your family be reading this month?

Posted by Beverly Cleary on Monday, April 1, 2019

©Wikipedia | Cleary Family archive

When asked about the odds of living to the ripe old age of 103, she replied, “Well, I didn’t do it on purpose!” in a 2016 interview with TODAY’s Jenna Bush Hager.

Cleary certainly didn’t expect to live past 100. “I remember a very earnest conversation my best friend and I had when we were, I guess, freshmen in high school, about how long we wanted to live. And we decided that 80 was the cut-off date.”

However, Cleary, who now lives in northern California, revealed to the Washington Post, “I live in a very pleasant place with a very nice room that looks out on trees and rabbits and birds.”

10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Beverly Cleary’s Life

1. Cleary has made a career out of books and writing, but surprisingly, she was not much of a reader as a child. Born in 1916 in McMinnville, Oregon, she lived on a farm in Yamhill, a small town that didn’t have a library during her early years. She didn’t start reading until second grade, after her family moved to Portland.

Initially, she had difficulties in reading. However, that changed after a school librarian introduced her to books. Gradually, she fell in love with books. The first book Cleary enjoyed reading was “The Dutch Twins” by Lucy Fitch Perkins, according to CBC.

This photo of Beverly Cleary at age 6 reminds us of a very well-behaved Ramona! If you want to learn more about the…

Posted by Beverly Cleary on Monday, April 28, 2014

2. Cleary’s seventh-grade teacher suggested her to become a children’s writer when she grew up. Her teacher once told the class, “When Beverly grows up, she should write children’s books,” according to Jim Trelease’s author profile of Cleary published online.

She was drawn to that idea and decided one day that she would write books she “longed to read but was unable to find on the library shelves, funny stories about her neighborhood and the sort of children she knew,” as stated on her website.

3. Realizing Cleary had a talent for writing, her mother, a former school teacher, gave her only child some wise advice, “The best writing is simple writing. And try to write something funny. People enjoy reading anything that makes them laugh.” This advice stuck in her mind and eventually became her writing style.

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4. Upon graduating with a master’s degree in library science from the University of Washington, she worked as a children’s librarian in Yakima, Washington, then a post librarian at the U.S. Army Hospital in Oakland, California.

5. She married her college sweetheart in 1940. In 1955, she gave birth to twins Malcolm and Marianne.

6. After her husband’s persuasions, she picked up her pen and began writing stories. Cleary’s first book, Henry Huggins, published in 1950, featured fictional character Henry and his dog Ribsy. They also included his neighborhood friend Beezus and Beezus’s little sister Ramona, who lived on Klickitat Street in Portland.

Henry and his friends were real. They were all the kids she grew up with.

The street they lived in was real too. In fact, the street was a few blocks away from her residence during her childhood.

#FBF to this fantastic photo of Beverly, with her little friend!

Posted by Beverly Cleary on Friday, June 26, 2015

7. Cleary once said, “I used to bake bread while I wrote. I’d mix the dough up and sit down and start to write. After a while, the dough would rise and I’d punch it down and write some more. When the dough rose the second time, I’d put it in the oven and have the yeasty smell of bread as I typed,” Mental Floss reported.

8. Cleary has won several prestigious literary awards, including the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award in 1975, the 2003 National Medal of Art from the National Endowment of the Arts, and the 1984 John Newbery Medal for novel “Dear Mr. Henshaw.”

In 2000, she was named a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress for her contributions to children’s literature.

©Wikipedia | Cleary Family archive 

9. Cleary has written more than 40 books in her lifetime and has sold over 91 million of them in 14 languages and 20 countries.

“I’ve had an exceptionally happy career,” Cleary told the Los Angeles Times in 2011 interview at the age of 95.

10. Cleary’s stories have captivated readers and have inspired writers such as Newbery Medal-winning children’s author Kate DiCamillo.

DiCamillo once told TODAY, “[Cleary’s] books are so wonderful when you’re a kid … and when you’re 51 years old, they still matter to you. I write books for kids … I wanna write like Beverly Cleary.”

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