Beverly Cleary, Legendary Children's Author Who Quietly Revolutionized Kid Lit, Dies at 104Breaking News
tags: obituaries, literature, authors, childrens literature
The Oregon native quietly revolutionized children’s literature with one simple idea: write books about “regular” kids who were special precisely because they were relatable.
The same could be said of Cleary herself, who lived out her final decades in Carmel, Calif., where she was content with simple pleasures like a good book and a slice of carrot cake. Even turning 100 seemed to elicit little more than an eye roll, dryly noting to the Washington Post in 2016, “Go ahead and make a fuss—everyone else is.”
HarperCollins Children’s Books President and Publisher Suzanne Murphy confirmed Cleary’s death in a statement Friday, and noted that the publishing house feels “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.”
Beverly Bunn was born April 12, 1916 and spent her early years on a farm in Yamhill, Ore.––where her mother ran a makeshift library in a room above a local bank. Born before television and before most families had radios, Cleary said her mother would read to her and her father every night––an activity she credits with cementing her lifelong love of literature.
But school was initially a struggle. In first grade, she recalled being part of the lowest reading group, the Blackbirds, and schemed of how she could drop out of school altogether. It wasn’t until third grade that she began to read confidently. Part of the issue, she repeatedly explained, was that the books available to her at the time didn’t exactly excite her.
“So many books in those days––back in the 1920s––had been published in England and the children and nannies and pony carts, and they seemed like a bunch of sissies to me,” she told NBC’s Today show in 2016.
But once she discovered the power of books, she was hooked. Despite pressure from her mother to get married after high school, she instead enrolled in Chaffey Junior College with a dream of becoming a children’s librarian. She later transferred to the University of California-Berkeley, where she met the love of her life, Clarence Clancy. She initially put off marriage to pursue her professional passion. She moved to Seattle to earn a degree in library science and landed her first library job in the small town of Yakima.
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