Renowned children’s and young adult author recently passed away at 104

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Emma Matzen

Beverly Cleary, renowned children’s and young adult author, recently passed away at the age of 104 on March 25. Cleary was one of America’s most successful authors, with over 91 million copies sold of her books since her first publication in 1950. 

Throughout her career, Cleary won many awards, including the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award in 1975, the National Book Award in 1981, and a Newbery Medal in 1984. Cleary is most known for her “Ramona” series, which was adapted into a Canadian TV series in 1988, as well as the movie “Ramona and Beezus” in 2010, starring Selena Gomez and Joey King. Her other notable works include the “Henry Huggins” series,”The Mouse and The Motorcycle”, and “Dear Mr. Henshaw.

Cleary has been named an influence by other large authors, such as Judy Blume and Lauren Myracle. The HarperCollins publishing house named Cleary’s birthday, April 12, as National Drop Everything and Read Day, to promote sustained silent reading in schools. Cleary’s work in children’s literature has been noted for its attention to childhood experiences, especially for those growing up in middle class families. 

Cleary began her career as a librarian, and would read to children and give them recommendations of books with characters they were able to identify with — which unfortunately, wasn’t very many. 

“As a child, I disliked books in which children learned to be ‘better’ children,” Cleary said, “Kids deserve books of literary quality, and librarians are so important in encouraging them to read and selecting books that are appropriate.” 

This inspired her to write her first book in her 30s, ”Henry Huggins”, which turned into a series of six books. The series focuses on the titular character, his dog, his friends and their daily lives. “Henry Huggins” was rejected by the first publisher Cleary brought it to, but was later accepted by William Morrow and Company, which is now an imprint of HarperCollins. 

Besides her fictional work, Cleary also wrote two memoirs, “A Girl from Yamhill” and “My Own Two Feet.”

Cleary is succeeded by her two children, Malcolm and Marianne. 

According to The New Times, Roger Sutton, editor of The Horn Book, a magazine about children’s and young adult literature, said “Cleary is funny in a very sophisticated way. She gets very close to satire, which I think is why adults like her, but she’s still deeply respectful of her characters — nobody gets a laugh at the expense of another. I think kids appreciate that they’re on a level playing field with adults.”

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