Beverly Cleary turns 100!

Beverly Cleary

Today is a day I celebrate books, reading, and one of my favorite authors, Beverly Cleary.  I read everything she wrote when I was a child.  I’ve read The Mouse and the Motorcycle half a dozen times.  I re-enacted parts of Homer Price, bottling up my own “Ever-so-much-more-so” for my little brother, Eric, which he sprinkled on every owie.  I followed Ramona and Bezus and Henry Huggins through their neighborhoods. They were my friends and part of my world and I was a part of theirs.  I’m grateful I grew up in a day and age when school libraries were filled with Beverly Cleary books, tattered and well-read.  What a gift they were to us!  Thank you, Beverly Cleary.  Happy 100th!

5 Things To Know About Beverly Cleary

We know Ramona. We know Ralph and Beezus and Henry, too. But what about the woman who brought those characters to life? Here are five facts about beloved author Beverly Cleary.

Farm girl Beverly Atlee Bunn was born on April 12, 1916, in McMinnville, Oregon. She lived with her mother, Mable, and father, Lloyd, on a farm in Yamhill until the age of 6, when the family moved to Portland.

Beverly Atlee Bunn smiles for the camera as she sits on the lap of her mother, Mable.

Beverly Atlee Bunn smiles for the camera as she sits on the lap of her mother, Mable.

Courtesy: Cleary Family Archive/Used with Permission

A blackbird learns to read Although her mother read to her often (Mable had, in fact, started a library in Yamhill), Beverly Cleary was placed in her first grade class’s lowest reading group, the Blackbirds. It wasn’t until the third grade that she began to enjoy reading.

Beverly at age 7

Beverly at age 7

Courtesy: Cleary Family Archive/Used with Permission

Street smarts Klickitat Street in Portland is the setting of some of Beverly Cleary’s best-known books; however, the author never lived on that street. Her childhood homes in Portland were on NE Halsey Street, NE 77th Street, NE Hancock Street and NE 37th Street.

Beverly Cleary's childhood neighborhood in Portland set the stage for her books.

Beverly Cleary’s childhood neighborhood in Portland set the stage for her books.

Illustrations Copyright © 1950 (Louis Darling)./Used with the permission of HarperCollins Children’s Books.

I have a question Beverly Cleary was a librarian before she became an author. She attended librarianship school at the University of Washington in Seattle, interned at the Central Library in Portland and got a job as a children’s librarian in Yakima, Washington. It was in Yakima that a little boy asked her, “Where are the books about kids like us?” His question served as inspiration when, nearly 10 years later, she sat down to write what would be her first book, “Henry Huggins.”

Children read at the Yakima Library.Children read at the Yakima Library.
Courtesy: Cleary Family Archive/Used with Permission

Cleary’s first full-time job as a librarian was in Yakima.

Staying true Childhood experiences color Beverly Cleary’s works — the places she lived, the children she knew, what she thought and felt at that time. Her books’ enduring appeal springs from her writing about kids being kids. She, however, does not want to be seen as a children’s book author, but rather, an author who writes for children.

The first day of first grade for little Beverly (far right)

The first day of first grade for little Beverly (far right)

Courtesy: Cleary Family Archive/Used with Permission

100 years, 91 million copies On April 12, 2016, Beverly Cleary turns 100; more than 91 million copies of her books have been sold; she has written almost a book a year for 50 years.

Beverly Cleary has written more than 40 books.

Beverly Cleary has written more than 40 books.

Courtesy: Cleary Family Archive/Used with Permission


About Ann Laemmlen Lewis

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