Beverly Cleary, beloved children's book author, dead at 104

Beverly Cleary, beloved children's book author, dead at 104
Cleary at home in Carmel ValleyPhoto By Christina Koci Hernandez/San Francisco Chronicle by Getty Images
  • Beloved children's author Beverly Cleary died Thursday at the age of 104.
  • Harper Collins Publishers released a statement confirming the author's death Friday.
  • Her books sold more than 85 million copies worldwide during her decades-long career.

Beverly Cleary, the beloved children's book author and creator of timeless characters like Henry Huggins and Ramona Quimby, died Thursday at the age of 104.

Harper Collins Publishers announced Cleary's passing in a Friday press release. She died in Carmel, California, where she'd lived since the 1960s. The release did not cite a cause of death.

Generations of schoolchildren grew up on Cleary's books, many of whom learned how to read and write along with Cleary's most cherished characters. Her books have sold more than 85 million copies and have been translated into 29 languages, staying in print worldwide and remaining "must-reads" for young readers for decades.


Born in 1916 in McMinnville, Oregon, Cleary learned to love books after her own struggles with childhood reading. She specialized in librarianship at the University of Washington after graduating from the University of California at Berkeley.

According to Harper Collins, her desire to write for children was sparked when a little boy approached her working at the library one day and said: "where are the books about kids like us?"

In 1950, Cleary's first book, Henry Huggins was published, "setting a standard for realistic children's fantasy," Harper Collins said. Next came her most famous character, the pesky Ramona Quimby and her older sister, Beezus. She wrote more than forty books aimed at dealing with the real issues that young children cared about most.


Her spunky characters hated spelling, got into schoolyard fights, and dealt with the same challenges that kids across America did - things like fighting with a sibling or dealing with divorce.

"I think children want to read about normal, everyday kids. That's what I wanted to read about when I was growing up," Cleary told NPR in 1999. "I wanted to read about the sort of boys and girls that I knew in my neighborhood and in my school. And in my childhood, many years ago, children's books seemed to be about English children, or pioneer children. And that wasn't what I wanted to read. And I think children like to find themselves in books."

Over her career, Cleary was honored with a trove of literary awards, including the American Library Association's 1975 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award and the University of Southern Mississippi's 1982 Silver Medallion - all in honor of her "lasting contribution" to children's literature.


She was named a "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress in 2000 and was awarded the 2003 National Medal of Art from the National Endowment for the Arts.

She is survived by her two children, three grandchildren, and one great grandchild. Her husband Clarence Cleary died in 2004.

When young readers asked Cleary where she got the ideas for her books, she would tell them, "from my own experience and from the world around me," Harper Collins said.


"I think deep down inside children are all the same," Cleary told NPR. "They want two loving parents and they would prefer a house with a neighborhood they can play in. They want teachers that they can like. I don't think children have changed that much. It's the world that has changed."