Author Beverly Cleary, whose books charmed several generations of young readers and were adapted for film and television, has died at 104. She passed Thursday at her longtime home in Carmel, Calif., according to a statement from publisher HarperCollins.
“We are saddened by the passing of Beverly Cleary, one of the most beloved children’s authors of all- time. Looking back, she’d often say, ‘I’ve had a lucky life,’ and generations of children count themselves lucky too—lucky to have the very real characters Beverly Cleary created, including Henry Huggins, Ramona and Beezus Quimby, and Ralph S. Mouse, as true friends who helped shape their growing-up years,” said a statement from Suzanne Murphy, president and publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books.
Cleary was born on April 12, 1916 in McMinnville, Oregon as Beverly Atlee Bunn. She later attended Chaffey Junior College in Ontario, Calif., earning her tuition with work as a chambermaid and seamstress, before moving on to the University of California, Berkeley. There she met her husband, Clarence Cleary.
The two married in 1940 and had twins Malcolm and Marianne, the inspirations for her book, Mitch and Amy. Beverly and Clarence were together until his death in 2004.
Cleary worked as a librarian after college, and became a writer when she realized that the books she longed to read couldn’t be found in the library’s offerings.
Cleary published her first book, Henry Huggins, in 1950. She claimed she aimed to make books that kids could relate to. Ramona Quimby, the feisty child whom she created for Beezus and Ramona in 1955, was her breakout hit. Actresses Selena Gomez and Joey King played the characters in the 2010 movie Beezus and Ramona.
Her Ralph S. Mouse novels were also made into a series of ABC Weekend Specials from 1986-1991.
Cleary authored 32 books, with the final one, Ramona’s World, published in 1999. But her legacy includes having a holiday called National D.E.A.R. Day (Drop Everything and Read) celebrated each April 12 in honor of her accomplishments as a children’s author.
She also won a National Book Award, a Newbery Medal, a National Medal of Art from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Library of Congress Living Legend Award.
Survivors include children Malcolm and Marianne, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. No memorial plans have been announced.