Best-selling children’s author Beverly Cleary enrolled at Chaffey College with aspirations of becoming a children’s librarian. After two years of study at Chaffey, she transferred to UC Berkeley and continued on to the School of Library and Information Science at the University of Washington, where she earned a master’s degree in library science.
As a children’s librarian in Yakima, Wash., Cleary empathized with her young visitors who had difficulty finding books with characters they could identify with. After a few years of making recommendations and performing live storytelling in her role as a librarian, Cleary decided to start writing children’s books herself, focusing on characters young readers could relate to.
Her first book, “Henry Huggins,” was published in 1950 and was the first in a series of fictional chapter books about Henry, his dog, Ribsy, his neighborhood friend, Beezus and her little sister, Ramona. Her books have been praised for the way she wrote about childhood, specifically the way she captures the experience of children growing up in middle-class families.
Cleary’s books have earned many prestigious awards, including the 2003 National Medal of Art from the National Endowment of the Arts and the 1984 John Newbery Medal for “Dear Mr. Henshaw.” Her books “Ramona and Her Father” and “Ramona Quimby, Age 8” were named 1978 and 1982 Newbery Honor Books, respectively. Among Cleary’s other awards are the American Library Association’s 1975 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, the Catholic Library Association’s 1980 Regina Medal, and the University of Southern Mississippi’s 1982 Silver Medallion, all presented in recognition of her lasting contribution to children’s literature. In addition, Mrs. Cleary was the 1984 United States author nominee for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, a prestigious international award. In 2000, to honor her invaluable contributions to children’s literature, Beverly Cleary was named a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress.She passed away on March 26, 2021 at the age of 104. Beverly Cleary’s books appear in more than 20 countries in 14 languages. Her characters, including Henry Huggins, Ellen Tebbits, Otis Spofford, and Beezus and Ramona Quimby, as well as Ribsy, Socks and Ralph S. Mouse, are still beloved by children today.