Thursday, April 15

Obituary of Beverly Cleary | Children and adolescents


Children’s writer Beverly Cleary, who died at age 104, was best known for her book series about Ramona and her family, and other stories set in the Grant Park neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. While the realistic setting of the area he grew up in most directly appealed to US readers, his confident touch in depicting home school and family situations in a slightly humorous way, though his engaging and vivid characters assured it. popularity and critical acclaim worldwide.

Cleary’s featured character, Ramona Quimby, first appeared as the annoying younger sister of Beezus (Beatrice), best friends with the eponymous Henry in the early Cleary titles, Henry Huggins (1950), Henry and Beezus (1952) and Henry and Risby (1954). Henry and his dog were the stars of these books and of several others that followed.

Drawing on her experience as a children’s librarian, Cleary had the gift of directly engaging young readers who were beginning to choose books for themselves. When readers sent letters curious to learn more about the other characters in the stories, Cleary, encouraged by an editor who wanted stories about a child in kindergarten, wrote Beezus and Ramona (1955), in which he founded the Quimby family.

Beverly Cleary in the mid-1950s, when she established the Quimby family as the center of her books.
Beverly Cleary in the mid-1950s, when she established the Quimby family as the center of her books. Photography: Alamy

Ramona the Pest (1968), the first solo story about her, followed some time later. From the beginning, Ramona is lively and thoughtful. She is driven by ambition to grow up quickly to catch up with Beezus. Starting school will help, she’s sure, but she soon discovers that being in kindergarten does nothing to bridge the gap between the two.

Throughout Ramona’s titles, including Ramona the Brave (1975), Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (1981), and Ramona Forever (1984), Quimbys ‘Home Life, Girls’ School Life, and Broader Concerns of the community in which they live. in are easily recognizable through the characters and in the small-scale adventures that concern them. There are difficulties to overcome and small annoyances to overcome, reflecting how many family lives are largely devoid of great social or moral messages. Over the years, Ramona begins to feel a little less abandoned and, despite always wanting to be older, she is well aware that adults also have difficulties.

Cleary’s biggest success came with these stories for readers ages 7-11, which were inspired by her own experience as a struggling reader in her early days at school in Portland. Years later, having created what he was looking for, he wrote: “The discovery, when I was about 8 years old, that I could read and read with pleasure, was one of the most exciting moments of my life. . From that moment on, while reading on the shelves in the library, I searched, but could not find, the books I most wanted to read: books about the type of children that lived in my neighborhood, books that make me laugh. “

However, he also wrote for other ages and genders, including four picture books with twins, including The Real Hole (1962), which was based on his own experiences of his twins, three fantasy books in which Ralph S Mouse interacts with humans. , including The Mouse. and the Motorcycle (1965) and the Runaway Mouse (1970), and a handful of novels for teenagers. Highly respected when published: Fifteen (1956) was selected in 1962 as one of four launch titles from Peacock Books, the original Penguin Books list for teenagers in the UK, and Dear Mr Henshaw (1983) won the Newbery medal ; These have lasted worse, as the early romances stories of the 1950s and the teenage introspection of the 1980s, respectively, have gone out of style over the years.

Beverly Cleary talking about the books she wrote for children who wanted to read about characters in the world they knew

Beverly was born in McMinnville, Oregon, and was the only child of Mable (née Atlee), a school teacher, and Chester Bunn, a farmer. He grew up on the family farm in Yamhill, Oregon, until he was six years old, when his father took a job as a bank security guard and the family moved to the largest city in the state, Portland. Graduated from Grant High School in 1934, Cleary received a BA in English from the University of California, Berkeley (1938) before fulfilling her ambition to be a librarian by earning a BA in library science from the University of Washington, Seattle (1939). ).

Upon graduation, she worked as a children’s librarian at the Yakima, Washington Public Library, followed by a librarian position at the United States Army Hospital, Oakland, California. In 1940 she married Clarence Cleary, the couple who eloped because their parents disapproved of the relationship because he was a Catholic. His twins, a boy and a girl, were born in 1955.

Cleary received the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award (1975) and the National Medal of Arts (2003), and became a Living Legend from the Library of Congress (2000). Statues of their characters can be found in a kindergarten in Grant Park, Oregon, and his old school now Beverly Cleary School.

Clarence died in 2004. Cleary is survived by her children, Malcolm and Marianne, three grandchildren, and a great-grandchild.

Beverly Atlee Cleary, writer, born April 12, 1916; died on March 25, 2021

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