Beverly Cleary was born in McMinnville Oregon, and, until she was old enough to attend school, lived on a farm in Yamhill, a town so small it had no library. Her mother arranged with the State Library to have books sent to Yamhill and acted as librarian in a lodge room upstairs over a bank. There young Beverly learned to love books. However, when the family moved to Portland, Beverly soon found herself in the grammar school’s low reading circle, an experience that has given her sympathy for the problems of struggling readers.
By the third grade she had conquered reading and spent much of her childhood either with books or on her way to and from the public library. Before long her school librarian was suggesting that she should write for boys and girls when she grew up. The idea appealed to her, and she decided that someday she would write the books she longed to read but was unable to find on the library shelves, funny stories about her neighborhood and the sort of children she knew. And so Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, Ellen Tebbits, and her other beloved characters were born.
When children ask Mrs. Cleary where she finds her ideas, she replies, “From my own experience and from the world around me.” She included a passage about the D.E.A.R. program in Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (second chapter) because she was inspired by letters she received from children who participated in “Drop Everything and Read” activities. Their interest and enthusiasm encouraged her to provide the same experience to Ramona, who enjoys D.E.A.R. time with the rest of her class.
Mrs. Cleary’s books have earned her 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 Ramona and Her Father and Ramona Quimby, Age 8 were named 1978 and 1982 Newbery Honor Books, respectively.
Among Mrs. 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.
Equally important are the more than 35 statewide awards Mrs. Cleary’s books have received based on the direct votes of her young readers. In 2000, to honor her invaluable contributions to children’s literature, Beverly Cleary was named a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress. This witty and warm author is truly an international favorite. Mrs. Cleary’s books appear in over twenty countries in fourteen languages and her characters, including Henry Huggins, Ellen Tebbits, Otis Spofford, and Beezus and Ramona Quimby, as well as Ribsy, Socks, and Ralph S. Mouse, have delighted children for generations. And her popularity has not diminished.