CARMEL (CBS SF) — Beverly Cleary, the treasured writer of such classic children’s books as “Henry Huggins,” “Ramona and Beezus” and “The Mouse and the Motorcycle,” has died at her home in Carmel at age 104.
Publishing house HarperCollins issued a press release confirming Cleary’s death on Thursday, March 25, noting that she had lived in Carmel since the 1960s.READ MORE: Rising Sea Level Threatens Stinson Beach Neighborhoods
According to the publishing house Cleary published her first book, “Henry Huggins,” was published in 1950. She would write more than 40 additional books during a career that the HarperCollins release said set “a standard for realistic children’s fiction.”
“Beverly Cleary has become beloved by generations of children. Mrs. Cleary has also inspired authors, including Judy Blume, to deal with the real issues in young readers’ lives,” the press release stated.
HarperCollins also posted about Cleary’s passing on its Twitter account Friday afternoon.
— HarperCollins (@HarperCollins) March 26, 2021
“We are saddened by the passing of Beverly Cleary, one of the most beloved children’s authors of all time,” said HarperCollins Children’s Books President and Publisher Suzanne Murphy in the company’s release. “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.”
Born Beverly Bunn in McMinnville, Oregon on April 12, 1916, the future author spent her formative years on the family farm in Yamhill. While she had an early love for books thanks to a library her mother set up for the small town, when her family moved to Portland, she found herself struggling with reading in grammar school.
It was that experience and her eventual overcoming of the challenge that gave her a lifelong sympathy for the problems of struggling readers, according to HarpersCollins.
By sixth or seventh grade, “I decided that I was going to write children’s stories,” she said.READ MORE: Kaiser Employees Win $11.5 Million Class-Action, Race-Discrimination Lawsuit
Cleary graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, where she met her husband, Clarence. They married in 1940. UC Berkeley would later name a dormitory in her honor.
Though she trained and initially worked as a librarian, after “Henry Huggins” was published in 1950, millions came to love the adventures of Huggins, his dog Ribsy and neighbors Ellen Tebbits, Otis Spofford, Beatrice “Beezus” Quimby and her younger sister, Ramona Quimby.
The characters inhabited a down-home, wholesome setting on Klickitat Street — a real street in Portland where Cleary spent much of her youth.
Ramona, perhaps her best-known character, made her debut in “Henry Huggins” with only a brief mention.
“All the children appeared to be only children so I tossed in a little sister and she didn’t go away. She kept appearing in every book,” she said in a March 2016 telephone interview from a Carmel retirement home where she lived.
In all, there were eight books on Ramona between “Beezus and Ramona” in 1955 and “Ramona’s World” in 1999. Others included “Ramona the Pest” and “Ramona and Her Father.” In 1981, “Ramona and Her Mother” won the National Book Award.
Cleary and Clarence were the parents of twins, a boy and a girl born in 1955 who inspired her book “Mitch and Amy.”
Cleary also ventured into fantasy with “The Mouse and the Motorcycle,” and the sequels “Runaway Ralph” and “Ralph S. Mouse.” “Socks,” about a cat’s struggle for acceptance when his owners have a baby, is told from the point of view of the pet himself.
She was named a Living Legend in 2000 by the Library of Congress. In 2003, she was chosen as one of the winners of the National Medal of Arts and met President George W. Bush.
Her husband Clarence died in 2004.MORE NEWS: Bay Area Teams Ready to Welcome Fans But Impact of Fake Vaccination Cards Is Unknown
© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.