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Beverly Cleary - Best-selling children's author - Chaffey College

Beverly Cleary was born in McMinnville, Ore., 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.

As she recounts in her autobiography "A Girl From Yamhill," she had a breakthrough one rainy Sunday afternoon:

"The outside world drizzled, the inside world was heavy with the smell of pot roast and my father’s Sunday after-dinner cigar, and I was so bored I picked up 'The Dutch Twins' to look at the pictures. Suddenly I was reading and enjoying what I read! It was a miracle. I was happy in a way I had not been happy since starting school."

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. Now, D.E.A.R Day is celebrated nationwide on April 12, in honor of Beverly Cleary’s birthday.

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. In 2000, to honor her invaluable contributions to children’s literature, Beverly Cleary was named a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress.

Of great importance to Beverly Cleary are the more than thirty-five statewide awards her books have received, based on the direct votes of her young readers. In 2009, with interest sparked by the Ramona and Beezus movie, her books appeared in two places on the New York Times Bestseller List for many weeks, with Beezus and Ramona hitting the chapter book list and all of the Ramona books on the series list. This witty and warm author is truly an international favorite. Beverly 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 continued to delight each new generation afresh.

 

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