Beverly Cleary, treasured children’s book author, dies at age 104

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Joseph Wilkinson, New York Daily News
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Beverly Cleary, whose relatable books delighted children for decades, died Thursday. She was 104.

Cleary died at her home in Carmel, Calif., her publisher, HarperCollins, announced. She’d lived there since the 1960s. No cause of death was announced.

Cleary was the woman behind many beloved characters, most notably Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins, whose adventures in Portland, Ore., captivated kids beginning in 1950.

On her 100th birthday, Cleary said she was proudest of “the fact that children love my books.” Initially a librarian, Cleary started writing after a young boy asked for books about “kids like us.”

“Well, there weren’t any books about kids like them. So when I sat down to write, I found myself writing about the sort of children I had grown up with,” she told the Associated Press in 1993.

The squad on Klickitat Street, a real street in Portland, soon followed, and millions of fans got to know them. Henry Huggins was the first in the 1950, but Ramona became the readers’ favorite.

“Ramona and Her Father” in 1978 and “Ramona Quimby, Age 8 1/4 u2033 in 1982 both won Newbery Honors.

“All the children appeared to be only children so I tossed in a little sister and she didn’t go away,” Cleary told the AP in 2016. “She kept appearing in every book.”

Cleary said that while the kids were inspired by her own childhood, she shared few personality traits with them.

“I was a well-behaved little girl, not that I wanted to be,” she said on her 100th birthday. “At the age of Ramona, in those days, children played outside. We played hopscotch and jump rope and I loved them and always had scraped knees.”

Cleary eventually wrote more than 40 books between 1950 and 1999 1/4 u2032s closing chapter, “Ramona’s World.” In 1984, “Dear Mr. Henshaw” won the Newbery Medal, the top prize in children’s literature.

The New York Public Library ranked Cleary’s top 5 books for her 100th birthday, putting 1968 1/4 u2032s “Ramona the Pest” at No. 1.

“I love Beverly Cleary because she is honest to children about children’s experiences,” NYPL’s Jacqueline Quinn said. “She depicts the fun, the quirky, but also the difficulties children face.”

Born Beverly Bunn on April 12, 1916, in McMinnville, Ore., she loved books from a very young age. She met her future husband, Clarence Cleary, while studying at the University of California at Berkeley, and the two married in 1940.

Cleary became a librarian, until that fateful day when “a little boy faced me rather ferociously across the circulation desk and said: ‘Where are the books about kids like us?’”