Beverly Cleary was born in 1916, in McMinnville, Oregon. She is best known for writing children’s chapter books that center on her lovable, funny, and inquisitive main character named Ramona Quimby.
When Beverly was a child, she lived on a farm in a small town in Yamhill, Oregon. The town was so small that it didn’t even have a library! Since Beverly loved to read, her mother arranged for books to be delivered to their farm from the Oregon State Library. Her mother, a former teacher, read aloud to her often.
When it was time for school, however, Beverly’s family moved to Portland, Oregon. Here, Beverly found herself struggling in the lowest reading group in her class. This was one of the reasons Beverly cared so much for struggling readers when she became a children’s author. She wanted to write books that would make kids laugh and ones that they could relate to.
By third grade Beverly finally felt confident in her reading. She began visiting the school library, where she met and befriended the librarian who suggested that she become a children’s author when she grew up.
At age 18, Cleary graduated from college at the University of California at Berkeley and studied library science at the University of Washington. In 1950, Beverly wrote her first children’s book, Henry Huggins. Henry was a boy who grew up in a neighborhood similar to her own in Portland, Oregon. One of Henry’s friends had a sister named Ramona. Although Beverly never intended for Ramona to become her signature character, she eventually became the subject of many funny books still popular today such as Ramona and her Father and Ramona Quimby, Age 8. Beverly injected her mother’s advice into her stories and wrote about childhood memories from growing up in Oregon.
The books were an instant hit among beginning chapter book readers. Cleary went on to win many awards for her books including two Newberry Awards. Beverly’s books can be found in 20 countries and read in at least 14 different languages. She says her stories are still popular today because they capture what life is like for kids. Cleary recently turned 101 years old!