Beverly Cleary with children at Berkeley, 1957.
Beverly Cleary turns 100 years old today. The award-winning author created the iconic characters Ramona Quimby, her sister Beezus, Henry Huggins, and of course, Ralph S. Mouse. More than half a century after her first book was published, sales are still strong, with more than 90 million books sold and counting.
The numbers tell a story of their own: three generations of readers, in 14 languages and 20 countries. Her first book, "Henry Huggins," was published in 1950. Her last book, "Ramona’s World," was published in 1999. That’s almost a book a year, every year, for 50 years.
David Reuther, retired editor in chief for Morrow Junior Books, was Cleary’s editor for 16 years, starting in 1982. He says that, by far, she was the best-selling author on the Morrow list at that time. “I think it’s because what she’s talking about is timeless. The books did change, but in some ways they didn’t change. They were always about childhood, and those things don’t really change.”
That’s what Dhonielle Clayton sees firsthand. She’s both an author of young adult books, and a middle school librarian at Harlem Village Academy in New York. “My students don’t notice how there aren’t the modern technologies put into the text," she said. "They get swept into her hijinks. And into her character. And I think that’s where she soars.”
Beverly Cleary by her mailbox in Carmel, California.
Beverly Cleary spent her early life on a farm in Yamhill, Oregon and later grew up in Portland during the Great Depression. She set many of her stories on Klickitat Street.
HarperCollins is toasting her 100th birthday with new editions of three of her most popular books.
Beverly Cleary spoke to Oregon Public Broadcasting recently for the first-ever documentary about her life, "Discovering Beverly Cleary." “I write about ordinary American boys and girls who lived in the neighborhood in which I grew up,” Cleary said.
Libraries all over the country are hosting birthday parties of their own, and school children are celebrating her on “Drop Everything and Read Day.” And she’s been inundated with birthday cards and greetings from all over the world.
“My name is Beverly Cleary. I’m so happy to have my birthday remembered by so many people. And I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart,” she said.
Link to “Discovering Beverly Cleary” doc: www.opb.org/BeverlyCleary