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Beverly Cleary, iconic children's author who brought us Ramona Quimby, just turned 104

Although over two decades have passed since Cleary published her last book, her contributions to the literary world remain unmatched.

Beverly Cleary, iconic children's author who brought us Ramona Quimby, just turned 104
Cover Image Source: Beverly Cleary

Beverly Cleary, the legendary children's author who brought the beloved Ramona Quimby books to the world, celebrated her 104th birthday on Sunday. Although over two decades have passed since the icon published her last book, her contributions to the literary world and the part they've played in the childhoods of generations of young readers, remain unmatched. Even today, Cleary's stories about Ramona Quimby, her big sister Beezus, Henry Huggins, his fourlegged pal Ribsy, Ellen Tebbits, Otis Spofford, and more, hold great significance to her fans, many of whom took to social media to wish the author a happy birthday.



Cleary's birthday, April 12, holds special significance to ardent readers as it is also celebrated as the National D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) Day by publisher HarperCollins in honor of the author's immense contributions to the world of literary arts. Although she has earned a number of prestigious awards for her work and is undeniably one of the most successful authors in history, the achievement she's most proud of is "the fact that children love my books."







Speaking to TODAY's Jenna Bush Hager back in 2016 on the occasion of turning 100, Cleary revealed that she'd never expected to make it to the century mark. "I remember a very earnest conversation my best friend and I had when we were, I guess, freshmen in high school, about how long we wanted to live," she recalled. "And we decided that 80 was the cut-off date." When asked about surpassing that cut-off by over two decades, the author responded in true Ramona fashion: "Well, I didn't do it on purpose!"



Although many have observed this similarity between Cleary and her most famous character, Ramona, the author herself believes there's a distinct difference between them. "I thought like Ramona," she told The Washington Post, "but I was a very well-behaved little girl." The author's description of the beloved character, therefore, gives us a glimpse into the workings of a young Cleary's brain: "She was not a slowpoke grownup. She was a girl who could not wait. Life was so interesting she had to find out what happened next." Ramona-like thoughts apart, the renowned author's childhood was quite different from that of her plucky heroine.







According to her website, Cleary was born in McMinnville, Oregon, in 1916, and lived on a farm in Yamhill until she was old enough to attend school. While her life has been defined by her books, Cleary struggled with reading as a child. When her family moved to Portland, Oregon, she found herself in the grammar school's low reading circle—an experience that made her empathetic to the problems of struggling readers. Having conquered reading by the third grade, Cleary began toying with the idea of someday writing books for young readers; books she longed to read but was unable to find on the library shelves.







"Books in those days, back in the 1920s, had been published in England, and the children had nannies and pony carts and they seemed like a bunch of sissies to me," she told Bush Hager. Cleary's books, therefore, do not feature pony carts or nannies. Instead, they are filled with characters you might find around you. Relatable characters who represent the experiences and emotions of actual American children.







Here's wishing the beloved author a very special birthday and many more to come.


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