Happy 100th Birthday, Beverly Cleary!

April 12, 2016 | Charlene Lee

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Beverly Cleary
Photo courtesy of Terry Smith/The Life Images Collection/Getty

It’s hard to believe that Beverly Cleary turns 100 today given the continuing popularity of her books, of which millions of copies have been sold. Although the world was a different place when some of her most famous characters were brought to life, there’s still something enduring about them that appeals to readers today.

Before World War II Cleary worked as a librarian and recognized the need for relatable children’s books, which she discussed in an interview with NPR in 1999: “I think children want to read about normal, everyday kids… That’s what I wanted to read about when I was growing up. I wanted to read about the sort of boys and girls that I knew in my neighborhood and in my school… I think children like to find themselves in books”. Fast forward to today, and that sentiment still rings true.

Beezus and Ramona (1955)    Ramona the Pest (1968)   Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (1981)

Cleary’s first book, Henry Huggins, was published in 1950 but she is probably best known (and maybe loved) for her books about Ramona Quimby, whose entertaining hijinks always led to some endearing and sentimental lessons. While Ramona was often up to no good, her emotional struggles and insecurities, and those of her older sister Beezus, were always striking and reminiscent.  

Cleary’s books are still able to lure new readers confirming her belief that even with the changing times, kids remain the same. That, combined with the emotional authenticity with which each story is told. Cleary wrote about feelings brought on by the joys, embarrassments, and fears of everyday life, and as her characters were making strides in discovering the world around them, Cleary allowed her readers to do the same.

Check out Cleary's works in various formats:

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