CALIFORNIA — On Thursday, March 25, author Beverly Clearly passed away in Carmel, CA at age 104, her publisher HarperCollins revealed.
On March 26, the publishing company posted on Twitter:
“We are saddened to share that cherished children’s book author Beverly Clearly passed away yesterday, March 25, at 104 years old.”
Born Beverly Bunn on April 12, 1916 in McMinnville, Oregon, she developed an interest in books when her mother “set up a library for the small town in a lodge room upstairs over a bank,” according to a press release by HarperCollins. After moving to Portland, Clearly “found herself in the grammar school’s low reading circle, an experience that gave her a lifelong sympathy for the problems of struggling readers.”
In 1938, Clearly graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a Bachelor’s degree in English. She later “specialized in librarianship at the University of Washington, Seattle” and graduated a year later, noted HarperCollins.
Soon after, Clearly became a librarian in Yakima, Washington and decided to become an author after a boy approached her, asking “‘Where are the books about kids like us?,'” noted the publishing company.
Her first book, Henry Huggins, was published in 1950. Within the next five decades, Clearly went on to publish more than 30 books, including Ramona the Pest (1968), The Mouse and the Motorcycle (1965), Ralph S. Mouse (1982), and Socks (1973).
Clearly’s Ramona book series inspired the 2010 movie, Ramona and Beezus, featuring Selena Gomez as Beezus and Joey King as Ramona, along with Sandra Oh, Ginnifer Goodwin, and Josh Duhamel.
She told NPR in 1999 that she believes “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.”
In 2000, the Library of Congress named Clearly as a Living Legend. Dr. James H. Billington, who was its librarian at the time, said these recipients “advanced and embodied the quintessentially American ideal of individual creativity, conviction, dedication, and exuberance,” stated its website.
Aside from Clearly, other recipients that year include the late Congressman John Lewis, Muhammad Ali, Judy Blume, David Copperfield, Toni Morrison, Tiger Woods, and more than 30 others.
In November 2003, Clearly won the National Medal of Arts and met then-President George W. Bush at the White House. It is “the highest award given to artists and art patrons by the United States government,” according to its website.
Every April 12, the author’s birthday, D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read) Day is celebrated across the United States to honor her.
Clearly is survived by her children, Marianne and Malcolm, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. Her husband, Clarence Clearly, died in 2004 at 94 years old.