Beverly Cleary Turns 100: Surprising Facts About The Beloved Children’s Author Who Brought Ramona Quimby To Life

Today, beloved children’s author Beverly Cleary turns 100! During her writing career, which spanned more than 20 years, she wrote more than 40 books. PBS tells readers, she was the inspiration for other children’s authors, including Judy Blume and Kate DiCamillo.

In total, more than 85 million copies of Beverly Cleary’s books have been sold. Saying she is one of the greats of children’s literature is putting it lightly. Here are a few things you may or may not know about Beverly.

She was once a poor reader. Cleary spent her early life in a small town that was void of an actual library. Yamhill, Oregon’s first makeshift library was established (above the bank) by her mother, who ordered books from the state library and then took on the duties of town librarian.

When it was time for grade school, the family moved to Portland. Beverly Cleary almost flunked out of first grade because of her lack of reading comprehension. The teachers often punished her for daydreaming in class. Whether or not she was daydreaming remains unclear. But, in later years, Cleary had this to say about that.

“My mother always read to me, so why should I learn to read?”

Credit goes to the Portland librarian when it comes to the young student’s improved reading skills. By the time Beverly was in third grade, she loved to pick up a book and find herself magically transported into the middle of the story.

Beverly Cleary wrote her first book for a young boy in Washington. After college, Cleary worked as a librarian in several different locations, one of which was Yakima, Washington.

The children’s author wrote her first book, Henry Huggins, in 1950. She got the idea after a student who frequently visited the library complained that he could never find any good stories relating to his life.

Interesting to note, Cleary’s publisher rejected the book first. However, after several changes, which included adding Beezus and Ramona to the storyline, the book was published. Just think of how many children would’ve missed out on the adventures of these two characters if they had never came to be?

Ramona was actually created by accident. When Cleary was making the requested changes to Henry Huggins, she created Beezus Quimby as another main character. It only occurred to her to create Ramona after she heard a neighbor calling out the name. The author fashioned Ramona after a young neighbor who was just “a little bit impossible.”

Beverly Cleary created most of her plots after reading fan mail from young readers. One example of this is the book Dear Mr. Henshaw. It was written after two boys wrote to her and asked her to write a story about divorce.

As recently reported by TheInquisitr, when questioned about her secret to reaching the age of 100, Beverly Cleary replied.

“Well, I didn’t do it on purpose. 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, and we decided that 80 was the cut-off date.”

According to Associated Press, Beverly Cleary is celebrating her birthday milestone with family and friends in the comfort of her Carmel, California, retirement home. After all, it isn’t every day you turn 100! There’s carrot cake on the menu for dessert. Afterward, there will be a movie shown in her honor, Discovering Beverly Cleary: An Oregon Art Beat.

If you have a young reader or readers in your family, why not introduce them to Ramona Quimby and friends? The easiest way to start is to point them to Cleary’s official website, where they’ll find a ton of information and fun (interactive) activities to keep them busy. This includes printing out journal pages, reading an actual Beverly Cleary book, playing arcade games, and tips on planning a Ramona Quimby party.

Growing up, was Beverly Cleary one of your favorite authors? Was it easy for you to relate to Ramona and Beezus Quimby? How about Henry Huggins or the infamous motorcycle mouse? If you answered yes, to any of these questions, what was your favorite book or “Ramona moment?” Feel free to leave your comments or even a birthday wish to Beverly Cleary below.

[Photo by RimDream/Shutterstock]

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