Beverly Cleary, the award-winning children’s author whose work has been read by young readers for more than 70 years, has died at 104, her publisher, HarperCollins, said in a statement Friday.
Cleary, whose books helped generations of kids grapple with the challenging issues of childhood, was inspired to answer the question once posed to her by a young boy: “Where are the books about kids like us?”
Cleary was born April 12, 1916 in McMinnville, Oregon, andgrew up in Portland and Yamhill, titling her autobiography, “A Girl from Yamhill.” She died Thursday in northern California, where she lived.
After first training as a librarian, Cleary became an author and wrote scores of children’s books that were translated into over a dozen languages, popularizing characters like Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins.
It was at a library where her early dream of writing for children was rekindled when “a little boy faced me rather ferociously across the circulation desk and said: ‘Where are the books about kids like us?’”
Cleary won the National Book Award in 1981 for “Ramona and Her Mother,” and “Dear Mr. Henshaw” won the John Newbery Medal in 1984.
In an interview with TODAY to celebrate her turning 100 years old in 2016, Clearly said, “Well, I didn’t do it on purpose!”
She told TODAY that she was proudest of “the fact that children love my books.”
Shortly after news of her death broke on Friday, tributes poured in across the internet.
Florida State Representative Anna V. Eskamani said that Cleary’s books “are why I first fell in love with reading in second grade, and I’ve been a lifelong reader ever since!”
Portland-based bookstore Powell’s Books wrote that Cleary was “a Portland hero.”
“We are so deeply saddened by this loss and grateful for the the beloved stories she gave us.”