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Summary Article: Cleary, Beverly
from Continuum Encyclopedia of Children's Literature

C. lived on a farm in Yamhill, Oregon, until she was old enough to go to school. Yamhill had no public library but C.'s mother arranged for the state library to send books to Yamhill; she set up the books as a library in a room over a bank and served as the librarian. Surrounded by books and with a mother as librarian, C. learned to love books. When C.'s family moved to Portland, she attended elementary school but found that she was in the slowest reading group. She mastered reading by the third grade but she has always had a special sympathy for children with reading problems.

A great deal of C.'s childhood was spent in a library or on the way to or from a library. C.'s school librarian suggested that she should write for children when she grew up. The idea appealed to C.; she decided that she would write the kind of books that she had wanted to read—but could not find—on the library shelves when she was growing up. C. wanted books that were funny and about children like the ones in her neighborhood. Her first writing effort, when she was ten years old, won a two-dollar prize because, C. explains, no one else entered the contest. C. graduated from junior college, Ontario, University of California, Berkeley, and entered the School of Librarianship at the University of Washington, Seattle. In library school she specialized in work with children. C. served as children's librarian in Yakima, Washington, until she married, moved to California, and became the mother of twins. During World War II, C. served as Post Librarian at the Oakland Army Hospital. C. wrote Henry Huggins (1950), her first book, when she heard children complain that there were no books about people like them. Most of the books for children were about those who lived in foreign countries and had adventures that could never happen to ordinary children. Henry Huggins, a composite of the boys C. knew as a child, has normal, everyday experiences. Henry finds a stray dog and names him Ribsy; Ribsy would soon have a story told from his point of view as C.'s books became even more popular. Henry's friend Beezus and her little sister Ramona, widen the circle of believable characters who inhabit C.'s stories. Beezus and Ramona act like children who live down the street. C. is a masterful storyteller who sees the HUMOR in simple, childlike adventures. She is talented at developing a character through dialogue and behavior and portrays children as they see themselves.

C. produced other types of stories that also became popular with readers. For example The Mouse and the Motorcycle (1965), Runaway Ralph (1977), and Ralph S. Mouse (1982) feature an extraordinary talking mouse who creates adventures everywhere he goes. C. won the NEW-BERY MEDAL for Dear Mr. Henshaw (1984), a remarkable story told through Leigh Botts's letters to an author and his diary entries. The story contains pathos, humor, and heartache; it is the first time C. wrote about a child of divorced parents. It is obvious that C.'s work appeals to children; several million copies of her books are in print.

C. writes from her own life experiences. Mitch and Amy (1967) comes directly from C.'s experience rearing her twin son and daughter filtered through the author's imagination. Family relationships are frankly explored in language and dialogue familiar to children. Ramona's fear of spelling tests, following in her big sister's footsteps and fear for her family when her father loses his job are familiar situations to children. C. discusses these things with characteristic candor and humor. She depicts the ways family members come together to support each other in crises, to learn and to grow. C. enjoys writing and makes no special effort to be funny. Her irreverently humorous outlook on life has universal appeal to children. They see their own lives reflected in C.'s stories about Ramona, her family, and friends in suburbs and small towns across America.


Awards

Laura Ingalls WILDER Award (1975) for body of work. Golden Kite Award (1982) for Ralph S. Mouse. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION Newbery Medal Honor Book (1978) for Ramona and Her Father and (1982) for Ramona Quimby, Age 8. ALA NEWBERY MEDAL (1984), Christopher Award (1984), Friends of Children and Literature Award (1987) for Dear Mr. Henshaw. DE GRUMMOND REFERENCE COLLECTION,

University of Southern Mississippi Medallion (1982), George C. Stone Center Award (1983) and CHILDREN'S BOOK COUNCIL Honor (1985) for a body of work. Bay Area Reviewer's Award (1988) for A Girl from Yamhill: A Memoir. IB BY Honor List (1980) for Ramona and Her Father


Further Works: Ellen Tebbits, 1951 Otis Spof fard, 1953 Beezus and Ramona, 1955 Ramona the Pest, 1968 Socks, 1973 Ramona the Brave, 1975 Ramona and Her Father, 1977 Ramona and Her Mother, 1979 Ramona Quimby, Age 8, 1981 Ramona Forever, 1984 Muggie Maggie, 1990 Strider, 1991 Ramona's World, 1999
Bibliography C., B., A Girl from Yamhill: A Memoir, 1988 C., B., My Own Two Feet: A Memoir, 1995 C., B., “The Booklist Interview,” Booklist, October 15, 1990 C., B., “Newbery Medal Acceptance,” the Horn Book magazine. August 1984 HOPKINS, Lee Bennett, Pauses: Autobiographical Reflections of 101 Creators of Children's Books, 1995 Kovacs, D and J. Preller, Meet the Authors and Illustrators, 1991 MEIGS, C. et al., A Critical History of Children's Literature, 1969

Bernice E.Cullinan

© 2005 The Continuum International Publishing Group, Ltd

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