Beverly Cleary was born in McMinnville, Oregon, and, until she was old enough to attend school, lived on a farm in Yamhill, a town so small it had no library. Her mother arranged with the State Library to have books sent to Yamhill and acted as librarian in a lodge room upstairs over a bank. There Mrs. Cleary learned to love books. When the family moved to Portland, where Mrs. Cleary attended grammar school and high school, she soon found herself in the low reading circle, an experience that has given her sympathy for the problems of struggling readers. By the third grade she had conquered reading and spent much of her childhood either with books or on her way to and from the public library. Before long her school librarian was suggesting that she should write for boys and girls when she grew up. The idea appealed to her, and she decided that someday she would write the books she longed to read but was unable to find on the library shelves, funny stories about her neighborhood and the sort of children she knew.
After graduation from junior college in Ontario, California, and the University of California at Berkeley, Mrs. Cleary entered the School of Librarianship at the University of Washington, Seattle. There she specialized in library work with children. She was Children's Librarian in Yakima, Washington, until she married Clarence Cleary and moved to California. The Clearys are the parents of twins, now grown. Mrs. Cleary's hobbies are travel and needlework.
Mrs. Cleary's books have earned her many prestigious awards, including the 1984 John Newbery Medal for Dear Mr. Henshaw, for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children in 1983. Her Ramona and Her Father and Ramona Quimby, Age 8 were named 1978 and 1982 Newbery Honor Books, respectively. Among Mrs. Cleary's other awards are the American Library Association's 1975 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, the Catholic Library Association's 1980 Regina Medal, and the University of Southern Mississippi's 1982 Silver Medallion, all presented in recognition of her lasting contribution to children's literature. In addition, Mrs. Cleary was the 1984 United States author nominee for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, a prestigious international award. Equally important are the more than 35 statewide awards Mrs. Cleary's books have received based on the direct votes of her young readers. The Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden for Children featuring bronze statues of Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, and Ribsy, was recently opened in Portland, Oregon.
This witty and warm author is truly an international favorite. Mrs. Cleary's books appear in over twenty countries in fourteen languages and her characters, including Henry Huggins, Ellen Tebbits, Otis Spofford, and Beezus and Ramona Quimby, as well as Ribsy, Socks, and Ralph S. Mouse, have delighted children for generations. There have been Japanese, Spanish, and Swedish television programs based on the Henry Huggins series. PBS-TV aired a ten-part series based on the Ramona stories. One-hour adaptations of the three Ralph S. Mouse books have been shown on ABC-TV. All of Mrs. Cleary's adaptations still can be seen on cable television, and the Ramona adaptations are available in video stores.