American writer of children’s and young adult fiction. One of America’s most successful living authors, 91 million copies of her books have been sold worldwide since her first book was published in 1950. Cleary as a senior at the University of California, Berkeley, 1938.
Cleary was an only child and lived on a farm in rural Yamhill, Oregon, in her early childhood. Cleary said, “The first grade was separated into three reading groups—Bluebirds, Redbirds, and Blackbirds. After high school, Cleary entered Chaffey College in Alta Loma, California, with aspirations of becoming a children’s librarian. After her graduation from the University of Washington in 1939, she served as a children’s librarian in Yakima, Washington, and then as the post librarian at the U.
In 1942, she began working as a full-time writer for children. As a children’s librarian, Cleary empathized with her young patrons, who had difficulty finding books with characters they could identify with, and she struggled to find enough books to suggest that would appeal to them. Henry, his dog Ribsy, his neighborhood friend Beezus and her little sister Ramona.
Cleary’s first book to center a story on the Quimby sisters, Beezus and Ramona, was published in 1955. A publisher asked her to write a book about a kindergarten student. Cleary resisted, because she had not attended kindergarten, but later changed her mind after the birth of her twins. Cleary’s books have been historically noted for their attention to the daily minutiae of childhood, specifically the experience of children growing up in middle class families.
Pat Pflieger, professor of children’s literature at West Chester University, commented: “Cleary’s books have lasted because she understands her audience. She knows they’re sometimes confused or frightened by the world around them, and that they feel deeply about things that adults can dismiss. In 1955, Cleary gave birth to twins, Malcolm and Marianne. 2016, she lives in a retirement home there. Cleary celebrated her 100th birthday on April 12, 2016, an event that was noted in several news sources.
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