• Linda Borromeo

Happy 104th Birthday, Beverly Cleary: Five Windows Into Her World

Updated: Jun 5, 2020

Happy birthday to my favorite Author/Librarian!

Beverly Cleary will be turning 104 on April 12th.

She is the recipient of many awards, but what is her proudest achievement? In an interview with Today, she simply said, "the fact that children love my books."

If you happened to be there on the happy day when Beverly Cleary was born, here are 4 things you could do in 1916:

1. Walking into a car dealership, you'd pay $395.00 and drive away in this new 2-seater Saxon Runabout:

2. You'd send a letter with a 2-cent stamp.

3. Reading the newspaper headlines, you would learn about the terrible human cost of twenty-six major World War I battles throughout 1916.

4. For the first time, Sears, Roebuck and Co. offered house kits already "measured, fitted and cut to exact size."

You could build your dream house, with all the materials you needed arriving by mail, for $583.00:

You probably wouldn't have a telephone in your dream home, though. Only 8% of households had one.

April 12, 1916: Celebrating a Very Good Day

After her birth on April 12, Beverly lived on a farm in Yamhill, Oregon. Her community was too small to have a library. But as Beverly grew older, her mother arranged for books to be brought in and acted as the librarian to give area children, and especially her daughter, the love of reading.

The author's website relates that after the family moved to Portland, Beverly had a difficult time with reading at her new urban school. This experience gave her "sympathy for the problems of struggling readers" and became one of the turning points in her life, influencing the way she would later write for children.

Beverly Cleary's childhood home in Portland, Oregon

By the third grade, Beverly's reading skills were going strong again and she never looked back. She says she "spent much of her childhood either with books or on her way to or from the public library."

A Librarian and a Dream

It was a school librarian who suggested to Beverly that she become a children's book writer when she grew up.

With that dream in mind, Beverly went on to graduate with a B.A. in English from the University of California, Berkeley in 1938. She became a children's librarian herself, earning a degree in library science from the University of Washington.

Before she began her writing career, she eloped with Clarence Cleary in 1940 after her parents disapproved of the match. They remained married until his death in 2004.

Beverly published her first book, Henry Huggins, in 1950. Her stories have become an intrinsic part of childhood with their gentle humor, real-life situations and sympathy for the struggles and joys of girls and boys everywhere.

A Living Legend

Her books and life have been honored with the Newbery Medal, Newbery Honor Books, National Book Award and the Children's Literature Legacy Award (known as the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award until 2018). In 2000, she was named a "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress.

This living legend also wrote two books about her life, which I'm planning to read this month in honor of her birthday:

This Girl From Yamhill definitely landed on her Own Two Feet.

More to Explore

It is especially comforting to curl up with a childhood favorite as we are sheltering at home during these difficult days. What book will you choose?

For me, in addition to her autobiographies, I plan to read Emily's Runaway Imagination. It's one I've missed seeing before, but it sounds wonderful.

A girl. growing up in a old farmhouse in Oregon, decides her town could use a library. Can she use her imagination and make her dream a reality?

It sounds very much like something Beverly Cleary herself would do!

Linda Borromeo is the author of Mystery Shores, a children's book taking place on a lighthouse island filled with secrets. Join Christie Edwards and Melina Karyotakis as they fight to find answers and reclaim their future.

In my stories, you'll find islands, mystery, friendship and danger. 

My novel, Mystery Shores, is set on a lighthouse island filled with secrets. 

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