Beverly Cleary's own story is as lively and irresistible as any of her novels. She was born Beverly Bunn 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. Beverly learned to love books there.
When the family moved to Portland, where Beverly 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. In 1934, Beverly Bunn left home to attend college in California, which she imagined as the land of orange groves and movie stars, far removed from the hardships of the Depression.
As a young woman "who was sure where she wanted to go but did not know if she could find the money to get there," she juggled studies of Chaucer and French grammar with the many chores that came with life in a student cooperative house. She also found time to eat a bacon and tomato sandwich with a quiet young man named Clarence Cleary.
After graduation from junior college in Ontario, California, and the University of California at Berkeley, Beverly Bunn entered the School of Librarianship at the University of Washington, Seattle. There she specialized in library work with children.
Work as a librarian brought her into contact with all sorts of youngsters, from the children of the unemployed to the offspring of doctors and lawyers.
But it was the children who built scooters out of apple boxes and roller skates who truly inspired her. They asked, "Where are the books about kids like us?" and the young librarian responded with her first book, about a boy named Henry who had a dog named Spareribs-later changed to Ribsy.
She was the 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 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. This witty and warm author is truly an international favorite.
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