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Things We Saw Today: Beloved Author Beverly Clearly Passes Away at 104

Ramona Quimby forever.

Young Beverly Cleary with her cat in black and white.

Beloved children’s book author Beverly Cleary, who created indelible literary characters like Ramona and Beezus Quimby, passed away on Thursday at 104 years old. The iconic author wrote dozens of books which sold over 90 million copies worldwide, beginning with her first novel, Henry Huggins, in 1950. It was in that novel that Cleary introduced the indomitable Ramona Quimby, patron saint of scrappy little girls and kids everywhere.

Suzanne Murphy, President and Publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books said, “We are saddened by the passing of Beverly Cleary, one of the most beloved children’s authors of all time. Looking back, she’d often say, ‘I’ve had a lucky life,’ and generations of children count themselves lucky too—lucky to have the very real characters Beverly Cleary created, including Henry Huggins, Ramona and Beezus Quimby, and Ralph S. Mouse, as true friends who helped shape their growing-up years. We at HarperCollins also feel extremely lucky to have worked with Beverly Cleary and to have enjoyed her sparkling wit. Her timeless books are an affirmation of her everlasting connection to the pleasures, challenges, and triumphs that are part of every childhood.”

Cleary’s books were some of the first to accurately capture the realities of American childhood, warts and all. Her writing has impacted generations of children, validating their feelings, their relationships, and the pain of being a kid in a world run by adults. Her most famous creation, Ramona Quimby, is one of those iconic literary characters that feels as fresh and relevant today as she did 71 years ago.

“As a librarian, children were always asking for books about ‘kids like us.′ Well, there weren’t any books about kids like them. So when I sat down to write, I found myself writing about the sort of children I had grown up with,” Cleary said in a 1993 Associated Press interview.

In 1975, Cleary won the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award from the American Library Association for “substantial and lasting contributions to children’s literature”. In 2000, Cleary was named a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress. She was also awarded the 2003 National Medal of Art from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Many fans took to social media to remember the author:

RIP Beverly Cleary, you will be missed.

(via HarperCollins, image: By Unknown – Cleary Family archive/OPB, Public Domain)

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    Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.