The Cleary Century

Happy 96th to Portland’s epoch-spanning kids' author

By Will Lambeth March 23, 2012 Published in the April 2012 issue of Portland Monthly


Photo: Courtesy Harper Collins

APRIL 12, 1916 | BEVERLY CLEARY is born in McMinnville. Her earliest memory: bells ringing to mark the end of World War I.

1922 | Her family moves to Northeast Portland. She goes on to graduate from Grant High School.

1950 | After working as a librarian and at a World War II hospital, Cleary writes Henry Huggins, set on NE Klickitat Street.

1955 | Beezus and Ramona puts the Quimby family in Cleary’s spotlight. Over the next few decades, the Quimbys’ saga—through recessions, shifting fashions, and young Ramona’s emergence as an anarchic heroine—traces societal change and the trials of lower-middle-class Portland life.

1995 | Bronze sculptures of Henry and Ramona are dedicated in Grant Park, and Multnomah County Central Library names its children’s room for Cleary.

1999 | Ramona’s World apparently ends the Quimbys’ tale.

NOW | Cleary’s books bear bright, cartoony covers and sell over 2 million copies per year; her total estimated sales top 90 million copies. The 2010 movie Ramona and Beezus grossed $27 million. Cleary, who lives in Carmel, California, recently said: “I don’t really think of my stories as taking place in any particular time. They do take place in a real neighborhood … but the children in my stories now wear pants if they want to. That wouldn’t have been permitted in my day.”

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