Beverly Cleary, the children's author known for characters such as Henry Huggins, Ralph S. Mouse and, most famously, Ramona Quimby, has died. She was 104 years old.
Cleary passed away yesterday at home in Carmel, Calif., where she had lived since the 1960s, her publisher, Harper Collins, confirmed this afternoon. But the writer began her life in McMinnville, Ore., and lived in both Yamhill and Portland, the latter of which served as a backdrop for stories of rambunctious children trying to figure out how the world works.
She published her first book, Henry Huggins, in 1950, about a boy growing up on Klickitat Street in Northeast Portland. Beezus and Ramona, from 1955, was her first to focus on Huggins' friend, Beatrice, and her eccentric younger sister, Ramona, who'd go on to become Cleary's most iconic character.
In total, Cleary wrote 30 books that sold a combined 91 million copies. She was widely praised for her authentic portrayal of childhood and for not shying away from the adult problems that often intervene. She won a National Book Award in 1981 for Ramona and Her Mother, which deals, in part, with the title character's fear of her parents getting divorced.
In her lifetime, Cleary was also awarded the National Medal of Arts and declared a Library of Congress Living Legend, among other honors.
Monuments to Cleary can be found all over Portland, from walking tours to the Northeast Portland elementary school that's named after her. A corner of Grant Park—in the neighborhood where she once lived—features life-sized bronze sculptures of Cleary's classic characters, including Henry Huggins, his dog, Ribsy, and, of course, Ramona Quimby.