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'Ramona the Pest' author Beverly Cleary dead at 104

Beverly Cleary died Thursday at the age of 104, in Carmel, Calif., where she lived for six decades. File Photo by Alan McEwan/HarperCollins Publishers
Beverly Cleary died Thursday at the age of 104, in Carmel, Calif., where she lived for six decades. File Photo by Alan McEwan/HarperCollins Publishers

March 26 (UPI) -- Beverly Cleary, the author of dozens of children's books, including Beezus and Ramona and The Mouse and the Motorcycle, has died in California, her publisher announced Friday. She was 104.

HarperCollins Publishers said the "beloved children's book author" died Thursday in Carmel, Calif., her home for six decades. Her cause of death wasn't revealed.

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"We are saddened by the passing of Beverly Cleary, one of the most beloved children's authors of all time," said Suzanne Murphy, president and publisher of HarperCollins Children's Books.

"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."

Born in 1916 in Oregon, Cleary began her career as a librarian. She published her very first book -- Henry Huggins, about the adventures of a little boy and his dog, Ribsy -- in 1950. She would go on to tell more stories about Henry, sisters Beezus and Ramona Quimby, Ellen Tebbits, Socks the cat and Ralph S. Mouse. She even delved into the world of Leave It To Beaver, with a handful of books based on the popular television program.

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She won a number of awards for her books, including the Newbery medal in 1984 for Dear Mr. Henshaw, and the National Book Award in 1981 for Ramona and Her Mother.

In 2003, former President George W. Bush bestowed upon her the National Medal of the Arts.

HarperCollins said her books were translated into 29 language and sold 85 million copies across the globe. Asked where she got her ideas, she said: "From my own experience and from the world around me."

Paul Zelinsky, the co-chair of the PEN America Children's and Young Adults Book Committee and the illustrator of three of Cleary's books, said her work represented some of the "best-loved fiction" for younger readers.

"Her writing was so perfectly tuned and so unobtrusive that her phenomenal skill as a writer was, I think, insufficiently noted. The scenes play out with hilarity and poignancy, and feel so natural that you can hardly imagine work having gone into them. The PEN America Children's and Young Adults Book Committee cherishes her memory."

Cleary is survived by her children, Malcolm and Marianne, three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

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