Beverly Cleary’s publisher HarperCollins announced in a tweet that the iconic children’s author died at age 104 on Thursday, March 25, 2021. Cleary’s career spanned decades and she sold over 90 million copies of her books worldwide, per Variety.
It’s safe to say that most children’s authors enter the field due to passion for writing rather than the expectation of becoming a millionaire — but every once in a while there’s an exception, and Cleary was one of them. According to Celebrity Net Worth, the author was worth $20 million at the time of her death.
Cleary’s fortune came from her staggering book sales, which continued for decades. She wrote a number of wildly popular book series centered around beloved characters including Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, and Ralph S. Mouse (via BeverlyCleary.com). Cleary was the recipient of honors including The Newbery Medal and the National Medal of Arts, per Celebrity Net Worth.
Beverly Cleary began her career as a librarian
Before she became one of the most beloved children’s authors of all time, Cleary worked as a children’s librarian. According to The Hastings Tribune, she’d wanted to be an author since the 6th grade, when her teacher encouraged her to write children’s books when she grew up. Cleary’s mother encouraged her to have a job that generated steady income, which is why she became a librarian.
In order to pay her way through college, Cleary took on odd jobs such as hemming classmates’ skirts, per The Hastings Tribune. She worked as a librarian in Yakima, Washington, and on an Army base in Oakland, California, before she decided to seriously pursue a writing career in 1948.
“I expected to write about the maturing of a sensitive female,” Cleary said in 2015, per Oregon Public Broadcasting. “And I waited and waited and no ideas came. And I thought about the little boy in the Yakima Public Library where I had worked in the Children’s Department, who … faced me rather ferociously once and said, ‘Where are the books about kids like us?’ And it changed my whole attitude.”
The result was Henry Huggins, Cleary’s debut novel, which was published in 1950 when she was 34 years old (via Oregon Public Broadcasting).
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