Beverly Cleary: US children's author and Ramona Quimby creator dies aged 104

The writer was also behind childhood favourite Henry Huggins

FILE - In this April 19, 1998 file photo, Beverly Cleary signs books at the Monterey Bay Book Festival in Monterey, Calif. The beloved children's author, whose characters Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins enthralled generations of youngsters, has died. She was 104. Cleary's publisher, HarperCollins, announced her death Friday, March 26, 2021. In a statement, the company said Cleary died in Carmel, California, her home since the 1960s, on Thursday. No cause of death was given. (Vern Fisher/The Monterey County Herald via AP, File)

American children's author Beverly Cleary, the creator of beloved characters including Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins, has died aged 104.

The librarian-turned-writer died on Thursday in Carmel, California, her home since the 1960s, her publisher HarperCollins Publishers said on Friday.

With titles such as Henry Huggins (1950) and Ramona and her Father (1978) adored by generations of young readers, Cleary's works explored everyday life through the eyes of children. And she did it with wit and sympathy, touching on topics ranging from lunchroom antics and sibling rivalries to a parent's job loss.

Cleary was inspired to start writing when "a little boy faced me rather ferociously across the circulation desk and said: 'Where are the books about kids like us?'" her publisher quoted her as saying.

"I wanted to read about the sort of boys and girls that I knew in my neighbourhood and in my school," she told NPR in 1999.

"And in my childhood, many years ago, children's books seemed to be about English children or pioneer children. And that wasn't what I wanted to read. And I think children like to find themselves in books."

This image shows a collection of books by Beverly Cleary on Friday, March 26, 2021, at a home in Altadena, Calif. The beloved children's author, whose characters Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins enthralled generations of youngsters, has died. She was 104. Cleary's publisher, HarperCollins, announced her death Friday. In a statement, the company said Cleary died in Carmel, Calif., her home since the 1960s, on Thursday. No cause of death was given. (AP Photo/Anthony McCartney)

Cleary published more than 40 books in her career, with more than 85 million copies sold. They were translated into 29 languages.

Her first book Henry Huggins, about a third-grader who adopts a skinny stray dog named Ribsy, was an immediate hit. From there, she wrote more books about Henry and his friends on Klickitat Street in Portland, Oregon.

The most famous of the gang was Ramona Quimby, a young girl full of sass and moxie, living by the motto: "A littler person sometimes had to be a little bit noisier and a little bit more stubborn in order to be noticed at all."

In addition to a long list of literary accolades, Cleary was named a Living Legend by the US Library of Congress in 2000, and awarded the National Medal of Art from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2003.