5 reasons to love Beverly Cleary for her 100th birthday

A sampling of Beverly Cleary's novels (left), a file photo of Cleary in London's Kensington Gardens (ABC Television Stations|Terry Smith/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

Beloved children's author Beverly Cleary turns 100 on Tuesday. The National Medal of Arts winner and Library of Congress Living Legend said she is celebrating the milestone in a big way: with a slice of carrot cake.

In honor of Cleary's big day, here are five things you might not know about her.

She was a slow reader

When Cleary moved to Portland from a farm as a young girl, she struggled to adjust to city life. She blames a mean-spirited first-grade teacher for her slow reading speed as a child. Despite this, other educators saw her knack for writing and encouraged her to pursue a career in children's literature.

She was an only child

Though her most famous character, Ramona, is one of the most well-known little sisters in the history of children's literature, Cleary herself didn't have any siblings. In fact, her first character, Henry Huggins, was an only child and Ramona evolved almost accidentally from that story, Cleary explained.

"All the children appeared to be only children so I tossed in a little sister and she didn't go away," she said.

She was married to her college sweetheart for more than six decades

Born Beverly Atlee Bunn, the author met her sweetheart Clarence Cleary at the University of California in Berkeley. Though her parents disapproved, the two married in 1940. They would stay together until his death in 2004. They had two children, twins Malcolm and Marianne, who inspired the book Mitch and Amy.

She wrote so boys would read more

Cleary started her career as a librarian, where she realized that boys needed more books with characters they identified with, she said. She published Henry Huggins in 1950 to remedy that.

"In those days it was very hard to find books for little boys. There were animal stories, of course, but there weren't any books about what these boys called 'kids like us,'" she told People.

She jokes about growing old

Like many centenarians-to-be, Cleary gets asked about the secret to longevity. Her response? "I didn't do it on purpose."

She also says she doesn't look a day over 80.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Related Topics: