(New York, NY) — PEN America today expressed deep sadness at the death of beloved children’s book author Beverly Cleary. The literary mastermind behind characters like Henry Huggins, Ellen Tebbits, and the incomparable Ramona Quimby, Cleary died at the age of 104.

“Beverly Cleary was the creator of some of the best-loved fiction for middle-grade and younger readers,” said Paul Zelinsky, co-chair of the PEN America Children’s and Young Adults Book Committee and illustrator of three of Cleary’s books. “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.”

Trained as a librarian, Cleary’s first book Henry Huggins was published in 1950, and tens of millions of her books have been sold worldwide. She was the recipient of the National Medal of Art, the National Book Award, and the John Newbery Medal, and both Ramona and Her Father and Ramona Quimby, Age 8 were named Newbery Honor Books.

“I hope children will be happy with the books I’ve written,” she said, “and go on to be readers all of their lives.”

The PEN America Children’s and Young Adults Book Committee—chaired by Zelinsky and Fatima Shaik—advocate for the freedom to write for authors of children’s literature, and curate events at the PEN World Voices Festival, the Brooklyn Book Festival, and other events across the country. The committee frequently speaks out against book bans and in favor of authors and writers who spark the imaginations of children worldwide.