Bill and Vera Cleaver, married in 1945, wrote seventeen books together. Although they won few awards, their books have consistently received high critical acclaim.
Vera Fern Allen Cleaver was born on January 6, 1919, in Virgil, South Dakota, and grew up in Florida during the Great Depression. William Joseph Cleaver was born on March 24, 1920, in Hugo, Oklahoma, and grew up in Seattle, Washington. Although neither finished college, they both put a great emphasis on self-directed learning, claiming to be "graduates of the public libraries of America." Bill Cleaver served as a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force for many years, and Vera Cleaver was a U.S. Air Force accountant in Japan and France. During the early years of their marriage, the Cleavers wrote stories for pulp and family magazines. It was not until 1967 that their first young adult novel, Ellen Grae, was published.
The Cleavers derived many of the themes of their novels from their childhood experiences and observations, and in many cases they were the first writers to deal with these subjects in books for young adult readers. Both authors moved frequently as children and were exposed to poverty, illness, and family problems. Vera was the fifth of nine children, one of whom was mentally retarded. Bill's parents divorced when he was five, and he was sent to a private school in British Columbia, Canada. Mental retardation and divorce or parental abandonment are discussed in several of the Cleavers' novels. Their novels also reflect the value that both authors, from childhood on, placed on education and literacy.
Nearly all of the Cleavers' books have appeared on "best book" lists of publications such as the New York Times Book Review, School Library Journal, Horn Book, and Publishers Weekly. Their books Grover and The Whys and Wherefores of Littabelle Lee were National Book Award nominees in 1971 and 1974. Ellen Grae and Where the Lilies Bloom appeared on the
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