Beverly Cleary’s Portland

ramona-quimbyIf you grew up in Oregon, you probably read Beverly Cleary’s books. Then again, if you grew up in an English-speaking household, you probably read Cleary’s books. But if you read those books and found your eyebrows rising at mentions of The Oregonian or Swan Island, you had a special relationship with them, because you knew that Beezus and Ramona and Henry were Oregon kids, just like you.

In Walking with Ramona, a book that explores Cleary’s Portland, author Laura O. Foster describes a walking tour through Portland which allows you to see the places where Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins had their adventures. It’s based on an actual Cleary-inspired tour Foster used to lead, but the book contains more information, along with photographs of the locations as they were during the mid-century time period that most of Cleary’s books were set in.

Besides locations of events in the stories, Foster also points out locations with real-world significance to Cleary’s life—the houses she lived in, the libraries she read in, and monuments in her honor, such as the Beverly apartment building at 43rd and Sandy, as well as the Beverly Cleary School at 33rd and Hancock, which Cleary herself attended as a child.

Besides the walking tour (which can be supplemented by driving or bus riding if your legs aren’t up for the entire course), Foster describes locations beyond Portland of significance to Cleary, including the Yamhill Farm where she spent her earliest years and the Saint John’s Landfill (now a park) to which Henry Huggins once rode in a clawfoot bathtub.

Foster begins her tour “at Northwest 33rd Avenue and Brazee Street, on the west edge of Grant Park.” Hundreds of stops later, it returns to Grant Park, where you’ll see a sculpture garden where Cleary is honored in bronze.  Not with a statue of herself, but with something better: statues of Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, and Henry’s dog Ribsy.

By John M. Burt