Monday, April 12, 2021

Beverly Cleary Author Study: Happy Birthday!

Beverly Cleary
April 12, 1916 to March 25, 2021

In 2012, a friend and I visited Portland and I made sure we stopped to see Klickitat Street and Grant Park. I knew there were statues of Henry Huggins and Ramona Quimby there, and Cleary was one of my favorite authors from childhood. At the time, I was just a big book nerd; I wasn't a librarian yet. Though we visited other libraries on this trip, including a tiny one-room library in Scio, Oregon, we didn't visit the Beverly Cleary Children's Library at the Central Branch of the Portland library. We also didn't visit the Beverly Cleary School, but I guess that just gives me good reasons to go back!

When I visited these statues, I had fond memories of the books I had read as a child. There were some lines and scenes I remembered vividly, and I've enjoyed reading them again as an adult. But above all, it's really impressed me how wonderful Cleary's writing is. I understand why children love it, because she's truly writing on their level. But as an adult, I'm still drawn in to each story because the characters are so well-developed and the problems are so real. Some of it is nostalgia, true, but there are several books of hers that I hadn't read as a kid and still really enjoyed this time around.

Grant Park was the setting for many scenes in children's books by Beverly Cleary. In 1991, a group of teachers, librarians, and business people formed the Friends of Henry & Ramona, and began to raise funds for the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden for Children. Portland artist Lee Hunt created life-sized bronze statues of three of Cleary's best-loved characters - Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, and Henry's dog Ribsy. Scattered around the concrete slab are granite plaques engraved with the titles of the Cleary books that take place in Portland - and a map of the neighborhood showing where events in the books "really happened." The Sculpture Garden was dedicated on October 13, 1995. 

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