The Oregon-based author, Beverly Cleary, turned 100 this year. Cleary published her first book, “Henry Huggins,” in 1950. I read her books as a child. I’ve read her books to my children. And now I am reading them to my grandchildren. We always take a Cleary book along on a road trip. Kids’ classics like Henry Huggins, The Mouse and the Motorcycle and Ramona Quimby, Age 8 are great read-aloud, chapter books. The grandchildren love the books but I also want them to know the author.
It just so happens that this beloved children’s author was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. She grew up in a Northeast Portland neighborhood, which later became the home to many of her books’ characters, including the adventures of Ramona and her friends. Many of the events in her books take place in Grant Park and on the neighboring streets. Klickitat Street, where Henry and his friends live, is located a few blocks north of the park.
Over the years, she’s sold more than 91 million copies of her 39 books worldwide. Her books have received multiple awards and Beverly Cleary herself has been designated a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress
On a recent trip to Portland, a “literary pilgrimage” to pay homage to Cleary was on our itinerary. Cleary spent much of her young life in Portland and turned her real-life experiences into children’s books that incorporate real places that can still be visited today. A great place to start is the sculpture garden built in her honor in Grant Park. The Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden, located on the west side of the park, consists of three bronze statues grouped around a splash fountain. The figures represent three beloved characters from Beverly Cleary’s books: Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, and Henry’s dog, Ribsy. Granite plaques around the fountain are engraved with the titles of Beverly Cleary’s books that are set in Portland. The sculpture garden is one of the few memorials in the United States dedicated to a children’s author.
Cleary-curious travelers can also find a neighborhood map at the park that tells them how to investigate other local sites related to the author. Embark on a scavenger hunt with your little adventurers to discover all the cool places that author Beverly Cleary immortalized in her work.
Grant Park is a great urban oasis and has a lot going for it. There is a good kid play area with swings and the Beverly Cleary Sculpture becomes a water feature for kids to play in on hot days. The park also boasts bathrooms, walking trails, street parking and great benches just for sitting, reading.
Add a visit to the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden to your Portland itinerary. And best of all is that it’s free!
Urban parks are great places for families to visit on vacation. They’re free, give children a chance to burn off energy, and adults a chance to unwind. An added bonus is often hidden gems like this sculpture that celebrates a beloved children’s story. Another example of this is Boston Public Garden. Check out our post Make Way for Ducklings at Boston Public Gardens.