Walking with Ramona explores the streets, schools, characters, and neighborhoods of author Beverly Cleary’s Portland. With this charming guidebook, readers can walk the very sidewalks Beverly walked and climb the very school steps that Beverly climbed. You'll see the grocery parking lot where Ramona got stuck in the mud, the park lawn where Henry Huggins hunted nightcrawlers, and the real Portland street that became Klickitat Street, their fictional home. Beverly Cleary’s Portland was much different than the Portlandia of today. Walking with Ramona brings to life what that 1920s and 1930s Portland was like for the “girl from Yamhill” who went on to become an internationally beloved children's book author. Characters like Ramona and Beezus, Henry and Ribsy, and Ellen and Austine come to life on this hour-long walking route through the Northeast Portland neighborhood where Beverly grew up.
An almost 3-mile walk or bike ride around Northeast Portland, plus other Oregon destinations.
About the Author
Laura O. Foster writes about the Pacific Northwest. Her Portland-based books explore the city’s geology, architecture, neighborhoods, and human and natural history. She lives in Portland, OR with her family.
Read an Excerpt
Portland's Beverly Cleary, Ramona Quimby, and Friends
Since Portlandia first aired in 2011, observational comedy has had a field day with Portland's quirkiness, but Beverly Cleary was there first. Beginning with Henry Huggins in 1950 she's made people around the world laugh with her minutely observed scenes of life on Portland's Klickitat Street.
Not all children's books are readable by adults — even some of the ones we loved as kids. But Beverly Cleary's books are an exception, and that's perhaps why each generation finds her books fun to read: they're full of sparely crafted scenes packed with details from a kid's (or dog's) point of view. Each chapter stands alone, with satisfying endings to the quandaries and perplexities kids experience. The chapters are sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, often gently satirical, and always respectful of even the youngest child's personhood.
If you're a Portlander, her books are a treasure trove full of familiar places. This is especially true of her two autobiographies, which show one middle-class family's Portland of the 1920s and Depression-era 1930s. They're not only fascinating windows into a still recognizable Portland but also frankly show how lack of money and hope files away at a family's happiness. Beverly's struggles to stand on her own two feet were successful, of course, and her route to that success is a fascinating story for anyone who wants to follow her own path. With her books and this one, you can be in that Portland where Beverly takes the streetcar to her orthodontist downtown in the Selling Building (still there), rides a train to Camp Namanu on the Sandy River (still open), or climbs to the cave behind Multnomah Falls (off limits today).
As a child, Beverly Bunn would set a book down at the first whiff of moralizing. She decided that she'd write books to make kids laugh, with no agenda to teach them any life lessons. In her books, Henry, Beezus, Ellen, and Ramona are not just entertaining, their adventures offer glimpses into a childhood where kids had much more autonomy than they're given today. They walk alone to the market to buy horsemeat for their dog, work out major crises of which adults are oblivious, handle school crossing-guard responsibilities with dignity and authority, and mete out a harsh but effective punishment to a haircutting bully.
Her memories and scenes of kids operating in the sometimes confusing world of adults make Beverly Cleary's books universal and timeless. Even if you've forgotten the details of her stories, you probably remember how much you enjoyed them. Perhaps that's why when I led "Walking with Ramona," a tour of Beverly Cleary's Portland for the Multnomah County Library, we had up to 200 people appear on tour days, filling up the sidewalk along an entire city block. The demand for the tours, which were held in 2009 and 2010, has not slowed, and with this book, you have in hand your own, expanded and more detailed version of that tour.
If it's been a while since you read some of Beverly Cleary's books, do as Beverly would've done: borrow them from the library, settle next to a rain-splattered window to read, then go out, this book in hand, to experience for yourself her Portland neighborhoods, from their 1920s backstories to today's places to eat, drink and shop.
USING THIS BOOK
This book doesn't need to be read in any order. Chapter 2, Before Portlandia, gives a snapshot of the Portland that young Beverly Bunn knew in the 1920s and 1930s, a city that was nobody's idea of a vacation destination. Unlike today's Portland, it existed far from the fond gaze of the New York Times. Learn about horse rings, slabwood, and the beginnings of the Sunset Highway, among other historical nuggets.
The heart of the book is the Walking with Ramona tour in Chapter 3. Use the tour route to bike or walk 3.2 miles through Beverly Cleary's Hollywood and Grant Park neighborhoods. In these classic streetcar suburbs, you'll pass under Douglas firs and elms on streets lined with Craftsman bungalows and English cottage–style homes. Working class when she lived here, small homes now command high prices. On the tour, stop at places from her childhood and from scenes in her Portland books. The route is sprinkled with poetry posts and little free library stations, urban gems that Beverly never saw here, but would undoubtedly endorse. You may want to bring a book to leave at one little free library and bring a new one home. For Beverly's two homes included on the tour, respect the current owners' privacy. Don't walk up to the houses, or onto the lawns.
If you're looking for a brisk walk, the tour takes about an hour, but if you're in a sauntering/tourist mood, wanting to absorb the spirit of two of the city's most walkable neighborhoods, spend a half day or more. Combine your walk with a pint at Velo Cult Bicycle Shop, coffee at Fleur de Lis in the old library building, shopping for a locally made swimsuit at Popina Swimwear, treasure-hunting at Antique Alley, browsing at the Hollywood Library or the Hollywood Farmers Market, playing a game of pool at Sam's Hollywood Billiards, taking in a film at the Hollywood Theatre, and having dinner. (Chapter 5 has information about these and other places to explore; they're all on or very near the tour route.)
If you would like to take this mini vacation in Portland's Hollywood without a car, you can rent a bicycle or ride a TriMet bus or train to the neighborhood. Appendix B tells you what you need to know.
After you've explored Beverly's Portland neighborhoods, you might want to craft your own Oregon field trips, using the places listed in Chapter 4, An Oregon Checklist: Beverly and Friends Were Here. From the Roseway Theater where she watched silent movies, to the Oregon Humane Society (which cared for orphaned children when Beverly was a child), to Bridal Veil in the Columbia Gorge, the chapter offers short, fun stories about Oregon places.
BEVERLY, RAMONA, AND FRIENDS
In case it's been a while since you ran into them, here's an overview of Beverly Cleary's Portland crew:
Ramona Quimby gets top billing in this book because she's the most intriguing of all of the Portland characters. She shares many of Beverly's traits and behaviors — especially from Beverly's idyllic first six years of life on her family's Yamhill farm. Beverly, like Ramona, was small, impetuous and quick. Those six years of freedom to roam 80 acres, and of being surrounded by friends and family, etched into Beverly a joyful spirit overlain with independence and curiosity about life. This curiosity made its appearance one Thanksgiving morning in Yamhill when the blank palette of an immaculately set table with a white tablecloth inspired a preschool Beverly. She poured blue ink out, wet her hands in it and made handprints at each place setting.
Ramona has this same "What if I ..." curiosity. She once squeezed all the toothpaste out of a tube to see what it would look like. "Never do that again!" her mother scolded. Ramona agreed easily: she'd done it once and saw the results. There was no need to do it twice. In an era where conventionality was the norm and children were taught never to backtalk their "betters," Beverly, even as she aged into a more cautious preteen, nurtured her inner Ramona. Throughout the places described in this book are other examples where Beverly and Ramona share a similar approach to life.
And Ramona, despite being labeled a pest, is sensitive. So was Beverly. In third grade, an adult at Gregory Heights School called Beverly a nuisance in front of her. She was humiliated and mortified, and hated when grownups talked in front of her as if she weren't there, even if it was complimentary. She was incensed at the old cliché, "Little pitchers have big ears," both for its inanity and the patronizing tone adults used when uttering it. Ramona shares this passionate personhood — she is creative and exuberant and puzzled when people call her a "show-off." She is just living boldly, with her thoughts, ideas and feelings right on the surface. Those feelings, like Beverly's, are hurt when she overhears a teacher call her a nuisance. She was just trying to break her hard-boiled egg on her forehead, like all the other kids had been doing that week. How was she to know her mother had messed up and given her an uncooked egg?
Ramona also shares Beverly's love of reading but dislike of literary analysis. Beverly hated writing book reports as both a child and college student. When Ramona is eight, her teacher announces they'll be doing "sustained silent reading" where the only objective is to read a book you like. The joy of that! The teacher comes up with a better name for sustained silent reading: DEAR, or "Drop Everything and Read." This is Ramona's idea of educational nirvana, and it becomes her favorite part of the school day. Beverly's too: in school she would hide books inside her big geography book and read what she wanted. Today, DEAR Day in public schools across the country is every April 12, Beverly Cleary's birthday.
Ramona, like just about every strong-willed kid, doesn't like to be teased, especially in clichéd ways. When Howie's Uncle Hobart teases him, in front of her, about her being Howie's girlfriend, she flatly tells Hobart, "I don't like grownups who tease." Beverly writes in her autobiography that her family's no-teasing rule was born on the Oregon Trail. In 1843, when her ancestors crossed the country in the first large wagon train to Oregon, families would spread out at night to cook and eat, so that the differences in the amount and quality of each family's meal wouldn't cause problems. The rule the pioneers followed was "No teasing, no hinting."
Anyone who found the adult world puzzling as a child can relate to Ramona. Like Ramona, Beverly questioned the status quo and the logic of things that adults do. On the first day of first grade at Fernwood School, Beverly's teacher, Miss Falb, told the class how to spell and pronounce her name, noting that the "l" was silent. If it's silent, Beverly wondered, then why is it even there?
Ramona was not intended to be a major character; she first appears as a pesky preschooler in Henry Huggins and grows to a fourth grader in Ramona's World. She was written in as sort of an afterthought, when Beverly realized that all her characters were their family's only child. But perhaps because with Ramona, Beverly allows her rebel flag to fly, Ramona became a favorite of her fans, and with subsequent books, the most nuanced of all the Portland characters.
Henry Huggins was Beverly Cleary's first character. He's an industrious boy with a creative, entrepreneurial streak. He and the dog he finds in downtown Portland, Ribsy, make a team whose adventures are sweet and funny. Though he's just an ordinary boy who is in awe of the rocket-building smarts of a neighbor boy, Henry always arrives at an inventive way to solve a problem, whether it's paying off a debt by collecting a thousand-plus earthworms, earning the right to be a paperboy, collecting the most paper in a school paper drive, or figuring out how to thwart Ramona's not so useful help in his paper route. And amazingly, all his solutions are adult-free. There is much of mid-century Portland life in the Henry Huggins series.
Ribsy is Henry's dog, but before Henry found him on the streets of downtown Portland, he had belonged to another boy. When, a year later that boy discovers Ribsy and Henry's picture in the newspaper, he comes to Klickitat Street, wanting his dog back. Searching for justice, Henry, the boy and the other kids on Klickitat come up with a creative solution for figuring out who is Ribsy's rightful owner. Even the party who didn't win had to agree it was a fair trial. This victory for sidewalk diplomacy is one that parents today, who rush in to solve kids' problems for them, should take note of. For a dog's point of view of Portland, circa 1964, the book Ribsy is a gem.
Beezus Quimby is Ramona's older sister and Henry's good friend. She's the classic straight man, a foil to Ramona's creativity and exuberance. She and Ramona fight often but bond one day after school when their parents are working, when the girls discover that Picky Picky, their beloved cat, has died. The sisters, trying to help keep their parents' stress level down, decide to bury the cat before their parents get home. Their problem-solving and bonding over digging the grave and creating a memorial service is realistic and touching.
Ellen Tebbits is another facet of Beverly's personality. Ellen shares Beverly's sensitivity, which grew during her Portland years under her mother's mounting criticisms and rules. Ellen worries about what adults think of her and fears that she's not making a good impression. Unlike Ramona, Ellen is quiet and an observer. Beverly came to be more quiet as she matured into adulthood and her family's tight finances and father's unhappiness cast a grey cloud over every decision and opportunity. In A Girl from Yamhill she wrote, "At age seven my Yamhill smile began to fade." Her mother Mable, as life in Portland became less pleasant, turned her focus on Beverly and became a helicopter parent, but without the praise and kisses.
Ellen has a best friend, Austine Allen, based on Beverly's best friend Claudine Klum. Austine jokes with teachers, talks back to adults and doesn't take rules too seriously. Ellen is in awe of her friend's bravery. Beverly liked that about Claudine and also was fond of Claudine's mother, who joked and laughed with her daughter and her friends. People smiled in Beverly's home, she wrote, but no one laughed out loud.
Otis Spofford is one of those boys who inhabit every classroom: a boy who works harder to get a laugh than on the work at hand. He lets his guard down when he takes his shoes off one day in Laurelwood Park and gets his comeuppance, courtesy of Ellen Tebbits. The lake where it happens is in Portland's Laurelhurst Park.
Howie Kemp. He's Ramona's partner in play. In a game called brick factory, Ramona and Howie smash old bricks into dust. Howie is a lot like Beverly's real life cousin Winston: slow-moving, good natured and deliberate. As preschoolers in Yamhill, Beverly and Winston smashed bricks together, too. Winston had a younger sister named Donna. Howie has a younger sister named Willa Jean who, as Ramona ages, inherits the mantle of the neighborhood pest but without Ramona's inventiveness.
Milestones in Beverly Bunn Cleary's Life
1916 Born in McMinnville, Oregon, to Chester Lloyd Bunn and
Mable Atlee Bunn
1922 Bunn family moves to Portland from the family farm because agricultural commodity prices are too low to support them
1934 Graduates from Grant High School
1934 Attends Chaffey College, a junior college in Ontario, California
1938 Graduates from University of California, Berkeley, with a B.A. in English
1939 Graduates from the School of Librarianship, University of Washington, Seattle, with a specialty in children's literature
1939 Works in Yakima, Washington as a children's librarian
1940 Marries Clarence Cleary of Sacramento and moves to Berkeley
1948 Begins writing her first children's book after several years working in a bookstore
1950 Henry Huggins, her first book, is published
1955 Twins, Malcolm and Maryanne, are born
1975 Receives American Library Association's Laura Ingalls Wilder Award
1978 Receives Newberry Honor for Ramona and Her Father
1981 Receives National Book Award for Ramona and Her Mother
1982 Receives Newberry Honor for Ramona Quimby, Age 8
1984 Receives Newberry Award for Dear Mr. Henshaw
1995 Dedicates, with Clarence, the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden in Portland
2000 Named a Library of Congress Living Legend in the Writers and Artists category
2003 Receives the National Medal of Arts
2015 Over 91 million books sold, worldwideCHAPTER 2
Before Portlandia: Beverly Cleary's Portland of the 1920s and 1930s
For Beverly Cleary's family in the 1920s and 1930s, Portland was not a place where local foods were celebrated and civic weirdness was an asset. The air often had, as Beverly remembered, the "rotten cabbage" smell of the paper mill in Camas, Washington, which turned wood pulp into newsprint for the Oregonian. Manufacturing was a big part of the city, and the Willamette River was lined with mills, working docks, warehouses and factories. Clean air and water regulations did not yet exist. Untreated sewage flowed into the Willamette and the Columbia Slough. The Willamette, from Eugene to its mouth, was referred to as an open sewer. Downtown Portland flooded seasonally until the Harbor Wall was completed in 1929, when Beverly turned 13.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Walking With Ramona"
Copyright © 2016 Laura O. Foster.
Excerpted by permission of Microcosm Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Marvelously detailed; combines Beverly Cleary's life with local history, with the wonderful books Cleary wrote. Don't miss the embedded horse rings.