One of the many fun things about living in Portland, Oregon, is sharing a city with Ramona Quimby and the other characters from Beverly Cleary’s books. If you grew up reading about Ramona, Henry Huggins, Ribsy, Beezus, and the rest of these kids, you’re familiar with Klickitat Street. Walking With Ramona is a little pocket-sized book that celebrates the neighborhoods where Beverly Cleary lived, the same neighborhoods where Ramona and her friends grew up.
It’s currently on Kickstarter, with a pledge of $10 for a copy of the book (plus other levels that include buttons and magnets, as well as other Portland books from Microcosm Publishing).
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Laura O. Foster created a walking/biking tour of the parts of Portland that Ramona (and Cleary herself) called home, and this book is an expanded version of that tour. The book begins with a brief introduction to Cleary, Ramona, and other characters from the books. Then it describes the Portland of the 1920s and 1930s, when Cleary was growing up. I learned a lot of interesting facts here about the way neighborhoods expanded and changed over time.
The biggest chapter of the book is the tour itself, which takes you all around the Hollywood and Grant Park neighborhoods. You’ll see where Cleary lived, went to school, and watched movies. You’ll also see the locations that made their way into Cleary’s books, like the grocery store where Ramona gets her boot stuck in the mud, or the “Colossal Market” seen in Henry and Beezus. The tour is about three miles, mostly easy walking, and would make for a very fun day out if you wanted to stop and have a meal or do some shopping in the area.
There’s also a chapter that’s more of an alphabetical list of places that were significant either in Cleary’s own life or in her characters’ lives. These include locations on the tour and others farther afield. For instance, Yamhill, Oregon, was where her family had a farm before moving to Portland.
I got an advance copy of Walking With Ramonai to flip through, and spent an evening just reading all the stories about Cleary’s childhood and taking the tour in my imagination. When the weather is less rainy, I’m hoping to head out to the Hollywood district with my family and take the tour in person, too. But even if you’re not a Portlander, this book could be a lot of fun for Ramona fans–you could even use Google Street View to get a virtual tour while you read along!
This year, Beverly Cleary will celebrate her 100th birthday, and I think Walking With Ramona is a great tribute to her enduring stories. For more information, visit the Kickstarter page!