Celebrating the Most Notorious Works of Beverly Cleary

Beverly Cleary was born on April 12, 1916, in McMinnville, Oregon, about an hour outside of Portland. Beloved author, daughter, spouse, and librarian (she was even named a “Living Legend” by the 2000 Library of Congress), Cleary knew from a young age that she loved books and reading. She began writing and telling stories that kids could identify with after hearing concerns from her children at school. After publishing her first story, Henry Huggins in 1950, Cleary began her journey as a published author, writing over forty books that were translated in twenty-nine languages, and receiving countless awards. It’s easy to say that one could not go through their life without encountering her name or her stories at least once.
With her recent passing on March 25, 2021, the world has collectively mourned the loss of one of the greatest authors in our history. It all started here in Oregon, where she took inspiration from her early childhood memories growing up in areas such as Portland and Yamhill. With little pieces of home woven throughout, let’s take a look at some of Cleary’s most notable works and how they connect to her life in Oregon.

  1. Henry Huggins (1950)
  2. Cleary’s first published book followed the story of Henry, his dog, and his neighbors, including some familiar names: Beezus and Ramona. Cleary explained that her first book took much inspiration from her own childhood and the neighborhood kids that she grew up with in Oregon, as well as the kids she knew from school as a librarian. Because Cleary spent most of her time in the Portland area, the Henry Huggins book series showcases familiar Portland landmarks, including Grant Park, where Henry was well-known for hunting nightcrawlers, and Knott Street, where Henry had his infamous paper route.

  3. Beezus and Ramona (1950)
  4. The main characters in what is probably her most popular book series, Beezus, and her younger sister, Ramona, were first introduced in the Henry Huggins books. Known for their dynamic duo of personalities, the sisters have adventures all over town, even in their very own home located on Klickitat Street in Northeast Portland. Other spots around the city include the Rite Aid on NE 41st, where the Colossal Market from the books is located, and Ramona’s school, Cedarhurst Elementary, is based on Portland’s own Laurelhurst School. The Multnomah County Library even features a stonewall map titled “Walking With Ramona” that maps out the areas that are mentioned throughout the book series so you can walk along the same paths! The books also inspired the 2010 film, Ramona and Beezus, starring Selena Gomez and Joey King. The movie was a box office hit, earning over twenty-seven million dollars.

  5. A Girl From Yamhill (1988)
  6. Although not as well known as her children’s books, Cleary also wrote and published an autobiography about her childhood and early teen years in Oregon. She expresses the difficulties that she had connecting with those in her family and her struggles with learning how to read. She grew up more independent than most would have thought, and her stories are not only inspired by her childhood, but they are also a recreation of what she wished her childhood was like. Cleary opens up and brings forth raw emotions as readers take a look at the woman behind the books. Her yearning for a relationship with her mother and missing her father, who was away so many hours of the day due to his job, are just some examples of what shaped Cleary’s life as she began her writing career.

Many people know the name, “Beverly Cleary” but not everyone knows the story behind the name. With so many iconic characters and series, Cleary has given a name to the Portland area and showcased its beauty through each of her books. The rest of the world will miss her, but the Oregon community in particular will feel her loss the hardest. While she may not be able to recount these stories in person any longer, her words will live on forever and continue to inspire readers of all ages and backgrounds. She not only wrote for herself and her imagined childhood, but for every child out there.

Key Literary Figures in the City of Roses

I walk to Washington Park every Friday morning. After climbing the last of the steep steps to the Lewis and Clark Memorial, I’m greeted by an engraved plaque nestled into the brick wall.

“The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God’s heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.”

The poem was written by the English poet by Dorothy Frances Gurney in 1913. Reading this excerpt got me wondering what other historical easter eggs are waiting to be discovered in this park?
The City of Roses and The Oregonian
Portland wouldn’t be the City of Roses without the early influences of certain literary figures in Oregon’s history.
Thomas J. Dryer started The Oregonian as a weekly periodical on December 4, 1850. Ten years later, in 1860, Henry Pittock purchased The Oregonian and began publishing daily issues; that same year, he married Georgiana Burton Pittock and the two began influencing the beginnings of modern Portland society.
Georgiana Pittock was “a philanthropist, reformer, and society leader with her husband Henry Lewis Pittock, owner and publisher of The Oregonian, she inspired Portland to become the cultural and business center of Oregon.” Georgiana was an avid gardener, so much so that in 1888 she founded and organized the Portland Rose Society. In 1889 Georgiana’s church established a competition for the year’s best homegrown roses, which marked the beginning of the annual Portland Rose Festival. Nearly sixteen years later, Portland boasted over two hundred miles of rose-lined streets.
In 1905 the city began preparing for the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition. Over the course of the four-month exposition, nearly 1.6 million visitors traveled to Portland from all over the world. By the end of the display, Portland had earned its reputation as “the City of Roses.”
The International Rose Test Garden
Portland’s newly acquired reputation as the City of Roses, along with the efforts of Jesse A. Curry, led to the creation of the world-renowned International Rose Test Garden.
The Rose Test Garden initially began as a safe haven for hybrid roses grown in Europe in 1915. London hybridists, along with others, feared that the roses would be destroyed during the World War I bombings. Jesse Currey, a rose enthusiast and editor of the Oregon Journal, convinced city officials to create the garden. Hybridists around the world began sending their roses to Portland, and the garden was officially dedicated in 1924.
The garden currently houses more than ten thousand rose bushes from over six hundred rose varieties. The Shakespeare Garden was instituted in 1945 to honor the playwright with roses named after his characters. The dedicated plaque from the LaBarre Shakespeare Club features an engraving of the bard himself and the quote, “Of all flowers methinks a rose is best.”
Located in the largest city park in Portland, the International Rose Test Garden receives around 3.5 million visitors every year. I visit the park and gardens every week, and I still can’t get enough, no matter the season.
Acknowledgement of the Original People of the Land
I pass by the Lewis and Clark Memorial often, and everytime I think about how this beautiful place that I live came to be. I cannot write this without acknowledging the sacrifices and hardships that the Indigenous People of this land had to encounter in order for me to be here today. What we now call Portland, Oregon, and Multnomah County were the traditional lands of the Multnomah, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Tumwater, Tualatin Kalapuya, Wasco, Molalla, Cowlitz, Watlala, and many other tribes who made their homes along the Columbia River.

The Magic of Portland’s Independent Publishing Resource Center

Portland, Oregon, has long been heralded as one of the best locations in America for artists, authors, and other creatives to find inspiration and community. Indeed, the city’s reputation has made it a hub for creative-minded folks looking for opportunities to hone their crafts and, more importantly, showcase and distribute their work to the public. For authors and artists who don’t have access to publishing technology or spaces to create, print, and publish their work, there are distinct barriers to doing what they love. However, there is an incredible nonprofit organization right here in Portland that seeks to break down these barriers and make publishing affordable and accessible to all.
Founded twenty-one years ago in a partnership between writer, publisher, bookseller, activist, and Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly and printmaker Rebecca Gilbert, the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC) is a nonprofit community center that is dedicated to making the process of publishing accessible and affordable to all. According to their mission statement, the IPRC seeks to provide “affordable access to space, tools, and resources for creating independently published media and artwork, and to build community and identity through the creation of written and visual art.”
One of the IPRC’s goals is to increase the accessibility of both print and visual publishing materials in order to promote diversity and equity in Portland and beyond through the creating and sharing of art. The center describes their goal this way:

By gathering such a diverse group of people under one roof, the IPRC nourishes an expansive and productive community, and is an incubator for the independent creative spirit that makes Portland unique. The IPRC fills the community need for low-cost access to otherwise expensive space, equipment, and materials, and supports artists to create quality, innovative, and experimental work that couldn’t be made elsewhere.

So just what kind of equipment does the IPRC have? The center’s main studio (currently open by appointment only due to COVID-19 safety precautions) offers an open workspace where patrons can work on individual projects and chat with other community members. The space is home to a digital lab containing iMac computers, which have access to creative software like Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign; black-and-white and color photocopiers (adorably named Blanche and Stella); paper-cutting equipment, including manual and electric paper cutters; paper finishing tools and staplers; button-making tools; and a Bind-Fast 5 perfect book binding machine. Haven’t used these tools before? Either a volunteer or the studio manager will provide you with training before your first use.
Outside of the main studio, the IPRC also offers other specialized studios for different types of printing. The Berlin Family Letterpress Studio is home to a number of letterpresses, a lead type collection, and even offers a galley rental. If screen printing is more your style, you might want to check out the WeMake Screen Printing Studio, which allows members to learn and practice screen printing fundamentals, and offers all the necessary materials that are needed to make a project come to life. Finally, the IPRC Risograph Studio is home to three Risograph printers and thirteen color drums. For each of these specialty printing studios, members are required to complete introductory workshops on how to use the equipment before being allowed to access and use the technology.
The IPRC also offers workshops and classes on a variety of other subjects, including creative writing (both fiction and nonfiction), poetry, chapbooks, zines, and even bookkeeping. The center keeps an updated calendar on their website with information about upcoming workshops and events. Other programs offered by the IPRC include a year-long certificate program that combines creative writing workshops with instruction in design, book arts, and print production; a BIPOC Artist & Writer Residency which provides authors with time and space to create, as well as a stipend of three thousand dollars; and summer youth camps that offer five weeks of creative writing, printmaking, and comic workshops for youth ages five to eighteen.
Interested in using some of the IPRC’s many tools and resources for your creative projects? Learn about membership opportunities and non-member access to studios on their website. You can also donate to this incredible organization to help keep it running so that the Portland community can retain access to these incredible resources. See their wishlist on their website, and support local artists by shopping the wonderful artwork created at the IPRC’s studios.