Friday, April 12, 2013

KidLit Pilgrimage: Klickitat Street

Me on Klickitat Street, 2001 (Excuse the bad fashion..)
Today is Drop Everything and Read Day, in honor of Beverly Cleary's birthday, and today's KidLit Pilgrimage is also in honor of Ms. Cleary. She was my favorite author growing up and is probably a huge part of why I became a children's librarian.

My husband was a consultant for many years, which meant that he's worked in lots of different cities. Pre-kids, I always enjoyed spending a weekend or two where he was staffed and getting to explore a new city. One of my fondest memories is when he was staffed in Maryland, and we spent a morning getting library cards to allow us access to the Library of Congress. Swoon.

He worked off and on outside Portland, Oregon for a number of years, the first time in 2001.  And the first time I went out there to visit him, I had one thing on my mind: visiting Beverly Cleary's Portland. 

I didn't know a lot about Portland as a kid growing up in suburban Chicago, but I did know that you could see Mount Hood on clear days. And that Ramona lived in Klickitat Street. And... that's about it.  I didn't even know if Klickitat Street was even real, but I was excited to learn that it was. So I printed up directions from the hotel we were staying at to Klickitat Street (this was long before smartphones or GPS, back when the concept of Google Maps was amazing. Actually, it was probably Mapquest back then... Anyway...)

Cleary, I believe, never lived on Klickitat Street, but she lived close by and she'd always loved that particular name, so when she started out writing the adventures of Henry Huggins, she set his house on Klickitat. Cleary's books, I think, have a very real time and place. As a kid, I really had no idea what Ramona's neighborhood looked like -- my worldview at that point didn't expand much past "1970s planned suburban subdivision" -- but as soon as I started walking around Klickitat Street and the surrounding neighborhood, I knew I was walking where Ramona lived. I could just recognize the landscape from Cleary's familiar words.

The city of Portland has erected a beautiful sculpture garden in the neighborhood park.  There's a neighborhood map that points out local landmarks and their significance in Cleary's books, and there's also sculptures of Ramona, Henry, and Beezus.  It's just perfect.  I've been back to Portland many times since then, but I've not made a pilgrimage back to the garden.  I'll have to take my kids there the next time I go.


Henry Huggins

Neighborhood map

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