Saturday, October 17, 2009

Walking with Ramona

First of all, I wasn't expecting such a large turn out for this event. There must have been at least 150 people taking part in the "Walking with Ramona" tour led by Laura Foster. But, then again, Beverly Cleary is such a big name in children's literature and to walk the same streets some of her more famous characters traveled could have naturally grabbed anyone's interest as it did mine. And it was a Saturday and, although a little chilly at times, the sun was still winning out over the forecasted showers and thunderstorms. And, Laura Foster is a popular local author with her walking guide books. So perhaps it shouldn't have come as a surprise to see such a crowd after all.

The starting point of the 90-minute 2-mile tour was at Hollywood Library. We got some history on Beverly Cleary. She came from a family where reading was encouraged at an early age. However, she really wasn't able to find books she could relate to. Then, a teacher inspired her to not only get back into the habit of reading but to write her own stories- the kind she would have liked to read. Working as a librarian and being surrounded by children would further lead her to become the famous author she is now using the Portland neighborhood she grew up in as background for many of her books.

We then proceeded to see some of these places. Naturally, there were differences in the 1950's landscape described then to what is there now. I loved overhearing people talk about their own memories with Beverly Cleary's books- and children's books in general, in fact. I was more familiar with her Ralph S. Mouse character through the books and movies. It was great how parents were talking to their kids, incorporating what we were hearing to their discussions of what they had been reading.

Imagine how shocked regular passers-by and drivers must have been to see this glob of people walking the streets! The final stop in the tour of Beverly Cleary's former stomping grounds was a house the author lived in. There was a brief Q&A before the crowd dispersed. To me, the whole thing felt like a field trip. We even had a little story time at Grant Park where there were bronze statues of Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins and his dog Ribsy. Laura Foster read a passage from "Ramona the Pest"- the incident with her new boots- which just made an already pleasant afternoon so much more enjoyable.

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