I know every state has their claims to fame–people or events that bring about pride of place and cause for celebration. When you don’t live in California or New York those local celebrities or occurrences are just a little less known to the rest of America. While every resident thinks their person/place/thing is the best, I have to say being a children’s librarian in Beverly Cleary’s city really is something to cheer about. Considered a local heroine, Beverly Cleary (April 12, 1916 – March 25, 2021) was born in McMinnville and lived in rural Yamhill before moving to Portland. Most of her books are set in Northeast Portland where she was raised, and the truly special thing about her and her work was that she was a champion of children as they really exist.
Like many, I loved Ramona Quimby, and Beverly Cleary was my favorite author for much of my elementary school years. I can’t say as a young reader I recognized the groundbreaking significance of the way she wrote children’s stories, I just knew she understood what it was like to be a kid, and I couldn’t put down her books. Today I visited the sculpture garden in her honor, to say thank you and goodbye, and saw that many people in Portland had the same idea.
I am so glad Ms. Cleary was celebrated long before she passed; she was the recipient of many ALSC book and media awards and was awarded the Children’s Literature Legacy Award (then known as the Wilder Medal) in 1975 for her contribution to children’s literature.
Ms. Cleary was a wonderful Multnomah County Library supporter and advocate for library services to children. She will remain in our hearts and minds forever and her legacy lives on in many ways–the children’s room in our Central Library is named in her honor, and our branch in the Grant Park neighborhood has a beautiful art installation that celebrates her. But even more powerful to me is that her work inspired another local author to write a nuanced and lovable character in the city where she was raised; if you haven’t checked out Renée Watson’s series starring Ryan Hart check it out today.
How are you celebrating Beverly Cleary at your library?