Beloved children’s books can feel timeless, and so there's some kind of poetic justice when their authors live long lives, themselves. Think Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are, who only recently died at age 84, or Laura Ingalls Wilder, who died at age 90. But some authors outlast nearly all of their counterparts—even as their stories continue to charm kids who are a mere fraction of their age.
Beverly Cleary, who turns 100 today, is one of that small but esteemed group. The Oregon-based author is best known for kids’ classics like Henry Huggins, The Mouse and the Motorcycle and Ramona Quimby, Age 8. Over the years, she's sold more than 91 million copies of her 39 books worldwide and her career has been lauded with everything from multiple Newbery Medals and Honors to a “Living Legend” designation from the Library of Congress.
If you’ve ever adventured along with the Quimby girls on Klickitat Street, you may know that Cleary is almost synonymous with Portland. She spent much of her young life in the city and turned her real-life experiences into children’s books that incorporate real places that can still be visited today. And perhaps the perfect cherry on top of a Cleary-themed jaunt through the rose-studded city is a trip to the sculpture garden built in her honor in Grant Park in northeast Portland.
The Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden for Children was built within the park in 1991 by a group of librarians, teachers and Portland locals eager to pay tribute to their favorite author of children’s books. The park itself is featured in several Cleary books, most memorably as the site where Henry Huggins frantically digs up nightcrawlers. It features life-sized statues of Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins and Huggins’ dog, Ribsy. Quotes from the books and fountains make the garden even more fun. Cleary-curious travelers can also find a neighborhood map at the park that tells them how to investigate other local sites related to the author.
Want to take your Cleary sculptural viewing to another level in honor of her 100th? Stop by the Multnomah County Library’s central branch and see if you can find a plaque featuring a depiction of the timeless (and, seemingly, ageless) author.