The Big Library Downtown

Dear Liza,

Yesterday Auntie Bridgett and I took the number 20 downtown. We had a good time shopping, and then decided to look inside the beautiful building that is the main branch of the Multnomah County Library, at SE 10th and Yamhill.

The main branch!

The outside looks like a church, or an ancient Roman temple….tall and bright with large arched windows. We went up the wide steps and through the heavy glass doors into the cool space, a nice change from the muggy heat outside. We were in the first foyer, where a rack held all the bus line schedules I’d been looking all over town for. There was also a coat room and bag check.

Going through another set of glass doors, we were in the main lobby. It was bigger than your house! There were long desks on both sides of people helping folks check out books, doing research, and taking care of books.

But what made my heart leap was on the right: The door that lead to The Beverly Cleary Children’s Library. I’ve told you about Beverly Cleary; she is the lady who grew up here in Portland and wrote so many wonderful books for children. She donated some of her money to the library and they made this huge room into a magical place for books and kids.


Once you walk by the lovely wood carving of Alice in Wonderland, you see the circulation desk standing by a giant bronze tree. The tree, which is 12 feet tall and reaches clear up to the ceiling, is covered with shapes and creatures from stories…bears, turtles, plants, and magic lamps.

Close up of the TREE!

I spent a long time looking at it with some little girls who were there. I stood in happy, silly joy for a long time, just enjoying the fact that this huge place is here for the children of this city, to encourage them to read and love books.

We walked across the lobby and found the Popular library, fiction stories for grown-ups, then up the stairs to the periodical room, where you can check out magazines from now or even years back. There is also a science and business library.

Science and Business Library

The other day, when I walked to the Belmont Branch of the library, (a much, much smaller library closest to my house), I got a library card..which means I can check out anything from this magical place, too!

I feel like I am part of a special club, a club that allows me secret knowledge…about anything I want to look for. I am so excited!


Grandma Judy


Klickitat Street

Dear Liza,

The other day I told you about our busy day at Pip’s Doughnuts, IKEA and Costco. There was another exciting part of that day. We drove down Klickitat Street!

I know you haven’t read them yet, but there is a wonderful series of books by Beverly Cleary that all happen on Klickitat Street. Henry Huggins, his dog Ribsy and neighbors Beezus and Ramona Quimby have lots of adventures. For many years I didn’t know that it was a real street in a real place, but it sure is!

Beverly Cleary herself grew up in this northeast section of Portland, on 37th Street just down a bit. She was labeled a low reader in first grade, and as she said, “To be in the Blackbird group was to be disgraced.” Her own school librarian encouraged her and she had caught up by third grade, and was told by her sixth grade teacher that she should be an author. Mrs. Cleary grew up to be a children’s librarian who was frustrated because there weren’t enough books that really interested children. She began writing and published her first book, “Henry Huggins”, in 1950. That is six years before I was even born!

Beverly Cleary used her own childhood as a model for her stories, which deal with the everyday joys and dilemmas of childhood. They are funny for children and adults and feel very real in their approach to family life. She liked the name Klickitat because it reminded her of the sound of knitting needles.

Today, Klickitat Street is still in the middle of a pretty part of the city, a neighborhood called Roseway, far enough out from Downtown to be quiet but still very busy. The street is one of the most heavily used of the “Bicycle Throughways” in Portland, roads that are signed for bikes and where car traffic is discouraged. These throughways make biking much safer and more fun.

Today I have been writing letters to friends, reading one of my favorite books, Robert Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land”, and listening to the crows. This afternoon Grandpa Nelson and I will ride our bikes to see cousins Jasper and Kestrel be in a circus from their summer camp. I am sure enjoying life up here in Portland!


Grandma Judy