Monday, April 11, 2016

Literary Tourism - Oregon

Emily's Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary

When I learned that Beverly Cleary would be celebrating her 100th birthday this week, I decided it was time to revisit one of my old favorites of hers.   I sat back, relaxed, a breathed in the sweet smell of an aging paperback. 

Emily lives in Pitchfork, Oregon, a small farm town.  She is envious of her cousin, Muriel, who gets to visit the public library in Portland and check out any books she wants, especially Black Beauty.  Emily and her mom decide that it is high time that Pitchfork had a library too.  They start fundraising and collecting books so they can have the joy of a library in their own town.

I love this book.  It's in Cleary's typical episodic style so each chapter could stand alone.  Emily is energetic, brave, and a little bit prone to trouble.  She gets the hogs drunk with rotten apples and bleaches her horse, but saves the day when her grandfather can't stop his Model-T Ford.  Cleary has a special ability to really understand the mind of a child.

This book also created an excellent sense of place.  While it is a far cry from representing today's Oregon, it illustrates very directly, Cleary's Oregon, the Oregon of her childhood.  Many references were made to Emily's pioneer ancestors. the men and women who crossed the Oregon Trail to settle on the frontier.  There was even a Chinese character representing the many who travelled from Asia to the western United States and the time.  For a book of its age,  it handled this little bit of diversity very respectfully. 

If you're looking for a charming, quick childish read. this is a great choice.

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