March is National Reading Month, and with the current pandemic, many parents and kids find themselves with more time on their hands to read. Portland Public Schools may be closed, but we’ve got a list of Portland-inspired books to engage young readers, from board books all the way up to young adult fiction. Though libraries are closed, families can still check out ebooks to read from a tablet or Kindle, and audio books are available via the library’s Libby app. You can also sign up with online resources like Epic! Books, which may be available for free via an invitation through your child’s school. Read on for our top picks!
Portland 1 to 10, by Sarah Beth Greene
Count your way through the City of Roses with this new board book, featuring comfortingly familiar landmarks like Powell’s Books and your favorite bridges, alongside cultural and natural icons like the Chapman swifts.
Portland Baby, by Barbara Kerley
Introduce your baby to the city you call home with this sweet board book. A group of Portland babies invite young readers to explore fun places like the Children’s Museum and Forest Park. Parents can use the educational activities included to extend learning beyond the page.
Hello, Portland! by Martha Day Zschock
Enjoy our local installment in this popular series of board books for children, where parent and child beavers take a tour of the city. Written by a former elementary school teacher who was inspired by field trips with her class, this book will engaged even the littlest explorer.
Larry Gets Lost in Portland, by John Skewes
If you’re not tired of touring the city yet, why not see it from a dog’s point of view? Larry the dog is mainly interested in treats as he tours the city with Pete and family, but when he gets lost he discovers many of Portland’s most famous sites as he finds his way back to his people.
The Ramona Series, by Beverly Cleary
It’s fun to find the local references in the pages of these classic chapter books about Ramona, the pesky younger sister who always manages to get into the best kind of trouble. Author Beverly Cleary is an Oregon native who grew up in NE Portland and graduated from Grant Park High School. Whether read aloud or independently, settle in for mischief and adventure on Klickitat Street.
Walking with Ramona: Exploring Beverly Cleary’s Portland, by Laura O Foster
After you’ve read through the Ramona books, why not follow the trail? This fun guide published by local Microcosm Books offers a street-by-street guide to Portland of the 1920s and 30s, as it would have been during Beverly Cleary’s time. Whether virtually or in person, this book will lead you on a three-mile walk (or bike ride) around Northeast Portland.
Age: 8 and up
The Wildwood Chronicles, by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis
This bestselling series by local husband and wife author/illustrator pair brings Forest Park to life–if it were an enchanted, tangled forest at the edge of a slightly fictionalized Portland, where magic and adventure await. In book one, follow plucky Portlander Prue along as she strives to rescue her baby brother when a murder of crows carry him off to the Impassable Wilderness. The rest? You’ll have to read to find out.
Age: 8 and up
Roller Girl, by Victoria Jamieson
What could be more Portland than roller derby? Catch up with twelve-year-old Astrid in this Portland-centered graphic novel, as she enrolls in a roller derby camp– only to find out her best friend Nicole has signed up for dance camp with a new friend instead. Perfect for tween readers beginning to grapple with the interwoven threads of self-confidence, friendship, and identity.
This Side of Home, by Renee Watson
Raised in Portland, writer Renee Watson paints a compelling picture of gentrification in Portland in her debut young adult novel, which follows twins Maya and Nikki as they search for the meaning of home in a rapidly-changing city. A beautiful and important exploration of history and identity. If you like this one, check out middle grade novel Some Places More Than Others.
Age: 13 and up
Sleeping in My Jeans, by Connie King Leonard
PSU’s own Ooligan Press recently released this local author’s poignant exploration of single parenthood, homelessness, and race, told through the eyes of 16-year-old Mattie. When she and her family flee an abusive home, they’re forced to live in their car while they figure out what’s next. Though technically set in Eugene, this YA gem takes on themes that are more than relevant to Portland teens.
Age: 13 and up
Darius the Great is Not Okay, by Adib Khorram
Follow Darius from his home in Portland, where he works in a tea shop, to Iran for a summer trip to see his ailing grandfather– and ultimately discover what it means to be Persian, and to be himself. This is the first of two books about this very relatable protagonist.
Age: 12 and up
Want to keep reading? The library has a great list of Portland-centered books for young readers. To venture beyond Portland city limits without ever leaving home, treat the whole family to a tale from Oregon Reads Aloud, a fantastic collection of stories by Oregon writers, geared toward readers (or listeners) from age 4 and up.