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Author imagines a life with mastodons

'I Wonder...' children's book provides glimpse into Tualatin's past

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - In September, Ramona Merrill journeyed from Meridian, Idaho to Tualatin for the unveiling of the mastodon sculpture and her book, 'I Wonder...' at Nyberg Rivers.When Ramona Merrill first saw the mastodon bones at the Tualatin Public Library, she tried to imagine what it would have been like to see one for real.

She pictured herself as a child, next to a mastodon that lived and breathed and moved, and thought about how that would have felt.

From this came the inspiration for her book, “I Wonder...” that was released with the unveiling of the mastodon sculpture at CenterCal Properties’ Nyberg Rivers in the fall.

“I went to the library, and I saw the exhibit and kind of stood there,” said the CenterCal regional marketing director out of Meridian, Idaho. “I tried to imagine being 3-foot-tall and looking up at that big thing, and just kind of asked myself all the questions a child would ask about what it would be like to live when animals that big lived on the land.”

The second book Merrill was commissioned to write for CenterCal, “I Wonder...” touches on the story of John “Bobby” George, the student who discovered the mastodon remains decades ago, and helped shape what’s known about Tualatin’s history. Because of him, we know that mastodons used to roam the Tualatin River Valley, and “I Wonder...” seems to be CenterCal and Merrill’s gift to all of the area’s curious children of today.

“I like getting their imagination going. The mastodon book, ‘I Wonder...’ takes kids through all the senses,” Merrill said. “What would it be like to touch them and to see them and to smell them? Would it want to play with me? Would it take me for a ride? All of those things that take you through all those senses.”Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - 'I Wonder...' written by CenterCal employee Ramona Merrill, tells the story of a young boy imagining what it would have been like to live when mastodons lived.

With 11 grandchildren ranging in age from 19 years to 18 months, Merrill has had plenty of reminders lately about what children do and do not find entertaining. Though she’s only written two books for CenterCal, she wrote one for a previous company she worked for, and numerous others for her family. And, of course, with all those grandchildren, it was only natural for her to test the book out on them first before giving it to the public.

“The first time I read one to children, I’m always surprised at what part makes them giggle,” Merrill said. “I always know which line I think they’ll laugh at, but it isn’t always the ones that they think are the funniest. So, that is just delightful for me to see what parts it is that they like when I get to read to them. That’s very rewarding.”

During the mastodon unveiling in the fall, Merrill read her book to all the children at the event, who sat around her with rapt attention. It was a special moment, she said, because she thought the first book she wrote for CenterCal would be the only one. Released over a year ago for a shopping center opening in Idaho, “New Wings” was turned into a ballet specifically for the event. Merrill thought such an honor would be a one time thing, until the CenterCal president approached her about writing a second.

“When he asked me, I was thrilled to death because I kind of thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. So it was so wonderful to come out at the unveiling there and to be able to read it to the children there that day. It was so sweet,” the 58-year-old said. “It is probably the most fulfilling thing to being a grandma that I can even express. It’s wonderful.”

Though Merrill doesn’t have plans for any more CenterCal-supported books on the horizon, she recently finished a story about an owl that she’s hoping to get illustrated.

“It’s a passion,” she said. “This is my retirement plan.”

Check it out

“I Wonder...” can be found through:

- Tualatin Public Library, 18878 S.W. Martinazzi Ave.

- Tigard Tualatin School District, 6960 S.W. Sandburg St., Tigard

- Tualatin Arts Advisory Committee, 18880 S.W. Martinazzi Ave.

- Tualatin Heritage Center, 8700 S.W. Sweek Drive.

To purchase the book, a donation of $10-15 is suggested. All proceeds benefit the Friends of the Tualatin Public Library, TTSD, Tualatin Arts Advisory Committee and the Tualatin Historical Society.

Click to find out what libraries near you carry the book.

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