Kicking off my reading/watching adventure with Ramona Quimby, I’m starting off with the first book in Ramona’s series, Beezus and Ramona!
First Things First…
Book reviews are a regular feature of Allison’s Written Words. As I complete a book on my yearly Goodreads Reading Challenge, I get a review published to both Goodreads and my blog. I’ll be simultaneously publishing these reviews here as I finish each book.
And once I get into the books which relate directly to the television series, I’ll discuss those episodes while also discussing the books.
It is a huge, but fun undertaking, and if my experience reading Beezus and Ramona is any indication as to how much fun it is to re-explore a beloved book series, this is going to be enjoyable for me. :-)
I can’t necessarily promise weekly articles like I’d been publishing in the past, but I’ll definitely work as diligently as I’ve always been with this site. I emphasize quality over quantity in anything I write. My hope is that you’ll continue to support me through reading my articles the way you always have.
As always, thank you for your continued support!
And with that out of the way…
In The Beginning…
I first read about Ramona Quimby when I received Ramona and Her Mother as a Christmas present in third grade (1991). I was nine years old, a little older than the main character I would be reading about, but I was looking forward to tackling a new book series.
This was the same year we started working on our Book It reading challenge in school. Halfway through the school year, we were introduced to the program and given a reading goal. I’d gotten new books for Christmas (always did!), and the idea of earning free pizza for reading a specified number of books was exciting.
My Beezus and Ramona Experience
After I’d tackled that novel, I jumped around in the series, fascinated by Ramona and her creativity…as well as her penchant for mischief. Ramona was some of the things I was at that age – specifically, full of imagination…and a brunette with the world’s straightest hair and bangs to match – and something I wasn’t…a maker of mischief. You could easily say her imagination was the driving force behind her mischief, and that is a fair assessment.
I was given a copy of Beezus and Ramona by a third grade classmate. She was moving away after that year, and wanted me to have her book – a kind gesture from a kind friend. I had been talking about Beverly Cleary in class, and she had finished reading it. The copy was clearly well-loved, so it was an honor to inherit it for my own. I read it that summer between third and fourth grade, and again at another point later in elementary school. I lost touch of that classmate, but reading this book again reminded me of that nice gesture.
Hey Melissa (yes, I remember her name), thanks for introducing me to this story! Wherever you are, hope you are well.
Reading a 1950s Novel in 2019
One of the interesting things about reading a book written in a different decade that has remained untouched by time and progress, is that you’re going to run into certain elements (aspects, dialogue, plot points) that seem antiquated in a modern world. When I first read Beezus and Ramona in 1992, the novel was not modern. As a nine-year-old, I would never have known this novel wasn’t modern, nor would I have cared. Same principle applies today – I’m well aware it is from 1955, but being more aware doesn’t necessarily mean anything to me.
As a younger reader, I was confused by some of the words used in the story (the use of “gaily” when describing someone’s happy nature baffled me as a kid). I also never knew what a davenport was back then (I remember asking, and finding out it was a type of couch), and I’d never heard a lollipop called a “lolly” (though that was an easy one to figure out).
Some of the dialogue also screamed “of its time,” and the only time dialogue ever sounded like something a real child would say, it was usually something Ramona says. Beezus’s dialogue always seemed a little ahead of her time (she’s a nine-year-old girl, after all), but her dialogue sounds like someone in a little bit of a hurry to grow up. In a way, it seems Beezus is a mature young lady, but she is probably also trying to sound older to further distance herself from the child-appropriate antic of her little sister.
Beezus’s conflict over knowing she should love her sister, and the horrible realization she comes to on her birthday that she doesn’t (or thinks she doesn’t) sounds typical of the sibling dynamic. It wouldn’t be sibling-like to not think at least once about what it would be like to not have that sibling.
I’m a twin, and I’ve often wondered what it would be like to have a younger or order sibling, rather than be of the same age as my sibling (we don’t have any other siblings). The upside to only being one minute apart in age (he’s older, and he’s never stopped reminding me) was always having someone to play and share toys with. Obviously that changed as we got older, but during those early years, it was nice to have someone to play with.
However, I’ve never thought about what it was like to be an only child. It just never crossed my mind. As many childhood disagreements and brother/sister conflicts were typical, I wouldn’t have wanted to be without a sibling. As for Beezus and Ramona, they may not have a perfect sibling relationship as young children, but their relationship is not atypical of siblings with any kind of age gap (refer to back to the one minute older thing, it happens there too!). There is a huge difference between four years old and nine (almost ten) years old, but as Beezus discovers when she observes her mother and Aunt Beatrice, that large gap changes significantly as adults.
There is hope for a similar relationship for these sisters. Beezus (and I, the reader) walk away knowing this.
Beezus and Ramona will return in Ramona the Pest.
And finally, that Goodreads review I mentioned earlier…
Goodreads Review: Beezus and Ramona (Ramona Quimby Series, #1)
Originally published on Allison’s Written Words and Goodreads, May 1, 2019.
Ramona’s adventures kick off in her first book, told from the point of view of a third person perspective, but seeing through the eyes of her big sister, Beatrice – er, Beezus – Quimby.
Nine-year-old Beatrice – excuse me, Beezus – Quimby’s constant source of annoyance is her four-year-old sister, Ramona. Through the perils of picking out the perfect library book, to the wanting to be creative enough to create a painting that gets placed in the center of the art room wall at her painting class, just wanting to be able to have a friend over without interference, helping organize an impromptu party, and the celebration of her birthday, Beezus just wants one thing – her little sister to not drive her completely nuts!
I first read “Beezus and Ramona” in third grade (I read the 1990 edition, the version I’ve just finished is the 2006 edition – there is no difference other than the illustrations), given to me by a classmate who had finished reading it and wanted me to have it. When she moved away after third grade, I read the book a few more times. It was a nice gesture from a nice friend. I started reading Beverly Cleary’s books earlier that school year – my first was “Ramona and Her Mother.” I read all of them between third and fifth grade, with the exception of “Ramona’s World,” as it didn’t come out until I was 16 years old. Since I’d read two of the books depicting Ramona as a seven-year-old prior to reading “Beezus and Ramona,” it was unusual to read a story about her as a four-year-old.
As an adult picking this book up for the first time in quite a few years, I’m actually quite surprised at how bratty Ramona really was as a toddler. Locking Ribsy (Henry Huggins’ dog – remember them?) in the bathroom…
…putting her doll Bendix in the oven (I actually remembered that part as soon as Beezus read “Hansel and Gretel” to Ramona), planning a party without permission, eating all the apples in the basement (well, taking a bite and discarding them), impeding on Beezus’s art class…
…and ruining library books and birthday cakes, this kid probably deserved more than just ignoring her to teach her a lesson.
I’m surprised at how progressive Ramona’s punishments were (not engaging her when she is misbehaving, and sending to her room for bigger negative behaviors), for having taken place in the 1950s. However, I’m aware that as a children’s book, mentioning spanking might be too harsh.
I like that despite the cover and illustration changes over the many editions published over many years, the story itself isn’t modernized. And, for me, it works just as well in 2019 – antiquated words and dialogue aside – as it did in 1991 when I first read it, and as it did before and after that. As a 36-year-old reading it again for the first time in about 25 years, it is still as cute and funny as I remember it. I love that Beezus is given some renewed hope that she doesn’t have to always like her sister, even though she’ll always love her (despite what Beezus thinks!).
Who knows, perhaps they’ll get along someday? We can hope so much.
My take: Highly recommended for both new readers unfamiliar with Beverly Cleary’s work, as well as nostalgic readers looking to revisit novels of their youth.