In this book, Ramona starts kindergarten and has to deal with learning what behaviors are appropriate at home vs. at school, how she can't be the center of attention all the time, and how to read and write, all why still being herself. It's a lot of responsibility for a five year old to take on. Cleary is able to get this serious 5 year old business across while maintaining a great deal of humor. For instance, when Ramona is learning the National Anthem, she mistakes "the dawn's early light" for "dawnzer lee light," and thinks she's figured out that lamps are called dawnzers. It's a joke that's sprinkled throughout the book until she's finally corrected by her family's laughter.
Kids reading this will recognize how she feels because they're most likely going through the same troubles themselves, or they remember when they made such mistakes. Adults reading this to children (or themselves...) will laugh because it's written convincingly in a determined 5 year old voice. In any other point of view, Ramona would, indeed, seem like the world's largest pest. Plus they remember making those mistakes as well. Case in point: Grease was my favorite movie in 3rd grade and I thought that Rizzo cut class when she said she "skipped a period." I didn't put two and two together until a few years ago.
Oh Beverly Cleary. You created one of my favorite children's literature characters of all time. Not only did you do that, but you put her into a realistic and humorous (humorously realistic?) series. Adults love it (Exhibit A: me) and kids understand it (Exhibit B: me as a kid). Not only is Ramona is a well-written account of how many children think and act, but you wrote a working mother into the story and a father losing his job, which was such a rare thing to see in a children's book in the 60s, but a realistic fact of life. For that, I thank you.
Ramona has been a character since 1955. Since then, the books have been republished numerous times with different covers to appeal to different generations. One of my favorite things to do is compare covers so here we go (the dates may be off, I'm relying on the Internet, and we all know that's a mistake):
|1979 or 1982|