For the next few books, I’m revisiting a childhood favorite (aside from The Baby-Sitters Club), and working on my Retroist expertise at the same time.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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), 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 to give me the book. I started reading Beverly Cleary’s books earlier that school year – my first was Ramona and Her Mother (a Christmas present in third grade). 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 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.