Because, after all, she’s not a slowpoke grownup.
Allison’s Written Words celebration of National Reading Month continues, shifting focus from one little girl with a love for reading and an incredible gift of telekinesis, to another little girl with the gift of an incredible imagination. One a girl of unusual precocity, the other not content to rest on the laurels of waiting for the next thing to happen.
This is Ramona’s world, and we’re just living in it.
“I Am Too A Merry Sunshine!”
Ramona Quimby’s story starts off in the background, the shadows of a secondary character. Her debut came as a toddler in Henry Huggins, annoying the heck out of her big sister Beatrice “Beezus” Quimby and Beezus’s best friend, Henry. Imaginative and fun-loving, Ramona was capable of mischief and boy, did it get her in trouble. She always insisted on tagging along with her sister and friends. There was never a time this was a good idea, as Ramona’s imagination often caused problems for everyone around her.
Ramona’s presence as a background character later shifted to give her a more prominent role, beginning with Beezus and Ramona. By the time Ramona the Pest was released, Ramona Quimby was a bonafide star, no longer just the pesky sister of Beatrice, but a big Kindergarten girl with her own story to tell.
Over the course of the series, Ramona grows from a rambunctious five-year-old attending half-day Kindergarten in Ramona the Pest, to a six-year-old proving her bravery toward the neighborhood dog in Ramona the Brave (even if she had to sacrifice a shoe in her valor). She’s the seven-year-old who aspires to earn money to help her family when her father loses his job (Ramona and Her Father), and desires to be a big girl, but is still caught in the throes of being too young to stay home alone (Ramona and Her Mother), to the eight-year-old who discovers the joys of Sustained Silent Reading and being a Big Kid in a new school, the excitement of weddings and new siblings (which isn’t always exciting) (Ramona Forever), to growing up and finding that as you do, you begin to understand the perspectives and needs of others, especially adults (Ramona’s World).
Ramona’s life isn’t all smooth sailing – there’s always problems to be had (both of the child and adult kind). There’s lost jobs, the loss of a pet, financial instabilities, school bullies, and siblings – both the big and little kind. But despite it all, Ramona and her creative imagination rule the day, and help her get through life’s little – and big – struggles.
Ramona The TV (and Movie!) Star
Ramona’s imagination could only be contained within the pages of her books for only so long. It was inevitable that she would eventually have to be the subject of a movie or television show, right?
How about both?
Ramona wouldn’t have it any other way!
The television show actually came first – a short-run series (unless the show looked to branch out beyond the books, it didn’t need to run longer than it did) aired on both PBS in the United States, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Canada from September 1988 until January 1989. Ten episodes were produced, with the episodes based on chapters in Ramona Quimby, Age 8, Ramona Forever, and Ramona and Her Mother. I first saw the episodes in school in fourth grade (while in the throes of reading her books, no less!), and it I loved it. Dare I say it, I love this show more than The Baby-Sitters Club TV show (believe me though, I still love that show despite its cheesiness – that’s the big appeal).
The episodes are as sweet as the books, and if you ever tried to visualize Ramona smashing an egg on her head, getting sick in her classroom, or Beezus with “40-year-old hair,” this show captures it perfectly. It feels real – it isn’t going for cheesiness and it sticks faithfully to the books. Every little detail is there – every word, every action, it is done perfectly.
I especially love the opening credits of the show…
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The show was an early role for Sarah Polley, who embodied the imagination and personality of Ramona Quimby perfectly.
She was super cute and you’d think no one else could ever play the part so perfectly.
But alas, someone else did embody Ramona…for the big screen.
Honestly, did you really think she was content to rest on the laurels of public television?
2010 ushered in the big screen presence of Ramona Quimby, with the movie Ramona and Beezus (an obvious swapping of the 1955 novel’s title, to give Ramona more presence, since she’s the star, after all!).
However, the film doesn’t focus on the plotline of that novel, and instead, takes on the novels the television show covered, with some minor reworking and combining different elements of different chapters from the books. This film marked the debut of Joey King as Ramona, with Selena Gomez as her big sister, Beezus.
I still have yet to see this movie – I have it in my collection but just haven’t brought myself to watch it. It looks adorable and I probably will love it.
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Ramona The Timeless
Ramona’s life from age four to age ten actually happens over the course of the longest six years of anyone’s life…44 years. You read that right – Ramona became a main character in 1955, and had her last published adventure in 1999. I’ll put it into perspective about what a lifetime this was – Ramona’s first book came out when my mother was a toddler, and the last book was published and released the summer before I started eleventh grade. I read about Ramona’s adventures as a six, seven, and eight-year-old when I was nine and ten years old, and by the time she turned ten, I was too old to find out how her story concludes.
As for her story, the plot remains timeless despite the words and expressions used. She’s a girl of conviction, imagination, and determination, and that resonates in any decade. I honestly hope kids can still read her stories today, and walk away feeling as good about a kid with a huge heart and a ton of imagination the way I did over 25 years ago.
Ramona the Relate-able
When I said that I was too old to finish reading Ramona’s story, I actually was “too cool” (horrible phase, I tell ya!). I was too old and too cool for kid lit, and quite frankly, no 17-year-old ever wants to be caught reading Beverly Cleary books in high school. At 37, I’m the opposite – I’m re-reading some of the books I loved as a kid, recapturing the enjoyment I had then, reading about characters who were extraordinary, or even as ordinary as I was growing up. I find reading these stories so much more fun from an adult perspective – I know that everything Ramona does causes so much trouble, but it is so much fun to see how Ramona’s personality is handled. I know how I would handle her if I was an adult in her world, but you always know she is going to be just fine.
I was nine years old when I first read Ramona’s books, and read all of them up to Ramona Forever, which came out in the mid-1980s. I read it in the early 1990s in fourth grade. I would have loved to see more of Ramona beyond that, but as I said, her final story wouldn’t be told until 1999. I read Beverly Cleary’s books until fifth grade, and had a nice little collection that not only included Ramona’s books, but also the books of Ralph S. Mouse, Leigh Botts (my brother actually read Strider, and we both read Dear Mr. Henshaw), and Ellen Tebbits.
As an adult I’ve re-read several of Ramona’s books (I’m up to Ramona and Her Father), and read Sister of the Bride last year, which was timely considering that I was the bride last year. But for me, of all of Beverly Cleary’s characters, Ramona will always hold a special place in my heart. There’s just so much to love about her, and I think we can all agree that we either are a bit like her, or know someone like her.
Go on, we can admit this as adults!
One last thing about Ramona – the final book in her series, Ramona’s World, was also Beverly Cleary’s final book. She retired after this, satisfied that she told Ramona’s story the way it needed to be told, without taking her into life beyond her tenth birthday. Even Cleary knew the girl would be fine, and didn’t need to be seen as a teenager. As swan songs go, this has to be the best one an author could have, the reassurance that her creation is going to be just fine.
And Now, You!
Did you ever get lost in the imagination of Ramona Quimby? What was your favorite of her stories, or any of Beverly Cleary’s books? I’d love to hear your recollections and nostalgia of reading any of Cleary’s books, or even the ones you have of reading Ramona’s stories. Do her adventures still resonate well after all these years? And have you seen the television show or movie?
I’d love to hear from you! And remember, if you know someone the site, please sure it with them. Maybe this is a good introduction – I have no idea.
Thank you, as always for your support and readership.
Ramona Quimby won’t be back next week (though I’m certainly not done with her yet), but the story of a courageous character and her adventures will be the subject of next week’s ongoing “National Reading Month” theme. If you think I love talking about Ramona and The Baby-Sitters Club as important childhood stories, next week’s book is one of my absolute all-time favorites.
Have a great day, and keep on reading!
My Two Front Teeth: My Ramona Quimby Experience – A story of personal nostalgia, when I had my own Ramona Quimby moment in Kindergarten!