Retro rewatch: Ramona (TV Series) – “Squeakerfoot”

Noisy shoes and egg in your hair sounds like a terrible day’s worth of events, don’t you think?

It’s just one day in the world of Ramona Quimby!

I found out last week, amidst starting a new job and all the craziness of settling into that new workplace, that Beverly Cleary, one of my favorite childhood authors, passed away on March 25th at the ripe old age of 104, a few weeks shy of 105. As I said on my Facebook page last Friday:

In all the craziness of last week and starting a new job, I only just found out from one of my blog’s readers that she passed away last week.I grew up with Cleary’s stories – the stories of a most imaginative girl and her big sister, the big sister’s friend and his dog, a Ballet dancer who hates wool underwear and her dance instructor’s son, a boy and his admiration of an author that helps him get through some tough times, and a mouse who craves adventure while cruising around on a toy motorcycle.

There were so many more books, but these stories were the ones of my early 1990s childhood, many of which were written during my parents’ childhoods, and about kids who are timeless in their very childhood situations. Her “kids” were like us, and had realistic problems we all faced as children. I have been re-reading some of those stories recently, and just finished reading “Mitch and Amy” last week, which definitely captures the life of fraternal twins perfectly.

I am beyond happy that she lived to a ripe old age, and saw the impact of her stories. May she rest in peace, she was definitely special to me and my reading life. My world is a little fuller knowing that her and her literary world existed.

The stories of the “most imaginative girl” and the “merry sunshine” “who could not wait” were my absolute favorite of Cleary’s offerings. Next to The Babysitters Club series, the novels of Ramona Quimby and her world were some of my favorite childhood reads. Along with the aforementioned series about teenage babysitters, A Light in the Attic, Ellen Tebbits, and Otherwise Known As Sheila The Great, Ramona was my literary spirit animal. Creative, imaginative, precocious, and harboring the ability to create both sunshine and minor disaster.

And her television show is just as good as her books!

Ramona was a Canadian television series that ran for one season of ten episodes between September 1988 and January 1989 on independent station CHCH in Canada (based in Hamilton, Ontario), and PBS in the United States. The series is an adaptation of the novels, covering the time during Ramona Quimby, Age 8 and Ramona Forever, with elements of Ramona and Her Mother and Ramona and Her Father added in, but obviously placed within the timeline of the two later books. Sarah Polley stars as the eponymous protagonist, in one of her earliest roles. It sticks faithfully to the source material, with a tiny bit of creative liberty used. It wouldn’t be Ramona Quimby without a little creativity, am I right?

I first saw the series in fourth grade (1992-1993) at the end of the school year, a treat from our fourth grade teacher during the final days of the school year. I had read the books several times between third and fourth grades, and recognized the plot of the episodes we watched immediately. I’m not sure which episodes we watched, but ten years ago, I tracked down the entire series on YouTube, which made me so happy, and have them in my digital video collection. The whole series is sweet and funny, and like the books they came from, relatable and realistic. The dialogue and stories are so well done, and the acting is actually quite good for a television series. Sarah Polley is incredible as Ramona, and truly brings the character to life in all her imaginative glory. There is so much right with this series, and in a world of “inspired” adaptations that sometimes stray from their source material, this one is spot on.

I know there is a movie from about a decade ago, and despite owning it, I still haven’t seen it. I know it looks cute, and I’ve heard it does the novel series justice, but I just haven’t given it a chance yet. I probably should, since I’ve been re-reading the books.

I had been kicking around doing a Retro Rewatch of Ramona for about a year now (I previously watched the series in 2011, and again in 2018), but I think now is the appropriate time to do so. And why not do one for the first episode in the series?

The pilot episode, “Squeakerfoot,” takes place within the setting of Ramona Quimby, Age 8. Ramona is in third grade in Mrs. Whaley’s class. The story doesn’t take place on the first day of school, but rather at an undetermined point in the school year. And if you’re familiar with Ramona Quimby, you’ll recognize a scene in this episode as clearly as the first time you read it in the book.

So roll credits…

Those lyrics are so nice – the print I have of this episode doesn’t have the lyrics, but the instrumental version is still really nice.

And now…”Squeakerfoot,” or, “How The Episode Got Its Name!”

It is morning in the Quimby household, and what a morning it is! The car can only go forward, Beezus can’t find her blue socks and has to wear red (the horror!), and Ramona has a cool new pair of shoes she can’t wait to show the cat, Picky-Picky.

She puts the shoes in her book bag, and while at the breakfast table, after her dad admires her drawing, Ramona announces to her family that she is going to wear her “same old shoes.” Her dad points this out, but she informs him that “old shoes are old news, and new shoes are new news.”

It’s at this moment that Ramona goes off into her own imagination, as a ballerina in her new red shoes.

After two bites of breakfast, Ramona reminds her mother that she needs a hard-boiled egg for school that day. Mrs. Quimby reminds Ramona that she doesn’t even like hard-boiled eggs, not even on Easter, just the deviled kind. Ramona insists, and Mrs. Quimby tosses her an egg.

All of this happens in the middle of Beezus complaining about the socks she is wearing, Mr. Quimby reminding Mrs. Quimby about not putting the car in reverse, and her sister, Bea, calling. And after all of this excitement, Mrs. Quimby goes to talk to her sister on the phone, only to find that she hung up.

Oh well.

It’s another day at Ramona’s school, and a point-of-view shot of someone grunting makes their way through the classroom to eye rolls and looks from students, before scaring one child and getting a disinterested response from Ramona, who is in the coat area changing her shoes. She refers to the masked child as “Yard Ape,” which gets a curious response from classmates Marsha and Susan.

She refers to him as such because he “chases you around the playground like an ape.” The girls ask Ramona if she brought an egg with her, to which Ramona responds that she did. Mrs. Whaley ends the conversation, and the school day begins.

During teaching of life cycles, Mrs. Whaley is trying to illicit a response on what “life cycle” means, until Howie finally responds with “something that happens over and over again.” Mrs. Whaley then introduces the new unit, and the science experiment, the life cycle of fruit flies. She shows the class jars of oatmeal dyed blue with food coloring, with fruit fly larvae inside. Marsha volunteers to hand out the jars, while Ramona hands out labels.

And much to her surprise – and Mrs. Whaley’s – her shoes are noisy!

Mrs. Whaley tells Ramona that she has “musical shoes,” which makes Ramona smile. Her mood is soured by “Yard Ape” (who is actually named Danny) referring to Ramona as “Big Foot” because of her shoes. But it only bothers Ramona slightly, as it is lunchtime and hard-boiled eggs are the excitement of the table.

“Ok, everybody! Eggs out!” proclaims Danny.

The kids go around the table, smashing the hard-boiled eggs on their heads. Ramona decides to “whack her eggs with two hands,” and much to her horror, the egg is on her face, and in her hair. The kids insisted that Ramona had a raw egg in her lunchbox, and that no one intentionally did this to her. Upset, Ramona is sent to the office, to which she runs off by herself.

At the office, Mrs. Larson, the Vice Principal, helps Ramona get the egg out of her hair, while telling her that egg shampoo makes hair shiny. She also tells Ramona that this isn’t the worst thing kids at the school have gotten in their hair, while helping her rinse it in cold water.

Why cold, Ramona asks?

Because warm water would “cook the egg,” and Ramona would wind up with a head covered in scrambled eggs.

Of course, Ramona pictures it. And the image she conjures is horrifying for an eight-year-old.

Ramona wonders aloud why her mother would do this to her, give her a raw egg in her lunch, as her runaway imagination conjures up an evil Mrs. Quimby relishing in her giving her poor, sweet child a RAW EGG!

As Ramona is leaving the office, she overhears Mrs. Whaley and Mrs. Larson talking about Mrs. Whaley’s “little show off” getting egg on her hair and Mrs. Whaley proclaiming “what a nuisance!!”

Upset at the prospect of being a nuisance, Ramona goes and sits outside on the step, while simultaneously admiring her red shoes and thinking about how her teacher called her a nuisance.

Poor kid, this is just too much for her!

Back in the classroom, Mrs. Whaley wants to discuss weather before art class. Ramona arrives back in the classroom a little late, and Mrs. Whaley is happy to see her. As Ramona takes her seat, carefully walking to avoid her shoes squeaking, Tommy reads his report on hurricanes. Ramona laments to Susan that Mrs. Whaley called her a “show off” and a “nuisance.”

During art, each student is to create their own totem pole, and Ramona laments again, this time to herself, about how Mrs. Whaley doesn’t like her, and wonders why this is the case. Mrs. Whaley sees her totem pole, and tells her it is unique, with a personality all its own, and then reminds Ramona that she is still the paper monitor.

As the artwork is collected, and Mrs. Whaley reminds the kids about tomorrow’s spelling test, Ramona asks Mrs. Whaley about what she said earlier that she was a nuisance. She thinks it is unfair, but Mrs. Whaley informs her that she didn’t means it like that, and informs Ramona that the egg incident was an accident. Mrs. Whaley clarifies that Ramona getting egg in her hair, and Mrs. Larson having to wash it out is a nuisance, while telling Ramona that she is “her little show off” as a term of endearment. All of this makes Ramona happier, and being called an “original” makes it even better.

As Ramona walks with Howie, he says that after the egg smashing incident, Tommy wished both of his eggs were raw, and that everyone wants a pair of squeaky shoes. She started a fad that day, and even Yard Ape wants to know where Ramona got her shoes.

When she responds with “wouldn’t you like to know?” (can’t give away our originality now, can we?), Yard Ape decides he wants to call Ramona “Egg Head” instead of “Big Foot.” Ramona responds with “that’s Squeakerfoot to you, Yard Ape!” while lifting his mask and pulling it back down.

Ramona and Howie run toward the bus, thus ending a day at school, and the first episode of the series!

This was really such a cute show, and this was a great start for it. Musical shoes and raw eggs brought to brilliant life, but an adorable girl with a big heart, and an even bigger imagination. I bet Beverly Cleary was proud of how this was done!

And if you’re truly interested in seeing the events unfold the way you read them as a kid (with a little bit of added creativity), the episode is on YouTube!

Upload via KnucklesDragging

I’m definitely going to take a look at the other nine episodes on here, this is just such a good series!

May your shoes be musical, your eggs not cause shampoo (or a head of scrambled eggs!), and your artwork (and you!) be as original as they should be!

Have a great day!

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