Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Ramona the Pest

By Beverly Cleary. Published 1968.

It’s Ramona’s first day of kindergarten, and Beezus and her friend Mary Jane want to walk her there. Ramona does not want this, she wants a proper grown-up. She’ll pitch a fit if she has to. Their mother doesn’t seem to care either way, but agrees to take her so as not to have a fit. Seriously? Kick-ass parenting there, Mrs. Quimby.

Ramona’s first day does not go as well as she hoped. From getting confused about receiving a present, to boinging Susan’s curls (but really, who can resist?), to being the worst rester, and not learning how to read and write, she ends up not liking it as much as she thought she would. But she has hopes for day two, with Show and Tell.

As they leave the house the next day, they run into the Kemps, Howie, who’s in Ramona’s class, baby Willa Jean, and their mother. Their mothers are friends, so they think Ramona a Howie should be, too. Ramona thinks Howie is grubby.

When the mothers see Ramona has something for Show and Tell, and Howie doesn’t, they tell her to go back inside and get something for him. Ramona chooses a dirty old stuffed rabbit the cat plays with.

Everyone likes Ramona’s doll Chevrolet, with hair you can wash. It’s now green because she tried bluing it. I’ve never been quite clear on what that is. Oh. Google tells me it’s to reduce the yellow in white hair, making it whiter. Ok then. Anyway, when it comes to Howie’s turn, he’s not exactly enthused, but Miss Binney says it’s been well-loved, and ties a red ribbon around its neck.

Ramona is super excited about this, and starts planning what she’ll do with her new ribbon. She finally decides on tying to the wheels of her two-wheel bike, when she gets one. After school, Howie hands the rabbit back, but keeps the ribbon for himself. That little bastard. So they get into a fight over it, and mothers say they can cut it in two after lunch at Ramona’s house. While they’re getting lunch ready, the kids are told to play with Ramona’s tricycle. Ramona thinks they’re for babies. Howie tells her he can make it into a two-wheeler for her. She says shell let him if she can have the ribbon. So Howie proceeds to take off one of the back wheels. I think this is pretty damn industrious for a kindergartener. So now Ramona has a tw-wheeler, the ribbon, and maybe a friend in Howie.

One day when Ramona gets to school, Miss Binney is not there, and there’s a substitute instead. Ramona refuses to go in, kindergarten is just not kindergarten without Miss Binney. She goes and hides behind the trash cans instead. She falls asleep, and the older kids, including Beezus and Henry, find her. The yard teacher tells Beezus to take her to the principal. The principal isn’t mad at Ramona, in fact she understands what’s wrong, but she doesn’t feel sorry for her like Ramona wants either. She takes her to her classroom, and introduces her to the sub. The class is drawing during the time they’re supposed to be working, and Ramona does not approve. But she does get to draw her Q’s with ears and whiskers to look like a cat, and she’s happy with that.

Ramona is most put out the first time it rains, though. She has to wear Howie’s old brown boots, when everybody knows girls wear red or white boots. She takes attention away from her boots, however, by chasing everyone around with her engagement ring made out of a worm.

But when she has to get new shoes, it’s too tight of a fit with the brown boots over them, so she gets brand new red ones. Yay! On the first rainy day, she has a lot of fun on the way to school wearing her new boots. Then she notices how awesome the mud looks in the empty lot across from the school. She proceeds to play in it, pretending to be an elephant. But then, of course she gets stuck, and starts to cry. Miss Binney comes out, and gets Henry to rescue Ramona, and her boots. Ramona is so grateful she says she’s going to marry Henry, with her worm engagement ring.

Ramona wants to be the baddest witch in the world for Halloween, and she loves scaring herself with her rubber mask. On Halloween, they’re going to have a parade with the whole school marching around the playground. Ramona wreaks general havoc with everyone before the parade begins.  But Ramona realizes nobody recognizes her, and makes her scared. Her own mother might not recognize her. So she makes a sign with her name on it, and she’s back to being the baddest witch around.

Ramona begins one day waiting to go to school at home by herself. Wtf is this, Mrs. Quimby? Was leaving five year olds alone by themselves a normal thing in the sixties that I’m just not understanding? Anyway, Ramona watches the clock so she can leave at a quarter past eight. She knows a quarter is twenty-five cents, so that must mean 8:25. She realizes her mistake on the way to school. Fortunately, she doesn’t get in trouble for it. She also loses her first tooth at school, and Miss Binney keeps it in her drawer for her.

What she does get in trouble for is boinging Susan’s curls again. Miss Binney asks Ramona if she can stop, and Ramona truthfully answers no. Miss Binney has Ramona sit outside on a bench the rest of the day, and then says she hopes Ramona can behave herself so she can come back to kindergarten.

But Ramona thinks she can never go back, because Miss Binney doesn’t love her anymore. Her mother has a talk with Miss Binney, and apparently agrees to go along with this whole idea that Ramona can come back when she decides she can behave herself. Ramona stays out the entire week. Finally, Howie comes by with a letter for Ramona from Miss Binney. Ramona’s tooth is attached, and Miss Binney says she’s sorry she forgot about it, but she’s sure the tooth fairy will understand, and she wants to know when Ramona is coming back. Ramona then knows that Miss Binney understands, and she says she’ll go back to school.

o   Ramona likes singing the “dawnzer lee light” song. She figures it must be about a lamp.

o   Ramona is a bit obsessed with Davy, and desperately tries to kiss him. She finally gets him on Halloween.

o   Poor Miss Binney has both the morning and afternoon kindergartens at the Halloween parade, with a grand total of 68 kids. Poor Miss Binney.

o   Ramona’s class has worksheets with purple ink from the ditto machine.

1 comment:

  1. I remember reading this to my son when he was at International School in Hamburg, Germany. Being British, I'd never heard of Ramona, but the school librarian was American so had lots of American children's books. The Ramona books are wonderful. Thanks for reminding me!
    Bookguide on Goodreads