Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ramona and Her Father

By Beverly Cleary. Published 1977.

Ramona, Beezus, and her mother are all looking forward to her father coming home from work. It’s payday, and that means treats, and they may get to go to Whopperburger for dinner. When he arrives, he gives the girls a bag of gummi bears to share. They go to divide them while their parents talk. Beezus says it sounds bad. And it is; their father has  lost his job, and their mother only works part-time. Ramona goes back to her Christmas list she was making, and crosses out everything but mice, and adds one happy family to it.

Ramona’s mother is able to go to work full-time, while her father stays home looking for jobs. He seems to get pretty depressed. While watching a little boy in a Whopperburger commercial, he says something about that boy having a million dollars. That sounds good to Ramona. She starts paying attention to kids in other commercials, and thinks she can do that. So she starts practicing. There’s one where a boy wears a crown, so she makes one out of burs, and sticks it on her head. Unfortunately, it gets stuck, and her father has to work for hours to get them out. He even has to resort to cutting them out. But he says he wouldn’t trade Ramona for the kid on TV, no matter how much money he has.

But he continues to get moodier. And Beezus is going through “a stage”. Ramona tries to get her family to laugh, but it doesn’t always work. What does do her family good is carving a pumpkin together. But that night, their cat, Picky-picky, eats the jack-o-lantern’s face, because he doesn’t like the cheap cat food he’s been getting. Beezus wants to know why he has to suffer, when her father still gets his cigarettes. She has a point.

Beezus also points out how unhealthy it is for him, and says he’ll have black lungs. This worries Ramona, so she starts a campaign to get him to stop. Beezus even helps her. They make tons of signs, both big and little, trying to convince him to stop. But he just ignores them all.

One day, nobody is home when Ramona returns from school. She freaks out, worried that her father’s left her. But no, it just turns out he was in line waiting for his unemployment check. He asks what she’d like to do, and she says she’d like to color. So he says they’ll make the longest picture ever, and gets out a big roll of shelf paper, and they get to work on it. Ramona apologizes for being mean to him about smoking. He says she wasn’t, that she was actually right. He’s going to try to stop smoking.

Beezus has to interview an elderly neighbor, Mrs. Swink, for her creative writing assignment. Ramona tags along. Mrs. Swink tells them about making tin can stilts when she was a girl. Ramona thinks this is a great idea, and rushes to tell Howie. He says he can make them, no problem. The next day he brings two pairs over, and they spend all afternoon clanking around, singing “Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer”. This makes Ramona so happy, so filled with joy, that she is able to forget about her family’s troubles, and what terrible moods everyone else is in.

The church nativity pageant is coming up, and parts are being assigned. Beezus gets to be Mary. Ramona volunteers herself to be a sheep, which they’ve never had before. But now they have three, Ramona, Howie, and Davy. But this means her mother will have to make her costume. Unfortunately, her mother doesn’t have time after work to really get anything together. But she’ll try.

But good news! Ramona’s father finally lands a job. He’ll start after the New Year as a checker at the grocery store.

It’s time for the pageant, and Ramona is in a snit. All her mother had time to do was make her a headpiece and a tail. Otherwise, she’s wearing a pair of old pajamas, with pale bunnies on them. On the way there, she proclaims that she won’t be in it.

When they get there, she at least goes backstage. She sees Howie and Davy having fun being sheep, and she kind of wants to join in. But she told her family she wouldn’t, so she remains stubborn. Then she sees some older girls using makeup to transform themselves into the Three Wise People. They spot her, and she explains she’s not going to be in it. They ask her why, and in a moment of inspiration, she says because she doesn’t have any makeup. They laugh, but end up giving her a black nose with mascara. Then they do the same for Howie and Davie. Ramona barely recognizes them, and realizes maybe no one would recognize her. So she decides to join the pageant.

When they’re all out there, Ramona sees her dad proudly watching Beezus. So of course she gets jealous. She wants her parents to be proud of her too, but they won’t because they won’t recognize her. But then her dad looks right at her, and winks. He’s proud of her, too. She wiggles her booty to make her tail wag, she’s so happy.

o   When Ramona is pissed at Beezus, she lays her placemat face down. Burn!

o   I know this is an old book, but it really aggravates me that it never crosses anyone’s mind that Ramona’s father could try to get a costume together.

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