Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ramona Quimby, Age 8

By Beverly Cleary. Published 1981.

I adore this cover. I just think she's so perfect.
There are changes afoot at the Quimby household. Ramona is going to a new school, since Glenwood School was made into an intermediate school. This also means she’ll be taking the bus. Her father is also starting school, to become a teacher. He’ll also be working one day a week at a frozen-food warehouse.

On the bus, there’s an annoying boy named Danny sitting behind Ramona who kicks her seat. And then he finds her brand new eraser, and plays catch with it with another boy. Ramona calls them Yard Apes. You tell ‘em, Ramona.

Ramona’s third grade teacher is Mrs. Whaley. Like a whale with a y for a tail. Yard Ape is in Ramona’s class. He calls her Bigfoot, and she tells him, “Superfoot to you, Yard Ape.” And he gives her back her eraser. She decides she likes him. Maybe.

One thing that hasn’t changed is that Ramona still has to go to Howie’s after school. Boo. Howie has guy friends from his class over a lot, so it’s up to Ramona to put up with Willa Jean. Her mother tells her every morning to be nice to her. She has to play silly games with Willa Jean, until she comes up with a brilliant idea. She says she has to do her Sustained Silent Reading. It sounds grown-up, and it works. She gets to just read the afternoons away.

The latest fad in the third grade is hard-boiled eggs. And if you’re really the shit, you smack it on your head to crack it. Ramona does this, and gets a horrible surprise. The egg isn’t boiled at all, it’s raw, and is now a terrible mess in her hair. She goes to the office, and the secretary helps her get cleaned up. As she sits in the small room off the office drying her hair, she hears Mrs. Whaley come in, and say to the secretary, “I hear my little show-off came in with egg in her hair. What a nuisance.” Ouch. This hurts Ramona down to her very core.

That weekend, no one is in a particularly good mood. But they enjoy their dinner. At first. Until Beezus scrapes away the gravy and discovers little bumps on the meat, which means it’s tongue. The girls are grossed out, and refuse to eat any more. Their parents say they can cook dinner the next night, then. The girls are not so sure about this, and decide together that if they act extra good the next day, maybe their parents will forget.

Of course, that doesn’t work, so into the kitchen they go. They have to use what they can find in there. There are chicken thighs, frozen peas, and yogurt. They put the yogurt over the chicken, and put a little chili powder on that, and it goes in the oven. Ramona has to make cornbread, but there’s not quite enough cornmeal, so she uses Cream of Wheat to supplement. And there’s no buttermilk, so she substitutes banana yogurt. They also have the peas and some rice, plus pear halves for dessert. They light candles so their dinner doesn’t look quite so funny. But their parents say the meal is actually pretty good, and they offer to do the dishes.

One day at school, the most terrible thing in the world happens. Ramona throws up, in front of everyone. She does down to the office, and explains to the secretary that her mother and father can’t come get her. Then she gets sick again, and falls asleep. When she wakes up, her mother’s there! And she came to get her in a taxi, because the car’s in the shop. Ramona wills herself not to throw up in it.

Ramona spends a very sick afternoon and night in bed, but she feels safe with her mother taking care of her. She feels a little better the next day, but she’s cranky as shit. That afternoon, a girl from her class comes over with her homework, and an envelope full of cards from her class. Ramona is thrilled with these.

One of Ramona’s assignments is a book report on an assigned book; she has to sell the book to the class. Ramona asks her father how she should sell something, and he says she should know, she’s seen enough commercials. So that’s exactly what she’s going to do. She even gets two of her classmates to act as backup singers. Her book is called The Left-Behind Cat, so she makes all three of them cat masks. Her commercial doesn’t actually tell too much of the book, but she really sells it. And then she ends it a famous line from another commercial, for good measure.

Mrs. Whaley finds it quite entertaining, but Ramona admits to her that that wasn’t how it was supposed to end, and also that she didn’t really like the book. Mrs. Whaley admits it’s not quite fair to make them sell something they don’t like. Emboldened by this, Ramona tells her that she called Ramona a show-off and a nuisance, and she doesn’t think she is. Mrs. Whaley tells her she just meant it was a nuisance for the secretary to clean up, and asks Ramona if she doesn’t show off sometimes. Ramona admits maybe she does, a little. But not with the egg incident. Mrs. Whaley says she’s convinced.

One rainy Sunday afternoon, everyone in the Quimby family is a little bitchy. Finally, Ramona’s father throws down his pencil and announces they’re going out for dinner, to Whopperburger. This is a huge treat; they haven’t eaten out in months. It instantly puts them all in a better mood.

While they wait for a table, Ramona plays with the cigarette machine and dances around. An oddly dressed older gentleman salutes her and asks her if she’s been good to her mother. Ramona does not know how to answer this, and gets mad because he was teasing her.

The Quimbys really enjoy their meal, and when they ask for the check, they find out the older gentleman paid for them. He thought they were a nice family, and he missed his own. The Quimbys are stunned, but Mr. Quimby agrees, they are a nice family. Beezus says it’s like a happy ending, but Ramona says only for today; tomorrow they start all over again.

o   They are still paying for the room addition. I appreciate that kind of consistency.

o   In fact, I appreciate all their money troubles. They were never destitute, but it’s so very realistic.

o   Is Whopperburger supposed to be Whataburger? It’s a little nicer than that, though, they have hostesses and waitresses.

o   I always felt justified by Ramona, and never wrote my capital “Q” in cursive, either. It just never looked right to me.


  1. One of my favorite things about the Ramona books was that her family wasn't rich, like mine. I didn't like that the 2010 movie, their house was HUGE. The little bit I watched had some scenes from the book (like the egg), but I couldn't get past the family supposedly struggling, in this beautiful Hollywood home.

    1. I haven't let myself watch that yet. I just figured they'd mess it up, and I love Ramona so much.

    2. They shift the plot around, actually, a little, so that they're not obviously struggling until partway into the movie when their dad loses his job. They also have Roberta already. They kinda borrow from all different booksl.