Thursday, June 19, 2014

Ramona Forever

By Beverly Cleary. Published 1984.

SO much happens in this book, y’all!

Ramona’s Aunt Beatrice (remember her?) has come for dinner, and to show off her new ski clothes. For the ski trip she’s going on with a guy. That she’s known for two weeks. Damn, Aunt Bea. Moving a little fast there? Ramona’s happy she’s there, because she actually listens to Ramona, since she’s a teacher and takes kids seriously. And Ramona’s got shit to tell. Howie’s rich Uncle Hobart is coming to town, fresh from Saudi Arabia where he works in the oil business.

It seems like forever before he actually shows up, but one day Uncle Hobart is there when the kids get home from school. Ramona takes an instant disliking to him because he teases her, calling her Howie’s girlfriend and singin a song with her name in it. Uncle Hobart brings Howie and Willa Jean presents, a camel saddle for each of them, a unicycle for Howie, and an accordion for Willa Jean. Howie gets hurt on the unicycle. And Willa Jean breaks her accordion, which Ramona unfairly gets blamed for. Ramona finally comes to the realization that Mrs. Kemp just plain doesn’t like her, and vows to never go back there.

That night at dinner, Ramona tells her family about what happened at Howie’s, and how Mrs. Kemp hates her, and that she’s not going back. They can’t make her. Beezus actually backs her up, saying it’s obvious Mrs. Kemp doesn’t like them. Their parents ask Ramona what she thinks should happen. She asks if she can stay by herself. And then good old Beezus offers to watch her. Their parents think Mrs. Kemp would probably like to spend time with her son while he’s here, so they agree to “giving her a week off”, and letting the girls try staying alone.

Beezus continues to be awesome for the evening, and talks with Ramona about their fears of their father not getting a job after he gets his teaching certification, which he’ll be getting soon. Then Beezus shares her suspicions that their mother is pregnant. Ramona does not feel very good about this.

The first two days of staying by themselves the girls do their best to be very good. But Ramona is very glad when Howie comes by on the third day, because being good is boring as hell. He’s learned to ride his unicycle, and has brought his bike for Ramona to ride. Ramona tells Beezus she’s going out, but Beezus says she’s supposed to ask first; Beezus is responsible if she gets hurt. Ramona says she’s just being bossy, and says, “So long, Pizzaface”. She doesn’t mean anything by this; she’s called her Pieface plenty of times. But Beezus is having a bit of an acne problem. So Ramona sees her face crumple before she closes the door. She doesn’t know why that was worse. She feels guilty all while having fun on the bike, until she does indeed fall and get hurt. When she gets back to the house, she asks Beezus to come help her, and Beezus just calls her a hateful little creep. Ouch. That evening, their father knows they’re fighting, but just tells them not to worry their mother. Hmm.

The next day after school, Beezus goes to let Picky-picky out of the basement. She has to go all the way down to find him, and when she does, he’s dead in his basket. Aww. Beezus calls Ramona down, and honestly, they’re really not all that upset. They mainly wonder what to do. They don’t want their mother coming home to a dead cat, because that would definitely worry her. So they decide to bury him themselves. Ramona finds a box while Beezus begins digging a hole, and then helps out with a trowel. They get him buried, and say a prayer over the grave. The one good thing to come out of this is that it has united the sisters, and they both apologize for yesterday.

Ramona has the job of telling their parents about their afternoon. They are very impressed, and proud of their daughters. Their father says he hopes they’re so lucky the next time, confirming that Mrs. Quimby is indeed pregnant. Ramona realizes this will make her the middle child, and is not exactly thrilled.

For a while, the family just calls the baby “It”. Mrs. Quimby doesn’t like that so much. So Mr. Quimby brings home a book of baby names, and the girls have fun looking up their names, and all sorts of other ones. Eventually, for some reason, they end up calling the baby Algie. Don’t worry, it won’t stick once the baby’s actually born.

Mr. Quimby finally gets a job offer to teach, but it’s for a one-room school way in the southeast corner of the state. Nobody seems thrilled at this prospect, and Mr. Quimby decides to think about it and hope another offer comes in.

Willa Jean calls Ramona up one day to ask if she’ll come back and play with her. Ramona suggests Uncle Hobart play with her, and Willa Jean says he’s always with the woman he’s dating. Ramona asks Howie about this, and he says she’s some teacher. Ramona gets a feeling, and just knows it’s her Aunt Bea.

And it turns out, she’s right. Aunt Bea and Uncle Hobart come over for dinner one night, and announce they’re getting married. In two weeks, before they move to Alaska. You know, like you do. They’re planning on going to City Hall, but Mrs. Quimby would love for her sister to have a real wedding, and frankly, that’s what Uncle Hobart wants, too. He figures, how hard can a wedding be? So he tells Bea to call and invite her friends, and he’ll take care of everything else. Beezus and Ramona will be bridesmaids, and Willa Jean will be flower girl.

Mr. Quimby has some news of his own. Instead of teaching, he’ll be taking over a manager position at the grocery store. Ramona is glad this means they won’t have to move, but is sad for her father.

Uncle Hobart takes all the girls and Howie, who will be ring bearer, shopping on Saturday morning. First is dresses. Willa Jean picks hers out, and Beezus and Ramona’s have to be ordered, but will be there in time for the wedding. Then they get Howie’s outfit, but he hates it. Short pants and girls knee socks. Then ice cream is obviously necessary. Next is flowers, all of which Uncle Hobart orders from the doorway since they’re not allowed in the store with their ice creams. Beezus asks about the church and the minister, and Uncle Hobart says they’re taken care of, as well as the caterer and the ring. See? No biggie.

It’s the day before the wedding, and the two families are getting together for dinner before going to the rehearsal. The girls’ dresses still haven’t come in, so Uncle Hobart gets on the phone and yells at the dress shop people. During dinner, Aunt Bea asks if he remembered flowers for the church. Oops, that’s the one thing he forgot. So they get into a fight, but make up. Ramona’s grandfather tells them to just call everyone in the neighborhood and tell them the problem. They get tons of flowers from people’s yards. And just as everyone’s leaving for the rehearsal, the dresses finally arrive.

The next morning, they find out the dresses are too long. Beezus bastes the hems, and Ramona, not trusting her, reinforces with Scotch tape. Their grandpa shows up with a limo as a surprise, to take them to the church. As they’re lining up, after being told repeatedly to stay still at the altar, Ramona tells Beezus her shoes are too small, and she doesn’t think she can stand still. Beezus admits hers are, too. She tells Ramona to take them off, takes off her own, and hides them in a flowerpot. Beezus is truly excellent in this book.

The wedding goes well until it’s time for the ring. Not trusting Howie, his grandmother sewed the ring too tightly to the pillow. His father, as best man, has to pull and pull to get it off. And when he does, it slips, and flies through the air. No body can find it. Until Ramona sees it around the heel of Aunt Bea’s shoe. She knows she’ll be in major trouble if she moves, but she’s afraid people are going to start laughing, and she won’t have that. So she gets down, retrieves the ring, and saves the day. And no, she doesn’t get in trouble.

Afterward, everyone tells Ramona she did a good job, and how pretty she looks. This is something new for her. When Uncle Hobart approaches her, she feels bad for being mean to him before. But it’s all good, now they’re friends. Ramona gets the idea to tie their shoes to the back of Uncle Hobart’s car. Howie procures some string, and does it for them. Any excuse to get out of there.

Alright, we got those two crazy kids hitched, now let’s get little Algie born, shall we? When Mrs. Quimby goes into labor, Mr. Quimby takes her, leaving Beezus and Ramona by themselves. They get a little scared at night, and decide to sleep together. At four a.m. their father comes home, announcing their little sister, Roberta Day, has been born. He’ll take the girls to Whopperburger and then to the hospital after work the next day.

And that next day is a long one. The eventually clean the house to make the time pass. But finally it’s time. They go have their burgers, and on to the hospital. But Ramona is stopped from going up, because of that stupid “no one under twelve” rule; she might be too germy. So she waits by herself in the lobby. She starts to wonder if she is actually getting sick, testing for a sore throat. Then she starts getting itchy, like she’s got chicken pox. So she starts scratching furiously, and other people move away from her. Then a doctor comes by, watches her, and asks to look at her. She tells him why she’s sitting there while he checks her out. He tells her she has siblingitis, and writes something on his prescription pad to give to her father. She figures it serves the hospital right, telling her she’s too germy, and then she gets sick from the hospital.

When Beezus and her father return, Beezus is gushing about the baby, but Ramona says she’s sick and gives the prescription to her father. He reads it, and then gives her a big hug and kiss. The itching stops right away. He says the cure for siblingitis is attention.

Ramona sits in the lobby a few more nights, and then it’s finally time for her mother and Roberta to go home. Poor Ramona doesn’t actually get to see her sister until they’re all in the car. And when she does, Roberta is a red, frowning little thing. Ramona, bless her, does not think she’s adorable or darling. So she just says she’s little. Her mother tells her Roberta looks just like Ramona did. This blows Ramona away.

Ramona thinks for a minute, and then announces that she thinks being a baby must be hard work. Her parents agree, and her father adds growing up is hard work. Ramona says she thinks it’s funny, she used to be little and funny-looking, but now, “I’m wonderful me!” She thinks she’s winning at growing up.

Word, Ramona.

o   Mr. and Mrs. Quimby’s first names are Bob and Dorothy.

o   Ramona is obsessed with all the towels Bea and Hobart get as wedding presents. “They were truly towels to marry for.”

o   I’ve always loved the name of Klickitat Street. And they’re nice people on the street, too. Not only did they come through with the flowers, all the women share one fancy maternity dress.

o   Do they still have the “no children under twelve” rule? I’ve only read about it in older books. And I was able to see my brother in the hospital only four years after this was published.

o   And one more Ramona book left.


  1. The bulge that was Algie! I forgot about that part.

    I was so tickled to learn that there is a real Klickitat Street near where Beverly Cleary grew up in Portland, OR. (And Wikipedia just informed me she's still kickin', at 98. Good for her.)

    1. Klickitat is also a county in Washington, and the name of a river. The Klickitat people are part of the Yakama nation, a group of Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest.

  2. The hospital where I had my kids, and the one where my brothers and I were born let kids under 12 in if they're siblings, which I think is nice. Kids are allowed in general as long as there's no widespread flu or something going on.

    I remember meeting my brother, seven years younger, shortly after he was born. He wasn't cleaned up yet; he was an emergency c-section and the priority was to get him breathing (he needed CPR) rather make him pretty. He was stable and all when I met him, but covered in gunk still. But I told my mom that I thought he was cute, because she was wiped out from labor, emergency surgery, and hemorrhaging. He looked a lot better an hour or so later, and now at 22 is a good-looking guy. (And totally healthy--just graduated college with a 4.0)