Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ramona's World

By Beverly Cleary. Published 1999.

The publication date of this one is really a bit outside our time, I was seventeen, but it’s Ramona. And it’s the last Ramona. Boo and bullfrogs.

There is a forty-four year difference between Beezus and Ramona and Ramona’s World. Damn, but our girl has staying power. But we knew that already.

In “Ramona time”, however, it’s only been five years, making her nine and starting fourth grade. She’s pretty sure it’s going to be the best year of her life. She’s got new baby sister, Roberta, to tell all about at school. Her teacher, Mrs. Meacham seems nice, and she makes friends with a new girl, Daisy Kidd. But the best part of her day comes, when they are asked to write a paragraph about themselves. Ramona uses the time to mainly talk about how awesome Roberta is. Ramona knows she makes some spelling mistakes, but figures Mrs. Meacham will know what she means. Y’all. Ramona may have been taught by Claudia. Same sort of mistakes. At least Ramona has the excuse of being nine. But still.

However, it doesn’t appear to matter, because Mrs. Meacham chooses Ramona’s paper to read to the class. Ramona is over the moon, and tells her mother about her day excitedly when she gets home. She flips through Mrs. Quimby’s copy of Moby Dick, and decides her writing is better. Take that, Melville.

However. The next day, all the words Ramona misspelled are written on the board. Ramona tries to argue that it shouldn’t matter about spelling if people understand the meaning, but Mrs. Meacham does not agree, and everyone laughs at Ramona. Ramona decides she does NOT like Mrs. Meacham. Daisy, at least, is nice to Ramona about it. But Ramona is in a bitch-ass mood by the time she gets home. It’s made worse by her mother telling her to stop using the word “stuff”, Beezus being perfect, and Roberta being adorable. Mrs. Quimby finally gets it all out of Ramona, and it does make her feel better, but she’s not ready to admit it yet. She sticks her tongue out at Roberta, who sticks hers out, too, and smiles. THIS works on Ramona, and she gets excited thinking about everything else she can teach Roberta.

And things get better for Ramona. She’s been thinking that Daisy is pretty cool, wishing she had long hair and braces like her. She even does the whole unfolded paper clip thing to see how she would look. I totally remember doing that. So Ramona can hardly contain herself when Daisy invites her over to her house after school. Daisy has a great life. A not-too-clean house, a cool mom, an older brother, Jeremy, who only teases her a little, a dog, and a cat that likes to be vacuumed. The girls eat juice bars, pop bubble wrap, and watch their favorite soap opera. Best of all, they decide to be best friends. Aww, y’all, I’m so happy for Ramona. She’s been needing a bestie.

Beezus comes home excited, with an invitation to her friend Abby’s party. There’s going to be boys and dancing! Woohoo! Beezus is a bit nervous about the dancing bit; she doesn’t know how. Ramona tells her not to worry, it looks easy enough. One day Beezus goes shopping, and comes back wearing a head scarf. She’s gotten her ears pierced, y’all. Ramona is like, Oh shit, it’s about to get good, now! And Beezus comes out all defensive, saying it was her own money, and her own ears, and kind of lets it all out, saying she’s tired of being plain old responsible Beezus, and she wants to look nice for once. Ramona says she’s never heard her sister like this, but it reminds me of the hair cutting adventure back in the day to me. But anyway, her parents actually don’t freak out at all. Ramona thinks about Beezus growing up, and wonders what it will be like for her. She feels like it’s like reading a good book; she wants to know what happens next.

But what happens to Ramona next...ahhhh! She's done a lot of cringe-worthy things in her young life, but this is the worst. I’m honestly not sure I could have survived this at her age.

Ramona goes over for another afternoon at Daisy’s. The two play dress-up, putting on long dresses and heels. Then they pretend to be a princess and a witch, with Daisy trying to trap Ramona in the attic. There are only a few boards across the joists to put stuff on. The girls are play fighting, and in the struggle, Ramona loses her balance, and…falls right through the lath and plaster floor. Or the ceiling of the dining room, however you look at it. She catches herself halfway down, grabbing hold of a joist. Daisy calls for help, and Ramona can hear Mrs. Kidd and Jeremy reacting downstairs. They’re both upstairs soon enough, and Jeremy is able to pull Ramona back up, scratching her legs all to hell in the process. She’s so happy to be back on solid ground, she starts crying. But then starts freaking out in her head. This is going to cost a ton of money to fix, money her family doesn’t have, and she’ll lose her first best friend, and it’s just all terrible!

But Mrs. Kidd is awesome. She consoles Ramona, understanding it must have been scary, and then gets her all patched up. Then she offers to take Ramona home early, which is exactly what Ramona would like. Daisy apologizes for pushing her, and Ramona admits they were really both at fault. So they’re all good. And during the ride, Ramona asks how much it will cost to fix, and Mrs. Kidd tells her not to worry about that, insurance will cover it. And it’s an excuse to paint the dining room. So that’s a relief.

Once home, Ramona realizes she has one hell of a story to tell. As she tells it, it gets more and more dramatic, until Beezus guesses what happens, and totally steals her thunder. She says she’s heard it happen before, like it’s no big deal. Her mother does worry that she could have been really hurt, and Ramona kind of plays that up, but there’s really just not that much of a reaction. My parents would have been flipping the hell out, mad at me for it happening, and worrying about paying for it. But there’s no mention of that from them. It’s weird to me.

It’s finally time for Beezus’ big party. She been freaking out, getting her father to teach her how to dance, but she’s worried it will be too old-fashioned. She spends all afternoon getting ready, and winds up with this:

Oh, Beezus, you are too adorable.

Anyway, Beezus shouldn’t have worried. There’s no dancing. The boys don’t even freaking come inside. So the girls play games and with Abby’s mom’s makeup samples. Her mom is upset about the boys; this whole thing was about making Abby popular. Beezus says she and Abby have come to the conclusion that they’re not popular types. And Beezus is more than ok with that. Rock on with your bad self, Beezus.

One day, good ole Yard Ape drops a note on Ramona’s desk. But Mrs. Meacham is on that right away, reads it, throws it away, and adds something to the list of Words to Work On. Yard Ape spelled Ramona “Ranoma”. She thinks it’s cool they all have to learn her name that week. Everyone teases Yard Ape about likin Ramona, and she’s secretly quite pleased. Though she wants to know what the hell that note said!

Her spelling overall is not going that well. And Mrs. Meacham won’t let them use words like gonna and wanna. So when Ramona and Daisy see “gonna” used in a newspaper ad, they’re appalled. They decide to write to the owner, a CPA, and let him know how they feel. A week later, Ramona gets a letter back, thanking them and telling they’re absolutely right. They must be very smart girls. They are so excited, and bring it to school. Mrs. Meacham loves it, reads it to the class, and hangs it up.

One day, Mrs. Quimby asks Ramona to feed Roberta while she’s on the phone. It’s strained peas, and Roberta is not thrilled about it. She spits out a whole mouthful into Ramona’s face, throws her cup, gets her hands in the food, and puts it in her hair. Ramona is grossed out.

The next day is picture day. Yard Ape goes right before Ramona, and asks the photographer if he ever gets tired of saying cheese. He does, in fact, and so tells Ramona to say peas instead. Ramona has a traumatic flashback, and makes a terrible face just as he takes the picture. She’s worried, but manages to convince herself he got a good shot of her before she made the face.

Ramona gets to cat-sit for Daisy’s cat Clawed for a week. He comes to stay at the Quimby’s, and Ramona’s excited until she sees all his equipment, and is reminded about litter boxes and stinky cat food. One day during his stay, Mrs. Quimby asks Ramona to watch Roberta for a few minutes while she picks up Beezus. Ramona is overjoyed at the responsibility. But Roberta gets herself in trouble, sticking her head in a hole in Clawed’s kitty condo, and getting herself stuck She starts crying. Ramona freaks out a little, but mainly stays calm, and gets Roberta to calm down, stop crying, and is able to get her out. All before her mother returns.

They get their pictures back, and it’s just as bad as it can be. Everyone in class laughs at her, and so does her family. They make her feel better about it though.

Valentine’s Day comes, and Mrs. Meacham gives them the whole speech about how everyone must give a valentine to everyone else. Ramona makes a few special cards for her close friends, then addresses the store bought ones. She leaves Yard Ape’s for last, and finds out she doesn’t have any more. She can’t make him one, then everyone would know she likes him. She explains her dilemma to Beezus, and she tells her to just give him one of her pictures. He won’t know if she likes him or is being funny. Good solution, Beezus.

She watches Yard Ape open the envelope, smile, and put the picture in his pocket. She opens what she got from him. It’s just a sheet of paper that says: “If you are eating peas, Think of me before you sneeze”. Ramona is charmed, an original poem! They smile at each other. Aww.

It’s Ramona’s birthday! She’s ten! Aww, our little baby has grown up. She’s decided to have her party at the park, and have a cake with whipped cream instead of frosting. The only bad thing is that she has to invite all the girls, including the ever-annoying Susan.

The girls all give Roberta attention when they first arrive. But it’s all back on Ramona when she opens presents, so it’s all good. Yard Ape and his friends randomly run at them, scaring Roberta and the other girls. Ramona thinks they’re ridiculous. Then it’s time for cake. Susan turns down a piece, saying she has an apple instead. Her mother read that spit flies on to the cake when you blow out the candles. Some of the girls start to not eat theirs, either. Ramona is furious. But Daisy talks sense into the others, and they all eat. One of them says. “So there, Susan”, and she bursts into tears! She cries that nobody likes her, while everyone likes Ramona, even Yard Ape. And she’s tired of having to be perfect all the time. Ramona actually feels bad for her, her enemy since kindergarten.

They all make Susan feel better, and she even has some cake with no whipped cream. Then the girls all go to play, while Ramona helps her mother clean up. They have some cake left, and Ramona, spotting Yard Ape and his friends, suggests they let them have it. Like ten-year-old boys would ever turn down food.

The boys sing Happy Birthday to her, and Ramona gets all fluttery that Yard Ape sang “Dear Ramona”. After they eat, Yard Ape makes sure to say thank you, and then as they leave, Ramona and Yard Ape totally flirt, y’all! Well, for ten-year-olds. I bet they totally “date” in middle school.

As Ramona runs off to play with her friends, she’s feeling pretty damn good, and decides the day is just about perfect.

And that’s the last we ever see of her.

Oh, Ramona, I will miss you so. Keep being you, girl. You rock. I can’t wait to introduce you to my niece.

o   Ramona is so badass. Her great accomplishment is having the toughest callouses on her hands from the rings at the playground. The girls all compare theirs. I always get unnecessarily proud of mine, too.

o   So…yet another instance of a kid (Beezus is fourteen here) getting her ears pierced without a parent present. And using the piercing gun again.

o   When kids get all their spelling words right, they get “Reward Words” to work on. These are really hard words. Ramona sure as hell doesn’t feel rewarded when she gets these. I feel you, Ramona.

o   My favorite quote: “I am a potential grown-up.”

o   So, at Ramona’s school they each get a sheet with small pictures of everyone else. I guess it saves the pain in the ass of cutting each small picture out for each of your friends. But it was such a status thing; at least it always was at my schools. Did anyone else have it Ramona’s way?

o   Good lord, I’m ready to not read and write about valentines any more.

o   Now that we’ve travelled this great forty-four year span with Ramona, we’ve covered quite a few eras, from the mid-fifties to the late nineties. What time period do you picture the Quimbys in? The one they’re published in? Is it always the same, or do you adjust with each book? Or maybe it’s mainly the era you yourself were in when you first read them. I think that’s what it is for me.


  1. I agree. When I read the books (late 1980s), I pictured Ramona as being my age too. I've heard of this book but didn't want to read it as adult. I was worried that might ruin some of the magic, you know? But the summary seems pretty good! Beverly Cleary really gets how kids think.

    1. Yeah, the magical Clearyness is still there. It is different reading it for the first time as an adult, but I can tell how my younger self would have felt about it, if that makes sense.

  2. I always had the full class pic like Ramona, but we always handed out individual pics to each other of both worlds, I guess! And I always picture the books taking place in the late 80s, probably because that's when I started reading them & when the TV show was on.

    1. Oh yeah, we totally had the full class pic, too, but it was taken on a different day, and it just wasn't as special.

      Can you believe it, I've never actually seen the TV show? I have no idea why, I was the perfect age for it. I'm really kind of ashamed by this.

      And I freaking love Sarah Polley. Don't even get me started on Road to Avonlea. And she's been announced to write and direct the movie of Looking For Alaska. Major fangirling happened when that was announced.

  3. Isabel EscalanteJuly 10, 2014 at 7:29 PM

    I always picture Ramona and the characters in the 90s, because that's when I first read the Ramona books. My first one ever was 'Ramona Quimby, Age 8'. I loved it and since then, have read them all, except 'Beezus and Ramona', and 'Ramona's World'. I've even re-read some of them this year.

    1. This seems to be the way, so far at least, we've all pictured them, in our own time. It's really interesting! It just shows how timeless Ramona is, I think.

      Thanks for sharing!

  4. I read these books in the late eighties . (totally aging myself here ha ha!)Some of the language used in the book gave away the decade of the books, and some scenery (cigarette machines and such) clued me in. What totally makes me crack up is how long it took me to realize the book was placed in Oregon. I lived in Oregon all of my childhood. Then I realized I lived only an hour from where Beverly Cleary was born. Mind Blown!
    Also the whole Ramona/Yard Ape story line is SOOOO cute!