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Ah Ramona and Her Father. The best of the Ramona Quimby books. It was a Newbery Honor book! Who knew? I mean, obviously the Newbery people did, but I didn’t until I saw the Newbery emblem on my copy of the book (with a different cover than the picture above). Does it bother anyone else that Newbery is spelled with only one R?
Ramona is now seven years old and in second grade. Her sister Beezus is twelve and in seventh grade. Beezus has reached “that age,” and is no longer very nice or patient with Ramona. Though Ramona generally doesn’t care. The book starts off with Ramona making an early Christmas list and excited to go to Whopperburger with the family for dinner as a treat for Dad’s payday. Instead, Dad comes home with the news that he’s been laid off from his job after his company was bought out.
So Mrs. Quimby begins working full-time and Ramona begins spending a lot more time with her dad while he looks for work. Ramona dreams about ways to earn money for her family, particularly by staring in commercials on TV. Her ‘practice’ for these commercials causes nearly everyone to lose patience with her, including a really funny scene where she tells her teacher that her pantyhose make her ankles look like an elephant’s. Ramona learns that grownups are a lot more likely to smile and laugh at children on TV than in real life. True ‘dat Ramona.
The Kemps give the Quimbys a giant pumpkin for halloween, which Mr. Quimby carves into an awesome jack o’lantern. Unfortunately, the cat Picky-Picky, who hates his new generic food diet, eats it at night. And fighting between the Quimby parents and Beezus, who failed to shut the cat in the basement, ensues. Ramona is unhappy that her family is unhappy.
But Ramona and Beezus decide to make their already depressed father even more angry and depressed by harping on him to give up smoking. They make signs all over the house “No Smoking,” “Smoking is bad for your health,” “Stamp Out Cigarettes,” etc. Mr. Quimby initially makes fun of the signs, but then begins ignoring them. You know who doesn’t like to be ignored? Ramona Quimby, that’s who. One day Ramona gets home from school and finds the doors locked and no one home. She sits on the stoop and cries, thinking that her nagging her father caused him to leave her. She and her dad start to make the world’s biggest crayon drawing (on a roll of butcher paper) and they have a heart to heart. He promises to try to quit smoking. (And when that happens, Ramona ends up with a father who is “even crosser than when he first lost his job.”
Just before Christmas, Mr. Quimby is offered a job at a supermarket chain. So things are happy again in the Q household. Then Beezus is chosen to play Mary in the church’s nativity. Ramona, not wanting to be left out, asks if she can play a sheep for the shepherds. She’s given permission, but told her mother must make her costume. Of course, Mrs. Quimby is too busy to really work on Ramona’s costume, but agrees to do it anyway. Mr. Quimby (who evidently can’t be bothered to help out and learn to sew) is annoyed that Ramona is asking her to do it, and worries that she’ll be a spoiled brat. So Mr. Quimby gets the cold shoulder from Ramona for a while. The Christmas play draws nearer and Mrs. Quimby has only had time to make a tail and a head-dress for Ramona’s sheep costume. The other sheep, Howie and Davy, are outfitted in beautiful costumes made by their mothers. Ramona wants no part of being in the play with only a tail and ears while wearing her pajamas. But she relents and is in the play, and her father winks at her on stage, which makes her feel better.
- I know I’ve said it once, but I’ll say it again. Best. Ramona book. EVER.
- Seriously, Mr. Quimby. You’re out of work. Ciggies are expensive. Do the math.
- I love the Quimby parents, who never trivialize the problems of their children. Beezus hates her creative writing class. Instead of telling her to suck it up, Mr. Quimby actually listens to her, and provides a solution. Same when Ramona was left alone. She shouldn’t have been worried, but she was and Mr. Quimby took her seriously without compounding her fears.
- Ramona and Howie learn from a neighbor how to make tin-can stilts. To this day, I want to make some. Maybe when my kid gets a little older, I’ll make some for him.
- Ramona is worried that her family isn’t happy. And her father reassures her that they are, but that no family, no person is perfect. And we get this little gem, which is so adorable and so why I love Ramona:
Lots of fathers wouldn’t draw pictures with their little girls. Her father bought her paper and crayons when he could afford them. Lots of mothers wouldn’t step over a picture that spread across the kitchen floor while cooking supper. Ramona knew mothers who would scold and say “Pick that up. Can’t you see I’m trying to get supper?” Lots of big sisters wouldn’t let their little sister go along with they interviewed someone for creative writing. They would take more than their fair share of gummybears because they were bigger….Ramona decided her father was probably right.