This is so clearly the best cover of all the Ramona books. Look at little Ramona, she’s freaking adorable on this cover! Throw some long blond hair on that child and that’s seriously what my youngest sister, Lindsey looked like at eight years old.
This book begins with eight year old Ramona excited to start a new school year. She’ll be riding the bus to a new school all by herself thanks to some recent redistricting putting her and Beezus in different school districts. Who else is starting school? None other than Mr. Q, who is returning to college to become a art teacher. He’s working in the supermarket warehouse on a part time basis, and Mrs. Q is still working full time at the doctors office. After school, Ramona is sent to the Kemp’s house to be watched by Howie’s grandmother, who forces Ramona to do nothing but play with four year old Willa Jean. Even when she’d rather be reading or playing with Howie.
On the first day of school, Ramona quickly makes a frenemy in a little boy named Danny. Danny nicknames Ramona ‘Superfoot,’ and in return she calls him Yard Ape. The two have a friendly battle throughout the book.
Because it’s a Ramona book, each chapter is a separate story in itself, all threaded together in a common theme of Ramona’s insecurities about her family’s happiness and whether or not she’s a nuisance. All the kids bring hard-boiled eggs to school for lunch and crack them open on their heads. Ramona does the same…only oops. Mrs. Q had accidentally given Ramona a raw egg. When she’s in the office cleaning up, Ramona overhears her teacher telling the secretary that she’s a nuisance. Ramona tries to be good, but she’s Ramona, you know?
Ramona and Beezus discover that their parents are serving them tongue and refuse to eat it, starting a big family quarrel. Mr. and Mrs. Q punish the girls by making them make dinner. Which starts out disastrous, but ends up not tasting terrible. They have to improvise and use plain yoghurt instead of cream of mushroom soup for the baked chicken. And they run out of corn meal while making cornbread and add Cream of Wheat to bulk it up.
Ramona gets sick, and because she’s trying not to be such a nuisance doesn’t tell anyone. So, naturally, she throws up in class. She’s out with the flu for a long time, during which she loves being taken care of by her parents. Yard Ape shows up at her house with a package from their teacher which includes a book that Ramona has to read for her first ever book report. Which turns out adorable, because they have to “sell” the book, and Ramona is the queen of television commercials, knowledge which she uses to try and hock a book she didn’t really care for. (Her report ends with the phrase, “I can’t believe I read the whole thing!” And if that doesn’t make you smile at least a little bit, you have no soul.)
Finally in the last chapter, it’s a rainy Sunday and all of the Quimbys are grumpy with each other. Beezus is mad because she isn’t allowed to sleep over at Mary Jane’s, Ramona is mad because her parents yelled at her to clean up her room. Mr. and Mrs. Q argue about keeping the cat in or out doors. They’re just a grumpy mess of a family. So Mr. Q decides the family needs a break and he treats them to dinner at Whopperburger. They are trying hard to get along and have a nice dinner. A lonely older gent notices them, and secretly pays for their dinner. And Ramona is gobsmacked to learn pretty much the same lesson that she learned at the end of Ramona and Her Father. Which is that her family isn’t perfect, but they are a nice family.
- Continuity? In Beezus and Ramona, Willa Jean Kemp is 18 months old. Ramona is four. So in this book, Willa Jean should be five and a half. But they only have her as a four year old.
- Still, there were about twenty five years between Beezus and Ramona and this book. So I’ll give Beverly Cleary a pass on that.
- I’m terribly jealous of Ramona’s classroom. The view from their window is of Mt. Hood. I grew up going to schools that were designed by some genius who seemed to have gotten SCHOOL mixed up with PRISON. I never actually had a classroom with a window. And yes, it was fucking depressing.
- Willa Jean introduces Ramona to one of her friends from preschool as, “Bruce who doesn’t wee-wee in the sandbox.’ Willa Jean’s grandmother is horrified, but Ramona gets right away that there must have been a Bruce who did wee wee in the sandbox.
- Ramona’s a little bookworm. Her favorite part of the school day is DEAR. Or, Drop Everything And Read. Finally….she doesn’t have to sneak her personal reading in during lessons.
- Ramona is learning to write cursive and hates the letter Q. It looks like a stupid floppy 2. Did you know that in recent years the cursive alphabet has been redesigned? And that the uppercase Q no longer looks like a 2? I just read an article about it, and all I can say is, it’s about fucking time. Doesn’t this just look cleaner and simpler?
- I’ve never eaten tongue. I might have the same reaction as Ramona and Beezus did. I remember after I read this book as a kid, I used to check any meat my mom made very carefully to look for the telltale bumps of tongue.
- When the Quimby’s go to Whopperburger, Ramona realizes that for the first time, she can actually read the menu, and not rely on the pictures. To celebrate, she orders and adult sized meal instead of from the kids’ menu. And then, of course, can’t finish what she started.
- I love this Ramona book. It’s probably my second favorite. But I think my next Beverly Cleary book is going to be one of her books for older kids. Jean and Johnny or Sister of the Bride. Something like that.