"Ramona’s confidence in herself was badly shaken." or Ramona the Brave

This isn’t the best Ramona book out there.  I can’t quite put my finger on the reasons why.  Maybe it’s because Ramona often walks a fine line between charming and annoying, and in this book she tends to fall more on the annoying side.  It’s also this book that makes me yearn even more for a Beezus-centric book.  Still – It’s a Ramona book.  Which means it can’t be all that bad, right? Right. 

The first chapter starts with Ramona, now six years old, feeling proud of herself for sticking up for Beezus while some boys at the playground teased her about her name, calling her Jesus Beezus.  Beezus is furious and Ramona is surprised to find that it’s her and not the boys Beezus is angry with.  Beezus is pissed because Ramona embarrassed her by telling the boys not to take the Lord’s name in vain.  Mrs. Quimby, as one of Y.A.’s truly good parents, is sympathetic with Beezus and amused but supportive of Ramona’s interference on God’s and Beezus’ behalf. 

In chapter two, Mrs. Quimby is acting all secretive.  Beezus and Ramona fight a lot because Ramona leaves her crayons all over Beezus’ side of the room.  Then Mrs. Quimby comes home with news that she’s taken a part time job at a doctor’s office and they’re using the extra money to build an addition to the house – a third bedroom so Beezus and Ramona no longer have to share.

In chapter three, the workmen come to start building the addition.  Ramona and her best friend Howie spend the days following the workmen around, and once the hole is in the side of the house, jumping through the hole.  Beezus and Ramona scare themselves shitless at night making up ghost stories about the hole in the house.

Chapter four finds Ramona going to her first day of first grade.  She feels so grown up walking to school alone.  She’s excited to tell everyone about the hole in her house for show & tell. Which she does, and no one believes her.  Howie doesn’t back her up either, because he’s ridiculously literal-minded and Ramona said the workers chopped a hole in her house, when really they pried a hole in the house.  Ramona is horrified at being laughed at by her classmates. 

In chapter five, Ramona is a good student.  She is beginning to read pretty well and is proud of herself for being able to concentrate on things other than her schoolwork while she’s doing her school work.  Ramona’s friend Davy has a lot of trouble with schoolwork, and Ramona is a busybody who tries to help him.  They make paperbag owls and Ramona is pissed when prissy Susan copies everything Ramona is doing for her owl.  Rather than have everyone think that she’s the copycat, Ramona threw her owl away.  When Susan’s owl continues to get a lot of attention for being such a great owl, Ramona can’t stand it and she scrunches up Susan’s owl too and throws it away.  Then she runs out of the room, runs home and feels sorry for herself.  Just in time for….

Parents night in Chapter six.  Ramona is feeling a lot of guilt over ruining Susan’s owl.  So much so that her stomach aches.  Her parents go to Parent’s Night and naturally, the teacher tells them about the owl incident.  Ramona breaks down and cries when her mother asks her about the owls. She says that Susan copied and she can’t stand the thought of Susan stealing her work.  The Q parents, because they ROCK as far as parents go, strike a perfect balance between disciplining Ramona and sympathizing with her.  Of course, Ramona has to apologize to Susan the next day.  In front of the whole class.

Ramona is afraid of sleeping alone in her new room, but won’t admit it to anyone.  She can’t sleep and even stays awake until after eleven one night, waiting for her dad to get home from bowling.  Ramona is scared of a picture of a gorilla in one of her books, and when her dad gets home, she makes him remove the book from her bookcase.  Then she has a bad dream that someone was chasing her and she couldn’t get away.  The next morning, Beezus says that she’s had that dream, which just annoys Ramona, who feels like she’s even getting Beezus’ hand me down dreams.

In Chapter eight, Ramona is sulky and depressed.  She doesn’t like her first grade teacher nearly as much as she liked her kindergarten teacher.  Meanwhile, Beezus is in LOVE with her teacher, Mr. Cardoza, who she says she’s going to marry when she gets older.  Ramona tries to hide her progress report from her parents, though they figure it out when Beezus brings hers home.  Ramona’s teacher says that she is good at her schoolwork, but that she needs to stop concerning herself with the work of her classmates and she needs to learn self control.  Ramona can’t believe how unfair that is and begs her parents to put her in the other first grade class.  The Q parents explain that she isn’t always going to like her teachers, but she just has to learn to deal with teachers who are different.  Ramona has a tantrum and says she’s going to say a bad word.  “GUTS!” she yells.  “GUTS GUTS GUTS!”  Which makes her family laugh, which makes her even angrier.  Then there’s a kind of sweet scene where Ramona’s crying and asking her parents to love her as much as they love Beezus.  And Jesus – sad cases of sibling rivalry just get to me every freaking time.  As always, Mr. and Mrs. Q know just what to say to make Ramona feel better.  And she is going to try to be her dad’s spunky little girl again.

On that note, in Chapter nine, Ramona decides taking a different route to school will show that she’s spunky.  Until she comes across a German Shepherd who frightens her.  The dog follows her and Ramona ends up throwing her shoe at the dog to get him to leave her alone.  He does, but he takes her shoe with him.  So she has to make it to school with only one shoe on.  She tells her teacher, and Ramona is surprised that the teacher takes her seriously.  Ramona makes a slipper out of paper towels, though the owners of the dog do bring the shoe back to the school and Ramona is able to claim it.

  • Beverly Clearly manages to capture the emotions of a six-year old so freaking perfectly.  In that first chapter, it’s so adorable to see the pride Ramona feels slowly melting away to uncertainty and shame and finally a little bit of anger.  And being surprised by it all!
  • Mrs. Q tells Beezus to just ignore the boys who were teasing her, which both Beezus and Ramona understand is “the type of advice that’s easy for adults to give, but difficult for children to follow.”  
  • When Beezus and Ramona fight, Ramona threatens to tell their parents about the lipstick Beezus keeps hidden in her sock drawer.  Beezus yells at Ramona to grow up, to which Ramona adorably replies, “Can’t you see I’m trying?”
  • Bear in mind, this book was published in 1975.  When Mrs. Q tells the girls that she got a job, Beezus gets excited and says “Just think! You’re going to be liberated!”  Who’d have thought that Beezus would have the funniest line in the book?
  • Then on the first day of school, Ramona makes her own bed so her mother won’t have to while she’s being liberated.  
  • Ramona and Howie play brick factory.  Which consists of finding old bricks, and breaking them apart with rocks.  The Q’s are extremely patient parents.  
  • At a PTA meeting, the art teacher had told Mrs. Q that children shouldn’t color in coloring books, they should be given crayons and blank paper to let their imagination roam free.  I always thought that was the case, and decided not to get my kid coloring books.  But you know what?  My kid has no interest in crayons unless he’s coloring in a coloring book.  He doesn’t like to draw.  He likes to work on making letters (and he’s getting GOOD at it,) and he likes to color and to put stickers on paper.  So you know what?  He’s got a good half-dozen coloring books now and all his blank paper is filled up with the few words he knows how to write.  
  • I love when Beezus sticks up for Ramona.  When her parents are wondering why Ramona was so concerned about Susan copying her owl, Beezus explains that it makes a big difference.  
  • So between Beezus sticking up for Ramona and her crush on her teacher and her hidden lipstick…. yeah, I’d love a book where Beezus is the protag. 
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About nikkihb

Wife. Mother. Reader. Blogger.
This entry was posted in Beverly Cleary, Sibling Rivalry. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to "Ramona’s confidence in herself was badly shaken." or Ramona the Brave

  1. Shannon says:

    I am old enough that I actually read this book when it first came out — I was in first grade too. I can't even tell you how angry I was over the owl incident. I hated that Susan bitch. I really did.

  2. Amber says:

    I can't believe the owners of the German Shepherd brought the shoe to the school. I live across the street from an elementary school and all sorts of little kid detritus has ended up in my yard. I haven't once taken any of it over to the school.

  3. I don't know how Beverly Cleary did it, but she so PERFECTLY captures the voice and emotions of being a kid. The INSANE boiling fury when someone laughs at you when you're really pissed off, that helpless anger when no one understands WHY you're angry – and this book is the one that made me really like Beezus instead of just feeling sorry for her (because as much as I love Ramona as a character, if I'd been her sister I would have killed her.)I also enjoy how Beezus and Ramona BOTH feel like everyone likes their sister better. And the Quimby parents rocked. Susan was a prissy little bitch. It delighted me when Ramona boing-ed her hair on Halloween – and all the other kids followed suit, leading me to believe that NO ONE liked that little cow.

  4. Alison says:

    I freaking hate coloring books now. I helped out at a day care and got in TROUBLE for giving the kids pink and green crayons when they colored owls. 'Cause owls are brown! Only brown! The kids were in pre-school for crissake!

  5. Jen says:

    Sorry about the tangent about coloring books, but I *still* am sort of obsessed with them. I always look longingly at them in the grocery store. I saw some cool adult coloring books at the art museum once, and I'm really thinking about buying one. Ok, enough. And you've totally inspired me to pull out some of my old Ramona books.

  6. Carin says:

    About 10 years ago while working an incredibly boring and inane job with a lot of downtime but nothing to do (couldn't make calls, no internet), I got a set of 96 Crayolas (WITH the built-in sharpener) and 2 coloring books, which I mostly did color. I reread all the Ramona book in December and I loved them! Thanks for reminding me of the two funniest lines. I think "GUTS" trumps "liberated," but I see your point.Perhaps Susan deserves to be an honorary cunt? She's at least a fucking bitch.

  7. Sadako says:

    Aw. The teacher sounds kind of awesome, and I liked the German Shepherd story. I like that it ended up kind of nice. I didn't like German Shepherds much either. I still don't. I love dogs in general but German Shepherds kind of scare me. They are so…wolflike.

  8. Katie Fries says:

    Thank you for reviewing this. I had just been thinking that I should get this one to read with my kids, mostly because I fondly remembered the parts where Ramona and Howie jump through the hole in the house and play brick factory. Then I remembered all the reasons I really don't care for this Ramona book. However, after reading your review, I'm thinking it would be a good choice. My older son just finished first grade and a lot of the situations Ramona faced sound very familiar… will definitely be reading this one aloud this summer.Re Beezus: Yeah, I always wanted more of her too. (Liked her so much I named my childhood cat after her.) Did you see the recent interview with Beverly Cleary where she talks about the upcoming movie? She talks about how they gave Beezus a bigger role to bring in the tween/teen audience, and she wasn't necessarily happy about that. I'll reserve my judgement until I see how it plays out on screen but in my mind more Beezus = Good Thing.

  9. magnolia says:

    loved, loved, loved the ramona books. i identified way more with ramona and her father, though, because my dad worked nontraditional hours and was with me a lot when i was that age. but the ramona books were always the most consistently authentic kids' books i recall. it is amazing how beverly cleary got into the kids' heads and made it work.

  10. Amiee says:

    I never read any of these but I share the colouring love, I can see how it doesn't build creativity traditionally but it's so relaxing (for me anyway) and kids can always experiment with colour.Great review.

  11. Katie Fries, I'd be more excited if SELENA fucking GOMEZ wasn't playing Beezus. Ugh. But she's better than the horrid little troll (seriously, she's the lost Olsen triplet) playing Ramona. I'll see the movie because I kind of have to, loving the books as I did, but I just know it's going to piss me off.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I remember being so annoyed with Howie when he didn't back up Ramona's story about the hole in her house. I always thought he would have been a frustrating kid to have as a friend.

  13. Caroline says:

    I always think of this one as one of the Ramona ones that I haven't read that often, but I was picturing the illustrations (the original illustrations) along with your description of the story. I love Ramona.

  14. Yeah, Howie always struck me as a bit wishy-washy. The Quimbys really were amazing parents–disciplined when it was necessary, but also encouraged their kids' individuality and creativity (before it was a parental trend).I always identified with Beezus, as I had a nosy and mischievous little sister. And years later, I found out that each of us thought the other was the favorite daughter!Great post!

  15. Sada says:

    I love the frigging Quimbys. The fact that they're such good parents is even more amazing if you read Beverly Cleary's autobiography (which I highly recommend!) and realize what an a-hole her own mother was.

  16. Ally says:

    I loved Ramona. I am slightly sad that there is a new Ramona movie out. Sad like how there's a remake of Karate Kid. I'm so lame about that stuff.FourthGradeNothing.com

  17. I liked the series on TV as a kid with Sarah Polly. We used to call it 'Pamona'. I am looking forward to seeing the movie this summer but that is mostly because of Selena (which I will not apolgize for). Anyone who loves they books and this character should be happy that someone with talent is attached to this project.

  18. charmecia says:

    im glad theyre having a movie based on the quimby family. i fucking loved the quimbys. they seem like the type of parents you would love to have as a child. just like the simpsons or the jetsons. just fucking cool.ive always been a fan of beezus, and would love to read a book based on her. i thought the name beezus was really interesting, compared to the name beatrice(which was her real name)i loved the ramona books, with ramona forever being my total favorite(even though i cried when picky picky died)i also loved ramona's world cause i thought daisy was a perfect best friend for ramona. and i loved the romance between beezus and daisy's brother jeremy.and ramona is plain funny. i also remember that there was a tv show based on ramona around the early 80's.im so glad im not the only one who cant stand susan. susan is such a prissy bitch. and i loved the scene when ramona was messing with susan's curls. very perfect for that little bitch.if you thought howie was bad, check out his grandmother and his little sister willa jean. man are they fucking annoying.great post by the way.

  19. Shannon says:

    I've been seeing lots of ads for the Beezus and Ramona movie. I've got one word: Uch.

  20. Sara says:

    I think my favorite part of this book was how sympathetic Ramona’s classmates became to her later on, after the forced public apology incident and then her telling the class a dog stole her shoe. Though I was also pretty fond of the part where her dad’s calling her his spunky gal made her feel better, and she had the presence of mind to recognize that if her mother said “you poor baby” she’d just start crying again…I think that’s the case a LOT of the time, at least it’s always been for me.

  21. ramonagirl says:

    Felt SO bad for lil Ramona in this book, too. Her sister getting mad at her for defending her, having someone copy her art – man, things sucked for her.

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