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.