Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary
May 26, 2014
Of course, I was overjoyed to find it, especially since the boys and I were just ready for another chapter book. But I was also completely baffled. I had looked under my bed close to a million times in search of that book. I absolutely, positively know it wasn't there before. So where was it all that time? These kinds of happenings drive me insane.
The good news is, we still had enough time to read it before its final due date, and it was (almost) good enough to be worth the mental stress it put me through.
Ramona is four years old, and she can be, in the words of her older sister, Beezus, "exasperating." Everyone thinks she is so adorable and imaginative, but Beezus knows better. She's the one who finds Ramona eating one bite out of every apple in a big box. She's the one who has her checker game ruined when Ramona locks Ribsy in the bathroom. She's the one who has to scramble to find activities for a dozen children on a rainy afternoon when Ramona invites them all over for a party. And she's the one whose birthday is almost ruined when Ramona decides to put her doll into the oven with the cake. Ramona can be so exasperating that sometimes Beezus not only doesn't like her, she doesn't love her either. And Beezus feels absolutely awful about that . . . until she gets a glance at the other side from her mom and Aunt Beatrice.
One of Aaron and Maxwell's favorite characters from the Henry Huggins books was Ramona, so I thought it might be fun to switch series and read about Ramona in a starring role.They loved it.
I had to laugh when we had read just the first page, and I paused for a moment and asked, "How old do you think Ramona is?" Aaron and Max guessed, "Two? Or maybe one?" They were shocked when I turned the page and we found out she was four years old. It's one thing to be reading this book as a nine-year-old where you have years of wisdom between yourself now and the lowly age of four and to be an actual four-year-old (like Max) and look at all Ramona's antics and think, "I would never do something like her" (even though your mother knows you very well might).
But whether they were enchanted or offended that Ramona was close to their own ages, they loved her anyway. Maxwell is still marching around the house shouting, "Bingle-bongle-by!" I don't blame him. Even if you're not part of a kid-parade, it is still such a fun thing to say. I think they both felt the most empathy for Beezus when Ramona ruined her birthday cake (twice). At that point, they weren't laughing at Ramona's actions (which they were for most of the book). They just felt so sorry for poor Beezus.
I loved this book for different reasons. Having just finished Quinny & Hopper, where I mentioned my disappointment in the way Quinny talked about her two younger sisters, it was really refreshing to see the older sister/younger sister dynamic played out in a different way. It wasn't that Beezus was always kind to Ramona (she wasn't) or that she always watched her willingly and cheerfully (she didn't) or that she was full of patience and love (she wasn't). However, Beezus acknowledged the way she sometimes felt, and she had the sincere desire to be a nicer sister. In fact, the sister relationship is probably the main theme (which, in Quinny's defense, it wasn't), and I think it's very relatable to all siblings, not just sisters. Several times as we were reading, I stopped and asked Aaron and Max if that's how they sometimes felt with Bradley or with each other. I don't want my kids to only read books with perfect examples of sibling relationships. But I do want them to see how to work through these differences and frustrations in a meaningful way.
This was such an enjoyable book for us to read. At the end of the edition we read, they included the first pages of Ramona the Pest. Aaron begged for me to read it, but I told him we'll just check out the whole book from the library (and pray we don't lose it!).