This installment leads off with some drama in the park, followed by Mrs. Quimby’s announcement that she is starting a job, which will make it possible for them to build a much-needed addition onto their house. Ramona begins first grade and discovers Mrs. Griggs is nothing like her beloved Miss Binney from kindergarten, and Ramona’s creativity and spunk are under-appreciated (at least in Ramona’s eyes). She can hardly bear the unfairness of it all (and gets into her share of trouble because of it), but in the end things work out, and her indomitable spirit continues to shine.
I was a little caught off guard by the aforementioned drama in the park. Some boys call Beezus a name (her name rhymes too perfectly with “Jesus” and really nothing else), and I didn’t feel comfortable saying it. So I changed it, but then of course, what Ramona and Beezus and Mrs. Quimby were saying in relation to it just didn’t make sense.
(I felt a little too much like Alice Ozma’s father in The Reading Promise when he’s reading Dicey’s Song and begins editing out big chunks with noticeable consequences.)
So we had to pause for a minute so I could explain what the mean boys were really calling Beezus and why I was not okay with saying it. The episode does involve Ramona staunchly reprimanding the boys and defending Beezus, and that is a super sweet thing to witness (even though Beezus is very unappreciative). But I know Max is going to want to listen to the audio of this book now, and I just don’t know how I feel about him listening to that chapter over and over.
One of the things I really appreciated in this particular story was the character of Mrs. Griggs. Ramona doesn’t really like her, and I can’t say that we really liked her either. And yet, there was nothing to really dislike about her. In Beezus’, own words: “She wasn’t my favorite teacher . . . There wasn’t anything really wrong with her, I guess. She just wasn’t very exciting is all. She wasn’t mean or anything like that. We just seemed to go along doing our work, and that was it.”
I think it would have been so easy for Beverly Cleary to make her into a mean teacher, one that punished Ramona unfairly and that the reader could truly hate. But Mrs. Griggs was not that. She and Ramona just didn’t see eye to eye. She couldn’t appreciate Ramona’s feisty personality, and Ramona couldn’t appreciate her stable (but boring) methods. They just didn’t connect. In the world of school, having a teacher that you don’t click with is much more common and realistic than having a teacher who is truly despicable and cruel. And so I really appreciated Mrs. Griggs’ character because she was such a believable teacher.
Our favorite moment was when Ramona says a “bad” word. I could tell Aaron and Max were a little tense, waiting for it to come and wondering what it would be. When Ramona finally let it out and it was, “Guts! Guts! Guts,” oh, how they laughed (right along with Ramona’s parents and Beezus).
Once again, Beverly Cleary tackled real childhood dilemmas (who among us hasn’t wanted our own room only to discover that it’s pretty lonely (and a little scary) to be by ourselves?) but did it in a completely original way. Nothing is predictable with Ramona, and although things always work out, they never do in the way you expect them to. We sure love that “spunky gal.”
What are YOUR comfort books?