Tuesday, August 10, 2010


I often find myself rereading old favorites during the summer. It's a nice time for comfort reading, and if it's a really good book, you'll find yourself discovering new details and insights. Inspired by the recent Ramona and Beezus movie (I'm waiting for the DVD), I decided to do a reread of the Ramona books (I reread them several years ago in honor of Beverly Cleary's 90th birthday). I'm also rereading Cleary's non-Ramona books.

The Ramona books hold up extremely well, and this isn't just nostalgia talking (I loved the Ramona books when I was a child; I even had a Ramona diary). The insights into children's behavior remains startlingly funny and understanding. There were some things that definitely caught my attention:

1. ditto machine! Ramona mentions a ditto machine and the purple ink on worksheets. I remember ditto machines; they were probably already on their way out several years later. They also had a peculiar smell.

2. In Ramona the Pest, Ramona's mother leaves her alone in the morning and tells her to walk to school at "quarter of" something. It's a plot device, of course, but that's still a lot to ask of a kindergartner.

3. Ramona the Brave: when Mrs. Quimby tells the girls that she will be working part-time at the doctor's office, Beezus exclaims, "Mother! You'll be liberated!" The copyright for the book is 1975; likely, the reference is lost on children today.

4. I loved Ellen Tebbits very much when I was in elementary school; it's still cute, but mention of Austine's "chubbiness" got a little old after a while. The fact that Ellen is left out of the classroom play bothered me for the first time (I've reread this more than once); apparently, getting some use out of the Maypole was more important than including everyone in the classes.

I did enjoy the shoutout to Glenwood School, where Ramona and Beezus attended school. Ellen attends Rosemont School, where Ramona eventually attends. Fun for the reader in-the-know.

I also reread B is for Betsy. Still cute. I picked up for the first time that Betsy, in starting the first grade, is attending school for the first time. Her first grade sounds very much like kindergarten (copyright is 1939).

Off to check out our copy of Beezus and Ramona, which contains one of my favorite librarian characters, Miss Evans (who was the type of librarian "who understood about little sisters").

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