AUTHOR :: Beverly Cleary
GENRE :: Children’s novel/FICTION
For a girl as enthusiastic about life as Ramona, starting the first grade should be easy! But with a teacher who doesn’t understand her, a tattletale classmate, and a scary dog who follows her on the walk home from school, Ramona has a hard time acting like the big girl everyone expects her to be. But when she shows up to school with a missing shoe, Ramona gets a fresh grip on her courage in order to make it through a mortifying situation.
BOOK REVIEW ::
I grew up reading the Beverly Cleary books, especially the ones with Ramona. However, I’ve come to appreciate these books all the more now because of the way the author expresses the thoughts and emotions of six-year old Ramona.
Ramona is a complicated character that any child or adult can relate to. She struggles with embracing her creativity, struggles to fit in like her responsible sister and all the other well-behaved children do, and she struggles to express her fears and struggles.
I remember wondering to myself if the author herself struggled with the same insecurities as Ramona did. As it turns out, Cleary’s books are based on her experiences as child.
While Cleary was born in a different time period, many of her childhood experiences which are seen through Ramona’s story echo a lot of my own experiences too.
Ramona seems troubled and rebellious, but as I read her thoughts it becomes easier to understand why she reacts the way she does.
She struggles in school because her wild imagination is either copied, suppressed, or brushed off as irrelevant.
Ramona’s teacher, Mrs. Griggs, is a combination of hundreds and hundreds of teachers who believe that one size fits all in the area of education. Unlike Beezus’s teacher- who is passionate about helping students learn in a way that fits their personality, and also never questions Ramona’s ‘absurd’ behavior- Mrs. Griggs struggles to make sense of Ramona’s learning style and creative abilities. Towards the end of the book, Mrs. Griggs begins to understand Ramona a little better.
As for the family dynamics in which Ramona finds herself in, she often feels out of place and misunderstood. She feels second best compared to her sister, and her parents struggle to understand why Ramona can never behave.
While Ramona’s parents mean well in the way they approach their daughter, they dismiss what could be something of importance to discover why she is the way she is. When she’s afraid of the Gorilla book that she has on her bookshelf that keeps her awake at night, her father doesn’t seem to connect with his daughter’s fears. When Ramona is eager to explain to her mother why she stood up for Beezus against some boys at the playground, and her POV as to what happened, her mother brushes her off as if her oldest daughter deserved more of the attention.
Time and time again, Ramona’s self-confidence is shaken by misunderstandings and lack of encouragement. At the same time, she develops an act for over-exaggerating and losing self-control. She loves being pitied and desires everyone’s attention. Instead of admitting to doing something wrong, she justifies her behavior even though her feelings should also be validated.
As she begins to simply admit that she’s afraid or that she feels unloved, she begins to realize that she doesn’t have to believe her emotions and every thought that pops into her head. Likewise, as those around her begin to understand that she’s a very intelligent and creative child with abilities of her own, they take a weight off Ramona’s shoulders and help her to be confident about herself.
I never get tired of reading the Ramona books. I believe they’re still relevant today as they were 10 years ago.
Did you grow up reading the Beverly Cleary books?
Which of them is your favorite?
Thank you for reading!