Beverly Cleary's books will always have a place on my school library bookshelves. And now they've found their way back into my home as my 6 year old discovers the adventures of the Quimby kids. For the last few weeks, my daughter and I have snuggled up together at bedtime and taken turns reading Beezus & Ramona and Ramona the Pest. As I reread these classics through adult eyes, a few things stood out to me......
The themes remain timeless
Most children can relate to feeling exasperated with their siblings - and worrying if they don't always feel loving toward them. Since my daughter is a big sister, just like Beezus, she could make lots of connections to the character's frustrations with pesty Ramona. Amazingly, I could have sworn the Ramona books were written in the 70s, but Ramona and Beezus was published in 1955!!
Some of the language is really dated
The girls' Aunt Beatrice is described as "always so gay and understanding". Since my daughter can read, I can't just switch it to "happy", so an informal homonym lesson it is! A "radio-and-phonograph" store is mentioned as well as "Mobilgas" and a reference to "Merry Sunshine", which I think is a children's song the from the 50s. A fancy embossed Autograph Album is a prized possession and the family sits together cozily on the "davenport". (Which is also what my grandmother called the couch.)
These kids have A LOT of freedom
Clearly - these are Baby Boomer/GenX kids free to walk blocks to school, visit the library on their own, and generally roam around the neighborhood unsupervised. While Beezus attends an art class at the rec center, Ramona plays in the sand pile outside. By herself. When darling Ramona invites 15 four-year-olds to her house for a party (without telling her mother), NOT ONE parent stays with their child. One even leaves a two-year old behind who is allowed to parade up and down the basement steps on their own. No helicopter parents here!
And Mrs. Quimby's response to Ramona's repeated misbehavior? She simply sighs and tells Beezus, "I'm afraid all we can do is wait for her to grow up." Um....NOT. How about some discipline here Mrs. Quimby?
What do you think of the Ramona books? (And is the new movie worth watching?)