Friday, June 05, 2009


As a kid I loved the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary, the most memorable being Ramona the Pest. We just finished Ramona and her Mother today. This book is especially rich because it's about Ramona's relationship with her mother, something I can relate to differently being a mother.

In this book, all Ramona really wants is to be her "Mother's girl." Beverly Cleary is the master of characterization, painting a picture of Ramona by giving us access to the thoughts and feelings that would actually be the thoughts and feelings of a seven-year-old who just wanted to be her mother's girl. Take this classic scene for example, when Ramona reaches her boiling point and decides she is going to run away:

"As Ramona watched her mother fold underwear for her to take away, she began to understand that deep down inside in the place where her secret thoughts were hidden, she had never really doubted her mother's love for her. Not until now....She thought of all the things her mother had done for her, the way she had sat up most of the night when Ramona had an earache, the birthday cake she had made in the shape of a cowboy boot all frosted with chocolate with lines of white icing that looked like stitching. That was the year she was four and had wanted cowboy boots more than anything, and her parents had given her real ones as well. She thought of the way her mother reminded her to brush her teeth. Her mother would not do that unless she cared about her teeth, would she? She thought of the time her mother let her get her hair cut at the beauty school, even though they had to scrimp and pinch. She thought of the gentle books about bears and bunnies her mother had read at bedtime when she was little.

'There!' Mrs. Quimby closed the suitcase, snapped the latches, and set it on the floor. 'Now you are all packed.' She sat down on the bed.

Ramona pulled her car coat out of the closet and slowly put it on, one arm and then the other. She looked at her mother with sad eyes as she grasped the handle of her suitcase and lifted. The suitcase would not budge. Ramona grasped it with both hands. Still she could not lift it.

Hope flowed into Ramona's heart. Had her mother made the suitcase too heavy on purpose? She looked closely at her mother, who was watching her. She saw-didn't she?-a tiny smile in her mother's eyes.

'You tricked me!' cried Ramona. 'You made the suitcase too heavy on purpose. You didn't want me to run away!'

'I couldn't get along without my Ramona,' said Ramona's mother. She held out her arms. Ramona ran into them. Her mother had said the words she had longed to hear. Her mother could not get along without her. She felt warm and safe and comforted and oh, how good her mother smelled, so clean and sweet like flowers. Better than any mother in the whole world. Ramona's tears dampened her mother's blouse. After a moment Mrs. Quimby handed Ramona a Kleenex. When Ramona had wiped her eyes and nose, she was surprised to discover that her mother had tears in her eyes, too."

The best chapter in the book, "The Great Hair Argument," includes a classic adventure with the Quimby women at Robert's School of Hair Design where Beezus just wants a haircut like "the ice skater on television" but it is Ramona who comes out like a Pixie getting all the attention.

So worth a read, Ramona and Her Mother kept the attention of both Julia and Avery who listened and laughed, Ramona's antics guaranteed entertainment.

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