Author: Beverly Cleary
Year published: 1955 (first)
Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books (currently)
Number of pages: 159
Is this book part of a series? Book #1 in Ramona Quimby series
Recommended age: 6-9
Child Rating: ★★★★★
Grown-up Rating: ★★★★★
Reviewed by: Renee and Danielle (Mother and Daughter)
Summary (from the book’s jacket): Ramona Quimby is the youngest of all the famous characters in Mrs. Cleary’s wonderful Henry Huggins stories. She is also far and away the most deadly. Readers of the earlier books will remember that Ramona has always been a menace to Beezus, her older sister, to Henry, and to his dog Ribsy. It is not that Ramona deliberately sets out to make trouble for other people. She simply has more imagination than is healthy for any one person. In this book Ramona and her imagination really come into their own. Starting with a fairly mild encounter with the librarian, which is harder on Beezus than anyone else, Ramona goes from strength to strength, winding up by inviting her entire kindergarten class to a party at her home without mentioning it to her mother. The riot that ensues is probably the most hilarious episode in this extremely funny book, which proves that Mrs. Cleary’s imgaination is almost as lively as Ramona’s.
What it’s about: This book is about two sisters named Beezus and Ramona. Beezus is 9 years old and Ramona is 4 years old. The book has six big chapters that each tell a story. The first chapter is called “Beezus and Her Little Sister”. In the first chapter the girls go to the library and Ramona checks out a book about a steam shovel on Beezus’ library card, then she writes her “signature” on all the pages of the book so gets to keep it. The second chapter is called “Beezus and Her Imagination”. In this chapter, Beezus goes to art class and feels that Ramona has a better imagination than her, but Beezus discovers she does have a good imagination. The third chapter is called “Ramona and Ribsy”. Ramona locks Henry’s dog Ribsy in the bathroom and they finally unlock the door. The fourth chapter is called “Ramona and the Apples”. This chapter is about Ramona taking one bite out of all the apples in the basement and so the family makes alot of applesauce. The fifth chapter is called “The Party at the Quimby’s”. Ramona invites all the kids in her nursery school and other kids to her house for a party. The party goes really bad because Ramona bosses all the kids around and ends up in her room. The sixth chapter is called “Beezus’ Birthday”. Beezus turns 10 at her birthday, but Ramona puts all the eggs with shells in her cake. Beezus reads Ramona the story of Hansel and Gretel and then Ramona pretends to be Gretel and puts a doll inside the oven with Beezus’ birthday cake.
What I liked and disliked about it: I think I’m more like Beezus and my brother is like Ramona (sometimes), but I still like both the girls. Ramona sometimes does bad things that annoy Beezus. I like to read about the funny things that Ramona does like taking one bite out of a bunch of apples and saying “The first bite tastes the best” and inviting lots of kids over for a party without Beezus and their Mom knowing about it. Chapter 5 (The Party at the Quimby’s) is my favorite because it’s the funniest one. I like Ramona’s imaginary pet, a lizard named Ralph. If I was Beezus and I had a sister like Ramona, I would be scared to death that I would always get in trouble – – kind of like how my brother gets me in trouble. I even understand how Beezus can say that sometimes she doesn’t love her sister because I’m an older sister too.
The only thing that kind of disturbed me was that the chapters were really long, but I still liked each chapter.
My bottom line: I recommend this book to the other girls in my class and maybe some boys. I would definitely read more books about Beezus, Ramona, and Henry.
What it’s about: Beezus and Ramona is the first book in the Ramona Quimby series by Beverly Clearly. This book introduces us to the title characters through six chapters each of which tells a mini-story about Beezus and Ramona. Each of the stories reveals more about the relationship between Beezus, the older and more responsible sister; and Ramona, the younger and more spirited sister. Each chapter typically follows the antics of Ramona while Beezus quietly deals with the fallout of her sister’s “bright ideas”. But through these trials Beezus discovers that her relationship with Ramona mirrors her mother and aunt’s relationship – one that it filled with ups and downs.
What I liked and disliked about it: There is a reason that a book written in 1955 is still as well-loved today as it was back then. The book includes strong, likeable characters in Beezus and (even) Ramona, as well as the sympathetic Mom and Aunt Beatrice. The stories may all be centred around Ramona doing something naughty (e.g., scribbling in the library book, knocking down Beezus and Henry’s checkerboard), but the consequences are realistic (e.g., pay for the damages, apologize to librarian, and doesn’t get the book back; being sent to her room) and the moral of the tale is clear. There is always a lesson to be learned.
It was really fun to read about Ramona’s antics which pale in comparison to some of the stunts pulled by characters in other middle grade book series (e.g., Ivy and Bean; Captain Underpants) and which are fairly realistic in terms of the type of trouble a girl of this age would get herself into. I didn’t feel uncomfortable with the “bad behaviour” in this book compared to these other books where some seriously nasty, malicious things take place, and where the seriousness of these behaviours is minimized (e.g., throwing worms in someone’s face; putting bubble bath in the band’s musical instrument).
I love the way Beezus is portrayed and I love her honesty around the ambivalence she feels toward Ramona. Let’s face it, who hasn’t felt what I will loosely label “hatred” toward their brother or sister at one point or another? Like the time that my brother cut pictures for his school locker out of my well-loved and very worn issue of Parade magazine, my first issue purchased with my own money. Or the time he used a black permanent marker on our wood paneling to make a road for his hot wheels and was successful in blaming me for it.
I’m sure we all have stories we can share of these types of moments and this is what Clearly does so beautifully in describing how Beezus comes to realize that her relationship with Ramona mirrors the relationship between her mother and her aunt – one fraught with delight and challenges, but nonetheless firmly grounded in love. This is the lesson that I’ve learned in my life and the one I teach my children – while it is perfectly normal to be angry with a loved one, it does not diminish in the slightest the love that you have for one another.
My bottom line: I really like these characters and the stories. Beezus and Ramona are imperfect but so charming. They are characters who make mistakes, who experience a gamut of emotions (i.e., anger, happiness, sadness, jealousy), and who in the end accept and love each other. I would highly recommend this book and others by Beverly Cleary. Cleary writes books with strong female, male, and/or animal characters (e.g., Ramona, Henry, Ribsy, Beezus, Ralph, Maggie, and others) therefore there is a series that would be appropriate for either girls or boys. Because the chapters are quite long, I would recommend these books for 7+ years.
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