Friday, April 11, 2008

Ramona the Brave

Cleary, Beverly. 1975. Ramona the Brave.

Yesterday, I reviewed Ramona the Pest. I love that book. I love the illustrations. The classic illustrations. The illustrations I grew up with. The edition of Ramona the Brave that I was able to find on the library shelves was ghastly. Maybe ghastly is too strong a word. Okay, I admit it is exaggerating it a bit. I suppose it's what I can expect from HarperCollins. The publishers that removed the Garth Williams illustrations from the Little House books wouldn't bat an eye about updating the illustrations for Ramona. These new illustrations are by Tracy Dockray. And they are wrong, wrong, wrong. Mostly wrong in principle, but wrong all the same. Just a note, a rather important note: the covers that I've been pairing with the reviews are the new books with the new illustrations.

Ramona the Brave. The book in hand. "Ramona Quimby, brave and fearless, was half running, half skipping to keep up with her big sister Beatrice on their way home from the park." Ramona is getting ready to start the first grade now. Big changes are on the way, Beezus now wants to be called Beatrice. Mrs. Quimby is going to be working outside the home. (Shocking, I know. But this was the seventies.) And the Quimbys' are going to be adding another room onto the house so that Beezus and Ramona won't have to share. All that in addition to both girls starting a new school year.

A new school year, a new teacher, some old familiar classmates. Ramona wants to be a good girl. And she's going to try her best not to let Susan and her boing-boing curls tempt her into trouble. But Susan is not making it easy. Susan's prone to copy-catting and tattle taling.

First grade is not making a good impression on Ramona. And her teacher is not like Miss Binney at all. All Ramona wants is for her teacher to like her, to appreciate her, to understand her, to not label her a trouble-maker.

Drama, drama, drama. I enjoyed Ramona the Brave. Certainly some parts are memorable. Her destroying Susan's owl and then later repenting and feeling guilty. Her note to her mother gets me every time. Such real emotion. And the bit about her getting chased with a dog and making a new shoe with some paper and a stapler. Her loving Beezus' teacher? Gotta love that!

But the absolutely best scene in Ramona the Brave. The one that makes it all worth while. Is Chapter Eight: Ramona Says A Bad Word. The bad word in question. Well, I'll just have to let you see:

Ramona had had enough. She had been miserable the whole first grade, and she no longer cared what happened. She wanted to do something bad. She wanted to do something terrible that would shock her whole family, something that would make them sit up and take notice. "I'm going to say a bad word!" she shouted with a stamp of her foot. That silenced her family. Picky-picky stopped washing and left the room. Mr. Quimby looked surprised and--how could he be so disloyal--a little amused. This made Ramona even angrier. Beezus looked interested and curious. After a moment Mrs. Quimby said quietly, "Go ahead, Ramona, and say the bad word if it will make you feel any better." Ramona clenched her fists and took a deep breath. "Guts!" she yelled. "Guts! Guts! Guts!" There. That would show them. Unfortunately, Ramona's family was not shocked and horrified as Ramona had expected. (137-138)

Don't you just love it? I especially love the process of how it's resolved. "Her parents continued to sit in silence, but Ramona was past caring what anyone did. She cried harder than she ever had cried in her life. She cried until she was limp and exhausted. Then Ramona felt her mother's hand on her back.d 'Ramona,' she said gently, 'what are we going to do with you?' With red eyes, a swollen face, and a streaming nose, Ramona sat up and glared at her mother. 'Love me!' Her voice was fierce with hurt. Shocked at her own words, she buried her face in the pillow. She had no tears left." (141)

Such raw emotion that is as authentic as can be. No wonder I connected with Ramona growing up!

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Rachael M 5:21 PM  

Hello-- I stumbled upon your blog while doing a google image search to find a picture of the ORIGINAL _Ramona the Pest_, one of the most perfect children's books *ever*. I have to say that I COMPLETELY agree with you about the change in illustrations in the newer editions. I was shocked and appalled when I opened a copy at the book store and did not see the originals. These new sketches *are* wrong, wrong, wrong! I could just kick myself for not purchasing copies of all the originals long ago. I can't imagine sharing these new versions with my kids; it just wouldn't be the same!

By the way, do you also review on Deliciously Clean Reads? I like that site, too. Any-hoo, that's all I wanted to say!

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