This second grouping of books from the Ramona series begins with what I feel is a shift in the types of challenges our young protagonist faces. In 1977, Ramona and Her Father debuted. This installment in the series serves as a real turning point, in terms of the realness of the subject material.
Ramona is now a second grader. One day, her father comes home and announces that he’s lost his job. The family is then plunged into the uncertainty that comes with the loss of the main earner’s income. Mrs. Quimby begins working full-time but the family’s finances are still very much strained. Ramona’s father eventually becomes depressed and her mother does her best to keep the family afloat without further upsetting her husband.
Ramona’s Christmas wish for a ‘happy family’ is both heartbreaking and understandable for a child of her age dealing with a very serious issue. As the spouse of someone who lives with mental illness, this story line hit home in a big way. I can see how it would be beneficial to kids dealing with the same challenges. The book ends happily but is by far the most ‘real world’ volume in the series.
In Ramona and Her Mother (1979), both Quimby parents are now employed full time. I think that this book is a valid depiction of what life is like in a two working-parent home. It’s a lot busier, maybe even a bit chaotic with so many pieces of family life now being juggled along with the demands of work.
In one scene, Mr. and Mrs. Quimby have an argument over a failed dinner that is the result of someone forgetting to plug in the crockpot before work. Because they’ve never seen their parents argue, Beezus and Ramona are both shocked by their behavior. They worry that their parents might get a divorce, as some of their friends’ parents have. They comfort each other that night and have their first real experience of sisterly bonding.
When they awake the next morning, they can’t believe that their parents are having a peaceful breakfast together. Mr. and Mrs. Quimby explain that sometimes parents argue but it doesn’t always result in divorce. Several other plots also take place, such as an ill-fated haircut for Beezus, pajamas worn to school by Ramona, a misunderstood, overheard phone call and a runaway attempt by our dear Ramona.
Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (1981) won Cleary the Newberry Honor Award in 1982. Ramona is now a third grader and it’s obvious that she’s growing up. She’s starting third grade at a new school and gets to ride the bus. On the first day, she has a run in with a bully who she names the ‘Yard Ape’. Showing her budding maturity, she quickly becomes friends with her assumed bully, determining that he’s not so bad after all.
Appropriate for this column, Ramona’s favorite part of third grade is SSR, or Silent Sustained Reading. But even though she loves having special reading time at school, she’s not sure that her teacher Mrs. Whaley likes her. After an unfortunate incident involving Ramona having cracked a raw egg on her own head, Ramona overhears Mrs. Whaley call her a show off and a nuisance. Or does she? You’ll have to read the book to find out!
I believe that these three volumes of the series are perfect for 8-9 year olds who will relate to Ramona’s growing sense of independence, while also clinging to the safety and support of her family. When her stability is shaken, first through her father’s depression and then both of her parents working outside of the home, she and her sister bond together to hold each other up.
I also like that the books often address Ramona’s feelings that her teachers may not like her. This is a phenomenon that my own son has dealt with, though as an adult, I don’t see what he feels. Through the eyes of a fellow child, I feel that he is better able to see that as Ramona’s teachers enjoy working with her, so too do his own teachers.