Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ramona the Brave


Ramona Geraldine Quimby is six years old now! Huzzah!

The book starts out with Ramona and Beezus cruisin' back from the park. Beezus is super pissed about something. She explains to Mrs. Quimby that the boys at the park started calling her Jesus Beezus. To a sixth grader, this is the worst thing ever! Ramona stood up for Beezus, but that only made the experience even more humiliating.

The summer is otherwise pretty boring. Until Mrs. Quimby gets a job. Mrs. Q's new job means that the Quimbys will finally be adding onto the house. A new bedroom will be added onto the first floor of the house behind the vacuum closet. Ramona is super stoked about this 'cause she'll has something to talk about at show-and-tell--This first grader has a hole chopped in her house! A hole chopped in her house! What other first grader has that?

Construction putzs along. Eventually, there is a real hole in the house. Ramona and Howie run through the house and jump out of the hole over and over and over and over again. They do this until the construction workers have stop them. Dudes are trying to lay concrete. Have some patience, Ramona.

When school starts, Ramona is flippin' out with excitement. Girl just has to get to first grade to spill her super awesome show-and-tell story. When Ramona lets it out, she hears crickets. No one in her class is impressed. They're confused. Why the hell is there a hole in her house? Even the teacher gets on her case. Ramona calls on Howie to verify her story. There was a hole chopped in her house! Dude even jumped through it with her. Howie wusses out and tells the class that there wasn't a hole chopped in the house. There was a hole pried into her house. Stupid Howie and his power tool technicalities. Even I'm offended for Ramona.

This sets the tone for the entire year for Ramona. Her teacher, Mrs. Griggs, is not exactly a charmer. She just doesn't understand Ramona's energetic and creative and sensitive personality. Mrs. Griggs doesn't notice Susan of the boing-boing curls copying Ramona's owl when the class is crafting for Parents' Night. She only notices Ramona throwing away her own owl and scrunching Susan's owl. Ramona is forced to apologize to Susan in front of the class. This is devastating for Ramona, a really sensitive kid. She is being punished for something that never would have happened if Susan hadn't plagiarized her owl!

Finally, the new bedroom is finished. It is agreed that Ramona and Beezus will each get a turn being in the new bedroom. They'll switch every six months. This seems like a huge hassle. But it's only fair. Ramona gets the first turn because Beezus usually gets things first. This is going to be epic. Ramona has never had her own bedroom! Her mother re-finishes a dresser and bookshelf so that Ramona even has her very own furniture! This is the day that Ramona has been dreaming about for months!

Ramona's first night in the new bedroom goes horribly. She's terrified. (I would be too. The bedroom is downstairs while everyone else is sleeping upstairs.) The problem, though, is that Ramona can't tell anyone that she's scared of sleeping downstairs. By herself. In the dark. She tries to stay awake as late as she can with classic kid-not-wanting-to-sleep stalling tactics. Eventually, she does sleep. But not well. Ramona can't tell her parents how scary it can be to stay in that new room alone. Then, she might look like a baby or have to move back upstairs into her old room.

As the year progresses, Beezus develops a crush on her sixth grade teacher, Mr. Cordoza. I felt embarrassed for Beezus. She constantly talks about him to her family. Mr. Cordoza assigns a spelling paper where the students have to list 5 examples of different words. For "pleasant," Beezus listed picnics, our classroom, Mr. Cordoza, reading, and school. Really. Beezus, could you be anymore obvious? You like Mr. Cordoza. You like school because of Mr. Cordoza. You like the classroom because of Mr. Cordoza. You like reading because it's being taught by Mr. Cordoza. And you want to go on a picnic with Mr. Cordoza. By the way, did I mention Mr. Cordoza? Did I find a way to insert him into every conversation? 'Cause Beezus sure did.

One day, the educational god that is Mr. Cordoza sends home a good progress report on Beezus. You just know that Beezus is stashing that thing away for her Mr. Cordoza shrine. Ramona is determined not to show her parents her progress report from Mrs. Griggs. She knows it can't be good. Eventually, Mom and Pop Quimby get the report from her. It's pretty positive. There is mention of Ramona looking at other people's papers and needing to keep her hands to herself and a lack of self-control.

Ramona's parents advise her to try to grow up. That's how she can get along with Mrs. Griggs better and to fix everything on her progress report. Really? How about considering that Ramona is bored. She can count well and has to sit through it as the rest of the class struggles with it. She's reading better than her classmates. She's doing her work quickly because it's too easy. Every time she tries to answer something in class, Mrs. Griggs shoots her down. It's clear that Mrs. Griggs is unreceptive to Ramona's personality. Why wouldn't Ramona have trouble focusing in school? The entire progress report situation makes me feel sad for Ramona and angry at Mrs. Griggs. School isn't fun for Ramona. Learning isn't fun for Ramona. First grade really sucks.

First grade sucks so much and the progress report is so bad that Ramona says a bad word. Of course, she gives her parents fair warning that it's coming. Then, she lets it out. (I should warn you that this very bad word may be nsfw.)



GUTS


That's right. Ramona said 'guts.' The Quimbys laugh. In her face. (Whenever I do childcare, I get told off by small children for saying 'butt.' As in 'Sit on your butt.' Me and my filthy mouth.) Ramona, secretly sensitive gal that she is, gets upset over this. Here she was trying to cuss her parents out and they respond by laughing. Beezus tries to help by saying that their parents laughed at the things she said when she was Ramona's age. It's nothing personal. Kids just say the darndest things.

The next day, Ramona is feeling full of "spirit and pluck." She decides to take a different way to school--walking one block over to the next street. It's no different than her usual route. It's just a block over. Trotting along with her lunchbox, Ramona encounters a German shepherd. (The dog, not a person that tends sheep. Just to clarify.) Cujo chases her! Eek! To scare him off, she throws her shoe at him. Cujo picks the thing up and runs off with it! Eff.

Ramona limps along to school with only one shoe. She plans to hide it from Mrs. Griggs. It's bad enough constantly being shot down by Mrs. G. Ramona does not need it to be pointed out that she has a 50% success rate with getting her shoes to school. Because Mrs. Griggs does have eyes, she notices Ramona is lacking footwear. Mr. and Mrs. Quimby are both at work, so no one can bring Ramona another pair of shoes. She's told to find a shoe in the Lost & Found. Let me and Ramona both say--Gross. There is no way in hell Ramona is letting someone else's foot germs touch her.

During recess, Ramona hides out until the coast is clear. She then gathers some institutional strength paper towel (That stuff is like sand paper.) and heads up to Mr. Cordoza's classroom. She asks Beezus' imaginary husband to borrow a stapler. Then, she constructs herself a make shift shoe. Magic! When recess is over, Ramona asks Mrs. Griggs if she can continue working on her slipper rather than making Thanksgiving turkeys with the rest of the class. Progress!

Before class is over, Ramona gets called down to the office. The German shepherd's owner found him chomping on a shoe. So of course he brought it down to the elementary school. The secretary "guessed" that it looked like the shoe of a first grader. Random? Either way, Ramona ends up with her shoe. It's pretty gnarly now with some teeth marks on it. The secretary is impressed with Ramona's harrowing tale, validating Ramona in a way that Mrs. Griggs has failed. The secretary tells Ramona that she's a brave girl. True dat.
  • At this point, Mr. Quimby still works in an office. I have the strongest memory of Ramona Quimby, Age 8 when he was a discount grocery store clerk and going to college.
    • Ramona spewing chunks in that book is possibly the most vivid memory I have of a book I read way back when. I was terrified to eat oatmeal. Every time I read the scene I would think, "No, Ramona! Not the oatmeal! Just stay home sick today! For the love of all that is holy STAY HOME!"
      • My strong reaction to this scene is probably related to the fact that I get sick by suggestion. It's hardly ever because I'm actually sick. Mostly it's because it's just a really inconvenient time (trying to get out of going to a particular class! on a first date! in the filth encrusted bathroom of a friend!). The power of subliminal suggestion, y'all. That's all it takes. How's that for a little TMI?
  • Beezus should be thankful that Jesus Beezus is the best those kids could come up with. Since about the 10th grade, I've had people call me Alison Twat because of my last name. (I had to look 'twat' up on Urban Dictionary the first time it happened. Hello, emotional scars.) Beezus, it could be worse. And it will be once those kids get to high school and expand their vocabularies.
  • I still use Mr. Cordoza's spelling tricks. A secretary is someone you can tell your secret to. Secretary.
    • It might have been in another Ramona book that the teacher says that school principal is your pal
    • Look at that. Beverly Cleary taught me a life-long lesson. For realz.

4 comments:

  1. I too felt for Ramona when I read this book, and I remember being very indignant on her fictional behalf about stupid Susan and two-faced Howie. I may have also been a sensitive kid.

    Unrelated, I just noticed a Jasper Fforde book in your banner at the top of the page - AWESOME!

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  2. I love Beezus in this book. This is the book that made me wish we had more Beezus. When their mother goes to work, Beezus is all "Oh Mother! You'll be liberated!" Which is about the funniest line in the book. And Ramona mentions Beezus' hidden lipstick. I swear, there is more to Beezus than her being a wet-blanket like some would suggest.

    Good times.

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  3. I couldn't wait to find out what the "bad word" was. I was so disappointed when it was "guts" and not something edgier! I wanted to learn a new word.

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  4. Mr. Belding also said he was the Principal, and their pal.

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