Beezus and Ramona
Still in print
My history with this book
My second grade teacher read Beezus and Ramona aloud to our class, and I remember liking it. I went on to read a number of other books by Beverly Cleary, including some of the other Ramona books.
This book is delightful. It’s funny and charming, and I loved it. It’s the story of 9-year-old Beatrice “Beezus” Quimby and her adorable but also very annoying little sister, 4-year-old Ramona.
Cleary is a master at making her child characters sound realistic. Ramona is hilarious but also a total pain, and you really get Beezus’ annoyance with her. Beezus is a sweet kid, who struggles with the fact that sometimes she just can’t stand her little sister. Adults find Ramona adorable, and Beezus doesn’t get it.
There’s not a ton of plot, and it’s more a character study. Each chapter is an episode of Ramona being adorably/awful and Beezus patiently (and sometimes not so patiently) dealing with it. Ramona destroys a library book that Beezus checked out for her, disrupts Beezus’ art class, locks a dog in the bathroom, eats just one bite each out of a whole crate of apples, organizes an impromptu party, and nearly ruins Beezus’ birthday.
The apple chapter is particularly funny. Ramona takes just one bite of each apple because “the first bite tastes best,” and although Beezus is beyond annoyed, she has to admit that Ramona is actually right. With the help of her Aunt Beatrice, Beezus begins to understand that Ramona is acting out to get attention.
I love the contrast between the two sisters. Beezus is a nice, well-behaved child and very aware of what people think of her. Ramona is a total show-off. She loves attention, positive or negative, and she doesn’t care at all what people think of her. Some of that is being 4, but some of it is just her personality and that becomes even more apparent in the later books.
I was surprised by how contemporary this book felt. It was published in 1955, but it doesn’t feel dated at all. It holds up and feels modern in a way that many other books of its time don’t. The only scene that struck me as slightly odd is a scene where the mother and Beezus are washing their hair in the sink. I assume they don’t have a shower, which seems odd now, but was perhaps more common back then. It’s not important to the plot and I imagine kids might not even notice anything odd about it.
Does it hold up?
Is there any objectionable content?
Nope. The only mildly problematic thing is Beezus wondering why Ramona likes un-girly things like books about steam shovels, but Ramona is way too awesome to be constrained by traditional gender norms.
Can you read it aloud?
I would say yes since my first experience with the book was having it read to me in school. It’s a good length for reading aloud. It’s available as an audiobook and would be good for a road trip.
Do I want my kid to read it?
Yes! My husband and I both looking forward to reading this series with our son.
It’s still in print and there are ebook and audiobook versions available. It should also be widely available in libraries. My edition has really cute illustrations by Tracy Dockray.