In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Ramona the younger

Dear Annie,

I'd never thought of the Ramona books in terms of birth order, but you may be onto something here.  The three members of our household who loved the Ramona books are all youngest children.  Lizzie, our firstborn, enjoyed them, but it was Mona and her parents (all youngest children) who reveled in repeated readings.  I've never bought into the firstborns-are-X, youngest-are-Y theories of personality.  But maybe there's more resonance between Ramona and the younger crowd.

I've been re-visiting Ramona the Pest since your last post.  Can't resist offering an excerpt.  Ramona has grudgingly agreed to loan an object to classmate Howie to bring to show-and-tell: "a stuffed rabbit that had already been given hard wear before the cat adopted it as a sort of practice gopher."  Howie has little interest in displaying it once in school, but is coaxed to the front of the class by Miss Binney.
   "Is there something you would like to tell us about your bunny?" asked Miss Binney.
   "No," said Howie.  "I just brought it because my mother made me."
   "I can tell you something about your bunny," said Miss Binney.  "It has had lots of love.  That's  why it's so worn."
   Ramona was fascinated.  In her imagination she could see the cat lying on the carpet with the rabbit gripped in his teeth while he battered it with his hind feet.
Miss Binney eventually gives the bunny a red ribbon.  On the walk home, Howie and Ramona have a huge disagreement over ownership of the ribbon.  Howie feels the teacher gave the ribbon to him; Ramona's interpretation is that it was given to her bunny, so possession is hers. 

So many scenes in this book have to do with misunderstandings and different interpretations of words and actions.  Ramona sees things from her very personal perspective: others' frequently different views are baffling and frustrating.  When she wants something -- the ribbon, or Susan's curls -- it's because she wants it, not because she wants to flout the rules.  Ramona is someone who's not going gently into the socialization process.  As the books progress, she matures but holds onto her outsider perspective.  The world around her expands, including more neighborhood, family, real life.



1 comment:

  1. Our personal experience differs. My rule-abiding firstborn LOVES Ramona. I have read her all eight books twice and she refers repeatedly to Ramona when asked about her favorite book, author, or character. I think it's precisely that Ramona's mischievous nature is so different from her own that makes her attractive. My younger daughter does not yet have the patience for chapter books, so we'll have to wait to see whether she is equally in love. However, since she has an older sister, she has seen the movie Beezus and Ramona before reading the books - something I try to never let happen, but... I couldn't help it. So she's already aware of Ramona and the movie may affect her perspective as well.