I want to be like Ramona Quimby

I love children’s books, so I was sad to see the passing of the children’s author Beverly Cleary (aged 104) on March 26, 2021. She was one of America’s most successful writers, selling over 91 million books during her lifetime. Her books have been translated into 12 languages and are loved by readers all over the world.

If you aren’t familiar with her work, Cleary was the author of the Ramona books (amongst others), a series of eight humorous children’s novels that center on Ramona Quimby, her family and friends. Her first book, Beezus and Ramona, appeared in 1955 and the final book, Ramona’s World, was published in 1999.

Cleary described Ramona as a feisty girl with no desire to conform, even when pressured by those around her. In Ramona the Pest, when her sister Beezus (real name Beatrice) asks her to stop being a pest, she says…

“I’m not acting like a pest. I’m singing and skipping,” said Ramona, who had only recently learned to skip with both feet. No matter what others said, she never thought she was a pest. The people who called her a pest were always bigger and so they could be unfair.

Ramona went on with her singing and skipping.

From Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary

Cleary (whose maiden name was Beverly Bunn), was born in Oregon, the daughter of a farmer and a school-teacher. She trained as a librarian, but didn’t start writing until she was in her thirties. She kept writing well into her eighties (there’s hope for me yet). Cleary said that children kept coming into the library asking for books about ‘children like them’ and there weren’t any, so she decided to write them herself. As a child she was a slow reader and was often sick and absent from school. This seems to be a common theme for a lot of writers. Long periods of time confined to bed must cultivate the imagination!

It’s not possible to calculate the effect that books have on people, but I think that children’s books in particular can really influence how we see ourselves in the world. It’s good to read about characters who look and feel the way you do, especially if you feel like you don’t really feel you fit in. I think this is the reason that I love Ramona. She’s both vulnerable and brave.

Here’s a lovely tribute from journalist Scaachi Koul, born some 20 years after the first Ramona book was published, talking about how the Ramona books affected her life.

Have you read any of her books? Do you have a favourite character?

4 thoughts on “I want to be like Ramona Quimby

  1. Morning Margaret I just read an article on Cleary on Public Books (so glad you recommended it to me so many years ago) and was reminded of a conversation with my son decades ago. We were going on holidays and his friend Martin was joining us and Simon said that he needed him, because he was wild and stupid and without him he wouldn’t take risks. Reminds me of Beezus. As I watch Pip’s personality emerge I can see she will be much like her dad, so I will track down the book series, so even if she doesn’t have a Martin in her life she will have Ramona (and her silly grandma)

    1. Hi Megan,
      My son also has a friend who is a bit wild and reckless (and funny) and we have always thought that Tom really needed him in his life. Without his friend Greg, his life would have been very different. I’m not sure how people meet the people they need in their lives! Perhaps it’s chance or some kind of divine providence?
      As to your little granddaughter Pip, she is lucky to have someone as interesting (and may I say quirky), in her life. You are a breath of fresh air in this otherwise somewhat lacklustre world. I’m lucky to have you as a friend and so is she.

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