Ramona Quimby, Age 8
By Beverly Cleary, Illustrated by Tracy Dockray
Published by: HarperCollins (October 6, 2009)
Available in: paperback, hardcover, audio, CD, audiobook, Kindle, NOOK
At the time of this review there were eight books featuring the Ramona character.
Reality bites… or in Ramona’s case, cracks like an egg.
The Ramona character is one of the most beloved and lauded in children’s literature. Sturdy, witty and fully developed as a personality, Ramona is a modern masterpiece. So much has been written about the 1981 Newberry Honor book, I’ll focus here on the point of whether Ramona is still relevant, and if so, why?
Ramona Quimby, Age 8 manages to keep a light tone while focusing on the undercurrents of why life is just so dang hard. Ramona’s parents clearly work hard. They also struggle with money issues, bettering themselves and raising two respectful, capable daughters. Ramona’s sister stumbles through the first year of that most difficult time, middle school. And Ramona copes with bullies, humiliation, hurt, excitement, disappointment, regret, self-control, cooking and forgiveness: that whole big mess that makes up daily life. More than still relevant, this book is gutsy and important. It shows Ramona in the process of real life in a way that still keeps young readers engaged.
There are a few specifics that mark the book as older: pre-school is referred to as nursery school and the mention of typewriter clacks. But these are minor blips. More important is the basic humanity that marks the Ramona books with a truth rarely seen in contemporary children’s literature.
Ramona Quimby, Age 8 is marketed more for the middle grade market (ages 8—12), and yet, with a character (Ramona) in the third grade, younger children will read it. And although for a chapter book it’s a touch long, it still fits within the chapter book category quite well.
I like Tracy Dockray’s illustrations in the newer editions because they have an old-school feel without being tired or out of touch. Just slightly quirky—especially when the cat is in the drawing—they have a very realistic base. Much like Ramona.
What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….