Ramona’s World by Beverly Cleary has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the eighth book in the “Ramona” series.
With the birth of baby Roberta, 9-year-old Ramona becomes a big sister, a role she dearly loves. On the first day of fourth grade, she writes an essay about her baby sister and is thrilled when her teacher, Mrs. Meacham, chooses to read it aloud as an example of good writing. Daisy, a new student with braces and hair like a princess, sits with Ramona at lunch, and Ramona feels that she’s found a new best friend.
As fun as it is to have a baby sister, being a middle child has its problems. Beezus and baby Roberta compete for Mrs. Quimby’s time and attention, often leaving Ramona feeling left out. Beezus, a freshman in high school, enjoys practicing her French vocabulary in conversations at home, a habit Ramona finds annoying. When Ramona tries to escape her unhappiness by watching “Big Hospital” on television, Mrs. Quimby insists that she turn off the program and talk about what’s bothering her. Ramona complains that everyone likes the baby for being adorable and Beezus for being responsible, but no one really pays attention to her, except to correct her bad spelling. In a moment of exasperation, Ramona sticks out her tongue at Roberta, and to her surprise, Roberta sticks her tongue out, too. Ramona is thrilled to realize that she is a role model for her sister and thinks of all the things she will be able to teach her when she is older.
One day after school, Ramona rides the bus home with Daisy. They have fun running the vacuum cleaner over Daisy’s cat, Clawed, snacking on juice bars and watching “Big Hospital.” Ramona hopes that she and Daisy will be best friends forever.
When Beezus is invited to a party, she practices dancing with Mr. Quimby. Soon after, she surprises everyone by coming home from the mall with her ears pierced. Beezus is tired of being the responsible daughter and wants to have fun and look nice at the party. Mr. and Mrs. Quimby are sympathetic to their daughter and acknowledge that their little girl is growing up.
Daisy and Ramona enjoy spending time together after school at the Kidds’ house. When Daisy’s brother Jeremy won’t let the girls watch “Big Hospital,” they decide to play dress-up instead. Wearing high heels and a long pink gown, Ramona pretends to be a princess. Daisy, in a black dress, pretends to be a witch and pushes Princess Ramona into the “dungeon,” which is the Kidds’ attic. Ramona loses her balance in the attic and falls through the attic floor, creating a hole in the dining room ceiling. As much as she loves Daisy, Ramona is embarrassed by the accident and just wants to go home. Daisy promises not to tell their friends at school, and her parents are understanding of the fiasco.
When Beezus arrives home after Abby’s party, Ramona is surprised to hear that no one danced. The boys played chess and stood on their hands, while the girls tried on makeup and played board games. Beezus realizes that she and Abby aren’t really the popular type, and that’s OK with her. Ramona falls asleep feeling glad that her sister is a sensible girl.
Ramona and Daisy notice an ad in the newspaper that uses the words gonna and shoulda and know that their teacher would never approve. Together they write a letter to the merchant and chastise him for using slang in his ad. The merchant writes the girls back and promises never to use such language again. They show their teacher his letter, and she posts it on the class bulletin board.
When Roberta refuses to wear bunny slippers, Ramona realizes that even her tiny baby sister has a will of her own. When she tries to feed Roberta strained peas, the baby spits up all over Ramona. Mrs. Quimby explains that messes are a part of being a mother. The next day, just before the photographer snaps her photograph, he tells her to “Say peas!” and Ramona winces, remembering the way it felt when Roberta spit on her. As a result, Ramona’s class picture is the worst of the bunch.
Anxious to be old enough to babysit like Beezus, Ramona convinces her mother that she is responsible enough to care for Clawed while the Kidds are away. Roberta, glad to have someone in the household smaller than she is, follows Clawed around and becomes stuck in the kitty condo. Ramona sings a nursery rhyme to her and is able to get her unstuck.
On Valentine’s Day, the fourth-graders in Mrs. Meacham’s class exchange valentines. Ramona gives one of her funny face school pictures to a boy nicknamed Yard Ape, hoping he will know she thinks he’s special. To her delight, Ramona finds a handwritten valentine in her box from him, which she vows to keep forever.
Ramona plans a party in the park for her 10th birthday and invites all of her friends — even Susan, whom Ramona has never really liked. Everyone makes a fuss over baby Roberta, which annoys Ramona since she is the birthday girl. Yard Ape and a few other boys spy on the party from the playground, and Ramona finally offers them birthday cake. Susan refuses to eat a piece, explaining that it causes cavities. Finally Susan confesses that she wishes she could be more like Ramona, whom everyone likes, and not have to be perfect all the time. Susan eats a piece of cake, and Ramona is happy that everyone can finally be friends.
Ramona’s father and mother are presented as the authority figures at home. They care for their children and guide them through emotions and decisions. They give their children room to become individuals but establish family rules. Mrs. Meacham, Ramona’s fourth-grade teacher, is genuinely interested in helping her students learn. Her students know this and respect her.
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