Ramona Quimby, Age 8

Oh, Ramona! A regular old kid that is so easy to love! I have vague memories of Ramona and sister Beezus from when I was a kid, so I was happy to re-read this classic now, as an adult. And what did I find? A fabulously normal little girl I could relate to, even as an adult .

The best part of this book are what I call “Ramona moments”. These are Ramona’s moments when something classic and unfortunate (and usually somewhat amusing) happens, and I feel I have been in that exact place before.

Ramona moment number 1 comes at lunchtime in the cafeteria. The third grade fad is bringing boiled eggs for lunch, and Ramona insists to her mother on bringing one, even though she does not like boiled eggs. Why boiled eggs? Because they are fun to crack on one’s forehead, of course. Ramona pops out her hard boiled egg and smacks it on her head… only to discover it’s actually a raw egg! Eight year old utter embarrassment follows as she heads to the school office to clean up.

Except, wait, here’s the thing: as far as I can tell, eight year old utter embarrassment feels pretty much the same as eighteen year old utter embarrassment and twenty-eight year old utter embarrassment. The moment last year I sprained my ankle when out to lunch with my office and was writhing in pain on the ground for several minutes while my new (rather well-known) boss and all my new colleagues looked down on me discussing how I should get to the hospital… Yes, I’m pretty sure I felt Ramona’s exact eight-year old embarrassment. My own Ramona moment.

Ramona moment number two… Ramona generally likes her teacher, Mrs. Whaley. That is, until one day she overhears Mrs. Whaley (talking to another teacher) call Ramona a show-off and a nuisance. Ramona is utterly crushed that her teacher thinks these things of her! She spends the next few months trying to be invisible, the opposite of a nuisance. Of course, this ends up in her puking in class due to staying silent when feeling sick. Still, haven’t we all, as adults, experienced that crushing moment when we hear something less-than-flattering about ourselves? I’ve certainly pulled a Ramona, trying with all my might to then act the opposite. Oh, Ramona.

Final Ramona moment that  made me laugh. Ramona is out of school sick. The second day, she’s sick enough to be home, but just well enough to be bored and cranky. (Oh, do I know that feeling!) Her father is late coming home, and Ramona is convinced he is buying her a present, since she’s been home oh-so-sick. In fact, he was discovering their car needed expensive repairs, and not only has no present for Ramona, but seems more concerned over how they will afford a transmission than the fact that his eight-year-old was home sick. Even as an adult, I know I am guilty of the “getting-better crankies” as well as the melodramatic expectation that the world will stop for my own sickness.

In the end, Ramona’s moments make her just so lovable. There is no driving plot to the book, but instead it’s driven by Ramona’s wonderfully written character; it is the story of day-to-day life in an average family, where siblings fight, parents are loving but frazzled, and money is tight (refreshing to read about, given many other contemporary children’s books often ignore this subject). Ramona reminded me that I may grow older, but part of me doesn’t grow up.