A couple of years ago, Audible had a great sale. I was able to purchase most of Beverly Cleary’s most popular books for about $4 apiece. I have been reading the Ramona books to my seven-year-old twins, and now that the girls are out of school, we have been listening to some of the books that we haven’t read.
The girls wanted to start with Beezus and Ramona, which takes place before Ramona the Pest. They were very interested to see what Ramona was like before she started Kindergarten. I’d like to point out that Stockard Channing serves as narrator for all of the Ramona books, so that’s kind of neat in a whimsical sort of way.
Beezus and Ramona differs from the other Ramona books because Ramona’s older sister Beezus is the protagonist. Ramona is certainly the one who serves as catalyst, but the focus is on how Ramona’s actions affect Beezus.
Over the course of the book, Ramona writes her name on every page of a library book because she wants to keep it, she interrupts Beezus’ art class, and she even invites the entire preschool class over for a party without telling her mother! Beezus is generally annoyed by Ramona’s actions, and she feels frustrated with herself for being annoyed. Beezus looks at the relationship between her mother and her Aunt Beatrice, and she feels ashamed that she doesn’t have the same rapport with Ramona.
One of the main themes of the Ramona series is Ramona’s struggle to control her behavior. She doesn’t mean to be a “pest”, but it isn’t easy to be good. In this book, Ramona is unrepentantly naughty. She takes pride in her misbehavior- whether it’s eating someone else’s lollipop or bashing her tricycle into the coffee table and ruining the checkers game- Ramona revels in doing what she wants.
I would recommend Beezus and Ramona. My girls enjoyed listening to this book, but from a storytelling perspective, I can see why the focus of the series shifts to Ramona. Beezus is sweet, but she’s rather bland. It is also a huge relief that Ramona gains a little more self-control; there is definitely such a thing as too much naughtiness.