I have been reading the Ramona series with my seven year old twins. We are also listening to the Henry Huggins series in the car, so 2016 is officially our Beverly Cleary summer.
Ramona the Brave takes place almost a year after the events in Ramona the Pest. Ramona is now a first grader. She is proud that she is no longer a “kindergarten baby”, but she must get used to a new classroom and a new routine. The book begins with Ramona standing up to boys on the playground who are teasing her big sister about her nickname (Beezus). Towards the end of the book, Ramona has an encounter with a big dog- can she still be brave?
This book may have been written over forty years ago, but it is still relevant to a modern American childhood. There are still classroom struggles, and copycats are still frowned upon. I remember many vignettes from the Ramona series, but the owl scrunching incident stands out among all the memories. Ramona decides to give her paper bag owl glasses to make him appear wise, and her classmate Susan copies her idea. When the teacher comes around, she praises Susan’s creativity. Ramona hides her owl, lest she appear to be the copycat. Later, in a fit of a pique, Ramona scrunches up Susan’s owl. Cleary captures the indignation of having one’s creativity copied, and when Ramona is punished for scrunching the owl, it serves as a reminder to maintain composure and that life is often unfair.
I would recommend Ramona the Brave. We have been enjoying the entire series, and I would suggest starting at the beginning- either with Beezus and Ramona or perhaps Ramona the Pest. These books will appeal to middle grade readers, but younger children might enjoy having them read out loud.