Our September book: Ramona and her Father, by Beverly Cleary
A review of our September read:
This month, we spent time with Beverly Cleary’s enduring, precocious, and precious character, Ramona Quimby. Ramona and Her Father is the fourth book in Cleary’s series devoted to the Quimby family, and appeared in print twelve years after the Quimbys first leapt onto the world stage in 1955.
Ramona and Her Father was a Newbery Honor Book in 1978, and it’s not hard to see why. Ramona is — at least according to this probably biased reviewer — one of kidlit’s most genuine child characters. Smart, funny, inventive, brave, and cheeky, Ramona feels deeply, dreams big, and is not afraid to live out loud.
As the book begins, Ramona’s biggest dilemmas are her clashes with her older sister Beezus and figuring out what to put on her epic Christmas wishlist. But then Ramona’s dad comes home from work on payday (just as the girls are anticipating a delicious dinner out) and informs the family that he has lost his job. The mood in the Quimby house shifts then, as Ramona and her folks navigate this bump in the road. Everyone is just a little bit grumpier, things are strained, and Ramona’s dad seems even more entrenched in his smoking habit than he was before.
Ramona, self-appointed family cheergiver, sets out to figure out how she can help contribute to the family’s income, stop her dad from smoking himself slowly to death, and lighten the mood. But it’s a big burden for such small shoulders, and Ramona’s family just don’t always get her.
Ramona and her Father is a light, joyful read, suitable even for the youngest listeners in the family (though you may want to have some family chats around the smoking and spanking references in the dialogue), yet it contains hidden depths that explore the heart of what it means to be a small kid navigating a big old world.
Ramona and her Father discussion questions:
Did you like Ramona and her Father? What did you enjoy? What didn’t you enjoy?
Think of the three best words to describe Ramona, and then try to identify the scene or moment from the book that you think most defines who Ramona is as a person.
Ramona and Beezus have a rocky relationship, but do you think they really love each other? Why or why not? Can you think of any moments from the story which prove this?
How does Ramona and her Father show a family dealing with change? What change has your family experienced?
Which character in this story do you most relate to? Why?
Discuss: Discuss point-of-view and perspective by talking about how Ramona and her Father is written in third-person limited point-of-view. This means that we hear about Ramona, not from Ramona, and our perspective is limited because we see inside Ramona’s head (all her thoughts and wonderings) but not inside those of the others in her family. What kind of effect does this have on the story? How would Ramona have told the story in her own words? (You might want to write a page in an imagined journal by Ramona to explore this).
Creative writing: Take a favourite chapter or scene from Ramona and her Father, and rewrite it from Beezus’s perspective. Or Mr Quimby’s. Or Picky-Picky’s!
Persuasive writing: In what ways is Ramona’s story dated by today’s standards? Should books be rewritten to make sense to contemporary readers, or should they stay as the author originally wrote them? Write a letter to the readers of Ramona and her Father attempting to convince them that your opinion on this matter is the right one.
Media: Watch the 2010 film, Ramona and Beezus, which is based in part on Ramona and her Father. Consider what you like and don’t like about the film adaptation. Do you think the actors portrayed the Quimbys as you imagined them?
Read: Find other books about Ramona, or explore the series about Henry Huggins. Enjoy!
Visit: Author Beverly Cleary’s website: BeverlyCleary.com.
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