The Best Pest

I have been reading the Ramona books to Phoebe at night. We finished Beezus and Ramona last week and have moved on to Ramona the Pest. A friend of mine told me that Beverly Cleary got the idea for Ramona’s character when she saw a little girl walking along the sidewalk eating a stick of butter. I think few authors have done such a good job writing real children, and parents too.

I was surprised by one passage of Beezus and Ramona – when the girls, walking by themselves to the library (!) – met some elderly neighbors, and one of the neighbors told Ramona she had beautiful eyes. Beezus was used to hearing this, the narration ran, but it didn’t bother her – Mother had told her that blue eyes were just as pretty as brown. I had to read that twice to make sure I had it right – that it was brown-eyed Ramona who usually got compliments, rather than blue-eyed Beezus. In my family it’s the opposite – in fact, it kind of bothers me that not a week goes by without some stranger telling Phoebe how beautiful her blue eyes are, and then turning to Mallory and saying, “Oh, and your eyes are brown.” Thud. (Actually, they’re hazel, but whatever.)

I’ve realized how much the Ramona books contributed to my vocabulary. Scowl is a word I most definitely learned from Ramona, along with davenport and disdain and retorted and pieface. I learned about tin-can stilts and hair bluing; I can still remember Mr Quimby’s grandmother’s words of wisdom, such as “One time is funny, two times is silly, three times is a spanking” (and I sympathize with Ramona’s irritation with said grandmother).

Phoebe can read a bunch of sight words now, but when she picks up a book and reads aloud to herself, she still prefers to make up the story. She says things like “she replied” and “she said angrily” and “she nottered to herself” (which doesn’t make sense, but it has the right cadence, if you know what I mean). I hope that she still loves to read when she actually learns to read. And I hope she doesn’t get tired of Ramona before we get to the best one (Ramona and Her Mother). That last scene, with the suitcase – that’s my favorite scene of all, and I can’t wait to read it to her.


aimee said...

Mallory has hazel eyes? Aww! Just like most of us! :). Although, I wished for brown eyes when I was a child. Noah has dark, beautiful brown eyes (like the ones I wanted!) that stand out so I can see that happening if Ramona's eyes were like that. Rhett's eyes are blue and have wonderful markings. So my point, what is my point? That both are remarkable and should be complimented. Just like your daughters.

Karen said...

I love "nottered to herself." It does sound like it might mean something. I don't think that I ever read the Ramona books to you because you read them to yourself!

Chris said...

I always like it when Phoebe pretends to read and she makes up redundant sentences, like "She said with her mouth...", or "She saw with her eyes..".