That’s a nifty get-around for the letter ‘Q’ isn’t it? As a child, I adored the Ramona series by Beverly Cleary. One of the pleasures of the books for me, growing up in England, was reading and puzzling out ‘exotic’ words like ‘kindergarten’, ‘sidewalk’, ‘steam shovels’, and ‘locomotives’. But the main draw was the character of Ramona herself – Beverly Cleary completely nails the way children act and think – and so Ramona becomes universal, much loved by all.
One of the things I liked about Ramona was her imagination, and how events that seemed logical to her completely baffled grown-ups. This appealed to me as I was always getting into similar misunderstandings with the adults in my life, who simply didn’t understand the way I played. Such as I used to pretend the stairs was a waterfall, and a favourite game was sending dolls to rescue one-another from the ‘rapids’. I used to tie them to the banisters (in order so they wouldn’t get swept away) and the only way to tie them securely was around their neck. In my world they were just holding on to the ropes while they did another daring rescue; in my parent’s world it looked like I was staging a doll mass-murder by hanging. So I fully sympathised with and understood Ramona’s behaviour.
It is amazing to think that the first book featuring Ramona (Beezus and Ramona) was published in 1955, and the last one (Ramona’s World) was published in 1999. Over forty years, and still Ramona is going strong. The illustrations play a big part in this - the earlier ones especially, like the one below by Louis Darling, capture expressions and emotions so well. He was also brilliant at showing movement.
The Ramona Series
Published: 1955 - 1999
Author: Beverly Cleary
Illustrator for pictured: Louis Darling (left), Thelma Lambert (top)
Imaginative fact one: I used to practice flying by jumping from my cupboard onto my bed, flapping my arms.
Imaginative fact two: One of my favourite games as a child was playing ‘libraries’, piling my books up on the stairs.
Imaginative fact three: I also used to build ‘tree’-houses on the stairs; each step was a different room. My family weren't impressed.
Imaginative fact four: Another much-loved game was sitting in a cardboard box on the lawn and pretending I was in a boat crossing the sea.
Imaginative fact five: I was mad keen on pretending to be a spy, and would practice quickly changing my clothes or appearance, and cutting holes out of newspapers to watch my mum cooking dinner. The only problem was that casually hanging around the kitchen, pretending to read the newspaper, and wearing a false moustache, was quite conspicuous behaviour for a spy – especially when you are a girl aged seven.