Sunday, April 8, 2012

Ramona the Brave

Fortunately for all of us, my local used bookstore got two more Ramona books in, so we don’t have to resort to The Mouse and the Motorcycle just yet. Ramona the Brave was one that I really loved growing up, but this time around it didn’t seem like much awesomeness happend. Who cares, though, becaise it’s the book that spawned the name for this humble blog!

We open with Beezus and Ramona walking home from the park. Beezus is furious, and Ramona is thrilled because for once she got to stand up for her big sister. When they arrive home, Ramona hurries into the house to tell her mother what happened. Apparently while they were at the park, some big boys started calling Beezus ‘Jesus Beezus’ and brave and virtuous Ramona hopped off of her swing and preached them a sermon about not taking the Lord’s name in vain. She then capped it off by sticking her thumbs in her ear, sticking out her tongue, and wiggling her fingers. Word, Ramona. You could give Oral Roberts a run for his money. Anyway, Beezus is angry, not at the big boys as Ramona had assumed, but at Ramona for embarrassing her. Ramona feels awful because she meant to help Beezus, not hurt her, and they come up with a plan to call Beezus ‘Beatrice’ in public. All’s well that ends well.

Next chapter, we have Mrs. Quimby going on mysterious errands, dressing better, and getting a haircut. Somebody’s having an affair! Sweet, Mrs. Quimby, I hope he's rich and good looking. Beezus and Ramona are left home alone, and while Beezus goes to her room to read, Ramona sits at the kitchen table to draw a picture of the cat on the can of cat food that Picky-picky eats. She’s working in different mediums – both crayon and pencil, which I think is pretty forward thinking, until she realizes that her red crayon is missing. She goes into her room to look for it, and it’s broken on her bed. Beezus, the unfeeling jezebel, sat on it and broke it, and feels no guilt. She and Ramona get into it, and Beezus tells Ramona to grow up. Ramona shouts ‘Can’t you see I’m trying!’ and I feel sorry for her. Ramona lies down on her bed to look at her book of African animals, and scares herself a few times with a picture of a gorilla. Beezus gets mad because Ramona keeps looking at the gorilla and then slamming the book shut. Shut up, Beezus. They start fighting again, and Beezus says, and I kid you not, ‘Shut up, Varlet. Yonder car approacheth. Our noble mother cometh.’ At this, I laugh so hard I almost *but not quite* pee my pants. Mrs. Quimby comes in as they’re yelling and says that she understands why they fight, because sharing a small room is too hard for the girls. She informs them that they are going to add a small bedroom on to the back of the house. The girls are thrilled, especially Ramona, because when they ask who gets the new bedroom, Mrs. Quimby says they’ll trade off every six months (ugh. Too much work.) and that Ramona will get it first, since Beezus gets everything else first. Whoot! This small victory, plus the idea of having a hole in the back of the house, sends Ramona straight to cloud nine. Whatever floats your boat, Ramona. Oh, and Mrs. Quimby got a job, so now she’s liberated. Word.

Ramona and Howie are playing brick factory, which is a game that involves getting old bricks and pounding them with rocks until they crumble into smithereens. Awesome? Suddenly, the men who are going to build the room come and Howie and Ramona spend the afternoon pestering them and generally having a grand old time. When the men leave for the day, Ramona goes to where they’ve poured the concrete foundation and draws her special Q with ears and whiskers in the wet concrete so the room will always be hers. Progress continues, and soon it’s time for the highly anticipated hole in the side of the house. That night, Beezus and Ramona have fun scaring each other and talking about all of the things that might sneak in through the hole – a ghost or a gorilla without bones, for example.

Now it’s the first day of school, and Ramona is totes stoked because she’s going to tell about the hole in her house during show and tell. Ramona makes her own bed so that her mother can be liberated, and sets off for school. She is reuinited with Davy, her crush from last year, in the playground, and she thinks about how small the Kindergardeners look. Most of her 1st grade class were in her Kindergarden class, and Ramona, unfortunately, seated next to her nemesis, Susan of the Spring Curls. Ramona desk has her name taped to the front, and she quickly adds her special decorative Q to the end of her name. Her teacher’s name is Mrs. Griggs and she is lame and boring. Ramona gets to tell the class all about the hole chopped in her house at Show and Tell. Unfortunately the class laughs at her and doesn’t believe her. Howie, the douchebag, doesn’t back her up because technically they didn’t chop a hole in her house, they used crowbars to pry some siding off. Methinks someone is jealous of Ramona’s awesome Show and Tell story. Ramona yells that she’ll never play brick factory with Howie again, and Howie shrugs it off and says that he’ll come over and take his bricks back. When Ramona gets home, her mother drags her off on some boring errands, and when they return Howie, sure enough, has already taken his bricks back. I hate you, Howie.

Blah blah blah, Mrs. Grigg sucks, and Beezus has a crush on her teacher. Ramona is doing awesome in reading, but Davy is an undiagnosed dyslexic, so Ramona tries to help him. Unfortunately, Mrs. Grigg thinks that Ramona is not keeping her eyes on her own work, and Ramona keeps getting in trouble. Um, Mrs. Grigg? You have a kid who is reading words backwards in class and you haven’t noticed yet. Maybe if you kept your eyes on your own work and left Ramona alone you wouldn’t be such a deadbeat teacher. Proving once again that she has tunnel vision and is probably dissatisfied with her life, Mrs. Grigg assigns them to make paper bag owls. When Susan, who has no imagination, copies Ramona’s owl, Mrs. Grigg praises Susan’s owl. Ramona can’t tell that Susan copied her because then she’ll be called a tattletale, so, unable to deal with her catch-22 situation, Ramona balls up her owl and throws it away. Ramona’s distaste for Susan grows, and mine does too. I know in one of these books they end up being friends, but I don’t think I’ll ever forgive Susan. Parent’s night is that night, and Ramona doesn’t have an owl to leave on her desk, so she crumples up Susan’s to even the playing field a little bit. Susan, of course, tattles, and Ramona runs home so fast that she falls down and scrapes her knees. She tells her mom when she gets home and Mrs. Quimby cleans her wounds and tells her how brave she is. Ramona doesn’t want her mom to know that she’s not brave – she’s scared because she did something bad. There is, however, some good news – the new room is finished and Ramona gets to sleep in it tonight!

The Quimby parents head off to family night and then to Howie’s parents’ house afterward, and Howie’s old bag grandmother comes over to babysit. She is a total deadbeat and just sits and watches TV and knits instead of having any interaction with the children. Wait, who is watching Howie and Willa Jean? This is very strange. Ramona tries to make conversation with Howie’s grandma and is basically ignored, so Ramona goes to bed early. Ramona worries about what Mrs. Grigg will say to her parents and writes her mother a note saying
‘Come here moth
er. Come here to me.’
Who could resist that? Ramona lies awake until her mother comes home, presumably with a little buzz from the partyin’ at Howie’s house. Mrs. Grigg has told Ramona’s parents that Ramona refused to make an owl for parents’ night and crumpled Susan’s owl. Beezus, who’s at the doorway, says that they’ll start making turkeys next and Ramona is upset because she knows the trouble will just start all over with turkeys. Ramona tells her mom the sad tale of her plagiarized owl, and Mrs. Quimby doesn’t understand why the owl copying episode upset Ramona so badly. Everyone else does, though. Mrs. Quimby says that Mrs. Grigg will expect Ramona to make an apology to Susan, and Ramona is stressed about it. Sure enough, the next day, Mrs. Grigg interrupts Show and Tell to humiliate Ramona, making her walk up to the front of the room and apologize to Susan in front of the whole class. Bitch. Susan smirks and then Ramona adds, in an aside that only Susan can hear, ‘Even if you are a copycat – who stinks!’ Slap that ho down, Ramona!

Ramona starts to get really bored in school. It’s rainy outside, Mrs. Grigg wear the same pea-soup green colored sweater every day (ew, on so many levels) and she has to wear Beezus’ old boots to school because she outgrew her red rain boots. One day, they are working in their workbooks, and there is a picture of a chair with a wrinkled slipcover and two sentences below saying ‘This is for Pal’ and ‘This is not for Pal.’ Pal is a mythical dog featured in their workbooks. Ramona, thinking outside the box, circles ‘This is for Pal’ thinking that Pal’s owner could have put a slipcover on the chair so that Pal could lie on it. That’s pretty smart for a first grader. Mrs. Grigg comes along and tells her she’s wrong without asking any questions and Ramona is upset. And now I’m going to tell you a long story, but you can skip it if you want:

When I was in third grade we had IQ tests done, which I guess is pretty standard. The IQ test had a lot of questions like Ramona’s Pal question, and honestly, if you had any advanced thought processes at all, you were bound to get most of them wrong. One question that I remember in particular had a picture of a clown, a girl with overly long bangs covering her eyes, a chair, and something else. You were supposed to circle the one picture of something that you don’t see every day. Now I don’t know about where you grew up, but in a very small southern farming town with a very big divide between wealthy and impoverished people, we didn’t see a whole lot of the circus, but there were a hell of a lot of unkempt people, so I circled the clown. That was incorrect, and you were supposed to circle the girl with the bangs. Anyway, when we got our results back from our IQ tests, mine was listed as being slightly above that of your average houseplant. So I was taken out of my Gifted and Talented classroom and put into a Special Ed. (at that time EMH) classroom. Seriously. Now, I’m not a rocket scientist, but considering the fact that when I went in to meet my Kindergarden teacher before school started I read her a chapter of Charlotte’s Web by myself, I was not, by any means, going to fit in well in an EMH classroom. My mom, who happened to be the G&T coordinator for our county at the time, threw a shit fit and had me retested with another, more accurate test. It turned out that I was not, in fact, on the same logical level as a fern, and I was moved back into my old classroom. However, for the rest of my grade school career (well, except for high school) I had to put up with teachers and peers insinuating that the only reason I was in the advanced classes was because of my mom. And that is why those kinds of questions are wrong. Thank you.

Back to Ramona.

Ramona is scared of the dark in her new room, and her Animals of Africa book is not helping the situation, because the picture of the gorilla is giving her nightmares. Ramona refuses to tell anyone that she’s afraid because she feels like if she does she’ll have failed at growing up. Aw. She suffers in silence, procrastinating before bedtime, trying to thin happy thoughts, and wishing she was sharing her room with Beezus again. One morning she tells her mother about a bad dream – she was standing by the zinnias in the backyard and something was chasing her, but she couldn’t run. Beezus dream-jacks her and says that she’s had that dream lots of times, and also that she has nightmares about standing in her school hallway in just her underwear. Ramona is bitter that Beezus even gets to have dreams first. She’s in such an ill mood that, when she gets to school, she sits on the bottom of the steps and frowns. She wonders what it’s like to have classes upstairs with the big kids, and thinks that anything must be better than first grade and Mrs. Grigg. Mr. Cardoza, Beezus’ hunka-hunka burnin’ teacher comes by and says, ‘I know who you are!’ Ramona, expecting him to say something like ‘You’re Beezus’ sister’ is not impressed until her calls her by name – Ramona Q – and gives her a big smile. She feels uplifted enough to head on to class.

Beezus loves school and Ramona hates it, especially on the day that Mrs. Grigg hands out progress reports. Ramona goes and hides hers in her underwear drawer, which is a great plan until show-off Beezus whips hers out at dinner. Ramona is forced to go get her progress report, and it’s not so bad, but apparently Mrs. Grigg still has not figured out that Davy is dyslexic, because she makes a comment about Ramona being more interested in other’s seatwork and needing to keep her hands to herself. Shut up, Mrs. Grigg. Ramona is very upset, and understandably so. Her mother, being a total juvenile herself, tells Ramona to grow up, and Ramona responds once again that she’s trying to. Really, Mrs. Quimby? You tell your six-year-old daughter to grow up? That’s good parenting right there. Ramona gets so upset that she announces that she’s going to say a bad word. Mrs. Quimby tells her to go ahead, and Ramona yells ‘Guts!’ about five times. Ramona is shocked when the family laughs at her. Mrs. Quimby says ‘Ramona, what are we going to do with you?’ and Ramona says ‘Love me!’ Aw, poor Ramona. Ramona thinks they love Beezus more than her, and her parents explain that love isn’t like a cup of sugar that gets used up, there’s plenty of it to go around. Ramona says that they don’t laugh at Beezus like they do her, and Beezus says that they used to. She lists a couple of times when she was traumatized by her parents laughing at her and then actually sticks up for Ramona because Mrs. Grigg is kind of a lame teacher. Wow, Beezus. I actually don’t hate you right now. Maybe there’s some redemption for you, after all. Ramona goes into her room and gets her Animals of Africa book and hides it under the couch cushion and, for once, gets a good night’s sleep.

The next day, Ramona is determined that things will be better, so she decides to have an adventure and takes a different route to school. This plan backfires when she is confronted with a strange dog, who growls at her. Ramona throws her lunch box at it, but misses, and as it’s following her, she throws her shoe at it too. She misses but to her dismay the dog picks up the shoe, takes it into the yard, and starts chewing on it. Knowing there’s not a chance in hell that she’s getting close enough to the dog to get her shoe back, Ramona picks up her lunch box and heads to school, one shoe off and one shoe on. She gets to school and tries to hide her shoeless foot by sitting with her leg curled under her, but wouldn’t you know it? Today is the day that Mrs. Grigg finally asks Ramona to lead the Pledge of Allegiance, an honor that Ramona has previously been denied. Do kids still say the Pledge in school? Ramona is busted, but Mrs. Grigg, surprisingly, understands when Ramona tells the dog story. She says that Ramona can borrow an old boot from the closet when they go out for recess, but Ramona ain’t having that. She decides to make a slipper out of paper. When the class goes outside for recess, Ramona goes into the bathroom and gets some paper towels. She then sneaks upstairs to Beezus’ classroom and asks to borrow a stapler. She somehow manages to make a slipper out of paper towels, and this kids’ a damn genius. She heads back down to class. Mrs. Grigg, who was apparently off drinking cough syrup or smoking crack behind the lunchroom, somehow managed to not notice that Ramona was not on the playground, but she is very impressed with Ramona’s slipper. Suddenly, there’s a call from the office – the owner of the dog found Ramona’s shoe in their yard and has brought it to school. Ramona gets her shoe back, all is well, and we have

The End. Which is awesome, because I'm going to the opera tonight! I'm so stoked I can't sit still. I'll post Ramona's World next week!