Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary

Beezus and RamonaFirst, congratulations to Janelle, winner of the Hoppy Easter Giveaway here. This weekend might not be a post office run, but the weekend after probably will be! I really enjoyed reading all of your egg, Easter, and baby anecdotes; what a bright spot in the week!

Next, I think that giveaway marks the absence of about 50 books from my household. Between giveaways, borrowed books sent back to their owners, and the first round of distribution of “dubious books” to unsuspecting friends, I can see a small dent in the piles of books that don’t fit on the shelves. (Hey, it’s a health hazard!) I have four five in my current “deal with” pile, and I suspect that I’ll file two for later, read one, and just take a peek at the last two. After that, I’ve got ten or so books that are waiting for me to finish just the last chapter or so, and then--then!--I will have a dresser-top, and I can move on to the piles on the floor. This is exciting as I hate clutter and I like things to have a home. I’m grateful to have had so many great reads, but the time has come to redistribute the wealth.

Speaking of great reads, the back of my mind always holds a selection of books that I really, really loved between the ages of about five and ten. I remember reading stories about Ramona Quimby, and being excited that I had some idea about where she lived (within driving distance of my house). Because I felt so strongly about Ramona, I sometimes think less than kindly about Beezus, who is sometimes--in Ramona’s eyes--a pretty overbearing big sister.

While re-reading Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary (HarperCollins) recently, I was struck, as I often have been recently, by how times have changed. The more I think about it, though, I might have been frustrated by the disconnect between the new (and in my opinion, not as good) illustrations and the setting. Beezus and Ramona was first published in the 1950s, and reflects that fact; new illustrations showing a more modern mom and kids don’t provide the context that a kid reader might need to understand that this, that, or the other thing--well, it happened a long time ago. It’s okay that a book talks about things in the past, but it seems unfair to update illustrations without acknowledging that the text is the same, especially for younger readers. All that said, I guess I'm okay with a little creative misdirection--with updating a cover for a new generation, with encouraging readers to know and love and understand books that have staying power.

Aside from that, Ramona really is a pest in Beezus and Ramona, but that may be why I still like this as a companion to the Ramona books. After all, it’s all about point of view.

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