I can't believe my Reading Ramona Project is at an end, but I've finished all eight books.
What struck me most about re-reading the Ramona series as an adult is how timeless the books are. The first book, Beezus and Ramona, was first published in 1955. The last book, Ramona's World, was published in 1999. Over 44 years, Beverly Cleary shows Ramona grow and mature from Beezus's pesky little sister (age 4) to a girl who's winning at growing up (age 10 or "zeroteen").
The only thing that seemed to date the books a little were the original illustrations by Louis Darling and Alan Tiegreen. Tracy Dockray re-illustrated the Ramona books in 2006. I looked her new illustrations for Ramona the Brave, Ramona and her Mother, Ramona Quimby, Age 8, and Ramona Forever. I compared Dockray's illustrations to Tiegreen's in Ramona Forever.
I found that while the re-illustrated edition had about a third less illustrations, Dockray focused on included more in her illustrations. She included the whole Quimby family when she could often making use of two-page spreads. The reduction in total illustrations didn't really bother me. The illustrations that Dockray didn't use were smaller less consequential ones (e.g., the limo). Dockray used many of the same scenes that Tiegreen did, but as I already stated, she opened them up to included more people and more of the action in the scene.
Overall, I find that Dockray's new illustrations are more lively and enthusiastic. They really show Ramona's spunk. My favorite illustration in Ramona Forever is Ramona holding Roberta on page 191. My favorite illustration in Ramona the Brave is of Ramona lookign at the gorilla picture on page 25. In Ramona and her Mother, I like Ramona squirting the toothpaste on page 44. I have two favorite illustrations from Ramona Quimby, Age 8: Ramona and her father drawing feet on page 67 and Ramona in the car after dinner at Whooper Burger.
The story of how Ramona came into being is an interesting one. Cleary realized that all the characters in her book (one of the Henry Huggins series, I think) were all only children. She decided to give Beezus a little sister. A lady in the neighborhood called out "Ramona" as Cleary was creating the little sister. The rest, as they say, is history. Here's what Cleary had to sat about Ramona in her memoir My Own Two Feet: " I wrote in 'Ramona,' made several references to her, gave her one brief scene and thought that was the end of her. Little did I dream, to use an expression from nooks of my childhood, that she would take over books of her own, that she would grow and become a well-known and loved character" (254).
Readers, if you are all as sad as I am about the end of the Ramona series, take heart! Several good read-alikes exist. Top Ramona read-alike contenders are Lucy Rose, Judy Moody, Junie B. Jones, and Clementine. Here are a few lists where you can explore other series and titles.
Little Willow's Ramona Readalikes List
Shannon Kruer's Ivy and Bean Read-a-like Compilation (PUBYAC)
Joanna Leivent's Junie B Jones read-a-likes compilation (PUBYAC)
Sno-Isle Libraries Readalike: Ramona Quimby List
Joplin Public Library's Junie B. Jones Read-a-likes list
But what about those older readers who want a spunky girl as the heroine? My own suggestion would be Coleen Murtagh Paraore's Wedding Planner's Daughter Series. The fifth book, Wish I Might, was just released in May.
I apologize for this very long post, but I've so enjoyed my Reading Ramona project. The movie Ramona and Beezus premieres tomorrow in theaters.
Stay tuned for details about my two new reading projects next week.