Ramona and Her Father
by Beverly Cleary

“Ramona and Her Father” is part of the Ramona Quimby series by American author Beverly Cleary. It is a story of how a second-grader copes with her father’s unemployment and her hopes of getting her father off the smoking habit.

Ramona and her older sister Beezus are expecting their father to bring them out for burgers as it is his pay day. Ramona is also excited about Christmas (which is three months away) and decides to prepare a Christmas wish list in advance. The girls’ hopes are dashed when Mr Quimby comes home with the news that he has been laid off work.

Changes have to be made. For one, Christmas gifts need to be dropped from their list of priorities. More pressing needs such as groceries and loan repayments are necessities that force Mrs Quimbly to move from a part-time to full-time job. Mr Quimby takes on the role of stay-at-home dad. Part of the effort to save costs involves having to put up with many days of dreary dinners, prepared from a huge pumpkin that was part-eaten by Picky-picky the cat.

The mood of the family also changes. Mr Quimby’s sense of humour diminishes as he waits daily for the phone to bring good news of a successful job interview. Mrs Quimby is always tired from the rigours of her new job. Even Picky-picky the cat becomes picky about its downgraded cat food. Beezus, as usual, gets the periodic mood swings which Ramona’s mother attributes to “that age”. Ramona’s insecurity stems from not being able to help out financially as none of the options in her mind seem to be viable. Then one day, she sees a child in a television advertisement and that brings possibilities of making a million dollars. Now in good spirits, she attempts to unsuccessfully lift the family’s spirit as well. Her father gets even crosser when he has an argument with Beezus one night and she criticizes him for his smoking habit. This incident pulls Ramona back into a state of insecurity which is now rooted in concerns for her father’s health rather than the family’s financial situation.

Through the dark days of financial uncertainty up to Christmas, Ramona learns that a “happy” family does not mean a family that is constantly in a good mood. She realizes that her family members will have good days and bad, just like her.

I like how symbols are used in the story as a form of expressions eg. crayon colours which represent Ramona’s feelings and the crown of burs that show how something initially attractive can have undesirable consequences. This book is excellent for discussions with children on how to manage difficult situations and to distinguish between conflicts and the commitment to love.

The Ramona Quimby series has been translated into many languages as well as into a television series. The character has, in fact, been “immortalised” in the form of a bronze statue in The Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden for Children situated in Grant Park, Portland.

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