Illustrations by Alan Tiegreen, though my copy
has a revised cover by JoAnn Scribner.
The first Beverly Cleary book I've read and reviewed since her death, so it felt extra special. It also doesn't hurt that Ramona is becoming a more developed character. I feel like Cleary's early books were entertaining stories, and while the characters faced problems, they were more... sitcom-y - and I mean that in the best way possible! I think her writing changed as she wrote more, which I can see when reading her books in order. I also think it's nice it works that way because children can enjoy her early books when they're starting to read chapter books, and then as they're ready to read more emotional and deep books, they'll have these, like they can grow along with the series.
Ramona thinks a lot about whether her family is happy or not, and after her dad loses his job, it seems like "not." He's grumpy and is around more than Ramona is used to. When Beezus comments on their father's smoking habit, in relation to the family finances as well as his health, Ramona takes up the cause.
I remember so much of this book vividly: Nosmo King, run between the raindrops, french fries "crisp on the outside and mealy inside." But I didn't remember the weight of Ramona's worries. When I was a kid, I often worried about people around me regarding their health and death; I'm not sure if I picked up on it then in these books, but I'm sure it registered with me and made me feel understood.
I appreciate it now as an adult because I think we're too quick to brush off children's concerns as frivolous or unfounded when the worries seem important to them, and very often are just as serious as adults' worries. I think the way Cleary shows her understanding of children's thoughts is why she's still so widely read these days.