Sunday, November 2, 2008

Age 8

I chose to re-read a classic: Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary. I had not read this book since, probably, when I was around the age of the character Ramona herself. Although the book has been around for 20-some-odd years, it still feels contemporary and relevant in reading it, and I hope that girls are still enjoying it today.

From the very beginning, I found Ramona identifiable. I couldn't help but get nostalgic about the incredible feeling of importance surrounding being an 8 year old girl. I remember taking an art class at this age and painting "Age 8 1/2" on the bottom of every single painting. It was imperative that everyone know I was 8, ahem, and a half years old. There was a sense of strength and wisdom attached to being this age. Years before I was socialized to be a quiet girl, I talked constantly and thought that everybody needed to know what I had to say. I smiled at moments like when Ramona felt important and independent taking the bus alone for the first time or felt the need to correct 4-year-old Willa Jean's minor errors. This is an age where being smart, strong, and confident is still considered a positive thing for girls.

Beverly Cleary has such a great attention to detail. While Ramona's daily activities and problems are not relevant to all girls' experiences, I think that a lot of girls or women like me can identify with them a lot. All of the new experiences and excitements of Ramona's new school are documented, as well as all of the embarassments and frustrations. Maybe most of us didn't throw up in the middle of class, but we've all done/had something mortifying happen to us during class that we still vividly remember to this day.

Ramona also worries about and is made fun of for the size of her feet, but always comes back strong, insisting that there is nothing wrong with her feet and that she is just growing, like she is supposed to be.

She thinks about things like her dad's going back to college while working in the supermarket warehouse and the bully at school.

Ramona Quimby, Age 8 is fairly light, fun reading, but it serves its purpose. It is a fun book for girls to read. It also provides an identifiable character, working through things and experiencing things like them. Do girls really have that today? I'm not sure if they do. I know that we talked about in class, and part of the purpose of choosing this book was to find this out, whether more recent books than Are You There God... were out there. I couldn't find them if they are. I hope there are.

I also hope that 8-year-old girls are even reading. I feel like so many aren't and I hope that I'm wrong. Reading books like the Ramona series is so much better for their development than watching the Bratz movie. A book like Ramona gives a "normal" character for girls to identify with, rather than something ridiculous to aspire to be. Ramona doesn't make girls insecure in themselves or want to purchase products.

She's a strong girl and a realistic girl.

1 comment:

amanda said...

I can't really remember back to when I was younger, but I just remember reading those diary books from like the civil war and whatnot. Anyway my point is I wish I read more books that I could have identified with. I love the line about her having big feet. As someone that has "average" sized feet, I used to always feel self conscious about my feet. I think they just grew faster than the rest of my body, but I finally caught up. But girls should realize that lame stuff like that doesn't matter. And I totally agree that there arent a lot of good role model books out there today for young girls to read.