Authors: Beverly Cleary
amona Quimby was nine years old. She had brown hair, brown eyes, and no cavities. She had a mother, a father, a big sister named Beatrice who was called Beezus by the family, andâthis was the exciting partâa baby sister named Roberta after her father, Robert Quimby.
“Look at her tiny fingernails,” Ramona marveled as she looked at the sleeping Roberta, “and her little eyebrows. She is already a whole person, only little.” Ramona couldn't wait for the first day of school so she could spread the news about her baby sister.
That day finally came. It was a warm September day, and Ramona, neat and clean, with lunch bag in hand, half skipped, half hopped, scrunching through dry leaves on the sidewalk. She was early, she knew, but Ramona was the sort of girl who was always early because something might happen that she didn't want to miss. The fourth grade was going to be the best year of her life, so far.
Ramona was first to arrive at the bus stop in front of Mrs. Pitt's house. Mrs. Pitt came out the front door and began sweeping her front steps.
“Hi, Mrs. Pitt,” Ramona called out. “Guess what! My baby sister is two months old.”
“Good for her,” said Mrs. Pitt, agreeable to a baby in the neighborhood. Babies did not scatter candy wrappers or old spelling papers on the lawn in front of her house.
Ramona pretended she was playing hopscotch until her friend Howie, who was already familiar with Roberta, joined her along with other children, some with their mothers, who were excited about the first day of school. “Hi, Ramona,” he said, and leaned against a tree in the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street. He opened his lunch bag and began to eat his sandwich. Ramona knew he was doing this so he wouldn't be bothered carrying his lunch.
“Little boy!” Mrs. Pitt called out. “Little boy, don't you drop any papers or orange peels in front of my house. And stay off my grass!”
“Okay.” Howie took another bite of his sandwich as he moved to the sidewalk. Howie was not easily excited, which Ramona sometimes found annoying. She was often excited. She liked to be excited.
When the yellow bus stopped, Ramona was first on board. She plunked herself down on a seat across the aisle from another fourth grader, a boy named Danny who was wearing a white T-shirt with Trail Blazers printed on it. Ramona called him Yard Ape because she thought he acted like an ape on the playground. She was glad he had not moved away during the summer. “I have a new baby sister,” she informed him.
Yard Ape closed his eyes and hit his forehead with the palm of his hand. “Another Ramona,” he said, and groaned.
Ramona refused to smile. “You have a little brother,” she reminded him.
“I know,” answered Yard Ape, “but we just keep him for a pet.”
Ramona made a face at him so he wouldn't know she liked him.
When Ramona jumped off the bus at Cedarhurst School, she greeted old friends, most of them in new, or at least clean, clothes for starting the fourth grade. When she saw Janet, whom she had often seen in the park during the summer, the two girls compared calluses on the palms of their hands. “Your calluses are really big,” said Janet, impressed.
It was true. Ramona's calluses were hard and yellow because she lived close to the park, where she often went with Beezus and her mother and Roberta on warm summer days. She worked hard at the ringsâ
pump, pump, swing, pump, pump, swing
âand by the end of summer she was able to travel down the line of rings and back again.
“There's Susan,” cried Janet, and ran to join her. Reluctantly Ramona followed. “Hi, Susan,” she said, eyeing Susan's short blond curls.
“Hi, Ramona,” answered Susan. Neither girl smiled. The trouble was the grown-up Quimbys and Susan's parents, the Kushners, were friends. Ramona did not know what Mrs. Kushner said, but her own parents often said things like, “Now, you be nice to Susan.” “Susan is such a well-behaved little girl,” or “Susan's mother says Susan always sets the table without being asked.” Such remarks did not endear Susan to Ramona. There was more. In kindergarten Susan did not like Ramona, who could not resist pulling the long curls she had at that time and saying, “
” as she released them. In first grade, when the class was making owls out of paper bags, Susan copied Ramona's owl. The teacher held up Susan's owl to show the class what a splendid owl Susan had made. This seemed so unfair to Ramona that she crunched Susan's owl and found herself in trouble, big trouble. So how could anyone expect the two girls to be friends? As Ramona expected, the calluses on Susan's hands were so small they could scarcely be seen.
Then Ramona saw a new girl who was standing alone. A new fourth grader, Ramona decided, and because she admired the girl's long fair hair she went over to her and asked, “What's your name?”
“Daisy,” answered the girl. “Daisy Kidd.” When she smiled, Ramona saw that she was wearing bands on her teeth. “What's your name?” Daisy asked. As Ramona told her, the bell rang, ending their conversation.
On her way to the fourth grade Ramona passed her former classroom, where the teacher was standing outside the door welcoming her new class. When she saw Ramona, she waved and said, “How's bright-eyed, bushy-tailed Ramona?” People often called Ramona bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. When she was younger, she blinked her eyes, held up her hands like paws, and wiggled her bottom as if she were wagging a tail. Now that she was a fourth grader, she was too grown up for such babyishness, so she waved and said, “Hi, Mrs. Whaley.”
Ramona's fourth-grade teacher was Mrs. Meacham, a plump, cheerful woman in a green pantsuit and blouse printed with flowers, a good sign. Ramona liked teachers who wore bright cheerful clothes. Mrs. Meacham, Ramona decided, must be very old, because Howie's father had gone to school with her when he was a boy.
After inspecting her new teacher, Ramona looked at the chalkboard for spelling words. The board was blank, another good sign. Mrs. Meacham passed out name tags and made a little speech about how learning was fun in the fourth grade and everyone should work together to make this a great year. She then passed out papers with borders of dinosaurs, another hopeful sign, Ramona thought, even though dinosaurs were more for third graders than fourth graders. Mrs. Meacham said, “So I will get to know you better, I want each of you to write a paragraph telling me about yourself.”
Ramona tapped her pencil on her nose and noticed that Yard Ape, who sat across the aisle, was already writing, apparently without having to think. Susan, in front of Ramona, leaned her head on her fist. A boy went to the pencil sharpener. Someone sighed. Feet shuffled. Ramona began to write. She enjoyed writing in cursive because her third-grade teacher once said, “Ramona, your cursive is better than mine.” Now she wrote fast because she had so much to say: “My name is Ramona Quimby. I have a baby sister. She is cute. She screems if she is hunrgy.” Ramona paused.
looked peculiar. Maybe it was spelled with
. Oh, well. Anyone would know what she meant. She had so much to say she did not want to waste time spelling. “Sometimes I sit on the coach and hold her.”
Ramona enjoyed writing. Her face grew flushed as she wrote faster and faster toward the dinosaurs at the bottom of the page. Her last lines, not as neat as her first, were written across the dinosaur heads. “She can grab my figner. Mother says I used to look like her. She says I can be her roll modle.” Ramona squeezed a tiny sketch of a baby's sleeping face between a brontosaurus and a tyrannosaurus.
Ramona was proud of her work. She glanced around to see what her classmates had written about themselves. She leaned forward to look over Susan's shoulder. Susan had written half a page in neat cursive and was busy coloring dinosaurs, neatly of course, with crayons. Ramona read, “My name is Susan. My favorite color is blue. My favorite food is .Â .Â .” Ramona did not need to read any further. She half rose from her seat to look across the aisle toward Yard Ape and read in his neat uphill cursive, “My name is Daniel. Call me Yard Ape. I am nine years old. I am not married. I am a kid and proud of it.”
Me too, thought Ramona, filled with admiration for Yard Ape, a smart boy who always earned stars or Good Work! at the top of his papers and looked as if he was about to get into trouble. Somehow he never did, not in the classroom. On the playground he ran faster, yelled louder, and kicked balls farther than any of the other boys.
“All right, class,” said Mrs. Meacham, “pass your papers to the front.” Ramona was so pleased with her work she was almost sorry to part with it.
At lunchtime when the class went to the multipurpose room, Daisy sat down beside Ramona. “Okay if I sit here?” she asked.
“Sure,” said Ramona. Together the girls tore open their lunch bags. They shared Ramona's corn chips and each ate half of Daisy's brownie. Ramona told Daisy about Roberta; Daisy wished she had a little sister. She only had a big brother. Ramona admired Daisy's long blond hair; Daisy admired Ramona's short hair and said she was lucky to have hair that didn't get tangled when it was washed. It was a good beginning.
After lunch Mrs. Meacham said, “I've had time to look over what you have written. There is one description I would like to read to you.”