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Ramona's back -- almost
on October 29, 2000
Beverly Cleary's latest foray into Ramona's world is a welcome addition to her series, but the book isn't quite the joyful reunion one might expect. Ramona doesn't seem the same somehow; she still gets into scrapes, but her new adventures don't come across quite as vividly or seem as catastrophic as her old ones did. Having trouble keeping track of a baby and a cat at the same time could happen to anyone, but only Ramona could dye herself blue in Howie's sink or decide to wear her pajamas to school, as she did in previous books. Maybe Cleary is trying to show that Ramona is growing up a little, or maybe she just had trouble getting back inside her head (it has been a long time since the last book).
The whole feel of the book was a little different, maybe because Cleary modernized the setting a bit or even because the Quimbys seem to have gotten past their financial troubles. The older books were a nice mix of Ramona's escapades and her relationship with her family. There was a real "times may be tough but we'll get through it together" sort of feeling in previous books, and while there is a family component to this one (especially Ramona trying to adjust to her new role as the middle child), this book doesn't deal as much with the Quimbys trying to get along as a family. The issues (except for the financial ones) don't seem to have changed, either. Beezus is still trying to deal with her "good" image and grow up at the same time, and Ramona is still trying to deal with the fact that she's not Beezus.
Unfortunately, the school scenes aren't as well developed as they could be, either. Ramona's rivalry with Susan still comes into play, but there aren't any spectacular owl-crushing incidents. She also has to deal with Yard Ape, but he's almost nice now. Her new friend Daisy is not very memorable, and Howie is largely absent from the book. Ramona has a new teacher to deal with, too, which is always important, but she doesn't compare to the others, either in personality or in her run-ins with Ramona. It's Ramona's world, all right, but maybe not quite the way you remember it.
The same goes for the illustrations. Alan Tiegreen, who did most of the other Ramona books, has illustrated this one as well. These drawings are less detailed than some of the earlier ones, at times almost cartoonish. Still, it's great to have Tiegreen back too, because seeing another artist's image of Ramona would be strange at this point.
Although it's not the best of the bunch, _Ramona's World_ is a must read for Cleary fans, old and young. It's great to see Ramona again.