This volume in the Ramona series opens on a lighter note; Mr. Quimby has found work and without the pressing worries of Ramona and Her Father, there’s more time and energy for fun on Klickitat Street.

It even shows in Ramona’s signature. She has forsaken her “kitty-kat Q” for Quimby and has taken up cursive writing, you know. But she still puts her own Ramona flare to her hand-writing.

“Ramona began to draw a fancy border, all scallops and curliques, around her name. She was happy, too, because her family had been happy that morning and because she was big enough for her family to depend on.”

At eight years old, Ramona is now in Mrs. Whaley’s grade three class which means, among other adjustments, she now has “Sustained Silent Reading”, known to her classmates as DEAR (Drop Everything and Read), though Ramona prefers the more impressive sounding title.

Overall, being eight comes with a lot more things to keep track of. And Ramona is aware of the changes.

For instance, she is increasingly stunned by the cluelessness of a young neighbour; she can’t believe that she might ever, even slightly, have resembled her, in the tiniest of ways, when she was younger herself.

And there are certain milestones in this book that speak to Ramona’s and Beezus’s growing up as well. Like that dinner that the two of them prepared on their own for their parents. (Speaking of light notes…this scene was a lot of fun…and completely believable.)

“Ramona felt much lighter. Without using words, she had forgiven her mother for the unfortunate egg [oh, that was a fun scene too], and her mother had understood. Ramona could be happy again.”

But it’s not all fun and games. With an increasing awareness of expectations and responsibilities, Ramona finds herself worrying about things that she wouldn’t have given a second thought to in the second grade. She has fine-tuned her perspective.

“Ramona, still feeling weak, moped around the house for another day worrying about her book report. If she made it interesting, Mrs. Whaley would think she was showing off. If she did not make it interesting, her teacher would not like it.”

What hasn’t changed is Ramona’s desire to be liked, to be loved; that’s been consistent throughout the Ramona stories.

But what has changed is her capacity to change her behaviour to make that happen. Her capacity and her willingness.

Rather than simply reacting to situations, Ramona is seeing more angles and sussing out the path she wants to follow, before she finds herself pitching a fit and watching something ugly happen.

And, because Ramona’s world is getting bigger all the time, she finds that there are new things to figure out all the time.

Not just following the latest fad at school (it’s hard-boiled eggs in this story). Not just deciphering the technique of cursive writing or learning new words in her reader. Not just looking after a younger children when people visit for an evening at home.

But recognizing new sides of normal family life on Klickitat Street.

“The Quimbys’ house seemed to have grown smaller during the day until it was no longer big enough to hold her family and all its problems. She tried not to think of the half-overheard conversations of her parents after the girls had gone to bed, grown-up talk that Ramona understood just enough to know her parents were concerned about their future.”

It’s a lot to keep track of. But she can do it. She’s Ramona Quimby, Age 8.