Beverly Cleary’s Ramona the Brave (1975)
Illus. Alan Tiegreen

It’s the summertime, the summer before Ramona goes into the first grade; it’s only a few months after Ramona the Pest, the gap is hardly noticeable.

There’s not much to do in the summertime. Ramona and Howie play brick factory (a  not-so-sophisticated game that involves smashing the bricks to smithereens).

Nothing much is happening on Klickitat Street until they start to build an addition on the back of the Quimby’s house; this is big news. Not only because once the hole is smashed the kids can jump through it into the yard (show-and-tell worthy news), but because it means that Ramona will soon have her own room

First she will have a turn for six months in the new room and then her older sister, Beezus, who is now to be called Beatrice.

Well, you can still call her Beezus when it’s just the family at home, but not in public, thanks to an embarrassing incident, the first which requires some bravery on Ramona’s part.

Everything between the sisters is much the same though.

“Agreeing was so pleasant she wished she and her sister could agree more often. Unfortunately, there were many things to disagree about—whose turn it was to feed Picky-picky, the old yellow cat, who should change the paper under Picky-picky’s dish, whose washcloth had been left sopping in the bathtub because someone had not wrung it out, and whose dirty underwear had been left in whose half of the room.”

But almost everything else has changed, in the quiet way that things do change in real life.

And even this sort of change requires bravery on the part of a six-year-old girl.

For instance, Mrs. Quimby becomes, as Beezus puts it, “liberated”. She starts working during the day while the girls are at school, keeping the books for a family physician.

It’s not a life-or-death situation, but it shakes Ramona’s world. She is most concerned about who — if not Mrs. Quimby — will bake cookies and who will look after Ramona if she gets sick.

(Turns out that will be Howie’s grandmother, a woman succinctly described as follows:  “Mrs. Kemp, who wore glasses with purple frames, was not the sort of sitter who played games with children. When she came to sit, she sat.”)

But it’s not too much for Ramona the Brave to handle.

Well, not that on its own.

But there are all sorts of situations that require courage of a six-year-old girl in this book.

There is the picture of the  gorilla in her book Wild Animals of Africa, which seems to haunt her from her bookcase in her new room after the lights have been turned out.

There’s some public speaking. Of the worst sort. (Anne Shirley would sympathize with the “apology scene”.)

And there’s an unexpected delay on her way to school one morning.

But Ramona shows her spunk.

Ramona the Brave would definitely stand alone, but it’s delightful read in conjunction with Ramona the Pest.

A simple reference like the fact that Ramona has outgrown her red rain boots over the summer takes readers immediately back to the scene in which she first got those beautiful boots and, later, the first day that she wore them to school.

Ramona is still Ramona. Even if she is a little braver.