Book cover
The Ramona Quimby Audio Collection
Beverly Cleary

My (adult) daughter was on a Ramona audiobook binge. Every time we talked she was telling me this thing or that about Ramona Quimby, and it got me nostalgic for the days when I read these books aloud to my kids. So my wife and I blasted through the whole collection. (Beezus and Ramona is still my favorite of the set, and I’ve read it several times on my own. But I had not read the reast of these since my kids were the right age.)

You don’t need me to tell you Clealry was a genius. I think what I admire most about her work is the love she has for her small simple characters. It is clear on every page that Cleary respects the children she writes about, and she wants us to see all children as intelligent, thoughtful, rational humans deserving of respect from everyone. I could not agree more.

I will also forever love Cleary for her funny subtle Moby-Dick homage in Ramona and Her Mother. Ramona’s mother is reading Moby-Dick with her book club. There are several small instances of connection, but by far my favorite is Ramona’s encounter with the toothpaste:

That squirt really did make Ramona feel better. She squeezed again. Another satisfying squirt. She felt even better. This was more fun than finger painting or modeling turtles out of clay. Suddenly Ramona no longer cared what anyone thought. She squeezed and squirted, squeezed and squirted…

Compare this with—well I was going to say “one of my favorite passages from Moby-Dick” but honestly every passage in Moby-Dick is a favorite. Anyway, compare:

Squeeze! squeeze! squeeze! all the morning long; I squeezed that sperm till I myself almost melted into it; I squeezed that sperm till a strange sort of insanity came over me; and I found myself unwittingly squeezing my co-laborers’ hands in it, mistaking their hands for the gentle globules. Such an abounding, affectionate, friendly, loving feeling did this avocation beget; that at last I was continually squeezing their hands, and looking up into their eyes sentimentally; as much as to say,—Oh! my dear fellow beings, why should we longer cherish any social acerbities, or know the slightest ill-humor or envy!

Tell me I’m wrong.