I follow Virginia Sole-Smith on Instagram because she is super nice and a strong mom and has a writing career that I admire (hey, completely unrelated; I have a lot of new clips up, including some video and radio!) Anyway, Virginia has a daughter about my son's age and she posted that they had been reading Ramona the Pest.
I was very much a Ramona girl when I was a kid. I read the books and re-read them and once got a formal warning (which was lower ranked than a demerit) in Catholic middle school because I got caught reading a Ramona book under the desk during math. I loved the Ramona books so much I wrote Beverly Clearly a letter (and got a postcard back that may or may not have been signed by her--I still have the card at my parents' house) and read her memoir A Girl from Yamhill.
With Virginia's visual prompt in mind I checked Ramona the Pest from the library and have been reading it to Paul and have been enjoying it so much. First of all, it's nice that he seems to enjoy the story even if the book doesn't have a lot of pictures (although he does inspect the drawings, which are the same as I remembered, almost a little purposefully grubby--which is a very Cleary-like word.) It helps that the book is about a girl who is exactly her age. Aside from being less of a picture book, it also has some larger words in it ("loyally" was one the other night) although the context seems to provide exactly the right amount of information because he doesn't ask me to clarify the bigger words. Cleary is such a master at plucking exactly at the kind of things kids deeply care about: whether their teachers love or hate them; how other people and their things can be disgusting; getting presents; being called a baby. There's a part where Ramona mishears a part of the Star Stangle Banner and Paul said he always wondered the same thing (what a "dawnzer" is.)
The book doesn't talk down to kids at all, which is why it's still fun for me to read as an adult. In fact, I think I'm pretty good at doing all the adult voices, which are often tired or confused or disapproving. Living as I now do with Cleary's target audience, it's amazing read her as an adult and realize how sympathetically and matter of factly taps into the petty, hyper-literate, righteous and weirdly insightful minds of kids. It's fun to re-read Cleary and think, Right on, I had good taste back then. (which then means my kids have great taste too, obvs.)