The terrible, horrible, dreadful, awful thing happened. Ramona threw up. She threw up right there on the floor in front of everyone…Nobody, nobody in the whole world was a bigger nuisance than someone who threw up in school. Until now she thought that Mrs Whaley had been unfair when she called her a nuisance, but now — there was no escaping the truth — she really was a nuisance, a horrible runny-nosed nuisance with nothing to blow her nose on…As she fell asleep, she decided she was a supernuisance, and a sick one at that.
from ‘Ramona Quimby Age 8′ by Beverly Cleary
T threw up at school last week. I picked her up from the school office where she was sitting ashen-faced, a bucket held between her knees. As we walked home together, we cheered ourselves up by talking about how it was just like when Ramona threw up at school. ‘Yes, but we don’t have any fruit flies,’ T pointed out. ‘And,’ she added, ‘I know I’m not really a supernuisance, because — well — I did say that I wasn’t feeling very well.’ She didn’t point out that she also hadn’t accidentally cracked a raw egg on her head one lunch time, but she could have.
Oh, how I love Ramona Quimby! She came into my life, as many of the best things do, through a meeting that might never have happened. When I was seven, I had a friend called Nicola who lived in the house that neighboured the bottom of our garden. One day, Nicola took me to knock for another girl, who lived a little further up her road. I can still remember how nervous I felt standing outside this other girl’s house, waiting for the doorbell to be answered. But soon Nicola had moved away, and the girl who came out to play with us — K — a year older than me & at a different school, would be my companion for pretty much every Sunday afternoon of my childhood, and my friend forever. And the very first birthday present K gave to me was Ramona Quimby Age 8.
It’s here beside me now — pages yellowed & stained, spine creased, and, if I hold it to my nose and breath deeply, it has that characteristic smell of old books blended with the damp smell of home. I can’t begin to remember how many times I must have read it, but each page seems deeply familiar. The illustrations by Alan Tiegreen bring it all flooding back. Mr and Mrs Quimby’s money worries as Mr Quimby goes back to school to learn to be a teacher. How he works part-time in a frozen-food depot, while she works as a doctor’s receptionist. How the car’s transmission packs up so that it can’t be put into reverse. Ramona’s dreaded afternoons after school spent with Howie Kemp’s grandmother and his little sister Willa Jean. Yard Ape, the new boy at school, and the hard boiled egg craze. The wonderfully realistic sibling relationship between Ramona and her big sister Beezus. (And how my friend K had a guinea pig named Beezus.) Oh, yes. It doesn’t seem twenty-eight years since I first read it!
I whizzed through the rest of the Ramona books, but they were all borrowed from the library. So, for T’s seventh birthday, she received another four of the eight book series, and she too whizzed through them and returns to them again and again. Like I was, she’s probably pretty bemused by American school life — the Principal who wants to be your pal; the grade system — but, of course, none of this matters. Beverly Cleary created a character who will always be relevant: a spirited girl who wants to do the right thing, but sometimes fails — and that, that’s pretty much universal.
Even if T isn’t a supernuisance, the dreaded sicky bug is. It’s taken a week to work its way through two children and their father (naturally B was ill over the weekend when the kids were all fine). The Moose and I were equally proud of being the last ones standing, but now he’s lying on the sofa with the sick bowl. I’m starting to think I’m doomed — but if obsessive hand washing has anything to do with it, I may yet sit this one out!