100 Chapter Books Project: Ramona the Pest

Ramona1

So, I had my post for this book all written, blithely telling you all about how I didn’t think readers had actually read Ramona the Pest (1968) recently and that their fond memories didn’t necessarily translate into this actually being a good book, especially for today’s kids. But then Beverly Cleary had to go and have an interview about turning 100 next month and now I feel like a big jerk! There’s tons of BC love out there and obviously there are people who still find value in the Ramona books. So, although I’m still going to share my thoughts, I’m sure there will be those who disagree.

There are three Cleary books on the Top 100 Chapter Books list, two of which are Ramona Quimby books, but I’m going to stick to my cranky-pants guns here and say that I’m not sure the world that these stories are set in is one that teaches kids the right things about how to behave today.

What it’s about: It’s time for Ramona Quimby to start kindergarten and she is both pleased and upset by the workings of school and new relationships.

Age level: Grades 2-4

Best part: I did really like the teacher, Miss Binney. She handled the quirky kindergarteners in just the right way, staying calm and praising even their smallest victories. She would still be most kindergarteners’ favorite teacher.

Worst part: This book is simply from a different age. If a kindergartener was constantly trying to kiss another student, pulling another girl’s hair, and messing around at the street crossing instead of following the rules, that kid would be in quite a bit of trouble, regardless of intent. The things that Ramona does are no longer cute or quirky. She is more than just a pest. When things don’t go her way, she plans to throw a tantrum. Blech. And Ramona’s mom isn’t the best example either. She leaves her kindergartener to walk to school on her own without even bothering to find out if she can tell time properly. This might have seemed cute in the 60s but now there would probably be a CPS call!

Verdict: Borrow/Skip

I just couldn’t get on board with finding Ramona’s behavior cute or silly. She got on my nerves and never got in trouble. She was consistently let off the hook and her only lessons learned were indirect. No adult sat her down and told her to shape up. I haven’t read any of the other Ramona books lately so I’m hoping that this year was just a bad one for Ramona and that the rest of the series is okay. In the meantime, I’m going to stick to Cleary’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle, which Z and I read when he was a kindergartener and both thought was still really fun!

I’m looking forward to my next read, The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan. I know that many of the boys at Z’s school like Flanagan’s books and I’m in the mood for something newer and less realistic.

*****
Schedule – April through June
April 15 – #69 The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan (2006)
April 30 – Spring Break
May 15 – #45 Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell (1960)
May 31 – #30 Matilda by Roald Dahl (1988)
June 15 – #37 The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt (2007)
June 30 – #27 Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1935)

100 Chapter Books Project: Maniac Magee

maniacmagee

Lots of people voted Maniac Magee (1990) by Jerry Spinelli onto the Top 100 Chapter Books list as it came in at number 40 but, if you read Betsy’s post about the book, you will see that there are a few reviews that are on the fence about this book as well.

What it’s about: Jeffrey Magee, a.k.a. Maniac, was orphaned at age three and ran away from his aunt and uncle’s home at age eight. He turns up a year later in Two Mills, Pennsylvania, a town divided down the middle by black and white, but has trouble finding where he belongs.

Age level: Grades 5-7

Best part: There are a lot of great characters in this story — Amanda Beale, who loans him a book and brings him home, Mars Bar Thompson, who has the best transformation of the book, and Earl Grayson, who is able to reconnect to his past through Maniac.

Worst part: It was a bit difficult to believe that there was never a social services investigation into this kid. He slept in a zoo park, an equipment shed, park benches, and multiple neighborhood houses and porches but nobody ever seems to worry about him. This bugged me enough that I could never quite lose myself in the story.

Verdict: Borrow

This was not a bad story and there were some great scenes — but also some meh ones. I think kids today would benefit from studying the horribly racist McNab family. Many of the things that the father and three sons say are things we’re hearing from a certain political candidate’s supporters and they are just as hateful even though they’re about different ethnic groups. I wonder if the wrongness of these thoughts would be more apparent if readers could see them in a truly “black and white” situation. However, there are too many unrealistic things and actions without consequences to make this a truly great story (even though it has a Newbery Medal).

Moving on … Ramona the Pest is another one that I know I read regularly as a kid but I’m worried that it won’t hold up. Still, it’s a short book so I’m sure I’ll make it through!

*****
Schedule – March through June
March 31 – #24 Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary (1968)
April 15 – #69 The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan (2006)
April 30 – Spring Break
May 15 – #45 Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell (1960)
May 31 – #30 Matilda by Roald Dahl (1988)
June 15 – #37 The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt (2007)

100 Chapter Books Project: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie_and_the_Chocolate_Factory_(book_cover)

I’m finally feeling okay again about the Top 100 Chapter Books list after reading a truly good, fun book that almost every kid will enjoy reading. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) by Roald Dahl is obviously a story that resonates through the generations. It’s funny, it’s heartwarming, and it makes the reader dream about chocolate.

What it’s about: Charlie Bucket is poor and his family is about to starve when Wonka’s Chocolates, the factory down the road, puts five Golden Tickets into five bars of chocolate, each one redeemable for a tour of the factory and a lifetime supply of chocolate.

Age level: Grades 2-5

Best part: I simply love Willy Wonka. The way he ignores criticism, has unending enthusiasm, and is owner of the largest imagination ever makes him one of my favorite book characters of all time.

Worst part: That the book never actually provides the reader with any chocolate.

Verdict: Buy

This is just such a fun read. I also reread Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator because I remembered getting it out from the library just as often as the original. I don’t know what I was thinking as a kid because that book is strange (most of it takes place in space)! I would just stick to the original Chocolate Factory. It is Roald Dahl at his best.

Next I’ll be reading Maniac Magee. I see his books all of the time in Z’s school library but I have never picked one up so I’m excited to finally take at look at this author!

*****
Schedule – March through May
March 15 – #40 Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli (1990)
March 31 – #24 Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary (1968)
April 15 – #69 The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan (2006)
April 30 – Spring Break
May 15 – #45 Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell (1960)
May 31 – #30 Matilda by Roald Dahl (1988)