I had read all the Henry Huggins and Beezus books a couple of times before third grade, and I was left with that empty, edgy feeling one gets when there is no more of a series left, when one has squeezed the school library dry and must sit about waiting for the author and publisher to get up off their asses and publish the next book. Then, to my delight, I heard a new Beverly Cleary book was coming out: Ramona Quimby, Age 8. Ramona was eight? I was eight! I was exactly the same age as Ramona Quimby!
I don’t remember who told me about the new book, although my money is on the school librarian. I waited eagerly for it, snagged it as soon as it came into the school library. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that I had dibs. Or at least no doubt in my mind.
Cleary had honed her skills by this point, and she wasn’t writing about some boy and his dog. She was writing edgy, girl books. About this awesome kid who wore overalls. I had swallowed up everything about Ramona, but this one was going to be special. In this one, we’d be exactly the same age. This one was written for me.
Ramona Quimby, Age 8 didn’t disappoint, and for the last thirty-one years, I’ve carried bits of it around in my head. Every now and again, I remember the disappointment the family felt coming into the house and realizing they hadn’t turned on the Crockpot that morning. I picture the excitement of going out for burgers, the worry about how they’d pay for it, and the gentleman who generously foots the bill. Sorry for the spoiler, by the way.
Thirty-one years later, and a scene from a Beverly Cleary book is as vivid and evocative for me as it was the day I read it. Nabokov wishes he had it so good.
Today, my eight-year-old had library at school. Guess what book he brought home.