Ramona Quimby, Age 8

I firmly believe in reading to your children.

I also firmly believe in teaching your children to love reading to themselves.

My sweet mother, thankfully, believed in the same thing, so I grew up believing that bedrooms were decorated with bookshelves and that library visits were weekend adventures. Books were birthday presents and stories were treasures that could be found in every used bookstore, thrift store, and library sale in town.

She was also the one who told me I should be a writer.

I laughed at her.

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Now I have one published book, five more written, and I just got commissioned to write someone’s biography.

Yeah—I haven’t lived that one down yet.

Never laugh at your mom, kids. She’ll turn out to be right every time. Mom knows.

Mom always knows.

One of the books that my mother bought me when I was a budding reader was Ramona Quimby, Age 8. I don’t remember just how old I was when I picked this book up, (probably between eight and ten) but this book spoke to my soul. Ramona was an eight year old, with an eight year old’s problems, and although I was never half as bold as she was, I could dream that I was. Too many children’s books, especially books for young girls, revolve around crushes and cliques, boy drama and Mean Girl fights. Beverly Cleary’s books are a breath of fresh air, stories of adventures that belong solely to the heart of a child. Drama in an eight year old’s world means an egg in her lunch that wasn’t quite boiled, a father going back to college, a boy who steals her eraser, a family who isn’t always-all-the-time perfect, and a car that doesn’t want to start. Her troubles are real and true to life, and as an eight year old, I understood her.

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Now, as a twenty-something, I still understand—and relate—to her struggles and triumphs. Ramona’s world isn’t perfect. Her mother has to work to keep the family going, and she spends her afternoons at her neighbor Howie’s home, stuck with little Willa Jean and Howie’s grandmother, neither of whom like Ramona much. Unlike so many children’s books, Ramona’s problems aren’t magically fixed in the last chapter. Money is still tight, her father is still tired, and life goes on. Her problems are everyday, ordinary types of problems, and she taught me that the only way to face them was to lift your chin, stick your nose in the air just the littlest bit, and keep going. Because sometimes, not everything does get fixed.

But life is still good anyway.

I will always be grateful to Ramona for the things she taught—and continues to teach—me. She was my constant companion, my friend, and my confidant when I was young, and I always return to her books when I need a reminder of who I am and what I love.

The thought that her mother did not think she was a nuisance comforted her.

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