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Top 100 Children’s Novels #24: Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary

#24 Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary (1968)
68 points

My fourth grade teacher gave this book to me as a Christmas present because I had a kindergarten sister. I’ve loved Beverly Cleary ever since. – Martha Sherod

(Ramona is the little sister I never had but always wanted!) – Angela Krause

In Anita Silvey’s 100 Best Books for Children, she says that “Critics have described Ramona the Pest as a girl’s experiences in meeting the Establishment.” Which just makes me think that a book called Ramona Vs. The Man would have made perfect sense. Someday, sad to say, we’ll see someone take Ramona and turn her into a teenager. If they’ve any sense at all, they’ll make her one that wears combat boots.

Amazon described the plot as, “The engaging tale of young Ramona Quimby’s first days in kindergarten, Ramona the Pest takes a pint-sized perspective on the trials and delights of beginning school. Ramona can’t wait to learn all the important things. But she’s disappointed when her teacher can’t fill in missing parts of story lines, such as how Mike Mulligan (of Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel) went to the bathroom while digging the basement of the town hall. Nonetheless, Ramona loves her teacher, and loves going to school in spite of the torments–having to wear hand-me-down boots, for example, or having to (sometimes) suppress the urge to pull on another girl’s ‘boing-boing’ curls.”

Of course Ramona had appeared for years in Cleary’s other books. Silvey says, “Cleary thought about Ramona the Pest for fifteen years before writing the book. In a New York taxi in 1953, her editor suggested that Cleary develop a story about Ramona, a minor character in the Henry Huggins books. She dismissed this idea and continued to work on other projects. But she found that Ramona, until then making only cameo appearances, began to take on a life of her own. So in 1968, Beverly Cleary picked up a sheet of paper and began with a title, Ramona the Pest. ‘The story of Ramona’s clash with the school system, her eagerness for attention, her stubbornness, her misunderstandings, her fears, her longing to love and be loved, almost seemed to write itself’.”

Read some of the book here.

  • Collecting Children’s Books always exceeded at posting fantastic April Fools posts.  The one about Ramona was one of Peter Sieruta’s best.
  • Tattoos are cool, sure.  Tattoos of Ramona?  Extra cool.

There’s just something about Ramona that makes people want to sculpt her.  There is a Beverly Cleary Statue Garden in Portland where Henry Higgins and Ribsy reside.  Well, Ramona’s there as well. And boy does she look happy.

This is hardly the only sculpture of Ramona in the world, though.  In the nearby Gresham Regional Library in Gresham, Oregon two Ramona busts by artist Lee Hunt reside.  The smiling one sports a quote from Ramona the Pest.

Across the country in St. Paul, Minnesota, two different Ramona busts live.  The artist?  Lee Hunt again!  Clearly Hunt decided to hit it big by just doing Ramona busts all the time.  The thing is, though one is happy and one is sad again, the happys are very different.

A critic in Young Readers’ Review commented: “As in all her books about the boys and girls of Klickitat Street, Mrs. Cleary invests [Ramona the Pest] with charm, humor, and complete honesty. There are some adults who can remember many incidents from their early childhood; there are few who can remember how they felt about things and why; there are fewer who can communicate these feelings. And fewer still who can retain the humorous aspects. Mrs. Cleary is one of those rare ones. . . . Even boys and girls who dislike stories about children younger than themselves enjoy the incidents in which Ramona makes a pest of herself. . . . Ramona has never been funnier and has never been so sympathetic a character. . . . As usual, this is standard Cleary first-rate entertainment.”

And the New York Times said, “Ramona’s adventures ring as true as the recess bell.”

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Yay, my Ramona!

    As a child I never identified more with a character.

  2. Genevieve says

    That last cover, with Ramona with neat stylish hair, wearing purple and butterflies and a sweet smile? Not so much. Not as bad as the Gilly Hopkins one you can’t abide, but definitely not showing the essence of Ramona. The other ones are excellent, though.