Ramona Q, in The Art of Ramona Quimby

I have to admit I’m a fan of Beverly Cleary, and the Ramona books in particular. So much so that I named my firstborn after that irrepressible young character!

For historians and lovers of illustration and design…

So, this is definitely the book for me. But it will also appeal to other fans and people interested in the history of children’s books illustration and design. Beautifully produced, the coffee table-sized book explores the series’ illustrators, ranging from the original Louis Darling in the late 1960’s to Jacqueline Rogers in 2013.

Changing fashions in The Art of Ramona Quimby
Changing fashions in illustration & clothing are demonstrated in this scene,
which also conveys Ramona’s deep frustration at the unflappable Howie.
(Illustrators clockwise from top: Jacqueline Rogers, Tracy Dockray, Louis Darling)

For writers…

My favourite part was the Foreword by Annie Barrows, author of the Ivy and Bean series. In “Bad Author/Good Witch: What I Learned from Ramona the Pest“, Barrows describes how reading Chapter Six, “The Baddest Witch in the World”, changed her approach to writing.

Ramona, the Baddest Witch, from The Art of Ramona Quimby
The Baddest Witch (illustrated by Tracy Dockray)

She discusses her daughter’s identification with Ramona’s roller coaster emotions. This includes where Ramona realises her teacher, and perhaps even her own mother, can’t identify her amongst all the other kids dressed up as witches. In “withdrawing herself from the equation”, Cleary writes with “serious unselfishness” (p 8). This is the lesson Barrows took from reading the Ramona books, a lesson that changed her life as a writer.

For readers…

The series changed my life as a reader. I remember reaching for Ramona Quimby, Age 8 at my school library when I was seven or eight. I loved realistic stories about people. Short books, that ended too quickly, were disappointing. So I went for the thick, hardcover book with Alan Tiegreen’s orange cover. It had lots of white space and line drawings and was very appealing overall.

Ramona the Brave cover, from The Art of Ramona Quimby
Alan Tiegreen’s vivid covers

… Ramona Forever

And I never looked back. Now, more than thirty years later, these books are still favourites and I have loved sharing them with my daughter. For me, Ramona will truly live forever. Speaking of which…

Ramona Forever, text and covers, from The Art of Ramona Quimby
Ramona Forever, from The Art of Ramona Quimby

… the beloved author, Beverly Cleary, is still alive at the time of writing this, aged 104! Every year on her birthday, 12 April, American schools run the Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) initiative. It encourages 30 minutes of reading and was named after the Sustained Silent Reading technique used in Ramona’s classroom. SSR was always my favourite part of the day at school in rural Australia in the 1980’s. And, true to form, Ramona worked out how to use it to great effect, as an excuse to avoid talking to pesky little Willa Jean!

By Anna Katz, with foreword by Annie Barrows and afterword by Jacqueline Rogers

Published by Chronicle Books, September 2020, ISBN: 978-1-4521-7695-6, 256 pp

Click here for another beautifully produced coffee table book by Chronicle Books.

This book was provided as an e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley, in return for an honest review.