Ramona and the Middle Class Squeeze

My essay on the Ramona Quimby books (and new movie starring Selena Gomez) ran in today’s Wall Street Journal. The movie, Ramona and Beezus, is very sweet. But in sweetening up the tale for modern viewers, I think the film’s creators missed one of Beverly Cleary’s major selling points: her complete lack of sentimentality as she portrayed the Quimbys economic woes. It is the difference between dad missing a job interview to take care of a sick kid, and dad locking a 7-year-old out of the house in the rain because he is stuck in the unemployment insurance line. In other words, the books had an edge to them. Cleary respects her readers too much to resort to Hollywood endings. But hopefully the movie will lead a new generation of kids to discover the books, and realize that they, too, will survive tough times. Maybe with their sense of humor intact.

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