copyright 1999 Beverly Cleary. Morrow Junior. intermediate fiction, 8-11. 192 pgs.

This is Beverly Cleary's first Ramona novel in fifteen years. Should have stayed hushed up till she had something to say.

Four-fifths of the book is explanatory background stuff. Who Ramona is, what sort of things she likes, how she relates to her family, what each of her friends is like. And SO much harping on all of Ramona's identifying quirks - how she prefers to write her last name, etc. - Beverly is visibly struggling to reach the reader - You remember Ramona, right? RIGHT??

The actual plot doesn't begin until the book is nearly over, and then it's a dud. There's a birthday party or something, I dunno, I was asleep. If she'd just calmed down and told us the story, or if her editor had had the sense/balls to chop off the first hundred pages . . .

Generally I don't care if not much happens in a book, as long as it's told well. Sadly, this one isn't. I want to use a word like "simpering" or "prattling" to describe the text, but that's not it, exactly - the closest I can get to what I mean is that it seems Beverly is trying to force her style to match that of the earlier Ramona books, and it isn't quite working. Something doesn't match up, and it comes off as phony, which makes me sad.

Don't judge the author, or the series, by this one, please - there are shelves full of better Cleary.

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