Ramona Quimby fans might be surprised to learn that the Ramona they love might not be the same Ramona other readers know. That’s because over 65 years, as new editions of Beverly Cleary’s books about the spunky Portland elementary schooler came into print, five different artists illustrated her.
A book out this month by Anna Katz honors the legacy of Cleary’s work through the illustrations that accompany her timeless stories of the ups and downs of being a kid.
“The Art of Ramona Quimby: Sixty-Five Years of Illustrations from Beverly Cleary’s Beloved Books” (Chronicle Books, 256 pages, $40) takes key moments from each book in the Ramona series and examines them by juxtaposing illustrations for the same events from different eras.
The hairstyles and the clothes may change, but the underlying message of the books — you don’t have to be perfect to be happy — stays the same.
Katz’s book takes a grown-up look at the beloved books that helped shape generations of readers. Through the lens of the illustrations, both the ones you remember fondly and the newer (or older) ones, and excerpts from the books, a theme emerges about Cleary’s work: It’s deeply respectful to its young readers, which makes the work timeless.
As Ramona struggles with big feelings, or her dad losing his job, or a teacher saying something mean, or ugly hand-me-downs, her appearance changes with the times. Sometimes, she’s wearing a dress. Sometimes shorts. In one later illustration, she wears a shirt that says “Girl Surf.”
“The Art of Ramona Quimby” captures the essence of the lovable rascal that is Ramona Quimby, while taking the reader on an entertaining visual journey through the series and through time. Katz’s book will be loved by those who already love Ramona, and is a good reminder to those who haven’t thought about her for a while that even at 65, she is still relevant.
— Lizzy Acker