Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary
Ramona and her father get along fairly well, but little does Ramona know that he and she are going to soon be spending much more time together. On one normal night at the Quimby household plans are possibly made to go out to a burger restaurant, but the hopes are soon dashed when Mr. Quimby comes home. He and mother talk quietly. The news is given over dinner. Ramona’s father’s job has been downsized and he will have to look for more work.
Ramona’s mother goes to work full-time, which doesn’t cover everything. The family soon gets used to less than fantastic meals and even the cat doesn’t like his cheaper cat food. One of the things Beezus and Ramona see that their father spends money on is cigarettes. Mr. Quimby smokes. Ramona and Beezus know this is bad and soon make a campaign for him to quit.
They plaster notes inside the house. They put little notes in his shoes and inside his cigarette packs. Mr. Quimby finally admits that maybe he should quit. He tells Ramona that she was right. Things aren’t like they were before, but the family will get along just fine.
What I liked
I didn’t remember that Ramona tried to get her father to quit smoking. I think that’s a good thing. Smoking is a pretty bad habit. Sorry, people, it is. It’s your choice what you do with your body, but cigarette smoke is kind of gross and second-hand smoking can be dangerous. So it’s not exactly a habit that affects just one person. I really liked that this book had a huge emphasis in the idea of someone quitting smoking.
What I didn’t like
On the flip side, to play Devil’s advocate just a bit– a book like this could almost be seen as a form of propaganda. Children are very impressionable. Whatever book characters or movie characters do, the children want to do. Children want to be just like their favorite character in a book, a movie, or a television show. So if Patty Twoshoes, jumps off the roof of the house, there might be a few kids who might also think it was cool to jump off the roof of the house. This is why children’s stories are a bit toned down from what they used to be. There is an actual concern that kids will go out and jump off of a bridge, or whatever.
Now, you may say, “This book isn’t about jumping off of bridges.” You’re right, it’s not, but it is about a child pestering her father to quit smoking. I think it’s a good idea, but not everyone wants to quit smoking. Not everyone thinks that it’s that terrible. It is bad, but this is a free country. Smoking isn’t illegal. The argument is not about whether or not smoking is bad; it’s about other people trying to force a thought process on other people. People don’t like being told what to do, but if you can convince their kid that the parent needs to do XYZ, there is a much larger chance that this person might do XYZ. Parents have to live with their children and if a child throws a fit for a Tickle Me Elmo that they saw on a commercial on a children’s channel, the parent is more likely to buy this toy just to shut the kid up because they have to live with this little monster of a child throwing a fit for something.
While, I don’t think Ramona setting the example of pestering her father to quit smoking is bad, I do know that there are people who would not be entirely pleased if their child suddenly started pestering them to quit cigarettes constantly because they read this book all about Ramona and how Ramona made her father’s life a living heck until he quit cigarettes. Essentially, using children to get adults to do something can be seen as a low-blow in the eyes of society, but ultimately, it’s still just a children’s book.
We all know Ramona. I feel kind of bad for Mr. Quimby.
Is it acceptable to use children’s media as a way to get children to act as intermediaries in adult actions?
What do you think Mr. Quimby’s real motives were for quitting cigarettes?