Beezus and Ramona
Beezus and Her Little Sister
Beatrice Quimby's biggest problem was her little sister Ramona. Beatrice, or Beezus (as everyone called her, because that was what Ramona had called her when she first learned to talk), knew other nine-year-old girls who had little sisters who went to nursery school, but she did not know anyone with a sister like Ramona.
Beezus felt the biggest problem with four-year-old Ramona was that she was just plain exasperating. If Ramona drank lemonade through a straw, she blew into the straw as hard as she could to see what would happen. If she played with her finger paints in the front yard, she wiped her hands on the neighbors' cat. That was the exasperating sort of thing Ramona did. And then there was the way she behaved about her favorite book.
It all began one afternoon after school when Beezus was sitting in her father's big chair embroidering a laughing teakettle on a pot holder for one of her aunts for Christmas. She was trying to embroider this one neatly, because she planned to give it to Aunt Beatrice, who was Mother's younger sister and Beezus' more special aunt.
With grey thread Beezus carefully outlined the steam coming from the teakettle's spout and thought about her pretty young aunt, who was always so gay and understanding. No wonder she was Mother's favorite sister. Beezus hoped to be exactly like Aunt Beatrice when she grew up. She wanted to be a fourth-grade teacher and drive a yellow convertible and live in an apartment house with an elevator and a buzzer that opened the front door. Because she was named after her Aunt Beatrice, Beezus felt she might be like her in other ways, too.
While Beezus was sewing, Ramona, holding a mouth organ in her teeth, was riding around the living room on her tricycle, Since she needed both hands to steer the tricycle, she could blow in and out on only one note. This made the harmonica sound as if it were groaning oh dear, oh dear over and over again.
Beezus tried to pay no attention. She tied a small knot in the end of a piece of red thread to embroider the teakettle's laughing mouth. "Conceal a knot as you would a secret," Grandmother always said.
Inhaling and exhaling into her mouth organ, Ramona closed her eyes and tried to pedal around the coffee table without looking.
"Ramona!" cried Beezus. "Watch where you're going!"
When Ramona crashed into the coffee table, she opened her eyes again. Oh dear, oh dear, moaned the harmonica. Around and around pedaled Ramona, inhaling and exhaling.
Beezus looked up from her pot holder. "Ramona, why don't you play with Bendix for a while?" Bendix was Ramona's favorite doll. Ramona thought Bendix was the most beautiful name in the world.
Ramona took the harmonica out of her mouth. "No," she said. "Read my Scoopy book to me."
"Oh, Ramona, not Scoopy," protested Beezus. "We've read Scoopy so many times."
Instead of answering, Ramona put her harmonica between her teeth again and pedaled around the room, inhaling and exhaling. Beezus had to lift up her feet every time Ramona rode by.
The knot in Beezus' thread pulled through the matirial of her pot holder, and she gave up trying to keep her feet out of Ramona's way, she put down her embroidery. "All right, Ramona," she said. "If I read about the Scoopy, will you stop riding your tricycle around the living room and making so much noise?"
"Yes," said Ramona, and climbed off her tricycle. She ran into the bedroom she shared with Beezus and returned with a battered, dog-eared, sticky book, which she handed to Beezus. Then she climbed into the big chair beside Beezus and waited expectantly.
Reflecting that Ramona always managed to get her own way, Beezus gingerly took the book and looked at it with a feeling of great dislike. It was called The Littlest Steam Shovel. On the cover was a picture of a steam shovel with big tears coming out of its eyes. How could a steam shovel have eyes, Beezus thought and, scarecely looked at the words, began for what seemed like the hundredth or maybe the thousandth time, "Once there was a little steam shovel named Scoopy. One day Scoop said, 'I do not want to be a steam shovel. I want to be a bulldozer.' "
"You skipped," interrupted Ramona.
"No, I didn't," said Beezus.
"Yes, you did," insisted Ramona. "You're supposed to say, 'I want to be a big bulldozer.' "
"Oh, all right," said Beezus crossly. " 'I want to be a big bulldozer.' "
Ramona smiled contentedly and Beezus continued reading. " 'G-r-r-r,' said Scoopy, doing his best to sound like a bulldozer."
Beezus read on through Scoopy's failure to be a bulldozer. She read about Scoopy's wanted to be a trolly bus ("Beep-beep," honked Ramona), a locomotive ("A-hooey, a-hooey," wailed Ramona), and a pile driver ("Clunk! Clunk!" shouted Ramona). Beezus was glad when she finally reached the end of the story and Scoopy finally learned it was best for little steam shovels to be steam shovels. "There!" she said with relief, and closed the book. She always felt foolish trying to make noises like machinery.
"Clunk! Clunk!" yelled Ramona, jumping down from the chair. She pulled her harmonica out of the pocket of her overalls and climbed on her tricycle. Oh dear, oh dear, she inhaled and exhaled.
"Ramona!" cried Beezus. "You promised you'd stop if I read scoopy to you."
"I did stop," said Ramona, when she had taken the harmonica out of her mouth. "Now read it again."
"Ramona Geraldine Quimby!" Beezus began, and stopped. It was useless to argue with Ramona. She wouldn't pay attention. "Why do you like that story anyway?" Beezus asked. "Steam shovels can't talk, and I feel silly trying to make all those noises."
"I don't," said Ramona, and wailed, "A-hooey, a-hooey," with great feeling before she put her harmonica back in her mouth.
Beezus watched her little sister pedal furiously around the living room, inhaling and exhaling. Why did she have to like a book about a steam shovel anyway? Girls weren't supposed to like machinery. Why couldn't she like something quiet, like Peter Rabbit?
Mother, who had bought The Littlest Steam Shovel at the Supermarket to keep Ramona quiet while she shopped one afternoon, was so tired of Scoopy that she always managed to be too busy to read to Ramona. Father came right out and said he was fed up with frustrated steam shovels and he would not read that book to Ramona and, furthermore, no one else was to read it to her while he was in the house. And that was that.
So only Beezus was left to read Scoopy to Ramona. Plainly something had to be done and it was up to Beezus to do it. But what? Arguing with Ramona was a waste of time. So was appealing to her better nature. The best thing to do with Ramona, Beezus had learned, was to think up something to take the place of whatever her mind was fixed upon. And what could take the place of The Littelest Steam Shovel? Another book, of course, a better book, and the place to find it was certainly the library.
"Ramona, how would you like me to take you to the library to find a different book?" Beezus asked. She really enjoyed taking Ramona places, which, of course, was quite different from wanting to go someplace herself and having Ramona insist on tagging along.
For a moment Ramona was undecided. Plainly she was torn between wanting The Littlest Steam Shovel read aloud again and the pleasure of going out with Beezus. "O.K.," she agreed at last.
"Get your sweater while I tell mother," said Beezus.
"Clunk! Clunk!" shouted Ramona happily.
When Ramona appeared with her sweater, Beezus stared at her in dismay. Oh, no, she thought. She can't wear those to the library.
On her head Ramona wore a circle of cardboard with two long paper ears attached. The insides of the ears were colored with pink crayon, Ramona's work at nursery school. "I'm the Easter bunny," announced Ramona.
"Mother," wailed Beezus. "You aren't going to let her wear those awful ears to the library!"
"Why, I don't see why not." Mother sounded surprised that Beezus should object to Ramona's ears.
"They look so silly. Whoever heard of an Easter bunny in September?" Beezus complained, as Ramona hopped up and down to make her ears flop. I just hope we don't meet anybody we know, Beezus thought, as they started out the front door.
But the girls had no sooner left the house when they saw Mrs. Wisser, a lady who lived in the next block, coming toward them with a friend. It was too late to turn back. Mrs. Wisser had seen them and was waving.
"Why, hello there, Beatrice," Mrs. Wisser said, when they met. "I see you have a dear little bunny with you today."
"Uh . . . yes." Beezus didn't know what else to say.
Ramona obligingly hopped up and down to make her ears flop.
Mrs. Wisser said to her friend, as if Beezus and Ramona couldn't hear, "Isn't she adorable?"
Both children knew whom Mrs. Wisser was talking about. If she had been talking about Beezus, she would have said something quite different. Such a nice girl, probably. A sweet child, perhaps. Adorable, never.
"Just look at those eyes," said Mrs. Wisser.
Ramona beamed. She knew whose eyes they were talking about. Beezus knew too, but she didn't care. Mother said blue eyes were just as pretty as brown.
Mrs. Wisser leaned over to Ramona. "What color are your eyes, sweetheart?" she asked.
"Brown and white," said Ramona promptly.
"Brown and white eyes!" exclaimed the friend. "Isn't that cunning?"
Beezus had thought it was cunning the first time she heard Ramona say it, about a year ago. Since then she had given up trying to explain to Ramona that she wasn't supposed to say she had brown and white eyes, because Ramona always answered, "My eyes are brown and white," and Beezus had to admit that, in a way, they were.
"And what is the little bunny's name?" asked Mrs. Wisser's friend.
"My name is Ramona Geraldine Quimby," answered Ramona, and then added generously, "My sister's name is Beezus."
"Beezus!" exclaimed the lady. "What an odd name. Is it French?"
"Oh, no," said Beezus. Wishing, as she so often did, that she had a more common nickname, like Betty or Patsy, she explained as quickly as she could how she happened to be called Beezus.
Ramona did not like to lose the attention of her audience. She hitched up the leg of her overalls and raised her knee. "See my scab?" she said proudly. "I fell down and hurt my knee and it bled and bled."
"Ramona!" Beezus was horrified. "You aren't supposed to show people your scabs."
"Why?" asked Ramona. That was one of the most exasperating things about Ramona. She never seemed to understand what she was not supposed to do.
"It's a very nice scab," said Mrs. Wisser's friend, but she did not look at it as if she really thought it was nice.
"We;;, we must be going," said Mrs. Wisser.
"Good-by, Mrs. Wisser," said Beezus politely, and hoped that if they met anyone else they knew she could somehow manage to hide Ramona behind a bush.
"By-by, Ramona," said Mrs. Wisser.
"Good-by," said Ramona, and Beezus knew that she felt that a girl who was four years old was too grown-up to say by-by.
Except for holding Ramona's hand crossing the streets, Beezus lingered behind he the rest of the way to the library. She hoped that all the people who stopped and smiled at Ramona would not think they were together. When they reached the Glenwood Branch Library, she said, "Ramona, wouldn't you like me to carry your ears for you now?"
"No," said Ramona flatly.
Inside the library, Beezus hurried Ramona into the boys and girls' section and seated her on a little chair in front of the picture books. "See, Ramona," she whispered, "here's a book about a duck. Wouldn't you like that?"
"No," said Ramona in a loud voice.
Beezus' face turned red with embarresment when everyone in the library looked at Ramona's ears and smiled. "Sh-h," she whispered, as Miss Greever, the grownups' librarian, frowned in their direction. "You're supposed to speak quietly in the library."
Beezus slected another book. "Look, Ramona. Here's a funny story about a kitten that falls into the goldfish bowl. Wouldn't you like that?"
"No," said Ramona in a loud whisper. "I want to find my own book."
If only Miss Evans, the children's librarian, were there! She would know how to select a book for Ramona. Beezus noticed Miss Greever glance distapprovingly in their direction while the other grownups watched Ramona and smiled. "All right, you can look," Beezus agreed, to keep Ramona quiet. "I'll go find a book for myself."
When Beezus had selected her book, she returned to the picture-book section, where she found Ramona sitting on the bench with both arms clasped around a big flat book. "I found my book," she said, and held it up for Beezus to see. On the cover was a picture of a steam shovel with its jaws full of rocks. The title was Big Steve the Steam Shovel.
"Oh, Ramona," whispered Beezus in dismay. "You don't want that book."
"I do, too," insisted Ramona, forgetting to whisper. "You told me I could pick out my own book."
Under the disapproving stare of Miss Greever, Beezus gave up. Ramona was right. Beezus looked with distaste at the big orange-colored book in its stout library binding. At least it would be due in two weeks, but Beezus did not feel very happy at the thought of two more weeks of steam shovels. And it just went to show how Ramona always got her own way.
Beezus took her book and Ramona's to Miss Greever's desk.
"Is this where you pay for the books?" asked Ramona.
"We don't have to pay for the books," said Beezus.
"Are you going to charge them?" Ramona asked.
Beezus pulled her library card out of her sweater pocket. "I show this card to the lady and she lets us keep the books for two weeks. A library isn't like a store, where you buy things."
Ramona looked as if she did not understand. "I want a card," she said.
"You have to be able to write your own name before you can have a library card," Beezus explained.
"I can write my own name," said Ramona.
"Oh, Ramona," said Beezus, "you can't either."
"Perhaps she really does know how to write her name," said Miss Greever, as she took a card out of her desk. Beezus watched doubtfully while Miss Greever asked Ramona her name and age. then the librarian asked Ramona what her father's occupation was. When Ramona didn't understand, she asked, "What kind of work does your father do?"
"He mows the lawn," said Ramona promptly.
The librarian laughed. "I mean, how does he earn his living?"
Somehow Beezus did not like to have Miss Greever laugh at her sister. After all, how could Ramona be expected to know what Father did? "He works for the Pacific Gas and Electric Company," Beezus told the librarian.
Miss Greever wrote this down on the card and shoved it across the desk to Ramona. "Write your name on this line," she directed.
Nothing daunted, Ramona grasped the pencil in her fist and began to write. She bore down so hard that the tip snapped off the lead, but she wrote on. When she laid down the pencil, Beezus picked up the card to see what she had written. The line on the card was filled with
"That's my name," said Ramona proudly.
"That's just scribbling," Beezus told her.
"It is too my name," insisted Ramona, while Miss Greever quietly dropped the card into the wastebasket. "I've watched you write and I know how."
"Here, Ramona, you can hold my card." Beezus tried to be comforting. "You can pretend it's yours."
Ramona brightened at this, and Miss Greever checked out the books on Beezus' card. As soon as they got home, Ramona demanded, "Read my new book to me."
And so Beezus began. "Big Steve was a steam shovel. He was the biggest steam shovel in the whole city. . . ." When she finished the book she had to admit she liked Big Steve better than Scoopy. His only sound effects were tooting and growling. he tooted and growled in big letters on every page. Big Steve did not shed tears or want to be a pile driver. He worked hard at being a steam shovel, and by the end of the book Beezus had learned a lot about steam shovels. Unfortunatly, she did not want to learn about steam shovels. Oh, well, she guessed she could stand two weeks of Big Steve.
"Read it again," said Ramona enthusiastically. "I like Big Steve. He's better than Scoopy."
"How would you like me to show you how to really write your name?" Beezus asked, hoping to divert Ramona from steam shovels.
"O.K.," agreed Ramona.
Beezus found pencil and paper and wrote Ramona in large, careful letters across the top of the paper.
Ramona studied it critically. "I don't like it," she said at last.
"But that's the way your name is spelled," Beezus explained.
"You didn't make dots and lines," said Ramona. Seizing the pencil, she wrote,
"But, Ramona, you don't understand." Beezus took the pencil and wrote her name on the paper. "You've seen me write Beatrice, which has an i and a t in it. See, like that. You don't have an i or a t in your name, because it isn't spelled that way."
Ramona looked skeptical. She grabbed the pencil again and wrote with a flourish,
"That's my name, because I like it," she anounded. "I like to make dots and lines." Lying flat on her stomach on the floor she proceeded to fill the paper with i's and t's.
"But, Ramona, nobody's name is spelled with just . . ." Beezus stopped. What was the use? Trying to explain spelling and writing to Ramona was too complicated. Everything became difficult when Ramona was around, even an easy thing like taking a book out of the library. Well, if Ramona was happy thinking her name was spelled with i's and t's, she could go ahead and think it.
The next two weeks were fairly peaceful. Mother and Father soon tired of tooting and growling and, like Beezus, they looked forward to the day Big Steve was due at the library. Father even tried to hide the book behind the radio, but Ramona soon found it. Beezus was happy that one part of her plan had worked -- Ramona had forgotten The Littlest Steam Shovel now that she had a better book. On Ramona's second trip to the library, perhaps Miss Evans could find a book that would make her forget steam shovels entirely.
As for Ramona, she was perfectly happy. She had three people to read aloud a book she liked, and she spent much of her time covering sheets of paper with i's and t's. Sometimes she wrote in pencil, sometimes she wrote in crayon, and once she wrote in ink until her mother caught her at it.
Finally, to the relief of the rest of the family, the day came when Big Steve had to be returned. "Come on, Ramona," said Beezus. "It's time to go to the library for another book."
"I have a book," said Ramona, who was lying on her stomach writing her version of her name on a piece of paper with purple crayon.
"No, it belongs to the library," Beezus explained, glad that for once Ramona couldn't possibly get her own way.
"It's my book," said Ramona, crossing several t's with a flourish.
"Beezus is right, dear," observed Mother. "Run along and get Big Steve."
Ramona looked sulky, but she went into the bodroom. In a few minutes she appeared with Big Steve in her hand and a satisfied expression on her face. "It's my book," she announced. "I wrote my name in it."
Mother looked alarmed. "What do you mean, Ramona? Let me see." She took the book and opened it. Every page in the book was covered with enormous purple i's and t's in Ramona's very best handwriting.
"Mother!" cried Beezus. "Look what she's done! And in crayon so it won't erase."
"Ramona Quimby," said Mother. "You're a very naughty girl! Why did you do a think like that?"
"It's my book," said Ramona stubbornly. "I like it."
"Mother, what am I going to do?" Beezus demanded. "It's checked out on my card and I'm responsible. they won't let me take any more books out of the library, and I won't have anything to read, and it will all be Ramona's fault. She's always spoiling my fun and it isn't fair!" Beezus didn't know what she would do without her library card. She couldn't get along without library books. She just couldn't, that was all.
"I do not spoil your fun," stormed Ramona. "You have all the fun. I can't read and it isn't fair." Ramona's words ended in a howl as she buried her face in her mother's skirt.
"I couldn't read when I was your age and I didn't have someone to read to me all the time, so it is too fair," argued Beezus. "You always get your own way, because you're the youngest."
"I do not!" shouted Ramona. "And you don't read all the time. You're mean!"
"I am not mean," Beezus shouted back.
"Children!" cried Mother. "Stop it, both of you! Ramona, you were a very naughty girl!" A loud sniff came from Ramona. "And, Beezus," her mother continued, "the library won't take your card away from you. If you'll get my purse I'll give you some money to pay for the damage to the book. Take Ramona along with you, explain what happened, and the librarian will tell you how much to pay."
This made Beezus feel better. Ramona sulked all the way to the library, but when they got there Beezus was pleased to see that Miss Evans, the children's librarian, was sitting behind the desk. Miss Evans was the kind of librarian who would understand about little sisters.
"Hello, Beatrice," said Miss Evans. "Is this your little sister I've heard so much about?"
Beezus wondered what Miss Evans had heard about Ramona. "Yes, this is Ramona," she said and went on hesitantly, "and, Miss Evans, she-"
"I'm a bad girl," inturrupted Ramona, smiling winningly at the librarian.
"Oh, you are?" said Miss Evans. "What did you do?"
"I wrote in a book," said Ramona, not the least ashamed. "I wrote in purple crayon and it will never, never erase. Never, never, never."
Embarrassed, Beezus handed Miss Evans Big Steve the Steam Shovel. "Mother game me the money to pay for the damage," she explained.
The librarian turned the pages of the book. "Well, you didn't miss a page, did you?" she finally said to Ramona.
"No," said Ramona, pleased with herself. "And it will never, never-"
"I'm awfully sorry," inturrupted Beezus. "After this I'll try to keep our library books where she can't reach them."
Miss Evans consulted a file of little cards in a drawer. "Since every page in the book was damaged and the library can no longer use it, I'll have to ask you to pay for the whole book. I'm sorry, but this is the rule. It will cost two dollars and fifty cents."
Two dollars and fifty cents! What a lot of things that would have bought, Beezus reflected, as she pulled three folded dollar bills out of her pocket and handed them to the librarian. Miss Evans put the money in a drawer and gave Beezus fifty cents in change.
Then Miss Evans took a rubber stamp and stamped something inside the book. By twisting her head around, Beezus could see that the word was Discarded. "There!" Miss Evans said, pushing the book across the desk. "You have paid for it, so now it's yours."
Beezus stared at the librarian. "You mean . . . to keep?"
"That's right," answered Miss Evans.
Ramona grabbed the book. "It's mine. I told you it was mine!" Then she turned to Beezus and said triumphantly, "You said people didn't buy books at the library and now you've just bought one!"
"Buying a book and paying for damage are not the same thing," Miss Evans pointed out to Ramona.
Beezus could see that Ramona didn't care. The book was hers, wasn't it? It was paid for and she could keep it. And that's not fair, thought Beezus. Ramona shouldn't get her own way when she had been naughty.
"But, Miss Evans," protested Beezus, "if she spoils a book she shouldn't get to keep it. Now every time she finds a book she likes she will . . ." Beezus did not go on. She knew very well what Ramona would do, but she wasn't going to say it out loud in front of her.
"I see what you mean." Miss Evans looked thoughtful. "Give me the book, Ramona," she said.
Doubtfully Ramona handed her the book.
"Ramona, do you have a library card?" Miss Evans asked.
Ramona shook her head.
"Then Beezus must have taken the book out on her card," said Miss Evans. "So the book belongs to Beezus."
Why, of course! Why hadn't she thought of that before? It was her book, not Ramona's. "Oh, thank you," said Beezus greatfully, as Miss Evans handed the book to her. She could do anything she wanted with it.
For once Ramona didn't know what to say. She scowled and looked as if she were building up to a tantrum. "You've got to read it to me," she said at last.
"Not unless I feel like it," said Beezus. "After all, it's my book," she couldn't resist adding.
"That's no fair!" Ramona looked as if she were about to howl.
"It is too fair," said Beezus calmly. "And if you have a tantrum I won't read it to you at all."
Suddenly, as if she had decided Beezus meant what she said, Ramona stopped scowling. "O.K.," she said cheerfully.
Beezus watched her carefully for a minute. Yes, she really was being agreeable, thought Beezus with a great feeling of relief. And now that she did not have to read Big Steve unless she wanted to, Beezus felt that she would not mind reading it once in a while. "Come on, Ramona," she said. "Maybe I'll have time to read it to you before Father comes home."
"O.K.," said Ramona happily, as she took Beezus' hand.
Miss Evans smiled at the girls as they started to leave. "Good luck, Beatrice," she said.
If you notice any typos or spelling mistakes, or any errors at all, please e-mail me and let me know. I can't spot everything, and your help would be very much appreaciated. Thank you!
All characters and stories are copyright © 1955 by Beverly Cleary.