A review by pagesofmilkandhoney
The Art of Ramona Quimby: Sixty-Five Years of Illustrations from Beverly Cleary's Beloved Books by Anna Katz


The Ramona books mean a great deal to me. I can remember specifically visiting my grandparents during the summer and always having a new Ramona book waiting for me to read. Now that I know the books are much older, I wonder how my grandmother knew about them, especially when she only ever had boys. I'm extremely grateful to her anyhow, and it wasn't until I read this book that I really realised how often I actually think about them. Even just small things, like when I am writing the word 'library' or thinking about how to pronounce Chevrolet - it really is a pretty sounding word, perfect for a doll. But there are things I had forgotten about too, such as Ramona's kitty-cat Q or or her pajama-clad sheep's costume. And I never really realised how important the illustrations were to my experience reading the books, which is where this book comes in.

I always used to frown when books were re-printed with updated illustrations. The new pictures never had the same effect on me as the old ones did (or, as I've come to realise, how 'my' pictures did). And then this book on the Art of Ramona Quimby starts off by explaining how the different illustrators over the years would have the same affect on the new generation of children reading them. A child now will grow up with the images of Tracy Dockrey or Jacqueline Rogers, in comparison to my original second-hand copies of Louis Darling or Alan Tiegreen that my grandmother handed to me. To the new children, their connection will be to their own illustrator, and all the others will be familiar, if slightly out of sync, which is how I feel about the new images. And that's okay, because that's how the world turns and evolves, and the most important part is that the books are still being re-printed, no matter what pictures can be found inside or who drew them.

It is really interesting though to see the different iterations of the images and what details the illustrators have chosen to include. I would have assumed that the same pictures would just be redrawn, albeit in a new style personal to the new artist. But it is more complex than that. Perspectives have been changed, or remain parallel. Angles have changed, and sometimes other people are included when they weren't included in the earlier drawings. Sometimes there are new details, such as in the illustration of Picky-picky's grave - earlier drawings are very simple and focus on the headstone, whereas new ones also include shading to illustrate the freshly disturbed earth beneath it. And even though it is widely accepted (although never explicitly stated) that the series takes place beginning in the 70s, the clothing or hairstyles of the characters have been updated. One illustrator even includes a modern desktop computer in an image of Ramona visiting the school nurse, when clearly that would not have existed when the book was originally published. These little changes are what makes each of the illustrators special and unique. All of their illustrations are their own interpretation, and that's especially true with the emotions of the characters as well. In an earlier image, Ramona might have an angry or determined face; in a more recent image, she looks more forlorn or sorry for herself. It's so interesting to me to see all the different ways that one could interpret the scenes, and reminds me that my own image of how events have happened won't be the same as anyone else's - no one can see inside my mind.

If anything, this book has made me incredibly grateful to have read the Ramona books as a child, and I hope to pass on that love to my own children one day (even if they will have their 'own' images of what Ramona's story looks like). I love the comparison of all the images, and what changed from iteration to iteration. And it has made me value the work of all the different illustrators throughout the years. They clearly all have a deep love for these stories, and their work evidently shows that.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.