10 Facts About Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Books

Ramona Quimby—the protagonist of Beverly Cleary’s popular series of children's novels—has a knack for getting into trouble, whether it’s dropping out of kindergarten, squeezing a tube of toothpaste down a sink, or cracking a hard-boiled egg on her head to show off (only to find her mom forgot to boil it). While her older sister Beezus calls her a “pest,” Ramona’s imaginative and lively nature is why readers still love her all these years later.

1. Ramona Was An Accidental Character

Beezus and Ramona appeared as minor characters in Cleary’s first novel, Henry Huggins (1950). Cleary tossed Ramona into the book because she realized none of her characters had siblings. When she went to add a female friend for Henry, she included a little sister to explain Beezus’s nickname. Ramona couldn’t pronounce her real name, Beatrice, so now everyone called her Beezus.

As for the little sister’s name, Cleary overheard a neighbor outside calling to someone named Ramona and promptly put the name in the book.

2. Ramona Surprised Cleary By Sticking Around

Originally, Ramona was “just a little brat in Henry Huggins,” intended for one brief scene, but Cleary found she kept having new ideas for the character. In 1955, she wrote Beezus and Ramona, the only book in the series from Beezus’s point of view. In 1968, Cleary wrote Ramona the Pest and went on to write six more Ramona books during the 1970s and 1980s. They sold well and Ramona soon became Cleary’s most popular character.

3. Ramona Is Based On A Girl Eating Butter

Ramona was inspired by a childhood memory. One day, Cleary saw a neighbor girl walking home from the store. "She had been sent to the neighborhood store for a pound of butter," Cleary said. "In those days, it was all in one piece, not in cubes. And she had opened the butter and was eating it."

Cleary may have thrown a bit of herself into Ramona as well. In 1995, she said that, as a child, “I was very much like Ramona when I lived on the farm and was wild and free.” When she got older and moved to Portland, a bad teacher “turned me into Ellen Tebbits, a rather anxious little girl." In another interview, she added, "But I had Ramona-like thoughts!"

4. Cleary Wrote Her Books “Very Messily.”

Cleary approached writing in an intuitive way. She explained:

“I usually start with a couple of ideas, not necessarily at the beginning of the book, and I just write. Sometimes I have to go back and figure out how a character got to a particular point. In Ramona and Her Father, … I was asked to write a Christmas story about Ramona for one of the women’s magazines. I did this, and called it 'Ramona and the Three Wise Persons.' But in writing this story, I was thinking how Ramona got to the point where she was wearing a sheep costume made from old pajamas. So after that story was published, I wrote how she got to that point. So in this case, I wrote the last chapter first. Of course this is against everything people are taught about writing, but I don’t believe that outlining works for fiction because if you have it all worked out, it becomes boring.”


5. Klickitat Street Is A Real Place

Ramona and the rest of the characters live on Klickitat Street in Portland, Oregon, just a few blocks from Cleary's childhood home on NE 37th Street. Cleary chose the name Klickitat because it reminded her of the sound of knitting needles. Today, you can visit the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden on Klickitat Street, which has statues of Ramona, Henry, and Henry's dog, Ribsy.

6. Cleary Wrote For Real Children

One day when Cleary was working as a children’s librarian in Yakima, Washington, a group of boys asked her, “Where are the books about kids like us?” Cleary found she couldn’t answer them. What’s more, she remembered feeling the same way as a child. “I longed for funny stories about the sort of children who lived in my neighborhood,” Cleary wrote in her memoir My Own Two Feet. Soon after, she decided to try her hand at writing for and about real children.

7. Her Characters Deal With Real Issues

Cleary set a new benchmark for realistic children’s fiction. Ramona has a complex personality with good and bad traits that change as she matures. She’s emotional, and sometimes feels afraid, jealous, or neglected. Her emotional life drives her behavior, and leads to conflict.

On top of that, the Ramona books deal with real-life issues. Ramona’s dad loses his job and the family struggles financially. Her parents fight about money, which makes Beezus and Ramona worry they’ll get divorced. The cat Picky-Picky dies and Ramona and Beezus bury her in the backyard before their parents get home. These darker issues not only stuck with readers, they influenced children’s literature overall.

8. There Was A 1988 TV Show Called Ramona

The 10-episode TV show starred Sarah Polley as Ramona. Here’s the intro:

9. Until Recently, Cleary Insisted On Script Approval Of Movies

For years, Cleary turned down deals for full-length Ramona movies because she wanted script approval, feeling that she knew her characters better than a screenwriter. However, in 2010, Ramona and Beezus came out starring Selena Gomez as Beezus and Joey King as Ramona. Cleary seemed to like the movie. “Although there were scenes left out that I would have liked to see, on the whole I think it was a movie that parents could take their children to without worry," she said.

10. The Last Ramona Book Was Published In 1999

Ramona’s World came out in 1999 after a 15-year wait. Now almost 100, Cleary is retired and so we won’t be seeing another Ramona book. But Cleary thinks Ramona will “be all right” when she grows up.

"She'll do something creative. She liked to draw because her father liked to draw. Children often live out their parents' frustrations. But I don't know. I'd have to write the book to find out."

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

5 Ingenious Tricks for Saving Burnt Cookies

"Please bake our brethren on the middle rack next time."
"Please bake our brethren on the middle rack next time."
cnicbc/iStock via Getty Images

It doesn’t take long for cookies to go from an irresistible golden brown to a dispiriting black (especially if you're baking at a high altitude). But before you toss them in the trash and start rummaging around in your pantry for a store-bought snack, we have a few suggestions for saving that imperfect batch.

1. Grate off the burnt bits of cookie with a zester or cheese grater.

As PureWow explains, all you have to do is slide the cookie along your cheese grater to get rid of the burnt layer on the bottom. The smaller the holes, the better, so a lemon zester works well for this, too.

2. Scrape the burned part of the cookie off with a knife.

If you don’t have a cheese grater, you can get the same results with a regular knife—it just might take you an extra minute or two. Instead of slicing off the entire bottom of the cookie, hold your knife blade perpendicular to the bottom of the cookie and carefully scrape away the burnt crumbs.

3. Store the burned cookies in a jar with a piece of bread.

Even after you’ve shaved off the blackened evidence of your culinary blunder, your cookies might still be crispier than you’d prefer. Store them in an airtight container with a slice of bread—they’ll soak up the moisture and soften right up.

4. Make ice cream sandwiches with your burned cookies.

Snobby snackers won’t scoff at your grated cookies if they can’t even see the bottoms. Slather one with a nice, thick layer of ice cream, slap another one on top, and roll the edges in your favorite topping for a treat that’s better than any cookie—burnt or not.

5. Transform your burned cookies into a cookie crust.

For charred, crunchy cookies that seem beyond salvation, you can completely cut off the burnt bottoms, crush the remains, and turn them into a cookie crust for a pie or cheesecake. Here’s a simple recipe from the Pioneer Woman that calls for three ingredients: cookie crumbs, butter, and sugar.