I’d never heard of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series of books before, which apparently made me quite lame to my youngest son.  He promptly informed me that his class was currently reading them.  And that I should keep up with the world of publishing.  (For the record, I thought I was doing quite well having recently purchased the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid book).  All was made well when I informed him that I would be going to see the movie, however.

Not that I could relate to the plot of the movie at all.  The story follows the life of a young girl, Ramona Quimby (Joey King), who doesn’t always fit in, struggles to find her place, and needs assurance that it’s okay to be weird.  Her father, Bob Quimby (John Corbett) comes from an artistic background but settles for a “straight” job to support his family, loses his job and is forced to re-evaluate and change the direction of his life as he raises two creative, rambunctious types.  So, not at all a relatable situation for me.

“You are so weird.” –Ramona

Ramona suffers from an overactive imagination, which often takes the form of her world taking on a cartoonish aspect.  Ramona admits that it “Makes the fun parts funner and the scary parts scarier.”  She goes through life with her day dreams, little respect for rules, being original and creative even as the world attempts to train her to fit in.

“You will always have me around.” –Aunt Bea

Ramona is well loved.  Sure, she has an older sister, Beezus (Selena Gomez), who gets on her nerves sometimes, but she has parents who are present for her, the family cat (and her confident) Picky Picky, and her Aunt Bea (Ginnifer Goodwin) who is that adult outsider voice (because sometimes we can’t hear from our parents) who gets her, speaks into her life, understands, listens to, and encourages her.

“I can be extraordinary.” –Ramona

It can be frustrating for a parent.  Pursuing art is not exactly the fast track to riches or security. Artists indulge their muse, because they have to; in order to still the voices in their head. Because something in the core of their being crawls up and takes hold of them to move pen to paper.  Some parents don’t know what to do with such children as they seem them as toiling away at a “worthless” endeavor.   Yet that’s the challenge of parenting: to do their best to raise their child in the way they are bent, creative or not.  Though a dad who has “been there” has an advantage.

“I know you think being different is bad, but it’s not.” –Beezus

Artists often struggle to find a place to fit in, a place to belong.  After all, creative types don’t fit well into molds.  It becomes easy to believe a lie about themselves such as “Everything you touch you mess up.” (which Beezus  tells Ramona in a fit of frustration).  Artists add spark and color to life.  Making hot dog soufflés, the “largest drawing in the world”, making tiaras out of thistles, part of the point is NOT fitting into the molds the world tries to confine them to.

It’s an artist’s job to ask questions. It’s an artist’s job to push lines.  What makes them artists, what gives them their unique voice, is how they come at life and the world. It’s what makes many be seen or treated as “weirdos”. They can often be prickly, moody, and have isolationist tendencies since they create in their “caves”.  They cut open their emotional veins and bleed all over the page/canvass. There is a certain amount of fearlessness and abandonment as they put ourselves out there, exposing themselves.

“You’re your own person and you don’t care what people think.  It’s brave to be who you are.” –Beezus

We come from the same Creator, created in His image, with his creative Spirit, so it’s all right to love art for art’s sake. We can listen to beautiful music and feel God’s presence. We can become lost in a painting and let it wordlessly speak to us. We can get transported by a story and learn lessons about ourselves. That’s the role of the artist, to remind us of our humanity and to remind us of the story we find ourselves in.

“We’re so weird.” –Beezus

Ramona and Beezus, for being aimed at the pre-teen set, has a little for everyone:  multiple story lines from struggling with unemployment and finding direction in life to dealing with adolescent feelings entering into relationships to adults doing the dance of courtship.  It’s well-written, charming, honest, and with a surprising amount of heart.  Maybe I’m not so lame after all.