Ramona: Recommended Readalikes
How are you supposed to read a clock if it doesn’t have any words? Why are dimes smaller than nickels if they’re worth more money? How are you supposed to stay away from germs if they’re invisible? Being a kid is hard enough without a younger sibling, cousin, or neighbor making things worse. They’re always touching your stuff, following you around, getting you in trouble, or taking up all the attention. Young readers looking for some sympathy and understanding from an author might enjoy the following books:
- Ways to Make Sunshine by Renee Watson
After nine-year-old Ryan Hart’s family goes through some readjustments after her father loses his post office job (moving into an old house, selling the second car), she feels a little shaken. It’s a lot of new, big changes to adjust to. Adding onto that, her brother Ray drives her nuts and her parents don’t seem to understand her. But none of that will Ryan or dull her sunshine. She continues to find ways to bring small moments of happiness to her life and the lives around her. Readers who enjoyed the realism in the Ramona series will enjoy this set of open, honest, and complex young characters going through normal childhood experiences. After finishing this book, make sure to check out the Ryan Hart sequel, Ways to Grow Love.
- Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows
Imagine if, instead of one Ramona (the pest), there were two! It’s always double the trouble with Ivy and Bean. Although the pair experienced hate at first sight, Ivy comes to Bean’s rescue when she needs somewhere to hide after pranking her older sister. After experiencing a series of exciting misadventures, Bean and Ivy become lifelong friends. The lesson is clear: don’t judge others based on appearances, as Bean does. Because the book includes some name calling, parents will want to preview the series to make sure it’s appropriate for their children.
- The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman
When Viji and her sister Rukku run away from their abusive father to live on the bustling city streets of Chennai, their situation couldn’t be more dire. The pair have no money, no food, and the only shelter they’re able to find is under an abandoned bridge. Still, they meet and befriend Muthi and Arul, two boys in a similar situation, and form a sort of found family. The group works together to scavenge trash heaps and make beaded necklaces in order to survive. When the rainy season comes, however, so too come the mosquitoes. Rukku and Muthu fall ill, leaving Viji and Arul to decide whether they should risk going for help from the same adults who neglected them in the first place. Padma Venkatraman skillfully covers heavy topics such as abuse, homelessness, severe poverty, and more in an age appropriate way. While the setting and plot may be completely opposite to Ramona, the bond of sisterhood and friendship shines through.
Teens and adults who have grown up to realize that their siblings, cousins, or neighbors aren’t that bad might try some of these titles:
- On My Own Two Feet by Beverly Cleary
On My Own Two Feet is the second installment of Beverly Cleary’s heartfelt memoir, picking up where A Girl from Yamhill leaves off. Older readers will appreciate the author’s focus on her years throughout college and onward, rather than her adolescence. Despite aggressive pushback from her family, Cleary pushed on through financial uncertainty and other hardships to write her first book, Henry Higgens. It was in this fictional universe that Ramona and Beezus Quimby were born.
- The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Stella and her twin sister Desiree are at the center of this novel. In the 1960s, at sixteen-years-old, both teens run away from their Black southern community after being pressured to start working as house cleaners. They long to see the hustle and bustle of New Orleans, just a few hours away from their home in Mallard. However, the journey divides them and the two quickly grow apart. Stella, lighter skinned than her twin, ends up marrying a wealthy white man unaware she is white passing. When their daughter Kennedy is born, her husband believes their daughter is white. Desiree, on the other hand, struggles to leave an abusive marriage with her daughter Jude. When the two manage to make it back to Mallard fourteen years after Desiree originally left, her daughter is rejected by the town because of her skin color. The Vanishing Half is an incredibly dense, beautifully written book that explores colorism, domestic violence, identity issues, racism, and more.
- My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
My Sister’s Keeper is a bit older than our normal readalikes (2004, baby), but it’s a quintessential example of the complexities of sisterhood. Thirteen-year-old Anna Fitzgerald isn’t sick, but she might as well be. She’s had numerous surgeries, transfusions, and shots involving everything from her bone marrow to her blood stem cells. All of these procedures are meant to accomplish one thing: help her older sister Kate alive as she fights through round after round of complications from acute leukemia. After all, she was specifically genedically conceived to be a perfect match and donor for her sister. However, when she’s asked (voluntold) to donate her kidney, she makes the decision to seek medical emancipation despite what it might mean for her sister.
For five more SFF (Science Fiction, Fantasy, Speculative Fiction) books featuring complex, protective sibling relationships, check out this roundup from Tor.com and their comments section.
This blog is created in conjunction with the These Books Made Me podcast, a Prince George’s County Memorial Library System production. Check out the corresponding episode, Ramona, on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you normally listen to podcasts. Or you can simply click on the link to the episode to listen.