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Ramona Quimby: Free Range Kid?

A “Free Range Kid” walks to school, makes dinner on her own, or rides a bike around the neighborhood, according to Lenore Skenazy. By that definition, Ramona Quimby is a model “Free Range Kid.”

9-year-old Ramona isn’t hurrying off to get to dance class or playing with video games. Instead, she’s doing exactly what a 9-year-old should do — playing. She uses her imagination and her ingenuity to make her own fun. Yes, she gets into quite a lot of trouble and things don’t always work out as planned. But isn’t that how kids learn?

Ramona’s parents — who are busy keeping the family afloat — give her free reign to learn things on her own. They’re not hovering over her as she sets up a lemonade stand or starts her own car wash (to try to raise money for the family!). They’re not micromanaging her schedule and setting up play dates for her.

In one heartbreaking scene, Ramona and big sister Beezus have to bury their beloved cat in a grave in their backyard. It reminded me of when I was a kid and my neighborhood pals and I found a dead bird and buried in the backyard. I can’t imagine the germs we must have been exposed to, but it was a character-building experience that I wouldn’t trade (although, to be honest, I’m not sure I’d let my kids bury our cat!)

Amazingly, Ramona is even given tacit permission to run away. I don’t know many parents today who would let their 9-year-old pack a bag and drag it to the nearby bus stop. Before they could get there, it’s likely a well-intentioned stranger would call Child Protective Services. It’s not as if her parents didn’t care about her. Instead, they let her figure some things out on her own (and they did slip a baby monitor in her suit case, after all).

There were elements of the movie that didn’t work for me (Selena Gomez seems miscast as Beezus, for one), but I loved Ramona (Joey King), the spunky oddball with a can-do attitude and a generous heart. I also appreciated that the movie wasn’t in 3D and didn’t feature high-tech gadgets or even every day technology such as ipods, cell phones and laptops. It was a treat to see a kids’ movie where kids actually acted like kids.

My fellow blogger Madeline recently wrote about why she won’t take her daughters to see “Ramona and Beezus.” I certainly respect her decision and know how hard it is to see a beloved book translated onto the big screen. So often the movie version replaces the book version in our minds.

I’m certainly not suggesting that the movie “Ramona and Beezus” is better than the books – or could replace the books in any way. But I do think the movie sends a great message to young girls. Don’t worry about how you look or fitting in with the popular crowd. Be your weird self and your independent spirit will shine through.

Photo: courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

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