Restart by Gordon Korman

Chase’s memory just went out the window. Chase doesn’t remember falling off the roof. He doesn’t remember hitting his head. He doesn’t, in fact, remember anything. He wakes up in a hospital room and suddenly has to learn his whole life all over again . . . starting with his own name.

Even though I enjoyed the ride, I experienced enough disconnect that I just wasn’t buying. This story of a completely evil bully, thief, and tough guy turned into a completely harmless and benevolent thirteen year old kid by a fall off the roof was fun to read, but I didn’t really believe in the premise. Chase and his two sidekicks are so mean, so completely without redeeming qualities before Chase’s accident. They terrorize the entire school; practically the whole town walks in fear of Chase and his buddies. Then, magically (but it’s not magic), Chase loses his memory and becomes a different person. He doesn’t remember the old Chase and all of his nefarious and violent bullying ways, so he is free to become New-Chase, a guy who doesn’t understand why anyone would use his power and popularity as a star football player to torment and intimidate others. Not only does he not understand the impulse to violence and bullying, all of his new inclinations are peace, light, and goodwill. New-Chase defends the oppressed, listens to the elderly, and plays with little children.

The characterization is pretty one-dimensional for most of the minor characters and some of the major ones, too: the grumpy war hero, the blindly affirming mom, the pushy dad, the accommodating principal, the two jerks, old-Chase (pre-accident) himself, Kimberly the clueless girl with a crush, even Brendan the nerd. I never forgot for long that they were characters in a book. And yet, I did enjoy the story during the times that I was able to suspend disbelief.

Readers who buy into Chase’s reincarnation as a good guy will enjoy the humor and the thought experiment in reimagining a bully turned into sweetness and light by a slight concussion and subsequent amnesia. It is fun to watch Chase rediscover himself—until what he discovers is that self is not-so-great. Recommended reading for middle school bullies: “O wad some Power the giftie gie us/To see oursels as ithers see us.” (Robert Burns) Chase rediscovers himself through the eyes of others who do remember Old-Chase, and then he must decide who he is going to be in the future.

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

This 2017 middle grade novel has definite Newbery award potential. It reads like a Newbery; the style, subject matter, and pacing reminded me of Katherine Paterson (Jacob Have I Loved) or Clare Vanderpool (Moon Over Manifest), both Newbery award winning authors. If Beyond the Bright Sea wins the Newbery or even a Newbery honor, it will become a best-seller. However, if it gets passed over for the major children’s book awards, I doubt if children will take it up and make it a popular classic. It’s that kind of book: if you’re required to read it as a child, you might fall in love, but most children won’t pick it up on their own.

The narrator in this story is twelve year old Crow, a foundling who floated in a skiff onto a tiny island, one of the Elizabeth Islands off the coast of Massachusetts, and into an adoptive family. Osh, the man wo rescued her as a baby and raised her, is something of a hermit with a mysterious past. And Miss Maggie is Crow’s teacher and Osh’s neighbor, a protective maiden aunt-type. At age twelve, Crow has questions about her own past and her birth parents, questions that can only be answered with investigation and stepping out into the wider world to find her heritage.

Beyond the Bright Sea is a book about identity and belonging and the meaning and relative significance of family ties of blood and of adoption. I have a friend, adopted, and just now in her early twenties and investigating her own birth family. She would love this book, I think. In fact, many adopted children, especially those of a different racial heritage from their adoptive parents, would probably enjoy this story since Crow is a brown-skinned girl of uncertain parentage whose foster father, Osh, and teacher, Miss Maggie, are both different from her and from each other in terms of racial heritage. Crow is also different and isolated from the community on the island where she lives in other ways. The islanders, many of them, avoid her because they believe she might have inherited a contagious disease. And Osh is not the most sociable of characters, and of course, they live on a small island, isolated from the outside world of the mainland. So, one question or theme in the book is whether or not humans need community and how they can create a network of family and friendships if some tragedy or turn of events has cut them off from human contact.

Adults might “sell” this book to kids with lures of a search for buried treasure, wild storm adventures, and an orphan child’s quest to find her parents and her other family members. Then, stand back and let the thoughtful and the adventurous readers become captured by the toils of a great narrative and winsome characters. I rather hope Beyond the Bright Sea does win some awards so that more kids, and adults, will discover it.

York by Laura Ruby

York, Book One, The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby.

This middle grade alternate history and steampunk-ish fantasy had a few awkward phrases and descriptions, and I’m not at all sure that all the loose ends were gathered together by the end of the book. (Understandable, since it’s the first book in a series.) However, Ms. Ruby tells such an absorbing and delightful story that I can forgive a few minor bobbles.

“The city had many nicknames: Gotham. Metropolis. The Shining Starr. The Big Apple. The City That Never Sleeps. These nicknames were not always accurate.”

The main character, the protagonist, of this novel is the City, New York City. But it’s a New York City changed and perhaps improved by the benevolence and inventiveness of the Morningstarr twins, Teresa and Theodore, during the first half of the nineteenth century. The Morningstarrs “performed architectural and mechanical wizardry to make New York City the most dazzling city in the world . . . the gleaming metropolis of the future.” Then, they disappeared, leaving “their land and property to a trust in the city’s name” and “a parting gift: a sort of puzzle, or treasure hunt.” The Morningstarr twins were definitely imaginative and eccentric, and for the next hundred and fifty years and more after their disappearance in 1854, people searched diligently for the clues that would lead them to the fabled Marningstarr treasure. But no one found it.

Enter Tess and Theo Biedermann, also twins, but in the present day, twenty-first century. They live with their family in a Morningstarr building, one of the six buildings left in the city of those that were planned and built by the Morningstarrs. Unfortunately, for the sake of history and for the Biedermanns, there’s an evil real estate developer and millionaire, Darnell Slant, who wants to buy up all of the Morningstarr buildings and make them into over-priced cracker box apartment buildings. Can Tess, Theo, and their new friend, Jaime, solve the Morningstarr cipher/puzzle and find the treasure and stop Darnell Slant?

It sounds fairly standard: evil real estate developer, a puzzle to solve, a race against time. However, the alternate history and steampunk elements of the plot and setting keep it fresh and interesting. The pacing is good, for the most part, and I didn’t really know what to expect most of the time. There are echoes of and allusions to Newbery award winner The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin and New York City history and the movie National Treasure, probably other cultural artifacts, too. Those are the ones I noticed and appreciated.

And the book includes some interesting philosophical speculation, especially in regards to life and technology and puzzle-solving. Is the process of solving a puzzle or playing a game its own reward? Or is it the winning or the treasure at the end that counts? Is any treasure worth any cost? How do you go about counting the cost when you don’t know what the treasure is? What does it mean to “be yourself” and to “believe in yourself”? Does faith in some object or journey create its own fulfillment? What is the difference between living beings and non-living artifacts of technology? Can a machine come to have life and agency? Can it respond to its environment and make decisions? How?

York was a book well worth the time spent reading its 476 pages. Fans of steampunk or New York City or puzzling and ciphers or alternate history adventure would do well to check it out.

Educator’s Guide to York from Walden Press.

Review of York at Charlotte’s Library.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.
This book may be nominated for a Cybils Award, but the views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect or determine the judging panel’s opinions.

Autumn Beginnings

Hooray for fall! Here are a few introductory lines from children’s fiction books with an autumn setting—or at least, an autumn beginning:

MoominValley in November by Tove Jansson. “Early one morning in Moominvalley Snufkin woke up in his tent with the feeling that autumn had come and that it was time to break camp.”

B Is for Betsy by Carolyn Haywood. ” . . . this morning Betsy was so busy feeling unhappy that she forgot all about the birds. Betsy was unhappy because today was the first day of school. She had never been to school, and she was sure she would not like it.”

The Moffats by Eleanor Estes. “The way Mama could peel apples! A few turns of the knife and there the apple was, all skinned! . . . Jane sighed. Her mother’s peeling fell off in long lovely curls, while, for the life of her, Jane couldn’t do any better than these thick little chunks which she popped into her mouth.”

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. “It was a dark and stormy night.”

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater. “It was an afternoon in late September. In the pleasant little city of Stillwater, Mr. Popper, the house painter, was going home from work.”

Freddy Plays Football by Walter R. Broooks. “Jinx, the black cat, was curled up in the exact center of the clean white counterpane that Mrs. Bean had just put on the spare room bed.”

The Bully of Barkham Street by Mary Stolz. “Martin Hastings wriggled at his desk. He squirmed and yawned and wished the bell would ring. It was the last period of the day, a hazy, hot fall day, and he was restless.”

Bridge to Terebithia by Katherine Paterson. “He began to trot across the yard. His breath was coming out in little puffs—cold for August. But it was early yet.”

Mystery Over the Brick Wall by Helen Fuller Orton. “One afternoon in late September the four members of the Bond family piled into their car for a very exciting trip. They were starting to a city fifty miles away, where they were to have a new home.”

Flaming Arrows by William O. Steele. “‘I reckon it’s suppertime,’ remarked Chad, letting his ax slip to the ground. He straightened up slowly. He was bone-tired, and his back was one fierce ache. But he was proud of himself. He figured he had never worked so hard in all his eleven years, for he’d spent this livelong day chopping trees and had done a man’s work.”

Sounder by William Armstrong. “The tall man stood at the edge of the porch. The roof sagged from the two rough posts which held it, almost closing the gap between his head and the rafters. The dim light from the cabin window cast long equal shadows from man and posts. A boy stood nearby shivering in the cold October wind. He ran his fingers back and forth over the broad crown of a coon dog named Sounder.”

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink. “On a bright Saturday afternoon in the early fall, Tom and Caddie and Warren Woodlawn sat on a bank of the Menomonie River, or Red Cedar as the call it now, taking off their clothes.”

Ramona’s World by Beverly Cleary. “It was a warm September day, and Ramona, neat and clean, with lunch bag in hand, half skipped, half hopped, scrunching through dry leaves on the sidewalk. She was early, she knew, but Ramona was the sort of girl who was always early because something might happen that she didn’t want to miss.”

The Great Brain at the Academy by John D. Fitzgerald. “When my brother Tom began telling people in Adenville, Utah, that he had a great brain everybody laughed at him, including his own family. We all thought he was trying to play some joke on us. But after he had used his great brain to swindle all the kids in town and make fools of a lot of grownups nobody laughed at my brother anymore. I think that was why just about everybody in town except his own family was glad to see Tom leave Adenville on September 1, 1897.”

51 Sycamore Lane, or A Spy in the Neighborhood by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat. “School starts tomorrow and I bet the first assignment in Miss Nathan’s English class will be a composition titled ‘How I Spent My Summer Vacation.’ This would be my third year with the same title.”

The Song of Glory and Ghost by N.D. Wilson

I could just say that everything I wrote about the first book in the Outlaws of Time series is true of this one, in spades. If you read and liked The Legend of Sam Miracle, you’ll probably like this second book, too. If you had some issues with the first book —pacing, confusing time shifts, complexity, violence and clutter— then, you’ll find those same issues in The Song of Glory and Ghost.

In this volume, Sam and his friend/sidekick, Glory, and the boys of SADDYR, are at their home base on an island near what’s left of Seattle in the year 2034. (Warning to N.D. Wilson from George Orwell: those exact years in the future catch up to you, finally, if your book lasts that long, and before you know it, it’s 1984, or 2034, and the future is no longer the future.) Well, they are mostly on the island, when Peter and Glory aren’t practicing time travel or hunting for The Vulture (El Buitre) or riding a motorcycle back in time to look for supplies. 2034 is a bleak year. Since Sam didn’t kill The Vulture, history has made a turn for the worse, and Seattle and most of the west coast has been destroyed in a series of apocalyptic events. Millions have died, and it’s all Sam’s fault. If he can only find The Vulture in one of the time gardens that is left and destroy him once and for all, maybe the timelines will right itself and Sam will have fulfilled his purpose.

But it’s Glory who takes center stage in this book. When she meets up with Ghost, a sort of Grim Reaper character, he tells her that she is the one can save Peter Atsa Eagle, guide Sam to the time and place where he can confront The Vulture, and defeat the desert demons called the Tzitzimime (somebody pronounce that one for me!). The Vulture has teamed up with the Tzitzimime and their zombie-like army of evil creatures, and their mission is to destroy, decimate, and rule the world. Only Sam and Glory can defeat them and save the world. Yes, the plot sounds a lot like a comic book, and the repeated references to comic books and drawing comics and Sam Miracle as a superhero reinforce the graphic novel feel. But it’s not a graphic novel, or a comic book, and there’s an undercurrent of theme and foundation that makes this story more than just another superhero story.

The problem is that the book tries to be many things: superhero myth, apocalyptic novel, spiritually significant story, and just a not-so-plain time travel adventure, just to name a few. Mr. Wilson draws on Spanish legend and language, Aztec religion and mythology, Christianity, and tales of the Pacific coast and the southwestern United States, again to name just a few sources. And in the middle of serious world-changing scenes, he can’t resist throwing in wry or corny joke or two:

“The two of you are permitted to see me only twice,” Ghost said. “The third time we meet eye to eye, I will be carrying your soul away. Then you may see me as often as you like.”
“Perfect,” Sam muttered. “Let’s hang out tons after we’re dead.”

It’s either comic relief or a distraction, depending on your sense of humor. This book introduces a new character, Samra, and I’m not sure what her purpose is. Maybe she’s Everyman (woman), the one who observes the action and the crazy time travel and snake weaponry from the vantage point of an ordinary human being. Glory, Sam and Peter (Father Tiempo) have become a sort of trinity of gods or super-beings by now so maybe we need an ordinary person to round out the cast.

The Song of Glory and Ghost won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it is indeed full of interesting and arresting scenes and themes and characters. If you haven’t read The Legend of Sam Miracle, do read that book first. I don’t think this book would be a good introduction to the series. But again if you liked Legend, you’ll probably like this one, too.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.
This book may be nominated for a Cybils Award, but the views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect or determine the judging panel’s opinions.

Roll by Darcy Miller

A boy named Lauren, commonly called Ren for obvious reasons, and Sutton, the girl with red, yellow, and orange striped hair who is Ren’s new neighbor, bond and grow a friendship over a common interest in Birmingham Roller pigeons.

I’m always interested in looking into new worlds and communities that I never knew about or heard of before. Training pigeons and pigeon competitions are certainly a thing that never came to my notice in the many years I’ve been around. How did such a wild and entertaining group of birds escape my attention for so long?

Watch this.

Yes, there are pigeons that turn flips in the air. To some extent, they are trained to fly together and to return to the coop, but they turn flips in the air because they just do. They were bred to do pigeon acrobatics?

“Some fanciers fly their rollers in competition, both locally and nationally. There is even a World Cup competition that includes several other countries. Kits (group of pigeons) are scored for quality and depth, as well as the number of birds that roll at the same time, referred to as a turn or break. The Birmingham Roller is a very popular breed of performing pigeon, with around 10,000 breeders worldwide.”

The book was a decent middle grade read with some good insights about friendship and growing up and making new friends but keeping the old, but I really appreciated the introduction to the Birmingham rollers and to a community of “pigeon fanciers” that I knew nothing about. It’s a crazy and wonderful world that we live in, and as RL Stevenson said, “The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.”

Lassie Come-Home by Eric Knight

I finally read this justly famous and best-selling dog story, and the first surprise was the title. It’s not “Lassie, come home!”, a plea or a command for Lassie to return to home and hearth, as I always thought it was. Instead, “Lassie Come-Home” is a nickname for the faithful collie who does return home, through many miles and obstacles, from the highlands of Scotland all the way back to the Yorkshire country family in the south of England who were her original masters. Lassie is a “come-home dog” in the Yorkshire vernacular.

Perhaps Lassie Come-Home is the template for many books that came after: The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford, A Dog’s Way Home by Bobbie Pyron, and other stories of faithful dogs and other animals finding their way home after a series of adventures and difficulties. Or maybe the plot mirrors Black Beauty and other earlier books that show faithful animals making their way back home to the owners they love. Lassie’s journey home is certainly an adventurous one.

The author note in the back of my book says:

“Lassie first appeared in a short story published by the Saturday Evening Post in 1938. The story was so popular that Mr. Knight expanded it into a full-length book, which was published in 1940 and instantly became a best-seller. In 1942 the MGM movie based on the book launched the career of Elizabeth Taylor.”

All those survivors of economic depression and war-weary readers and movie-goers most likely needed a hopeful story about overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds, the kind of victory through suffering that is depicted in Lassie Come-Home. The story itself is pretty incredible: a dog somehow finds his way home form Scotland to Yorkshire, 400 miles as the crow flies or over 1000 miles with the obstacles such as lakes and rivers that Lassie has to skirt around or find a way over.

Eric Knight was born in England (in the Yorkshire country that her writes about), came to the United States as a teenager, and died in an airplane crash while serving in the U.S. Army during World War II—but not before giving us this classic dog story. It’s well-written, hopeful, and —-spoiler here—the dog doesn’t die!

Flaming Arrows by William O. Steele

Another book that is well-written and sure to appeal to adventure-loving kids, with good themes of reserving judgment and not visiting the sins of the fathers on their children, BUT it’s full of guns and violence and “savages” who are all bad and practically discounted as not human.

If you can get past the fact that this book presents a very one-sided view of the wars between the settlers in Kentucky and the Native Americans who were being displaced from their lands, it’s a good book. Mr. Steele doesn’t set out to tell a story about the Native American view of these events, and indeed, he doesn’t tell us anything about the Chickamauga “Injuns” in this story, except that they come every year to kill and burn and destroy.

The story is about Chad, an eleven year old boy who is forced to take refuge along with his family in the fort when the Injuns come on their yearly foray. Chad’s family and the other families in the fort are joined by the Logans, a woman and her children whose father, Traitor Logan, is in league with the Chickamauga. When the others in the fort want to throw the Logans out because of their father’s traitorous ways, Chad’s father and the scout, Amos Thompson, stand up for the Logans, saying, “I reckon they’re harmless. They’ve left Traitor to home. Or maybe he’s left them.”

The rest of the book is about Chad’s growth, both in courage and in understanding and empathy. He becomes more mature as the settlers suffer together and fight off the Indians, and this maturity is accomplished both by Chad’s courage and steadfastness in fighting and guarding the walls of the fort and by his growing understanding of what it must be like to be Josiah Logan, the Logan boy whose father has not provided for the family.

If you want a book in which the protagonist grows to learn that violence is not the way to deal with problems, that story is not in this book. If you want a book that presents the realities of frontier life as the the frontiersmen experienced and thought about them, Flaming Arrows does a good job. The settlers on the Cumberland frontier just didn’t have time or inclination to spare much thought for the Indians who were attacking their homes and their fort: they were too busy trying to stay alive and protect their families. Illustrated by the famous and talented illustrator, Paul Galdone, Flaming Arrows shows that reality in the text and in the pictures. I will keep this book in my library because I believe it speaks the truth about one perspective on the lives our early American forbears. And it’s a good story, taken on its own terms. It shouldn’t be the final word on this subject, but it is a valuable look at how people of the time period thought and lived and grew.

We Were There at the Opening of the Atomic Era by James Munves

I don’t know Mr. Munves, but the historical consultant for this book in the historical fiction series We Were There is also a character in the book, Dr. John R. Dunning. Dr. Dunning really was there. In fact, in his introduction to the story, Dr. Dunning explains:

“When Mr. Munves asked me to serve as his historical consultant in the writing of this book, I agreed at once because to me there is nothing more important than recapturing for our you men and women the wonderful creative excitement those days in which the atomic age began. When I went over Mr. Munves’ manuscript with him and discovered that I was a character in his story, I asked him if he would let me write a preface so as to make it clear to you that this Dr. Dunning is a real person. Most of the characters in the story, except for the young hero and his father, are real people.”

This book was published by Grossett and Dunlap in 1960, and it begins in 1942 with fifteen year old school boy, Tony Brenner, whose father works with Enrico Fermi, Professor John Dunning, and other scientists at Pupin Laboratories in New York City. When Tony makes a presentation to his high school science club about the possibilities of nuclear fission, his father is both proud and alarmed. “If a Nazi spy heard about your speech, he might think I was doing research in atomic energy,” says Papa Brenner, who is German immigrant and a physicist. Of course, that’s exactly what Dunning, Fermi, the fictional Brenner are doing, but the project is Top Secret. SO Tony gets taken into the top secret Manhattan Project so that he will learn what he needs to keep secret and why.

Tony’s family moves first to Chicago and then to New Mexico, all in pursuit of an atomic weapon that will defeat the Germans (and the Japanese) and win the war. The story presents most of the common arguments both for and against the bomb, and it gives a lot of scientific and technical information about the bomb and how it was developed. The ending sentences will give you a feel for the moral consensus of the book’s authors and consultants:

“It is not a nice thing to think about—that you helped make something that killed or hurt at least 230,000 people. But it doesn’t really matter whether this was done by bullet, sword, fire or atomic energy.
What does matter is that people wish to kill or hurt other people. . . .
The atom promises unlimited power. It also threatens the destruction of civilization. It is up to all of us to decide how it will be used.
The atom is neither good nor evil. Only people are.”

If you are interested in the events and people surrounding the Manhattan Project and the making, testing, and use of the atomic bomb, I would suggest you find a copy of this novel for a 1960-ish perspective on the project, its genesis and aftermath. For other children’s and young adult books on the subject, take a look at:

The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages.
The Secret Project Notebook by Carolyn Reeder.
The Bomb by Theodore Taylor. Nuclear testing on Bikini Atoll.
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr.

Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin.
Sabotage: The Mission to Destroy Hitler’s Atomic Bomb by Neal Bascomb.

On July 16, 1945 at 5:29:45 a.m., the scientists of the Manhattan Project successfully tested the first atomic bomb in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Less than a month later, in August, the bomb was used to force the Japanese to surrender to Allied forces and end World War II.

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If you like Ramona Quimby by Beverly Cleary . . .

For the month of July, I’m planning a series of posts about readalikes: what to read (or what to suggest to your favorite child reader) when you’ve read all of your favorite author’s books or all of the books of a certain genre that you know of, and you don’t know what to read next.

Ramona Quimby wannabes are easy to find, but some are better than others. These are some that I have in my library, and I can recommend:

The Bantry Bay series by Hilda van Stockum. These are about an Irish family, but they have the same kind of family adventures and endearing mishaps as an American family like the Quimbys. Pegeen is especially fun, telling about an orphan girl who comes to live with the O’Sullivan family. Pegeen is a spirited young lady who manages to get herself into all sorts of trouble just by being herself… kind of like Ramona.
The Cottage at Bantry Bay.
Francie on the Run.

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker. I really like Clementine. Like Ramona, she’s lovable, but prone to misunderstandings and trouble. Books, so far, in this series are:
The Talented Clementine.
Clementine’s Letter.
Clementine, Friend of the Week.
Clementine and the Family Meeting.
Clementine and the Spring Trip.
Completely Clementine.

Clarice Bean books by Lauren Child. Clarice Bean is a bad speller, a good friend, and a fan of the fictional detective, Ruby Redfort. Clarice’s adventures at school and at home make for funny and entertaining reading. The three Clarice Bean books that I am familiar with are:
Utterly me, Clarice Bean.
Clarice Bean Spells Trouble.
Clarice Bean, Don’t Look Now.

There seem to be more books in the series, and Lauren Child has written a spin-off series of Ruby Redfort detective novels.

Betsy books by Carolyn Haywood. Ms. Haywood wrote forty-seven books for children; twelve of them are the “Betsy books”, about a little girl growing up in a 1950’s neighborhood in a typical U.S. city. Ms. Haywood herself grew up and lived as an adult in Philadelphia, and she said that the children in her books were modeled on the children in her own Philadelphia neighborhood. Like the Ramona books, Betsy books feature children in school and at home engaging in everyday family activities with a lot of humor and affection. The titles are:
B Is for Betsy
Betsy and Billy
Back to School With Betsy
Betsy and the Boys
Betsy’s Busy Summer
Betsy’s Little Star
Betsy and the Circus
Betsy and Mr. Kilpatrick
Betsy’s Play School
Betsy’s Winterhouse
Merry Christmas from Betsy
Snowbound with Betsy

Some standalone books that might appeal to Ramona fans are:
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.
Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning by Danette Haworth.
Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm.
A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban.