The Baddest Witch in the Whole Wide World


We have delved into the world of Ramona Quimbey over the last few weeks, enjoying the adventures, predicaments, awkward struggles & memorable moments. A few scenes over the last two books have surprised me, squeezed unexpectedly between Ramona’s antics. Moments of deep truth and wisdom eased into the narratives by Beverly Cleary.


In Ramona the Pest, Ramona, a kindergartener, decides to dress us as a witch for the long awaited Halloween parade. She asks her mother to find a mask. This mask must transform her into the ‘Baddest Witch in the Whole Wide World’. On the day of the Halloween parade, Ramona proudly shows up with her costume on, reveling in the fact that she can chase her classmates without her identity being breeched. When it comes time to line up, Ramona’s teacher calls them and, “Seeing Ramona standing alone, she said, ‘Come on, Ramona.’ It was a great relief to Ramona to hear Miss Binney speak her name, to hear her teacher say ‘Ramona’ when she was looking at her.”

Later as they are ready to head out for the parade, she realized “she was afraid of losing herself behind that scary mask.” Taking matters into her own hands, Ramona “printed her name, and then she could not resist adding with a flourish her last initial complete with ears and whiskers…” on a sign and hung it around her neck. “Ramona Q!”

“Now the whole world would know who she was! She was Ramona Quimby, the only girl in the world with ears and whiskers on her last initial.” Ramona continues in the parade, mask firmly in place, sign held up for for all to see. Between the sign and her boisterous hellos, her mother, little Willa Jean and even Henry’s dog, Ribsy, recognize her and she takes great joy and delight in those realizations.


I was talking with a friend this week about how marriage and parenthood pretty much takes away any thought of masking our truest, rawest selves. You just can’t hide your humanity when you are chasing your kid through the bike shop as he screams, shrill-fashion, wearing a “DANGER” helmet. {really, that MAY have just happened to us….just maybe}. Marriage too is a place where hiding is almost impossible. Some may try to live successfully within a marital relationship with masks, but sooner or later the preverbal rubber band snaps off the back and the disguise falls.

As fun as masks can be, as easily as they hide our truest selves, we long, as Ramona did, to be known. Ramona wanted that scary mask more than anything, but simultaneously she wanted her identity to be clear. Ramona needed the WHOLE WORLD to know—-she wasn’t the baddest witch, she was truly RAMONA, just disguised.

Halloween, for all of the opinions out there, can be controversial. For me, though, I love the chance it gives kids to take on a new identity. Try on a new persona. Be the villainous Darth Vader for a night, wielding a light saber into the darkness….only to lift the mask (and the cape) up and off after three rough tumbles. Maybe we just have to learn by doing, by trying, by falling and failing….try the mask on, thinking it will hide the deeper stuff beneath the surface, only to miss the depth of being truly “seen”.

More on Ramona later this week. She has some profound insights on love. For now, I’m playing a few roles—-sometimes masquerading as the baddest witch as I fight frustration with two determined young-ins, other times taking that mask off and letting my true identity be seen, even with its flaws and growing edges. May we feel that same great “relief” Ramona felt, though, when those that love us no matter what, especially our Creator, speaks the words, our names, with love. The gift of Grace that can give courage and truth to the dark, embarrassing and challenging places we would prefer others not see.

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