Television Reviews : Meet 'Ramona'--The Nice New Kid on PBS' Block

If you've ever sneaked a peek at Beverly Cleary's best-selling books for children, you've probably had the pleasure of meeting 8-year-old Ramona Quimby--giggly, cranky, naughty and nice, wispy haired, knobbly kneed, round-nosed, gap-toothed and real --the quintessential kid's kid.

Now, in a deliciously faithful transition from book to screen, Cleary's creation has made her film debut, starring in a 10-part series on PBS called "Ramona." The show premiered on KCET Channel 28 last week; this week's episode, "Mystery Meal," airs tonight at 6 p.m.

Ramona (irresistible Sarah Polley) lives in an average suburban home with her parents, a youthful, hard-working pair with aspirations for a better life, played by Lynda Mason Green and Barry Flatman, and her 11-year-old sister Beezus (Lori Chodos).

"Mystery Meal," adapted by Ellis Weiner and directed by Randy Bradshaw, is a dinner time scene that should be infinitely familiar to any parent who's ever had a culinary effort received with a resounding "oh, yuck!"

The "Ramona" stories are deceptively simple: Parental arguments make Ramona and Beezus anxious, a family pet dies, Ramona gets sick in school and is embarrassed to go back, her shoes squeak, a favorite aunt gets married, rain spoils an outing.

Quirky humor, the reality of the situations and a perfect cast make it all work. This series, some episodes of which are also available on videocassette from Lorimar Home Video, is not just for kids--it's for anyone who has one, or who has been one.

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