Monday, September 20, 2010

My Darling Clementine

  Just finished reading Clementine by Sara Pennypacker, and I'm ready for more stories about this red-haired eight-year-old to whom trouble sticks like bubblegum. Written in first person, Clementine is pitch-perfect. This book has made me more sympathetic to kids with limited attention spans (of whom I know several). The excellent point made by Clementine is that she is paying attention. And she is. Except her focus is usually not where everyone else's is aimed. For instance, while working on her art project, Clementine notices:

* the lunchroom lady and janitor making out in his car
* the pelican-shaped egg stain on the teacher's scarf
* that a girl in class has left for the bathroom in distress

Clementine's week progresses from bad to worse as she gets into more and more trouble. Most of her problems stem from hair, specifically the hair on her friend and nemesis Margaret, a bossy nine-year-old. Margaret gets glue in her hair and cuts off a hunk. Trying to even out the mess, Clementine ends up chopping off most of her friend's hair. Then she colors it red. With her artist mother's permanent markers. Later, in sympathy, she cuts off her own hair and colors it green. Remarkably, her parents stay calm as all this havoc is wrought. Due to a repeated comment by Margaret, though, Clementine becomes convinced that they want to get rid of her because she is so difficult. Thankfully this is not the case. Clementine not only survives her bad week, she is even touted as a hero in The Great Pigeon War when she discovers why pigeons are fouling the building where her father is superintendent and solves the problem for him.

I have only one minor qualm about the book, one so tiny that I hesitate to state it. In the beginning of Chapter 8, Clementine mentions that she writes in her journal things she doesn't want to forget. Her examples: When she grows up she plans to stay single (fine) and smoke cigars (not so fine). I feel like a fuddy-duddy here, but kids don't need any encouragement about smoking. Again, this is a small, small point, but cigars don't belong in books for young children. There, that's out of my system. Now go read Clementine. There are three more books in the series: Clementine's Letter, The Talented Clementine, and Clementine, Friend of the Week (just out).

Oh, and the illustration by Marla Frazee are spot on and add to the charm of the stories.

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