Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Clementine, Friend of the Week

Don't you wish you had Clementine as a friend? Here are just some of the small acts of kindness she does in this fourth installment in the series:

1. She thoughtfully fixes Margaret's Friend of the Week booklet, peeling off the tape that Margaret's brother had placed over the "r" in "friend." Her reward? Margaret thinks Clementine was snooping, not helping. Now Margaret is mad at her.

2. She compliments her fellow classmates repeatedly. Collecting the lunch money, she tells Waylon his quarters are especially shiny, Maria that she counts out change quickly, and Rasheed that his nickels and dimes are neatly stacked (that's because he uses spit).

3. She offers free tattoos to her classmates, decorating their arms with anchors, tulips, and a goat eating berries behind a bush. This good deed lands her a trip to the principal's office.

4. She names her friend Maria's new iguana Flomax (a medication that treats the symptoms of an enlarged prostate). This eventually leads to the once TV-deprived Maria being allowed to watch the tube, and earns Clementine Maria's gratitude.

5. She offers to provide free decorations for all her classmate's bikes in time for Saturday's bike rally fund raiser.

Clementine's motivation for most of these good deeds is not entirely selfless. She wants her friends to write good things about her in her upcoming Friend of the Week booklet. Her plans are going along just fine when tragedy strikes. Moisturizer, her pet kitten, goes missing. Clementine is heartbroken. On Friday, the day she was to receive her booklet, Clementine doesn't go to school. Instead she spends the day putting up posters of her missing cat and combing the streets of her neighborhood looking for him. Saturday, the day of the bike rally, the hunt continues, and Clementine forgets her promise to provide decorations for all the bikes.

But as the song goes, "you gotta have friends," and Clementine does. Margaret joins forces with Clementine's third grade class, which leads to Moisturizer's safe return.

Sara Pennypacker has done it again. Laugh-aloud funny, Clementine, Friend of the Week is also thoughtful and moving. Similar books often minimize how truly heart wrenching it is to lose a pet. This book shows how catastrophic such a loss can be to a young child. Marla Frazee's pen and ink illustrations are priceless, especially the ones that focus on the characters' expressions. I'm thinking especially of Margaret's when she visits Clementine after their fight. Arms folded across her chest, she barely looks at Clementine through her narrowed eyes.

Highly recommended.

Clementine, Friend of the Week
by Sara Pennypacker
illustrations by Marla Frazee
Disney-Hyperion, 176 pages
Published: July 2010

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