Monday, February 26, 2007


From a terrible paucity of choices last week (or, okay fine, maybe I was just being lazy) to an embarassment of riches this week . . . I've read some great books this weekend. This one, however, really stands out.

Book: Clementine
Author: Sara Pennypacker
Published: 2006

Everyone's always telling Clementine to pay attention. She doesn't understand this, because she pays great attention, better than anyone else in the class. Does anybody else notice the janitor and the lunch lady smooching outside during the Pledge of Allegiance? No! So, see, she pays attention really well.

When her sometimes-best-friend, sometimes-evil-nemesis Margaret tries to cut glue out of her own hair and ends up with a big bald patch, Clementine just does what anyone would and helps out--by cutting all the rest of it off. But really, this is not such a big deal, because she fixes it by giving Margaret new hair with her mother's permanent markers. But she still gets in trouble . . . oh no! Will Margaret's mother ever allow Clementine to play with her again? Will Clementine's parents get tired of her and just trade her in for an easier kid? Will Clementine ever, ever stop getting in trouble?

(The answer to that last is an unqualified no, for anyone who's curious.)

This book is the latest entry in what I call the "Ramona" genre--spunky, funny, clever, warm-hearted little girls who get in and out of as much trouble as the pages will hold. (Other recent examples of Ramona girls include Ruby Lu, Junie B. Jones, and Clarice Bean.) Pennypacker's story is a shining example of what makes these books charming and enduring--an authentic child voice, lots of thoroughly believable and well-meant mischief, and a sunny tone in spite of all the mayhem.

Due to Clementine's narration, this book is destined to be read aloud by teachers and librarians all over the country. Some pages were like reading a train wreck (the moment Clementine borrows her mom's markers, for instance, you know this isn't going to be good), but in a good way. I'd like it if Pennypacker decides to make this a series as so many other Ramona-style books have become. Even if she leaves it a single title, however, it's a great one. Go meet Clementine today.

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