Monday, November 06, 2006

Utterly Me, Clarice Bean

Book: Utterly Me, Clarice Bean
Author: Lauren Child
Published: 2003

Clarice Bean’s life has gotten Utterly Odd lately. Her best friend took off for parts unknown, and now she has to do a class project with the Loathsome Karl, for the hideous dragon-teacher. Not to mention the Evil Grace, her Utterly Arch-Enemy and Nemesis, is sure to win the prize cup for best project.

Woe is Clarice! At least she’s got her stellar collection of books about Ruby Redfort, girl super-detective, to keep her afloat. And when the prize cup suddenly disappears, Clarice gets the chance to put the really very quite useful skills she’s learned from Ruby to good use.

In the hands of another author, you might discover that the hideous dragon-teacher, the loathsome Karl, and the Evil Grace are really not that bad. Child only gives us one out of three (Karl, in case you’re interested; turns out the ability to make a volcano is really very useful when you’re doing a project on girl-spy novels). The real joy of this novel is Clarice’s Utterly Quite Individual Voice. With all the angst and drama of your everyday nine-year-old who’s just discovered adjectives, you just can’t imagine Clarice being anyone but herself--just like the title promises.

Not only does Lauren Child’s narrative sparkle with energy, so does the actual text. Playing with enlarged or shrunken font that will sometimes twine around the page, even integrating them into the lively illustrations, Child shows off the approach to visuals that make her picture books must-reads. Fans of those will adore this as they move into middle elementary years.

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