Children’s Fiction of 2008: Clementine’s Letter by Sara Pennypacker

I love Clementine! I read the latest Clementine book in one gulp last night and then turned around and started reading it aloud to Z-baby this morning. Z-Baby reminds me of Clementine, impulsive and outspoken and good-hearted. Clementine looks like Betsy-Bee my nine year old daughter but acts like Z-baby, the seven year old.

Aside from the identification aspect of the books, all of the Clementine books are just fun! Clementine gets herself into all sorts of trouble, unintentionally, and she’s so Ramona-like that my older daughter, who’s much too mature at thirteen for Clementine or Ramona books, says Clementine is a Ramona Quimby wannabe. I happen to think that’s a good thing if it’s done well, and Sara Pennypacker does Ramona Quimby-ness quite well.

Clementine is herself, however. She likes to know the rules ahead of time so that she can try to follow them. She enjoys her almost-daily “chats” with the principal. Okay, fine, she makes the best of her time in the principal’s office. She doesn’t like people to break their promises, and she loves her baby brother by giving him vegetable names like Bok Choy and String Bean. (Since Clementine has a fruit name, she thinks her brother should have a vegetable name.) And she likes to write important reminders on her arm, another habit she shares with Z-baby, except Z-baby can’t really write yet, so she draws pictures all over herself. Someday I’ll take a photograph and show you my lovely daughter’s body art. Yes, I’ve been trying to get her to quit, but after reading about Clementine, I think I’ll just scrub it off once a week and wait for her to grow out of the habit.

Back to Clementine, the central conflict in this particular episode of Clementine’s adventures is Clementine versus Mr. D’matz, her third grade teacher. But it’s not that Clementine doesn’t get along with Mr. D’matz. She’s just now gotten to where she’s “getting the hang of third grade” and “in sync with her teacher” and now Mr. D’matz may be leaving for the rest of the school year. As Clementine would say, “It’s not fair!” So Clementine comes up with a brilliant plan to make Mr. D’Matz stay right where he is. Okay, fine, the plan is not the best, but it does make for a delightful story.

If you haven’t read any Clementine yet, start with Clementine, then The Talented Clementine, then this one. You won’t be disappointed.

Bloggers love Clementine:

MotherReader: “Clementine is back in force, trying to do good, but often not with the effects she hopes for.”

Jen Robinson: “Go to the store, find a copy of Clementine’s Letter, and turn to the last page. See if you can look at that picture, and not want to read more about Clementine. Go ahead. I dare you. And then check out page 106, for a contrasting sketch of Clementine angry with her substitute teacher. Marla Frazee can convey the entire range of human emotions through expression and posture.”

Bill at Literate Lives: “Clementine is my hero, thank you Sara Pennypacker!”

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