Friday, August 2, 2013
by Sara Pennypacker
Turtleback Books, 2006
Format: Beginning Chapter Book
Audience: Early Elementary
Publication Date: September 12, 2006
While most adults think that Clementine has a problem paying attention, she really pays excellent attention, just to unusual things. Like the clouds out the window, the mustard on her teachers shirt, and ceiling snakes. Also, she's helpful, but not in a normal way either. When Margaret gets glue in her hair and tries to cut it out, Clementine helps by evening out the haircut, or cutting off all her hair, and then helps some more by coloring Margaret's head with permanent marker. Clementine is the type of character that has a heart of gold, but some trouble executing her plans, except when it comes to pigeons, then she's right on!
Clementine is the first book that I read from the Bluestem List. Since Bluestems tend to be longer, I didn't quite think it would be fair to blow through them all in four or five posts. Also, I need more material to talk about.
Clementine as a Bluestem is tough. Clementine is in 3rd grade and her friend is in 4th grade, which makes this a pretty solid book for 2-3 grades, but this is an award that goes up to 5th. And, Clementine was already on the Monarch List in 2009, and it came in 6th. See what I mean by saying that the Bluestem is going through some growing pains? This list is still trying to figure out where it fits in with the Monarch and Caudill.
Forget the Bluestem for a minute. Clementine as a character is very interesting. She is definitely part of the spunky, yet age-appropriate backlash that came after the success of Junie B. Jones. She has definite kid appeal, and readers will love her. I'm sure that boy would enjoy hearing about some of her exploits, but this might be a hard sell for some boys as leisure reading.
There is also an important lesson about friendship and family in this book that gets overshadowed by Clementine's energy and enthusiasm. The end is very touching and readers will know that her parents are not going to get rid of her, but haven't we all had that moment when we know we're not "the easy one". And that realization is hard for kids to swallow. Well, not me, because I was the perfect child. You can stop laughing mom.
In general, Clementine strikes a chord with readers. She's a little edgy, but honestly kind, and with a whole series to back her up, it's comfortable for readers to go back to her world. As a Bluestem, I'm just not seeing a ton of success here. It doesn't have quite enough appeal for a wide age range. I give it 20-1 odds and I expect to find it in the bottom ten. Not that it's not a great book, it is, but it's for a very specific age group.