Clementine by Sarah Pennypacker is one of those newer books on the Top 100 Chapter Books list, published just eight years ago in 2006. It’s #62 on the list which means it got a few votes but, after reading the book, I’m wondering if that was just because it was fresh in the minds of some of the voters in 2012.
What it’s about: Clementine is a “precocious” young 4th grader who constantly finds herself in trouble, whether she intends to be or not.
Age level: Grade 2-4
Best part: Clementine is constantly being told to pay attention. Her response (in her head) is that she IS paying attention, just to other, more important, things than the teacher, like the people outside or the other kids. And she does really see all sorts of important and interesting things. I think it’s important to let kids know that it’s okay to have a mind that works differently from the norm.
Worst part: There are far too many instances of girls cutting off all of their hair in this book! Okay, so it’s just two but that seems like two too many to me.
This was a very quick read but I still felt like I wanted to finish it quickly. The book just seemed too much like an “issue” story, taking on a quirky child (presumably with an attention-deficit disorder based on her wandering mind and inability to sit still) and showing what was going on in her head. But she was so similar to Harriet M. Welsch or Ramona Quimby that this story just didn’t seem fresh. Also, the way the principal and teachers and her friend’s mom treated her felt more like it was decades old. They were nagging, dismissive, rude and made zero effort to work with her unique way of looking at things and her physical and emotional needs. It was generally an okay story but I just didn’t fall in love with Clementine. She had one moment of brilliance (fixing a pigeon poop issue) and one of real thoughtfulness (cutting her hair to make her friend feel better) but otherwise it was a bit of a humdrum story.
Next up is Little Women which I am pretty sure I’ve read once before because, after one chapter, there is as much that is familiar to me as not. Of course, I’ve also seen a couple of film versions so that could be why too.