I hope everyone is recovering from Independence Day and Canada Day celebrations! I had a couple of days off of work and spent them busy with family and friends – a good time.
I listened to Clementine with my son when he was young. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t make much of an impression with him, not being Epic Fantasy, and it looks like I never reviewed it. Fast-forward five years or so, and my daughter loves stories with girls a little bit older than she is getting into trouble. We started with the second in the series, because her teacher had already read the class the first book.
The Talented Clementine by Sara Pennypacker. Performed by Jessica Almasy. Recorded Books, 2007.
Eight-year-old Clementine is dismayed when it’s announced that every child in her class and the grade above is going to be required to participate in a talent show. She knows she’s good at drawing, but that isn’t something she can do on a stage. Every time she asks an adult about it, either to get out of the talent show or for help figuring out what she’s good at, they are no help at all. Margaret, her frenemy from the apartment building, who takes lessons in something for every letter of the alphabet and excels at them all, only makes Clementine feel worse about herself. She takes to excusing herself from class frequently to talk to the principal, Mrs. Rice, who eventually does figure out exactly what Clementine’s talent is.
Clementine is wonderfully sure of herself even in this awkward situation. Her vibrant, caring personality shines through, even as she consistently has trouble with things like sitting still in class. I loved the way her questions to adults follow the thoughts going on in her head but come out as something where an adult reader, at least, can tell that the answer isn’t really going to answer her underlying question. For example, she goes around asking adults what she’s good at, without explaining that it’s for a talent show, so that when they tell her she’s good at entertaining her little brother or clipping the grass, they don’t understand why she’s so frustrated. She also has a great relationship with her little brother, at turns affectionate and frustrated. She never calls him by his real name, but instead comes up with an ever-changing array of vegetable names for him, to match her own fruit name. There’s a great range of emotion here, too, from laugh-out-loud funny (even for the hardened ten-year-old boy) to moments that made me tear up.
Jessica Almasy does a pitch-perfect narration here, with her voice sound appropriately child-like without being stereotyped. We haven’t looked at the print books, but I really should, as they’re illustrated by Marla Frazee, one of my favorite illustrators. They are just long enough that we have them in youth fiction rather than early chapter books, but they’re all still under 200 pages each and so good for the beginning chapter book reader.
The series continues with these books which we have also listened to:
Clementine’s Letter – in which Clementine is supposed to write a letter to support her beloved teacher, Mr. D’Matz, taking the rest of the year off to travel to Egypt. The trouble is, Clementine doesn’t want him to leave – and she certainly doesn’t like the new substitute, whose rules are new and impossible to guess.
Clementine: Friend of the Week – in which Clementine is convinced that her classmates will have nothing to write about in her “friend of the week” booklet unless she does something special. The only problem is that her ideas for special things keep getting her in trouble. And then her beloved kitten, Moisturizer, goes missing. The normally odious Margaret redeems herself in this book.
Clementine and the Family Meeting – her parents call a family meeting, but won’t tell her what it’s about, not realizing the torture they’re causing. It turns out to be news that they think is happy and that Clementine doesn’t at all.
And these which we have not yet:
Clementine and the Spring Trip – but I’m taking it home from work today for our next car audiobook (along with Magic Tree House #50)
Completely Clementine – the series closer, and one which I’ve heard good things about, including from my blogging friend Jen over at Jen Robinson’s Book Page.