Friday, September 14, 2007



by Sarah Pennypacker, ill. Marla Frazee.

There are a few sets and series of early chapter books about slightly wild young girls - Judy Moody, Tilly Beanie, and of course, Junie B. Jones. These girls are meant to be fun and inspiring and remind us of the fun of not yet being quite bound by the rules of civilization. And some, like the Ramona books, I love, some I'm lukewarm on, and some I think just come off as brats. This one? I love.

Clementine has a heart of gold, a brain constantly popping with great ideas, and an itchy trigger finger. Some ideas get her in trouble or cause her principal to rub her forehead, but others work out just right, like the times she tries to help Margaret feel better about her hair being all gone, or when she helps her dad lick the pigeons problem. This kid comes by it honestly, with an artist mom and a head of wild red hair, and it just seems to all fit right. The voice is spot on, a real kid who doesn't always get it, but is trying hard, not the voice of the jaded or overly precocious or class-clown variety of kids that these books sometimes use. And while I normally wouldn't bother worrying about illustrations in a chapter book, Frazee's trademark line drawings capture Clementine's spirit and her mother's own laid-back ways perfectly, even adding to the comic effect of certain haircuts that happen along the way...

Love it.

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