Clementine by Sara Pennypacker

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Clementine by Sara Pennypacker

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: A witty and lively book about a witty and lively third grader who struggles to be understood by the authority figures around her.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 144 Date: March 2009
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
ISBN: 0340956976

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Can you imagine how hard it must be to be misunderstood at just 8 years old? Clementine knows all too well what this is like. Whether she is Paying Attention to everything that is going on outside during maths class, or Being Helpful and answering the principal's phone while she's alone in her office, she somehow always ends up being told to Think About The Consequences Of Her Actions. Can you imagine? You help a friend at school by cutting the glue out of her hair, and then giving her a snazzy haircut complemented by felt-tip pen highlights, and you get Told Off. You try your hardest to apologise to said friend's posh mum, but end up sounding like a Common Criminal. It's hard work being 8, y'know.

Outside of school, Clementine's life isn't much better. Her mum wears dungarees, and works from home while other people's mums get dressed up and go to work in a morning. She lives in the basement, below street level, and has to ride the elevator down to her apartment while all the other residents get to ride it upwards. She has a baby brother who may or may not be a vegetable, her cat died, and her father is worryingly obsessed with pigeons.

Clementine is not your average third grader. She sees things in a weird and wonderful way that makes you question things you've always believed or just accepted. She's the girl who wants to know why her Gifted Class for Maths does not involve any presents. This is the book where a toddler's request to Go for a wok means go for a spin around the kitchen in, um, a wok. How adorable is that? Ditto her reason for writing a journal: (so) I can remind myself of things I might forget when I'm a grown up. Like I plan to smoke cigars. And I do not plan to get married. Cigars, yes; husband, no.

Clementine is quite a character. She is a well-meaning version of Judy Blume's Fudge combined with a rather helpful My Naughty Little Sister and the astute observations of Paula Danziger's Amber Brown. Most importantly she is lovable and bright and unintentionally funny, meaning you instantly warm to her from the first chapter.

The book is clearly American but not worryingly so, and apart from a couple of brief mentions of, for example, the Pledge of Allegiance, this book translates well into a must-read for 8 years olds all over the world. Fans of Judy Blume or Paula Danziger would have no trouble with this one.

This is a proper bookish book. The cover is bright and cheery, with Clementine herself doing a fun looking (though gymnastically dubious) cartwheel. There are circles and stars and flowers too, because Clementine is a circles and stars and flowers sort of girl. The illustrations throughout the story are beautifully crafted with great detail – watch out for the cheesy sign on the Principal's desk early on.

I thought Clementine was a great read, and I'll be looking out for the other books in the series.

Thank you to the publishers for supplying this book. Fans of this sort of cheery character might also take to Trixie - Ace Ghost Buster while for boys who get all the hassle, have a look at Hunky Dory.

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Buy Clementine by Sara Pennypacker at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Clementine by Sara Pennypacker at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Clementine by Sara Pennypacker at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Clementine by Sara Pennypacker at


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