Author: Sara Pennypacker
Lexile Score: 600
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Maturity level: 2nd grade
Pages: 150 Chapters: 11 Average Chapter length: 14 pages (with illustrations)
Theme: Making people happy, Think before you act
Project ideas: Random acts of kindness
First Line: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of...ouch!"
Main Character: Clementine
Review in 25 words or less: As strong or stronger than the other titles in the series. Unexpected in every way, an absolute delight!
I went into this expecting to enjoy it - as I had the original Clementine - but found out it was truly exceptional. Yes, Sara Pennypacker has hit on a winning formula. The magic now is, she has perfected it and used it to her advantage to truly transcend storytelling and actually create some meaning. I don't remember the original book all that well, other than to say I remember my 3rd graders highly enjoyed it and so did I. (I also remember the University instructor who happened to observe me reading it aloud and gave me some harsh feedback afterwards regarding the futility of read-alouds - that's another story for another post) This latest Clementine installment sets out to accomplish more than a cute story. There is a lesson here: our actions have consequences, and we should think that through before acting!
Clementine has a substitute teacher for a week, because her regular one is attending preperation for a possible Egypt trip - a trip Clementine can make or break with a letter of recommendation on his behalf. (I think I remember this plot, WHEN IT WAS CALLED JUDY MOODY GOES TO COLLEGE. OK that was harsh, but I couldn't resist. They're actually not all that similar, other than the regular teacher is off on a teachers-only adventure) She can't figure out the rules of the sub, and gets into some mischief - this much we expect from Clementine. Along the way, there are a few subplots involving doing nice things for her parents that go awry. Her dad teaches her to think before she acts, and consider the consequences of what she does. It's not as preachy as I'm making it sound, in fact, the moral sort of sneaks up on you. I actually completely mis-guessed the ending, which was refreshing. I should have guessed my wrong guess. A rightful, wrongful prediction. RIGHTFUL WRONGFUL SPOILER: I thought she would write the letter all mean, saying how he was a crummy teacher and had bad breath, and the judges would see through it, and award him the trip based on how obviously the students DIDN'T want him to go. That would have been the cute ending Mr. W would have written. the spoiler is that THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN.
I should write reviews on Very Little Sleep more often. This was fun - but not as fun as reading Clementine's Letter - it is a treat. (and thus, this post gets some special graphic treatment!)
*Nominated for a 2008 Cybils Award in Middle Grade Fiction!