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The Talented Clementine: Sara Pennypacker

Book: The Talented Clementine
Author: Sara Pennypacker
Illustrator: Marla Frazee
Pages: 137
Age Range: 7-10

the talented clementine Have I mentioned that I adore Clementine? It's true. I've heard it said that the second book in the Clementine series, The Talented Clementine, is better than the first. I'm not sure I agree that it's better, but I do think that it's just about as good. And since I loved the first book, this is quite an endorsement in and of itself.

In The Talented Clementine, the third and fourth grade classes at Clementine's school are asked to put on a talent show to raise money for the school trip. Clementine, sadly, realizes that she doesn't have any on-stage sorts of talents. She doesn't sing or dance or do cartwheels. She has talents, but they are less conventional talent show material. She runs around trying to get out of the talent show, and when that doesn't work, she tries to drum up some sort of performance ability at the last minute. Eventually, Clementine finds her own special talent, and learns to feel good about herself.

What makes The Talented Clementine a winner, as with the original Clementine, is Clementine's voice. Clementine is matter-of-fact, funny, stubborn, bossy, and insecure. She feels like a third grader. She thinks it will be helpful to take bottle caps off the beer bottles a week before the condo association meeting. She makes preemptive visits to the principal's office. She sometimes makes an elaborate pretense of washing her hands, completely with artificially moistened towel. She calls her little brother by vegetable names (because those are the only names worse than her own fruit name). She is, in short, a joy. Here are a couple of examples:

"And that's when the worried feeling--as if somebody were scribbling with a big black crayon--started up in my brains." (Page 3)

"I walked down the hall, which was very hard because my new sneakers wanted to run, and I knocked on Mrs. Rice's door." (Page 82)

"I gave Mitchell a "See? I'm cheered up already!" smile. But it was just my mouth pretending." (Page 11)

I love that. "Just my mouth pretending." That's a universal feeling. Here's more:

"We live in Boston, and Mitchell is obsessed with the Red Sox. He's going to be one when he's older. If I ever get married, which I will not, I would like to marry a Red Sox player, but not Mitchell, because he's not my boyfriend. Then you could get all those hot dogs for free in the ballpark." (Page 29)

I admit to particularly enjoying the Red Sox references in this series. But what I like about this passage is "which I will not" and "because he's not my boyfriend". (I read both of those in my head with emphasis on "not"). I swear that I could have read that middle sentence in isolation, before reading the book, and I would have know that it was Clementine. That is a successful voice.

If you enjoyed Clementine, I guarantee that you'll like The Talented Clementine, too. And if you haven't read Clementine, all I have to say is: what are you waiting for? I highly recommend this series for seven to ten year olds, especially girls, but I think that adults will enjoy it, too. Marla Frazee's black and white illustrations add tremendously to the fun, and to the reader's understanding of Clementine.

As I said in my review of the first book, "I think that Clementine has what it takes to become a future classic children's book character, right up there with her ancestors: Pippi, Anne, Ramona, and the rest." Don't miss your chance to fall in love with The Talented Clementine.

Publisher: Hyperion
Publication Date: March 2007
Source of Book: Bought a signed copy at NCTE
Other Blog Reviews: Semicolon, Becky's Book Reviews, 2nd Gen Librarian, Read, Read, Read, Books & Other Thoughts, and Emily Reads. For a dissenting opinion on Clementine's specialness, see Original Content, where Gail calls Clementine "Junie B. Jones with good grammar."
Author Interview: School Library Journal
Illustrator Interviews: cynsations and Just One More Book!

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.