Clementine is the ‘hard’ child of her family. She struggles to sit still and pay attention as she’s so full of ideas and energy. I’ve been teaching 20 years, encountered loads and loved teaching every one of them, and at last someone has encapsulated the humour, energy and madness of such kids in this loveable character.
We start with a simple enough scenario: a friend has bubble gum in her hair, so Clementine cuts it. This leads to her colouring it, cutting her own and… so on. Fact is, the things she does are so within reach of most children, making them doubly appealing, and her interpretation of her own behaviour sparkles with witty irony.
The characters are just as real, including a long suffering Principal (or as she puts it, in a deft touch of realism, ‘Your Princi-PAL!’) and a Mum whose anxiety is subtly kept at bay. At one point Clementine tells us a writer at their school told them to ‘Pay Attention!’ adding, ‘She didn’t mean to the teacher, she meant pay attention to what’s going on around you, so you can write about it.’ Sara Pennypacker has noticed the way children tick, and transposed this into a brilliantly funny narration of childhood.
Clementine books have been published in the States since 2006 and Hodder do well to make them accessible to a UK audience.