Move Over Ramona: Clementine is Here!
One of our favorite literary characters that my 8-year-old daughter and I agree upon is Clementine. She’s a cross between Ramona (of Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary) and Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park. What is magical about this excellent series is that it has all the charm of a Ramona book but with the level of difficulty of a Junie B. Jones book. And while Clementine has some personality traits that are similar to Junie B. Jones, she is more mature while also possessing the vulnerability and spunkiness of Ramona. In short, Clementine is THE PERFECT BEGINNING CHAPTER BOOK SERIES FOR KIDS, and by chapter book, I mean real chapters, not the Henry and Mudge kind.
Clementine, Friend of the Week, by Sara Pennypacker is the fourth book in this series. My 8-year-old daughter waited impatiently for it to come out and we checked several times for its E.T.A. before rushing out to buy it at our local bookstore. We were quite over the top about it actually. The E.T.A. on Sara Pennypacker’s website said “coming in July.” So we checked July 1st. Nope. July 15th. Nope. July 22nd. YES!!! Then we raced to the bookstore because my daughter couldn’t wait for Amazon to deliver even though I get a slight discount plus two-day shipping so that is normally the way I go. Luckily the bookstore had it in stock! She finished it in about a week with a satisfied sigh of contentment saying, “It’s sooo good mommy! Blog on it!”
The storyline continues with Clementine, now with a new kitten, still living in her basement apartment with her wonderful family (cool, modern, hip dad; warm, fuzzy mom; and only slightly annoying little brother). Her one-grade-older perfectionist friend Margaret lives upstairs with her family and their on-again, off-again friendship dynamic continues. [My middle daughter describes the friendship as, “Well…they have conflicts.”) Clementine gets chosen as the Friend of the Week in her class which comes with a lot of privileges and well some anxieties. In the end, Clementine finds that being a good friend pays off in spades and those true friends will surprise you. It’s a lesson in a friendship that is both satisfyingly true and uplifting.
I recommend this book series for girls and boys, ages 7-10. It’s perfect for children just branching out into real chapter books but not ready for Newbery award books. It’s the same level of difficulty as the Magic Tree House series but the print is bigger and there are more illustrations so it’s great for reluctant readers. And I MUST mention that illustrator Marla Frazee is a Caldecott artist and one of my favorite illustrator/authors of all time!!! She really brings the book to life with her illustrations!
You don’t have to read the books in order, but I would read the original book, Clementine, first which incidentally but not surprisingly won a slew of awards.
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.