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Top 100 Children’s Novels #62: Clementine by Sara Pennypacker

#62 Clementine by Sara Pennypacker (2006)
33 points

For my eight-year old self, and every other child, whose name is followed by, “pay-attention.” We all know that what is happening outside the window is much more worth “paying-attention” to, than what the teacher is saying. – DaNae Leu

The Ramona for this generation, Clementine is spunky, quirky, funny, and most of all entertaining. You can’t get a better beginning reader book than this. – Melissa Fox

Red heads are no stranger to classic works of children’s literature.  Recent successful red heads, however, are a bit on the rare side.  And early chapter book red heads?  Well, they exist but none are quite so prominent or popular as Clementine.

The plot from my review reads, “Clementine can tell you right from the start when her week started going poorly. It all began when her best friend Margaret let Clementine cut her hair in the school bathroom. Margaret’s always been jealous of her friend’s bouncy red curls, so it makes perfect sense to Clementine to take the strongest red marker she has and color some curls onto Margaret’s nearly bald head. That’s the kind of kid Clementine is. She’s always willing to go the extra mile. For example, she cuts all her own hair off in sympathy with Margaret and gets her own head painted green. Not that these were the only bad things that happened to our heroine this week. Her father, who takes care of the apartment building they live in, is fighting The Great Pigeon War against, what he labels, pigeon splat. And her parents have been planning something in secret that is making Clementine very nervous indeed. It’s not easy being the creative one in the family, but this is one gal who’s willing to be that person.”

Ms. Pennypacker is breaking new ground this year with a novel that’s very different from the Clementine series.  I know a number of you out there have already had a chance to read her remarkable Summer of the Gypsy Moths.  A Newbery contender in its own right, it proves that Ms. Pennypacker is not afraid to go places Clementine would dare not tread.

Booklist approved saying, “Sometimes touching and frequently amusing, this engaging chapter book is well suited to reading alone or reading aloud to a roomful of children.”

So did SLJ with, “A delightful addition to any beginning chapter-book collection.”

Personally I preferred how Horn Book put it, “Clementine’s first-person narration is fresh and winsome, and the episodic plot is accessible to young readers but includes details and layers that add a richness rare in short chapter books.”

Said Kirkus, “Energetic and imaginative, Clementine is gifted with understanding and patient parents. Give this to readers of Cleary and Blume and cross your fingers for more.”

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. So love Clementine! Makes me wish I’d had a daughter. Though one year I read a chapter of Clementine on Mother’s Day, instead of the treacly picture books that were left on the shelf.

    After reading Summer of the Gypsy Moths, I’m not sure which book I want to win the Newbery: SUMMER or THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN or WONDER. But I hope all three are honored!

  2. LOVE Clementine – she’d definitely be on my top 20.


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