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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Sara Pennypacker, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 27
1. Best New Kids Books | February 2016

Our selection of hot new releases and popular kids' books has a lot to offer!

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2. Video Sunday: Hits ’em With His Head Edition

So, fun fact. I read a serious 2017 Newbery contender a couple months ago and it looks like they may release it in the nearish future (February 2nd). I’m calling 2016 as The Year of the Fox, by the way, since both Sara Pennypacker and Kathi Appelt have fox related middle grades on the horizon. This is a particularly nice little book trailer for the Pennypacker book, and not just because they get my current workplace correct. It’s a classy little number.

Betcha bottom dollar you’ll need to read it.

You know, when I hear about librarian parody videos, I naturally assume that they’re done of the latest, hottest song. It’s almost a relief to see one of, of all things, Bohemian Rhapsody. What’s next? Eye of the Tiger? Cause I’ll take it!

Thanks to Aunt Judy for the link.

As you may have heard, the internet being what it is, there’s a new illustrator of Harry Potter in town and his name is Jim Kay.  A whole host of new images were released the other day, and that was swell, but sometimes it’s nice to hear from the artist himself.

You know, I thought I’d posted this video before but it appears I somehow didn’t.  Ah well.  It isn’t a Video Sunday without at least one 80s style toy ad.  Such as it is.

Thanks to Dana Sheridan for the link!

And for today’s Off-Topic Video I’m going to say, “YES! I KNOW HE DOESN’T HIT THE BRICKS WITH HIS HEAD BUT WITH HIS FIST! THIS IS STILL FUNNY, CONSARN IT!” Phew! Had to get that out there.


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3. Cover Unveiled for New Sara Pennypacker Book

PAX Cover (GalleyCat)

Jon Klassen has unveiled the cover for Sara Pennypacker’s forthcoming novel, Pax. The Caldecott Medal-winning artist created the illustrations for this project.

We’ve embedded the full image for the jacket design above—what do you think? Balzer + Bray, a HarperCollins imprint, will publish this book on February 02, 2016.

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4. Perfect Picture Book Friday - Meet The Dullards

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, Everyone!

As you all know, I am behind (not even going to say how far!) in updating the Perfect Picture Book List.  One of my problems is that Blogger overloaded due to how much I was trying to put on that page.  I'm trying to sort out a better system.  Stacy, the wonderful and generous, put together a possible plan which I haven't had time to figure out yet, but in the meantime, at the very least, I have two (2!) things to mention.

1.  I am experimenting with using Pinterest for the theme lists, so many Perfect Picture Books, grouped by theme, are on Pinterest HERE.

2.  The complete alphabetical list of books that have been done through April 10, 2015, is on another blog HERE.  It is grouped into titles A-H, I-P, and Q-Z.  Although all the titles are listed, the vast majority have yet to be linked to their reviews because I haven't figured out how to get an eighth day into the week just for PPBF updating :)

There is a theme list on the new blog and it is complete - all the themes are listed alphabetically, and they connect to the Pinterest boards... but the Pinterest boards are only partially loaded.

There is a list of contributing bloggers on the right side of the new blog which I know is incomplete.  If you're a contributing blogger whose site isn't mentioned, please feel free to email me and I'll add you in - I just couldn't remember everything off the top of my head so have been adding slowly as I go along - and I apologize for not getting you up there already!

As I said, I've been experimenting, so things are a bit at sixes and sevens and this is a stop-gap measure until I can figure out what is going to work best for this amazing and impressive list.  In my dreams, I'd also like to list the books in a way that would be helpful to writers looking for mentor texts - examples of parallel stories, or wordless picture books, etc...  But like I said, I lack an eighth weekday... so we'll see :)

As for today's Perfect Picture Book, I have a fun one for you, because sometimes books should just be fun :)

Title: Meet The Dullards
Written By: Sara Pennypacker
Illustrated By: Daniel Salmieri
Balzer & Bray, March 2015, Fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: humor, family

Opening: "One day, Mr. and Mrs. Dullard received quite a nasty surprise. [art: children are reading books: Becoming One With The Tightrope and The Nicest Way To Befriend A Lion]  The Dullards collected the books and handed their children some nice blank paper to read instead.  Then they left the room to discuss the problem in private."

Brief Synopsis: Mr. and Mrs. Dullard are committed to raising a dull family, doing everything in their power to keep their children safe from the evils of applesauce cake, puppies, and thinking.  If only they knew... :)

Links To Resources: talk about family traditions: what are some things you do as a family? How are these things alike or different from what other people do with their families?  Do you think people are "weird" if they do things differently?  Discuss things to do together as a family.  In this book, the kids are completely focused on joining the circus while their parents concentrate on being dull - in a group or individually, think up and illustrate another Dullards story where the kids have a new plan and practice making the story say one thing while the pictures show another.  Why is this funny?

Why I Like This Book:  I have long been a fan of The Stupids and, more recently, The Dumb Bunnies.  The Dullards are full of tongue-in-cheek humor.  Mrs. Dullard faints at the sight of flowered wallpaper.  The Dullards' idea of fun is (actually!) watching paint dry.  And when Mr. and Mrs. Dullard see a snail crossing the driveway they pack up their family and move away from such dangerous excitement.  Meanwhile, readers (young and old alike) will enjoy the illustrations which depict the elder Dullards picking out paint (gray or beige?) oblivious to their offspring juggling paintbrushes, climbing on clotheslines and befriending puppies.  The contradiction of the text and the deadpan illustrations is entertaining every time through the book!  This book is just plain fun! :)

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF bloggers please be sure to leave your post-specific link in the list below so we can all come visit you!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!! :)

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5. Stay, Clementine, stay!!!

Now I have to do it again.

And guess what?

This is the LAST one in the series.

Completely Clementine by Sara Pennypacker; illustrated by Marla Frazee


But this one delivers everything I've grown to love about this series.

Super funny, OF COURSE.

But I love how Clementine has matured through the series yet still remains her childish, lovable self.

I love how her relationship with Margaret has evolved.

I adore her parents and how they're present but not overly so.

I love Clementine's relationship with her teachers.

In this one, Clementine struggles to stay mad at her father for eating meat, laments having to say goodbye to her beloved third-grade teacher, and spends some hilarious time at a fancy hotel with her friend, Margaret.

This last installment is definitely, Completely Clementine.

You can read more at Pennypacker's website HERE.

(Coming from Disney/Hyperion March 2015)

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6. 2 Spring Must Read Junior Novels with Wonderful Girl Protagonists

If your young independent reader is looking for a great read with a wonderful girl protagonist, or maybe she's looking for a new series to latch onto, you can't go wrong with either of these two books or their prequels.

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7. Clementine by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee

Clementine! If you've read Clementine an her sequels, you'll never forget her.

We read Clementine for Children's Lit tonight, had a good discussion, and we watched this delightful clip of the author and illustrator talking about creating this delightful series:

Sara Pennypacker and Marla Frazee talk about "Clementine"

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8. Clementine and the Spring Trip: Sara Pennypacker & Marla Frazee

Book: Clementine and the Spring Trip
Author: Sara Pennypacker
Illustrator: Marla Frazee
Pages: 160
Age Range: 6-8

As I've said many times on this blog, I love Clementine. She's one of my favorite children's book characters, and I can't wait until my daughter is old enough to appreciate her. So when I was browsing in a bookstore last week and spotted this book on the shelf, in paperback, I didn't hesitate to buy a copy. And over the weekend I treated myself to a visit with Clementine and her family.

In Clementine and the Spring Trip, Clementine is a bit nervous about the upcoming field trip that her third-grade class is taking with the fourth graders. Her friend Margaret is in fourth grade, and continually warns Clementine that loud eating is not allowed among the fourth graders. Clementine worries about what she'll take for lunch that won't crunch or snick, or any of various other noise-related offenses. She also worries that her class will end up on the school bus that has "The Cloud", a truly horrific stink.

Meanwhile, a new girl in Clementine's class, Olive, has Clementine feeling a bit left out. And Clementine's family is preparing for the arrival, in a few months, of a new baby. Her mother is having cravings, and ranting more than usual about social issues. Margaret's family is undergoing changes, too, leaving Margaret more cleanliness-obsessed than ever. [Margaret is actually a really interesting character - she's going to need therapy one day, I think, but Clementine takes her in stride, and understands her issues.]

Like the other Clementine books, Clementine and the Spring Trip has some nice nods to Boston, like this:

"Mitchell acts extra Mitchelly in the spring too. Not because of the weather, but because the Red Sox are back in town. According to Mitchell, the Red Sox are the greatest team in the history of the universe, and it's just a matter of time before they ask him to play for them." (Page 5-6)

And some fun Clementine-isms, like this:

"I dropped the tape and spun around, because elevator doors are like game-show prize doors: until they open, you never know what valuable stuff is hiding behind them. Okay, fine--in our building, it's usually just the same old people, riding up and down from their condos." (Page 43)

"When you are pregnant you get to eat whatever you want, together with whatever else you want, whenever you want it, just by saying the magic words: "I'm having a craving." (Page 63)

That last quote made me laugh out loud. I also continue to adore Marla Frazee's illustrations, and the way that she completely nails Clementine and her family. 

And yet, I must admit that Clementine and the Spring Trip is not going to stand out as my favorite of the series. The conclusion felt a bit over the top to me (including the presence of a plot-resolving coincidence), and a couple of aspects seemed a bit message-y. The last couple of chapters left me a little flat.

I still love Clementine, but I didn't end up loving this particular book. I liked it, sure, but I didn't love it overall. Not to worry, I'll still be eagerly awaiting the next book. And all libraries should certainly pick up Clementine and the Spring Trip

Publisher: Disney/Hyperion (@DisneyHyperion)
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Source of Book: Bought it at Books, Inc

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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9. Share Our Books

I'm sad to report that the Share Our Books program has been discontinued.


I have donated the 250 copies of The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis to The Foundation for Children's Books, so at least I know they will be in good hands.

Special thanks to Sara Pennypacker for her efforts with Share Our Books.  

2 Comments on Share Our Books, last added: 4/12/2013
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10. Review of the Day: Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker

Summer of the Gypsy Moths
By Sara Pennypacker
Balzer & Bray (an imprint of Harper Collins)
ISBN: 978-0-06-196420-6
Ages 9-12
On shelves now

Spoiler Alert – I am giving away every little detail about this book in this review. You have been warned.

As a librarian I’m always on the lookout for good middle grade books I can booktalk to kids. Often you don’t need an exciting cover or title to sell a book to kids. Heck, sometimes you don’t even need to show the book at all. Yet in the case of Sara Pennypacker’s debut middle grade novel Summer of the Gypsy Moths I fully intend to show the cover off. There you see two happy girls on a seashore on a beautiful summer’s day. What could be more idyllic? I’ll show the kids the cover then start right off with, “Doesn’t it look sweet? Yeah. So this is a book about two girls who bury a corpse in their backyard by themselves and don’t tell anyone about it.” BLAMMO! Instant interest. Never mind that the book really is a heartfelt and meaningful story or that the writing is some of the finest you will encounter this year. Dead bodies = interested readers, and if I have to sell it with a tawdry pitch then I am bloody selling it with a tawdry pitch and the devil take the details. Shh! Don’t tell them it’s of outstanding literary quality as well!

Convinced that her free floating mother will return to her someday soon, Stella lives with her Great-aunt Louise and Louise’s foster kid Angel. The situation is tenable if not entirely comfortable. If Stella is neat to the point of fault then Angel’s her 180-degree opposite. They’re like oil and water, those two. That’s why when Louise ups and dies on the girls they’re surprised to find themselves reluctant allies in a kind of crazy scheme. Neither one of them wants to get caught up in the foster care system so maybe that’s why they end up burying Louise in the backyard, running her summer cottages like nothing’s wrong. They can’t keep it up forever, but in the process of working together the two find themselves growing closer, coming to understand where they’re both coming from.

I always knew Pennypacker could write, of course. She cut her teeth on the early chapter book market (Clementine, etc.), which, besides easy books, can often be the most difficult books to write for children. The woman really mastered the form, managing with as few words as possible to drive home some concrete emotions and feelings. In Summer of the Gypsy Moths she ups the proverbial ante, so to speak. Now that she has far more space to play with, Pennypacker takes her time. She draws Stella and Angel into a realistically caring relationship with one another that overcomes their earlier animosity. By the end of the story you understand that they really do like one another, differences of opinion and personality aside.

Then there’s the writing itself. First and foremost, Pennypacker knows how to write some stellar lines. Things like, “Angel stared at me, looking like she was caught between snarling and fainting.” She’s also ample with the humor, as when Stella goes to school after the incident and reports, “Nobody seemed to notice the big sign I felt sure I wore, the one th

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11. 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 <

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12. Share Our Books

The uber-talented Sara Pennypacker, author of the fabulous Clementine books, came up with a brilliant idea called:

Here's how it works:

At Share Our Books you'll find a list of author-donated books suitable for elementary school community reads, which are available free of charge for periods of six weeks. In addition to the books, each participating author provides a welcoming introductory video and a list of trivia questions. When the books arrive, the school distributes them and implements the read. All we ask is that when the read comes to an end, the books be repackaged and shipped to the next community.

I'm proud to be part of this great project, along with Kate DiCamillo, Uma Krishnaswami, Jewell Parker Rhodes, and Sara Pennypacker.

Children's authors and their publishers have teamed up to help spread the love of reading.

So go ahead. 

Plan a Community Reads or School-wide Reads event.

Request some books.

Start reading.

Then spread the love. 

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13. September, 2011: Best Selling Kids’ Books, New Releases, and More …

By Bianca Schulze, The Children’s Book Review
Published: September 1, 2011

Here’s the scoop on the most popular destinations on The Children’s Book Review site, the most coveted new releases and bestsellers.


Back-to-School: Books About School

Best Halloween Books for Kids: Scary, Spooky, and Silly

20 Sites to Improve Your Child’s Literacy

Review: Scat by Carl Hiaasen

Where to Find Free eBooks for Children Online


The most coveted books that release this month:


by Brian Selznick

(Ages 9-12)

LEGO Star Wars Character Encyclopedia

by DK Publishing

(Ages 12 and up)

Every Thing On It

by Shel Silverstein

(Ages 8-11)

You Have to Stop This (Secret)

by Pseudonymous Bosch

(Ages 9-12)

The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories

by Dr. Seuss

(Ages 6-9)

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14. Clementine and the Family Meeting

Clementine is back, and #5 in the series is as fresh as the first. What keeps this series strong is the main character's appealing and oh-so-believeable voice. Unquenchable as ever, the third-grader with the fruit name has a lot to deal with in Clementine and the Family Meeting, starting with the dreaded meeting. As she puts it: "Because even though my parents say they are about things we have to talk over as a family, I have noticed that they are usually about something I am doing wrong." 

Not this time. The family meeting brings unexpected news to Clementine and her little brother--they are going to have another sibling. Clementine is less than pleased, and, like many young children, would rather things stay the same. But change is everywhere. Her best friend Margaret has become obsessed with becoming a make-up artist and talks nonstop about moving to California to live with her father. At school, Eighteen, a rat from science class, has disappeared and Clementine worries for his safety. Eighteen was also her science project, and now that he's missing, her partner is trying to convince her to use one of his many superpowers as a substitute project. Rounding things off, her favorite hat, knitted for her by her grandmother, is missing and her dad refuses to let her try on his new tool belt.

Like the very best Seinfeld episodes, all the different plot strands come together in the end, prompting Clementine to call her own family meeting. Clementine's transformation from disgruntled sister to enthusiastic one is convincingly shown, and will leave readers eagerly waiting the next book. Hopefully Mushroom Soup (Clementine's unofficial name for her newest sibling) will be making an appearance.

Clementine and the Family Meeting
by Sara Pennypacker
illustrations by Marla Frazee
Hyperion, 160 pages
Published: September 13, 2011

This title was reviewed from NetGalley.

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15. Review of the Day: The Talented Clementine

The Talented Clementine by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee. Hyperion. $14.99.

When “Clementine” arrived on the scene in 2006 it hit a nerve. Otherwise sane and rational adults began thwapping one another over the heads with the book screaming, “READ THIS! READ THIS! READ THIS!” Children were left abandoned as their parental units devoured the title. Kids, as it happened, quite enjoyed the book as well, but you could be forgiven for not noticing this through the swarm of “Clementine”-addled adults out there. Now the sequel has popped onto shelves everywhere and we are experiencing the calm before the storm. Copies are already flying off the shelves, but we won’t experience the true gale-force winds of the faithful until the summer months. Then watch those copies simply fly. Sequels come with their own set of rules and regulations, of course. Rule #1 tends to be, “Be As Interesting As Your Predecessor,” and is too often ignored by writers. Not Pennypacker. A worthy sequel and a perfectly packaged little gem, “The Talented Clementine,” will please the initiated and uninitiated Clementine-fans alike.

It’s talent show time! Yes, the third and fourth graders of Clementine’s school are gonna put on a production to beat the band and this puts our heroine in a bit of a pickle. Clementine has no talents. None. Zippo o’ talentos. Well, none that she can perform anyway. She cannot dance or sing or cartwheel or Hula-Hoop. Her best friend Margaret can do all of these and more but even with her “help” Clementine’s having some difficulty. And really, it isn’t until the day in question that she discovers something she can do that no other third grader seems capable of. Something that isn't flashy or even noticeable, but that quite positively saves the day.

The funny thing about this particular volume is that Pennnypacker has done away with a subplot. There’s no A story paired with a lesser B story for kicks. This pup’s A and only A from start to finish. You might think that would make the book tedious and slow, but the author appears to know what she’s doing. The concept of figuring out what you do best is infinitely difficult to write about for any extended length of time without sounding like a broken record. All the more reason then for the author to add in details like Clementine super-gluing beer bottlecaps to the soles of her shoes in the hopes learning to tap. I can probably say with certainty that I’ve never read a children’s early chapter book that contained a kid who stinks like a brewery. Other unique details include the presence of adults that aren’t villains. The Principal that Clementine is constantly excusing herself to talk to acts more like an infinitely patient psychotherapist than an authority figure.

I’d like to point out that what I’m doing right now (reviewing this book) is a dangerous thing. You have no idea the position I’ve placed myself in, do you? How easy it is, when reviewing a Clementine, to suddenly lapse into copying down quote after quote from the text without giving it a second thought. I might try to encourage you to read the book by typing something like, “And that’s when the worried feeling – as if somebody were scribbling with a big black crayon – started up in my brains.” That might work. Or I could slip in a little description of the school nurse that says, “She always looks bored, as if she’s just killing time until a really good disease hits the school.” I think you should count your lucky stars that I’ve too strong a sense of self-preservation to ever fall into that trap. Whew!

You know, if we’re going to be perfectly honest with one another here, you should probably know that some people do not care for “Clementine”. Such people have grown tired of the spunky-red-haired-female genre and equate Clem with Junie B. Jones and her pseudo-spunky ilk. Such people, nine times out of ten, have not physically sat down and read the book cover to cover, but some have and Clementine is just not their bag. I’ve also heard objections to Clementine’s maturity or lack thereof. Some people didn’t believe (as seen in the first book) that a third grader would be so immature as to cut off all of her best friend’s hair. But even if that’s your objection to “Clementine”, there’s nothing to stop you from loving its follow-up. Maturity varies with every individual. And if there's any way to describe this heroine, it's as an "individual" indeed.

So why do people like Pennypacker’s books so much? Maybe it’s because she’s damn good at nailing little truths here and there. We know what it’s like when a teacher is so excited by a program that they end up tacking on words to the Pledge of Allegiance like, “With liberty and justice for all and I know we’re all very excited to get to our big project.” Her characters feel believable. Clementine is self-involved, sure. What third grader isn’t? But she honestly feels a concern for her annoying baby brother. In fact, she’s so afraid that the babysitter will forget that he’s allergic to peanuts that she scrawls a, “NO PEANUTS FOR ME!” in blue permanent marker on his head so as to avoid any accidents.

One of the branches in my library system is mere days away from hosting an honest-to-goodness “Clementine” party. There will be a pin-the-bologna-glasses-on-the-face, a pigeon toss, and who knows what all. I was hoping there might be a wok spin, but no such luck. Now after having read the sequel, I wonder what additional crafts and ideas might come of this newest title. A howling contest? A bottle cap coloring station? The mind boggles. Whatever they decide upon, I know that they’ll need plenty of copies of this book when it finally reaches their shelves. Once again, the Clementine-shaped ball that is this book gets knocked cleanly out of the park. A worthy continuation.

Notes on the Cover: Uh, it's Marla Frazee, dude. Short of drawing this cover entirely in her own blood I can't think of a way she could have messed up this image. I also happen to love that Clementine's new shoes make the cover and that the image you see here hints broadly at the talent she eventually finds. Nicely done.

First Line: "I have noticed that teachers get exciting confused with boring a lot."

Previously Reviewed By: What Adrienne Thinks About That, MotherReader, and A Year of Reading. Please inform me if I have missed anyone.

3 Comments on Review of the Day: The Talented Clementine, last added: 4/15/2007
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16. Spunky Girls

Well, I didn't win the challenge. Sigh. Now I know what the standard of competition is-- y'all better watch out next year, is all I'm saying.

I liked the challenge of it though, so I'm having a self-challenge. Feel free to play along. The challenge is this:

Read all the books I have checked out and borrowed. Don't check out or borrow anymore books until the end of the challenge. Read a as-of-yet determined amount of books that I OWN. I currently have 19 books checked out and probably about 8 that are borrowed.

I buy books that I think I'll want to own. I can't help it. But, they often get waylaid because dude, the library books have to go back. So the books I wanted so much that I bought them languish on the shelves, unread. Time to change that.

But here are some library books:

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker

Clementine always pays attention, despite what her teacher says. She's just paying attention to what's going on outside the window.

Here we have heroine who is all heart, but doesn't always know how to show it. When perfect Margaret tries to cut glue out of her hair, all Clementine was trying to do was even it up. But then she's not allowed to play with Margaret anymore. Clementine knows Margaret's sad about having no more hair, so Clementine cuts all of her hair off, just to make her feel better. Why doesn't anyone understand this?

Marla Frazee's pen and ink illustrations make this story great, as does Clementine's pitch-perfect voice:

And then Margaret went all historical, and the art teacher went all historical, and nobody could think of anything to do except the regular thing, which is: send me to the principal's office.

Clementine is spunkier than Ramona and not as annoying as Junie B. Her voice is captured perfectly. It's hard not to fall in love with Clementine, which is why I squealed for joy when this came in:

The Talented Clementine by Sara Pennypaker

I think this one might be even more hilarious than the first one. The school is having a talent show, but there's just one problem-- Clementine doesn't have a talent.

I like this one partly because a lot of the adults that were flat characters in the first book (because, let's face it, in a kid's eye, most adults are flat characters) round out a bit more, especially the principal.

I really just want to cut and paste a bunch of quotations, or possibly the entire book, but you just read it yourself. I will leave you with this:

But he ignored me, which is called Getting on with the Day when a teacher does it, and Being Inconsiderate when a kid does it.

Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little by Peggy Gifford

I'm not entirely sure who is narrating this tale, but the breathless excitement that comes across in punctuation-less run-on sentences leads me to believe it is one of Moxy Maxwell's fellow 9-year-olds.

But that is not part of this story and will sidetrack us and we must move on if we're ever going to get to the darkness now descending on Moxy's horizon.

See, Moxy has a bit of a problem. She has been carrying around her copy of Stuart Little all summer so she can read it during her in-between times, but, see, she didn't have many of those this summer. So, here it is, the last day of summer vacation, and she hasn't read it yet. This is a problem because there will be a test on it tomorrow, the first day of school.

So Moxy is going to go straight up to her room and read the whole thing before the daisy routine water ballet tonight. But, of course, she should probably clean her room first. And then she needs some food, for energy. And then, because the day has been such an emotional roller coaster, she should probably lie down. And then, she has a fabulous, stupendous, near-genius idea that must be set into motion immediately.

Of course, when the best idea Moxy has had in her life leads to an drowned, exploding dahlia garden, can she find a way out? And will she ever read Stuart Little?

This is a funny look at a kid trying to get out of doing her summer reading assignment. Perhaps not quite as funny as Clementine, but still funny and will appeal to the same people. Another thing I want to draw attention to is that Moxy's twin brother, Mark has been studying photography over the summer and his photographic illustrations (really those of Valerie Fisher) add a lot to the tale.

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17. Sara Pennypacker: Writing Chapter Books... Somet...

Sara Pennypacker: Writing Chapter Books...

Something I love about attending SCBWI conferences is the opportunity to hear writers talk with so much passion about what they do. Sara Pennypacker is one such writer. I got a sense from her that she cares deeply about both her characters and her audience.

During her breakout session on writing chapters books, she told us as she works she keep in mind why she's writing chapter books and who she's writing them for. Before she began writing Clementine, Sara's first series was centered on Stuart, a boy who was afraid of everything. When she talked to second- and third-graders during school visits, she would ask them to write down something that they worried about. Their number one worry, it seemed, was that they wouldn't be able to find the bathroom. After 911, however, they began to worry about planes crashing into buildings. This made her think: Am I supposed to be doing something about this? She feels it's important that kids learn from books that in life there are choices. And there's no downside to telling kids they have choices. However, she says a book is not a place to preach and proselytize.

Sara feels that whatever it is you're writing, you have to believe it in order to be able to go the emotional distance otherwise your voice won't be authentic. She told us that she gets totally immersed in her characters when she's writing, almost becoming them in an altered-perception-of-reality kind of way. There are so many series at chapter book level, she says, because they are for new readers, "and we need to throw them a rope."

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Recent Publishing News mostly from PW...

Below are the full CWIM listings for Roaring Brook (which now includes Nancy's name) and Hyperion. They both prefer agented material.

114 Fifth Ave., New York NY 10011-5690. (212)633-4400. Fax: (212)633-4833. Web site: www.hyperionbooksforchildren.com. Manuscript Acquisitions: Editorial Director. Art Director: Anne Diebel. 10% of books by first-time authors. Publishes various categories.
  • Hyperion title Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, written and illustrated by Mo Willems, won a 2005 Caldecott Honor Award. Their title Who Am I Without Him?: Short Stories About Girls and the Boys in Their Lives, by Sharon G. Flake, won a 2005 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award.
Fiction Picture books, young readers, middle readers, young adults: adventure, animal, anthology (short stories), contemporary, fantasy, folktales, history, humor, multicultural, poetry, science fiction, sports, suspense/mystery. Middle readers, young adults: commercial fiction. Recently published Emily's First 100 Days of School, by Rosemary Wells (ages 3-6, New York Times bestseller); Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer (YA novel, New York Times bestseller); Dumpy The Dump Truck, series by Julie Andrews Edwards and Emma Walton Hamilton (ages 3-7).
Nonfiction All trade subjects for all levels.
How to Contact/Writers Only interested in agented material.
Illustration Works with 100 illustrators/year. "Picture books are fully illustrated throughout. All others depend on individual project." Reviews ms/illustration packages from artists. Submit complete package. Illustrations only: Submit résumé, business card, promotional literature or tearsheets to be kept on file. Responds only if interested. Original artwork returned at job's completion.
Photography Works on assignment only. Publishes photo essays and photo concept books. Provide résumé, business card, promotional literature or tearsheets to be kept on file.
Terms Pays authors royalty based on retail price. Offers advances. Pays illustrators and photographers royalty based on retail price or a flat fee. Sends galleys to authors; dummies to illustrators. Book catalog available for 9×12 SAE and 3 first-class stamps.

143 West St., Suite W, New Milford CT 06776. (860)350-4434. Manuscript/Art Acquisitions: Simon Boughton, publisher. Executive Editor: Nancy Mercado. Publishes approximately 40 titles/year. 1% of books by first-time authors. This publisher's goal is "to publish distinctive high-quality children's literature for all ages. To be a great place for authors to be published. To provide personal attention and a focused and thoughtful publishing effort for every book and every author on the list."
  • Roaring Brook Press is an imprint of Holtzbrinck Publishers, a group of companies that includes Henry Holt and Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Roaring Brook is not accepting unsolicited manuscripts.
Fiction Picture books, young readers, middle readers, young adults: adventure, animal, contemporary, fantasy, history, humor, multicultural, nature/environment, poetry, religion, science fiction, sports, suspense/mystery. Recently published Get Real, by Betty Hicks.
How to Contact/Writers Primarily interested in agented material. Not accepting unsolicited mss or queries. Will consider simultaneous agented submissions.
Illustration Primarily interested in agented material. Works with 25 illustrators/year. Illustrations only: Query with samples. Do not send original art; copies only through the mail. Samples returned with SASE.
Photography Works on assignment only.
Terms Pays authors royalty based on retail price. Pays illustrators royalty or flat fee depending on project. Sends galleys to authors; dummies to illustrators, if requested.
Tips "You should find a reputable agent and have him/her submit your work."

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19. Fusion Stories! (and other ramblings)

So, May is Asian-American Heritage Month. To celebrate, 10 children's and YA authors got together to spotlight "Ten new contemporary novels by Asian Americans aren’t traditional tales set in Asia nor stories about coming to America for the first time."

Check out the list at Fusion Stories.

I thought this was an awesome idea, so to join the party, I'm reading all the fusion stories this month, substituting earlier works if the highlighted story isn't published yet.

But, first I'm going to ramble on about myself for a while, because it's my blog! I can do what I want!

Mainly, the wedding I went to this weekend was wonderfully fun AND I got to meet some other kidlit dorks, including someone who knows David Levithan. And Rachel Cohn! My geeky heart just about died! My response was "Can I touch you?!" Initially, he thought I was being a bitch, when really, I was in total AWE!

And now I'm off to North Carolina for my sister's wedding!

Also, I want to give a shout-out to Lauren. She's my new-ish coworker and she is awesome. I don't think I've mentioned that yet. But who else would randomly burst into song with you on the reference desk? Especially when said song is a medley of the Simpson's musical version of Street Car Named Desire?

You can always depend on the kindness of strangers!
To buck up your spirits and shield you from dangers!
Now here's a tip from Blanche you won't regret:
A stranger's just a friend you haven't met.
You haven't met!

That's what too much story time can do to a person!

Also, here's a video I've been watching a lot of lately:

Because do you know what's better than a Kate Pierson muppet? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

Also, how awesome is it when you look like a total moody rock star while rocking out on a banjo?!

Anyway, some reviews!

Good Luck, Ivy Lisa Yee

I haven't read an American Girl book in years. Like, not since I was the targeted reading age and read all of the Kirsten, Samantha, and Molly books. Yes, only those three, because BACK IN MY DAY there only were three. Initially, there were only 3 books for 3 dolls! Yes, I was a recipient of the original Pleasant Company catalog.

Anyway, Yee's book took me right back there. And it was weird at the same time, because after reading Yee's other work (by which I mean the hysterical Millicent Min, Girl Genius) this has a very different voice. This... reads like an American Girl book, which it should. I think writing like that, in someone else's corporate voice must be very hard, but Yee's awesome at it. (Ok, I've drafted my share of press releases in hoity toity British English in the proper corporate voice. I know it's hard.)

Anyway, the book. Ivy Ling is not feeling lucky. Her best friend, Julie (who is actually the American Girl) has moved across town. Her parents are really busy and can't help Ivy with her Chinese school project. Plus, they've been eating take-away Chinese food from her grandparent's Chinese resteraunt. And Ivy's grandparents heard her complaining.

But that's not the worst of it. The big inter-city gymnastics tournament is coming up. Ivy needs to compete in the all events, but she fell off the balance beam last time and is having a hard time getting her routine right again. As if that weren't bad enough, the big Ling family reunion is coming up. On the same day as the gymnastics meet.

Ivy can't go to both, and her parents are making her decide, only they have different ideas about which one is more important.

Whatever will Ivy do?!

I loved the "American Girl" ness of it. Also, in the background material, there are some awesome pictures of Lisa Yee in the 70s.

I had forgotten how many appearance details American Girl books put in. As a kid I really liked that, but it's a little jarring to me as an adult.

Minn and Jake Janet S. Wong

This is not really a fusion story. Minn and Jake's Almost Terrible Summer is a Fusion Story, but it doesn't come out until August, so I have to wait for it. So, I read the one that came before it instead. But, as far as the reader knows, this one doesn't have any Asian-Americans in it, because the fact that Jake is 1/4 Korean comes out in the next book and causes some tension when Minn wonders why Jake didn't tell her. At least, that's what the various blurbs I've read tell me.

Anyway, in this book (a prose novel)

Minn is feeling very empty,
and very tall,
and very odd,
and very pigtailed,
and very lizardy,
and very much alone.

Because her best friend laughed at her with another girl. She ends up being paired with the new kid,Jake, who's afraid of lizards. Catching lizards is the only thing kids do in Santa Brunella. So, Minn is going to teach Jake how to catch lizards. But there are accidents and mean kids and other grade-school stuff to endure.

Very well told. Minn and Jake, as well as the rest of the kids, are authentic, and their trials and tribulations are small, as they are for most kids, but aren't trivialized, which is refreshing.

And now for some non-Fusion Stories, because who knows when I'll get to blog again?

Thumbelina: Tiny Runaway Bride Barbara Ensor

This is a retelling of Thumbelina, in the sense of straight-up retelling it with a few variations, not recasting it, a la Shannon Hale or Gail Carson Levine.

Except the ending is different. But the narrator warns us. I'm quoting from an ARC here, so it might not be 100% accurate (but I hope it is, because it's the very matter-of-fact voice that the narrator and Thumbelina use throughout)

Now you know exactly what happened and can write a book report, if you need to do that, or count this as part of your summer reading list. Nobody will mind or think any less of you if you just close the book and DO NOT READ ANOTHER WORD.

But, to tell you the truth, there is something more. If you felt there was something forced about that ending, you were right."

And that's why I loved the book. That, and the wonderful illustrations that were made by cutting out black construction paper. A nice retelling of a fairy tale that gives Thumbelina back her spunk without detracting from Anderson's original.

Clementine's Letter Sara Pennypaker

Just when Clementine and her 3rd grade teacher have figured each other out, Mr. D'Matz is going to go off and go to Egypt IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SCHOOL YEAR! And the new teacher has new rules that Clementine can't guess.

If you liked the others, you'll like this. I'm seriously starting to worry about Margaret though. That girl's going to need therapy sooner rather than later. I do like how well Clementine handles her, though.

In the paint section, hundreds of little paint tubes, all neat and new, sat on the shelf. Margaret threw her hands up and backed away, as if the tubes of paint were just waiting to burst all over her clean clothes. Margaret doesn't even liket o look at things that might get her dirty.

"Quick, run over to the paper aisle!" I told her. "Just keep staring at all those nice clean stacks of paper!"

I also like how the trip to the Chinese grocery store yields a whole new host of vegetable names for her brother. Bamboo shoot, scallion, daikon radish...

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The Golden Kite Luncheon & Awards Presentation...

The conference Golden Kite Luncheon took place on Sunday (I'm posting out of order a bit--I used various notebooks that ended up in various places when I packed), during which lots of awards are given out (and I always cry).

After the food (the vegetarian dish was delish) we were entertained a capella by conference-goer Tyler McGroom, who participated in a contest involving singing during last year's event (for which I, as his table mate, got free SCBWI merch from the bookstore) and volunteered to croon once again.

Next SCBWI Illustrator Coordinator Priscilla Burris announced the winners of the portfolio showcase (which, as usual, she did a bang-up job of coordinating). Here they are:

The judges for the event:Left to right: Abigail Simoun, editor with Tricycle Press; Laurent Linn, art director at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; my favorite agent, Steven Malk of Writers House; Frieda Gates, coordinator of the annual NY Children's Illustrators Conference; and illustrator Joe Cepeda.

Next Erzsi Deak was named SCBWI member of the year--because she's awesome.

Then there was the crying...

First SCBWI showed a video tribute to the late Sue Alexander who passed away suddenly last month. Sue was a driving force behind SCBWI from the organization's inception, and the first official member. The touching words from Lin Oliver combined with a James Taylor song...tears.

And Here are the Golden Kite Winners:

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The End of the Conference: Autograph Party Photos...

After half a chocolate cupcake and half a yellow cupcake, I got some shots of the autograph party (which I didn't have to participate in because the 2009 CWIM didn't make it to the bookstore which in a way was OK because I feel a little silly signing books).

Susan Patron, Sara Pennypacker, and Ann Whitford Paul look happy about autographing.

Washingtonians Holly Cupala (who is holding one of the roses from the gorgeous bouquet her husband sent in celebration of her very recent two-book deal!) with RA Jolie Stekly and her stack of books.

The awesome Paula Yoo listens to a conference-goer as she prepares to sign her first novel, Good Enough.

Authors Katherine Applegate and Jay Asher--both of whom I interviewed for Insider Reports in the 2009 CWIM.

Rachel Cohn happily passes one of her novels off to a conference goer (note the red "Reading Is Power" bracelet) while Bruce Coville concentrates on signing.

Marla Frazee and her line of autograph seekers. (I wonder if her hand got tired.)

SCBWI RAs/authors Esther Hershenhorn (Illinois) and Ellen Hopkins (Nevada).

Down the row: Linda Zuckerman, Paula Yoo, Lisa Yee, Mark Teague, and Adam Rex (who you can sort of see).

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22. Picture Book Saturday

Just a random assortment from my TBR shelf this week folks. Enjoy!

With St. Patrick's Day coming up soon, I thought Lucky Tucker would be a good choice to have on the list this week. Tucker the dog has shown up in two other books, one about Christmas and one about Halloween, but this time he's trying his hardest to become the luckiest dog ever. Leslie McGuirk has created a fun-loving, adorable dog, that is appealing to everyone.

Waking up on the wrong paw is never fun for anyone, but Tucker is determined to change his luck. By rolling in a pile of four leaf clovers and then being told he is now the luckiest dog around by a real leprechaun, Tucker knows his luck has turned around and it boy has it! He gets a scoop of ice cream, gets to play with all of his friends, and gets a boxful of toys delivered just for him.

The Tucker books are simple enough for your younger kids and they'll enjoy the pure happiness that Tucker the dog exhibits. This would be nice book to have on your home shelves. Good for practicing reading too.

Lucky Tucker
Leslie McGuirk
24 pages
Picture book
February 2009

Sparrow Girl, written by one of my favorite middle grade authors, Sara Pennypacker, is a great example of an author branching out to different genres.

The tale of a young girl that loves the birds in her Chinese village, but finds out the farmers, including her father, want to kill all of the sparrows, as the tiny birds are eating up their grain. Devastated, Ming-Li attempts to stop the farmers, but is constantly told that she is just a young girl and that no one disobeys their leader.

When the sparrows have been run out of town, the farmers are surprised to learn that their grain is now being eaten by worms, grasshoppers, and locusts; all the insects that the sparrows used to eat and finally realize how wrong they were. Luckily, Ming-Li has a little secret to let the farmers in on.

A really beautiful story, with excellent illustrations by Yoko Tanaka. This selection would be great for older children (there is quite a bit of bird killing, but it's done subtly and gently) and would definitely do well in a library. I very much enjoyed this one.

Sparrow Girl
Sara Pennypacker

40 pages

Picture book
February 2009

My final selection this week is a title that I think every library could use a copy of. My Sister, Alicia May is an "issue" book, yes, but it's one of the best picture books written for siblings of Down's Syndrome children that I've seen yet. Enjoyable, simple, and educational.

My Sister, Alicia May is written by Nancy Tupper Ling and illustrated be Shennen Bersani and is based on the real story of two sisters just like Alicia May and Rachel. The reader is able to easily learn that Alicia May is very much like any other 6 year old girl, loving dogs and horses, and is annoying to her older sister. At times, Alicia May gets made fun of, needs breathing treatments, and doesn't like straying from her routines, but other than that, is just like any other little sister. She isn't different, she just has some amazing qualities that others lack.

Alicia May appears to be a joyful child, happy, and loving her older sister. The illustrations are nicely done and very life-like. This is a great title for libraries and home shelves and would make a great read aloud for a classroom or story time to educate children on Down Syndrome.

This one isn't being published until May, but it's available for pre-order from Amazon now.

My Sister, Alicia May
Nancy Tupper Ling

32 pages
Picture book

Pleasant St. Press


May 2009

To learn more about any of the titles, or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

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23. United We Serve: Packing Backpacks with the First Family

Last Thursday, June 25th, I was lucky enough to join the President, the First Lady, and hundreds of Congressional family members to prepare 15,000 backpacks with books and other items for the children of servicemen and women. With the incredibly generous support of Random House Children’s Books and Disney Publishing Worldwide, First Book was able to donate 30,000 books (two for each backpack!) with a retail value of almost $250,000.

The service event highlighted ‘United We Serve,’ President Obama’s call to all First Book President Kyle Zimmer and President ObamaAmericans to engage in service projects and create meaningful impact in their towns and communities. The ‘United We Serve’ summer service initiative began June 22nd and runs through the National Day of Service and Remembrance on September 11th. The initiative is being led by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency dedicated to fostering service in communities across the country.

Curious about the books the President and the First Lady helped us pack?  Here’s the list — full of great choices for your own summer reading!

  • Clementine by Sara Pennypacker and illustrated by Marla Frazee
  • Magic Tree House #28: High Tide in Hawaii by Mary Pope Osborne
  • The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
  • The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
  • Heroes of the Valley by Jonathan Stroud
  • Holes by Louis Sachar

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24. Timeless Thursdays: Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary

Two weeks ago, I talked about Judy Blume’s classic Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret and about the recent controversy over book covers. As you can see, today’s Timeless Thursday book Ramona Quimby, Age 8 also has a new, modern book cover, but that’s not what I’m here to blog about today.

Beverly Cleary has created some of the most endearing child characters ever, and my favorite is Ramona. Some more modern writers have written stories about strong,funny, independent girls such as Sara Pennypacker’s Clementine series or Susan Patron’s award-winning character, Lucky. I love these new girl characters, but my heart still belongs to Ramona. I am an only child, and as much as Beezus and Ramona might have driven each other crazy, I wanted my Beezus. I also remember learning to write cursive and being as proud as Ramona was when she wrote Ramona Quimby, Age 8 carefully in cursive. I could relate to Ramona, and that is why she will forever remain timeless in my heart.

Why would kids today want to read a book written by Beverly Cleary in 1981? Why wouldn’t they? The answer is as clear as day on the front cover of the latest version of Ramona Quimby, Age 8–”Life as a third grader is tough!” Don’t all elementary kids think they have it the toughest? Don’t they want to read something written by an author who truly understands them? Yes and yes!

So, although there are new, wonderful books out, don’t forget to share the old classics with your children and your students, too. If they haven’t heard of Ramona Quimby yet, give them this first book and let them decide for themselves.

What’s your favorite Beverly Cleary book?

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25. Tuesday Tales: Clementine’s Letter by Sara Pennypacker; Illustrated by Marla Frazee

clementine's letter *Chapter book for second to fourth graders, realistic contemporary
*Third-grade girl as main character
*Rating: Clementine’s Letter is laugh-out-loud funny while being touching and so true to life at the same time!

Short, short summary: Clementine is back and in third grade. She is finally “in sync” with her teacher, Mr. D’Matz (be careful how you say his name–you might accidentally say two bad words, according to Clementine). Her principal visits are fewer. But one day, Mr. D’Matz sends Clementine to get the principal who has a special announcement about the teacher. Mr. D’Matz could be selected to spend the rest of the school year in Egypt. But Clementine can’t believe her ears, and she doesn’t think much of this special announcement. Mr. D’Matz promised to do all sorts of fun activities with his third grade students; and if he leaves, he will be breaking his promise. So, when Clementine has an assignment to write a letter of recommendation for her teacher to receive this chance of a lifetime, she decides to write quite a letter. She even asks her parents how to spell, “Menace to Society.” In Clementine’s Letter, Sara Pennypacker writes a funny tale once again with lovable, quirky Clementine in the middle–still searching for vegetable names for her brother and trying to help her mom organize her art supplies.

So, what do I do with this book?

1. Clementine is angry at Mr. D’Matz for breaking his promise; but as he explains, he didn’t know that he was going to be up for this award or given the chance to go to Egypt. Ask students to write in reading sreponse journals if they think Clementine should be angry at Mr. D’Matz. Do they agree that he broke his promise? Have they ever made a promise that they had to break? Has someone else ever made a promise to them that was broken? Should people be careful when they use the words, “I promise”? If you are reading this book with your child at home, have a discussion with him or her about promises. This is often a hot topic between kids and parents, and Sara Pennypacker’s book can help you get the conversation started.

2. When Clementine writes her letter, the reader does not know everything that she says, but it is easy to guess that she wrote a lot of bad things about her teacher. Ask students to use their prediction skills and predict what they think will happen to Mr. D’Matz and Clementine because of her letter. Will Clementine’s letter stop her teacher from going to Egypt? Will she get in trouble for writing this letter? Ask students to base their predictions on book details or personal life experiences.

3. In Clementine’s Letter, she visits an Asian-American grocery store to find more vegetable names for her brother. Based on what she calls her brother after her visit, what are some vegetables she found at the grocery store? Ask students to make a list. If you (and your students) are really brave, you could bring in some of these vegetables for children to try. If you are at home with your child, maybe you could visit a grocery store similar to the one Clementine goes to in Boston.

Have you and your child or students read Clementine’s Letter by Sara Pennypacker? If so, what are your thoughts? What discussions or activities did you do?

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