Clementine and the Spring Trip, by Sara Pennypacker; illustrated by Marla Frazee

ImageClementine is the most charming little heroine in chapter books today. In this episode, she and her third grade class are headed to Plimoth Plantation for their spring trip. Clementine’s life is complicated. Her mother is expecting her third child; her fourth-grade friend, Margaret, has convinced her that the fourth graders on the trip will not countenance any eating noises during lunch; and the new girl, Olive, who has a food name like Clementine, has won the hearts of all of her classmates. Furthermore, Olive has taught them all how to speak Olivese, a made-up language that is a delight to everyone but Clementine. Oh, the drama of an eight-year-old existence.

My favorite ingredient of all of the Clementine stories is her thoroughly likeable parents. Her mother is a loving stay-at-home mom and her dad is hilarious. He maintains their apartment building in Boston and includes Clementine in many of his projects. Margaret tells Clementine that her divorced mother is going to marry her boyfriend, and Margaret is glad, since right now they kiss all the time, but she remembers that when her parents were married, they never kissed, so she expects all the kissing to stop when her mom and her boyfriend marry. Clementine thinks that Margaret might be disappointed, since her parents are married and they kiss all the time. Happily married people in a kid’s book! Amazing.

Clementine does blame her parents for not naming her little brother a food name, and so she goes through a succession of vegetables whenever she talks about him—never the same name twice. On one page he is Watercress, on another Snap Pea, and on a third Summer Squash. Pets, on the other hand, are named after items found in the bathroom, so her cat is named Moisturizer. It could be worse.

This is another young chapter book that is mentioned for Newbery nomination. Although I do love Clementine, I just don’t see this competing with the more literary contenders. If it did win, though, I wouldn’t complain. No little girl should grow up without meeting Clementine.

Highly recommended for fluent readers seven and up.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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