• Happy birthday Byrd Baylor (Everybody Needs a Rock), Steven Lindblom (How to Build a Robot), and Doreen Cronin (Clack, Clack, Moo).
  • On this day in 1930 the name of Turkey’s largest city, Constantinople, is officially changed to Istanbul, though it had been called Istanbul since 1453 when a conquering Ottoman sultan gave it the moniker based on a Greek Phrase meaning “the city.” Read Leyla: The Black Tulip by Alev Lytle Croutier, illustrated by Kazuhiko Sano.
  • In 1941, writer Virginia Woolf fills her pockets with stones, walks into a river and drowns. Read Nurse Lugton’s Curtain by Virginia Woolf, illustrated by Julie Vivas.

March has been designated Exotic Winter Fruit Month and Leeks & Green Onions Month. When I think of winter fruit, my mind instantly conjures up one of the most engaging heroines developed in the past few years in children’s books—a very fresh and cheeky third grader named Clementine. She also has a baby brother, and rather than call him by his real name, she always refers to him with the name of a vegetable—spinach, broccoli, rutabaga, whatever comes to her mind.

The daughter of an artist, Clementine is a true independent spirit. She cuts off all her best friend’s hair—and then destroys her own as well. A cyclone, she spends more time in the principal’s office than in her classroom. Everyone keeps telling her to “pay attention” and she does—to all the things occurring outside the classroom window. But if you need someone with an out-of-the box idea, Clementine will come to the rescue. Through observation and ingenuity, she even manages to help her father win “The Great Pigeon War,” as he attempts to disperse the pigeons that befoul their apartment building.

Books for second- and third-grade readers are about as difficult to write successfully as any in the children’s book arena. It is hard to craft a story out of the everyday events of childhood, keep the material within the reading and comprehension range of young children, and include enough action so that they will want to read the book. Hence we adore writers like Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume who can accomplish all these tasks in beautifully crafted books. For my money, Sara Pennypacker is a modern-day Cleary. She manages to make funny and compelling reading out of the trials of a third grader—problems with friends, sibling rivalry, and a pet who has died. Readers laugh at Clementine’s antics and misunderstandings as they get swept along in her first-person stream-of-conscious voice. As an added bonus, Marla Frazee adds energetic and drama-filled illustrations that perfectly round out Clementine’s dilemmas.

So today let’s celebrate a fresh fruit—Clementine. Once children read one chapter in this series, they will clamor for all of these delightful books.

Here’s a section from Clementine:


Originally posted March 28, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Award Winning, Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, Family, Humor
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Clementine


  1. Jory says:

    I agree that Clementine is totally fun — I laughed out loud a lot while reading these books! I particularly liked the third book in this series, “Clementine’s Letter”. I also think Clementine is a great alternative to (the slightly brattier) Junie B. and Judy Moody. While Clementine may get in trouble herself, I find her very likeable.

  2. Danni says:

    When I describe Clementine to young readers or their parents, I call it the “new Ramona Quimby.” Like Ramona, Clementine is relatable and fun. I laughed out loud so many times while reading the story. The humor is great because it seems unintentional; Clementine is not trying to be funny, she just is. Pennypacker’s writing is hilarious and feels fresh, and Frazee’s illustrations perfectly capture Clementine’s energy.

  3. Sydnee says:

    I only just read the Clementine books last year, but I’m glad I did! Clementine is such an honest deception of so many third graders I’ve met. I love how easy it is for her to notice the tiny details about a good day (like the perfect amount of bananas in yogurt). Thanks for including Clementine in the almanac!

  4. John says:

    Thank you for celebrating Clementine. She is one of my favorite characters. I’m counting the days until Clementine and the Family Meeting is released. (9/13/11)

  5. Jessica says:

    I love Clementine so much! And Marla Frazee’s illustrations are fabulous. Thanks for including her!

  6. Vicky says:

    So often in children’s books, boys are the characters who, while they have good intentions, struggle with impulse control or hyperactivity. I’m thinking about David Shannon’s “David,” Sendak’s “Max” or even back to Nesbit’s “Oswald” in “The Treasure Seekers”. These are all fantastic characters, but I love that Pennypacker has introduced a female character with a good heart who also finds it hard to live in her world sometimes. I think that Clementine – who despite her trials is a vivicaious, creative and funny kid – is a great book for every child to read. But I also hope that “Clementine” will also serve as a sort of kindred spirit for those boys and girls who might also find themselves with permanent marker hair.

  7. I just finished reading the newest Clementine book last night, Clementine and the Family Meeting, and it holds up just as well as the first books in the series. The familial relationships are precious, as are Clementine’s genuine innocence, eagerness, frustrations, and devotion. The ending is lovely, as well.

  8. Karen Boss says:

    I love Clementine. These are modern classic stories which will I believe will stand the test of time. I am biased toward these because I am from Boston (and Clementine lives here!) and because I, too, was a questioning, energetic, occasional trouble-making little girl. I hope Sarah Pennypacker keeps these up! Marla Frazee’s illustrations are so perfect for the series, too! I just love the movement in the drawings of Clementine. There’s nothing quite like the one drawing of her, askew on a chair.

  9. Erin Mawn says:

    I had never heard of Clementine until the book was on our syllabus for the Summer Institute at Simmons. Like Danni, I also compare her to Ramona, especially because Marla Frazee’s drawings seem to recall Louis Darling’s illustrations for Beverly Cleary’s books. I distinctly remember enjoying the fact that Clementine and her parents live in a basement apartment in the city; it makes for a believable portrayal of a middle-class family.

  10. Clementine is devoured by our youngest daughter at our house. The whole family has enjoyed several of the books on road trips as audiobooks, which I HIGHLY recommend!

  11. Gretchen N. says:

    Like Erin, I didn’t know about Clementine until it was assigned for class over the summer. I love how believable she is as a character. I feel like it is not particularly common to find a character who repeatedly gets in trouble while having the best of intentions. And yet Clementine does. The way she is described as being so concerned that she has done something horrible and is going to be punished is so realistic. And yet, through all their frustration, Clementine’s parents will always support her and I think that is wonderful to see as well. Maybe someday Clementine will have a statue in Boston as Ramona does in Portland, Oregon.

  12. Momo says:

    I so agree it is wonderful to find a book that is perfect for younger readers. Clementine is such a wonderful little individual. On the strength of her name I recently cooked a clementine cake – it was yummy. This is a new fruit for us in Australia.

  13. Ashley says:

    What a treat this book is! I didn’t read it until this semester, but I was pleasantly surprised. She’s so real and genuine, she’s a perfect character that kids (and adults) can relate to!

  14. Mary Aviles says:

    I was surprised by the depth of character in these books. Agree with the reader above that Clementine’s Letter was moving at parts and the back and forth with the book writing between Clementine and her father was wonderful and poignant.

  15. Lolita says:

    I would say – there is a perfect tercet, not a duet. I picked the CD with an audio book Clementine, Friend of the Week in a library. I recognized Marla Frazee illustrations, that was why I picked that CD, but did not know anything about a book. And have to say, a narrator Jessica Almasy did a great job – she speaks Clementine!!!
    P.S. Excuse for my grammar, English is not my mother language.

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