Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Way We Roll! Clementine and the Family Meeting by Sara Pennypacker

Usually when I get home, things get better, but not THAT day.

Clementine is having a bad day. Her sometimes best friend seems to moving on into an early adolescence and is obsessed with getting her to wear lipstick in third grade. The class pet rat, "Eighteen," subject of her science project. is missing from her cage, meaning her half-done project is kaput. She's lost her cap of many colors, handknit by Grandma, Dad won't even let her try on his new toolbelt, and then there's an ominous message on the fridge door standing between her and a soothing cup of hot cocoa.


A family meeting usually means that Clementine has done something very wrong. But she can't think of anything she's done, and Mom only says mysteriously, "You'll find out tonight."
Clementine settles for hoping that her family has finally relented and she's getting a pet gorilla.

Clementine's feelings are all mixed up. But that's nothing new for her.

One way that I am like my fruit name is that I have lots of sections. Right now, a couple of Clementine sections are worrying about Eighteen. A few Clementine sections were thinking about that tool belt and a few of them were mad at my dad for thinking it was even funny not to share it.

But it's not a gorilla her family is getting. They're going to have a new baby!

For Clementine that just feels wrong. With her little brother, there are already four of them--two boys and two girls. They each have a parent partner to do stuff with. They fit perfectly around their four-sided table. They can all work on the same puzzle, one on each side. Things are just right (except for that gorilla) just as they are! Everything comes in even numbers--even hot dogs!. Now a whole bunch of Clementine's sections are worrying about how a baby is going to spoil their perfect family. And no one else seems to be worrying nearly enough about that. After all, they won't even fit around their dining table anymore.

"That's just how we roll, Clemmy!" Dad says.

Sara Pennypacker's latest, Clementine and the Family Meeting (Hyperion, 2011), takes up the evergreen subject of the difference that new babies make in every family. With good humor and family spirit, Clementine comes around to the idea of a permanently changed family, and along the way other things work out, too. Eighteen turns up, in a hole behind the class bookcase, with her own expanded family, in a nest padded by shreds of Clemmy's lost cap; Grandma knits and sends a new one, and best of all, Dad gets her her own grown-up tool belt and tools with which they begin a new project--a table of Clementine's design, one with five sides.

Pennypackers' fifth book in her notable Clementine series, so charmingly illustrated by Caldecott artist Marla Frazee, put her solidly in contention as the worthy successor to Beverly Cleary and her beloved Ramona books, solid family-centered fiction for the beginning chapter readers in the early elementary years. After all, with a talented author and artist working together, that's just how it rolls!

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