Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Insecurity: Clementine, Friend of the Week

Sara Pennypacker's sure tone for early elementary kids holds true in Clementine, Friend of the Week, the fourth book about the artistic third grader.  Teachers play only a small role in this story, which focuses on friendships between Clementine and her peers, from Margaret upstairs through her classmates and pet.

Clementine worries about what her friends will write in her booklet, despite all evidence (seen clearly by these adult eyes) that she's a popular, well-liked kid in her class.  All week she tries to boost her standing, offering forced compliments, free marker tattoos, and extra decorations for bikes.  None of this is mischievous (well, the tattoos are a bit frowned upon by authority, but none of the kids or I can see why), but conflict comes when friend Margaret forces a fight over the whole idea of friend week booklets.

Both kids get a chance to show real friendship, but it's not a didactic tone, more of a real look at kids and the real problems they feel.  And it has that exotic urban kids flavor that I remember so nostalgically.  I have no idea why I thought apartments with elevators were so interesting, but there it is, I'm still hooked by kids who live in them. B+

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