Sara Pennypacker


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Clementine Summary

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Clementine by Sara Pennypacker is the first in a series of children’s chapter books following main character Clementine, a creative, wild third grader who is kind-hearted but often misunderstood by the adults and authority figures in charge of her. This particular chapter book follows Clementine after her best friend Margaret gets glue in her hair, and her family starts planning a goodbye party that she fears might include leaving her behind.

The book opens with an introduction to Clementine, who is an impulsive and free-spirited eight-year-old girl who is innocent and kind but has a tendency to get herself in trouble. Clementine’s best friend is a fourth grader named Margaret, who is domineering and likes to use her authority as the older child to tell Clementine what to do. Though Margaret is controlling and a bit of a show-off, she is a good friend to Clementine, often supporting her when she gets into trouble.

Clementine begins a disastrous week at school when she is in art class with Margaret. A talented artist, Clementine loves art class. Her mother is an artist as well, and Clementine is often inspired by her mother’s creativity. This time, however, Clementine’s creative streak doesn’t work to her benefit. Margaret accidentally gets glue in her hair this particular art class and is horrified at the sticky mess she has created. Quick to find a solution, Clementine borrows a pair of scissors and trims off the end of Margaret’s hair. By the end of the haircutting session, Margaret has almost no hair left. Realizing she has made a mistake, Clementine takes a red marker from the art room to draw some swirling hairs on the top of Margaret’s nearly bald head, in an attempt to fool everyone into thinking her haircut was a success.

After the haircutting incident, Clementine ends up in the principal’s office – a place that she visits often, though she doesn’t understand why she keeps getting pulled from class. Clementine is punished for the haircut scenario, and then is subsequently pulled back into the principal’s office often throughout the week, because her teachers accuse her of not paying attention. This comes as a surprise to Clementine, who thinks of herself as quite attentive. She points out, for instance, that during the Pledge of Allegiance she saw the janitor and the lunch lady kissing in the janitor’s car. She was the only one who noticed, which in her mind means she is the only one truly paying attention to the world around her. Unfortunately for Clementine, her teachers have a more particular idea of where her attention should be.

After her disastrous week, Clementine has tried the patience of both her parents. Though they are typically kind and understanding, even they have become a bit frustrated by the frequent calls home and meetings with the principal; they struggle to understand why Clementine can’t just sit still. After one particularly nasty visit to the principal’s office, Margaret tells Clementine that in every family there is an easy child and a difficult child. Clementine begins to fear that her young brother, a toddler whose only real interest is playing with his toes, must be the easy child, making her the difficult one. This fear becomes more pronounced when her parents announce they are planning a goodbye party. Clementine is terrified that she is being left behind because her parents don’t want to deal with their difficult child anymore.

As the novel continues, Clementine comes up with a creative plan to get her parents to keep her – which of course, like all her plans, goes horribly awry. Ultimately, Clementine’s parents reassured her that they would never leave her, despite her struggle to be a “good” girl. Like all good parents, Bill and Clementine’s mother love Clementine for who she is, even when she accidentally chops off her friend’s hair.

Sara Pennypacker is the author of nineteen children’s books, including the acclaimed book Pax, and the Clementine and Stuart series. The Clementine books include seven novels: Clementine (2006), The Talented Clementine (2007), Clementine’s Letter (2008), Clementine, Friend of the Week (2010), Clementine and the Family Meeting (2011), Clementine and the Spring Trip (2013), and Completely Clementine (2015). Pennypacker has won a Christopher Award, a Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Text, and a Sid Fleischman Award for Humor, among other nominations. The Clementine books were illustrated by Marla Frazee.