If you’ve followed along for a while, you might remember that it took our older daughter a long time to be interested in chapter book read alouds. Thought she LOVED cuddling up to listen to a picture book, and she’d sit and listen to audiobook chapter books for hours, she had a harder time with chapter book read alouds. Recently, though, both girls changed almost overnight to requesting almost only chapter books when it is time to read together. While we still read lots of lots of picture books (because, remember, they’re great for kids of all ages!), we’ve had a lot of fun exploring chapter books together. Most recently, the girls have been laughing their way through the Clementine series by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee. Read on for a little information about these books, as well as why we love them!
What you need to know is that the Clementine series centers around Clementine, a precocious and very kind third grade girl who tries very, very hard to do the right things… But often ends up messing up. Reminiscent of Ramona Quimby, but with more modern touches, Clementine has good intentions, always pays attention (though often not to what she should be paying attention to), and notices EVERYTHING. She doesn’t always think things through completely, and therefore winds up making some big mistakes (though usually in an attempt to do something kind or to help others).
We’ve now read the first three books together: Clementine, The Talented Clementine, and Clementine’s Letter. My girls love that these books are narrated from Clementine’s perspective. She makes my girls giggle and laugh (sometimes very, very, very loudly), and Pennypacker has really nailed children’s experiences, observations, and (mis)understandings of how the world works. Pennypacker has created Clementine in such a wonderful way that children seem to really connect with and understand her.
As for me, I love the patience and love with which Clementine’s parents and teachers navigate her actions and help her learn to navigate the world. She is celebrated for exactly who she is, while also being gently guided and taught to continue to be the best version of herself that she is. That’s not to say the adults in Clementine’s life are perfect; they do get frustrated with her, but I also love the reality of these emotions and how they handle them to continue to parent (or teach) positively and lovingly. I also appreciate that each story focuses on common childhood experiences: making a very wrong choice in order to help a friend (Clementine), worrying about what others will think of you (The Talented Clementine), and trying really hard to cope with change and uncertainty (Clementine’s Letter).
I may be just as excited as my girls to read the remainder of the series!
Disclaimer: Pennypacker includes some language (the word “dumb,” for example) and some concepts/ideas (having boyfriends, the fact that the teacher’s name (Mr. D’Matz) can sound like a curse word if you say it the wrong way…) that we don’t love, but since we’re reading these out loud to our girls, we simply skip over the words or sentences that don’t match our family values. Though these are minimal in the stories, consider yourself warned if you decide to hand these to your four- and six-and-a-half year olds to read independently!
Publishers target ages 7-10 for these books; Common Sense Media rates them as 7+, but notes it makes an enjoyable read-aloud experience for emerging kindergarten to third graders.
What were some books that helped your children turn the corner to listen to chapter books, along with picture books, for read-aloud time?
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