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Reviewed in the United States on December 31, 2019
I am an older adult and love to read good children's and young adult books. The Clementine series has positive messages, with parents who let her be who she is, and who provide a loving and caring environment. I really like how her parents and teachers help her work through her situations. I would say though that the author is pretty close at times to writing Clementine as someone who does not respect others in her classroom, or teacher, since she is very often sent to the principal, and her parents seem to be oblivious to that. Also, Clementine is 8-9 years old, and yet there is talk of a "boyfriend," and two of her classmates being "in love." This is not appropriate for this age group. It also appears that Margaret has OCD, and that is not a "funny" plot point. She needs professional help.
For a book featuring the high-energy Clementine, number six in the series is rather subdued. Clementine is growing up and instead of bouncing in and out of trouble as she usually does, she struggles with some big issues.
She's looking forward to the school trip to Plimoth Plantation, but her third grade class is going with the big kids, fourth graders who've enacted tough rules about eating: no sounds allowed...or else. Clementine is also having problems speaking Olive, a language invented by the new girl in class, whose name is--you guessed it--Olive. (If you want to give it a try, put "olive" into every syllable you say. "Likoliv tholivis.")
When the day of the big trip arrives, Clementine is paired with Olive and instructed with the task of making the new girl feel comfortable. When Olive opens her lunch bag and reveals a meal destined to incur the wrath of the fourth graders (celery, chips, apples, carrots, etc.), Clementine has to decide whether to play by the rules or not. On the trip she also befriends a chicken, which leads her to make a major change in her diet.
And that's not all! Clementine is also waiting for the birth of her new sibling and trying to decide if it would be better if the baby was a boy or a girl, while building a five-side table with her father as a surprise for her mother. Then there's Margaret OCD problems to deal with (really, I think it's time for an intervention here!) and the mystery of the overpowering odors on Bus Seven to solve.
Pennypacker packs a lot of plot into one chapter book, but she weaves each thread so expertly that the overall effect is seamless. Like Beverly Cleary, Pennypacker is doing an excellent job of showing her characters maturing. Frazee's illustrations, as always, are delightful.