Since her introduction, Clementine has colored both her and best friend Margaret’s heads with permanent markers, saved her school talent show from catastrophe, and been sent to the principal’s office so many times that she knows the way pretty much by heart. In Clementine’s Letter (2008) by Sara Pennypacker (with the ever-lovely illustrations by Marla Frazee), Clementine is actually hoping for some catastrophe.
Clementine is finally getting the hang of third grade with the help of her teacher Mr. D’Matz. But when her class finds out that Mr. D’Matz might be leaving in the middle of the year to go on a research trip to Egypt, Clementine knows she’ll never be able to make it through the rest of the year–especially when she can’t seem to do anything right for her new substitute.
After thinking things through, Clementine decides that Mr. D’Matz needs to keep his promise to teach her and her class for the rest of the year. And he probably doesn’t really want to go to Egypt anyway. So Clementine starts making her own plans to make sure Mr. D’Matz won’t leave. After all, it isn’t really sabotage if he doesn’t want to go, right?
Clemetine’s Letter is all about decisions and thinking things through. What starts as an ill-thought out letter to keep her teacher away from Egypt turns into a lesson that, sometimes, if you really care about someone you have to let them leave.
This story references events from the first two books (Clementine from 2006 and The Talented Clementine from 2007) but stands on its own quite easily. Clementine is as entertaining as ever with her own unique brand of humor, although I still worry about the emphasis on her getting into trouble at school so much (some reviewers posit that Clementine has ADD, I posit that she is a creative type in a school that doesn’t really get her). Margaret’s own ticks about germs and dirt also seemed to be much more prevalent than in the first books.
The story isn’t quite as funny as the first, perhaps because Clementine’s distress over her teacher seems more real and pressing than her issues in the first two books. The ending also felt somewhat more abrupt. Regardless, Clementine remains an effervescent, awesome character good for kids of all ages (even reluctant readers thanks to the brevity of the text and the excellent illustrations).