THE TALENTED CLEMENTINE

What to do when all the third- and fourth-graders are putting on a talent show but you don’t have a talent? That’s Clementine’s dilemma, and her mechanisms for escaping the talent show escalate into hilarity. Pennypacker once again demonstrates her keen insights into the third-grade mind with Clementine’s priceless observations of the world around her: “At journal writing I did my idea. When I was done writing, I curled my hand over my sentence as if it were too private to share. Which is how you get a teacher to come and look at it.” Clementine’s quest for a talent includes gluing beer-bottle caps to the bottoms of her sneakers; juggling her mother’s pocketbook, half-full coffee cup and her kitten, Moisturizer; and leashing her little brother as a prop. Even as Clementine’s antics escalate, the narrative avoids the pitfall of deteriorating into slapstick with the constant reminders of her essential humanity. Every kid will understand her desperate desire not to look like a fool in front of her classmates, and they will find her very talented solution—achieved with a little help from her principal—enormously satisfying. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-7868-3870-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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FOURTH GRADE RATS

The latest Newbery winner spins a funny, light story about a couple of boys who take to heart a familiar chant: "First grade babies!/Second grade cats!/Third Grade angels!/Fourth grade rats!" Narrator Suds (so called because a warm bath is his most effective solace) is having a tough time complying with best- friend Joey's demand that he give up baby stuff like peanut-butter sandwiches and his treasured elephant-covered lunch box; macho behavior—such as being mean to little kids and creating chaos in his room—is even harder, while saying "No" to his mom proves almost impossible. Still, Joey's new behavior—especially his stoicism after a bee-sting—have such a dramatic effect on friend Judy's affections that Suds makes the effort, to the dismay of parents and teacher. Judy's regard turns out to be as fickle as it is self-serving; she literally leaves Suds up a tree after he rescues her cat. After Mom comes to the rescue, she and Joey's mother call a halt to the premature adolescent behavior—to everyone's relief. The humor here is broad but genuinely comical, while the kids' real concerns are presented with sympathy; the parents are laudably sensible, assertive, and good at keeping their cool. A fine addition to the Cleary/Hurwitz league. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0590442449

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1991

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A nice and timely depiction of an immigrant child experience.

STELLA DÍAZ HAS SOMETHING TO SAY

From the Stella Díaz series , Vol. 1

Speaking up is hard when you’re shy, and it can be even harder if you’ve got two languages in your head.

Third-grader Estrella “Stella” Díaz, is a shy, Mexican-American girl who draws pictures and loves fish, and she lives in Chicago with her mother and older brother, Nick. Jenny, Stella’s best friend, isn’t in her class this year, and Stella feels lonely—especially when she sees that Vietnamese-American Jenny is making new friends. When a new student, Stanley Mason, arrives in her class, Stella introduces herself in Spanish to the white former Texan without realizing it and becomes embarrassed. Surely Stanley won’t want to befriend her after that—but he seems to anyway. Stella often confuses the pronunciation between English and Spanish sounds and takes speech classes. As an immigrant with a green card—a “legal alien,” according to her teacher—Stella feels that she doesn’t fully belong to either American culture or Mexican culture, and this is nicely reflected in her not being fully comfortable in either language, an experience familiar to many immigrant and first-generation children. This early-middle-grade book features italicized Spanish words and phrases with direct translations right after. There is a small subplot about bullying from Stella’s classmate, and readers will cheer as they see how, with the help of her friends and family, Stella overcomes her shyness and gives a presentation on Jacques Cousteau. Dominguez’s friendly black-and-white drawings grace most pages.

A nice and timely depiction of an immigrant child experience. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62672-858-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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