Renee Mihulka – Children's Book Reviews & Writer

Clarice Bean Spells Trouble

clarice bean spells troubleOVERALL: 0 Stars

Concept:4 Stars
Characters:5 Stars
Plot:4.5 Stars
Writing:5 Stars

 

Lauren Child
Lauren Child
2004
Candlewick
192

 

 

 

This is the second book in the Clarice Bean novel series. (There are also picture books in the series)

Description: This is a cute, quirky book told through the eyes of a girl called Clarice Bean. (Its not clear exactly how old Clarice is, but she is around 8-10) The book focuses on the challenges Clarice faces at school and at home and the lessons she learns through her experiences and the experiences of her favourite book and TV character Ruby Redfort. In this book she is faced with a spelling bee, a school play and a friend who needs her help.

Concept: The concept for this series of books is not a new one, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good one. A girl learning how to deal with her family, friends and school will always be relevant. This book takes an old concept and gives it a fresh, modern feel, but still with an innocence and sincerity that I think is getting harder and harder to find these days where it seems that constant action and unbelievable adventure is the norm. Also the inclusion of Ruby Redfort and how her adventures and life lessons affect how Clarice sees her own life experiences is brilliant.

Characters: Clarice Bean is a realistic, likeable individual who is easy to relate to. Sometimes I feel that she comes across a bit babyish but overall I think that Lauren Child manages to convey a child of that age well – one minute they are simple and naïve then they next they do or say something surprisingly mature and advanced. In fact all the characters hold their own and I struggle to find any real fault with any of them. I particularly like her parents whose responses often made me smile and the depiction of Clarice Bean’s teacher – Mrs Wilberton. Here Lauren Child manages to create a character that is petty, plays favourites and out of her depth, but still realistic. We’ve all known teachers like Mrs Wilberton! (Note the name and the fact that the kids tease her behind her back for having trotters: Wilber is the Pig’s name in Charlotte Web)

Plot: The plot was well thought out and interesting. Ideas linked back nicely to each other and she didn’t over explain things. I particularly loved the ‘Ruby Redfort rules’ throughout. My favourites were : “Don’t argue with people that are about to give you what you want. Let them think they are in charge.” and “Sometimes it is smart to say sorry even when you are not.” The ending was also appropriate and left you with a happy feeling inside which I think is the hallmark of every good kids book, to feel something and be left with a sense that you learnt something.

Writing: At first it takes a while to slot yourself into the language and first person style that is so popular with kids books aimed at this age. It is actually quite hard to write in the first person. Its difficult not to overdo the main characters own emotions and under-do the emotions, thoughts and actions of all the other characters. Lauren Child does a brilliant job of this. She is somewhat Roald Dahlish with her use of made-up words and quirky sayings. Her use of vocab is wonderful and entertaining.

PARENTS:

This book has a great range of vocabulary – especially since a study of dictionary words has been weaved into it! It is great for starting discussions about right and wrong and the grey areas in between that kids (OK, also adults!) often struggle with. This book is filled with simple life lessons that kids can relate to and so gives you ample opportunities to talk about moral questions as well as find out where your own child is at.

Things to ask and discuss:

1) Do you think that Clarice Bean should have told an adult about Karl trying to contact his Dad?

2) Why do you think Karl got so mad and refused to write about his weekend?

3) Do you think that Clarice did the right thing taking the blame for Karl? Do you think she should have at least told her parents she didn’t do it?

4) What do you think makes Mr Washington such a good teacher and Mrs Wilberton and ordinary one?

5) What lessons did you learn from reading the book? What were the most important lessons Clarice Bean learnt?

Come on comment, you know you wanna.

Book Reviews and Writer