Monday 20 August 2012

Clementine Rose and the Surprise Visitor

Clementine-Rose and the Surprise Visitor Clementine-Rose and the Surprise Visitor by Jacqueline Harvey, illustrated by J. Yi (Random House Australia)
PB RRP $12.95
ISBN 9781742755410
Also available as an ebook
ISBN 9781742755427
Reviewed by Marian McGuinness

‘Clementine Rose was delivered not in the usual way, at a hospital, but in the back of a mini-van, in a basket of dinner rolls.’ With such an intriguing opening sentence it soon becomes clear that five year old, Clemmie (as she is affectionately called), is a little girl with a difference. Even her pet is unconventional; a cute-as teacup pig called Lavender who is ‘as big as a cat and won’t grow anymore.’

Clementine lives in a crumbling mansion in the village of Penberthy Floss. Her mother, Lady Clarissa Appleby, not only wins lots of competitions she also takes in paying guests to help upkeep their mansion. There are lots of deliciously named characters such as Digby Pertwhistle (the butler), Mrs Moggs (who makes Clemmie’s pretty dresses) and Pierre Rousseau (the local baker of all things French).

Each easy-read chapter is filled with light, bouncy prose and takes us into Clemmie’s life as she goes from scrape to scrape. The light-heartedness changes when Clemmie’s crusty, great-aunt Violet, and her bald, sphinx cat, come to stay. Violet has a secret and Clemmie does her best to find out what it is as she accidently-on-purpose sees strange things in her great-aunt’s mysterious black bag. Violet takes a great dislike to darling Clementine as she creeps and lurks around the mansion looking for something left there from her own childhood.

Harvey’s lively turn of phrase helps the reader visualise the characters, such as the napping guest, Mr Sparks, ‘whose forehead and cheeks were lined like crinkle-cut chips’. As Clemmie reaches out to touch his ‘not quite right’ hair, it slides onto the floor ‘like a flat ginger cat.’

The cover of Clementine Rose invites the reader in as the blond-haired, blue-eyed girl taking her teacup pig for a walk, waves and makes eye contact with you. You can almost hear her asking you to come and play.

Scattered through the chapters are appealing black and white illustrations that I was so tempted to colour in myself. There’s also a handy Cast of Characters at the back of the book to help the reader keep up with who’s who.

Jacqueline Harvey is the author of the bestselling Alice-Miranda series and it looks like she’s got many more adventures in store for sweet five-year-old Clemmie, with the last page showcasing the preview cover of Clementine Rose and the Pet Day Disaster.

This easy-reading chapter book (first in the series) for children aged 6 – 9 sings of the joy of childhood and of families, even ones with grumpy great-aunts called Violet.

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