Now these are the Clarice Bean chapter books. If you have a 1st or 2nd grader reading the picture books, you can easily move them on to these, since I'd say Clarice Bean is perfect for the 3rd-4th grader. Clarice's voice and style is still the same as in her picture books, full of her own unique viewpoint and phrasing.
In the first Clarice Bean chapter book, Clarice has become a huge fan of the Ruby Redford detective series. This is a good thing, since mysterious things - the disappearance of her best friend, the missing award cup, and more - are happening all around her. There's not a really strong plot in this story, just a miscellaneous collection of mysterious and worrying things revolving around Clarice's devotion to the Ruby Redfort books, large excerpts of which are included.
In Clarice's second adventure, she is dealing with a lot of trouble at school, from the upcoming spelling bee (Clarice is not so good at spelling) to the school play (she doesn't get the part she wants but her best friend Betty does) to some problems with her sort of friend Karl. Karl has his own big problems, but when he most needs help Clarice makes a big sacrifice for him. Unfortunately, this is rather wiped out by the ridiculously Hollywoodish ending, but it's certainly in keeping with the Ruby Redfort theme.
In the final book, Clarice is dealing with change. Her best friend is leaving, Karl is acting weird, her parents seem to have a big secret, and even her brother Kurt is changing. Clarice has a lot of trouble dealing with all this change, but in a rather dramatic ending she sheds her misconceptions and prejudices and finds out things aren't as bad as she had thought.
I have to admit my favorite part of all these chapter books is when Kurt throws a fit over his teacher demanding they write an essay on what they did over the weekend. I have personally always thought this and similar assignments were incredibly intrusive and rude and I was delighted by Kurt's reaction, although of course he has bigger problems going on - and if he hadn't been so upset, might quite possibly have realized there's no reason you have to tell the truth when you've been given such an assignment. Like surveys. I'm always fascinated by people who feel the need to tell the absolute truth on surveys.
Anyways. Clarice's voice did become rather irritating after several chapters, but I did gulp these down in rather a large quantity. I like her character and her wild adventures, although they have plenty of realistic detail to balance them out. These stories are a bit different than the usual middle grade girl fiction. Clarice sees everything a bit differently and I think both girls and boys would appreciate her viewpoint.
Verdict: If I hadn't already spent my juvenile fiction budget for practically the whole year....maybe I'll add this series next year. Then again, I meant to add the Ivy+Bean series too. Oh dear.
Utterly me, Clarice Bean
ISBN: 978-0763627881; Published March 2005 by Candlewick; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library
Clarice Bean spells trouble
ISBN: 978-0763629038; Published May 2006 by Candlewick; Borrowed from the library
Clarice Bean don't look now
ISBN: 978-0763639358; Published August 2008 by Candlewick; Borrowed from the library