Sometimes I stare boredly into space, thinking utterly of nothing.
This makes Mrs. Wilberton very irritated.
I get on her nerves.
I know this because she is always telling me I do.
To be honest, Mrs. Wilberton is not my favourite person on the planet of Earth.
Unfortunately, I am from Earth and she is my teacher.
Mrs. Wilberton says I have got utterly not a speck of concentration.
I am trying to prove her wrong about this by trying to remember to concentrate.
I think about it all the time. I am so desperately trying not to not concentrate and I say to myself, ‘Don’t drift off like you did yesterday.’
And then I start thinking about how I drifted off yesterday and how I was thinking I must listen to Mrs Wilberton and all the things she is telling me.
And then I am wondering, how does all this stuff she is telling me fit into my head?
And then I am wondering if I should have a clear out of the stuff I don’t need anymore – you know, like when my dad cleared out the attic, except we all decided we needed everything and he just had to put it all back again.
But maybe valuable space is being taken up in my head with not the important things and that is why I can’t concentrate because all my concentration space has been used up on things like, ‘Elbows off the table’, and, ‘Don’t pinch your brother’, and pointless not needed things which don’t matter.
“CLARICE BEAN! Will you please come back down to Earth this instant!”
It’s Mrs. Wilberton.
You can tell by her honking goose voice.
She says, “Clarice Bean, you are utterly lacking in the concentration department. A common housefly has got more ability to apply itself!”
And I want to say, “You are utterly lacking in the manners department, Mrs. Wilberton, and a rhinoceros has got more politeness than you.”
Lauren Child, Utterly Me, Clarice Bean
You can read a review of the book Utterly Me, Clarice Bean here and you can read an excerpt from another Clarice Bean book – Clarice Bean Spells Trouble – here.
Utterly Me, Clarice Bean
Price: INR 250
Publisher: Orchard Books
I know you aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, but you really can’t help it with this one. The cover (both back and front) is just so striking and colourful and fun (you can’t really tell from this picture), that it’s hard not to pick this book up even if you haven’t already heard of Clarice Bean (which I had).
Utterly Me, Clarice Bean features the titular Clarice Bean, a feisty, funny girl of indistinguishable age (at least I couldn’t find any mention of her age in the book, nothing a quick Google search wouldn’t fix but my Internet has gone wonky at present so that’ll have to wait) (I couldn’t find a definite age, but one Goodreads review confidently pegs her down as a ten-year-old) who, as she describes, is the third oldest child in a family of six. The book follows the goings-on in her life at school and home as she navigates a dragonish teacher and a frustrating family. Clarice Bean (how I love the name!) has to do a book project for school, which doesn’t sound all that bad, but it has to be on a book about learning – yuck! The best project wins a prize and Clarice and her best friend Betty Moody definitely want the prize, even if the project sounds utterly dreary.
Utterly Me, Clarice Bean is a chapter book without any chapters; instead the text is broken up by days of the week. It has some brilliant illustrations that work wonderfully with the story and interesting typesetting that makes reading the book even more fun. As soon as I started reading the book, I read it like I would read out loud, only I did it in my head (the only thing that was stopping me from doing it out loud was the fact that mom was in the same room and she already worries about my sanity). It’s a first-person narrative and the voice is just fantastic – funny and perfect – and Clarice’s (and, by extension, the writer’s) personality just shines through.
The book is also broken up in places by chapters from a book that Clarice herself is reading. Her favourite book series stars eleven-year-old detective Ruby Redfort who is armed with cool gadgets, clueless parents and an exciting life. Throughout the book, Clarice reads bits and pieces from Ruby Redfort’s adventures and wishes she were more like her. Frankly, I thought Clarice was much more fun than her heroine, but I guess living a secret life as a schoolgirl detective does sound more thrilling. Reading detective novels makes Clarice see mysteries all around her (Scooby Doo convinced me that the building opposite my house was haunted by white-coat wearing ghosts. The building turned out to be a hospital). And it’s a mystery that saves the day.
Clarice Bean is very likable, more so because she isn’t perfect. She’s flawed and funny and creative and whacky – the perfect combination for an interesting character. The book’s sure to be a hit with any budding Clarice Beans all over the world.