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Spotlight on Funny: Clementine

When I wanted to do a series of posts on writing funny, Clementine by Sara Pennypacker immediately popped into my head. Even though I read it a couple years ago, I remember laughing and I remember crying.

It’s easy to pick out a funny premise.
It’s easy to pick out funny when it’s a juxtaposition of two opposite ideas.
It’s easy to pick out funny when it’s a hyperbolized story.
It’s easy to pick out funny when it’s slapstick or physical comedy.

But Clementine wasn’t any of those things. I had to really look at it and read again to see where I smiled and then why I smiled.

Clementine’s interpretation of what was going on was usually wrong but believable. That’s what made this story funny.

  • For example she often got in trouble for not paying attention. One time, she claimed she was paying attention – to the lunch lady and the janitor kissing outside.
  • Clementine wanted to help her friend, Margaret, when she got glue in her hair. Clementine ended up cutting off all her friend’s hair to make it even.
  • And at the end, she overhears and misunderstands her parents, and thinks they want to get rid of her. This time her misinterpretation wasn’t funny, but very moving.

So, in all these examples, the reader understands what is going on but the scene is layered with Clementine’s humorous interpretation. And the key is that Clementine doesn’t think it’s funny. To her, it is very serious. Which makes it all the more funny. And moving.

And, Marla Frazee’s illustrations of two girls with no hair cracked me up every time.

Humor take away: Show your character’s wrong interpretation of situations and the resulting consequences.

Are there any other books, middle grade or YA or early readers that do this?

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