Always, Clementine

Always, Clementine
Carlie Sorosiak
Nosy Crow

Clementine is a mouse, an extraordinary one. On account of her altered DNA, from the day of her birth she’s been thinking about prime numbers, sometimes uses Latin and is able to sign to her friend. This amazing book is made up of imaginary letters written from this mega-intelligent mouse to her much-loved chimpanzee friend, Rosie, left behind when she escapes from a research lab. This is thanks to a research assistant who feeling guilty about her treatment, smuggles her and another mouse out of the lab, depositing them in a nearby mailbox. Clementine’s series of reports to Rosie, tell of the wonders of the outside world.

She’s discovered by the kindly Pops and his grandson Gus who on hearing of the large reward being offered for the return of the mice, resolve to keep their whereabouts a secret. This is particularly difficult when they receive a visit from the lab, on account of Clementine’s raspberry aroma. Having considered possible options, Pops decides in an unlikely consultation with Clementine that the best plan is to teach the mouse to play chess and then televise a match, with the intention of creating a public outcry against the lab. A few days later Clementine defeats not one, but five human players simultaneously. Is she now safe?

Clearly interwoven with the main storyline are other issues. The other mouse escapee, Hamlet, also has an amazing talent that is slower to reveal itself than Clementine’s; however it turns out he’s an amazing architect and using wood chips constructs a model of Notre Dame. Thus another issue to ponder is that of alternative kinds of intelligence. So too is why Pops, an erstwhile chess champion, hasn’t played for many years. We discover the reason is a personal one as we do that Clementine too has an image issue.

Friendship and love are key in this poignant, sometimes gently humorous book, as are the importance of social justice and what true goodness really means. Be prepared to lose your heart to Clementine as she bares her soul in her letters. The book ends on an optimistic note and a realisation that each of us must work out our own definition of goodness. Truly awesome writing.

Everywhere With You

Everywhere With You
Carlie Sorosiak and Devon Holzwarth
Walker Books

This gorgeous book is about a little girl, a lonely dog, two homes separated by a fence, reading together and the power of the imagination.

In one home lives the little girl who doesn’t have a pet, in the other lives the seemingly neglected dog. One evening the little girl creeps up to the fence, savoury biscuit in hand and offers it to the dog. Next day at sunset she returns with another tasty offering and some books; she reads aloud wonderful stories, “I hope you don’t mind,” she says. “I’ve noticed that no one ever plays with you – and I like reading aloud. These are my favourites.”

So begins a series of wonderful meetings full of magical story time adventures that continue through the seasons and a warm, close bond develops between girl and dog.

We cannot help but feel the conflicting emotions: the joy of the time together but then there’s sadness about the dog’s circumstances.

Then one night in the lights of the windows next door, the dog sees the family clearly very happy in their love together: he longs to be a part of all that. Could there be a way …

The ending will bring a tear to your eye; it did mine and I’m not a dog lover.

The relatively spare prose of the telling works really well and allows artist Devon Holzwarth plenty of scope to take readers, as well of the book’s main characters, on fantastic adventures and voyages of discovery. She changes the colour palette of her vibrant illustrations as the narrative switches from the reality of the girl/dog encounters, to their flights of fancy when the child reads aloud to the animal.