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Clarissa's Little List Book

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by Lars H.


with Mitchell Kriegman and Mollie Fermaglich

Grosset & Dunlap, 64pp., $2.95

CAIO front cover

Clarissa's All-in-One Perfect Complete Book of Everything Important (hereinafter abbreviated CAIOB) is another book that is intended to capitalize on the popularity of Clarissa Explains it All (CEIA). This book is essentially a collection of ``the maps, graphs, polls, and comparison charts that are keys to explaining our existence here on earth'', to quote from the book's Preface.

Clarissa's supposed fondness for lists as expressed in this little book does tie in with CEIA. In several episodes, such as ``Sam's Swan Song'' (#130), ``The Giant List Book'' can be seen on Clarissa's desk.

CAIOB is divided into the following sections:

The text is augmented by little drawings and doodlings that remind one of the electronic paintbox graphics seen so often in the various episodes. (They should, for they were done by Don St. Mars, who created the doodles in CEIA.) Often, list entries are annotated using the paintbox lettering.

Photos of Melissa Joan Hart by Mark Malabrigo grace the front and rear covers. (An interesting point about the photos is that she is wearing the same outfit as in the 1993 series of Nickelodeon/CEIA valentines, so it seems safe to assume that the cover photos and the valentine photos were all shot in one session.)

When reading through these various sections, it becomes apparent that many of them relate in one way or another to various episodes. Clarissa-holics can amuse themselves by trying to identify which episode (if any) a particular list item came from. For instance, the maps in the section The ``Face of Europe'' were obviously inspired by the map showing of Eastern Europe with Flip Fontana's profile highlighted from the CEIA episode``Crush'' (#114). But, in what episodes are ``Lambada'' and ``String Cheese'' (found in And Finally... Things I Can't Explain) mentioned?

Another pleasant side-effect is that reading through the various list entries can sometimes evoke mental images of the scenes from which they are derived.

For other, older readers, who are not Clarissa cognoscenti, the book is good for a light chuckle or two here and there. Your reviewer has not tested the book upon younger readers to find out what their reaction might be.

There is no unifying theme to this collection of lists, although some of them do relate to one another.

This book was written from the point of view of Clarissa Marie Darling herself, although her name does not appear in any byline. Assisting in the effort (according to the cover) were Mitchell Kriegman and Mollie Fermaglich. It bears the seal of Nickelodeon/Viacom. It was copyrighted in 1993 by Nickelodeon and published by Grosset & Dunlap, Inc. Unfortunately, your reviewer has been informed by a reliable source that the book is out of print, notwithstanding the statement on ABC's web page devoted to Melissa Joan Hart that:

Melissa is also kept busy supporting ``Clarissa''-related projects, including the popular Putnam book, ``Clarissa's All-In-One Perfect Complete Book of Everything Important (Until I Change My Mind),'' [...]


This section introduces the book. It explains Clarissa's penchant for lists of various kinds. It encourages the reader to record her own lists for posterity, and suggests that the book might help others to explain the world around them.

Words to Live By

This section lists various sayings and aphorisms by famous people, both real and those who exist only in the world of CEIA. Many of these sayings were actually spoken by Clarissa in one episode or another; others, however, were never spoken. Some examples:

There are 10 more like this, divided between lines that were spoken by Clarissa and those that weren't.

The ``Face of Europe''

This section relates how Clarissa was ``sitting in Mrs. Wackwasher's history class (with my eyes glazing over) looking at a map of what used to be the Soviet Union -- you know, the old Evil Empire?'' She realizes that the profile of Johnny Depp appears in the eastern borders of Poland, Yugoslavia, and Hungary (the book has a small map of Europe -- the former Soviet Union is omitted, by the way -- with Mr. Depp's profile inked in along the aforementioned borders). The book gives three more examples of famous personalities' profiles appearing in maps. They are:

(The relevant map is illustrated in each case.) The reader is invited to consult an atlas and make her own decision if these are valid.

Worst Sibling Habits

This is Clarissa's ``all-time list of younger brothers' and sisters' worst bad habits. At least it's my all-time list until Fergwad does something else that's disgusting and I have to add it to my list. Don't hesitate to add yours.''

Some examples (in relatively good taste):

Some examples (in not so good taste):

And Now we Interrupt This Book for an Important Message for Anyone Reading This Book Alone in Their Bedroom

This section starts out by wondering if this book should be written if no one is going to read it, and would this book exist if no one read it, which causes Clarissa to wonder ``would people send me to the loony bin saying 'Oh, that Clarissa, she thinks she wrote a book, but no one we know has ever read it.'?''

The section then begins to discuss boredom, ``which is totally boring except if you're living in Paris and wearing a beret. Then it's not boring, it's ennui, which is more existential.'' What to do when this dreaded condition strikes? ``[S]cream until my parents come running upstairs and ask me what's wrong.'' which is fun the first few times. Unfortunately, there can be repercussions; then again, the worst that can happen is that ``they can send you to your room.''

The section is rounded out by a little drawing of the Eiffel Tower and the word ``Ennui'' in large letters. There is no actual list in this section.

Why I Hate Barbie

Clarissa begins this section by pointing out to her male readers that she is referring to the doll, not Klaus Barbie, the Nazi war criminal. One wonders: might not some of the female readers also have heard of the infamous Herr Barbie? Or, is it that the girls are presumed intelligent enough to know the difference and the boys are not?

Anyway, some of Clarissa's reasons for hating Barbie (the doll) are:

(Anyone who has been subjected to commercials for this menace to children's minds and parents' pocketbooks can surely come up with their own list.)

This section further emphasizes Clarissa's dislike of Barbie by putting a drawing of Barbie's head in a circle with a diagonal slash across it (the international symbol for ``NO'').

Mysteries of Life

This section points out that even though there are many things that we do know about, such as the Big Bang theory and the value of pi to a trillion places, there are still many lesser topics that seem to defy explanation. Clarissa issues an invitation to any scientists who might be reading, or any readers who go on to become scientists, to explain these mysteries, among which are the following:

The Most Important Thought Ever

This impressive-sounding title sits atop almost two pages of completely blank space. At the bottom of the second page is Clarissa's rueful admission that ``OK, I couldn't come up with anything really pithy. I mean, everything I thought about seemed important, but not important enough. So maybe the point here is that you can't reduce everything reduce everything to just one important thought. Wait a second. That's it! The most important thought is... oh, forget it!''

Great Words for Spelling Bees

This section contains a list of 23 extremely-difficult-to-spell words, illustrated with little drawings of some of the words. Among them are:

Maps of various persons' brains

This untitled section features maps of the brains of Ferguson, ``My Mom'', and Axl Rose.

The sections of Ferguson's brain are:

The sections of Janet's brain are:

The sections of Axl Rose's brain are:

Some Advice for Naming Horses

This section is one that should appeal to Clarissa's young female fans. (It is this writer's impression, entirely unsupported by any research or first-hand experience, that girls of this age are likely to be interested in horses). It starts off by saying that even though horses are cool (``Not only do they look great, run fast and have a tail you can comb...''), it can be difficult to decide what to name them. First you have to decide what your horse is going to do: show horse, race horse, or just a horse ``to hang with''. Some examples of good and bad names for each type of horse are listed:

Some good names for show horses:
Cindy Crawford
Some bad names:
Gerard Depardieu
Some good names for race horses:
Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Some bad names:
Lame Lady
Some good names for ``horses to hang with'':
Being and Nothingness
Some bad names:
Cartesian Dualism

``Being and Nothingness'' and ``Cartesian Dualism'' are references that are not likely to be understood by very many of Clarissa's younger fans (or many of her older ones, for that matter)!

This section is illustrated with the frontal view of a horse's head and an upside-down horseshoe.

For Boys Reading This Book

This section starts out with Clarissa wondering if any boys are reading CAIOB, inasmuch as there are so many male viewers of CEIA (if the mail she supposedly gets is any indication). This observation is annotated ``My girlfriend Jody says that boys don't have a reading gene. But I know that's not true: they read baseball cards and sports scores, which would indicate some reading ability.''

It goes on to make the valid point that to really understand girls, boys should read the same sorts of things that girls read. After all, girls read guy stuff, so why shouldn't the reverse hold true? And, the book promises the male reader, ``if a girl found out that you really knew about the things she cares about, she'd think you were cool.'' She says that boys should check it out for themselves, instead of relying on older brothers, who presumably have not followed Clarissa's sage advice about broadening their horizons.

Unnecessary Evils

This section states that while there are some useful subjects taught in school, such as reading (for traffic signs and TV Guide) and math (to make sure that your allowance is keeping up with inflation and that you're getting the right change when buying stuff), there is also a lot of useless information. Some of this supposedly useless information is then listed. It includes:

This section is illustrated with a drawing of a stack of books.

Bad Fashions of All Times

This section consists of a list of what Clarissa considers to be unfashionable. It is illustrated with drawings of some of the listed items. The list includes:

How to Pretend You're an Only Child

One of the central themes of CEIA is sibling rivalry, as exemplified by Clarissa's never-ending struggle with Ferguson. Here Clarissa sympathizes with the reader who is cursed with having to share Mom and Dad with somebody else. Believing ``that radical situations call for radical solutions,'' Clarissa suggests dealing with the situation by ignoring ones siblings completely. Some of her suggestions for pretending that one is an only child:

An Ode to Elvis

This section praises Elvis, Clarissa's ``security alligator'' during the first season of CEIA. It relates how Clarissa ordered him from the catalog that came with her ant farm, that he looked bigger in the catalog, and the reason for his sudden disappearance (`` day he had a sudden growth spurt and became attracted to anything splashing in the bathtub. Sorry, Dad.''). And now, she imagines, Elvis is ``probably cruising around the Okefenokee Swamp down south somewhere, telling his friends about the wild couple of years he spent in some kid's room up north. They probably don't believe him.''

There is even a poem, called ``Ode to Elvis'', which is reproduced here.

Oh, Elvis, it's so sad but true,
My life has changed since I lost you.
You were the greatest bud, you know,
So why'd you have to start to grow?

I took you in,
Life could have been worse.
You might have wound up
As shoes or a purse.

I gave you a home,
A room and a pool,
And I kept you away from
that geeky Ferg fool.

I groomed you and fed you each day
And each night,
And served you big pieces
of Mom's Tofu Delight.

Since you left, oh dear 'gator,
My heart's filled with gloom,
Even though it's cool having
Extra floor space in my room!

No more pets for me,
There could be no replacement.
I hope your new swamp
Is better than Graceland.

I will never forget you,
And remember one thing,
You're a reptilian wonder,
To me you're the King!

My Absolute Favorite Things

No explanation is given. Among Clarissa's Absolute Favorite Things (``until I get tired of them'') are:

My Absolute Least Favorite Things

Again, a list presented without any explanation. Perhaps at this juncture Clarissa was getting tired of explaining each and every little thing. Among her Absolute Least Favorite Things (``this week'') are:

(Who among us has never contemplated the utter ridiculousness of that last entry?)

Favorite Names for Ferguson

One of the delights of CEIA is the seemingly endless variety of pet names that Clarissa and Ferguson have for each other. Here are some of Clarissa's.

(Bonus trivia question #1: What was Ferguson's brilliant comeback to ``Amoeba Brain''?)

The All Time Goofy Girls (this week)

This is nothing more than a list of names. No explanation is provided as to why these particular names are ``goofy''. And what does Clarissa mean by ``goofy''? That too is a mystery. Some of the names on the list are:

The All Time Cool Girls

This is a list similar to ``The All Time Goofy Girls'', and is just as uninformative. Some of the names on this list are:

Geeky Guy Names

In this section, Clarissa wonders ``What's in a name?'' She theorizes that people with unfortunate names become dorky, or they transform their dorky name into something cool because they are cool. This is a list for parents of names to avoid, lest their unfortunate male child be sentenced ``to permanent geekdom.''

Cool Guy Names

Males whose names appear on this list can pat themselves on the back and breathe a sigh of relief. Clarissa does point out, however, that some of these names are so unusual that they are just a hair's breadth away from qualifying for the list immediately preceding this one.

(The name ``Lars'' mysteriously fails to appear on this otherwise exemplary list. Undoubtedly a printing error was reponsible for this grievous omission.)

Holidays That Should Exist

This section lists several holidays that Clarissa would like to see. The reader is left to ponder why she feels this way.

Yuckiest Foods of All Times

Another amusing aspect of CEIA is the seemingly endless variety of unusual health food concoctions that her mother, Janet, comes up with (some of which may actually exist in real life), and the reactions of the other family members to her efforts. This section is more of the same.

Clarissa tackles the question asked by every mother when her ungrateful offspring turn up their noses at her latest culinary offerings: ``How do you know you won't like it until you try it?'' In this section, Clarissa responds by saying that, similar to movie trailers, the smell and appearance of a dish should certainly be enough to tell if it's going to be edible or not. But, in her never-ending quest to explain everything, and to do the necessary research to support her views, she actually has tried a number of different foods, a sampling of which appears here.

Bonus trivia question #2: Which of the foods listed above would even Janet Darling avoid? And why?

This section is illustrated with a line drawing of a squid and some unidentified vegetable.

Dumb Sports

This is Clarissa's list of ``the dumbest sports.'' She says that there is such a wide variety that maybe some of what is called sports really isn't.

Ferguson's Page

Clarissa says she gave Ferguson one page in her book to get him off her back. As might be expected, he takes full advantage of her generosity and stretches it out to three pages.

Ferguson can't believe that his miserable excuse for a sister is writing an actual book, and not just one that she has to pay somebody to publish it. He theorizes that she is writing it because she is so competetive with him. He contends that her need to explain everything arises from her need to be the center of attention, and her fear that people will notice him instead.

He laments his bad luck in the sister department. Princess Stephanie, or a Rockefeller, or a Getty, perhaps, might have made a more interesting sibling. He wonders, in fact, why he is not a member of one of those famous families. Maybe when he makes his first million, he muses, he will no longer have to bear that cross.

Ferguson then favors us with a list of his own: ``The Five Ingredients for a Happy Life'', or, more succinctly, ``Fergonetics''. Ferguson's five ingredients are:

  1. An Ivy League education or at least a sweatshirt from an Ivy League school that makes people think you went there
  2. Socioeconomically compatible friends
  3. A diversified portfolio
  4. Napoleon's biography
  5. Famous friends, or at least friends who know friends of famous people, so you can name-drop when you need to

Ferguson assures us that ``with these five ingredients you can live long and accrue interest.'' Readers desiring further information can write to him care of Fergonetics at the Church of Fergotology.

At this point, Clarissa loses patience. After all, Ferguson has already used three times his allotment of pages! Despite his protestations that he is ``just trying to raise the intellectual level of this tawdry tome,'' she shoos him away. And just in time, too, for the next section is...

Ferguson Compared to Attila the Hun

This list continues the theme of sibling rivalry. Clarissa realizes that historically, there have been people as annoying as Ferguson around, such as Genghis Khan, Napoleon, and Attila the Hun. She compares and contrasts Ferguson with Mr. Attila and comes up with a short list of attributes of each. Some of those attributes are:

Attila the HunFerguson
King of the HunsKing of the Dweebs
Extorted tributes from Eastern and Western Roman emperorsExtorts favors, privileges, and tributes from kind but unwitting parental units
Attacked GaulHas a lot of gall
A real take-charge kind of guyA real take-advantage kind of guy
Defeated by the VisigothsCan't spell Visigoths

Given Ferguson's studious nature, as exemplified in the CEIA episode ``Brain Drain'' (#109), the assertion that he ``can't spell Visigoths'' seems questionable.

Things Small Children Should Not Be Permitted to Do in Public

This list is presented without any explanation. It includes:

And Finally... Things I Can't Explain

No reason is given why these items appear in this list.


This little chapter wraps up the book, ``the most perfect and complete book you'll ever read -- at least until the next one comes out.'' It includes one final list, a tabulation of items that didn't seem to belong anywhere else in the book. Among these misfits are:

All in all, this book, if it were still available, would be a good addition to the library of any Clarissa-holic, if it is viewed as a trivia game and not as a serious work of any kind.

The book's ISBN number is 0-448-40098-7. It is out of print.

CAIO rear cover

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