Wednesday, August 1, 2012

"Is he thrifty, honest, clean, hardworking and considerate of old ladies?" #32...Kristy and the Secret of Susan (1990)

aka, Kristy Discovers She Can't Solve Every Problem

Bet you thought I was gone, huh? I really did mean to come back back in March with a review of book #9. I even read most of the darn thing. But, Dawn just sucked out my soul. Truly. Maybe it was the fact that I owned the book and didn't have to get it back to the library. Or maybe it was just the fact that it sucked donkey balls.

But in any case, since I just can't bear at this point to go back and reread about Dawn's secret passage, I decided to skip ahead. I couldn't find the next book (which should be SS #1...see my next post) at either of my libraries. I suddenly realized why no one has ever really blogged these books in order before.

So here I am. I plan to do one book a week, except during exam weeks (one week in August, November, February and May) until I want to kill myself...or Ann M. Martin and her ghostwriters, whichever. I decided to restart my BSC library so that Dawn and the Awful Boring "Mystery" of Her Barn isn't sitting on its own. I found 3 books this weekend, so we'll start there.

Before I begin reviewing this one, I have to say it was one of my favorites as a child. Why? First, because it was hard to get ahold of and I only read it twice. We owned books 1-16 because my parents bought those in sets of four. The collection in the tiny library in Elburn, Illinois circa 1991 contained books 1-40, and I was certainly not the only one reading them. There were a couple of books (this one, #26, #33 and one other I can't think of) that were almost always checked out. Our collection at home began in earnest at #41, though we didn't own EVERY book, and ended at #73, when I decided I was WAY too old to be reading these books.

The other reason was that it was a fascinating topic to me as a child. Most of the "issues" dealt with in BSC books I was already at least a little familiar with. I had heard of anorexia and knew what it meant to be deaf. We had an adopted family member like Emily Michelle, so that wasn't that interesting, either.

But I'd never heard of autism before I'd read this book. Which is ironic, because I really should have been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome around the time I was obsessed with these books. It made reading about Susan a lot more interesting. I now know that every autistic child is different and that Susan isn't necessarily typical of autism, but I don't think the portrayal is too far off.

Anyhoo, in this doozy of a tale, Kristy gets a three day a week babysitting job for Susan Felder for a month. Susan has autism and has been away at a special school; she's getting ready to go to a new school. Susan's mother explains autism to Kristy, but Kristy thinks that if she can just make Susan some friends, everything will change, Susan will get better and get to live at home with her family. Instead, nothing changes, Susan gets sent off to her new school and Kristy moves on to her next project.

Meanwhile, the Hobart family moves into Mary Anne's old house. Because they're Australian, the other kids make fun of them and the Hobarts feel like outcasts. Kristy tries to force them into a friendship with Susan, but eventually they make their own friends (and oldest brother Ben falls in LUV with Mallory, as Stacey would say.)

Interesting Tidbits

Why is Emily Michelle still drinking from a bottle? I get that she's supposed to be developmentally delayed, but even 9 month olds can drink from a sippy cup.

I'm amused that Kristy says Sam and Charlie are embarrassed to be seen in Nannie's Pink Clinker. Other than being pink, it's not really that different from Charlie's Junk Bucket. I've always pictured them both as being old-school VW Beetles...I want to say there's something in one of the books that gives me that idea about one of those cars. Although, how could Charlie fit the entire BSC in a Bug? (P.S....Kristy mentions Charlie has a sticker in the window that says Baby-sitter on board. You would think that would be something he really wouldn't want to advertise. I know when I was seventeen, I only gave my sister rides places because my parents would take the car away if I didn't.)

Kristy calls Dawn drop-dead gorgeous. This is funny, considering in #4, Mary Anne says she doesn't think Dawn is pretty.

Kristy says Charlie could drive her to the Felders' house 3 times a week right after school and then pick her up after the meetings. First, why not just go straight to the Felders? If they didn't want her right after school, she could always hang out somewhere and do homework until they did want her. And who says Charlie will always be free at those times, anyway? Isn't he usually at football practice or something?

Susan's mother, Mrs. Felder, does a good job explaining autism, at least at first. She says that children with autism are in their own worlds and don't want to leave it. She then describes some symptoms of autism: lack of eye contact, no or little meaningful communication, "stimming" (demonstrated in the book by hand flapping and clucking noises), and not liking to be touched. But she then goes on to say that children with autism go on to live in group homes and work in sheltered workshops. That's true of some children, but others are able to successfully live "normal" lives in their own ways. They live on their own and take care of their own needs. It really depends upon the symptoms and how severe they are.

Once again, Kristy thinks she knows a child better than the parents, and after meeting her for all of five minutes.

Heh heh heh. Kristy says she learned to stand up for what she believes in from Dawn. Bull. Kristy's always had that skill.

Mal and Jessi write a joint club entry where Mal says she's "in a crush" with the boy who's later revealed to be Ben Hobart. It makes me picture the two of them sharing a chair, taking turns writing. Joint entries always seemed a little silly to me. Why not have them write it up separately so you can see how their opinions of the job compare?

Talk about dating the book: all the kids in the book liken the Aussie Hobarts to Crocodile Dundee. Ten years ago, I would have said it would have been the Crocodile Hunter. These Any Australians that 8 year olds are familiar with?

After Jessi tells the Pikes not to call the Hobarts Crocs, Claire asks if she can call them silly-billy-goo-goos instead.

Wow, the Hobarts are wearing Swatch and Reebok. If there was a girl Hobart, I'm sure she'd be in Laura Ashley.

James said he ate Weetabix for brecky. Did they bring the Weetabix from Australia with them, and if not, I'd like to know where they got it so I could get some myself.

I think they gave the Hobarts an 11 year old brother just so Mallory could have someone to have a crush on.

Mallory (I think) tells Dawn to take a job with Jenny Prezzioso because it will be character-building. This cracked me up, more so when Dawn says she already has enough character.

Kristy's first real babysitting job with Susan isn't until page 64 of a 145 page book.

Kristy asks why Susan didn't eat lunch, and Mrs. Felder says she doesn't know why, but Susan just has problems with eating. Most people with autism have sensory integration disorder, and if the food texture, smell or taste bothers her in any way, Susan probably wouldn't eat it. A sweet little girl I know with autism won't eat any foods that have been mixed together. Rice, peas and ham are all fine, but don't try to put them in a casserole or soup. I myself don't eat meat because I don't like the texture.

Awww. I don't think the kids in the books are "cute" very often, but when Emily came in and asked Kristy, "Scooze me. I have dance?" I had to smile.

When Kristy tells "Bob-or-Craig" (aka Mel) that Susan takes requests on the piano, he asks for "Swannee River," a song I can't imagine most children in 1990 (or now) have heard of. I can barely hum it myself. Later, the same bully tells Kristy the Music Man was a good movie.

Ooh, I had a hard time reading the part where Kristy describes the special ed class. First because of the dated language...retarded, handicapped. Also, the lack of people first language (a boy with Down syndrome, not a Down syndrome boy. The person ALWAYS is supposed to come first.) Then there's the fact that the whole thing was so manipulative and completely out of place.

Kristy feels like she failed because she didn't change and "fix" Susan in a month. And because Mel charges neighborhood kids money to see the "dumbo" do her tricks.

Claudia misspellings: apertiment (appointment, I think?), geuss (guess), whith (with), wehn (when), trubble (trouble), finaly (finally), freind (friend). She also uses their for they're (which I admit I caught myself doing in this entry.) Most of that I can understand and some of it actually makes sense. Friend and guess are not easy to spell, and trubble is a logical misspelling. But wtf is apertiment?

The Felders tell Kristy that they are expecting another daughter--Hope--and Kristy offers to baby-sit after she's born. Surprisingly, (or maybe not so much) they're never heard from again. Mrs. Felder presumably has that baby, but, unlike many of the other one-off characters, they never pop up in another story, even just calling for a sitter.

Kristy shows up early to the Kishis' and finds Claudia attempting to pick her own door lock...which isn't locked. Book title: Claudia the Safe Cracker

Claudia: short flared skirts, leggings, ankles socks with flats;
Stacey: short, tight pants, push-down socks

New Characters:
Ben, James, Mathew and Johnny Hobart (11, 8, 6 and 4)--33, 30, 28 and 26
Susan Felder (8)--30

Next week, I'll be doing one of two Super Specials. I haven't decided which one yet.


  1. As an Australian, I would just like to say that it is actually Weetbix, without the A. Poor fact checking, ghostwriter -_- Also, they really aren't that great, they mostly taste like cardboard.

  2. The only mainstream Australians I can think of now ate Hugh Jackman (who lacks the stereotypical accent) and Chris Hemsworth. I often joke about wanting to do a year's work in Australia so I can find me my very own Thor xD haha

  3. The Wiggles! Although eight might be a little old to be watching the Wiggles. But they'd probably have heard of them, at least.