Monday, April 27, 2015

“Jeff powered through the kitchen on his way to his next rendezvous with chaos.” BSC #77: Dawn and Whitney, Friends Forever (1994)

Ooh, boy, there might be griping on this one.
I applaud AMM and the ghostwriters for their efforts to bring knowledge to the general preteen girl population. And clearly some research goes into some of these books. But I am a former special education teacher who would love to someday adopt a child with Down syndrome, and I’m also a pedant. Be warned.
Dawn has a special new sitting job for 12-year-old Whitney Cater, who has Down syndrome. She’s supposed to be more of a companion than a sitter, and her parents tell Whitney that Dawn is there to be her friend, not her sitter. This basically leads to two things: Dawn spends the whole book noticing how many people stare at Whitney and being offended by it, and eventually, the whole sitter-truth comes out. Whitney, to prove she’s old and responsible enough to not need a sitter, coaxes some sitting clients out without permission and makes Dawn chase them and sort things out.
Meanwhile, there are two interrelated B plots (leading up to SS #12). Mrs. Barrett has gotten engaged to Franklin DeWitt, and the kids are unhappy about it. Mr. Schafer has been going on a bunch of dates with various women and his kids, trying to find a fit. Every date goes badly…until he gets back together with Carol and the two of them get engaged again as well.
Interesting Tidbits
Hahaha! Dawn’s describing her dad’s dating habits and says, “Dad is doing what Granny calls ‘playing the field.’” I can’t explain why, but it’s so much funnier that Granny says that. I guess it just sounds so slangy. Besides, when Granny was talking about it, it probably referred to when Sharon was dating, before she married Richard, and that just makes me think of…the Trip-Man.
The title quote is on page five, and I just really liked the way it sounded.
Things Dawn is not allowed to say, part 1: Mondo, as in “My father has a mondo phone bill. That’s someone’s pathetic attempt to try to make her sound young and California.
“Someday my frog princess will come.” Dawn’s dad is far funnier than Jeff, and he’s not even trying to be a comedian.
Maggie’s hair is always different, so today she’s got “purple raccoon streaks above the ears” and purple ribbon in her hair tail.
Jill is apparently a ‘seriously good’ surfer, despite the fact that in the last Dawn book, only Sunny and Dawn were into surfing and Maggie and Jill were not. Maybe the ghostwriter just took it as Jill didn’t need any more lessons?
Okay, here we go. It is Down syndrome, people, not Down’s syndrome. It was named after the person who first started studying it, a Dr. Down, not after someone who had the disorder. Therefore, no apostrophe. This is going to drive me NUTS all book long.
Also, I know that back in 1994 people sometimes still used the word retarded, but its constant use in this book sets my teeth on edge, especially this bit from Whitney’s father: “Practically speaking, it means that Whitney is retarded. She’s not very retarded.” Oy. OY. OY. I would be a lot less annoyed by this if they used the term mildly retarded (as Mrs. Cater does later) but that phrasing is just so offensive to me. In these days of political correctness (I know PC can go waaaaaay to far but a little bit is good), we would say that Whitney has a mild mental impairment. Mental impairment sounds better than retarded, and by phrasing it that way, you’re not saying what the child IS, but what she HAS. “Whitney IS retarded” is more offensive to me than “Whitney HAS mental retardation.” Kids with Down syndrome are people, not a condition. Catch my meaning? /end rant…for now
There’s this whole thing about how Dawn thinks Whitney’s face looks funny when she first meets her, but then as she gets to know her, she sees more similarities than differences. As an adult this made me roll my eyes (and be slightly offended…but I think that was mostly holdover offense) but then I realized that the 10-year-olds reading this book probably actually need to hear stuff like that.
What I DO like about this book: Whitney is your average 12-year-old. She interested in teen magazines and which boys are cute (including Keanu Reeves…say no more.) One of my favorite students when I was teaching was a girl a lot like Whitney who was—in 2005—obsessed with “Ryan from The OC” and wanted to marry him.
Clover Austin “lives at the top of her lungs.” Dawn says this also applies to Karen. I…like that phrasing. This book’s got some interesting language in it, once you get past the whole Down’s syndrome/retarded mess.
Oooh, I’ve never liked the “one person cuts it and the other person gets to choose the piece,” way of sharing. My sister figured out that I never could find the middle, so she always made me cut and always ended up with 2/3 or more. It’s actually not fairer that way.
Yay! We get Claudia spelling! Turth, Barettes, Dewits (can you tell who THIS job was for?) they’are.
This is kind of interesting. They always refer to Franklin DeWitt as Franklin in the text, but when Stacey addresses him, she calls him Mr. DeWitt. I guess it’s like how Aunt Cecelia is always called Aunt Cecelia, but she probably wouldn’t appreciate it if one of the non-Ramsey BSC members greeted her that way.
Interesting typo: I had to think a couple times about this one. The DeWitt and Barrett kids are grabbing things out of the fridge for a ‘smorgaspic’ (smorgasbord picnic, which seems like a horribly bad idea.) Lindsey warns Buddy to “watch it” and then it says that Bryan grabbed something out of the fridge. I thought at first they meant Buddy until I remembered that the littlest DeWitt is named Ryan. But then it becomes clear again that Buddy is actually the one who being referred to, because he’s the one standing in front of the fridge, handing things to Lindsey.
Barrett/DeWitt sandwich combinations: tuna and Oreo, peanut butter and potato chip, cole slaw and baloney, jelly and cheese. Have they been hanging out at the Pikes too much?
Okay, I changed my mind about Dawn’s dad being funny. The rest of his jokes are as bad as Jeff’s.
Dawn uses the word ‘ornery’ to describe Jeff. Not only is that one of my favorite words, it’s actually pretty accurate when Jeff starts acting up. He’s being a total shithead on a “family date” at the carnival because he doesn’t like his dad’s date.
The next date calls Dawn’s dad Richard. His name is Jack. (Obviously, ghostwriter got her dad mixed up with her stepdad.)
So the third date is the worst yet. Whitney joins them at a picnic and concert in the park, and the woman is openly disgusted by Whitney and extremely hateful toward her. Before that, Dawn had liked her.
Mary Anne goes for her sitting job and finds the Barretts watching Celebrity Mud Wrestling. She then asks the Barretts if they find the mud wrestling more interesting than she is. No offense, Mary Anne, but *I* would probably find Celebrity Mud Wrestling more interesting than her.
Oh look. Buddy and Suzi decide to set DeWitt traps, just like Claudia set mafia traps in the last book. Seriously, it’s time for a new shtick, people. Although I do have to laugh because they Vaseline-up the doorknob to the bathroom, and I’m currently reading Paper Towns, where they do the same thing in a more-convoluted revenge plan.
Also, why does Mary Anne let them get away with that? She also lets them put up mean signs, which harkens back to #76. Mary Anne needs to get more of a backbone with these upset kids.
Actually, the worst part is that the parents are so involved in their romance that they don’t even notice that the kids are fighting again or that Lindsey’s covered in baby powder and Madeleine in Vaseline.
While taking a Les Mis break (love that live, no matter how many times I see it), I figured out what was bothering me about this book—beside what I’d already griped about. Dawn seems to think EVERYONE is staring at Whitney and hating the way that her dad’s date did. For example, the two of them go to the Chanel counter and the woman is cold to them when they want to sample the perfume. Dawn assumes it has everything to do with the Down syndrome, but really. They’re twelve and thirteen and they probably don’t have Chanel money. The clerk probably would have behaved the same way if it were Dawn and Sunny at the counter, and now as an adult, I don’t blame her.
Dawn’s last family date involves a woman who has a daughter at Dawn’s school. Dawn kind of hates her, and worries that it’s the same Alana because Alana is such an unusual name. But wasn’t one of the surfer chicks in SS#5 named Alana as well? I’m not at home to be able to check. Maybe that’s just someone’s idea of a ‘California name’, whatever that means. Dawn actually muses that Alana is the new Jennifer: the name that everyone and their brother named their kid.
Oh, and Alana is apparently pronounced a-lay-nah, to rhyme with Paina (Alana the Paina), not a-lahn-nah, the way I imagined. (And every Alana I’ve ever known has pronounced it.)
Apparently, Dawn’s school has a ‘caf’. The only people I know who call cafeterias that are Canadian, which has me wondering about the ghostwriter.
And Alana is a lot more obvious about her contempt for the family date than Dawn is. Dawn is at least actually trying. Although she does get snippy that Alana calls her dad Jack…despite the fact that she’s calling Alana’s mom Kayla.
The one intelligent thing in the Barrett-DeWitt drama: the parents figured out that they had to buy a new house together, because then one set of kids didn’t see the other set of kids as intruding into their territory.
Dawn gets dehydrated while watching the Austins play with the hose, so she calls a water break. Daffodil thinks this is hilarious because they are already soaking wet.
Tofu-turkey-dog casserole. Even Jeff won’t eat it…
And Mr. Schafer and Carol are engaged again. Even Jeff falling out of his chair can’t ruin it this time. Although maybe if Dawn stole her dad’s credit card again….
Maggie: black cropped tank top, leopard leggings, black boots, leather jacket
Dawn: jeans and cotton sweater
New characters:
Whitney Cater (12)—33

Next week: #78, when I will be vlogging Claudia. Be prepared!


  1. I have some family members with mental impairments (you're right; sounds much better than "who are retarded") but I only know one person with Down syndrome and he's only three. I appreciate your perspective since you know more than I do.

    I also agree with your point that some of the clunky bits in these books are appropriate for younger audiences, because they don't have as much life experience. For example, in the Jessi book that talks about Kwanzaa, Kristy asks why it's okay to have a holiday only for people of African descent. I'm sure a lot of eight-year-olds wondered that too, although I think it would have been better for a younger character to ask rather than Kristy.

  2. (should have added above that the book explains that Kwanzaa isn't exclusionary and points out why it's geared to certain people rather than everyone)