Saturday, April 9, 2016

“Saved by the Mal!” BSC #108: Don’t Give Up, Mallory (1997)

This isn’t the last Mallory book, but it is the last one I’ve never read.
Mallory’s latest Short Takes class is Children’s Literature, which should be a breeze for her. Instead, the class is torturous because the teacher lets the boys dominate the class by shouting out answers, something Mal isn’t comfortable with. Despite not being comfortable speaking out in class, Mal has no problem speaking up to the principal after discovering that money had been set aside for a student lounge was used for building repairs instead. She leads the class to raise enough money to get their lounge, despite the fact that several of her classmates discovering the idea of playing dumb to get boys. She eventually talks to her teacher, who realizes he’s not being fair and starts giving the girls willing to talk equal time.
In the sitting-related subplot, Buddy Barrett claims to be in a marching band so that he can march in a parade. Rather than make him tell the truth and face the consequences, the BSC scramble to amass a band full of random kids with ridiculous homemade instruments that don’t make noises.
Interesting Tidbits
The cover: By this point, the kids—at least, just the sixth graders—have started to look age-appropriate. Also, you kind of get why the teacher is calling on the boys instead of the girls in this set up. Mal is the only girl who is raising her hand, and she looks really reluctant. The boys seem more enthusiastic.

You would think that straight As were really unusual in a middle school, given the way everyone keeps acting at SMS. Mal has straight As on her midterm report—not even a regular report card—and she gets called brainiac and know it all. I had straight As every quarter in middle school…and so did seven other people in my class. And it was a really small school. Anyway, I know for a fact that Kristy had straight As the last quarter of seventh grade, as reported in #6.
I like this: Mal says that Abby talks loud and fast, but Abby blames this on being from Long Island. (As opposed to my gut instinct, which is just that Abby is loud and talks fast simply because she’s Abby.)
Real books: Charlotte’s Web, Where the Wild Things Are, Polar Express, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, The Wreck of the Zephyr, Make Way for the Ducklings, Dinosaurs and How they Lived, Dinosaur Discovery, Dinosaurs A to Z, Dinosaur Bob, Dinotopia, Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, Animalia, Eleventh Hour,
Elise, Jessi’s synchronized swimming partner, is in Mal’s literature class. I don’t know why I thought she was in seventh grade. The Complete Guide says she’s in sixth grade, though. I think it’s because Jessi had to switch around lunch periods or something to take ‘synchro.’
I had an experience similar to Mallory’s first day of lit class, with a substitute teacher. Class policy said if you wanted help, you raised your hand and the teacher would come to you. So I sat at my desk with my hand raised for fifteen minutes while the sub ignored me and the other kids all got out of their seats and went to the teacher’s desk. Finally I went over to the teacher’s desk, where I got chewed out for not getting my assignment done, because I was sitting at my desk with my hand raised. Why am I bringing this up? Because it took me fifteen minutes to get into the sub’s groove of how she wanted the class run. Mal’s sitting at her desk with her hand raised, but not getting called on. The back cover says that the teacher is favoring boys, but at one point in the class, a boy and a girl get into a discussion. It’s clear reading the chapter that the teacher isn’t calling on raised hands; he just wants the kids to shout out their opinions. Let’s see how long it takes before Mal figures that out.* Oh, and as the book goes on, he does lean more toward favoring the boys.
*(I get it; she’s also not really comfortable just shouting out her opinions. But there are going to be times in her life where that’s necessary, so maybe it’s time to start acquiring that skill now.)
Claudia spelling time! It’s only one sentence: I dont know, Stacey, waht do you git? This would be a lot less funny if Stacey hadn’t started the notebook entry by asking What do you get… and therefore, modeling the spelling of most of those words for Claudia…
Ooh, I like this, too! The sixth grade class officers have their meeting in the memory garden from book #93. Glad to hear that place is getting some use.
Sandra, the class vice president, figures out that some years back, the funds raised during Sixth Grade Fundraiser Week were earmarked for a student lounge but were used for repairs instead. Sandra says that it’s misappropriation of funds, but I guess it depends upon circumstances. If I were eleven, I’d completely agree with her, but as an adult, I think that roof repairs are way more important.
Mallory is late two BSC meetings in a row. When she’s on time the next meeting, Kristy points it out as first order of business. I think I liked it better when she would just yell at them for being late.
Mallory figures out how to save the ridiculous ‘marching band’ by giving the kids kazoos to play. The title quote is Stacey’s response. (It ends up being ridiculous…twenty kazoos playing twenty different tunes at the same time. Abby calls it an attack of the killer bees.)
Remember when puff paint was cool? That was more like 1989 than 1997.
The whole Sandra plotline is interesting because it’s the most realistic in this book. Sandra is eleven or twelve at this point and she’s really aware of what the boys think of her…as most girls her age are. She purposely tries not to appear too smart or strong so that boys will like her better. She wears shoes that hurt her feet so that she’ll seem more feminine. (I’m picturing Quinn from Daria, who did the same thing for a while but stopped because she didn’t need to wear shoes to make her legs look hot, because her legs look hot no matter what she’s wearing…)
This is ridiculous. The marching band story line is stupid (why, oh why, do the BSC members not just tell Buddy he’s out of luck when he tells them he wants to make a marching band), but the actual parade takes the cake. On practice day, the BSC handed out twenty kazoos to whomever showed up. They never sent out a date everyone had to sign up by or spoke to any parents. Kristy agreed to babysit for a ridiculous 9 children by herself in the time period leading up to the parade. But then, proving that Stoneybrook parents are the worst in the world, various parents start dropping their kids off, assuming the BSC will watch them. In a couple of cases, parents literally pull up in a car, drop off their four year old, and don’t even speak to Kristy (who is left alone with a whopping twenty-three children) before driving off. Horrid, horrid parenting.
I’d expected this book to suck, but it really didn’t. (Well, except the marching band part.) Mal had said, early on, that her parents were proud of all of her siblings, no matter their grades, as long as they did their best. Mal found the courage to speak up to her teacher and point out his unconscious bias to him. He denies calling on boys more than girls or letting boys have more time to think on a topic, but later that day, he realizes it’s true. He apologizes to the class and makes a concerted effort to be more fair. But then Mal realizes that wasn’t the only reason she wasn’t speaking up in class. She proves she knows her stuff in the final written project for the class, and the teacher gives her a B+. Even though it’s her first ever B, Mal’s not disappointed, because she realizes it’s the grade she deserved (and in my opinion, probably nicer than she deserved) and she tried her hardest.
Mr. Cobb: collarless white shirt, jeans and a black vest; tan chinos, leather boat shoes, blue linen shirt
Stacey: jeans with rolled cuffs, denim work shirt, backwards painter’s cap
Claudia: shorts, tie-dyed t-shirt with matching scrunchie, red high tops
Helen Gallway (who?): hot pink bike shorts, t-shirt with puff-painted hearts on it

Next: #109

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