I’ve never read this book before, for one blatant reason: I knew I was going to hate the dated, non-‘people-first’ language. Actually, if I remember correctly, I started reading it and stopped for that exact reason. Let’s see if I have better luck this time.
Abby’s joined what the book calls a Unified Special Olympics team. Special Olympics athletes are playing on a team with athletes without impairments; quite frankly, the only reason I can see for this is that they can throw a PSA about the Special Olympics, because the rest of the plot doesn’t seem to benefit from that fact. One of the other athletes, Erin, is as good at soccer as Abby is, which is something Abby isn’t used to, and she’s given the position Abby wants. The two of them start competing against each other, trying to one up another, and refusing to play nice. The Krushers form a booster club to support the team, so all the kids get to see Abby acting badly and find out that both Abby and Erin get benched for two games. Abby accepts her position, apologizes to Erin (and Kristy, who calls Abby on her B.S.) and moves on.
Meanwhile, Abby’s mother decides the family needs to spend the weekend of their late father’s birthday with his parents, whom they haven’t spent much time with since he’d died. Abby doesn’t want to go, so she sorta lies/sorta misleads her mother into not making her go. He real reason for not wanting to go? She hates visiting her father’s grave, because it’s too real.
Aaaaaand Abby starts the book with a pun on page one. She’s so late to the meeting that she’s running. You know how BSC books almost always start with the narrator describing the scene and then saying, “I’m getting ahead of myself”? This time, Abby is running ahead of herself.
Abby’s now firmly described as being medium, instead of super-tall like she originally was. This is the second book in a row to use that adjective for her.
In order to verify what I’ve said recently, Abby is indeed allergic to tomatoes and shellfish. Going back to the last book, Abby ate with the Brewers and Derek’s friends at a seafood restaurant. There would be plenty of things she could eat there, but depending on how severe her allergy is, she might have problems just eating near shellfish or if the same cooking surface was used.
Aaaaaaaaand, we have our first ‘mental retardation’ on page 6. It definitely could be worse though, because at least it says ‘players with mental retardation.’ By the way, the players with impairments are known as athletes and the ones without are called partners. I think it’s kind of offensive for them to even create a distinction.
Abby tries to convince the rest of the BSC that soccer is awesome. She tells Claudia it’s a moving art form, and Stacey points out that it’s all based in geometry. I don’t think she could convince my cousin, though, who spends the entire World Cup whining each time because it’s taking televised time from ‘real sports people actually care about.’
Did you know that Kid Kits are not kids used to assemble children? Abby is sooo hilarious.
Since when do middle schools have varsity and junior varsity? We always had A team and B team, which is the same thing SMS has in book #129.
Other players on the team: Jojo (lol), Petra, Connie, Sandy, Annalise, and Jeana
Abby admits to expecting less out of the athletes than partners, simply because they have impairments. I think that’s fair enough, because how many people with mental impairments have they ever met before?
I swear they only have a player named Petra so Abby can make the pun that she looked petra-fied.
There are seriously a whole bunch of pages just explaining soccer positions and rules, and it’s wicked boring. And, unlike my cousin, I love soccer.
Abby’s competition with Erin starts before the first practice even begins, when the two of them get into a race during laps. And then Coach Wu gives Abby’s preferred position—center forward, pretty much the plum position on the team—to Erin, so Abby’s jealous.
Ha! The name of the ice cream store Coach Wu takes the soccer team to? Thirty-two Flavors and Then Some. That’s not so subtle there.
Abby really is a horrible sport. She resents Erin for getting ‘her’ position and being more popular with her teammates, so she decides Erin is a ‘showoff’ and the rest of the team are ‘phonies.’ Later, after the team wins, she tells Erin she knows more about soccer than Erin does…after Erin (truthfully) says that they lost because Abby kept leaving her defensive position to try to score. (It may not have been exclusively Abby’s fault, but when she’s spending all her time in midfield or forward, trying to score, it makes it a lot easier for the other team to get past the defense.) Then again, when Abby was first introduced, she said she wasn’t a team player, so maybe that’s the real problem.
The title quote comes from when Shannon-the-dog decided to join the soccer game and a soccer player tripped over her.
At one point Haley calls the soccer team ‘footballers’ and Karen gets ready to argue with her about it. Haley would be right in just about every other country in the world. (Plus, footballers sounds so much cooler than soccer players.)
Mallory mentions that the triplets play soccer, yet I remember at least once Jeff complaining that the triplets didn’t like soccer. I guess it’s just a sign of the times; in 1986, soccer wasn’t very popular, but by 1997, it was a lot more played.
Stoneybrook United loses a second game, largely because Abby refuses to pass the ball to Erin, who was wide open. Instead, she takes the shot herself and misses; the other team scores through the empty hole Abby created in the defense. She and Erin get into a shouting match and nearly pound each other. The most obnoxious part of this, though? Karen and company sitting on the sidelines, saying things like “Isn’t she supposed to pass now?” “They’re not going to fight, are they?” and “They were bad sports.” We all know all that without the kiddie commentary.
Abby doesn’t tell anyone she’s benched. Instead, Karen finds out by talking to Erin, who was also benched. Kristy gives Abby a totally contemptuous look, but I can only imagine the look Kristy would have given if she’d known the whole story. (Abby didn’t tell her mother she’d been benched either, and used the game as an excuse not to go spend the weekend with her paternal grandparents.)
Claudia spelling. Yay! Hapen, rihgt, wasch, allot (a lot), leest, fighte. She also uses your for you’re, twice.
The boosters throw a carwash, which is (mostly) too boring to mention. But the first customer is the Pink Clinker, which Nannie then agrees they can park on the corner to gather attention for the carwash. They describe the Pink Clinker as “the big, old pink car.” I’ve mentioned before that I pictured the Pink Clinker as a Volkswagen Beetle, but this totally has me picturing an early-80s Cadillac: a giant boat of a car.
Odd. Abby goes running in Miller’s Park, mentioning that “from what I’ve heard” there was a fight with a developer over the park that ended with it being declared a historic monument. Umm, that happened in Mystery #24. Abby’s first mystery was #23, so she was around when that happened.
Leave it to Abby to suggest a whole bunch of really punny soccer team names when Kristy suggests a Krushers-spinoff soccer team.
So Abby tells her mother the truth about the soccer team, and about why she didn’t want to visit her father’s grave. Her mom understands her and accepts Abby for who she is and what she’s done, which is really nice, if you think about it. I mean, Abby’s apologizing for not talking to her mother and for not being ready to go back to her father’s grave…and neither of those is really a crime (or even necessarily something to apologize for). And her mom is cool with it because Abby can’t help what she feels, and she’s already worked out for herself that she made some bad choices.
So the Special Olympics aspect could have been way worse. They actually use people-first language throughout the book, and don’t refer to the actual mental impairments much. Instead, a point is made of how similar the athletes and partners are. Most of the time, the only way you can tell the difference between the athletes and partners are that one of the athletes stutters and several of them are described as acting a little younger than the partners. (When I taught special education, my students—ages nine through thirteen—largely still believed in Santa and many of them acted a year or two younger than they really were. It’s not always true, but it’s not horribly offensive, either.) The only awkward part is when Erin calls Abby on her bad sportsmanship. Abby tells Erin she’s a better athlete than Erin is, and Erin replies, “Why? Because I have mental retardation?” I cringed big-time at that point. It’s poorly phrased for a couple different reasons, at least partly because mental retardation is a dated-sounding term. I wouldn’t have been nearly as bothered if Erin had said, “Why? Because I’m in special education?” or used the term special needs or even disability.
Claudia: crop top muscle shirt batikked in green and blue, skinny black shorts, one blue sock and one green, Doc Martens, button earrings; oversized t-shirt with purple and white soccer balls and matching earrings
Stacey: purple silk t-shirt
Mary Anne: purple striped shirt
Jessi: purple leotard
Mallory: purple and white socks
Next: Our final super special! Saaaaaaad!