BSC #32-Kristy and the Secret of Susan

Chapter Uno:  Charlie is going to take Kristy to her Baby Sitters Club meeting. Charlie’s called is called the Junk Bunket, for all of you who weren’t in the know regarding that fact.  When Kristy gets to Claudia’s, Dawn and Claud are looking out the window, spying on the new neighbors moving into Mary Anne’s old house ( Mary Anne’s dad just married Dawn’s mom so now Mary Anne and her dad live at Dawn’s home).  The family has four boys, and the oldest looks to be about 11 or 12 and ” kind of cute” per Claudia. Dawn is excited that the family are ” Aussies” with Australian accents, like Crocodile Dundee.  Then something else catches Kristy’s attention- a tired looking woman holding a little girl’s hand.  The girl looks about seven or eight years old, and the woman is literally LEADING the little girl as they walk.  The girl moves strangely and has her head cocked to one side.  Her steps look stiff and uncomfortable, and she is flapping her free hand in front of her face.  Kristy asks if the woman and the little girl are new to the neighborhood, and Claudia says no- those are the Felders, and they live around the corner.  Susan is their only daughter, but she was away at a special school, which may be why Kristy doesn’t remember Susan. The Felders have no other kids.  Dawn, Claud and Kristy watch the Hobarts ( the Aussies) and Susan until the rest of the BSC arrive.

Chapter 2:  Usual shit about the BSC members. Mary Anne and Kristy don’t have pierced ears. Jessi and Mal like horse stories by Marguerite Henry. Stacey is a distant dresser and has diabetes.  Claudia makes her own jewelry. Dawn has long, white- blonde hair. And that’s all.  It was really boring, even for a Chapter 2.

Chapter 3:  Mrs. Felder calls during the Baby Sitters Club meeting.  Mrs. Felder says she is calling because she’s heard about how wonderful the Baby Sitters Club business is. Susan Felder is 8 years old and autistic.  Susan was going to a special school, but she is home for a month awaiting placement at another special school.  Mrs. Felder doesn’t work, but she would like a break three afternoons a week if possible.  I have worked with autistic kids, and I do see where a parent would need ocassional respite that’s for sure!  Kristy is, as we can guess, the only one who can sit three afternoons a week for the next month.  Kristy calls Mrs. Felder to say she can take the job, and Mrs. Felder says that is fine, but Kristy should really meet Susan before making a final decision. Kristy is wondering why Mrs. Felder would say that.

Chapter 4:  Kristy is at the Felders’ home, ringing the doorbell. She wonders what Susan will be like. She looked up autism in the dictionary, and it said something about childhood schizophrenia???  Then Kristy looked up schizophrenia and it said ” withdrawing from reality.” The definition didn’t help very much.  When Kristy first meets Susan, she is sitting in front of a window making clicking sounds with her tongue and wringing her hands. She doesn’t pay an attention to Kristy or her mom.  Susan’s mom has to call her a few times before Susan comes over and Susan is still not acknowledging Kristy. Kristy then notices that Susan has big brown eyes and beautiful, dark curly hair, and Kristy is just stunned by her beauty and thinks that Susan could be a model. I do love how in YA novels, the disabled are usually gorgeous, and because disabled people can never be gorgeous, apparently, it is shocking to the ” normal” folk. ( SEE- Regina Morrow, Sweet Valley High).  Mrs. Felder then tells Kristy that Susan does not speak, but she does sing.  Mrs. Felder says Susan is ” in her own world, that she doesn’t share with anyone.”  Susan also doesn’t  much like to be touched or hugged, even by her parents.  Mrs. Felder says that most likely Susan will never grow up to be ” normal.” But Susan is a savant- like Rain Man. Susan can listen to a piece of music for a few minutes and can instantly play it on the piano and sing it.  She can even play a song that is played on another instrument, like a violin.  Mr. and Mrs. Felder don’t think the words she sings mean anything to her, but playing and singing make her happy, and they have even found a school that specializes in music.  The teachers and Mrs. Felder hope that through music, Susan can acquire some meaningful language and social skills.  Susan also seems to have memorized a perpetual calendar. For example if I said to Susan- December 23 1977 (aka my birthdate- yes I am close to 32 and read BSC OK? 😉 Susan would instantly know that day was on a Friday.  Kristy tries this with Emily’s birthday and Susan knows the date right away. And Kristy HAS to say ” My ADOPTED sister, Emily” which drives me nutso- she can call Karen her SISTER and not step sister but Emily is always the ADOPTED sister.  Mrs. Felder asks if Kristy still wants the job and Kristy says yes. Kristy decides she will use this month with Susan to have Susan make friends and thrive under Kristy’s care so that Susan can go to Stoneybrook public schools and not the special school an hour away, and Susan doesn’t have to leave and can get a great education at home- so basically Kristy is going to meddle in these people’s lives to be some great, Elizabeth Wakefield like crusader.  Kristy then takes Susan outside for some fresh air for a bit. Kristy sees the four Hobart boys, and some other boys teasing them.  Kristy is upset by this, and decides that she will have to stop the Hobart boys from being bullied, as well.

Chapter 5: Mal and Jessi sit for the Pikes. In a BSC notebook entry, we hear that Mallory has a crush. On who? Well hold your horses, you will soon find out.  The Pikes are all bored. They don’t seem to want to do anything. Nicky then mentions that the Hobarts moved in nearby, and James Hobart is in his class and the kids all call the Hobarts ” the Crocs!!” . God, Stoneybrook kids suck- they make fun of ANYONE different, huh? What is this, Sweet Valley?  Mallory tells Nicky it’s not funny to tease others, and remember when kids all called the Pikes ” the Spiders” because there are 8 Pike kids and 8 legs on a spider? Jessi then mentions that she’s been called terrible names just because of the color of her skin, and then the Pike kids instantly all feel bad. The kids realize it sure isn’t nice to make fun, and Claire says she’s not teasing when she calls others ” silly billy goo goo.” But  Claire- it’s still fuckin’ annoying.  Mal says that the Pikes should go to the Hobarts to prove to the Hobarts that there are friendly neighbors around.  The four Hobart boys all have red hair. Ben is 11, James is 8, Mathew is 6 and Johnny is 4. Mallory thinks Ben’s red hair is soo much cuter than hers.  Jessi leaves Mal and Ben to chat as she organizes the other kids, and the Pikes and Hobarts are getting along well. Then a few shitty kids on bikes come by.  They start to tease the boys again until Ben tells the ” rev heads” to knock it off, and since Ben is tall, the kids just turn around on their bikes. Fraidy cats!  And yep- Mal is officially crushing on Ben Hobart.

Chapter 6:  Kristy is telling the other BSC’ers about Susan. Kristy feels it’s not fair that Susan has to go away to school and that Susan is an outcast. Susan has no friends and is sent off to other schools all the time. Kristy says she bets that if Susan went to Stoneybrook Elementary, she would have many friends. Then Mrs. Hobart calls for someone to sit for the three younger Hobarts and Mal begs to have the job, and Stacey the only other girl who is free is like, ” fine.” She sees that Mal totally wants to make out with Ben.  Jessi tells the others that she feels the Hobarts are sort outcasts too since they say ” brecky” for breakfast and ” rev heads” and it seems other kids are prejudiced against them. Mallory says when the other Pikes went to play with the Hobarts yesterday, all the kids seemed to have a great time, and Jessi teases that Mal and Ben seemed to have had an ESPECIALLY good time- man, that’s kinda kinky of Jessi!  Kristy decides that next time she sits for Susan, she will bring Susan to the Hobarts as they need new friends, and Susan needs friends!  What a BRILLIANT plan!  Mallory says she can bring Claire and Margo by as well.  Kristy figures that if Mr. and Mrs. Felder see that Susan has friends in Stoneybrook, they will HAVE to let Susan stay in Stoneybrook- wow how freakin pathetic I feel that when I first read this book in sixth grade, I was TOTES on Kristy'[s corner. Mallory then mentions that Ben doesn’t seem to get teased as much as the other Hobart boys, and Mal then confesses her crush on Ben.  Dawn tells Mallory to ” go after” Ben- what is Dawn a living Cosmopolitan article? So Mallory decides she will!

Chapter 7:  Mrs. Felder looks exhausted when Kristy goes over to sit for Susan. Susan wouldn’t eat any lunch today, and we then learn that many autistic children have eating and sleeping issues. Mrs. Felder tells Kristy to try to get Susan outside, but if Susan wants to stay in and play the piano that is fine too. Susan’s been at the piano all day. Mrs. Felder says if Kristy can even get Susan to eat a cookie, that’d be great.  Kristy tries to get Susan to stop her piano playing and get a snack by putting her hands tightly over Susan’s- but Susan will not stop playing the piano she just tightens her hands. Kristy finally decides to just kind of pick up Susan and take her to the kitchen.  Kristy asks Susan what she wants to eat and Susan just keeps flapping her hands. Kristy finally just takes a few oatmeal cookies, shoves them into a plastic Baggie, and takes Susan outside to meet the Hobarts.  Susan does eat the cookies on the way to the Hobart home.  Kristy explains to the children that Susan can’t talk but she can play. Claire Pike still tries to talk to Susan, and Kristy explains to Claire that Susan can’t have a conversation.  The Hobarts, Claire and Margo try to get Susan to learn to play tag, but she just won’t.  Two boys then come over to tease the Hobarts again and they see Susan and are about to make rude comments when Ben just gives them a LOOK. The boys say they are ” Bob and Craig.”  Kristy, Mal and Ben decide to let the kids work this out for themselves, so ” Bob and Craig” keep mercissly teasing the Hobarts. But when one of the boys is about to be mean to Susan, James puts his arm around her and tells them not to tease Susan because ” she ‘s my mate.” I did find that so cute.  Kristy is all excited that Susan has a friend in James. Then Kristy tells ” Bob and Craig” about Susan’s calendar talent and the boys test it out. Susan gets the dates right, of course, and the boys are all impressed and Kristy is very proud of Susan.

Chapter Ocho: ( or Eight) : Stacey is sitting for Karen, Andrew, David Michael and Emily. I swear, Ann M Martin can’t have one book go by without a sitting job at the Pikes and/Or the Thomas Brewer house- Ann M must adore huge families ( wow she must adore the Duggars) and bratty ass Karen.  Karen makes the others play Let’s All Come In a game I found to be crappy even when I started to read these in third grade.  Kristy gets home from her job with Susan, and Stacey and Kristy talk about how Kristy tried to tell Mrs. Felder that James is Susan’s new friend, and it doesn’t seem to make Mrs. Felder want to keep Susan in Stoneybrook. Kristy tells Stacey that kids belong at home and she wants to get Mrs.Felder to see that.  Stacey says not to go overboard, YEAH KRISTY STOP BEING LIZ FUCKIN WAKEFIELD!! but Kristy isn’t really hearing it. Susan can be a normal kid in normal Stoneybrook  and she is determined to make the Felders see this!

Chapter 9: Kristy is at Susan’s. Susan is lost in her world of piano playing again. Kristy has no idea how to get Susan off that piano. Kristy then sees the look of rapture on Susan’s face when she plays the piano. One of the kids calling themselves Bob or Craig then rings the Felder’s doorbell. The boy sees Susan play piano, and Kristy brags that Susan can play almost any song there is. He tells Susan to play ” Swanee River” and Susan instantly starts to play it. He then requests ” Monster Mash” and Susan plays that. The boy is amazed at Susan’s talent. Kristy asks the boy for his real name, and it’s Mel Tucker. Mel then asks Susan to play songs from the music man and sure enough she can play them. Mel guesses that Susan can play lots of songs, and Kristy says she can.  Mel says he thought it was amazing enough to see a chicken play piano with its beak but Susan is even more amazing- HAND SLAPPING FOREHEAD RIGHT NOW! And Kristy is all proud of this Mel comparing Susan to a friggin chicken! Mel then asks how often Kristy baby sits and she tells him the dates and times. Kristy tells Susan she has TWO friends now- James and Mel. James then comes over to play with Susan for a bit. I really do like James he is too cute and I do feel bad that these Stoneybrook pricks make fun of him. He says in Australia he had lots of friends, and he even has two pen friends- or pen pals. James wishes he had a real friend who could show him around Stoneybrook and go skateboarding with. Kristy, James and Susan sit under a tree with their arms slung around each other for an hour- Kristy with her arm around James, James with his arm around Susan. Susan just sits there flapping her arms the whole time.

Chapter 10:  Kristy is at school, and there is going to be an assembly.  At assemblies, kids don’t have to stay with their class they can sit wherever they want and not sit with teachers. Probably why there were issues at this assembly, but  I am getting ahead of myself. Kristy then tells us that one group of kids is ALWAYS together- at assemblies, lunch, you name it- the “special needs” kids. A lot of the kids are retarded, and some have other sorts of issues.  Kristy is sitting during the assembly watching the kids in the ” special” class. One girl is strapped to her wheelchair and still slumped over- Kristy has heard that she has cerebral palsy. One boy can draw pictures holding a paintbrush in his mouth and Claudia says that boy is a great artist. Five kids have Down’s Syndrome, and one kid is majorly hyperactive and has to have an aide sit with him the whole time. There is also a girl who is deaf/blind and a boy who was deaf. Hmmm in my high school the deaf kids weren’t grouped with the children with Down’s but I digress- I mean deafness is not the same as retardation. OK I will stop now because shit this book annoys the living frig out of me- way more than it did when I was 12! There seems to be a boy named named Drew who is like Susan- hand flapping, but he can TALK- well he says ” stop it Jerry”and ” go home” and Kristy finds Drew to be LIVING PROOF that Susan is MEANT to stay in Stoneybrook.  But then- Mary Anne points out a boy making fun of the girl with cerebral palsy ( I fucking HATE kids who make fun of others with disabilities- or anyone who does. I am sorry but that shit pisses me right off) and this other girl throws a spitball that hits the hyper boy’s cheek and he screams so loud he has to leave the assembly. Another teacher does see what those mean kids are doing and has them leave the assembly and go to the principal’s office, Kristy hopes. Kristy sees that in regular school the ” special” kids get made fun of and if Susan goes to a school for kids like her that won’t happen but it doesn’t change Kristy’s mind about having Susan go to ” regular” school. Kristy asks the special education teacher if she can visit her class one day to observe and the teacher says definitely.  After the assembly, Dawn, Mary Anne and Kristy see Mal and Ben holding hands- and no one is making fun of Ben. Kristy thinks that either the middle school kids really don’t care that Ben is Australian- or the Hobart boys are finally being accepted.

Chapter 11: Mrs. Felder is going to get her hair cut and a manicure and pedicure as she needs a day to relax after Susan was up all night long wandering around.  Some kid named Zach goes to see Susan.  Zach has a piece of paper with all these days and of course Susan says the right days of the week for each date.  After Susan does this about three times, Zach rushes off to leave. Kristy is a little disappointed but is glad that Susan is making more friends- HAND IS HITTING FOREHEAD VERY FRIGGIN HARD KRISTY EVEN AT 12 I KNEW WHAT THESE KIDS WERE DOING!!!! Kristy talks to Susan like this- ” Maybe Zach FORGOT something. Did you ever FORGET anything” trying to get Susan to talk and no it doesn’t work. Then some girl named Kathie comes over. She does the same crap with the dates. Then a third kid comes over and by this point Kristy isn’t too shocked. This girl named Gina says ” she really can play the piano! she can!!” Gina wants Susan to play some old song from the ” Roaring 20’s” called Sheik of Araby and has the record. Susan plays the record and even plays when the record skips- Kristy sees that it means the songs have no meaning for her if Susan even plays the skips. Gina starts laughing and saying ” she played the skips this was worth it!!” and Kristy says WHAT was worth and Gina runs off- and Kristy sees Mel Tucker with fistfuls of dollar bills in his hands. Mel was basically selling Susan as a sideshow ” the retard who can’t talk.” ” the amazing dumbo.” Kristy yells at the kids that they are using Susan and making a spectacle of her. The other kids run off and Kristy yells at Mel to give her half the money as Susan did the work, but Mel is a little wuss and runs off. Kristy can’t believe the kids were so mean- wow these girls baby sit kids all the time and NEVER get that kids can be mean as heck- and Kristy can’t believe she was so naive as to think Susan was really making friends with those kids. Kristy takes Susan over to the Hobart home, where Claudia is baby sitting. Damn these Hobarts JUST moved and they already use the BSC quite a lot, don’t ya think?

Chapter 12-0:  Turns out Claudia is sitting for three of the Hobarts because Benny Boy is studying at the library with Mallory! HOT! The boys want to stay inside and watch telly, but Claudia convinces the boys to go outside so Johnny will play with his new truck. Johnny is afraid of other kids calling them Crocs but James admits the kids don’t do that as much. Zach comes by and sees the Hobarts with Claud and are all ” pay attention to your BABYSITTER, BABY!!”  James is tired of Zach’s mess so he gets a crate and smashes it with his fist and tells Zach imagine that being your face! Zach asks how James did that and he said he learned it in karate and he can teach Zach that if he has big muscles. Zach really wants to learn and says maybe he and James could ride bikes sometime. James wants to know if Zach wants to skateboard now as Zach could use Ben’s skateboard and Zach readily agrees. Claudia decides that Zach doesn’t seem like a bad kid after all, and Kristy reports that Zach wasn’t among Susan’s tormentors in Chapter 11. Wanted you all to know. Kristy then stops by with Susan and Kristy asks James if he would play with Susan a bit and he asks if Susan can skateboard. Kristy says no and James looks a little upset but then says he is going to skateboard with Zach and will Susan be OK? Kristy says Susan will be fine with Claudia and Kristy and tells James to go play. James looks THRILLED to finally have a new friend. Kristy tells Claud about what happened with Susan and that awful kid Mel and Claudia can’t believe it. Kristy says she has been trying to prove that Susan belongs in regular school with ” regular” kids and Claudia says sadly “maybe Susan doesn’t really belong with regular kids.” James and Zach play together the rest of the day and Kristy sees that James found the friend that he needed- Zach.

Chapter 13: Kristy is going to help the Felders pack Susan’s trunk for her new school.  Mrs. Felder has to iron and wash everything and label it, and she wanted Kristy’s help. Kristy helps Mrs. Felder sew Susan’s name into all her stuff.  Mrs. Felder tells Kristy about how when Susan was born she had gorgeous, curly dark hair and was the prettiest baby at the hospital. Susan was very alert and pretty advanced at first and Mr. and Mrs Felder saved tons of money in the hopes that Susan would attend a great college someday. Instead, the money goes to Susan’s special ed tuition. At 2 and a half, Susan shut down completely ( common in autism, I have to say- the book got that right) and by three and a half they saw that Susan was ” lost” to them. Kristy then decides to take Susan outside to say bye to James and James is with Zach and Johnny is with Jamie Newton so Johnny also has a friend! Zach is about to call Susan weird but James LOOKS at him- then Susan pees her pants right in front of the kids- and Kristy is so ashamed that it happened right there, and Kristy has a whole jumble of emotions as she takes Susan back to the house.

Chapter 14:  This is Susan’s last official day at home.  Kristy finally meets Mr. Felder- a ” bear” of a man with curly, dark hair who is very friendly. Mr. Felder tells Susan Kristy is here and she just continues to sit there and doesn’t react or anything. Kristy tells Mr. Felder she thought she’d convince Mr and Mrs. Felder to keep Susan in Stoneybrook and Mr. Felder said he had looked into the public school for Susan but they didn’t provide enough individual instruction for Susan, and the public schools felt Susan was too delayed for them to handle. Mr. Felder said it was so hard to send Susan away but they feel good about this school that has a strong music program as it’s pretty close to Stoneybrook and music seems to be the only way to reach Susan. Mr. Felder thinks maybe someday Susan may even be a concert pianist. I just love Mr. Felder. Kristy thinks about how every parent pins hopes on their kids- and she wonders if her dad ever thinks about and pins hope on her. Well, speaking of Hope, Mr Felder tells Kristy that Mrs. Felder is pregnant again and so far the baby seems healthy. It will be a girl they will name Hope, and Kristy says she will call her Hopie. Then James comes by to say goodbye to Susan and he says that Susan was great and all and he liked her but he needed a friend who could talk, but he was sad Susan was leaving. Kristy tells James the Felders are having another baby, and James says that is ” rad” oh he means great. OK so the Hobarts are made fun of for saying rad- in 1990??? UMMM- every kid in the USA said that in 1990- I know DJ Tanner sure did and DJ was MEGA cool!

Chapter 15- When Kristy leaves Susan’s with a heavy heart, it’s time for a BSC meeting. Claudia finds Mentos. Kristy tells Claud how she observed that class for special ed kids at SMS and Kristy says every kid was more advanced than Susan as they did talk and they learned at a slower pace but they could learn more stuff that Susan seemed to be able to learn. Kristy thought that if she exposed Susan to a normal neighborhood and “normal” kids she’d be so much better but Susan needs EXTRA EXTRA special help and Kristy now realizes that. And the Hobarts now fit in- they are a little different being that they are foreign and all but proved they are mostly very much the same as the other kids and they were able to stand up for themselves. And Mal has more great Hobart news- James got invited to Zach’s bday party and James is MONDO excited, Jamie Newton invited Johnny over to play, the other kids in Mathew’s class want him to be the lead in the play annnnndddd- Ben asked Mallory to go to a movie!!!!! OK so the Pikes are so strict but Mal can be out alone with a boy at age 11? I couldn’t date until I was 16! SHUT UP MAL!  As the meeting continues, Kristy thinks about how she hopes Susan has great luck at her new school and she can’t wait for Susan to someday return and be able to tell her mom, dad and baby Hope all about her new school. The first time I ever read that, I cried.

Wow, again I have to say it’s funny how when I was a sixth grader I thought the Felders were sooo terrible for wanting Susan to go to a special school- now as a professional clinician I realized they really were doing what was best for Susan.I also realized that Kristy was WAY trying to interfere and she annoyed me to death in this book as you can read!!

By the beginning of next week I will hope to recap ” Claudia and the Sad Goodbye” which is such a good and sad book it really is!!! Then by the week after next, I should be recapping ” On the Edge” a Sweet Valley High book that I LOVED as a nine year old – sooo tragic and SPECIAL- God it was the ULTIMATE after school special- and I loved after school specials at age 9 as well! And then after that will come recaps of No More Sleepovers Patti a Sleepover friends book that will serve to give me a small break from all this special tragedy, and then back to specialness with won’t Someone Help Anna? A Sweet Valley Twins book that I friggin ADORED when I was in eighth grade. Why I am not sure after reading this again.


4 Responses to “BSC #32-Kristy and the Secret of Susan”

  1. I think Emily was the adopted sisted, because God forbid a married couple should have ‘the sex’ in a YA book! So get around this sticky situation (lol) they had them adopt.

    Also, thanks for letting us know you weren’t allowed to date until 16. I thought I was the only one!!

    This book annoyed the crap out of me too even when I was a young’un.

    I think you loved Won’t Someone Help Anna so much, because it’s not Elizabeth who saves the day (though she does meddle)…

  2. “Kristy, James and Susan sit under a tree with their arms slung around each other for an hour- Kristy with her arm around James, James with his arm around Susan. Susan just sits there flapping her arms the whole time.”

    Heh. I don’t know why but this made me giggle a lot.

  3. I loathe this book. People read this (or watch Rain Man) and think that all autistic people are savants.

  4. girltalkread Says:

    Anne- I did love Won’t Someone Help Anna? as a kid. I just read it again and now I feel it sucks ass- but let’s get to that when it’s time to snark!! Sadako- after I WROTE the line I also found it to be funny as heck and I am not really sure why!!! Nikki- having worked w/ autistic children I also now loathe this book. However, I still love Rain Man.

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