Monday, September 28, 2009

#32 Kristy and the Secret of Susan

I can't really write
A snarky haiku about
The autism book.

(*I decided to start doing something new with this entry. I'll be giving each book a rating from 0, meaning crappy, to 5, meaning awesome. It's strictly based on how much I liked the book, not on its literary merit. Look for that after the summary!*)

The Felders call the BSC looking for a regular sitter for their daughter, Susan, and Kristy gets the job. The club has never sat for Susan before, in spite of the fact that the Felders live just around the corner from Claudia. Susan is autistic, and has been away at a special school for years. She's back home for a month, until her new school starts, and Mrs. Felder needs someone to look after Susan for three afternoons a week, so she can have a break.

Kristy is a little apprehensive when she goes to the Felders for the first time. It's just an introductory afternoon, to make sure that Kristy really wants to deal with everything that goes into taking care of someone like Susan. Kristy is fascinated when Mrs. Felder introduces her to Susan. On one hand, Susan doesn't talk or communicate with people, and in a lot of ways, she acts like a much younger child (she's 8). On the other hand, Susan can play anything on the piano after hearing it only once, and can sing along as well. She's also got a perpetual calendar in her head; give her any date, and she'll give the day of the week that it fell on. Kristy leaves the Felders more excited than ever to take the job. She also leaves determined to "fix" Susan enough so that she won't have to be sent away to school.

Meanwhile, the Hobart family has just moved into Mary Anne's old house. The four boys are having a little trouble adjusting to life in the states; other kids keep teasing them about their accents, and the Aussie slang they use. Kristy decides to introduce Susan to the boys, since she thinks Susan also needs help adjusting to Stoneybrook. No miracles happen or anything, but the Hobart boys do a pretty good job of accepting Susan and her limitations. The other kids in the nieghborhood (the same ones who've been teasing the Hobarts) have a field day when they first meet Susan. Kristy kind of puts them in their place when she shows them Susan's calendar trick. In fact, kids keep showing up at the Felder's house the next couple of times that Kristy's there sitting. All they really want is to see her either play the piano or do her memory trick, but Kristy is thrilled that Susan is suddenly so popular. Then, one of the kids lets something slip: Mel Tucker, one of the teasers and also the psycho that sends scary notes to Dawn in the second mystery, has been charging kids a dollar to see Susan. Kristy puts a stop to that, and takes Susan over to the Hobarts, where Claudia is sitting. They talk about what happened, and watch James bond with one of his former teasers, Zach. It's then that Kristy realizes that Susan probably doesn't fit in with regular kids, and that maybe going away to school is the best thing for her. Kristy feels like she failed in her mission to integrate Susan, but she knows that school is probably the best place for Susan to be. Also...the Felders are expecting another baby, and Kristy is excited to sit for her someday. Too bad we never hear about the Felders again, other than a brief reappearance by Susan later in the series.

Rating: 3.5

Thoughts and Things
  • I have to hand it to Ann for writing this book. Autism wasn't talked about quite as publicly in 1990 as it is now (heck, I learned what autism was from reading this book!), and she did a pretty good job of putting the issue out there.

  • More kudos to Ann for not making Mrs. Felder look like a horrible person for hiring a sitter because she wants a break from her child. I think a lot of parents just want a break sometimes, whether or not their children have special needs, but many probably feel like they can't admit it.

  • This one actually depressed me a little in some places, especially when Kristy or whoever would talk about how Susan will never be much of anything, and how all her parents' hopes for her were dashed. At least it ended on a rather positive note, with Mr. Felder's optimism about Susan's new school, and the new baby.

  • Mallory and Ben, sitting in a tree.... ;)

  • Go look up the lyrics to "Sheik of Araby," one of the songs Susan sings in the book. They're not exactly child-appropriate....

  • For anyone who's familiar with early 1990's Australian slang: what exactly is a rev head???


  1. Wow, Sheik of Araby is hella creepy!

  2. someone who drives like an insane person. i'm an aussie :)

  3. this one is another kristy favorite because it not only deals about autism,but it deals with other disabilities too. im glad kristy decided to become a special ed teacher, we could sure use more people like her in that field.

    i like this book because i have autism myself and i thought this book was great.

    awww love the hobarts introduction in that book, and mallory's first love. ha ha ha ha

  4. What? You have autism,charmecia? Wow......
    This book is so sad when Kristy talks to the Felders and find out that Susan was actually non-autistic, and how they handled it. All though The Fire at Mary Anne's House is sadder.......

  5. I don't know, but I think James would have at least had more hesitation on joining Zach. I know he wanted friends, but still...

  6. Wow- so far you have noticed EVERY mistake in the book that i caught and then some. You are quite a smarty :)

  7. I can't stand how the hobarts are portrayed in this book! Don't get me wrong how it deals with autism is really well done but I'm australian and i can tell you now that NOBODY uses most of those slang words! Seriously Revheads? We all no what it means but it is never spoken... Seriously enough with the stereotypes!

    1. Oh and where the bloody hell are you Vegemite! Gosh darn it! Vegemite has the be the most Australian thing i know of! Why are they not eating it

  8. The book I learned about autism is Al Capone does my shirts :)