Mallory gets a brochure in the mail advertising riding lessons at nearby stable. She decides she has to be allowed to take them, and when she shows the brochure to Jessi, Jessi decides the same thing. Mallory asks her parents for the lessons, and after offering to pay for half of the 8-week beginner's course herself, Mr. and Mrs. Pike agree that she can ride. Mallory is all excited and calls Jessi with her news. She's sure Jessi will be allowed to take lessons too. No dice; Jessi's parents feel she's too busy with school, baby-sitting, and ballet to add anything else to her schedule. Bummer for Jessi.
Mal's first lesson goes pretty well, even though she's the only student NOT wearing a fancy English riding habit. She learns to walk and trot, mount and dismount, and care for her horse after the lesson is over. She also spots her very own dream horse: a white an grey Arabian named Pax. Mallory's even more excited to learn that he belongs to the riding school, which means that she herself might get to ride him at her next lesson! Later that day, Mal can't wait to get home and tell Jessi all about how fabulous that first lesson was. She goes on and on about her teacher, the horses, and everything else, and is surprised that Jessi doesn't seem as thrilled for her as she would like. She just chalks it up to Jessi being busy or something.
Lesson number two is even better than the first one. Mallory gets to ride Pax, and she's decided to make more of an effort to get to know the other kids in her class. She introduces herself to a few of them, rambling on and on about herself and her life. She even gives out her phone number a few times, fully expecting each and every one of her classmates to call. Big surprise when no one does. To make matters worse, Jessi continues to be cold and distant whenever Mal calls her to brag about her fantastic riding experiences, only now, Mallory is mad at her supposed best friend's attitude. She figures that it doesn't really matter, though; she has all her new riding class friends to depend on. Oh...wait....no, she doesn't.
Things take a turn for the worse at Mal's third lesson. She's assigned to a rather difficult horse named Gremlin, and she takes a bad fall. Mallory isn't actually hurt, but the fall shakes her up. From that point forward, she's terrified to ride. Just getting on her horse during the rest of her lessons takes everything she has; Pax is the only horse she feels remotely comfortable with. Things don't improve between Mal and her classmates, either. No one gets any friendlier, and even though she's invited to a birthday party thrown by one of them, she ends up having a terrible time. To make it all even worse, a horse show is scheduled for the end of the 8 week course. Mallory can't come up with a way to get out of it that doesn't involve serious bodily harm, so (to her dismay) she's stuck. At least she gets to ride Pax.
At a BSC meeting just before the show, Mal finally confesses to her friends how much she's been hating her lessons. She hadn't told anyone about being afraid, and her friends are pretty sympathetic. Mallory even makes things right with Jessi, who had been a little jealous that Mal got lessons and she didn't, and annoyed that Mal seemed to be bragging about how well they were going. She even encourages Mal to talk to her parents about how she's been feeling, but Mallory is reluctant to do that. After all, she begged her parents for those lessons, which they couldn't really afford to pay for, and she doesn't particularly want to admit that she had an awful time. It isn't until the day of the show itself that Mallory finds the courage to speak up. She does pretty well, placing 6th out of a class of 12, and her parents are so impressed that they agree to cover the full cost of her next 8 lessons. Mallory tells them everything, and they're pretty understanding.
Meanwhile, Nina Marshall has just started preschool. The problem? She's hauling her huge blankie to school with her every single day, and it's getting in the way of her making any friends at all. In fact, the blankie is sort of taking over Nina's life (why did we never hear about it before? This doesn't seem like a new obsession...). One day, Dawn arrives at the Marshall's to baby sit and finds Nina in front of the dryer, waiting for Blankie to be done. When the timer goes off and Dawn tries to get Blankie out, disaster strikes: Blankie comes out of the dryer in pieces, and Nina screams so loudly that the neighbors think someone's being murdered or something. Dawn thinks fast, and shows Nina how the little pieces of Blankie can be hidden in her pockets, in her shoes, etc. That way, she can have him with her all the time, and no one will ever know. Yet another crisis averted by the BSC. Also, the Pike kids hold a talent show.
Thoughts and Things
- I know Mal gets a lot of flack for how dorky she is when she's trying to make friends with her riding classmates, but I sympathize with her. I've been in situations where I've really wanted to fit in, for whatever reason, and it can feel pretty awful to realize that that's not going to happen.
- I also sympathize with Nina. I still have my own baby blanket, and even though I don't take it places with me or sleep with it every night (I don't even know where it is most of the time), I would still be upset if something happened to it.
- Mal mentions at one point what awful experiences that Charlotte and Becca had with the Little Miss Stoneybrook pageant. Becca wasn't in any way involved in the pageant, though; it was just Charlotte.
- This book might as well have been called "The BSC is Clueless." Mal is clueless that her riding classmates think she's weird, she's clueless that Jessi is jealous and annoyed at her bragging about her lessons, the whole BSC takes 6 chapters to figure out that Nina's problems at school are because of the huge blanket she's dragging with her, and they STILL decide to wait longer before saying anything to Nina's parents, because they're not totally sure. Geez.