Wendy's little sister, Katie, is a total Ms. Perfect. She's good at everything: piano, art, writing, etc, and she knows just how to push Wendy's buttons. Katie spies on her, teases her, and even lords her accomplishments over her on occasion. Wendy vents to her best friend, Sara, about the situation, and Sara suggests that Wendy do something to win an award of her own. The idea comes to Wendy as she, Sara, and Sara's cousin Carol are working on their epic poem about Barbie and Ken (yes, really). Wendy could take horseback riding lessons! She's sure that riding is something that she can shine at; Katie isn't very coordinated, and she's scared of horses. Wendy's parents are into the idea, and they buy her a completely new riding outfit in honor of the lessons. This makes Katie jealous.
Wendy's first lesson goes really well. She's kind of nervous at first, but everyone's really nice and her instructor says that she's got potential as a rider. Wendy even bonds with Peanuts, one of the horses. At dinner that night, she can't stop talking about how great her lesson was. Then, disaster strikes: Katie wants riding lessons, too. Wendy is upset; she really wanted riding to be something that she could be good at, and since Katie succeeds at everything she tries to do, Wendy is afraid that riding will end up being no different. She asks her parents to at least try to get Katie into a different class.
After dinner, Wendy goes to Sara's house and fills her in on everything. She also tells Sara that she fully intends to get revenge on Katie, and that she expects Sara to help. Sara, who sometimes thinks that Wendy is a little too mean to Katie, reluctantly agrees.
The next day, Wendy's mom comes home from work with some bad news: the other beginner's riding class was very full, so Katie is going to be in Wendy's class after all. Wendy is not thrilled to have to drag Katie along to their next lesson. She's even less thrilled when all the other kids on the bus think Katie is just adorable. When they arrive at the stable, Wendy decides to put her plan of revenge into action. She pretends that she wants to show Katie the ropes, and suggests that she ride Sky High for her first lesson. Sky High, unfortunately, is a very difficult horse. Katie insists on riding him, though, and it's a disaster. She doesn't get very far into the lesson before the instructors make her switch with another student who's riding a tamer horse. Even after the switch, though, Katie is TERRIBLE, which makes Wendy happy. She's sure that Katie won't want to continue riding lessons after such a rotten first day. Instead, Katie's back for the next lesson and she manages to snag Peanuts, giving Wendy another reason to want to get even with her sister.
Wendy's 10th birthday happens not long after that. Katie surprises her by giving a really nice picture she drew of Peanuts, but kind of ruins the gift by asking if she can come to the sleepover that Wendy's having with Sara, Carol, and Jennifer (another friend of theirs). Wendy won't let Katie come, so Katie gets back at her by calling her to the phone when no one's actually on the other end of the line. Wendy decides to retaliate, so she and the other girls pour water onto Katie's sheets so she'll climb into a soggy bed later. Wendy and Katie both get punished after all that. Unfortunately, things go from bad to worse after that. When Wendy arrives at the stable for her next lesson, she finds that Peanuts has been injured and can no longer be ridden. They can't afford to keep a horse that can't be ridden in lessons, so the stable plans to find a good home for her. Wendy is convinced that she and her family should get Peanuts and keep her in the garage, but her parents aren't into that suggestion. Much to Wendy's surprise, though, Katie IS. She even writes up a list of reasons why they should keep Peanuts. Wendy's impressed,...but not enough to forget all the crummy stuff Katie has done. Eventually, though, the girls show their parents the list. Unfortunately, it doesn't do any good.
Riding lessons are still happening in spite of the whole Peanuts thing, and they have their ups and downs for Wendy. On one hand, the stable is going to hold a show at the end of the summer, and Wendy is sure that this is her chance to win a prize. On the other hand, Katie's riding has improved big time. Wendy does NOT want to compete against her sister and lose, whatever else happens. Then, Wendy discovers that Katie has been reading her diary. To get back at her, Wendy writes some stuff about what a pest Katie is and how she'll need braces for years. When the girls' parents want to know why Katie is walking around with her mouth closed and her teeth hidden, the truth comes out and Katie is punished. She's pretty mad about it, so Wendy has no trouble convincing her to run away. The parents are frantic when they discover that Katie's gone, but they find her pretty quickly. Unfortunately, she's not in more trouble, which was Wendy's whole intention; instead, she gets fussed over and treated like a princess.
Not long after Katie's ill-fated attempt at running away, Peanuts is sent to her new home. Wendy is sad to see her go, but Peanuts will be close enough that Wendy can visit. Wendy doesn't have much time to focus on Peanuts' move, though; the show is rapidly approaching. Wendy's planning to ride Mr. Chips, her second favorite horse, and she's pretty confident that the two of them make a good team. She decides to concentrate on that and not worry anymore about the possibility of being beaten out by Katie. On the day of the show, though, things get a bit complicated. By the time that Wendy's class shows, Mr. Chips has been ridden to much and is overheated. The only horse left available to Wendy? Sky High. Wendy decides to make the best of a bad situation, and she does the best she can with Sky High. He proves to be pretty hard to control, and Wendy is sure that she's not going to win. When the prizes are announced, though....she gets third! To make matters even better, Katie doesn't win anything at all, and announces that she's quitting riding. Wendy couldn't be more thrilled at the idea of lessons without her sister.
It's the last day of summer vaction, and Wendy is enjoying her last few hours of freedom before school starts again. All of a sudden, she feels like she's being watched. Sure enough, Katie is spying on her again. Wendy asks why, and Katie tells her that it's because Wendy never talks to her like a normal person. They both agree to try harder to get along. Also, the family gets a puppy and the Barbie and Ken poem that Wendy, Sara, and Carol were writing lands them in the Guinness Book of World Records. :)
Thoughts and Things
- This was my first Ann book...I guess it was kind of my gateway drug to the BSC. :)
- Wendy's middle name is Matthews...same as Ann's.
- This book was published less than a year before Kristy's Great Idea, and there's an awful lot of BSCishness to it. The guy who drives the kids to lessons is a teenager named Charlie, and Sara is a definite Mary Anne type (she's even wearing pigtails in the illustrations). The book is also dedicated to Myriah Leigh Perkins and Gabrielle Ann Perkins. :)
- Wendy and Katie's dad didn't want to call the police when it was discovered that Katie was missing; he just wanted to let her come home on her own. She's 8, for Pete's sake!
- It still bugs me that the parents let Katie take riding lessons. They totally should have put their foot down on that. Not only was Katie already taking every kind of lesson under the sun, but Wendy really should have gotten something that she and only she could do. When you have a sibling that's that close in age to you, people tend to lump you together. Having things that are just yours means a lot.
- My best friend, siblings, and I used to act this book out. I was Wendy, my best friend was Katie, and my younger sister (who actually was named Katie) played all the other characters. I don't think we ever made it all the way through the book...
- I still wish I'd gotten riding lessons as a kid!!!