Wednesday, April 16, 2014

BSC #33: Claudia and the Great Search

By Ann M. Martin. Published April 1990.

Claud is super excited y’all! She gets to get out if school early! Sweet! But the reason sucks, to her at least. Janine is receiving an award at the high school, and the whole family’s going to watch her receive it. It’s never specified as to what the award is actually for, but we’re supposed to be very impressed. She gets a plaque and $250.

Claudia gets all jealous over everyone fawning over Janine, and that continues that night at dinner. It’s all about Janine and her award. She even gets a cake, albeit with her name misspelled.

After dinner, Claudia goes into the den and looks through photo albums. There are lots of pictures of Janine as a baby, and then pictures of Claudia as a baby with Janine, but none of Claudia alone. Claud proceeds to snoop through her parents’ desk, thinking there might be more pictures there. All she finds is a locked strongbox.

So she does what anyone would do, and jumps to the conclusion that she’s adopted. Claudia. Seriously. This is yet another case where I have to remind myself that these girls are only thirteen, and thirteen-year-olds are ridiculous. She does think that if Mimi were alive, she could go and ask her. But she can’t just go ask her parents? Oh, Claud.

Jumping to someone who actually is adopted, Kristy lets the club in on the info that Emily Michelle’s doctor is a little worried about her. She is language delayed, which is to be expected, but she’s not progressing as quickly as they’d like. She’s also having nightmares, and has some separation anxiety. They took her to get evaluated at a preschool, and she gets rejected, saying she’s not ready yet.

Claudia gets to see the anxiety firsthand when she sits for David Michael and Emily Michelle. It doesn’t really sound that bad to me, though. She is just two. Stacey calls during the job, and Claudia fills her in on her fears about being adopted. Stacey just goes right along with this idea, and says Claudia needs to start a search to find her real parents.

Dawn sits for Emily Michelle and David Michael. She compares Emily Michelle to Marnie and Gabbie, and determines that, yes, she is slow. Gabbie is practically a savant, Dawn, that’s not really fair. Then Kristy brings the Papadakis’ over, and the girls all play Ring Around the Roses. Emily is slower than Sari in catching on to the game. Kristy is worried.

So Claudia is working on her search. First she calls the agency Emily Michelle was adopted through, but they’ve only been in business for five years. She decides there are too many other agencies to try calling them. Then she wants to get into her family’s safety deposit box to see her birth certificate. She gets all the way to the bank, only to be told she needs a key. Then she decides to go talk to her old pediatrician. The doctor is busy, but she talks to the receptionist. She informs Claudia that she wasn’t her doctor until she was two. Claudia is convinced she’s lying, and covering up a secret.

Claudia sits for Emily Michelle and David Thomas again. She makes up a game for Emily Michelle to teach her matching, shapes, and colors. Emily Michelle catches on quickly, and Mrs. Brewer is so impressed she asks Claudia to tutor her a couple of days a week at her house. Claudia is very excited.

Stacey sits for the Perfect Perkins girls, and of course, they do something perfect. Myriah and Gabbie bake green chocolate chip cookies without using a recipe. Of course they do. After they’re in bed, Stacey finds a copy of Find a Stranger, Say Goodbye by Lois Lowry. It’s about an adopted girl and her search for her mother. Stacey rushes to the phone to tell Claudia about it.

Claudia gets lots of ideas from the book. She decides to go look up old birth announcements. Apparently all births automatically go in the paper, and hers isn’t there. Unless she was born under a different name. She writes down the info on the three girls who were born the same week she was. She calls two of the families, and finds out the other girls are indeed real. That just leaves a couple that was from Wyoming, the Hos.

Claudia has another tutoring session with Emily Michele, and she’s doing great. They’re working on counting. After she leaves, Claudia tries calling the Hos. The first two couples definitely aren’t them, and she gets no answer at Mary Ho’s. So she is convinced this must be her mother. She calls Stacey to tell her the news. Stacey finally gets some common sense, and tries to tell Claudia that this isn’t necessarily her, and that she needs to just come out and ask her parents.

And so she does, accusing them of lying to her. Great start, Claud. But they’re not mad, and what do you know? Turns out she’s not adopted! I know, I was shocked, too! There aren’t as many pictures of her simply because she’s the second child, and they were busier. She actually looks exactly like Mimi did at her age. In the locked box, is just money for emergencies. Her birth announcement was actually in a different Stoneybrook paper, which went out of business nine years ago. Claudia apologizes for calling them liars, and feels all sorts of better.

Kristy has good news about Emily Michelle. They took her to get reevaluated at the preschool, and they say she’s improved so much that she can start in the fall. She just has to get potty trained, but they’re sure they can accomplish that. And they’re so impressed with her new skills, they think it’s a good idea for Claudia to continue working with her. So yay, something for Claudia to feel good about herself.

o   The dedication made me laugh. “This book is for Jane, who is my sister (I think)” Maybe I’m easily amused.

o   When comparing Emily Michelle to other two-year-olds, Dawn thinks about how she isn’t toilet trained, and can only scribble with crayons. That sound like a lot of two-year-olds.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

By Lurlene McDaniel. Published March 1991.

Carrie is in remission from leukemia. She still has to go in and have blood work done, but she’s ok with that. It gives her a chance to see her favorite nurse, Hella. Yes that is her name. Apparently it’s a real name. Hella is also in charge of Carrie’s teen support group.

It’s good Carrie has someone on her side, because her family is all sorts of messed up. Her parents are divorced, and she lives with her mom, while her little brother lives with their dad and stepmom, Lynda. Lynda is good people. It’s a shame she wasn’t around when Carrie was sick, because neither of her parents could stand being in the hospital. Her father says he saw enough sickness in Vietnam, and her mom just doesn’t like hospitals. They would fight over who needed to be spending time with Carrie. It sounds like it was pretty fucked up.

And it’s not so great now that they’re apart. Carrie’s mom works all the time, or else she’s out with Larry, a guy from her company. Carrie’s dad and Lynda want her to move in with them. That’s something, at least.

At support group, Carrie has a bit of a crush on a guy named Keith. He’s a year older than her, and a star pitcher at their school. He also had Hodgkin’s disease. Hella knows about the crush, and sets them up together to be in charge of games at the support group’s Memorial Day picnic.

They meet up at the library, and find a lot of great ideas for games. They also find out a lot about each other. Carrie loves books, while Keith loves being outside. His favorite place is his family’s cabin in the mountains. Keith has a very close family, with three little sisters and a little brother. We already know about Carrie’s family. Carrie loves comedy, and Keith is passionate about classical guitar.

At the picnic, Carrie gets to meet his whole family, and becomes friends with his sister Holly, who’s only a year younger than Carrie. They team up together for a lot of the games. When it’s time for the baseball game, Keith is of course the pitcher. But he gets hit by the ball, right in the shoulder, and goes down. They rush him to the hospital, and it’s dislocated. They’re keeping him a few extra days, because the doctor felt something in his abdomen while he was checking him over.

He goes through various tests the next few days, including a colonoscopy. Not fun. But Carrie comes to see him everyday. He worries about falling behind in school, but they strike a deal that she’ll tutor him if he’ll teach her guitar.

When Carrie arrives at the hospital one day, however, she’s not allowed to see him. Hella can’t tell her what’s wrong, but offers to drive her home. She calls Keith’s parents, and they ask her to come over. There they give her the news that Keith a tumor in his colon, and it’s metastasized in his liver. And there’s nothing they can do about it. There are no options, and he has maybe three months.

Keith’s family agrees to do everything he wants. The big thing is that he doesn’t want to be in the hospital anymore, but wants hospice at home when the time comes. He also wants to go to the cabin for a week. And he also wants Carrie around as much as possible. So she pretty much becomes another daughter. I think his parents are very understanding.

So they go to the cabin, and Keith and Carrie get to spend lots of alone time together, and talk about heavy things, like what’s after death. But they spend lots of time with the family, as well. In just that week, though, Keith declines some.

When Carrie gets home, she has quite the surprise waiting for her. Her mother has put their house up for sale, and they’ll be moving into an apartment on the other side of town. This means Carrie will have to switch schools next year. Understandably, Carrie is pretty damn pissed off.

On the Fourth of July, Carrie and her father have a nice talk. He tells her about Vietnam, and she understands him a bit better. They have a better relationship after that.

Keith continues to decline. His pain gets so bad the pills stop working, so they put him on a morphine drip. The hospice nurses are very nice. Carrie realizes they’re there just as much for the family as they are for Keith.

One day Keith has trouble breathing. Holly asks Carrie to spend the night. The whole family, plus Carrie, gather around Keith’s bedside. They talk to him, and tell him stories, and touch him. Carrie stands back and watches. Keith takes a couple last breaths, and dies.

Carrie throws a party at support group for Keith. It was something he asked her to do, instead of everyone standing around grieving over him.

Carrie also grows some balls, and stands up to what is happening around her. She tells her mother she’s going to move in with her father, so she doesn’t have to change schools. She has to look out for Holly. Her mother is not happy about it, but Carrie tells her she has Larry and her job.

Lynda and her father help her move. Among her possessions is Keith’s guitar. She signed up for lessons in the fall.

o   I don’t like Larry, the guy Carrie’s mom is dating. He asks how much room can two females living alone really need? Why, would two males take up more space?

o   I think it’s nice they had this whole relationship, but they never even kissed.

o   Lynda’s seriously the best. She ferries Carrie all over town, empathizes with her over divorce, and stands up for Carrie to her father. She’s my favorite.