By Ann M. Martin. Published February 1989.
The Pike parents are braving the mall with all eight kids. More power to them. All the kids need shoes. Mallory wants some “cool pink shoes”, but she has to get boring loafers instead. Boo. Although, now as an adult, I can understand the reasoning. I’m so boring.
Then the kids get to split up and explore. Mallory gets stuck with Claire and Margo. They go watch a girl getting her ears pierced. Mallory is super jealous. When the piercing actually happens, Margo announces she’s going to throw up, and Claire screams, and Mal is super embarrassed.
At the next BSC meeting, the girls are surprised to see Logan there randomly. It’s about as awkward as it was the first time he came to a meeting. Kristy won’t let him answer the phone; she thinks their clients won’t be expecting a boy. Mal gets set up with a regular job, sitting for the Arnold twins, Carolyn and Marilyn.
When Mal arrives for her first job, two identical girls, dressed exactly alike, aside from their bracelets that have their names on them, greet her. Mal is relieved to see the bracelets. She says something to Carolyn, using her name, and Carolyn lights up. She does the same to Marilyn, and gets the same result. She gives them some books out of her Kid-Kit, and they sit and read the exact same way on the their beds. Mallory has to go and comment on how cute they look, and says they look like bookends.
At this, the girls lose it. They start talking in their secret language, take off their bracelets, and jump around so Mal loses track of who is who. And then they run all over the house. Mal only regains some order when she makes one of them try to play the piano, and she can’t, so Mal knows that’s Carolyn.
At her second job, it goes much the same way. They lose the bracelets as soon as their mother leaves. Mal has a difficult time with a game of hide-and-seek, and possibly giving one twin two snacks. She can’t be sure. She gets Marilyn to practice piano, at least, while Carolyn reads.
Claudia gets a chance to sit for the twins, and it goes pretty badly. They pull the regular shit with her, and then Marilyn has to go to her piano lesson, while Carolyn stays home and works on her science fair project. Except they switch. Marilyn’s piano teacher is pretty upset, and so are the Arnolds. They blame Claudia, and it’s pretty unfair.
Mal and Claudia talk over the problem with everyone at the next meeting, but nobody has any helpful ideas. Claudia thinks they don’t really have their own language, just a few words, and the rest is gibberish.
This gives Mallory an idea. At her next job, when the twins start talking their language, Mal starts responding in Pig Latin. It drives the girls nuts. Mallory tells them, in English, when they stop, she’ll stop. They do, and Mal teaches them Pig Latin, and they absolutely love it. They also tell Mallory how to tell them apart without their bracelets. It’s a major breakthrough.
Mal, Mary Anne, and Dawn are hired to help out with the twins’ birthday party. Mal helps them get dressed in their identical outfits, which they are not happy about. They have fun at their party, until it gets to the gifts. They get matching gifts from everybody, and they get more and more upset. Then they get to Mallory’s gifts for them, and she got Marilyn a pin shaped like a piano, and Carolyn a book of science experiments. They absolutely love them.
The next time Mal sits for them, the twins show her their other presents they got, but tell her her presents were their favorites, because they were different. Then they talk about how they don’t like dressing alike anymore, it’s babyish, and the kids at school don’t bother to try to tell them apart. Mallory offers to help them talk to their mother.
She gets them started, but the girls do most of the talking. Mrs. Arnold is surprised at first, but agrees that they can start dressing different, and do different things with their hair. She also says it’s okay for them to use their birthday money on new clothes; Mallory gets to take them shopping on her next job.
That night, Mallory decides that since that went so well, she should try talking to her own parents. All this time, bitching about how she looks, and she never had the balls to actually talk to them about making changes. Oh, Mal. But I have to remember she is only eleven.
She decides she’ll try bargaining. She asks for a new wardrobe, contacts, a haircut, and pierced ears. Her parents say no to the wardrobe and contacts, yes to the haircut if she pays for half, the pierced ears if she pays for it, takes care of them, and wears fun earrings. She can also spend her money on clothes she chooses. See, Mal? That wasn’t so hard, was it?
Mallory and the girls have a good time shopping. The girls take this very seriously. When they finally make their purchases, they’re very different. They change before their mom picks them up to surprise her. She loves it.
Mal bought some slouch socks that she’s thrilled about. Really, her parents wouldn’t let her have those? Were those so crazy? I had them, when I was way younger.
At the next meeting, Jessi shares the news that her parents are letting her pierce her ears, too. And Claudia wants one more hole in one of her ears. So Kristy declares their next party will be a trip to the mall.
The very first thing they do is go to the boutique to get the piercings done. Mal’s and Jessi’s go fine, but Claudia almost faints after hers. While she’s recovering, Dawn runs to a payphone, and gets permission to get her ears pierced, two in each ear.
Seriously, can a bunch of middle schoolers just walk in and get this done by themselves? They don’t need parents with them to punch holes in their bodies?
A few weeks later, Mal has had her haircut, but she’s also gotten braces. But it’s the day they get to change their earrings! Kristy and Mary Anne surprise the others with earrings for them. Then Claudia brings out earring that she made for everyone, including clip-ons for Kristy and Mary Anne. And Mal has a pair of bestie book earrings that match her own for Jessi.
o Teehee, Mal says what Claudia know about electricity could fit on the head of a pin. Burn, Claud. From a sixth-grader, no less.
o I like how Mallory is still a little nervous speaking up at meetings, that she and Jessi aren’t entirely comfortable yet.
o When did kids stop getting all dressed up for parties? I was six when this book was published, and I don’t remember ever wearing party dresses to parties. Is this just a hold-over from Ann’s childhood?
o Ugh, this again. “…and we have pretty much birthday money…” It’s just so wrong.
o Personal story time. When I was younger, probably because of this book, getting my ears pierced was a very big deal to me. But my parents said I had to wait until I was eighteen. Even today, that seems like a bit much. But my mom, brother and I went to Chicago for my fourteenth birthday, and my mom let me get them pierced then. That phone call to my dad was super scary, but he wasn’t too mad.
But as big of a deal as it was then, once I got over the initial high of it, it was then no biggie. I haven’t actually worn earrings in years.