Friday, July 25, 2014

Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great


By Judy Blume. Published 1972.


So Sheila Tubman is scared of pretty much everything. At home in New York, she’s scared of Peter Hatcher’s dog, Turtle. She prefers to climb ten flights of stairs instead of riding the elevator with him. But she won’t admit it. In fact, she won’t admit any of her “failings.”

Her family goes to Tarrytown for the summer, and stay in the Egran’s house, while they’re in England. Unfortunately, they left their dog, Jennifer, with the house. Sheila freaks the hell out, and only gets out of the car after promises that Jennifer will never go inside. Poor Jennifer.

Sheila is excited about not having to share a room with her older, ballet-obsessed sister, Libby. But it turns out the Egrans only have boys, so Sheila stays in a room full of models, and finds a threatening note from their owner.

Sheila meets a girl named Mouse, who introduces herself as the Yo-Yo Junior Champion of Tarrytown. She asks Sheila how many tricks she can do, but Sheila tells her that where she’s from, only babies yo-yo, and she hasn’t done it in eight years. You know, when she was two. You can tell Mouse doesn’t believe her, but she lets it go. She suggests they walk Jennifer, but Sheila says dogs give her hives. Oh, Sheila.

That afternoon, their mothers sign them up for the same day camp. Afterward, Mouse suggests they go to the pool. Sheila can’t swim, but will she admit to that? Hell no. So she says she’s getting over a cold. And her mother chooses that moment to come out and say it’s time to sign her up for swimming lessons. Well, shit.

And if you think Sheila was scared of shit before, it’s nothing compared to how she feels about swimming. Her instructor, Marty, is very nice to Sheila, but she just refuses to put her face in the water. However, if she doesn’t learn to swim by the end of the summer, Marty has to give her mother the money back, which he needs for college. That really doesn’t seem right to me, but ok. Since Sheila likes him, she at least gets in the water and learns how to kick.

It doesn’t seem Mouse holds Sheila’s lie against her. Although she does say something about how if someone doesn’t know how to do something, they should just say so, so Sheila knows she’s not buying her bullshit. And she’s brought Sheila a yo-yo of her own. Sheila says she may need lessons, since it’s been so long. Sure, Sheila.

Mouse tells Sheila all about Washington Irving and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, since it’s set in Tarrytown. So now every sound Sheila hears at night is the Headless Horseman.

One day, Mouse’s mother is going out, so she goes to spend the day at Sheila’s. She suggests they invite the twins, Sondra and Jane, over. They get bored, so they decide to go over to Mouse’s to play hide and seek. Even though they’re not supposed to be there. There’s a way to get in, though, through the milk door. Mouse and Jane go in first, and then Sondra, who is a bit overweight, gets stuck. Sheila can’t pull her outside, the others can’t pull her inside. Sheila points out that Mouse and Jane could just unlock the door, and help her pull. Oh, yeah. So that works, but Sondra gets all scraped up in the process. She gets very dramatic, and can’t walk, so they carry her inside. Mouse says they’ll have to carry her upstairs to bandage her up. Sheila points out she should just bring the stuff downstairs. Oh, yeah.

After Sondra is fixed up, they get on with the game. Sheila is of course scared of hiding by herself in the big house. She hides for a long time in Mouse’s mom’s closet, when oh shit, Mouse’s mom herself finds her. Oops. They’re in pretty big trouble.

Sheila and Mouse’s favorite activity at day camp is pottery. They’ve stuck with it for weeks, even though they’re really supposed to switch. But one day, Sheila goes to the camp’s office, and sees the secretary using the mimeograph machine. Sheila thinks that would be great to use for a camp newspaper. She gets permission to start one, and is advised to form some committees. But no, Miss Sheila has to do everything herself. So she spends all week going around to different activities to report on them. She even makes up a crossword puzzle, and will offer a prize to the first person to complete it.

When it’s time to type up her newsletter, she insists on doing all that herself, too. And it takes for-fucking-ever. And then the mimeograph machine proves to be really damn difficult. So it ends up being a blotchy, blurry mess. But she hands them out anyway, calling it “Newsdate, by Sheila the Great.” It’s not very long before two guys find her with their completed puzzles. But Sheila doesn’t actually have a prize. So she thinks fast, thinking how fed up she is with the newsletter, and pronounces that the prize. They get to run it now. They actually set up committees, and wind up doing a really great job. They change the name, though.

One night Sheila is woken up by a ton of noise in the backyard. It seems Jennifer has found herself a little boyfriend. He keeps coming around for a while, but only at night. Except one day, Sheila and Mouse are outside, and Sheila feels like she’s being watched. It’s Jennifer’s friend. Sheila freaks, runs away, he chases, and she trips over Jennifer’s chain. She shuts her eyes, and feels what she thinks is blood all over her legs. It’s just Jennifer’s friend licking her, though.

One day Jennifer’s friend just stops coming. Jennifer is very sad, and then they find out she’s pregnant. They write to the Egrans, and they’re thrilled, telling the Tubmans they can have the pick of the litter. Sheila throws a shit fit, but Libby throws one right back, wanting the puppy. Their parents say it doesn’t matter yet, anyway.

At camp, they’re going to be putting on Peter Pan. Sheila and Mouse are happy just painting scenery, but Libby desperately wants to be Wendy. However, she gets Captain Hook, and is totes upset about it. She decides to learn Wendy’s lines anyway, in case that girl gets sick. Whatever. Sheila and Mouse end up onstage anyway, behind an arch to hold it up, because otherwise it falls over. As someone who builds a hell of a lot of scenery for theatre, this upsets me greatly. But this way Sheila learns everyone’s lines, and is able to say Wendy’s lines for her when she forgets.

Marty is still working on trying to get Sheila to put her face in the water. He’s really proud of her when she says it’s because she’s scared. She’s never admitted it before. Marty shows her just how easy it is. Sheila thinks about him having to give the money back, and finally decides to try. After many false starts, she freaking finally gets it. Then Marty tells her the next step is a swimming test. Shit!

Sheila gets to have a slumber party with Mouse, Sondra, and Jane. Libby gets to have a friend over, too, which pisses Sheila off. But the two of them pretty much ignore the younger girls. Mouse comes up with the idea to make a slam book. Oh, this will go well. So everybody writes what they think about the others hair, face, body, brain, best thing, worst thing, and in general. Of course, everyone ends up all upset. Well, no shit. But my goodness, they really go all out, and end up throwing all the toy models at each other, breaking them. Libby comes in, and says she’s going to tell their parents. Sheila says, “Blah, blah, blah.” For some reason, this makes everyone laugh, and they’re all friends again. Ok. They spend the rest of the night trying to repair the models.

It’s the day of Sheila’s swimming test, and she hopes for all sorts of ways to get out of it, but to no avail. First she has to swim the length of the pool, forty feet. She thinks she’ll never be able to do it, but Marty is right there with her, and her friends cheer her on. After she makes it, she has to tread water for two minutes. She thinks she’s going to die, but she’s able to do it. She passes her test, but can’t really celebrate. She’s so tired, she promptly falls asleep.

The Tubmans have a barbeque for all their friends at the end of the summer. They grill, and the kids play baseball. But suddenly, Sheila freezes. Jennifer’s friends has come back. But now he has his owner, Cyrus, chasing after him. Sheila’s dad explains how they know him, and about Jennifer’s condition. Everyone thinks it’s hilarious. Sheila suddenly remembers she’s in a yard with two dogs, and hightails it to the house. But when she gets inside, she thinks how a puppy would be a nicer, better dog than Turtle. And smaller and cuter, too. But she decides she’ll just think about that later.











o   Sheila and her dad play a cute game of hide and go seek when he comes home every night. She lines her shoes up pointing in the direction she hides. But they decide the Tarrytown house is too big to play in, after Sheila waits a long time and gets scared.

o   A good, recent interview with Judy Blume.

o   Ok, so I know I’ve been majorly slacking this week, and I’m sorry! Something came up on Tuesday evening/night, and then our power went out Wednesday night, and isn’t expected to be back on until noon Friday. WTF, right? It’s July in Texas, y’all, I need my air conditioning! Anyway, there WILL be another post today, just much later.

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