Monday, April 5, 2010

“Mary Anne is just too uptight to wear pajamas to school”……BSC # 84: Dawn and the School Spirit War

Memory Reaction

I have one very strong memory from this book, and unfortunately, it’s that I didn’t buy the premise, AT ALL. The whole plot centers on SMS having a spirit month, where the kids who are “pro-spirit” ostracize the kids who don’t want to participate in it. In my middle school, you had to force people to dress in school colors (or whatever), and that was when we did it for a week. So, the whole fight that starts in this book seemed so ridiculous to me. Especially, considering how nasty it got.

I hate when I remember thinking a book was unbelievable…it usually means re-reading it will not be enjoyable.

Revisited Reaction

The Stoneybrook Middle School baseball team is having an undefeated season. And they are about a month away from playing the team from a nearby town that’s a big rival (even though we’ve never heard of them before). So, the school has a “School Spirit Month” where every day has some theme or activity designed to generate support for the team. Some of the BSC members are more into this than others. Dawn’s undecided at first…she thinks some events, like “clean up your school” day could be fun, but she thinks things like “pajama day” sound sort of lame. Mary Anne’s okay with it, but is terrified of having to wear her pajamas to school. Mallory isn’t into it, because she really doesn’t care about school spirit. Kristy, Claudia, and Jessi are super-into it. Stacey’s currently not in the club, but she isn’t a fan either. So this causes lots of fights and drama.

On class color day, all the 8th graders are supposed to wear yellow, but Dawn forgets. When Mary Anne reminds her, she realizes she doesn’t own yellow clothing, except for a pair of socks. She puts them on and goes to school, but no one can see them and give her a hard time. A REALLY hard time. Plus, the reporter who’s covering spirit week singles her out in an interview. Because, yes, spirit month is generating press coverage. Mary Anne freaks out, because this means she HAS to wear her pajamas to school.

Dawn and Mary Anne start a petition to end spirit week. It ends up causing a huge stir, with the school dividing between pro-spirit and anti-spirit. There are pep-rallies, anti-rallies, town meetings, reporters, etc. Supposedly the same thing happens at the rival school. Eventually, spirit month is cancelled. But then everyone’s still upset, and friends are not talking to each other, etc. Dawn comes up with a proposal to reinstate it as an optional thing, which ends up happening and the conflict is resolved.

The annoying subplot’s about the Barretts and DeWitts (the guy Mrs. Barrett married). They’re living in a house that’s too small for nine people, because most houses are. But the kids don’t want to move, because it would probably mean leaving Stoneybrook. There’s all this boring drama, and then Mr. and Mrs. DeWitt decide to add an addition to the house.


  • Claudia even wears “stylish” rain gear, if such a thing exists. “Her long black hair was tucked in a wide-brimmed purple rain hat with colorful Native American designs painted on the brim. She wore a matching purple slicker with identical designs on the hem. Even her umbrella matched!”
  • Mallory and Jessi are fighting in this book because they are on different sides of the spirit war. I have to say, I am surprised Jessi would be so passionate about school spirit. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always thought of her as not really loving SMS.
  • I could say the same thing about Claudia. I guess they wanted the BSC to be equally split, and they figured Dawn, Mary Anne, and Mallory were the MOST likely to be against something like spirit month.
  • So, Kristy wants to wear a pair of pajamas that Nannie gave her that are covered in pink bunnies. She’s never worn them, but thinks it would be funny to wear them to school. But, why would Nannie have given her something like that?
  • Dawn says that she doesn’t own pajamas, she usually sleeps in nightshirts or sweats. Aren’t nightshirts basically pajamas? If not technically, I think it would still fit the description for the purposes of spirit month.
  • When you think about, the whole conflict really happens because Mary Anne was too embarrassed about pajamas. Which is sort of funny.
  • Claudia wants to make a pair of pajamas to wear to school, and Mary Anne’s all, “but aren’t you supposed to wear what you really sleep in?” As if anyone would know? Just put on a pair of sweats and don’t worry about it. When I was in college, half the students did that every day.
  • Mrs. Barrett/DeWitt says that she’s frazzled because she isn’t used to having seven kids in one house. Mallory jokes that her family has NEVER gotten used to eight kids, and Mrs. Barrett almost passes out.
  • Mary Anne’s outfit for class color day, “A yellow sweat shirt dress, yellow stockings, and black flats.”
  • I remember this scene…Dawn leaves for school late and as she walks/runs, she comments on how all the people she usually sees (like a neighbor walking his dog) aren’t there, and she’s seeing different people. I remember thinking about that when I’ve been running late.
  • Dawn sees Mary Anne crying and says, “oh, it’s so nice that you feel bad for me, but today wasn’t so bad.” And Mary Anne’s all, “I’m not upset for you, I’m thinking about what will happen to me for not wearing pajamas.” It totally cracked me up.
  • Would any middle schooler really be into, “Make a New Friend Day?” I feel like it’s the kind of thing teenagers would ridicule.
  • Logan and Robert (both athletes) don’t really seem to care that Mary Anne and Stacey are against spirit month. Which makes Kristy, Claudia, and Jessi look like bitches for not standing by their friends when they simply have a different opinion.
  • This SMS student Julie, who I don’t remember seeing before says she resents having class time taken away by spirit month. Who is she Hermione Granger?
  • Were the Dewitt kids from Stoneybrook? Cause they keep talking about how they don’t want to leave the town, but I didn’t think they were from there. We never heard of them before Mrs. Barrett hooked up with Franklin and the kids didn’t know each other, so they weren’t at the same school.
  • The “anti-spirit” group has a little rally in the school cafeteria (as a protest to whatever the spirit week of the month was). And some teacher/principal looks in to see what they were doing, rolls his eyes, and walks away. The image of that made me laugh.
  • I have to give Dawn some credit because she realizes that their anti-spirit rally’s really the same thing as what the pro-spirit kids are doing, just for a different reason. And she doesn’t like that some of the anti-spirit kids mess up a mural painted by the pro kids.
  • Logan keeps whining that baseball team not getting enough attention. I’m not sure how it’s supposed to come across, but I think it’s really annoying. First he’s upset that the murals painted on “mural day” were not about baseball, and then he says at some school meeting that everyone’s forgetting the reason for spirit month. Then his father says the same thing at a town meeting. And yeah, I guess technically the baseball team was the original point of the whole thing, but complaining that you aren’t getting enough attention for being an undefeated team’s kind of obnoxious.
  • I have a hard time believing the school would devote an entire month to something like spirit month.
  • How come Robert’s jock friends are so different from Logan’s jock friends? I know Logan plays football and baseball and Robert plays basketball, but I would think there would be some overlap.
  • Awe, Sharon refers to Mary Anne and Dawn as her “daughters.”
  • How big a paper is Stoneybrook News? Because it’s a daily paper, which makes it seem like it’s pretty big. But Stoneybrook isn’t that big a town, which makes it seem like it would be more of a community paper. And honestly, who else would give that much coverage to something at a middle school?
  • On a related note, what TV station do they watch? Wouldn’t they still be in range to get news from NYC? So, a network with community news would be a pretty small station, and yet, it’s all anyone seems to watch. It’s the same with the radio station they listen to.
  • Jessi and Kristy have a sitting job at the Barretts/DeWitts during a groundbreaking party (because of the addition to the house). As neighbors show up, they send they send their kids over to play/have free childcare. Nice parenting. Jessi and Kristy actually complain (to each other) about not getting paid extra for the extra work.
  • The newspaper prints all sorts of letters to the editor/editorials, and they are all completely ridiculous. There’s one talking about how kids should do things just because they’re told, and if they let Dawn and friends not participate in spirit month the future is doomed. The opposing side talks about how forcing kids to participate is taking away their civil liberties. Even Dawn thinks it’s over the top.


Sabrina Bouvier said...

"Were the Dewitt kids from Stoneybrook? Cause they keep talking about how they don’t want to leave the town, but I didn’t think they were from there. We never heard of them before Mrs. Barrett hooked up with Franklin and the kids didn’t know each other, so they weren’t at the same school."

Maybe they were in different classes.

Also, not to be a grammar nazi, but this is kind of a pet peeve of mine--when you're saying how something is cute or sweet, it's not "awe," it's "aw."

Aster said...

"On a related note, what TV station do they watch? Wouldn’t they still be in range to get news from NYC? So, a network with community news would be a pretty small station, and yet, it’s all anyone seems to watch. It’s the same with the radio station they listen to. "

Where I grew up in CT, we had two affiliates of each network, one out of NY and one that was CT-based (generally out of New Haven). The CT affiliates are considered stepping-stones to larger careers/markets and are actually pretty big.

This was one of those books where the plot just seemed completely half-baked. I can't imagine a "Spirit Month" taking up so much time or causing such a huge stir. It seemed like they realized it was a Dawn book and so needed a cause or crusade for a plot.

SJSiff said...

A redeeming quality is that both sides are equally insane, which makes the book pretty funny.

Amiee said...

I vaguely remember this one, I agree about the whole month thing. At our school, it was hard enough for kids to show up and enter athletics competitions as well as actually dress in their colour!

bonclyde149150 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bonclyde149150 said...

I bet the ghostwriter made Jessi totally into the spirit month because it was a way to be more accepted because her skin color is such a big issue.

Sarah said...

Love your blog idea. Just picked up the first two reissued books, can't wait to delve into them.

Unknown said...

Daily papers can be pretty small, actually, but the rest of this is pretty ridiculous. I remember thinking so even when I read it back in the day.

coulrophobic agnostic said...

When I reread this one, I was interested to realize that all the anti-Dawn backlash came not when she refused to participate, but when she started campaigning to cancel the spirit crap entirely. Which made me take their side.

Sada said...

I wouldn't even participate in Backwards Day when I was 13, so no way would I have gone along with an entire month of such crap.

Yeah, I wasn't really a "joiner." Let's just pretend it's because I was really sophisticated like Stacey.

Anonymous said...

I'd just have a week of the crappy school spirit month

Lauren said...

This book was ridiculous. I'm amazed that the "resolution" was to make Spirit Month optional... how was it mandatory in the first place? I'm a teacher and we only have maybe half the students participating when we have Spirit Week, and I've never heard anyone give a hard time to kids who didn't participate. This whole book is just... stupid.

Anne said...

I love this! I had forgotten about this book, but I could suddenly see the cover in my mind after you mentioned Dawn's yellow socks.

Amy Lynn said...

The only thing I remember about this book was Dawn's yellow socks. Actually, I mainly remember the cover as being pretty ugly, but yeah. Man, what a flimsy plot, though.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you think Jessi wouldn't love SMS because she was The Only Black Kid in the Entire Sixth Grade. If I were Jessi, I certainly would resent SMS for that reason.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else remember Mary Anne being so embarassed by pajamas in another book. The Pike triplets see her in her pj's without a robe and she blushes, but they of course could care less (except for Byron). Why are pjs so weird for her. Seems like some crazy modesty.

Isabel Escalante said...

Exactly, Spirit WEEK is totally optional at the school where I work. This year, we had twin day, crazy tourist day, decades day, cartoon character day, and cheer day where each classroom had to invent their own school cheer. We have this book in our school library, so I checked it out maybe three weeks or so before Spririt Week. It was totally unreal how Spirit Month/Week was portrayed. I couldn't believe how evil some of the parents were.