I was more excited about this book than Stacey’s autobiography, mainly because Claudia’s book had characters we know in it, mostly Kristy and Mary Anne, but also their classmates, families, etc. I found it more interesting to read about the three girls interacting as kids, than to hear about what Stacey did long before she’d ever heard of Stoneybrook.
However, I did have one major problem with the book. I remember that there’s a section where we find out where Claudia went to some special school for awhile in elementary school – something that was supposed to help her learn. Now, she comes back to the regular school at the end. But it annoyed me, because it seemed like something that would be a big deal, and would have at least been mentioned somewhere in the 100 + books that existed at the time (including mysteries). Now, I understand that they had to include things we hadn’t heard about to be interesting, but it still felt a little bit forced.
So, this is Claudia’s turn at her autobiography, the second in this little special edition mini-series. Like Stacey’s, the book’s divided into a few key events from Claudia’s childhood.
On her 6th birthday, Claudia has a circus theme birthday party. Her birthday’s in July, so she actually gives out her invitations on the last day of school. It turns out that kindergartens don’t always give stuff to their parents, because the only people who show up are Mary Anne and Kristy. So, Claudia’s upset and cries, but then Kristy and Mary Anne (and probably Mr. and Mrs. Kishi) get Mr. Spier and Kristy’s family together to give Claudia a real celebration.
When Claudia’s in second grade, she and a couple classmates are afraid of the tooth fairy. So, when Claud finally loses her first tooth, she freaks out about putting it under her pillow. She ends up stuffing clothes under her blanket, and hiding in the closet to “trap” the tooth fairy. Instead, she just sees her mom come into her room. Mrs. Kishi doesn’t notice that Claudia’s not in bed, but Claudia sees her, and figures out that there’s no tooth fairy. She decides not to tell her friends about this, which is nice of her. She doesn’t mention whether she let them know they shouldn’t fear the tooth fairy, or let them keep worrying about it.
When Claudia’s in fourth-grade, she does poorly in school and gets a horrible report card (shocker!). She hadn’t done well prior to that, but I guess it becomes more obvious. The school does some testing for learning disabilities, have parent-teacher conferences, etc. Ultimately, they decide Claudia should attend the Stamford Alternate Academy, which is a private school where kids can “work at their own pace.” Claudia’s horrified at the idea, and decides to deliberately flunk what she thinks are entrance exams. Of course, they are just placement tests. Claud starts going to the school, and does well academically, but is miserable. She doesn’t talk to the other kids, stops seeing Kristy/Mary Anne when she’s home, and even stops working on her art. Her parents end up letting her transfer back to Stoneybrook Elementary because they think her happiness is more important than getting good grades. I wonder if they’ll say the same thing when she’s twenty-years old and still in high school.
When Claudia’s eleven, she goes on trip with Kristy’s family. It’s just a long weekend at the beach, because Mrs. Thomas hasn’t married Watson yet, and can’t afford cruises to the Bahamas. The trip’s actually for Sam and Charlie’s baseball team, so they are off playing, Mrs. Thomas is watching them, and Claudia and Kristy get stuck watching David Michael. They end up losing him temporarily, but find him playing with some kids on the beach. Claudia decides that Kristy’s life isn’t as easy as it looks, and is impressed with her responsibilities.
And that’s pretty much it for Claud’s life so far, or at least her pre-BSC life. She gets a B- on the project (A+ for content and design, but points off for problems like spelling her life-long friends’ name wrong).
- Claudia briefly mentions the time she was in kindergarten and drew a butterfly as her self-portrait. That would be nice continuity, if it weren’t for the fact that she did that in first-grade.
- It did make me laugh that Claudia mentions which paper her birth announcement was in, since that was such a big issue in that book where she thought she was adopted.
- When Claudia asks Janine about when she was born, Janine mentions how she remembers eating alphabet soup for lunch that day, and had found all the letters except y and z. I just think that’s amusing.
- Claudia invited her kindergarten teacher to her birthday party? Really?
- Claudia’s outfit for her 6th Birthday: “Black tights and [her] tall black rainboots and [her] red jacket with the brass buttons. [She] had a T-shirt with a lion’s head painted on the front, and [she] wore that under the jacket.” I’m trying to decide if her fashion sense improved or got worse since then?
- Mary Anne and Kristy’s clothing hasn’t changed much. On the day of Claudia’s party, Mary Anne wears a flowered dress and Kristy wears shorts, a T-shirt and “her best” sneakers.
- What kind of parents let their almost-six-year-old just pass out invitations at school?
- If no one RSVPs to a party, do you still go all out with food and decorating? You’d think Mrs. Kishi knew at least one other parent she could call about it.
- In the flashbacks, everyone we know has the same personality as they do in the “present.” For example, when Claudia tells Kristy that they’ll be a face painter at her birthday party, Kristy’s all, “oh, make sure to have smocks to cover people’s clothes.” When she's SIX!
- Claudia talks about having lunch in her kindergarten class. But isn’t kindergarten traditionally a half-day class?
- Claudia says one of her earliest memories involves Mary Anne and Kristy. They’re playing in her backyard when workmen are putting a cement path in the yard. The three of them go over and start running their hands through it and drawing in it (while it’s still wet). So, Mimi has to call the workmen back, but then she lets the girls each leave one handprint in the corner.
- Kristy tells Claudia that their fourth grade teacher’s “cool” (she heard from Charlie), and specifically mentions her having a southern accent. These girls are really big on accents, aren’t they?
- Claudia first goes to visit the “alternate” school and take her tests on the last day of November. So, it’s pretty amazing that she finds out she got in (after taking the tests) the week BEFORE Thanksgiving.
- If Claudia was smart, when she found out the placement tests weren’t entrance exams, she should have admitted failing them on purpose, and said she really didn’t need the extra help. But if Claudia was smart, I guess she wouldn’t have been there to begin with.
- Kristy and Mary Anne’s classes are putting on plays based on books, and Kristy wants to do Harriet the Spy. AMM really loves that book, huh? I wonder if she pretended to be a spy as a kid?
- Claud thinks they should do Nancy Drew, which shows her taste in reading hasn’t progressed much since she was nine. Of course, I’m still reading BSC books, so I probably can’t judge. But I read a lot of other things too.
- Claudia and David Michael convince Kristy to not tell her mom about him getting lost. She agrees, and says they should all take a vow to never tell anyone, not even Mary Anne. So, it’s nice of Claudia to put it in her autobiography.