Sunday, August 22, 2010

“Here’s the most exciting thing of all – Anna and I were invited to become members of the Baby-sitters club!”….BSC Portrait Collection: Abby’s Book

Memory Reaction

Once again, this is a book I never read as a kid, so I don’t have a memory of it and don’t have a lot to write in this section. Of course, it also means I’m looking forward to reading it. I don’t know Abby as well as all the other girls, so there may actually be new information in this book. With the rest of the BSC, there was pretty much no new knowledge gained from the autobiographies.

Revisited Reaction

Abby’s early years chapter is centered around being a twin. We hear all the stereotypical things that are usually in twin stories…she felt pain if Anna was hurt, they spoke in their own secret language, etc. Abby also thought it was normal to have a twin. On her first day of preschool she saw all the other kids without a twin, and thought Anna was going to be taken away from her. She also tells us how she and Anna used to pick out identical clothes, toys, etc. The first time they didn’t was when they were picking out backpacks for the start of first grade. They both ended up changing their minds, because they felt too weird otherwise.

When Abby and Anna started first grade, their teacher and classmates had trouble telling them apart. Most of the kids just started calling them both Abby-Anna, which they hated (understandably). It’s a lot like what happened to Marilyn and Carolyn Arnold, but that was almost a hundred books ago, so I won’t complain too much about a recycled storyline. Abby’s teacher sends a note home, telling the Stevensons to always dress one of the girls in blue and one in red, to help tell them apart. I can’t believe six-year-olds have enough clothing of any color to wear it every day, but Abby and Anna do, so they go along with it. This led to some kids calling them “red” and “blue,” which Abby and Anna also hate (again, understandably).

The twins switch colors for a day, to see if anyone notices. Their father sees them when he drops something off at the school, and refers to them by the wrong name. So, Abby and Anna are devastated for the afternoon, thinking their father can’t tell them apart. But, it turns out he was just kidding and playing along with their trick. Abby’s happy to hear this, but she and Anna tell their parents they’re sick of only wearing one color. Anna agrees to cut her hair shorter so that it would be easy to tell them apart. After this, the other kids started getting to know them, and they start developing their own hobbies. By their birthday, the kids all give them different gifts that actually fit their personalities. Abby and Anna still think of that as their favorite birthday. Which again, is just like the Arnold twins, and how their favorite birthday presents were the ones Mallory gave them (just because they were different).

When Abby was nine, her father was killed in a car accident. It’s all very sad, and I’m not saying that to be sarcastic, it really is….there’s not a lot to snark on. Unlike Mary Anne, who never knew her mom, Abby was close to her dad, and he seemed like a really good father. In the weeks after his death, Abby’s mom started working crazy long hours, gave up cooking (which she used to love), and let the housework go. At this point, Anna and Abby stop going to their respective after-school activities. Eventually, their mother realized this, and she gets it together enough to start grocery shopping again and make Abby and Anna rejoin their activities.

The next anecdote’s from a year later, when Mrs. Stevenson’s still spending most of her time at work. Abby and Anna are also spending a lot of time with friends and sports/music, but wish they spent more time together as a family. Mrs. Stevenson overhears them talking about this, and decides to take them on a vacation to Florida over the holidays. Abby’s excited, but once they get there, the three of them spend all their time apart…her mom works and plays golf, Anna hangs out with another girl staying near them, and Abby hangs out on the beach and plays various sports with other kids at the resort). But Abby does get them both to go with her to sign up for some family New Year’s Eve party the resort’s hosting. A person who works there sees them together, and expresses surprise that Mrs. Stevenson has kids, and that Abby and Anna are twins (he thought they were one person). Mrs. Stevenson realizes she’s still not really spending a lot of time with the girls, and they have a family talk about it. They agree to do their own thing for New Year’s Eve and start their own traditions.

When Abby’s twelve, the Stevensons are spending more time together, but her mother’s still depressed about Mr. Stevenson’s death. She makes a New Year’s Resolution to make a change in her life. Since we already know that the Stevensons move to Stoneybrook within the next year, it’s pretty obvious what the change is going to be. But we get to read a whole chapter building up to it, because the book has to have fifteen chapters to be a BSC book. Abby and Anna don’t want to move, but they deal with it (and really, what choice do they have?). Once they arrive in Stoneybrook, we get to see Abby's perspective of the end of the Kristy book that introduced the twins. Abby knew Kristy didn’t like her at first, but says she won her over, and was happy to join the BSC.


  • Claudia barely gets mentioned in this book, but we still get an outfit. “She wore leopard-skin tights with a black velvet minidress to school. Here earrings were made of fake-fur buttons.”
  • Abby says her parents knew they were having twins, but didn’t know they would be born early. Aren’t most twins born early? If I know that without ever being pregnant, someone who IS pregnant and preparing to give birth would probably have heard of it.
  • Abby’s first grade teacher seems surprised to have identical twins in her class. But shouldn’t she have been somewhat prepared? Teachers usually have lists of their students before the first day of school. And two girls with the same name’s probably a big hint that they’re twins.
  • Abby and Anna’s birthday is October 15th. I find it pretty unbelievable that between the start of school (usually early September in the northeast) and mid October, they could have went to school dressed alike, spent a few weeks with red and blue color coding, cut Anna’s hair, and then developed unique friendships enough to get separate gifts.
  • One of Anna’s birthday presents (at age six) is a tape of classical music for her walkman. Do most six-year-olds have walkmans (or DID they, back when people still used walkmans)? And would someone that young listen to classical music?
  • Abby’s dad tells her to be careful crossing the street because there are crazy drivers out there, and a couple hours later he’s killed in a car accident. That seems almost creepy. Or it would, if it happened in real life.
  • We never really hear the details of what happened to her dad, just that it was a car accident (which isn’t really specific). I guess they didn’t think it was necessary in a kids’ book, but it feels like something is missing.
  • Abby refers to her family life after her dad’s death as a “new kind of family.” Which feels sort of weird, because that’s what ABC Family uses in all those promotional spots. Not that I watch ABC Family.
  • From the Abby books I did read, I thought I remembered that her mom only got a job at a publishing company after her dad died. But in her autobiography, that’s definitely not the case. I guess I like that….otherwise it’s too much like Kristy’s mom getting a job after Mr. Thomas left. And I kind of like showing a female workaholic, just in the interest of feminism.
  • Abby’s mom decides to get rid of all her furniture and buy all new stuff when they move to the Stoneybrook. The girls convince her to keep some things, but she still gets a lot new. That actually seems like so much fun, although I guess I would save some things (like my collection of childhood books).
  • Abby asks for (and gets) a convertible couch for her bedroom (so her friends from Long Island can visit). How big is her room that she can fit a couch and a bed?
  • Also, Abby says her house is as big as all the other houses on the street. So, how come we always hear about Kristy living in a mansion, but nothing about Abby (or Shannon, for that matter) living in one?
  • Abby says that if the BSC were around when she was leaving Long Island, she would have figured out from all the “clues” that her mom wanted to move. I guess because the BSC are such good “detectives?” But considering the clues included a real estate agent from Stoneybrook calling her mom, I don’t know how great a detective would be needed.
  • And how come the Pike triplets never run into trouble with people mixing them up, but all the female twins we meet do?
  • Anna already has her graded and returned to her before Abby turns hers in. But from reading all the other autobiographies, I had the sense that they were due at the same time.
  • Also, Anna only turned it in a week earlier, and I can’t believe a teacher would grade a full class of autobiographies in less than a week. That is a hell of a lot of reading.
  • Lastly, for anyone who cares, Abby got an A- on her autobiography.


SJSiff said...

You're right, most twins (any multiples, really) are born early. Maybe Abby meant they weren't a scheduled C-section, which isn't unheard of with twins. But that's just giving her the benefit of the doubt. :)

(My grandmother's a twin, and her parents didn't know until the birth that they were getting two! It was a little while ago, though.)

Emilia said...

I think it's more surprising that the Pike's don't get all kinds of media attention. The chances of having identical triplets are very rare (1 in 500,00 births) so in a small town like Stoneybrook, I'm sure they would be the object of fascination, at least when they were babies.

Also, you're right about twins being born early. They're almost guaranteed to be at least 2 weeks early, if not more.

Leila said...

I'm confused about the poll this book. Do you actually mean "which place is most interesting?" or "which place is most interesting as presented in the books?"

because I didn't learn anything about Kentucky, New Jersey, or Long Island from the books....but hundreds of times I've learned about the awesome cultures of omnipresent blonde vegetarians and sophisticated, cab-riding preteens.

Great recap. I'm surprised Abby didn't discuss her troubles with allergies, soccer, or tell a bunch of bad puns, since (aside from being a twin) those are her chapter 2 personality traits.

Aisle Say! said...

* One of Anna’s birthday presents (at age six) is a tape of classical music for her walkman. Do most six-year-olds have walkmans (or DID they, back when people still used walkmans)? And would someone that young listen to classical music?

It wasn't uncommon. And yes, if they liked classical music.

Sada said...

I love how in the Ann M. universe, identical twins are rare and baffling creatures that no one has ever encountered before.

HelenB said...

This is the only 'Portrait Collection' book that I actually REMEMBER, probably because there was actually a whole lot of new information about Abby and her family.

I like that they mentioned about her Mom cooking, too - that comes up in one of the other books about her (one of the mysteries, I think).

Were all the chapters named after colours in this one?

BSC Snarker, aka Kristen said...

Leila, I was just thinking which sounds the most interesting as an actual place...not necessarily whether the BSC books presented a lot of information on them.

HelenB, the chapters weren't all named after colors. But the first section was named "Red and Blue Just Won't Do."

Unknown said...

I gotta read this one. it sounds really good. Plus I remember someone mentioned about Abby's mother looking gorgeous in this book.

I cant say much on the twins birth although it does seem kind of stange. and seriously, who would want to have c-section on twins? that would be painful.

Tracy said...

Yup, I'm an identical twin and my sister and I were born 2 months early-c section. Fun times for my mom. I'm probably more a MaryAnne or a Mallory, but I always liked Abby. I could relate to the whole identical twin sister, dead dad at a young age =workaholic single mother thing. But, Ann M. Martin? You know what is a fantastic solution to telling apart identical twins in school? Separate classes. Novel thing I know, but it's a lot better then making a poor kid wear the same color everyday.

Lori said...

I liked this one but does Ann hate identical twin girls or something because she sure goes out of her way to take out all the fun of being a twin.

Or does she just assumes everyone who meets them are stupid?
I was in kindergarden with two sets of twins girls and no one had a problem telling them apart. That's right Ann, five year olds could tell them apart!

Anonymous said...

Abby has always been my favorite character I read this book so many tmes growing up. Thanks for the recap

Anonymous said...

Didnt Anna use musical terms to name the chapters of her autobiography? I just remembered that she said she titles the chapter that her and Abby were born as "Duet", but I cant remember the other ones

Rachel said...

There were twin girls in the class below me in infant school (my village was so small that our school only went from ages 5 to 7, then we had to get a bus to the nearest town). We were able to tell them apart because they always wore different coloured hair bobbles. They did look really similar when they were young and first starting the school, but there was always an obvious high difference when they were older. But I do remember that they liked buying the same bags and belts and jewellery and so on - they enjoyed being twins :)

booboobrewer said...

Anonymous, I think the other ones Anna mentioned were lullaby and requiem.

Abby’s dad tells her to be careful crossing the street because there are crazy drivers out there, and a couple hours later he’s killed in a car accident. That seems almost creepy. Or it would, if it happened in real life.

I once found a toy car in the slot of an arcade game machine...later that day I was in a car accident. That was freaky...

nikki said...

A normal pregnancy has a forty week gestation. Full term gestation for a twin pregnancy is considered thirty-eight weeks, though it's kind of rare for a mother to be able to carry even that far. Most make it to about thirty-six weeks. I haven't read this, so I don't know exactly how early Abby & Anna were born, but if they were born before thirty-six weeks, especially if their mother was not having signs of early labor, then yes, it could have been a surprise.

Kae said...

I personally used to have a bed AND a convertible couch in my bedroom when I was a child. And it was in a flat, not even a mansion. ^^

winstonegbert said...

Hmm... I've just come off an obstetrics rotation and "Term" is considered 37 weeks for a twin pregnancy [although 37 weeks is still the lower limit of normal for a singleton pregnancy].
I delivered a set of twins naturally at 36 weeks, and all women I've seen antenatally who are pregnant with twins are told that it's more likely they'll deliver before the 37 week mark. Many twin births were C-sectioned at the hospital I was at, because
a] Often the mum is older and
b] often one twin is breech
Whatever the case, Ann M and Francine Pascal totally amplified my fascination with identical twins!

Stephie said...

I just saw a story on the evening news about identical triplets starting kindergarten. The mother said they 'colour code' the boys by dressing one in blue, one in red & one in green...and I immediately thought of this!

Emily! said...

It's true, twins are generally born early. My twin sister and I were 3 months early!! I remember loving this book as a kid, now at 14, it's not so easy to sneak into the kids section at the library to get it, so I tell the librarian it's for my non-existent little sister (i think she suspects it's really for me:) haha. I really appriciate the blogs, they bring back good memories!!

Anonymous said...

"I just saw a story on the evening news about identical triplets starting kindergarten. The mother said they 'colour code' the boys by dressing one in blue, one in red & one in green...

Were those triplets named Huey, Dewey, and Louie?

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