This was just after I stopped reading.
The book starts with Mallory getting her mid-term progress report and seeing she has all As. Unfortunately, her classmates also see this and start making fun of her for being a “brainiac.” She’s embarrassed, but still pleased about it. She’s also pleased with her new Short Takes class – it’s about children’s literature, which is obviously her thing. But, when the class starts, she finds out it’s all discussion. The dork in her is upset that they’ll be no writing, and she’s not a fan of having to talk in class a lot.
At first Mal tries to speak up, because the class is graded on participation. But she doesn’t get called on a lot, and then she loses confidence in her ideas. Part of the problem is that the teacher (a young, “cool” teacher) lets two of the obnoxious guys in the class call out their answers. He also seems to favor the boys when calling on students. The first couple of times he does call on Mal, she gets flustered and doesn’t speak up, she doesn’t even correct him when he calls her “Valerie.” It keeps happening, and eventually, she keeps looking away to avoid being called on.
Eventually, Mal gets courage to tell the teacher she thinks he’s favoring the guys. At first he tries to brush her off, but he still makes an effort to call on girls the next day. Then in class he suddenly realizes she’s right, and apologizes to the class as a whole (he doesn’t mention her accusation). That’s the part that totally lost me. I can’t see a teacher ever doing that, and it comes off as the book trying to make everyone learn a lesson or something. Anyway, Mal does a great job on the one paper they do have, so she gets a B+ in the class.
I expected to feel bad for Mallory based on the back of the book summary, but I really didn’t at all. First of all, since when is Mal shy? She’s quiet, but I don’t remember her being afraid to talk in class or stuttering when she’s called on. She’s not as outspoken as Kristy, but she’s not as shy as Mary Anne. Secondly, the whole thing’s really her fault. She stops raising her hand. She avoids getting called on. When I was in school, I was super-shy, but if a teacher told us we were graded on participation, I raised my hand and spoke up because I was a dork like Mal that wanted straight As. And yeah, the teacher’s favoring the guys, but that’s mostly because they jump in with answers all the time. In the real world, there are going to be people who are more outspoken, or people who might be favored, and you deal with it. Now, to be fair, Mal admits that it’s partially her fault. But she still annoyed me. Maybe I’m getting old and just can’t relate to middle school problems anymore.
Meanwhile, Mallory’s still Secretary of 6th Grade, and is working with the other class officers on a fundraiser. Apparently, the sixth grade class always has a fundraiser, and then leaves the money to the school to do something special. I’m not sure why sixth graders would be gifting something to the school, it seems more like something the graduating class would do. But whatever. It’s not like anyone actually graduates from the place anyway. Mallory finds out that a few years ago, the class’s monetary gift of $1,000 got re-classed to pay for fixing pipes or something, instead of making a student lounge. Mallory encourages the other class officers to go with her to talk to the vice-principal about how unfair that was, and he agrees that if they raise $1,000 this year, the school will match the donation to make up for what they did a few years ago. And they not only make $1,000, they break the school’s record, thanks to all Mal’s work. So, she does get to be competent at something. This is nice, because while she’s always the butt of some jokes, I like Mal.
There’s also this silly subplot about how Buddy Barrett’s jealous that Lindsay (his step-sister) gets to march in the Memorial Day parade with her Brownie troop. Since only “groups” are allowed to march, he told the parade organizers that he has a marching band. I’m not sure why they took an eight-year-old’s word, but again, whatever. Buddy asks the BSC to help him form one. They jump into it like always, and soon all the regular clients want in. They help them make handmade instruments, but realize the kids sound horrible when they try to play. Mal gets the idea to give all the kids kazoos and hide them in the instruments. Then the day of the parade they get way more kids than they expected, because parents of their clients just drop off their kids, even though they hadn’t been involved in the preparation or talked to any of the BSCers about it. But it goes well enough in the end.
I know kids tease, but the making fun of Mal for having straight As seems a bit over the top.
There’s a subplot with a girl in Mal’s class trying to act dumb and agreeable so that boys like her, and Mallory telling her it’s not right to do that. It’s the feminist message of the book, and probably the whole reason for it existing.
Claud outfit: “She was wearing denim overall shorts, a short black T-shirt, red-and-white pin-striped stockings that came over the top of her knees, red thick-soled patent leather shoes, and a black felt derby.”
I love that they mention “All the Children of the World,” the band they started in that book with the racist client. (I’m being serious – I really like references to past books).
The teacher starts class by talking about how they’ll be no papers, and even tells Mallory to put her notebook away because he doesn’t want kids taking notes. But then he goes, “oh, wait there will be one essay.”
Since when do teachers give out progress reports in class? In my school they mailed them to our parents. If they’re giving them out in class, I would at least expect an envelope in order to avoid kids seeing other people’s grades.
Claud’s outfit for “building” instruments: “Shorts and a rainbow tie-dyed T-shirt. Her hair was pulled into a thick pony tail held by a matching tie-dyed scrunchie…she sported her favorite work shoes, red high-top sneakers.” That may be the tamest Claud outfit ever. How boring.
Stacey’s outfit for the same thing: “Jeans with rolled up cuffs, an oversized denim work shirt, and a painter’s cap turned backwards.” Also pretty tame.
When Claud and Stacey show up for a sitting job, Mr. and Mrs. DeWitt seem surprised to hear about the whole making instruments and forming a band thing. Shouldn’t the girls have cleared it with them before agreeing to help the kids?
In Mal’s class, the kids are talking about projects to “further the cause of children’s literature,” and her suggestion is to arrange to have SMS students read to little kids. The teacher is…surprisingly down on it. But he loves suggestions like making a poster or giving books to a library in underprivileged areas. This was the one time when I felt for Mallory in the whole thing, I thought her idea was better than the others. It also made me think of this book.
Mallory takes one of the class officers into the basement of the school to find evidence of what happened to the old donation, I think it’s the same place they snuck into in some other book (Maybe this one?). But that time, it was records from 20 + years ago. I can’t imagine records from only five years ago being stored in a basement.
The scene also dates the book, because today you’d have someone hacking into the school’s computer to “investigate.”
Some guy in Mal’s class makes a Jurassic Park reference, as though it’s current…but that movie came out way before 1997, when the book was published.
It’s kind of annoying that parents in town just drop their kids off at the beginning of the parade and expect the BSC watch them/let them join the “band.” BUT, can you really blame them? Look at everything else these girls do.
However, I don’t buy that Mrs. Newton would be one of the parents who did this. She just drops her 4-year-old off near the parade start, watches him walk over toward Kristy and wave good-bye? With no contact with Kristy first?
Also, Kristy was already planning to watch the Barrett-DeWitt and Papadakis kids by herself before the parade started…that’s way more than their usual limit. That’s why the other kids showing up is a big deal.
Mallory and the other class officers work on the fundraiser and talk about what to do with the money. It feels like there should be more people in on that decision, aren’t there members of student council that aren’t the officers? They should be involved.
Again, why are sixth graders talking about what people will remember them for?