Tuesday, March 10, 2009

“I’m not being mean when I say silly-billy-goo-goo”…..BSC # 32: Kristy and the Secret of Susan

Memory Reaction

This is clearly a sign of how badly the BSC portrayed issues, because when I first read this, I thought it would be “cool” to be autistic. Mainly, because I remember how Kristy sits for a girl who is autistic, but who could still somehow know what days of the week any day fell on. It seemed like a really cool talent.

Revisited Reaction

Kristy gets a job sitting for a little girl, Susan, who is autistic. Susan’s family has always lived in Stoneybrook, but she normally lives at a special school (which is why we never heard of her before). But now Susan is home for a month, and her mother wants to have some time free to do errands, so Kristy gets a regular job there.

Kristy decides it is just awful that Susan lives at a special school instead of home with her family. She decides she is going to show Susan’s parents that she is better off at home. Because obviously, she knows better than two adults who have been dealing Susan for eight years. So, Kristy tries to help Susan “make friends.” The Hobart’s have just moved into town from Australia, and have been picked on, so they at least act civil towards her. But everyone else reacts in some mixture of fear and ridicule.

Kristy tells the kids that Susan is a “savant,” which means she is able to memorize things, including a perpetual calendar, and can say what day of the week any date within a hundred year period. She can also play any song by ear after hearing it once. So, a few days later a bunch of kids start showing up at Susan’s house to quiz her, and Kristy thinks it means she is making friends – until she finds out one kid was basically selling tickets to see the “freak.” James Hobart still treats Susan like a human being, but he has made real friends by now, so can’t really do too much for her. And really, he couldn’t have anyway. Of course, Kristy is not able to cure Susan of her autism, so at the end she does leave for school. Oh, and Susan’s mom is pregnant.

Subplot: Mallory thinks that the oldest Hobart, Ben, is hot. He must feel the same way, because by the end, he asks her to the movies.


  • Kristy is sitting for Emily Michelle, and the book makes this big deal out of explaining how to tell Emily she did something wrong. It was kinda odd.
  • Apparently, Charlie made a sign for his car, saying “Baby-sitter on Board.” Um, cute?
  • Dawn can’t figure out how a moving truck delivering the Hobart’s stuff got there from Australia. She wastes several whole sentences wondering if they did it with a boat before getting a van.
  • Awe, Kristy tells us she thinks she isn’t as pretty as Mary Anne.
  • So, Kristy gets this job sitting for Susan (by Claud’s house), on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons. So, she asks Charlie to pick her up after school and drive her over there (instead of driving her there at 5:30. Now, doesn’t Claudia walk home? Didn’t Kristy do this before she moved? Why can’t she just walk to Susan’s?
  • I can’t believe Kristy doesn’t think constantly testing Susan to show her “talent” is mean.
  • If the job is 3:30-5:30, how does Kristy get to meetings on time? Did I forget the book where she learned to teleport?
  • All the kids of Stoneybrook make fun of the Hobarts for being from Australia, with Crocodile Dundee references. I would think that is actually a compliment…wasn’t he supposed to be cool? My brother thought so any way, at least as a kid.
  • How do all these kids know what day of the week dates fell on? When people find out about Susan, they instantly ask her a date. Some of them come back after looking it up, but not all. I don’t even know what day of the week I was born on, let alone when my grandmother was born.
  • Karen makes Andrew play her pet monkey in a game of “Let’s All Come In.” How does she get away with this stuff? Couldn’t Andrew say no?
  • At SMS, the kids don’t have to sit with their classes at assemblies. Really? Teachers just let kids sit with their friends? There is no real supervision? Isn’t that asking for trouble?
  • Apparently, Stoneybrook has a huge program for handicapped kids. This one class has multiple kids with Down’s syndrome, a deaf and blind kid, a deaf kid, an autistic kid, and a kid with cerebral palsy. She can’t see why Susan can’t be in a class like that – never mind that Susan has a severe case and her parents have said they want her to go to a special music school.
  • At an assembly, a bunch of kids make fun of a girl in a wheelchair. Maybe if the teachers made kids sit with their class, things like that wouldn’t happen.
  • Is the word “retarded” politically correct? Cause they use it all the time, and it seems kind of wrong. I have family with Down’s syndrome and no one ever calls them “retarded.”
  • How does anyone get “apertinment” when trying to spell appointment?


Kait W. said...

Oh, this book is a major FAIL when it comes to dealing with autism. I remember there was one part where Kristy picked up Susan - for most autistic kids, this would be impossible. They hate to be touched, especially by someone they don't know, and would throw a major fit if this happened. Also, kids with that severe a disability most often get some sort of respite care worker as a babysitter, not the neighborhood eighth-grader.

Anonymous said...

Kait I sooo agree with you!! And BSC Snarker- LOVE THIS BLOG! I also usually post on Tuesdays, sometimes Mondays, and I always look for your posts after I write mine!!

Anonymous said...

Because of this book, it took me YEARS to figure out that not everyone with autism has some sort of superpower.

And as for Kristy's reaction--yeah, it's nuts, but when you consider the fact that every other parent in Stoneybrook doesn't have a clue about their own children and need the BSC to figure them out, it's a perfectly natural response.

maria said...

This is kind of embarrassing, but because of this book, I thought ALL people with autism could do what Susan did.
Fast forward 14 years and I now have a half brother with autism, who does not have these special "powers"
Thanks, ANM.

Anonymous said...

I think at the time this book was written, retarded wasn't viewed as terribly as it is now. Could be I was just young and naive when I read this book.

And this is yet another book that makes me want to smack Kristy in her effin' mouth. Officious little wench.

Anonymous said...

i probably would have thought all autistic kids were savants if had read this when i was younger. they should have at least pointed out that its really rare. and kristy really doesn't get it does she? autistic kids have no desire to socially connect with people so she just made herself look like an idiot

Sadako said...

I think it was painful to read about what Kristy did in this book, even as a kid. I hated how they thought they could fix everything and everybody.

Aren't two of the kids who make fun of Susan called Zack and Mel? I know they make fun of the Hobart kids and their accents and then later one of them (Mel?) plays pranks on Dawn in Beware, Dawn.

Anonymous said...

"Retarded" used to be the acceptable term to refer to people with mental disabilities - when people started using it in a derogatory way it fell into disfavour - kind of like how "dumb" used to be used for "mute".

I agree that this book gave me a slightly twisted view of autism, but I'm sure I read other children's books that dealt with the same issue in the same way, so it's probably just a product of the times (not that that really makes it OK).

This was one of the first BSC books I read where everything didn't work out in the end. Which is probably why I only read it once!

Sadako said...

I remember thinking it was weird that Mallory used the word "retarded" when she was spying on people on the cruise in BSC on Board. She sees some people and thinks they must be retarded. I have no idea why. It was bizarre.

nikki said...

My husband, who has a warped sense of humor, made a comment about taking autistic kids to Vegas to count cards in blackjack. I explained to him that not all autistic kids are savants like Rain Man. It was news to him (and he never read a single BSC book).

So it wasn't just AMM who propogated this myth. We can also blame Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman.

And really...? Aperntiment?

lemongirl said...

Re: “apertinment” from appointment

Terrible penmanship?
Claudia was supposed to be an amazing artist, but I guess handwriting and artistic talent aren’t necessarily related. Maybe Claudia could spell fine and she just couldn’t write legibly? I actually think that could explain some of her more bizarre spelling errors.

Meanwhile I know this is an old post, but I want to say that I'm loving this blog! Major nostalgia trip.

Anonymous said...

If the job is 3:30-5:30, how does Kristy get to meetings on time? Did I forget the book where she learned to teleport?

yes, yes you did

sweetsapphire83 said...

I have Asperger's Syndrome, which is a form of autism. I'm NOTHING like Susan and most of the autistic kids I know, are NOTHING like Susan. Nevertheless, I liked the book because it dealt with autism in a time when most authors ignored the issue. And as for the word "retarded", I find it offensive used as a slang term.

elektra said...

Cat and emaus might be onto something. This is a bit of an old book and maybe things were different then. That word is a medical word distorted. I mean, it began as a medical word but then people used it to be mean. It became a word people used to put down people, including ones that are disabled. And I'm like SweetSapphire83. I have Asperger's and the only thing Susan does that reminds of me is the arm flapping. I did that as a kid.

elektra said...

reminds me of me.

Unknown said...

I agree, Kristy went a little too far trying to help Susan. However, there is one thing I agree with her on. It's fine if you want to send a child with autism to a certain school but they shouldn't be kept away from their parents for long periods of time. All children heavily rely on their parents and especially kids with autism. I know this because I have autism and a big part of my progress was because my parents were there for me every step of the way.