Kristy and the Secret of Susan (RS#32)

Original Publication Date: 1990

Ghostwriter? No, this one's all Ann


(Sorry for the long time between updates. Moving, ugh.)

Kristy starts a month-long sitting job for the Felders' autistic daughter, Susan. She is very autistic, only speaking to sing along with the songs she plays on the piano or to tell people what day of the week a date fell on or will fall on. She has no connection to the outside world. Kristy is hired to give her parents a few hours' break each week while they get ready to send her to another boarding school (institution?). Kristy thinks she can bring Susan out, and works to change her. She takes her to meet her new next-door neighbors, the Hobarts, who have just moved from Australia. They're getting teased about being different, particularly by two bullies, Zach Wolfson and Mel Tucker. Mel also poses as a "friend" of Susan's, which thrills (naive) Kristy, until she realizes he's treating her a sideshow freak, charging neighborhood kids a dollar to see her perform her tricks (piano and the dates). The Hobarts end up fitting in (one is even invited to Zach's birthday party...and another starts going out with Mallory), but Susan makes no progress. Kristy comes to see Susan off to her new school, and learns that her parents are expecting a second child, another daughter named Hope. They mention they've had several tests done and, while autism can't be detected in utero, the baby looks healthy so far.

While I've read a lot of criticism about Kristy's attitude ("I can change her, no matter what her parents say!"), I think it's realistic for a head-strong thirteen-year-old who's never met anyone with autism before. I also think it's realistic that her parents would want their other child to have no difficulties in life. My nephew has some congenital defects and some delays, but since he's only two it's hard to tell how severe. While none of us would change his personality for the world, I can tell that you that given the chance to fix his physical deformities (for example, he was born with fused fingers and toes, among other things), I'd do it in a heartbeat.

Established or continued in this book:

The Girls (and Logan):

Claudia candy: Mentos in her dresser drawer, Twinkies and Oreos

Kristy thinks Mary Anne is prettier than she (Kristy) is, and that Dawn is "drop-dead gorgeous" but doesn't realize it. Maybe that's why Mary Anne initially described Dawn as nice-looking but not exactly pretty: it's all relative.

Kristy also describes both Claudia and Stacey as boy-crazy. Usually it's just Stacey, but she is currently tied with Claudia for crushes at five each.

Claudia gets nervous as the Hobarts swing faster and higher, because she's heard that it might be possible to go over the top. How about, instead of making seem dumber, she's scared because she broke her leg on a swing?

Stacey's still feeling under the weather (foreshadowing!).

Their Families:

Boo-Boo the cat only gets along with Shannon the dog.

People used the tease the eight Pike kids by calling them Spiders.

Nannie knows how to knit, and from the description of the sweater she's making Emily Michelle, she might know intarsia or fair isle (which are complicated).

The Club:

New clients: the Felders (Susan, who's severely autistic) and the Hobarts (four boys, the three youngest of whom they sit for).

Kristy credits David Michael with starting the BSC by being its inspiration.

I've mentioned before that during the school year, Kristy should just walk to a friend's house or stay at the library to wait for the meetings so Charlie doesn't have to drive her, but this REALLY doesn't make sense: when sitting for the Felders, she has Charlie drive her there right after school. Why?

Jessi's long-term job with Braddocks is mentioned here only in past tense.


SMS has a "special-ed" class.

PSA time:

Mrs. Felder gets this right: from what my (Deaf) ASL teacher told us, "handicapped" is preferable to "disabled." While both mean essentially the same thing, the latter is more blunt in saying that the individual lacks an ability. She made the analogy that disabled is to handicapped as dumb is to mute.


It's pretty mean the way the neighborhood kids make fun of the Hobarts because they have different slang. But they might be justified about mocking Vegemite. A lot of Australian food is delicious (mmm, Caramel Koalas and Chocolate Frogs), but Vegemite is disgusting.

The numbers:

Starting 8th grade: 2

Halloweens in 8th grade: 1

Summers after 8th grade: 1

BSC Fights: 5

SMS Staff: 15

Students (other than the BSC): 35 8th graders, five sixth-graders, five unspecified

Clients: 24

Types of candy in Claudia’s room: 38 (bubble gum, Butterfingers, butterscotch candy, Cheese Doodles, a chocolate bar, cookies, Cracker Jacks, crackers, cupcakes, Ding-Dongs, Doritos, gumdrops, Fritos, Gummi Bears, Heath bars, Hershey's kisses, Ho Hos, jawbreakers, licorice, licorice whips, Lifesavers, M&Ms (regular and peanut), Mallomars, marshmallows, Mentos, mini candy bars, Oreos (Double Stuf), popcorn, pretzels, pretzel sticks, Ring Dings, root beer barrels, salt water taffy, Snickers, taco chips, Tootsie Roll Pops, Tootsie Rolls, Twinkies)

Crushes: Claudia-5 (Guy, Austin Bentley, Timothy Carmody, Trevor Sandbourne, Will Yamakawa), Dawn-1 (Parker Harris), Mary Anne-2 (Alex, Logan Bruno), Stacey-5 (Toby, Pete Black, Pierre D'Amboise, Scott Foley, Sam Thomas), Kristy-1 (Bart Taylor), Mallory-1 (Ben Hobart)


nikki said...

Between Rainman and this book, I was convinced for the longest time that all autistic people were savants.

BSC AG said...

Yeah, me too!

The World of Lurlene Mcdaniel said...

this was actually my favorite kristy book earlier on in the series probably because i got a friend who has autism herself and she acted exactly the way susan acted.

plus this is the hobart boys first appearance in the series and i love the hobarts.

and it is nice to see mallory in love for a change with someone her own age.

basically this is my favorite kristy book. back when kristy was much more likable.

Laura said...

Another enjoyable post, as always.

It's been a while since I've read this book but did Charlie go with Kristy to the Felders' to meet Mr. or Mrs. Felder because she'd never sat for them before? (I don't remember this happening in Kristy and the Secret of Susan but he did do this in Stacey and the Mystery Money when Kristy sat for the Hoyts the first time.)

The World of Lurlene Mcdaniel: I don't remember Mallory dating or being in luv/crush/like with someone older than her before could you refresh my memory?

Oh, wait. Oops, of course Mallory has had a crush on someone older than her! Toby, d'oh! (And Chris, the soda jerk at Ice Cream Palace but he's only a year older so I don't think that's as negative.)

BSC AG said...

Laura: I think Charlie goes with Kristy in a different book, or maybe it's that Mallory's dad goes with her in ghost cat mystery. The Felders live on the same street that Kristy used to, so she vaguely knows them.

laura said...

Yes, I remembered Mal's dad going with her to meet the Craines for the first time.

I was just trying to come up with a reason for Charlie to have driven Kristy to the Felders, rather than Kristy just walking to their house after school. (For the record, I never understood why Kristy never went to Claud's or MA's or somewhere during the school year either. Like you don't have to do it all the time but some times.)

BSC AG said...

You're right, Laura, it's just stupid. Why can't Kristy hang out with a friend after school or work on homework in the library? She's already in the area, why should Charlie have to drive her?

Teddybear888 said...

Who are The Craines?

SJSiff said...

Teddybear, check out Mystery #3, Mallory and the Ghost Cat. The Craines are sitting clients in that book.

Thanks for reading!