Portrait Collection: Mary Anne's Book

Original Publication Date: 1996

Ghostwriter? Yes, Jeanne Betancourt


This is Mary Anne's autobiography. It's organized into chunks:

Birth to six years: Mary Anne briefly discusses her mom being ill, seemingly right from the start, and living with her grandparents for a while. She goes in to more details as she has more memories, like how her dad would take her out to restaurants to eat once a week, so Mary Anne would learn how to behave in public (love that idea, by the way). Mary Anne starts preschool with Kristy and Claudia, and they continue to kindergarten and first grade together. Mary Anne is close to them and Mimi from a young age.

The Tea Party: This may be Mary Anne's first crisis that could have been resolved by just talking to someone. Her first grade class is going to have a Mother's Day Tea. The teacher says if any student's mother can't come, another special person is welcome. But the other kids (except Kristy and Claudia) laugh at Mary Anne for planning to bring her father, so she invites Mimi. Both her dad and Mimi show up, but it works out. The teacher even says some really nice to Mary Anne about the important roles her dad fills. I remember my senior year of high school, when we had a Mother's Tea. One of my friend's mothers died when he was ten, and he brought along an aunt he's especially close to. We all read letters to our mothers, and he read one to his as well as to his aunt.

Stage Fright: During summer break, Mary Anne, Kristy, and Claudia take ballet at the YMCA. Mary Anne is nervous about performing in a recital that she throws up backstage. It's then that her dad realizes how much she hates it (she'd been hiding her fear), and lets her skip the recital since it's causing her too much stress.

E is for Eyeglasses: In fourth grade, Mary Anne makes friends with an April Livingston, who wears glasses. Mary Anne wants glasses too, and tries to fail an eye exam.

Exploring My Secret Past: This starts with a recap of Mary Anne and the Secret in the Attic, the mystery book in which Mary Anne learns about her grandparents' raising her for a time. Then we get details about her visit with her grandmother in Iowa. She's clearly still very much in mourning for her husband, and spends a lot of time talking about Mary Anne's recently-deceased grandfather. She also shows Mary Anne things from her time there, thinking and hoping Mary Anne will remember, but no such luck. Finally, they have a talk and start getting to know each other as they are, rather than as they expect each other to be. They finish a quilt that was going to be a birthday present for Mary Anne's mother, and it wins a blue ribbon at the fair.

Mary Anne gets an A+.

Established or continued in this book:

The Girls (and Logan):

Claudia candy:

Stacey still feels torn between her parents. I wonder if they still put her in the middle.

Mary Anne seems to have been formula primarily or exclusively as an infant. I wonder if that's just Ann M. Martin's weirdness with not mentioning breastfeeding or due to the illness that killed Mary Anne's mother.

Mary Anne gets sick to her stomach when she's nervous.

You'd think Mary Anne, Kristy, and Claudia would have mentioned taking ballet to Jessi at some point, but you'd be wrong.

There are pictures in the Portrait Collection books, like in the Super Specials. Even at young ages, Kristy is shorter than Claudia and Mary Anne.

At first I was surprised by the last-minute travel arrangements for Mary Anne to visit her grandmother, but if Dawn can fly across the country on a whim, can't her step-sister go halfway?

Mary Anne loves sewing? I guess she's gotten over her home ec issues from Kristy and the Missing Child.

Their Families:

Spoiled kitten Tigger gets wet food for breakfast. Our two cats only get it for dinner.

Richard Spier loves organizing "even alphabetizes cereal boxes and the bottles on the herb and spice rack." Cereal boxes do seem a bit out there, but the spice rack is normal to me. It's easier to find things if you know the basil's near the top.

Richard also knows how to braid. The first time I really grasped that men and women were different was when I asked my dad to braid my hair for a preschool recital and he didn't know how. I ended up wearing a head band (Mom had been at work and met us there).

Janine can read and walk at the same time, which Mary Anne finds very impressive.

Claudia's mother's favorite color is purple, and Mimi's was blue.

Mary Anne's mom wasn't even 25 when she died. And Richard Spier was in middle school 28 years ago...let's say he was 12; that would make him 40, minus 13 is 27. So he was couple years older than Alma, but not a huge gap.

The Club (and clients):

Kristy starts fantasizing about being a baby-sitter just before fourth grade.

SMS: nothing new.

PSA Time:

Often, biological relation makes families. But not always. For example, there is sometimes a difference between a person's mother and a person's Mom.


The eye test chart in the book is missing the numbers on the edge that tells you what line is 20/20 or 20/40 or 20/whatever vision.

Why do kids in books and TV shows so often act like glasses are a bad thing? Mary Anne is the only one excited about the idea, but only until she actually needs them. I got glasses in third grade and no one cared except for me and my parents. And I was thrilled. I had no idea you could see leaves on trees from the car! My parents only concern was that I take care of them properly.

The numbers:

Starting 8th grade: 8

Halloweens in 8th grade: 5 (plus one in seventh)

Thanksgivings in 8th grade: 2

Winter holidays in 8th grade (that BSC members celebrate, not just reference): Christmas-2, Hanukkah-1, Kwanzaa-1

Valentine's Days in 8th grade: 3

Summers after 8th grade: 8

BSC Fights: 10

SMS Staff and Faculty: 55

Students (other than the BSC): 179; 114 8th graders (not including Amelia Freeman, who is deceased), 6 7th graders, 43 6th graders, 15 unspecified. Baby-sitters' Winter Vacation tells us that SMS has about 380 students.

Clients: 33 families

Types of candy in Claudia’s room: 117

Mary Anne-2


noseinanovel said...

This was always my favorite of the Portrait Collections, as Mary Anne has always been my favorite baby sitter. After I read this (around age 9) I began practicing reading while walking because I thought it sounded like such a cool, mature, talent to have. I may or may not have spent an entire summer walking around my block while reading Beverly Cleary.

SJSiff said...

I really like it, too. It seems like you do get some insight into Mary Anne and her dad, like how he took out to restaurants to help her learn how to behave in public, or how her first memory is of greeting her father when he came home from work.

Donica said...

Heh. I didn't get my first pair of glasses until I was 25. I was kind of weird and always sort of wanted them. My eyesight wasn't bad enough that I NEEDED to wear them all the time, it was more of an inconvenience to not wear them. HOwever, I was SHOCKED when I could actually sit in the back of the class in college AND SEE THE BOARD UP FRONT CLEARLY. I didn't realize until then just what my eyes were like, because they'd just gotten worse slowly.
Now, however, my eye went all to hell. It seriously happened over the course of a couple of weeks. I went to get a physical before working at camp for my fourth summer, and yes, while I still needed glasses, it was still just more of an inconvenience. Then my right eye just...got really really bad and didn't change. Apparently I have something called occular histoplasmosis, and now I really need to wear glasses all the time, ESPECIALLY to drive. On another note, like Mallory, I took a liking to archery, and was pretty good. Archery is all about eye dominance and not hand dominance. (Mainly because you want your dominant eye to be closest to the arrow, and you'll see better where it's aiming at). I HAD been right eye dominant before all the crap happened. Then obviously my left eye was better so I had to switch. Unfortunately, I'm just not as good of an archer left handed as I was right handed (But I can still hold my own) because my left eye isn't as dominant as my right eye once was.

SJSiff said...

I was so amazed at the difference my glasses made! :)

Interesting about archery. I didn't know eye dominance was more important, but it makes sense. I'm glad you can still enjoy it even with the eye complications.