Original Publication Date: 1997
Ghostwriter? Yes, Nola Thacker
(If I have typed anything that comes across as offensive, especially by accidentally using outdated terms, please let me know. I tried to use the right words but I'm not sure if I did.)
Abby is playing on a "unified" soccer team, comprised of Special Olympics athletes who have mental disabilities, and neuro-typical players, called partners. The BSC is awesomely supportive of the team, even organizing a car wash to raise money for it. Abby is sure she'll be the star of the team, like the was in her Long Island middle school. Her dreams are quickly threatened when she's given the position of defense instead of striker (an offensive position) like she's used to (but Abby, slide-tackling! Defense is awesome!). Striker goes to an athlete, with whom Abby soon becomes very competitive. She's frustrated at not being able to play the position she thinks is best for her and the for team, and takes it out on the girl, Erin. Then in the first game, Abby doesn't really communicate with her teammates so she feels unsupported during play. The team loses, and Abby's sure it's everyone's fault but hers. Abby doesn't learn any lessons for the second game, and after a yelling match with Erin (to be fair, both were being ball hogs), they both end up benched for a game and a half.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Stevenson is making plans for her and the girls to visit their father's gravesite, the first time since their move. Abby doesn't want to, fearing the emotional toll it will have, and uses a soccer game during which she's being benched (her mom and sister don't know that last part) to avoid it. And really...Mrs. Stevenson should know her daughters' schedules to avoid such conflicts. Abby did commit to the soccer team before she knew anything about a short-notice trip, especially when the day she wants to visit the cemetary is Sunday, when Abby has no game. The family makes a plan TOGETHER to visit the gravesite around the time of the anniversary of his death. Abby decides to leave her lucky soccer cleats there when they go, a symbol that she's ready to let go of certain parts of the past and continue living.
This must have been a difficult book to write, trying to sensitively portray people with mental disabilities. I ended up on Abby's side for the stuff with her family, because everything was sprung on her and it should have been better planned, but not on her side for the soccer stuff. She needed to be brought not a few notches there!
Established or continued in this book:
The Girls (and Logan):
Claudia candy: none mentioned
When Logan is described as looking like movie star Cam Geary by anyone other than Mary Anne, it's pretty consisently pointed out that it's only according to Mary Anne that he looks like the actor, which I find amusing.
For as little attention as Shannon, gets, it's impressive that her after-school activities are fairly consistnent: astronomy club, French club, Honor Society, debate, and drama.
Kristy makes an offhand remark to wanting to be a dog trainer. In a few books, her family starts training a seeing eye dog.
Kristy's bluntness serves a purpose here, helping to spur Abby to be not only a good sport, but a decent human being.
The interactions with Abby and her family highlight how little the communicate. They're more like roommates than family.
The Club (and clients):
This book claims that August is a busy month for the BSC, where usually it's slower.
Coach Wu, from the SMS softball team, shows up to coach the soccer team in this book. We're also introduced to a seventh grader who's playing on the team, Petra Kosinski, and an eighth grade girl named Jojo.
PSA Time: nothing stood out.
My high school cross country coach had a name for people who show off during practice but can't get it done in a competition: practice champion. I used it myself when I coached middle school and high school.
I question just randomly throwing people in to play goalie. I'd understand it if no one already played goalie or no one was willing to volunteer, but just going, "Hey, you're tall. Get in goal." I loved goalie though, so maybe it's hard for me to imagine that no one else on the team wanted to play it. One thing for sure, Coach: make it clear to your team that it's never one person's fault for a loss. For example, a goalie may miss a ball, but that ball had to get through ten other members of the team first. Soccer is a TEAM sport.
Abby narates that one athlete who appears to have Down syndrome is wearing long underwear under her soccer uniform, presumably because people with Down syndrome are more prone to catching colds. But, uh...is it reasonable to wear long underwear during the warm, humid summers the East Coast has?
Please keep in mind, I say this as an aunt to an almost-five-year-old who we hope will want to compete in the Special Olympics. He has mental as well as physical disabilities and lots of energy; we think it would be fun for him. Anyway...does anyone else find it awkward that the Special Olympics logo features stick figures who each have six arms?
Starting 8th grade: 9
Halloweens in 8th grade: 6 (plus one in seventh)
Thanksgivings in 8th grade: 3
Winter holidays in 8th grade (that BSC members celebrate, not just reference): Christmas-3, Hanukkah-1, Kwanzaa-2
Valentine's Days in 8th grade: 3
Summers after 8th grade: 10
BSC Fights: 11
SMS Staff and Faculty: 67
Students (other than the BSC): 209: 119 8th graders (not including Amelia Freeman, who is deceased), 26 7th graders, 47 6th graders, 15 unspecified. Baby-sitters' Winter Vacation tells us that SMS has about 380 students.
Clients: 37 families
Types of candy in Claudia’s room: 130