You may recall that several months ago, I began sporadically reviewing BSC books, my Top Five Favorites. So here’s good old, #5, Jessi’s Secret Language. (If you need a reminder, the others, in order, were Logan Likes Mary Anne, The Ghost at Dawn’s House, Baby Sitter’s Summer Vacation and Claudia and Mean Janine. ) Why do I love this one? I have a very vivid memory of being eleven years old and my mom buying this for me when I was sick with strep throat, taking me to work with her (she cleaned newly built houses after the builders were finished) and letting me lie in a bed in a model home all day and read it.
Let’s start this review with the cover. Matt Braddock is one of the more child-like looking babysitting charges that Hodges Soileau has ever done. He’s actually pretty adorable, big hair nothwithstanding. But holy cow, why can we NOT illustrate a Jessi who actually looks eleven? Why does Jessi always look like an adult? Is it because of her looooong ballerina legs? Check this picture out though….Jessi has bigger boobs than I have.
This is Jessi’s first book. She has an actual personality in it! She’s new to Stoneybrook and very new to the BSC. Also, she tells us on page three that she’s black (then talks about it for three pages) just in case you didn’t know. One day Mrs. Braddock calls looking for a regular sitter on Mondays and Wednesdays, and Jessi gets the job. The catch? Her seven year old son, Matthew is deaf and speaks using Ameslan. Or sign language. Because has anyone ever really said Ameslan as opposed to sign language?
Jessi (who so happens to conveniently be a language prodigy) takes sign language lessons and starts sitting for Matt and his older sister, Haley. Haley is both jealous and over-protective of Matt. Jessi decides to help the kids make friends in the neighborhood by introducing them to the Pikes, Barretts and several other sitting charges. The other kids end up being eager to learn to sign language, making Haley very happy that she doesn’t have to worry so much about Matt.
In the subplot (which is also Jessi’s), Jessi gets the lead in her ballet school’s performance of Coppelia. Jessi learns that Matt has never been to the theater. So she invites Matt and his classmates to the theater for her recital, because deaf kids can “feel” music. A good time was had by all, and I may or may not have teared up a little. (I did.)
- Jessi tells us that Squirt is small, but “makes up for it by being extremely bright.” Um, Ann M.? Fuck you. Small isn’t something you need to “make up” for. I’ve never once thought that my pipsqueak of a son was bright to “make up” for being a small fry. I mean, he is small and he IS brilliant, but I don’t think one has to do with the other. Also, me? Five feet, one inch. (And also brilliant….I mean….obviously, right?)
- Squirt says ‘ackaminnie’ for ice cream. And that seems like it’d be much more difficult for a 14 month old to say than Ice Cream. (or I-kwee…that’s how my kid said it at first)
- In this book, Claudia is called sophisticated. But that’s only cause Jessi hasn’t met Stacey yet!
- Heh. Kristy says that if you can touch your tongue to your nose, you’ll eventually need a big bra. I can touch my tongue to my nose….and I may have already mentioned my itty bitty titties.
- It’s surprising to me that the Braddocks end up being regular clients. This book has convenient plot device written all over it. (I’m looking at you Susan Felder).
- Haley has a rat tail. Or, femmullet.
- Another ‘Jenny Prezzioso is a brat’ moment. She tries to yell in Matt’s ear when M.A. tells her that Matt can’t hear. You know what? That doesn’t make her a brat. That makes her a normal fucking four year old who doesn’t quite have the concept of good manners down. Jaysus, I hate how mean these girls are about Jenny. Ten bucks says if Karen Brewer had done that, they would have tried to say that she’s just “high spiritesd.”
- The Pike kids totally have the lyrics to the worm song wrong. It goes like this: Nobody likes me, everybody hates me. Going to the garden to eat worms. Long thin slimy ones, short fat fuzzy ones. Ooey gooey gooey gooey worms. First you bite off the heads, then you spit out the tails, then you throw the skins away. Nobody knows how I can survive on a hundred worms a day.
- Oh, HERE’S the plot device. Katie Beth, a girl at Jessi’s ballet school, who hates Jessi, conveniently has a deaf sister, Adele.
- Adele’s family doesn’t know sign language. They shipped Adele off to boarding school rather than be bothered. Nice.
- But don’t worry, Jessi teaches KB a lesson at the end, and KB ends up taking sign language lessons. Though their parents don’t. God damn, Adele is going to be so fucked up from having such asshat parents.
- When I watched Mr. Holland’s Opus I totally thought of this book. Like when Mr. Holland sets up the concert to include changing lights so his deaf son can enjoy it.
- Why is Jessi so surprised that Matt’s never been to a theater? He’s only seven for godssake.
- Huh. Kristy isn’t a freak show about Jessi’s tardiness yet.
- Really, everyone in the production of Coppelia gets ten free tickets??? That seems….excessive to me. Unless it’s some special opening night / dress rehearsal thing to prepare for actual paying guests??
- Surprise! Keisha comes to watch Jessi in her recital. Which is all kinds of sweet.
- People can go on all they want to about how French or Italian are the most beautiful languages. But sign language beats the crap outta those two. Whenever I’m at any type of speech thing where there are sign language interpreters, I can not keep my eyes off the interpreter. I wish I knew more of it. But I only know the alphabet and a handful of random words.
- Foreshadowing: Kristy’s mom keeps talking about wanting a baby.
- God damn Claudia’s spelling. youre, secrit, langage, babysiting, invinted, entirtane, borthers, scars, gost, litle.
Fanfic time! This little ficlet takes place ten years after this book. Matt Braddock-centric. And I must admit to playing fast and loose with Adele Parson’s age. So sorry. (Also, not slash…so yay for me!)
Matt Braddock was bored. He was sitting in class, staring down at his history text book thinking how bored he was. Not just at this moment, but with his life. He had done everything by the rules, and he was kind of sick of it. Good athlete, didn’t drink, didn’t do drugs, got good grades, president of the student council at Stamford School for the Deaf. His admission to Gallaudet had been assumed for years.
This boredom and restlessness began a few weeks ago when Jessi told Haley, who told Matt about that deaf girl he’d met ten years earlier at Jessi’s dance performance. Matt couldn’t even remember her name. Evidently, she’d just been kicked out of her boarding school and her parents didn’t know what to do with her. Matt wondered what you needed to do to get kicked out of school and he realized that you had to be a lot more exciting than he was.
So there he was in his senior year of high school, supposed to be reading his text book, when the lights started blinking; his teacher’s way of getting his student’s attention. Matt looked up and saw The Girl standing next to the teacher.
“Class,” signed Ms. Martin, “This is Adele Parsons. She is a transfer student here. Please make her welcome.” Ms. Martin turned to Adele, “You may take the empty seat next to Matt,” and pointed her to Matt’s right.
Matt followed Adele from the front of the room to the seat next to him. She had short spiky hair that was dyed pink, dark eyes with long lashes, lips that were colored with dark red. She had a nose ring with a chain that attached to her earring. She looked extremely unhappy.
Matt watched Adele as she searched through her purse to find a pen. He caught sight of a pack of cigarettes, and oh my god, was that a box of condoms? Adele looked up and gave Matt a crooked smile.
Matt sat up straighter and looked ahead at the teacher. Finally, his senior year of high school just got a little more interesting.