Sheila meets a girl from down the street named Mouse Ellis. Mouse is the Junior Yo-yo champion of Tarrytown and is short and skinny with scabs up and down her legs. Mouse and Sheila hit it off right away, even though Sheila tells Mouse that Yo-yo-ing is for babies where she comes from. This is not true, of course. Sheila just can’t admit she can’t yo-yo. Mouse is no idiot though and sees right through Sheila’s ruse from the beginning.
Sheila, Mouse and Libby go to summer day camp. Sheila and Mouse spend a lot of time taking pottery, Libby becomes boy-crazy and takes more ballet classes. What other plans do Sheila’s parents have for her? Swimming lessons – even though our girl is terrified. (Sheila insists to anyone who’ll listen that only babies swim where she comes from). Libby has a crush on Sheila’s swim instructor. Sheila refuses to try to learn to swim, though she is eventually coerced into at least dog paddling.
Sheila and Mouse also become friends with the twins Jane and Sondra Van Arden, who look nothing alike. At one point, Sheila’s parents allow her to have a slumber party with the three girls, which goes terribly terribly wrong in the way that only a slumber party featuring slam books can. Ahhh slam books. How you bullied people different than you before the age of Facebook. Here’s what Sheila’s slam book page said about her: Her hair is a-parted crooked, b-should grow out, c-get it cut. Her face is a-ugly but lovable, b-weird eyebrows, c-gruesome. You get the point. Her bad points were that she’s a chicken, is bossy and acts real tough. But overall, she is interesting at least. Naturally, the slam books cause a big fight, though the girls do make up.
At the end of the book, Sheila finally passes her swimming test. She swam across the deep end and treaded water for two minutes. It only took the whole freaking summer for her to do that, but she’s super proud of herself. Then there is a farewell party hosted by Sheila’s parents for all their new friends in Tarrytown. Jennifer the dog is knocked up, and Sheila thinks it might not be so bad if they get a puppy.
- Much of the book focuses on Sheila’s fears, which as I mentioned before, are numerous. And it focuses on Sheila’s reactions to her fears, which is to act bossy and mean and fearless. I think that kids might have a hard time seeing beyond Sheila’s facade to the vulnerability that’s inside. (This is much like how I didn’t care for Harriet M. Welch when I was a kid, but as an adult, I could appreciate her much more.)
- Sheila tells us, the readers, about always being afraid of things, and it’s really kind of heartbreaking. “I wonder why I had to be born like me instead of like Libby, who isn’t afraid of anything. Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair.” Also, because of her fears, she has to sleep with the blanket covering her ear. I’m the same way, I’ve always had to fall asleep with my ear covered. It’s because when I was a kid, I was afraid of bugs crawling in my ear. Now it’s just habit. A nightly occurrence in my bed at night is me asking my husband to stop tossing and turning because he’s uncovering my ear.
- Mouse tells Sheila the story of Ichabod Crane, because Sleepy Hollow was supposed to have taken place partially in Tarrytown. So there’s yet another thing to be afraid of….headless horsemen.
- One of the twins, Sondra, is overweight. Sheila, Jane and Mouse all call her out on it at the slumber party and shame her into having only two slices of pizza. Way to create an anorexic. In all fairness, Sheila harps on Libby for being too thin. But that is part and parcel of the total honesty you’ll get in Judy’s books.
- Toward the end of the book, when Sheila’s swim instructor wants her to learn to put her face in the water, she refuses saying her reason is very important. She admits to him finally that the very important reason is that she’s scared. It’s the first she’s admitted this out loud in the entire book and it’s pretty sweet when the instructor says he’s proud of her for admitting to it. And eventually, she sticks her face in and blows bubbles.
- God, slam books. Proof of childhood cruelty right there. Also, I’m totally going to look for Slam Book by Ann M. to review here.
- Judy is making a point here. That people who seem to be behaving badly often have a reason. That how people act on the outside can be hiding something on the inside. Too bad I didn’t get that as a kid. Also, too bad in real life, I’d find Sheila to be completely fucking insufferable. Not too bad to read about – but it’d be hell to know her.
Sorry my posting days have been a little off recently. My son has begun outgrowing his naps leaving me with less consistent internet time. So for those of you who’d gotten used to regular Tuesday postings….well that might be a thing of the past. I still plan on posting a minimum of once a week. It’ll just be a crap shoot when that can happen.