Ann M. Martin has a new book out for 2014, and it’s getting AMAZING reviews. So, I just needed to remember that when I read this book written twenty-five years ago. Because it is….not good. It’s nice to have proof an author can grow and improve during that time.
The Rosso family has ten kids, but no pets. As the very brilliant title suggests. At the beginning of the book, the family is moving from New York City to a farmhouse in New Jersey. I’m not even going to go into the idea of a family of twelve living in an apartment in NYC. Mr. Rosso is in advertising, which I guess pays super well because a 4 BR apartment in NYC isn’t cheap.
Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the kids (ages fourteen through six – there is a set of twins in there). Each kid has one thing in common, which is that they want a pet. They’re sure that moving out of the city and into the country means they’ll definitely be allowed a pet. But Mrs. Rosso says over and over ‘ten kids is enough!’
Anyway, stupid shit happens and at the end Mrs. Rosso is knocked up again and lets them get a pet and they find kitten in the yard and are allowed to keep it.
I don’t really want to get bogged down in talking too much about what’s going on in the book, mostly because it’s boring, but also because I want to talk about these kids’ fucking names.
- Abigail (Abbie)
- Calandra (Candy)
- Dagwood (Woody)
- Eberhard (Hardy)
- Gardenia (Dinnie)
- Janthina (Jan)
- Kelly/Keegan for the 11th kid depending if it’s a boy or girl.
Their mother has a ‘system’ for naming her kids. She has a baby name book, and her first kid had the first name from the A’s. Her second kid, the second name in the B’s, third kid had the third name in the C’s….etc.
Which is odd on its own, because when she had Abigail, was she really planning on having enough kids that she’d need a system?
But really, when you think about it, this is just fucking awful. Not to get to sentimental about kids or whatever (I have two of them), but the first thing you ever give to your kids (besides life itself) is a name. And people have different views on naming kids, which is fine. You can like common names, or unique names, or foreign names, or family names, or old-fashioned names. Whatever you like, you give your kid a name that you love and you hope your kid loves it as much as you do, or at least doesn’t hate it.
But for shit’s sake, your kids are people, not decorations and not things. Giving your kid the name Eberhard because it fits into some crackpot system and not because you truly love the name is an awful thing to do to a kid. It doesn’t respect him as an individual, it only respects how he fits into the family. (In this case, a name that begins with an E.)
And the kids aren’t happy with their names. Abbie admits she lucked out, and so did Ira and Hannah. But Woody (Dagwood) has actually gotten into fist fights over his name. In fact, they are so unhappy with their names, that when the twins, Faustine and Gardenia, try to save an injured bird to keep as a pet, they intentionally give her a very plain name – Sally. (Also, had the twins been boys, they would have been Farley and Galen. The only time it’s mentioned what a kid would have been as the opposite sex.)
I’m a big fan of Laura Wattenberg and her website, The Baby Name Wizard, which has basically all the information you could ever want about names. Name maps, name encyclopedia, name lists, a name blog…..this naming website puts all other name sites to shame. I also have the 2nd edition of the BNW book. So, if this book was published today and Mrs. Rosso had only the BNW book, here’s what her kids would be named. I’ll do boy and girl for each letter.
- Irene/ *There IS no I this far down in the boys’ names. The last I is Ivor
On another non-naming note, this book is chock-a-block with things Ann M has a lady boner for. Big families, old houses with a secret passage, old diaries found in old houses, kids putting together events, and kids watching reruns of I Love Lucy and Leave it to Beaver.