After attending yet another award ceremony for her older sister, Janine the Genius, Claudia starts to think that maybe the reason she's so different (i.e., stupider) than her family is due to her being...adopted, like Emily Michelle, Kristy's two year old adopted Vietnamese sister. Claudia doesn't see very many baby pictures of herself and sees a locked drawer in the study. And she can't find an announcement of her birth in the paper. So she tries tracking down her birth family. Meanwhile, Kristy's worried about her sister not being advanced enough. Apparently, Emily Michelle doesn't speak that much English, is having nightmares, and doesn't talk that much, isn't toilet trained, etc. Emily even gets turned down for some pre- pre-school program (the horror! the horror!). Claudia ends up doing some work with Emily Michelle--tutoring her about shapes and colors, and then she's re-tested and everyone thinks she's normal.
Was Claudia adopted? (Do you care?) No, her parents just put her birth announcement in another paper that's now out of business, parents always take fewer pictures of their second children, and the locked drawer has cash in case of an emergency. (Like someone finding out that Mimi's really an illegal and the Kishis needing to pay them off. Okay, okay, I'm kidding--Mimi was already dead in this book.)
- Early on, Janine attends an award ceremony for being smart or whatnot. Claudia wears: "a very short black skirt, an oversized white shirt with bright pink and turquoise poodles printed on it, flat turquoise shoes with ankle straps, and a ton of jewelry, including dangly poodle earrings." Oh, and a side pony tail. Claudia says that people stare at her and Janine and that they're probably thinking they can't believe they're sisters. No, they're probably thinking, "Doesn't she know that the fashion trend is poodle skirts, not shirts?" "Why is she wearing earrings shaped like sheep?" Or, "Damned hipsters. They're like roaches. For every one you see, there's a thousand more lurking in the walls." Oh, no wait, that last thought was mine.
- Later that night, Claudia makes an artistic looking salad for dinner. When her dad sees, he says that it's awesome that she's making a celebratory salad for her sister and she's irritated that he doesn't recognize that she's being creative. She thinks, "Celebratory salad, my foot." Uh, Claudia? I think you just transformed into a middle aged white guy. I'm cool with it, but I don't think the day glo leg warmers really work anymore.
- In this book, Stacey sits for the Perkins girls, and they "cook with real ingredients." Five year old Myriah and two and a half year old Gabbie manage to make cookie dough without a recipe or help from an adult. (Stacey bakes them for the girls, but they do everything else.) I'm over four times Myriah's age, and I can barely turn on an oven without pulling a Sylvia Plath. You know, I've always thought there was something not quite right about the Perkins girls. Like, right before the BSC members come over, Mrs. Perkins gives the girls a "pep talk."
Myriah: But, Mommy, I don't want to!
Mrs. Perkins: Not another word. And no more contractions! Karen Brewer never slips up and neither should you!
Myriah: You said you wouldn't chain me to the radiator if I learned the soundtrack to Fiddler on the Roof last week!
Mrs. Perkins: Everyone in Stoneybrook knows Fiddler on the Roof--Linny Papadakis even knows how to do the bottle dance. This time, I want you to memorize Gypsy with no mistakes!
Myriah: But Mommy!
Mrs. Perkins: And take your sister with you. I've had it up to here with that damned wiffle ball business. She'll use a real ball if it kills her.
Myriah: Gabbie's not my real sister! She's just a midget wearing a diaper!
Sing out, Myriah, sing out!
- Kristy's worrying about Emily Michelle because compared to all the other toddlers they know, she's behind. Okay, your parents brought her over from Vietnam so she'd have a better life, not a worse one. And yes, I personally think that the all singing all dancing life at the Perkins household is worse than life as a child prostitute in a small Vietnamese village.
- So what did other kids do at age two? Andrew answered the phone (Watson, shell out for an answering service, please). Karen was making up fantastical stories (dammit, Watson, why didn't you nip that in the bud?). David Michael was really interested in cars and memorized different car names. Gabbie can play baseball. Myriah was penning detective stories under the name L. Wright Wentworth, Esq. Okay, Ann M. Martin, have you ever actually spent time with a non-plush child under the age of three? One day someone's going to leave you with a small kid and you're going to scream. "It didn't cook anything! It didn't engage me in witty conversation. And I'm covered in toddler goo!"
- Claudia babysits for Emily Michelle one night: "...Kristy wasn't kidding when she said Emily had some problems. I got to see the problems firsthand." Ominous. I've seen a LOT of horror movies, so I was expecting Claudia to walk into the bedroom to see Emily with a dead Boo Boo, finger painting in his blood. Honestly, Emily's "problems" are so utterly mundane. She gets scared of a thunder storm and wakes up crying in the night. Claudia tries to put her to bed but Emily's scared of the dark and Claud has to get her the nightlight from Karen's room. (Sidenote--Karen has a nightlight and Kristy's not kvetching over her?) So Emily's a two year old who's scared of the dark and loud noises and you think she's got problems, Claudia? Your best friend has man issues up the wazoo, your club secretary needs to be on Prozac, and pretty much every one of you has a baby fetish. Judge not...
- While babysitting for Emily, Dawn sees her pick up a pebble and start to put it in her mouth. She stops her, but thinks: "Goodness...aren't two year olds supposed to be over that business of putting things into their mouths?" Goodness, Dawn, aren't thirteen year olds supposed to be over that business of only eating food that doesn't cast a shadow (level five veganism, baby!)? No, I will never stop making fun of her for calling hamburgers "cow carcasses."
- Claudia says to Stacey, when she can't find an announcement of her birth, "'If I'd been born to Mom and Dad, the announcement would have been in the paper. That's just the way it goes.'" There's no law saying every baby has to be announced. Anyway, my theory was that her parents were just too busy (taking care of their eldest genius child, getting to bed at a reasonable hour, keeping their Hattori Hanzo swords polished) to bother with the newspaper announcement. Or, you know, teaching their youngest daughter to read or dress herself.
- So Claudia goes to her old pediatrician's office to try and get some information. She talks to the receptionist, saying she wanted to see the good doctor for information for some school project, perhaps to see her birth record. The receptionist frowns and I can positively hear the eerie violin music in the background as she informs Claudia that Dr. Dellenkamp was NOT Claudia's doctor when she was first born--that Claudia didn't see her until she was two and Janine was five. Claudia thinks this is fishy. What? No, it's not! It doesn't prove you were adopted since you've already seen pictures of yourself with your parents when you were a baby! You already know you weren't adopted at age two! It's not even all that weird. Maybe Dr. D didn't open up a practice till you were a little older. Or your other doctor left town or something. God.
- And why does the receptionist know when Claudia first started seeing Dr. D.? It was over ten years ago! Does she go through the files every night after everyone goes home (beep, beep, HIPAA violation alert!)? Is every Stoneybrookite required to know the history of every BSC member?
- Claudia looks up birth announcements for babies born the same week she was because she thinks maybe one of them gave her up for adoption (uh, if your parents are lying about you being their birth child, why can't they be lying about your birthdate?). Out of the three babies born the same week as Claudia, two of them belong to families still living in the area: the Ferguisons and the Selsams. The third family, who moved, are the Hos. Claudia calls the Ferguison family with some cock and bull story about doing a school report on family trees and the Ferguisons have an unusual name so she decided to call them. She asks Mr. Ferguison about how many kids the Ferguisons have and their names and ages. Claudia pretends to be surprised that Kara Ferguison is her age and says, "'I wonder why I don't know her. We must be in the same grade.'" Mr. Fergusion responds, "I don't know, you creepy, creepy girl, now stop stalking my daughter." Actually, he says that Kara attends Stoneybrook Day School.
- Claud tracks down the Selsam girl so the only unaccounted girl left is Resa Ho. She learns that they moved to Wyoming and looks for people named Ho in Wyoming. Two of them don't have a daughter named Resa and she can't get in touch with the third, so she assumes that it's her birth mother and that she's a Ho (heh). Right after that, I successfully convinced Claudia to check if gullible really wasn't listed in the dictionary. Twice. For someone who's been reading Nancy Drew books for so long, her detective skills suck. Time to surreptitiously place some Sherlock Holmes on her bedside table. Wait, no, something more her reading level--Encyclopedia Brown and Cam Jansen!
- Claudia starts freaking out about being adopted. Stacey, trying to comfort her, points out that lots of people are different from their family members. Like she's the only McGill with diabetes. That doesn't even compare to the way that Claudia is different from her family. What, would it be better if you guys ALL had diabetes? You could take family trips to buy more syringes? Write Wilford Brimley letters together? Stacey also says that Becca and Jessi Ramsey are nothing alike. This confuses me. Oh, because Becca's eight and Jessi's eleven, right.
- At the end, Kristy says she's relieved about Emily. She goes on to say, "'One thing we'll have to do this summer is get her toilet-trained...But I think Emily will manage that.'" Glad you approve, Frau Thomas. Honestly, do most thirteen year old girls care about when their little sisters enter the anal stage? Plus, the image of Kristy trying to toilet train her sister fills me with dread. I see jackboots, whips and bamboo shoots, and I can hear Kristy shrieking, "Mau! Didi mau!"
- Incidentally, everyone thinks Emily is super backwards for having all these so called issues. But Squirt is only a little younger and seems to be about the same level and no one has ever said boo about him. And I'm pretty sure Marnie isn't toilet trained and that she doesn't know her colors/shapes either. The only outlier here is Gabbie. I propose we start a fund to have her brain dissected.