Friday, December 7, 2012
Surprise! Surprise! (Sweet Valley Kids #1)
Bantam Skylark, 1989
Genre: Realistic, School
It is only six days until the Wakefield twins' seventh birthday. Unfortunately, both girls realize that they haven’t bought each other presents yet. How can they when they are together all the time? Elizabeth tries to get Jessica to agree on what kind of food they should have for their birthday party. Elizabeth suggests hotdogs and hamburgers, but Jessica says they are too messy. Elizabeth then suggests tacos but Jessica says that they're yucky. Jessica suggests corn on the cob but Elizabeth has a loose tooth. Jessica then suggests grilled cheese but Elizabeth wants something super special. She suggests tiny pizzas and Jessica loves the idea.
As Jessica thinks of a present for Elizabeth, she remembers the last time they were at the mall and she had seen a light blue velvet headband with a bow on it that she thought was beautiful. She wants to get that as Elizabeth's present. The tricky problem is finding out how to do something without her twin. The next morning, Mrs. Wakefield and Jessica have a private talk which surprises Elizabeth. Mrs. Wakefield asks Elizabeth if she wants to play at Caroline's house after school. Jessica will be running a few errands with her. Elizabeth wants know where they're going but Jessica says that the secret. At the mall, Jessica picks out the velvet bow for Elizabeth. Mrs. Wakefield asks Jessica if she's positive that that is the kind of thing Elizabeth would want. Jessica says absolutely because it is what she would want someone to give her.
On the Thursday before their party, the girls get to go dress shopping. Elizabeth has picked out her present for Jessica which is a little car can flip over and spin in circles. Mrs. Wakefield was uncertain if Jessica would like getting a car but Elizabeth said Jessica will love it as much a she does. The girls can't agree on a dress. The dress Elizabeth likes Jessica thinks is too plain, while the dress that Jessica likes Elizabeth thinks looks too much like a baby doll. They finally agree on a red dress with long sleeves.
It is finally Saturday and the twins decorate for their party. Soon everyone starts arriving and the twins receive a bunch of presents. They play a game of sardines and hide in the bathtub. Soon it is present time. Winston got them two stuffed dinosaurs while Lila got them a dollhouse and furniture. Todd got Jessica a necklace with a ballerina charm and Elizabeth a notebook with a picture of a hamster on it. The twins finally open up each other's presents and aren't very enthusiastic. Jessica and Elizabeth look at each other and then switch presents. Turns out they each bought each other gifts for themselves!
Elizabeth's birthday wish is to bring home Tinkerbell, the class hamster, home over winter vacation. However, Jessica thinks the hamster is an ugly rat and wants nothing to do with it. The book ends with a question of: “What will Jessica do with Elizabeth brings the class hamster home? To find out read the second book, Runaway Hamster.”
Thoughts and Nuggets of Wisdom for Research
Francine Pascal is a real author and she did create the Sweet Valley franchise. Unlike many series books that are ghostwritten, most of the Sweet Valley canon, while having Pascal’s name plastered on the front, does give credit on the title page to the actual author who wrote it. This volume was written by Molly Mia Stewart, who was a main author for the Sweet Valley Kids series. The book is illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu.
Each book at some point in the first chapter (and this typically goes for the other series too) states the same exact line (or really close to) what appears in this series opener: “Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield were the only identical twins at Sweet Valley Elementary School. They looked exactly alike. They both had long blonde hair, which they wore with bangs, and blue-green eyes. Whenever they smiled, a dimple appeared in their left cheeks.”
The twins are like typical twins. They are in the second grade and sometimes they know what each other is going to say before they say it. Even though they are twins and best friends they don’t always like the same things. Jessica is noisy and Elizabeth is quiet. Jessica likes to pass notes during class and whisper to her friends while Elizabeth is an attentive student who reads a lot. They also dress alike. Sometimes the only way anyone can tell the twins apart is by looking at their name bracelets that they each wear.
The book is great for gender stereotypes. For example, when Todd asks Jessica if she wants robots or garbage goo for a present and she replies that, “Only boys like that stuff. It's gross. And I don't like robots, either.” Ken Matthews asks if they like stuffed animals and Jessica says that boys think of dumb presents.
Also of note is the character of Lila Fowler who, even in second grade, is the stereotypical rich bitch. When she is first introduced, the narration reads: “Lila had on a brand-new pair of sneakers. She wore something new almost every day. Jessica wished she could have as many clothes as Lila.” When readers learn that Lila is in the same ballet class as the twins, we discover that she comes to class typically wearing a new outfit each time. While Lila is Jessica's best friend after Elizabeth, Elizabeth doesn’t like Lila. She finds her bossy and always acting like she is better than everyone else. She also likes to make fun of people, including picking on the stereotypical “fat” and unpopular girl, Lois. When Lila and Jessica are talking, Lois wanders over trying to be a part of the conversation until Lila stared at Lois “in a mean way until she went inside. Lois was chubby and Lila loved to tease her.”
Jessica’s narration also comes off as bratty too. When she enters the classroom, she notices “her sister was talking to thin boy named Winston Egbert. He was always trying to make people laugh with his clown faces. Plus, he ate peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches. Jessica didn't know how Elizabeth could talk to him.” As class starts, everyone rushes toward their seats. Andy Franklin knocks his books off his desk. When he bends over to pick them up his glasses fall off and Jessica pointedly laughs at him. Jessica also tends to make fun of Elizabeth—“Jessica couldn't believe that Elizabeth actually liked doing homework. Luckily, Elizabeth always helped Jessica with her assignments. Sometimes Elizabeth even did her arithmetic problems for her.”