February 24, 2015
SVT #26, Taking Charge: Children Behaving Badly
Summary: The last book kicked off the series’ trend of having a monthly Friend In Need for the twins to help. This book’s is Patrick Morris, who has strict parents who make him do tons of homework, never let him go anywhere fun, cut his allowance and won’t let him talk on the phone after 6. Sounds like Richard Spier. He goes over to the Wakefields’ one day after school, then runs home as soon as his mom calls looking for him. She’s mad that he went to hang out with friends and do actual kid stuff instead of coming straight home to do homework and chores and other boring stuff.
The next day, the twins take Patrick his homework since he stayed home sick. He’s reluctant to let them in the house, since he’s only allowed to have one friend over at a time. When his mom gets home, Jessica leaves, and Mrs. Morris meets Elizabeth. She asks Liz and Patrick to help bring in some groceries. Then she runs into Jessica outside and thinks she’s Elizabeth. I bet the twins could keep this up for a long time if they ever wanted to visit Patrick at the same time.
Patrick tells his friends that he wants to try out for the school band; he’d like to learn to play the saxophone. But he’s not sure his parents will be okay with that. Spoiler alert: They’re not. They want him to focus on his schoolwork, and they’re worried that the lessons and the instrument will be expensive. Even when Patrick assures him that the lessons are through the school and that he can borrow a sax, they say no to the band. I can’t really argue with their rules about having friends over and setting a curfew, but this? Makes no sense. Let the kid have a hobby.
Patrick decides to try out for the band anyway. He’ll demonstrate that he can do band while keeping his grades up; then his parents won’t have an excuse not to let him join. He hides his sax in the Wakefields’ shed and practices there. Ned and Alice are like, “Oh, the neighbor’s practicing with the windows open again.” Elizabeth is reluctant to go along with this plan, but Jessica reminds her that she’s always yapping about doing the right thing and helping people. Like, the one time Jess wants to meddle for the right reasons, Liz is against it.
The practicing pays off and Patrick makes the band. Mr. and Mrs. Morris are furious that he disobeyed them. Patrick disappears, and everyone thinks he’s been kidnapped. Someone delivers a note to the Wakefields’ ordering everyone to stop searching or something bad will happen to Patrick. For once, the twins do the reasonable thing, giving the note to their parents. The police are smart enough to figure out that the note is fake, since it doesn’t demand a ransom.
Winston confesses to the twins that Patrick is hiding out in his basement. He wrote the note and made Winston deliver it (though why would he take it to the Wakefields? Why not the Morrises?). Jessica wants to give Patrick money so he can stay hidden, but Elizabeth thinks that’s a stupid idea.
The twins go home, where the Morrises are freaking out about Patrick. Elizabeth announces that he’s at Winston’s, and her parents are like, “Why didn’t you say something two minutes ago?” Yeah, like you’re going to punish her. You may not be as strict as the Morrises, but you still suck as parents, Ned and Alice. Everyone goes to Winston’s, but Patrick has taken off again, having predicted that Elizabeth wouldn’t be able to keep her mouth shut. Heh. He’s now hiding out in an abandoned church.
So everyone gathers at the church, which is structurally unsafe, and the Morrises beg Patrick to come out. He won’t, so someone calls the fire department to get him out. At this point, if I were the Morrises, I’d be mentally composing a list of chores for my son to do until the end of time, because it’s one thing to run away, but it’s another to throw a tantrum and practically barricade yourself someplace unsafe instead of trying to talk things over. Anyway, the floor collapses and Patrick gets trapped and has to be rescued by his father. The Morrises are so happy that Patrick’s okay that they don’t even punish him. I would not be so lenient.
The Morrises reveal that they’ve been stricter than usual lately because Mr. Morris lost his job. The Morrises were against Patrick taking sax lessons because they were worried about the added expense, and they wanted him to focus on his schoolwork because he might need a college scholarship someday. Okay, but…he’s in sixth grade. Did Mr. Morris think he’d be out of work for seven years? It doesn’t matter anyway, since he has another job now, and the Morrises have learned their lesson about not being honest with their kids, and about taking it easy on Patrick. I still hope he gets grounded for a really long time, though.
The B-plot is about how Jessica has a crush on Bruce but for some reason isn’t assertive enough to either ask him out or find reasons to spend time with him. She gets paired with Winston for a science project and worries that her friends (and Bruce) will see her as dorky for hanging around with someone who’s actually dorky. I think they understand assigned partners, Jess. They do a project on mold, and their teacher asks them to display it on Science Day at the library. Jess wants to go to a football game that same day, since Bruce will be there, so she makes a deal with Winston to go to the library after halftime.
Then Jessica learns that Bruce is having a big party after the game, with an appearance by a band everyone loves. Jess decides to skip Science Day, but karma comes around to bite her. The party is basically just a bunch of people hanging out. There’s no band or food, and Bruce barely acknowledges most of the guests. I find it hard to believe that Bruce wouldn’t throw a big bash with fancy food and at least a DJ, but then again, middle-school boys are pretty clueless about hosting stuff. The plot fizzles out, except Jessica gets in trouble for telling her parents she was going to Science Day and then skipping it. Ha, she went to a bad party and got punished for it. Serves her right.
Thoughts: Winston is described as shy. In what universe?
Usually I’m against Elizabeth’s endless “I always know the right thing to do” behavior, but in this book, she was right to tell the Morrises where Patrick was. Once the police get involved in something, it’s time to quit screwing around.
(J. Walter Weatherman voice) And that’s why you tell your kids the truth.