Every so often, Kristy Thomas throws me a curve-ball, making me question who she is – or at least, who I thought she was.
It happened in Kristy’s Big Day, when the no-dress wearing tomboy fawned and squee’d at the prospect of wearing heels and being her mum’s bridesmaid, and it happened in this book, Kristy and the Walking Disaster, when Kristy fell for Bart Taylor.
While I’d vaguely remembered the Kristy and Bart thing from the pre-teen read-through (Bisty? Krart? Erm, this isn’t going to work), because this was Kristy we were talking about, I had assumed that the pair would start out as the bitterest of rivals. As the ever-competitive coaches of Kristy’s Krushers and Bart’s Bashers, through the power of softball and teamwork and possibly Jackie Rodowsky (the “walking disaster” of the book’s title) the duo would come to a mutual understanding by book’s end, and realise that the only thing that mattered was that the kids were having fun. It was through this journey that they would come to realise that they didn’t mind each other’s company, in a non-creepy 13-year-old appropriate way.
My “memory” turned out to be headcanon. But before we get to the dashing Bart, we begin with another of Kristy’s Great Ideas. There’s a bit of a lead-up, so bear with me.
While Kristy is looking after Karen, Andrew and David Michael one afternoon, some of the local kids turn up (Amanda and Max Delaney, and Linny and Hannie Papadakis) and they hold what Kristy calls “a pretty pathetic” game of softball.
Kristy notes that while most of the kids playing were technically old enough to be in Little League, and while their hearts were in the right place, none of them were any good.
Kristy tries to organise the kids by getting them to practise their weaknesses in (almost army-like, thus characteristically Kristy-like) drills. After the little softball clinic Kristy holds, she tries to encourage them all to join Little League, because there’d be a coach to help them to get better all the time. None of the kids want to do this, though, being too embarrassed by their evident and self-acknowledged lack of skills, and Kristy in a roundabout way agrees with them.
Way to be encouraging, Kristy.
Amanda has an idea, and name-drops Bart Taylor, who coaches his own team in the neighbourhood. Bart’s in 8th grade, just like Kristy. Bart’s team comprises of kids that don’t play Little League (though, who they do play when they’re the only team on the block like this? Your guess is as good as mine). Kristy says she’ll talk to Bart on behalf of the kids and see if he can take any of her rag-tag bunch of misfits with hearts of gold on his loner team.
On the way to Bart’s house, Kristy angsts over talking to a boy – because you can never tell what eighth-grade boys will be like. According to Kristy, half are normal, and half are jerks. In her neighbourhood, about half of each group are snobs. So, she figures, she has a twenty-five percent chance of getting “a regular, old nice guy” (I assume she meant “regular nice old guy”, but what the hey).
A very, very, very cute guy was in the Taylor’s yard, raking up dead grass and twigs and things. It couldn’t be Bart. Most people around here have gardeners to take care of their lawns.
Of course it’s Bart.
Why did I feel so nervous? I’ve talked to boys before. I’ve been to dances with boys. I’ve been to parties with boys. But none of them had looked at me the way Bart was looking at me just then – as if standing on the sidewalk was a glamorous movie star instead of plain old me, Kristy Thomas. And, to be honest, none of them had been quite as cute as Bart. They didn’t have his crooked smile or his deep, deep brown eyes, or his even, straight, perfect nose, or his hair that looked like it might have been styled at one of those hair places for guys – or not. I think it’s a good sign if you can’t tell.
So it turns out that Kristy will turn into a hearts-for-eyes teenager, just like any of the other BSC girls. My headcanon that Kristy would, unlike all the other girls in the BSC, decide to like Bart once she gets to know him was shattered. Looks win again. Sigh.
Anyway. Kristy tells Bart about the kids who want to play for his team, and Bart says that he could maybe take one of them, but that his team is pretty full already.
Kristy decides form her own team – for all the kids who are too embarrassed or too young to join Little League. She decides to ask Watson for help, because he’s good at organising and running things.
The other thing I decided was that I had a Gigantic Crush on Bart Taylor.
A bunch of Stoneybrook regulars get on board with Kristy’s Newest Idea, including; the Perkin’s girls (including Gabbie, who is two and a half years old), Jamie “Hi-hi!” Newton, Nina Marshall, Susie and Buddy Barrett (“Mum, can we join Kristy’s softball team?” “Do I have to do anything?” “Nope.” “Sure! Sounds great, knock yourself out.”), all the kids from the softball clinic in Kristy’s backyard earlier in the book, a couple of the Pike kids, some new kids called the Kuhns, Matt Braddock and a few others.
The walking disaster Jackie Rodowsky also signs up, though what they attribute to as a disaster varies, from him hitting the softball through the vice-principal’s window, to stumbling over the refreshment stand at the Krushers-Bashers game, to taking off the catcher’s mask just in time to get a softball to the face and lose a tooth. For the majority of the book, Jackie’s likened to Pig-Pen, from the Peanuts comics. It’s kind of mean, and Jackie is kind of embarrassed by himself as a result – which is kind of sad. Lots of kind-ofs, I know – as it felt like Ann M Martin was only kind of into the “let’s help Jackie get some confidence” plot.
At one point, Jackie fakes an injury so that he won’t have to play, he’s so embarrassed by how the other kids are treating him. Kristy sees through the injury and makes him get back out there and play, doing your after-school-special pep talk –
“It’s either you or Jamie Newton, and you know what’ll happen if a ball comes toward Jamie.”
Nothing like a little guilt.
– which somehow encourages him to stand on first base and do whatever happens there.
At their first coaching session, the kids and Kristy all decide on the team name – Kristy’s Krushers.
“No!”cried Karen. “That’s wrong. That’s not how you spell ‘crushers’. You spell ‘crushers’ with a ‘C’!”
Karen’s rant is ignored, and the kids all organise to have t-shirts made with iron-on transfer letters so they look and feel like a team. Karen’s t-shirt has ‘crushers’ spelt with a ‘C’, though, because she’s Karen Brewer and can’t help herself.
Over the next few weeks they have practise sessions, where Kristy gets each kid to focus on working at their weaknesses, and each training session is finished off by splitting the group into two and holding a game. Kristy usually has another member of the BSC and a couple of parents there watching and helping, and the little team starts to get a few supporters. Haley Braddock, Vanessa Pike and Charlotte Johanssen even form a cheer squad.
Amidst the success of her latest venture, Kristy nurses her crush for Bart.
…I told Mom and Watson that I was going to walk Shannon, and I set off. I wasn’t just walking Shannon, though. I was walking Shannon by Bart Taylor’s house. Pretty clever, huuh?
Genius. In this particular encounter, Kristy meets Bart half way to his house, and Bart is walking his own dog (a Rottweiler called Twinkle. I swear I’m not making this up). They arrange a game between their two budding teams – while Kristy “practically melted as the streetlights came on and caught Bart’s hair, giving it a sort of glow.”
As the Krushers prepare for their first big game against the Bashers, a smidgen of rivalry starts to build between Kristy and Bart. Bart and several of his Bashers – all boys – show up at one of Kristy’s training sessions, to scope out the competition – something which Kristy hadn’t thought of doing. Bart’s thugs – sorry, bashers spend the majority of the practise session making fun of Kristy’s team, while one or two of them distract Bart so he doesn’t see how cruel they’re being –
“Look at that baby-baby with the wiffle ball!”
“Look at fatso!”
“What can you expect from a girl?”
“A dummy! They’ve even got a dummy on their team!”.
Haley Braddock, Krushers cheerleader extraordinaire comes to the rescue when the Bashers call her (deaf) brother a dummy, with –
Haley charged over to the Basher who had just insulted her brother. She stood inside the catcher’s cage, nose-to-nose with the boy on the other side of the wire fence.
“That ‘dummy’,” she said with clenched teeth, “is my brother, and if you call him a dummy one more time, I will personally rearrange your face.”
Game day arrives, and long story short, the Bashers win, 16-11. They’re older, and they’ve been a team for quite a bit longer. But they aren’t mean, like they were at the practise session – because of course they aren’t. The game is the portion of the book that I must have been remembering, where kids are kids, they have fun, and winning isn’t the point. Moral of the story checkbox, ticked. Kristy is, naturally, disappointed that they don’t win – particularly during the game – but by the end of it, all she cares about is that they had fun.
Kristy and Bart walk home together after the game, and Bart asks Kristy if they could set up another game between the Krushers and Bashers – on one condition – that they don’t act like rival coaches, but “like friends? Or…maybe we could go out sometime. To a ball game or something. Would that be okay with you?”
So, Kristy gets asked out, says yes immediately, and floats home. I bet she skipped, too, just to mess with my headcanon a little more.
There’s a vague Claudia outfit description at the end of the first chapter –
Her artistic flair runs over into her clothes. You should see how she dresses – wild! Baggy jeans, skintight pants, miniskirts, odd layers of things, bright colors, and weird jewelry. Also, she fixes her hair differently every day, and she does things like paint her toenails with sparkles. Once, she went to school with glitter in her hair.
– and a single BSC meeting in chapter two where we’re treated to some junk food – Cheese Doodles and a pack of mini candy bars, with mentions later of Doritos, a box of Mallomars, GummiBears and a package of Twinkies while they’re searching Claudia’s bedroom for Tigger, who Mary Anne decided to bring to the meeting.
And that’s Jenga. Softball. Whatever.
Next book in the series is Mallory and the Trouble with Twins, but as Kristy and the Walking Disaster was Book #20, I’m going to take a break from the book series to review the next episode of the BSC TV Series – Dawn and the Haunted House. Wooooooo!
Want to have your headcanon of Kristy challenged, yet again, as she falls for ol’ glowy-haired Bart? You can pick up Kristy and the Walking Disaster on Amazon for kindle for around $5.