Class Schedules and Class Wars … or, Canby Hall Super Edition #2, The Almost Summer Carnival

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Canby Hall Super Edition #2 - The Almost Summer Carnival

In which Jane morphs into a haughty bourgeois caricature of her former self. Had she lived seventy years earlier, Lady Mary would have had a soulmate.

Can we talk about this cover for a second? Cary, once again, does not have anything even resembling long hair and an earring. And although I know a blazer and skirt is supposed to be Jane’s preppy uniform, it really looks ridiculous at a carnival. I find it hard to believe she wouldn’t have thrown a thousand-dollar polo on. Also, “whose” is misspelled.

Rereading this one was interesting, as I remember well nearly all the books from here on out. Can I just say, for years I thought that the “Almost” in “Almost Summer Carnival” referred to the carnival almost having been called off? It was only later that I realized that the name of the carnival had been the same before and after the threat of cancellation, and that it referred instead to the summer season almost having arrived. Yes, my reading comprehension skills are exceptional, why do you ask?

We open on the girls of Canby Hall (which generally only means the girls of 407 and their next-door neighbours, not the presumably hundreds of other girls who attend this school) and their guy friends from Oakley Prep, hard at work getting ready for the aforementioned Almost Summer Carnival. Although we are told that this is a long-standing joint Canby/Oakley production, it was never mentioned in the books about the Old Girls. That’s the problem with a series bringing in all new characters – you can’t believably introduce new “old” traditions with the second group. Anyway, Jane and Cary are already bickering. That’s because Jane has a complete personality transplant in this book, behaving like a self-absorbed, ivory-tower-inhabiting shrew from beginning to end. While she’s always been prim and her wealth has always been a focal point of her back story, she has also always been reasonably likeable. That will definitely not be the case here.

The girls of 407 are summoned away from their carnival sign-painting duties. They arrive at housemother Meredith’s apartment to be told that the Canby Hall maintenance crew has gone on strike. Why this important news was imparted only to these three girls, instead of the entire student body that will be affected, is a mystery too great for my feeble human mind to unravel. Toby, having no experience with labour unions, and Jane, having no experience with actual labour, don’t grasp the impact. Only Andy understands what this means: the carnival is off.

As the reader is expected to sympathize with one side rather than grapple with the actual complexity of an issue such as this, the labour dispute is very simple. The Board of Trustees wants to cut the workers’ hours. Since the workers can’t do the same amount of work in fewer hours, they are striking. There’s no mention of why the Board of Trustees might have been forced to take such action. They’re just evil villains and that’s how it is. Not that I would normally take the side of a rich administrative board over working-class people, but I do get tired of both sides of a story not being told. Anyway, this means plumbers, electricians, carpenters, janitors and most of the dining hall staff have left campus and the school will likely close. (Canby Hall employs full-time plumbers and electricians and carpenters? More than one?)

The girls are panicked at the thought of the school closing and, more importantly, the carnival none of us had ever heard of until five minutes ago being cancelled. The future of Canby Hall is in peril yet again! Andy decides that the students will take over the maintenance work themselves, keeping the school open and holding the workers’ jobs for them till the strike is over. They make up elaborate chore charts for the entire student body (without bothering to ask anyone not in their immediate group whether they’re actually willing to take on campus maintenance on top of their regular courseload.) Jane is horrified at the idea of chores and hopes she can get away with just supervising. Armed with their chore charts, the girls of 407 go to see headmistress PA. She apparently has even worse judgment than I feared, as they successfully convince her not to close the school and to let the students take over the maintenance work instead. This is definitely going to go really well.

Before chores even start, the conflicts do. The following argument is repeated on an endless loop ad nauseam throughout this super-sized book, so I will summarize it here and give it a name: the Jane Is Wrong Argument (JIWA, acronym copyright 2015.) Jane blames the workers for being lazy and walking off the job, and thinks the plebes should be grateful to have any employment at all. Andy understands the plight of the working man and says they’re striking to prove that the Board’s demands are unreasonable. Toby (and everyone else) generally agree with Andy. Jane is neurologically incapable of understanding what they’re saying, or of being anything less than a world-class jerk about it. The end.

The next morning, Jane is assigned to clean the fourth-floor bathroom. Unsurprisingly, she has absolutely no idea how to do such a thing. With great trepidation, she tiptoes into the bathroom before breakfast, but is nearly trampled by the hordes of morning shower-goers. She welcomes the excuse to put off the task a little longer, goes back to her room, and falls asleep. Toby and Andy are on Dining Hall duty, and things aren’t going well. They had no idea how sloppy the student body is, the dishwasher is overflowing, and the toast Maggie made is like cardboard. Conveniently, there are two cooks who have stayed on (no Mrs. Merriweather in sight, even though she was just in the last book) who are handling the bulk of the cooking. Seriously, how would that fly in real life? Wouldn’t the rest of the staff be super @#!*% at the two traitors who weren’t striking with them? Or were the cooks under a separate contract or something? Do we need an employment lawyer to assist us in the analysis of this book?

When Jane doesn’t show up to help in the Dining Hall, Andy runs back to Baker House to check on her and finds her snoozing. Andy rudely awakens her and sends her to just clean the infernal bathroom already. Disaster ensues, but Jane finally gets it done, incurring two broken fingernails in the process (quite distressing, as it’s very possibly the worst thing that has ever happened to her), and gaining a touch of compassion for the striking workers who have to do this work every day. She “dismiss[es] the trace of empathy because she didn’t want to feel it.” Nice, Janie.

The Canby Hall girls and Oakley Prep guys gather for carnival work. Turns out the wooden game booths are always built by the maintenance crew. Since there currently is no maintenance crew, the students will have to build them themselves. Which no one actually knows how to do. Personal aside: Why are wooden booths built every year? What a waste of lumber and labour. Wouldn’t you just build them once and store them until the next year? Oh, but that would cut out 42% of the storyline in this book, you say? My mistake. Carry on.

Andy encourages the group. Filled with optimism, Jane says they’ll show the maintenance workers they can do just fine without them. Cary tells her that’s not what they’re trying to do. JIWA ensues.

The 407 girls are on Dining Hall duty again that evening. JIWA ensues. After they make up, they get into a water fight. Meredith (AKA Merry, but sometimes AKA Merrie) walks in on them. They are chastened. Merrie has a message for Jane: her mother saw an article in the paper about the Canby Hall strike, and is not happy. Jane calls her mother, who insists that Jane come home. After much negotiation, Jane convinces her mother to let her stay.

The next day Jane is stunned to see that despite all her hard work the day before, the fourth-floor girls have managed to trash the bathroom again. A little voice in her head notes that the strikers work this hard every day as a matter of survival. Jane basically tells the voice to shove it.

All the students are working hard, and out of sympathy, none of the teachers are assigning homework. But somehow the maintenance work just keeps piling up. Turns out parents are pulling their kids out of the school in droves, which is messing up the blessed chore charts. JIWA ensues. The 407 girls make another decision on behalf of the entire school and decide to implement an emergency measure, whereby each girl eating in the Dining Hall cleans off her own plate, throws out her own garbage, and puts her own dishes in the industrial dishwasher. This helps lighten the kitchen duties.

The next day, Randy and Toby go with some Oakley guys to the lumberyard to pick up the lumber for the carnival booths. Toby has a voucher from Meredith to pay for the wood. While they’re waiting, they get a pizza, but this makes them late to return. In addition, the head of the lumberyard won’t honour the Canby Hall voucher, as rumours are going around town that the school will be closing soon. Toby talks him into it. Meanwhile, Andy takes a break from carnival work to take some cold drinks to the strikers on the picket line. Jane snipes that Andy is babying the very people who are responsible for this whole mess. Serious JIWA ensues. (To make things easy, always assume that JIWA is accompanied by fighting between Jane and Cary.) The workers are very grateful to Andy for her gesture of kindness. They tell her the Board of Trustees won’t talk to them. A carpenter named Leo tells her that if they have any trouble building the carnival booths, they should come to him.

When Randy and Toby finally return with the lumber, it’s time to pack up for the day. Everyone is mad that they took so long. I am distracted by wondering what on earth 20-year-old Randy is doing hanging around helping with a girls’ high school’s carnival. In real life, that dude would be so sketchy.

That evening, the girls of 407 have another idea – paring down the menus to things like salad and sandwiches so that cooking and cleanup will be easier. Merrie, who is a vegetarian (did we know this before? I know Alison was one. Is it a requirement that every Baker housemother forego meat?) offers to make up new menus and get PA’s approval. The girls return to Baker to find that the broom closet is a mess and there isn’t a single clean towel in the dorm. The chores aren’t under control. Neal calls Toby to find out how things are going and to tell her he’s coming to the carnival. Toby gets all dreamy. Back in the room, Jane’s precious Wedgwood blue sheets have turned green in the laundry thanks to the inexperienced hands of whoever was on laundry duty that week. JIWA ensues.

The next day it rains. Apparently the whole student body, or what’s left of it, is worried about missing an afternoon of carnival work. But the rain lets up and they hurry outside after classes to find that their expensive lumber has been thoughtfully covered by tarps. They figure out that the good Samaritan was Leo. Andy goes to take the striking workers coffee. Those left behind start working on building booths, a task at which blue-blooded Jane is not particularly adept. Cary asks her to go get drinks for the students. Even though she later asks Toby to do the same thing, she is outraged at the public humiliation of being told she’s only good for waitressing. On her way to do this supposedly menial task, Jane runs into Meredith, who tells her that PA approved the new simplified menus, but they need groceries. As Merrie has to go pick up office supplies for the teachers, she asks Jane to go into town to order the groceries to be delivered. Without telling anyone, Jane leaves on this errand. However, having had no prior experience with grocery shopping, Jane is disgusted by the quality of food available in the Greenleaf grocery store. The bread is spongy, the cold cuts are greenish, and the apples are small. She decides to buy the bread at a bakery, the meat from a meat market, and the fruit from the local specialty shop. Unsurprisingly, she quickly runs out of money. Luckily, she’s a Barrett, so she has plenty of her own. But she’s embarrassed at what a poor job she did on this errand, and chagrined when Meredith picks her up and tells her she could have just purchased canned or frozen fruit instead. Such concepts never entered her upper-crust mind.

When Jane gets back to campus, Cary is mad at her for skipping out on carnival work. Andy notes that they need to figure out how to make the dunking mechanism on the dunk tank work, but the master notebook of plans is impossible for them to decipher. Jane makes a snide remark about asking Andy’s precious friends on the picket line to translate, which Andy excitedly agrees to do.

The new menus are a hit, so after dinner Andy stands up in the Dining Hall and asks everyone to do a better job with their maintenance chores. A little later than I think would be realistic, her fellow students finally ask who died and left her boss, and why she volunteered them to do all this manual labour without actually asking. She convinces them that they all really do want Canby Hall to stay open, and that they don’t want to go to summer school. Her pep talk works and the students start attacking their chores with vigour.

Back at the dorm, the 407 girls clean their room and narrowly avoid another JIWA, because there’s water in the hallway. They trace the origin to a stopped-up sink in the bathroom that has been left on. They find out who was on bathroom duty and drag the now-sleeping girls out of their beds to clean up the mess. Tell me, how does all of this succeed if there aren’t any actual consequences for not doing your assigned chores, other than public shaming? This whole plan to keep the school open relies pretty heavily on the goodwill and strong work ethic of a large group of capricious teenagers. I’m thinking of a certain roommate I once had who readily agreed to equal cleaning duties, and when it was her turn simply skipped doing them. The rest of us couldn’t physically compel her to do what she’d agreed to do, so we either had to live in filth or clean ourselves. Our friendships with her didn’t survive, but I can’t say she cared. So would these girls?

Anyway, the next day, after having Leo successfully translate the building plans for her, Andy gets the dunk tank assembly started. She goes off to find the hose from the Baker House basement. Jane sneers that at least she’s not playing waitress for the picketers again. JIWA ensues. Meanwhile Andy, in the basement, is stymied by the heavy, old-fashioned hose and has to get Matt for backup. It takes two of them to wrestle the hose off the wall and up the stairs outside. (I mention this only because our friend the hose will make an important repeat appearance and I want you to be prepared. I am nothing if not thoughtful.) They fill the dunk tank and Jane volunteers to test the dunking mechanism. Andy hits the lever with deadly aim, dunking Jane. Happy with their work, and starving, Andy and Matt don’t bother to spend the two hours necessary to wrestle the hose back onto its rack, so they dump it down the basement steps and go to Pizza Pete’s.

Back at the dorm, Jane is frustrated because she can’t find a white blouse she wants to wear. Turns out there are ten on the floor of Dee and Maggie’s room, all missing owners. The girls are realizing that the laundry never returns within 24 hours anymore and, when it does return, is often discoloured or damaged. (I guess it makes sense that at a boarding high school, the laundry would be done for them, but it seems so odd to me to live in a dorm and not do your own laundry.) Jane, like the toddler she is, complains. JIWA ensues.

Jane then goes out with Cary and complains about him always taking Andy’s and the strikers’ sides. Massive JIWA ensues.

The weekend arrives and JIWA occurs again inside Room 407. Toby is assigned to gardening duty on the six tulip beds that are PA’s pride and joy. Toby is so relieved to escape the constant fighting and to have an outdoor chore that she attacks it with gusto. Randy shows up and asks her to go riding. She decides to turn the sprinklers on, go for her ride, and come back in time to turn them off. But on their ride, Randy asks her to tell him all about Neal and she loses track of time. They rush back to campus to find that someone (Merrie) has turned off the sprinklers, but too late. The waterlogged tulips are all swimming in massive pools of water and mud. Merrie, upset with Toby’s irresponsibility, has her bail out the excess water bucket by bucket and haul it to the wishing well. Toby has to do this walk of shame multiple times past the others doing carnival prep work, and her humiliation garners their sympathy. Once she finishes and joins them, hands full of blisters, Jane has her go get drinks for everyone. Somehow, although the very same request from Cary a few chapters back had Jane seeing red, this is OK. Jane and Cary are not speaking, but then they make up, and decide to go out that night. Jane, knowing Toby has had a bad day, generously invites her along. Cary is amazed at Jane’s wonderful character. (Despite her behaviour throughout this entire book.) That night, Jane regales them with stories of her disastrous grocery shopping trip. They meet up with Andy and Matt and stroll through the village, where they encounter workers from the picket line who are friendly to Andy but less so to the others.

The next day they’re doing more carnival prep work outside in bad weather. Leo and some of his striking friends return Andy’s kindness and bring the students cookies and hot chocolate. Jane, naturally, can’t let this be and makes hostile comments. Massive JIWA ensues. The workers retreat. Cary is once again not speaking to Jane.

Toby calls Neal, who has been Jane’s boyfriend since they were born and who is still her friend. Though loyal Toby doesn’t say a word against Jane, Neal figures out that Jane has been ruining things with her attitude about the strike.

The following week, the teachers finally realize these kids are at school to learn things like algebra and not how to scrub a toilet, and start assigning homework again. The girls don’t know how they’re going to get homework done on top of classes, carnival work and maintenance chores. Andy decides she will simply stop sleeping.

That afternoon, a plumbing leak occurs in the laundry room. Merrie comes over to the group working on carnival stuff and asks Cary, who has a car, to pick up some repair supplies and to take a Canby Hall girl with him so the school payment voucher will be accepted. Jane, as his girlfriend, naturally assumes he’ll take her, but Cary ignores her and asks Toby. Jane is mortified and furious. Andy talks her down, but Jane decides she is now ignoring Cary. Goodness gracious, what does anyone see in either of these two infants?

That night, conversation turns to an apparently crucial component of the Almost Summer Carnival: the pie-baking contest. Jane has no intention of participating. Unfortunately for her, Andy has already signed her up.

After Toby tells Jane that Cary couldn’t stop talking about her during their trip to the hardware store, Jane makes up her mind to apologize. However, Cary refuses to listen, and her pride won’t let her beg. Andy, watching this, tells Matt that she hates when Jane’s not getting along with Cary, because she takes it out on everyone around her, especially Andy and Toby. See what I mean? The Jane of this book is such an immature wretch! What kind of friend does that? Sure enough, at dinner Jane keeps up a steady stream of complaints (the soup is cold, the sandwich is bulky, there’s a gum wrapper on the floor) and constantly looks for more things to criticize. The others finally tell her to put a sock in it. Back at the room, Toby is in the shower when there’s a knock at the door from someone saying Toby has a long-distance call downstairs. Jane, correctly guessing that it’s from Neal, jumps to take the call for her, over Andy’s disapproval. Jane eagerly goes down to talk to her old friend, assuming that he’s the one person who will understand her feelings over this ridiculous, inconvenient strike, since he grew up just like she did. Since everyone in this book is a reasonable human being except her, she is wrong. Neal does not sympathize with her. You would think that every single person around you having a certain viewpoint might convince you to at least consider that your position might be wrong. But our friend Jane does not have that advanced a level of self-awareness. She simply hangs up on Neal and goes back to the room. When Toby returns from the shower, Andy tells her that Neal called, because she’s not at all sure Jane will. Seriously? I kind of hate you right now, Jane. Toby is upset that Jane didn’t come get her. Jane tells her Neal’s changed. Andy and Toby figure out that that means Jane complained about the strike and Neal didn’t take her side.

The next morning they wake up to a hailstorm and a power outage. For some reason the dorm is simultaneously sweltering. The girls are upset because they realize that their carnival booths are probably being destroyed. Suddenly, a chunk of hail shatters their window. They escape to the hallway to find most of their dormmates taking shelter there. Merrie starts organizing teams to clean up the glass, tack blankets across the broken windows, and collect food since they’ll all be stranded inside all day. She also notes that the temperature is really high despite the cold outside, and sends Jane to the basement to turn off the furnace.

Once there, Jane finds that the entire basement (which is dark, since there’s no power) is covered in an inch of water. She successfully turns off the furnace, but notices that the reason the basement is flooded is because there’s a hole in the wall through which rain is pouring. She finds a suitably-sized log and plugs up the hole. But when she goes up the stairs to leave, the door is stuck. She realizes she’ll have to leave by the door that leads outside, which means she’ll have to go out into the storm. But as she steps back down into the basement and the icy water, something winds itself around her right ankle and holds it tight. The ancient red rubber hose has made the reappearance I promised you.

Meanwhile Cary and Matt have bravely fought their way over to Baker House from Oakley Prep to help, since their maintenance crew is repairing the damage on their campus, but they know the Canby girls currently have no maintenance crew. Everyone wonders where Jane is. Our reluctant heroine is fighting to free herself from the hose, but her fingers are stiff and cold and she is unable to undo it. The hose becomes so tight that her entire leg is in pain. Plus, since the furnace is now off, she’s freezing. Then the log, incessantly pummeled by the rain, pops out of the hole and the level of water in the basement begins to rise again. Jane, genuinely frightened that she might drown, decides to drag the entire hose with her to the outside door. But as she tries to do so, her left ankle also gets trapped in a coil. To add insult to injury, the log that had been plugging the hole rushes by and hits her in the shin. She does the only thing left for her to do and starts screaming.

Surprisingly, this is not dragged out very long. By the very next page, Andy, Toby, Matt and Cary are hearing her calls for help. They can’t get the basement door open either, so they go out into the storm and through the outdoor entrance. When they finally get into the basement, all they can see is Jane standing in the middle of the floor, knee-deep in water. Toby asks why Jane didn’t at least come up the stairs to stay dry. “I’m prospecting for gold, Toby,” Jane replies. “If you join me, I’ll split my findings with you fifty-fifty.” Hee! When she explains that she’s not just hanging around, she’s actually stuck in a garden hose, Andy realizes her negligence is to blame and, because she’s a good person, is filled with remorse. If Jane had been the one responsible, she’d have found a way to blame the strikers. Anyway, the others eventually manage to free Jane and plug up the hole. Andy uses an axe to chop down the basement door. We are never told how all the damage in the basement is fixed. Anyway, they get a good look at Jane’s ankles, which are discoloured and the size of baseballs. Andy cries. Jane is put to bed and Cary keeps her company. The others go outside to survey the storm’s destruction, which is significant. The campus is a lake and only one of the ten completed booths is still intact.

Fed up, Andy decides to go to PA and tell her that they just can’t keep going without help. Toby goes with her. When they arrive, they find that PA has decided to close the school. With no workers and no windows, it’s too much. (As an aside, how do these teenage girls just get an audience with the headmistress of their private school whenever they want, no appointment necessary? PA’s personal assistant needs a talking-to.) Andy tells PA to simply end the strike and make everyone go back to work. When PA says she can’t do that, Andy says that maybe PA really wants Canby Hall to close. Uh … rude, much? PA is hurt by this. She tells the girls that the strike has nothing to do with her, she has no power to end it, and she can’t believe the girls thought all this time that she could. Andy feels bad. I am mystified. Andy is the girl who has displayed an uncanny understanding of the nature of labour laws and disputes throughout this entire book, and now suddenly has the impression that the headmistress could have ended that pesky little strike at any time. Makes no sense to me. Andy comes up with a new plan and asks PA for the names and addresses of each member of the Board of Trustees. She’s going to go visit each one herself. Since there are apparently no regulations concerning privacy, PA gives this information to her.

Andy and Toby go into town and head to the home of the first name on the list. An unfriendly man opens the door, but he agrees to let them in so they can plead their case. (Girls, haven’t you ever heard of stranger danger?) They tell him they love their school and don’t want to see it close. “Hmph!” he says, adjusting the bow tie he’s wearing for a casual Sunday lunch at home. “Should have been closed the minute those workers walked off the job, if you ask me.” (Now would a trustee really believe that? As was mentioned earlier in this book, closing down a private school before the end of term could finish the school forever. Many parents would refuse to send their daughters back once the school reopened. Would shutting down Canby Hall really be something the Board of Trustees would be OK with?)

“Oh no sir,” Toby responds. “I came all the way from Texas to get my education at Canby and it’s a good education.” It is noted that the trustee’s “expression indicated clearly that he thought Texas should be closed down along with Canby Hall.” I laughed out loud.

The girls tell him what they think should be done, which is to give the workers their hours back and give them a raise. And where is that money supposed to come from, I ask you? But Andy and Toby do not concern themselves with such minutiae. And since he listens, they consider the visit a success.

At the next trustee’s house, they don’t even get in the door. That trustee refuses to let them in or listen to what they have to say. But he does say that the first trustee called him and told him he should listen to their spiel, so Andy and Toby are encouraged. Conveniently, at the next house, three of the remaining trustees are together having lunch. They listen to Andy and Toby’s plea and promise to pass on the message to the sixth remaining trustee.

That afternoon, as the phone lines were damaged from the storm, a call for Jane accidentally goes to another girl’s room. That girl tells the caller that Jane can’t come to the phone because she had an accident and can’t walk. Turns out the caller was Jane’s mom, who calls Merrie and tells her they are coming to pick up Jane in three days after they return from a business trip. If they’re that concerned about her safety, wouldn’t they send a driver to pick her up that night? Jane does not want to go home, so is upset.

That evening in the Dining Hall, PA and the three housemothers (although at least one of the houses was overseen by a married couple in a previous book) arrive with an announcement. Everyone inside the book thinks they’re coming to tell them that the school is closing. But everyone outside the book can flip ahead, see there are only 17 pages left, and predict that the announcement is actually that the strike is over. Which would be correct. The maintenance crew is coming back to work that night and will be working around the clock to catch up. PA asks Andy and Toby in particular to stand up for congratulations, since of course the strike ending is basically their doing entirely. She also says they will all be excused from afternoon classes for the next three days to catch up on carnival prep work. (The people at this school totally have their priorities straight.) The student body is elated.

Jane is the only one who’s not overjoyed, since she’s leaving. Andy decides that the way to convince her parents to let her stay is for Jane to bake a really awesome pie. Neither Jane nor I understand how that will work. A couple of nights later, the Canby girls and Oakley boys are all in a kitchen somewhere or other baking their pies. Jane is having fun, once she realizes that she is not the only one ignorant in the ways of pie creation.

The morning of the first day of the Almost Summer Carnival is the day Jane’s parents are arriving to pick her up. Jane decides she’s not going to go peacefully. The roommates discuss her pie, which is sitting on her nightstand and which “looked like something that had been fashioned out of clay by a very small and perhaps near-sighted child.” Again, I admit I laughed. They spend the afternoon getting all the carnival food (including Toby’s suggestion, which naturally was tacos) ready.

Jane’s parents arrive in the evening, dressed in a silk dress and silk suit entirely unsuitable for carnival-going. Jane insists that they go to the carnival to see the fruits of all their hard work. At first, the Barretts are unimpressed, refusing to eat the food or enjoy the sights. But then they end up in front of the ring toss booth, which sparks some sort of long-buried memory in the brain of Mr. Barrett. He transforms into a ring-tossing machine and Mrs. Barrett morphs into a giddy schoolgirl who confidently tells Jane that he’s going to win a panda bear for her, as he did once long ago. Jane is gobsmacked that her parents were ever at a carnival before this. Mr. Barrett goes on to win the panda bear and a collection of other prizes, which he hands to Mrs. Barrett, who hands them, “queen-like, to Matt and Cary to hold for her.” That image also made me crack up. Then they start eating tacos. This is so out of character for them (after all, Jane did say that a burger is as ethnic as their eating in Boston gets) that Jane realizes they have fallen under the spell of the Almost Summer Carnival and somehow that means she won’t have to go home after all. The book ends with Andy breaking the news that a boy named Russell Swanson’s Apple Crumb Pie ended up winning the pie-baking contest (love that a boy won!) and Jane threatening to throw her pie at Cary.

So somehow all Jane’s incredibly selfish remarks and how they might reflect on her character are forgotten, and she and Cary are together again. Luckily, the old tolerable Jane is back in the next book, if I recall correctly. And hey, this one wasn’t so bad – there wasn’t a single mention of an Old Girl! I’ll take snotty Jane over Dana, Faith or Shelley any day!

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4 responses »

  1. This is the first of the few books in the Canby Hall series that I have never read. I think there are three more, as I know I never read “Six Roommates and a Baby” and I’m pretty sure I never read “Surprise!” and “Who’s Got a Crush on Andy?”.

    But I’m not exactly consumed with regret over the missed literary experience, as this book sounds like a complete turkey. It’s wildly unrealistic that the entire maintenance staff of Canby Hall would go on strike. Like they’d be unionized. And the trustees would hardly be changing the terms of their employment mid-school year. No private boarding school would survive this kind of fiasco. It’s also completely ridiculous that the girls of 407 would take the entire responsibility of running the school, preparing the for carnival, and ending the strikes upon themselves.

    Huge continuity error alert: the Canby Hall girls DO do their own laundry in the other books. Remember when Shelley once tried to make a friendly overture to Mary Beth Grover in the laundry room by jokingly asking her what kind of detergent she liked best and got upset when MBG was rather rude to her about it? Or when one of the girls said she didn’t clue in to the fact that she needed to do her own laundry upon her arrival at Canby Hall until she spent three days in the same pair of socks?

    • Oh my, how could I forget Shelley taking mortal offense because Mary Beth didn’t want to discuss detergent? I knew something seemed wrong about the Canby girls sending out their laundry! And don’t worry, you missed nothing by not reading “Surprise” (just OK), “Six Roommates and a Baby” (pretty bad, as the Old Girls’ behaviour stops just short of criminal), or “Who’s Got a Crush on Andy?” (truly terrible. Much like Jane got a personality transplant in this book, Andy becomes an angry loner in that one.) I am continually amazed that no editor’s pen ever seemed to touch these manuscripts.

  2. Pingback: Casey Flint Replacement, Take Two … or, Canby Hall #23, But She’s So Cute | The Girls of Canby Hall ... Revisited

  3. Pingback: Oh Me Oh My, It’s the Start of DIY … or, Canby Hall #26, Help Wanted! | The Girls of Canby Hall ... Revisited

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