Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Book Review: Too Close for Comfort

A Fair Trade Book


Title: The Amazing Days of Abby Hayes: Too Close for Comfort
       
Author: Anne Mazer


Author's web site: http://www.annemazerbooks.com/books/
       
Date: 2003
       
Publisher: Scholastic
       
ISBN: 0-439-48273-9
       
Length: 121 pages
       
Quote: “Abby Hayes, age ten, took a bold step today. She joined a group of girls she didn’t know and played Marco Polo with them.”
       
Abby is in the market for a new “best friend” because her former “best friend” is into trying to imitate a teenager, and other friends are spending the summer in other places. When her parents suggested that she invite a friend to go camping with her family, the only girl whose name came to mind, who was still available, was her official enemy. She's delighted to find that other girls at the camp are friendly.
       
Worrywart Abby thinks Hannah, the girl who encouraged her to join the game, “was great!!! Hannah never stops talking. She has millions of ideas. She is excited about everything.” Still, when Abby’s parents invite Hannah to buddy up with Abby for the rest of the camping trip, Abby worries that they’re getting “too close for comfort.” What if Hannah doesn’t like her family? Abby wants her family to sign a formal pledge not to “fight, shout, make bad jokes...”
       
Then it turns out that the family’s campsite hasn’t been properly reserved. Abby’s family have to “camp” in their van. Once again they’re too close for comfort. And that’s before Abby’s official enemy, Brianna, shows up at camp.
       
In the twentieth century, so much concern with what other people think would have been considered abnormal in a ten-year-old, perhaps a symptom of parental abuse or neglect. Kids weren’t supposed to think much about other people before puberty. Maybe Mazer has just forgotten her Piaget. Maybe there really is an increase in social precocity, probably related to the now common “neglect” experience of having been placed in day care before age four or five. Then again, according to Joan Mathews Larsen, chronic worrying may be the result of a physical disorder related to certain dietary deficiencies.
       
Hannah refuses to choose between Abby and Brianna. No worries, readers...we know that, given   that Abby is the protagonist of a series, she’ll have found new things to worry about in the next chapter. Do you want to read the next volume? Frankly, by this point I’m beginning to worry that reading about Abby may reinforce tendencies in the direction of whining, clinging, clutching, and worrying among real children.
       
Hannah as a role model is even worse. Hannah seems perfect to Abby because she suffers from extroversion. Hannah claims to “love” everything that interests other kids because she’s incapable of enjoying things by herself. She doesn’t make enemies, exactly, but sooner or later, when people realize how automatic and impersonal her “friendly” act is and how she can’t possibly be a real friend to all the people she claims as friends, she’ll acquire a lot of, at best, disappointed ex-friends. Some children like Hannah can also be helped by a sugar-free, additive-free diet, but nobody who’d tried to befriend one of them would want another one as a friend. Abby would be a difficult child to love; for me, Hannah would be impossible.


       
If you know a whiny worrywart who can’t become more annoying than s/he is, a discussion about what makes Hannah seem so attractive to Abby (confidence, whine-freedom) might provide a nudge in the right direction. I’d read the book first, though, because a child can be awfully whiny without reaching the level of Abby Hayes.


Then again, some children enjoy fictional characters who are more immature and confused than the child readers are...and apparently Abby Hayes has quite a few fans; Too Close for Comfort is Book 11 in a series of 20 volumes that an Amazon review describes as "a send-up of self-help books."


"Militant introvert" was not my self-description, but when people searched for that term Google has pulled up this web site, and it does sort of fit. Militant introverts might want to use this book to discuss with children how, when, and why some of us "fall in love" with extroverts and why extroverts tend to disappoint us.


If you buy Too Close for Comfort from this web site (salolianigodagewi @ yahoo.com), it will cost $5 + $5 for shipping. Out of this we will send $1 to Anne Mazer or a charity of her choice. If you buy any or all of the other 19 books, it will cost $5 per book, plus, the last time we checked, probably $10 for shipping--$5 per package not per book--and Mazer or her charity gets $1 per book not per package.