The Surprise Party

Marilyn Sachs, Author
Marilyn Sachs, Author Dutton Books $15.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-525-45962-0
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At 11, smart, popular Genevieve Bishop aims to please, unlike her third-grade brother, Ernest, who is always getting into trouble at school and at home. Inevitably, Ernest becomes the center of attention, and even though her parents tell her she's wonderful, Gen has begun to find it burdensome to always be such a ""darling."" When she overhears her classmate Karen Knipper calling her a ""goody-goody"" and saying that she ""doesn't have an original idea in her head,"" she decides to hatch a brainstorm of her own. Tapping all her friends, neighbors and relatives, she plans a surprise 25th-anniversary party for her parents. As might be expected, arrangements for a perfect evening are jeopardized by Ernest. He invites the estranged Grandmother Perl, even though, for reasons no one will explain, Mrs. Bishop has refused all contact with her since her marriage. Both Gen and Ernest are complex and dynamic, and Sachs (What My Sister Remembered) explores their rivalry with subtlety and sympathy for both. The liveliness of the characterizations, however, is somewhat compromised, first, by heavy reliance on dialogue (much of which repeats earlier exposition and little of which enhances the author's portraiture) and, second, by the almost magical effects of the party. Not only do Mrs. Bishop and Grandma Perl mend their fences, but Gen and Karen become friends, the Bishops' business picks up as Gen involves her classmates' parents in her party preparations, two teachers strike up a romance, etc. But while this is not one of Sachs's best efforts, it might be just what the doctor ordered for older sisters of rambunctious little boys. Ages 10-14. (Apr.)
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