Finally here we are at the last Anne Digby Naughtiest Girl book, the last Naughtiest Girl book altogether.
She has marched on through six continuation books which was six books too many, if you ask me, so I really hope she hangs up her Whyteleafe Uniform now.
Elizabeth is overjoyed to be appointed monitor again, especially when the new head-boy and girl have such exciting ideas. But one of the second form boys is slowly turning all the other boys against her, starting with a nasty note in her desk and ending with a false tip-off about a midnight pillow fight in the boys’ dormitory. Rather than report it, Elizabeth plans to investigate – and, with the help of some friends, unleash a surprise water pistol attack on the boys. But Elizabeth has been set up, as she discovers when she runs straight into their form teacher and the head boy – mistakenly squirting them both with water. Now, Elizabeth is in trouble again – and she could lose her prized monitor’s role. Can she find out who has a grudge against her – and why?
Presumably the new head boy and girl are Thomas and Emma, who were elected in the previous book.
This actually sounds moderately like something that would happen in a Naughtiest Girl book, but perhaps not with the water pistols. Elizabeth is definitely impetuous and likes to handle things herself, so I can totally see her trying to catch the boys having a midnight pillow fight while conveniently forgetting she is not supposed to be out of bed. I’m not sure that as a recently re-elected monitor – and a year older than in the original books – she would be so silly as to plan a group of friends to attack with water pistols.
If it’s really well written it’s the kind of thing that you could be persuaded to believe, but given the quality of the previous five continuations I won’t be holding out hope.
I dislike the style of these covers anyway but this one in particular raised three questions for me.
The first was why does Elizabeth look like she’s auditioning for the Ministry of Silly Walks?
Then I wondered what was going on with their feet. Both girls’ feet look like they should be much further forward in their slippers, but that would make their slippers far too big. I can only conclude that they have Sideshow Bob sized feet in that case.
Having read the book since making the above comment I realise I had forgotten about their long, pointy elf shoes which imply that they do have weird feet.
And lastly, I just had to ask why Elizabeth is wearing short pyjamas, knee socks, and a scarf. A scarf with pyjamas is odd enough, but it is especially odd when it’s clearly not cold enough for full-length pyjamas.
The main story is about who has written the two notes to Elizabeth, as she navigates her way through the term as monitor again and manages to upset several boys.
The main suspects the book tries to lead us to are:
He has stepped down as monitor twice for Elizabeth and is obviously disappointed by it. However the story of him stepping down the second time is just thrown in randomly and is quite obviously a red herring.
I think he’s too good a friend to Elizabeth to be guilty but the book introduces a fair bit of friction between them as Elizabeth’s monitor duties mean she has less time for him. He also gets annoyed by her being a goody-goody.
A boy who has supposedly been at the school for a few years but has never been mentioned before, Jake is a strong candidate. Jake is off the hockey team while his ankle heals and is obviously annoyed by Elizabeth’s tactless attempt to comfort him. My suspicion is that he is actually faking or exaggerating the issue to get out of playing for some reason – possibly just too much pressure, and he could be the letter writer to get Elizabeth off his back and prevent her from outing him. But then again is it too obvious for the new, brooding character to be the guilty one? Maybe.
Patrick has never been a great friend to Elizabeth though they have reconciled somewhat after their period of fighting in the fourth book/short story. Elizabeth finds out that he saved a child’s life in the village, but had been down there alone which is against school rules. He is clearly aggravated by her constant attempts to out him as a hero, so could he be the letter writer? He is either desperate not to be caught out for his rule breaking or is just mortified at the thought of being called a hero (perhaps the child running out had been his fault in the first place?) so he is a possibility.
Boys vs girls
There is a strong focus on the boys being against Elizabeth, and by extension against girls as monitors and I was disappointed at how it was handled.
Jake has a problem with Elizabeth sticking her nose in – fair enough as she outs him as being recovered. But he makes it all about her being a girl which should be irrelevant. However, the heads agree that it would have been difficult for a big, strong boy like Jake to speak to a mere girl.
Then there’s the issue of the boys’ dorm. There have been pillow fights and Martin taunts Elizabeth that as there are no boy monitors in the second form no-one can stop them. That’s blatantly stupid as there must have been many times that two girls or two boys were monitors for their form. In the first book Nora is actually Elizabeth’s monitor and she is a few years older, though there is also Kenneth mentioned as being a first form monitor. So there are clearly ways of managing it.
If it was a rule there was to be a boy and girl monitor for each form, just as there is a boy and girl head, that wouldn’t be unreasonable, as long as there were exceptions allowed if there was no suitable candidate amongst either the boys or the girls – after all there’s no good electing a monitor if they aren’t up to the job.
The fact that there is no such rule suggests it is not generally a problem. What IS a problem is the boys’ behaviour, and the solution to that is to tackle the boys’ behaviour and not blame the girls’ monitoring.
Instead, what happens is that conveniently Joan is happy to step down due to new commitments with the new swimming team, and they decide to elect a new monitor who must be a boy.
Patrick also gets away with saying
It’s all right for you to lose your temper, Elizabeth. You’re only a girl.
Elizabeth, who’s known for her temper and being quick to react just smiles to herself.
It was a typical Patrick remark – and just one of the reasons why she much preferred his cousin Julian!
Of all the times for her to have control of her temper!
This book also introduces MMs – Monitors’ Meetings – which occur weekly with the head boy and girl.
These are to plan the weekly meeting – though I’m not sure what needs planning. The heads read out any notices, they take in the money, requests for money are heard, complaints or grumbles are raised, the monitors are able to make any reports they need to.
Yet the new heads seem to want to consult the monitors on everything privately, leaving them having to keep things secret from the rest of the school, and worse, various issues are dealt with at those meetings instead of at the big one.
The whole point of the whole-school meeting is for issues to be raised publicly and sorted by everyone. There are some exceptions where it is deemed the best course of action for something to be dealt with in private, with the child speaking to the heads alone, but otherwise things are talked over in the open.
With the MM Elizabeth and her friends are punished for the water-pistol stunt in private, as to not embarrass Elizabeth her being a monitor and all. That’s exactly the opposite of what the meetings stand for.
The real culprit
This section will contain spoilers!
So, as it turns out Jake was a red herring too. He was faking the injury – so a point to me – but he didn’t write any letters.
The letters were written for quite a convoluted and bizarre reason, and I don’t think that the reader really had the right clues to solve the mystery themselves, at least not right until the end.
The culprit actually admits it to Elizabeth after the final meeting and she’s shocked as she never had him as s suspect.
So drum roll, please… It was Patrick.
A few times in the book I did consider him. First when Elizabeth won a place on the table-tennis team ahead of him (again) and he was angry, but then she gave up her place by (very badly) faking a headache and letting him play. He wasn’t even cross about that, though. Then when he was adamant that she not reveal him to be a hero, though that didn’t seem to be a great motivation to write the notes she got.
So why did he do it? Well, it turns out that he wasn’t a hero at all. It was Julian (whose close likeness to Patrick has conveniently not been mentioned in this book) all along. Patrick was mistakenly identified and having – apparently – had no time to correct the mistake was so pleased by the new respect Elizabeth had for him he decided to keep up the lie. Then when the new award was announced he was desperate for Elizabeth not to be monitor so that she couldn’t nominate him. I suppose he forgot that as a non-monitor Elizabeth could still pass on the nomination to the new monitor.
The book tries to cram in a last clue – too late – with Patrick stating he’s always been against having two girl monitors. Not that he said that during this book, of course.
Anyway, disappointingly Patrick is barely dealt with. He does get a telling off for standing up in that last meeting when Thomas asks the hero to stand up, but his letter writing and his lie to Elizabeth are kept secret.
Elizabeth really is awful in this book. She acts like a five year old gushing over Jake’s injury
I am going to wish and wish and WISH your ankle to get better, Jake! Just you wait and see!
What is she, five? She pouts when she doesn’t get her own way – including over the ridiculous idea of having the monitors wear arm-bands so they are more easily identified.
She is wildly stupid to plan a water-pistol raid on the boys. It wasn’t a spur of the moment thing, it was planned in advance and she uses a whole load of faux military language in guiding her squad on the attack as if it’s all a big game to her. Elizabeth loves being a monitor and takes it seriously so this is just so out of character.
Language wise, Elizabeth twice says she wants to be a dynamic monitor which is very much modern business jargon if you ask me. There’s a tracksuit which I am trying to take as an exercise suit worn on a track (as in the origins of the phrase) and not a nylon Adidas affair, but who knows at this point.
Plus there’s a mistake on one page where a whole word is missing along with a space – I wonder whoget the first Willian and Rita Award? Not even a will in there!
Talking of the award it’s an odd thing. I understand the desire to award something beyond academics and sport as they recognise that not everyone can shine in that respect. However it quickly becomes an award only for the most outstanding cases of bravery with nominations for mere kind acts not even being considered for the short list.
I think it’s a real shame as in the end there are only two contenders – Julian for the life-saving and Jake for overcoming a personal trauma to carry on playing hockey. Both well deserved but what about all the other children who did good things and are still overlooked because it wasn’t flashy?
Also they plan to award it every half-term so what happens to children who perform heroics in the second half of a term?
The book ends with Julian being made monitor for his heroism (even though the heroism wasn’t good enough for him to win the award). Julian is definitely an odd choice for monitor seeing as he has a problem with authority! We won’t ever get to see him as monitor, though, as that was the last book. And for that, I am eternally grateful.