What's the Name of That Book??? discussion

Diary of a Frantic Kid Sister
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SOLVED: Children's/YA > SOLVED. 1970s YA novel "Just Plain Sarah" or something to that effect. Sister's name is Deirdre. [s]

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message 1: by SamSpayedPI (new)

SamSpayedPI | 2069 comments OK, so one of the "suggest books for me" topics was about perceived favoritism of a sibling. I immediately though of a book I read when I was a kid, in which a young girl thinks her parents favor her older sister. An example of the favoritism was that her parents named her sister "Deidre" while she was "Just Plain Sarah."

Except I can't find it anywhere. Amazon, Abe Books and Goodreads searches come up blank, and Google gives me articles about Sarah Palin. I guess I must be conflating the title with Sarah, Plain and Tall. I definitely would have read it sometime in the 1970's (early 1980s barely possible but very unlikely).

Plot details: I don't think these are "spoilers," per se, since it's sort of a slice of life of a normal young teenager or preteen and nothing really "happens," as far as I can recall. It's told in first person by Sarah. I think she befriends an unpopular girl. Sarah mentions that her parents set out to lead "nonconventional" lives, but ended up with two daughters and a lot of furniture (I didn't understand at the time why having a lot of furniture defines you as "conventional" so that stuck with me). She mentions to her family at dinner one night that she was going to write a play over the summer, and describes the ensuing uproar with some humor ("You'd think I had announced that I was going to kill my grandmother or something.").


message 2: by Sherri (new)

Sherri | 74 comments Could it be “Just Plain Penny” by Pamela Jane?


message 3: by Rosa (new) - added it

Rosa (rosaiglarsh) | 5198 comments Just Plain Penny for the link.


message 4: by Ann aka Iftcan (new)

Ann aka Iftcan (iftcan) | 6967 comments Mod
Plain Jane perhaps? I haven't read it, and only vaguely remember what I'd read about it. But thought I'd suggest it anyway.


message 5: by SamSpayedPI (last edited Apr 01, 2018 06:02AM) (new)

SamSpayedPI | 2069 comments Thank you, but I don't believe it's either Just Plain Penny or Plain Jane. Both have 1990's copyrights; I had read the book in the 70's.

Also, "Plain Jane" seems too old (high school graduate); "Penny" seems a little too much of a children's book. Mine was more of what you'd call YA these days; sort of Norma Klein-y.


message 6: by Annamariah (new)

Annamariah | 283 comments There's another topic where someone is looking for a ya book possibly written in the 1970s where the main character has an older sister called Deirdre. Is there any chance you two are looking for the same book?


message 7: by SamSpayedPI (last edited Apr 01, 2018 05:07PM) (new)

SamSpayedPI | 2069 comments Annamariah wrote: "There's another topic where someone is looking for a ya book possibly written in the 1970s where the main character has an older sister called Deirdre. Is there any chance you two are looking for ..."

I don't think so. I mean, I guess it's possible, but we're remembering completely different details. I recall no boyfriend, no mustard, no financial difficulties or house in the Cape, and I remember the MC having a pretty good sense of humor (see grandmother comment above).

I will check out some of the 1970s YA authors suggested on the thread, though.

And I do think mine was also set in New York or another large city; I remember them living in apartments, not houses (another reason I ruled out Just Plain Penny).

Come to think of it, the similarities between Just Plain Penny and "Just Plain Sarah" seem to be a little too much to be coincidental. I'm sure Pamela Jane must have read "Just Plain Sarah" at some point and either intentionally or subconsciously borrowed the plot (and title). Maybe I'l try to e-mail her and get the answer ;-)


message 8: by SamSpayedPI (last edited Apr 01, 2018 05:16PM) (new)

SamSpayedPI | 2069 comments Annamariah wrote: "There's another topic where someone is looking for a ya book possibly written in the 1970s where the main character has an older sister called Deirdre. Is there any chance you two are looking for ..."

I don't think so. I mean, I guess it's possible, but if so she's remembering completely different details than I do. I recall no boyfriend, no mustard, no finanical difficulties or house in the Cape, and my protagonist did have something of a sense of humor (hence the grandmother comment). I do think my book was also set in NYC or some other city, though, as I remember them living in apartments, not houses (which is one of the reasons I ruled out Just Plain Penny).

I will check out some of the 1970s YA authors suggested on the thread, though.

Also, the similarities of plot and title between "Just Plain Sarah" and Just Plain Penny seem like "too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence." I wonder if I can contact Pamela Jane and ask if she's read the book I'm seeking without offending her.


Rainbowheart | 19012 comments Just Plain Betsy?

Found this description of the plot, not sure it's a good match....

"Our town, from corn fritters to the school concert--and the manuscript could have come from the attic trunk: it can't be the present (too simple and pure), it isn't the past (no period detail, no perspective). In a loose chain of chapters, connected chiefly by Betsy's attempt to save money for a lute, Ellen a rich boarder from the city arrives (""what if she gave herself airs""), Betsy is cheated out of fourteen cents at the local fair, handles various emergencies (an unruly busful of younger children, a boy caught in a trap, a sudden fire in school) with aplomb, and caps her character reference by foregoing an expensive concert and donating three dollars to her brother's prom fund. The trouble with this is not only the naivete (Betsy is thirteen), but the paucity of plotting-in-depth: when Ellen departs without regrets after having become a complete member of the family, the author slides over her defection and Betsy's disappointment. Too little, too late."


message 10: by bookel (new)


message 11: by SamSpayedPI (new)

SamSpayedPI | 2069 comments Rainbowheart wrote: "Just Plain Betsy?

Found this description of the plot, not sure it's a good match....


Thanks, Rainbow, but it's definitely not this one.

bookel wrote: "Just Plain Maggie
Plot http://www.librarything.com/work/7133...
Don't know if your book,..."


Ha! While this is not the one, I actually did read this book when I was a kid. So now I'm fairly positive I'm conflating the title "Just Plain Maggie" with "Sarah Plain and Tall" and attributing them to a third book, title unknown.


message 12: by Rainbowheart (last edited Apr 10, 2020 08:34PM) (new) - added it

Rainbowheart | 19012 comments Found it....

Diary of a Frantic Kid Sister by Hila Colman. The girl is Sara, and her older sister is Didi.

Review....

"One of Colman's less issue-oriented and thus less artificial novels, this is about eleven year-old Sara who hates her older sister Didi, but only sometimes, and, later comes to tolerate her and to recognize -- after Didi is jilted by her boyfriend and recovers during a ""fantastic"" tour of Europe -- that the two ""will never really connect."" Meanwhile Sara, who unlike Didi has never had a special friend, establishes a companionable relationship with a boy and -- reluctantly at first -- becomes friendly with Millie, an outcast whose absent father is said to be a drug addict and her mother a ""village bum."" More important though Sara takes a step toward building her own identity by writing a play, based on the Cinderella story, which the teacher decides to produce at school. An unexceptional diary, but normally troubled Sara (who is not really frantic at all) is easy to take."


message 13: by Juels (last edited Apr 02, 2018 11:02AM) (new)

Juels | 2476 comments Nice find Rainbowheart! In the google preview, you can see that Didi's full name is Deirdre.

https://books.google.com/books?id=5hj...

"She is my sister Didi, whose full name is Deirdre. All you have to do is say her name and then mine -plain Sarah- to know what my parents expected of their firstborn and then of..."


message 14: by Rainbowheart (new) - added it

Rainbowheart | 19012 comments What's weird is that I've actually read this book, but I was way too focused on the title and didn't pay attention to the plot Sam mentioned.


message 15: by SamSpayedPI (new)

SamSpayedPI | 2069 comments That's it! Moving to "solved" -- thanks, everyone!


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