The actual "secret" between Ned and the Wakefield's and the conflict that results from it are really lame... which I guess is a good thing, because a dad going to these extreme lengths to keep something quiet with his pre-teen daughters... even leaving out his son in the process... is really... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
The actual "secret" between Ned and the Wakefield's and the conflict that results from it are really lame... which I guess is a good thing, because a dad going to these extreme lengths to keep something quiet with his pre-teen daughters... even leaving out his son in the process... is really kind of creepy.
But before the Wakefield twins know just what their dad's secret is going to be, they're so bursting with excitement and curiousity that they go on about it for about six pages. Their naive behavior is annoying. When somebody wants t tell you something important in private "later," it's not always a good thing. It might mean Ned needs time to think of the best way to break the news. What if he was going to tell them he was not their real father, or something (since they're "old enough to keep a secret"). Nevertheless, Jessica pesters Elizabeth to see if she knows and Elizabeth--in exasperation--does her homework (hate) and lectures Jessica for not doing hers (loathe). She also notices Jessica is wearing her barrette, but even though Elizabeth gets frustrated with Jessica taking her things without asking... she says Jessica can KEEP IT. Smart, Elizabeth. That'll really keep Jessica from doing it again.
Ned comes home and makes the twins say that they promise they will keep the secret. He doesn't even accept Jessica's "me too." She actually has to say "I promise." Fine adult behavior there, Ned. Creepy, too. After Jessica changes into the outfit she is wearing on the cover (a blue sundress with a purple belt tied around her "narrow" waist) and Elizabeth throws on some boring rag and lectures Jessica again, they meet Ned and he tells them...
thithige bithig sithingecret... Ithig!!! After all of that build up... all of that speculation... Mr. Wakefield's secret is some childish made-up language??!! Ned shares some "touching" tale about how he learned it from his childhood friend when he was the twins age, and since the two of them were practically inseparable, just like the twins... that's why he thought of teaching them Ithig. Ned figures the three of them could use it to speak to each other. Alright, fine, the father-daughter bonding is fine in theory, but Ned's insistence on secrecy is weird. Just what does he plan on telling them in Ithig that they can't repeat? So Ned gives them the dull instructions of Ithig, which is basically stick the word "Ithig" inside each syllable of a word, like "twin" would become "twithigin" and "girl" would be "githigirl." If only real foreign languages were that easy, like sticking the word "German" in front of each syllable of a word of German, or the word "English" in front of a word in English....Of course Elizabeth picks up on it, while dumb Jessica can hardly say her own name. She gets a chance to put Ithig in action when nosy Caroline Pearce comes over to the Wakefield's table. "Ithigoh Ithigno," Jessica moans and Caroline's gossip instincts kick in as she wonders what strange things that Wakefield's are saying. Jessica explains it's a different language and Caroline's all, "French? Spanish?" Instead of saying yes (how would she know?) and sending her on her way, stupid NED is all, "it's really a family matter, Caroline," and tells Jessica in Ithig how proud he is of her for not telling. Ned's so planning on using Ithig for something sinister....
So the twins decide they love Ithig so much that they speak it the next morning (pointing out that Steven doesn't know it, which even though Ithig sucks as a secret, it's rude to include only some of your children and leave out others. Unless Steven and Ned have their own Secret). Apparently Alice knows that Ned was teaching the twins some sort of secret language. She thinks it's wonderful that the girls and their father "have something private and special." The twins take their private and special language to school only to learn that Caroline Pearce has told the other kids that the twins have a secret language. This makes the Unicorns MAD (that Jessica didn't tell them) and Amy Sutton feel... left out (that Elizabeth and Jessica have a secret instead of Elizabeth and her). Middle school kids are really sensitive aren't they, they just want to be loved and included, even in something as childish and unimportant as a made-up language. Jessica and Elizabeth don't want their friends to be mad, but they can't go telling Daddy's Little Secret either, not after they promised they wouldn't (Ned would probably disown them, or speak to them only in English as punishment).
So Jessica and Elizabeth are suddenly hated and Amy and Lila are suddenly friends... they snub JessandLiz by loudly talking about Lila's latest party... which is really some George Fowler party/benefit featuring some tennis player named Chris Crosby playing a benefit match. I wouldn't care less if somebody did not invite me to a tennis match, but of course Jessica's life is RUINED when Lila says she can't come... unless Jessica tells her her secret. Elizabeth's not invited either, of course, but Amy is and so is practically every other kid at school and--as the twins discover at home--STEVEN is invited (and some TV star named Brett Carter)... but not them.
The twins are sad, but they manage to honestly tell Ned that they kept the secret (because of course it's the first thing he asks) and Ned sinisterly promises they can talk Ithig later. Wouldn't it be "speak Ithig," and might I add that Ithig, with it's little italisized "ithig" between each syllable is really annoying to read. Nevertheless, we are treated to a sample of a note written to Elizabeth entirely in Ithig... from Lila!!! Yes, Jessica broke her little promise to Ned and now since Lila apparently rivals Caroline Pearce when it comes to spreading gossip "the whole school" knows Ithig. Stupid Ned is actually understanding when Jessica (melodramatically sobbing) tells him the story, but Elizabeth is just so very upset that Jessica broke the promise that she REFUSES to go to Lila's party. Too bad for her, she misses out on everybody cheering for tennis star Chris Crosby by shouting, "yithigea Crithigosby." Like he'd really appreciate such a cheer.
Elizabeth goes to school on Monday to Amy is STILL mad about Ithig and also that there is a new teacher in her music class... Ms. McDonald. Everybody apparently loved the old music teacher, so they act rude and obnoxious to Ms. McDonald and throw things around. When Ms. McDonald demands an explanation, bully Jim Sturbridge gives her one... in Ithig!! Oh, what kind of a nasty plague did Ned unleash teaching his daughters this language (I'm surprised that wasn't a plot for a later book.... the twins learn a "dead" language that infiltrates their brains, as well as their mouths and turns them into budding killing machines until some "living" language drives it out). The other kids take up Jim's Ithig and Ms. McDonald loses whatever control she had and ... sits there and lets the class run wild. That's almost as smart as Elizabeth letting Jessica keep the barrette she took without asking.
Speaking of St. Elizabeth, she just sits and watches, but deep down she really does want to help Ms. McDonald... especially after she learns of some bratty plot that Lila and Jim Sturbridge and some of the other bad kids are planning of humiliating Ms. McDonald by speaking Ithig in class while Ms. McDonald is being observed by the district supervisor. Some ghost writer must have really done that as a kid, or something, because I remember a really similar thing happening in "Boys Against Girls." Elizabeth went along with that, but in this one she goes home to her thinking seat (some pine branch) and worries... but decides to tell Ms. McDonald. She does this by rudely pointing out that some of the kids and Ms. McDonald "aren't getting along" and then is all stunned when Ms. McDonald reveals she knows Ithig.... because it's so hard to catch on to. Ms. McDonald is able to show off her superior Ithig skills by responding to Lila--the first student to try speaking Ithig in front of the District Supervisor. Ms. McDonald brushes it off as some special secret of the sixth graders, so of course the kids decide she must be really nice and cool and the class goes well.
And that's basically the end of Ithig, because what fun is a language if your teacher knows it? Plus the twins have more "interesting" news to deal with: Mary Robinson's mother is getting married. Big deal, but it apparently sets the stage for book 13...
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