Kristy's newest baby-sitting charge is Susan Felder, who goes away to a special school. Susan isn't like most kids. While she can play the piano and sing beautifully...she can't talk to anyone. Susan is autistic. She lives locked inside her own secret world.
Kristy thinks it's unfair that Susan has to be sent off to school and is treated differently from everyone else. But Kristy's going to try to change that — by showing everyone that Susan's a "regular" kid, too. And then maybe Kristy's new friend can stay in Stoneybrook for good.
When Kristy starts babysitting for 8-year-old Susan Felder, she discovers that while Susan has autism she has special abilities, such as playing the piano and memorizing dates on a perpetual calendar.
Kristy is determined (as usual) to help Susan make friends while she is there for her summer holidays, and maybe even convince Mrs. Felder to send Susan to Stoneybrook Middle School- in the class for handicapped kids instead of going to a special boarding school.
Kristy did help her make one true friend - James Hobart, but when kids from the neighborhood want to see Susan‘s special abilities in person, Kristy is too naive to see that the kids were using Susan as a spectacle of entertainment.
It later turned out that Mel Tucker was charging kids $1 to see Susan in action. Also, he and his friends were talking about Susan behind her back such as when Gina called her the incredible retard who can memorize dates and music. The amazing dumbo who can sing but not talk.
At the end Mrs. Felder announces that she is pregnant with Hope who will become Susan’s younger sister
The Hobarts, an Australian family consisting of Johnny (4), James (6), Matthew (8) and Ben Hobart (11), move into Mary Anne’s old house. At first no one is accepting because of their Australian accents even though they have the same skin colour, and get called Crocs. Later though, when they finally get accepted Johnny is invited to Jamie Newton’s house, and James is invited to Zac’s birthday, Matthew gets the lead role in the school play, and Ben go to the movies with Mallory Pike.
Kristy and the Secret of Susan is based partly on my experiences as a therapist with autistic children during the summers I was in college. While there was no real Susan Felder, I met lots of kids like Susan and lots of families facing the same challenges Susan’s parents face in the book. Autistic kids are very special, and I will always remember the kids I worked with. In fact, Kristy and the Secret of Susan is not the only book I’ve written centering around an autistic child. Before the Baby-sitters Club began I wrote Inside Out, told from the point of view of an older brother whose younger brother has autism. If you’re interested in learning more about kids like Susan, check your library for Inside Out, or ask a librarian to suggest other titles.