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Literature / Mitch and Amy

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Mitch and Amy is a children's novel by Beverly Cleary. The titular twins are polar opposites; Mitch hates reading but loves math, while Amy hates math and loves to read and act out stories. As they start a new school year, with bullies and schoolwork awaiting, they try to figure out how to survive each other while each handling their obstacles.

Tropes found in this book include:

  • The '60s: The book was published in 1967, and while its themes in regard to bullying and sibling rivalry are timeless, there are, naturally, nods to the time period in which the book is set. For example, the kids are in awe at having a television set in class as an audio-visual aid, and Amy is surprised to learn that Bernadette's mother goes to college instead of being a homemaker (and leaves the homemaker chores to her daughter). Also, the story takes place in Berkeley, California, not far from ground zero of the Summer of Love, and Bernadette is depicted as something of a junior hippie, although part of her unkempt appearance is due to the fact that her home life is hectic because neither of her parents are home during the day.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Amy's patrol, in her Brownie Girl Scout troop, is called the Agonizing Alligators.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: One of the central themes.
  • Badass Adorable: Bernadette, hands down. She takes down Alan Hibbler with one precise move and pins him down, taunting him in front of the crowd.
  • Berserk Button: Alan hates hearing people talk about his father.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Amy might drive her brother crazy, but he won't put up with a bully spitting into her hair.
  • The Bully: Alan Hibbler and his older friend Dwight.
    • Bernadette is something of this to Mitch early on, though it's because she has a crush on him, as Amy points out.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Bernadette was not kidding when she screamed at Mitch to pound Alan to the ground. She proves that she can do it without breaking a sweat.
  • Class Clown: Mitch is something of one when his mother makes him read aloud. During one reading session, he stalls by improvising a TV commercial, and his mother laughs in spite of herself.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mrs. Huff, on occasion.
  • Double Standard: Both Mitch and Alan are given a lecture for fighting on school grounds. When Bernadette takes down Alan in self-defense, however, the principal doesn't even acknowledge what she did.
  • Dreadful Musician: Not exactly, but there's an instance in the story where Mrs. Huff must have felt this way about her family. Both of her children and also her husband are practicing their instruments at the exact same time - and not only do they all play different instruments, they're all playing different songs.
  • Education Mama: Gender flipped with Mr. Huff, who is much more of an Education Papa. He particularly insists on both of his children learning to play an instrument.
  • Everybody Hates Mathematics: Played straight and averted. Amy hates math. Mitch, on the other hand, is good at math but hates reading.
  • Foreshadowing: Part of the reason Mitch struggles with reading is that the Easy Reader books for him are boring. He finally finishes a long book on his own when it's a Western with gunfighting.
  • Foul Cafeteria Food: Implied by the fact that the kids refer to their school's "cafetorium" as the Ickitorium. What makes the food icky is not detailed, however.
  • Humiliation Conga: Happens to the bully Alan at the end, starting when he loudly and publicly misspells a word and ending when he gets leg swept by a girl.
  • I Was Beaten by a Girl: Invoked when Amy at the end says that Alan Hibbler won't dare bully a Brownie (Girl Scout) again after Bernadette pins him to the ground in front of a crowd.
  • Kick the Dog: Alan Hibbler to everyone around him, starting with when he smashes the skateboard that Mitch built with his own two hands. He finally goes too far when stealing the cupcakes that Amy and Bernadette baked for their Girl Scout troop; the principal comes out to see the commotion and takes Alan to the office.
    • Both Mitch and Amy have their moments of Jerkass behavior as well - see Troll for examples. They don't really mean to hurt each other's feelings, but sometimes they just feel like they can't help themselves.
  • The Last Straw: Mitch finally takes on Alan in a fight when the latter tosses dirt bombs at him on the first day back from winter break. Alan spitting into Amy's hair out of spite also had something to do with it.
  • Lethal Chef: Mitch reads "Beat with egg" in the instructions for making instant pudding and, failing to read on to the next word ("beater"), adds eggs to the pudding, resulting in pudding with liquid-like consistency. They do manage to salvage it by drinking the pudding as a beverage with lunch.
  • No Smoking: Surprisingly averted when Dwight lights up a cigarette. Then he chokes on it and makes a fool of himself.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Amy realizes that Alan, much like Mitch, has trouble spelling words. This leads to her Sympathy for the Devil moment.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Mitch and Amy.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Alan acts so high and mighty because his dad is so famous. Ironically, he hates having other people talk about his father and mention this trope.
  • Shout-Out: The twins' mother is a big fan of the French Chef.
  • Sibling Seniority Squabble: One of the points of contention between the twins is that Amy is ten minutes older.
  • Spelling for Emphasis: When Alan the bully steals the cupcakes Amy and Bernadette made for their Girl Scout meeting, he taunts them by saying that he's going to "eat the whole box- H-O-W-L!". Since that obviously spells "howl" and not "whole", he becomes a laughingstock.
  • Supreme Chef:
    • Amy is a talented cook for her age when it comes to desserts.
    • Bernadette, even more so. Amy is impressed that Bernadette can already handle meat loaf.
  • Tech Marches On: Amy struggles when given a verbal math quiz from a recording, since it doesn't give her enough time to figure things out. This motivates her to practice with flashcards at home. Mitch eventually jumps in to help.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: For Mitch, it's bananas. His mom even comments that he runs on bananas like a car runs on fuel.
  • Troll:
    • Mitch is this to his sister whenever the opportunity arises. The most notable example is when he bothers Amy and her friends while they're cleaning her mother's kitchen floor. However, when they need help finishing the project, he pitches in without complaint. Even Amy is forced to admit that they couldn't have finished without his help.
    • Amy has her moments as well, such as when her brother is practicing reading aloud and Amy rubs his nose in her superior reading abilities by reading a much longer book within plain sight of Mitch and constantly interrupting him by asking, "Guess what page I'm on NOW?"