Helen fears that lack of improvement in her reading may leave her stuck in the sixth grade forever, until a good teacher recognizes her reading problem.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'Bad Helen' recieved her nickname because she repeatedly acts up in class due to frustration with a learning disability. Her school knows that she is elgible for services but for the sake of the story, she is in the 'regular' classroom with a teacher who has made it clear that she does not like Helen for who she is. Having special education students in the regular classroom only works if the teacher is not insulting the student.
Even today, I am amazed by the number and severity of plot holes. Nobody (including the parents) seems alarmed that Helen is not recieving the help she is entitled to get under state/federal special education laws. This sends/reinforces historical stereotypes that special education (instead of the discrimination people using it experience) is bad and undesirable.
Now as then, this book may be the only 'public' information on special education that some students recieve---especially about themselves. Ms. Declements could have performed a tremendous public service for her readers (ala Henry Winkler's Hank Zipster) but instead exploits fear of being different. Furthermore, naive parents who are afraid of their children's diagnosis also turn to juvenile literature to reasure the whole family of an uncertain future. This book harms the very populations it could be trying to obtain primary readership from.