Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"My brothers are being pigs. And pains." BSC #21: Mallory and the Trouble with Twins (1989)

AKA Mallory Takes a Whole Book to Figure Out What's Obvious on Page 27
Before I start this one, I want to comment on Mallory and book covers. From about 1990 until about 1996 or 7, Mallory always looks hideous in any picture she appears in. When she babbles on about her appearance within the pages, you're inclined to agree with her. They put her in huge glasses that look more like you'd see on a man in 1985 (See SS #8.) Her hair also either looks like a mullet or a helmet. Like all the girls, she also tends to look like she's 16 or older. Near the end of the series, they start to get it right. Her glasses shrink, and she actually looks 11.
In this one, she actually looks as I would imagine her from the series. Although, why she's tucked her necklace into her turtleneck, I do not know. I'm more concerned about the Porcelain Doll twins, I mean the Arnold twins, and their lack of necks. The picture is actually a picture taken at the twins' birthday party and is pretty accurate, except for the girls' attire.
Righto. Mallory gets a standing job sitting for the Arnold twins, Carolyn and Marilyn. In addition to having matchy-matchy names, the girls are very identical and their mother dresses them exactly alike all the time. The only way Mallory can tell them apart is by their name bracelets. When she comments on how they're like bookends, they take off their name bracelets and start playing tricks on her. She eventually realizes that they don't like dressing the same, because no one can tell them apart and it causes problems all the time. Once she lets them know she understands, they act civil and she helps them talk with their mother.
The b-plot isn't really much of a plot at all. It's simply Mallory whining about how babyish she looks and how she's ugly. After talking to Mrs. Arnold works for the twins' problem, she decides to talk to her own parents, who let her get a haircut and get her ears pierced.
Interesting Tidbits
Right away, Mallory describes the triplets as "identical, but you'd hardly know it" because they don't dress the same or act the same. This is the clumsiest foreshadowing I've seen since...probably since the last BSC book. Never mind. Moving on.
How are all 10 Pikes riding in one car? Mallory says that she, Vanessa, Claire and Nicky are in one row, and since Claire tries to lunge over her, they're obviously not wearing seatbelts. These days, in some states, both Claire and Margo would still need to be in booster seats.
You'd think a family like the Pikes would take their kids shoe shopping at Kmart, not a shoe boutique. While there, Mallory gets a pair of loafers because they're "practical." During the same era, my uncle with five kids would buy everyone ONE pair of shoes for the year, and they were always sneakers, because that way, they could wear them to gym as well as the rest of the time.
I can't figure out why Claire and Margo react so badly to the ear piercing gun. It's not like it makes a loud noise or anything. But Claire screams and Margo threatens to barf.
I just started chapter two and Mallory has already started at least three sentences with the word US: "Us kids" and "Us club members," twice. I know it's the way people talk, and maybe this is before they made Mallory into Super Nerd, but it just doesn't look or sound right. Plus, I feel they should really not advertise bad grammar in a story aimed at preteens. By the end of the book, she uses that poor grammar 5 times, and uses it right...once.
Jessi and Mallory are scared to sit by Logan on the floor...or to talk to him, apparently.
Logan makes fun of the Arnold twins' names, but all the twins in the series have names like that: Mariah and Miranda Schillaber, who used to sit with MA and Kristy at lunch in seventh grade; Abby and Anna; Rosie and Ricky, who are in #45 and #52 and are babies; and then Karen has twins in her class, also. I don't think they're Sherri and Terri like on the Simpsons, but it's something very similar. I don't care to pick up a Little Sister book and find out. (I looked it up. It's Terri and Tammi.) I've known lots of sets of twins in my life, and although I did go to kindergarten with Molly and Polly, most of the twins haven't had matching names at all: Beah and Maisie, Josephine and Cordelia, Jonas and Elli, Pearl and Franny.
Mallory described Mrs. Arnold as fussy looking: "too much and too cute." I think she sounds a lot like Karen dressed up as a Lovely Lovely Lady. She wears too much jewelry and is covered in bows.
Mrs. Arnold's first name is Linda, as we learn from her name necklace. Do you know anyone over the age of five who has one and actually wears it?
Mrs. Arnold dresses her girls like china dolls. The kicker is, they are still all dolled up when they get home from school, and they stay that way. At my house, the shoes came off, the jewelry and hair pieces got removed and, as often as possible, socks or tights came off. I don't think I remember seeing my sister in socks at home until she was about 11. Of course, my mother didn't dress like a doll, either.
Claudia misspellings: waht (what), frist (first, twice), babbysitting (Claud loves to babbysit), pians (pains), triked (tricked), truoble (trouble, which she then spells properly in the next sentence), goten (gotten), laest (least), waite (wait). Someone needs to teach that girl some phonics; pians and laest are not pronounced anything like pains and least. She also uses of instead of off three times and forgets to capitalize Mal once. At the end of the chapter, she spells Mallory as Malery and tells her she can have the "twines." (Mal then says she doesn't want the twines, which I find a little humorous and a little catty at the same time.)
Claudia gets shamed by the Arnold parents for letting the wrong twin go to a piano lesson. What do they expect when the twins are so identical that babysitters can't tell them apart? The girls do get in trouble also, but a babysitter who has only known the girls for an hour can't be expect to prevent something like that.
Mallory is reading Cynthia Voigt's Dicey's Song.
Kristy's happy to outgrow a dress she got for Christmas. Since it's tight, not short, I'm going to have to assume she's growing in the chest or gut...probably the former, given the reaction.
Mallory wants to be an individual, "like Dawn." Pick a better role model, sweetie.
When asked how they'd like to dress, Marilyn replies she wants to wear "more grown up clothes" like "skirts without straps" (huh?) and Carolyn wants to be Mini-Claudia: push down socks and zipper jeans. She also wants barrettes with ribbons, which were, in my experience (and I was 8 in 1989, same as the twins) very babyish.
Mallory thinks her parents are wizards because they know every trick in the kid book and have eyes in the back of their heads. Maybe she doesn't really go to a Massachusetts boarding school at the end of the series, but to Hogwarts. She could be a Weasley down her mother's side. Hmmm.
Mallory's dad doesn't want her to get a green mohawk, but her mother wants her to wear snake fang earrings. Guess we know where the line is drawn in this family.
They keep describing ear piercing as "punching." Makes me think someone's getting knocked out.
How are these girls getting their ears pierced without parental permission? First Mal and Jessi get a hole in each ear and Claudia gets one hole. Then Dawn the individual copies everyone else and decides to get two holes in each ear. The lady doing the piercing doesn't even ask for a note (which could be faked) or talk to Sharon on the phone (who could have been anyone, anyway).
Why do I always want to gag at the end of BSC books? Sappy endings, bleccch.
New Characters:
Marilyn and Carolyn Arnold (says they've been sat for before, but I think this is the first book where we actually meet them), 8--31
Claire and Margo (doing a "fashion show"): pink sweat pants, white turtlenecks and running shoes; swimsuits, knee socks and high heels
Marilyn and Carolyn: plaid dresses, tights, black Mary Janes, hair ribbons, lockets, and nail polish; red flared skirts, blue sweaters, white turtlenecks and Mary Janes; blue sailor dresses, hair ribbons, tights, Mary Janes; white dresses with pink ribbons and lots of lace, pink tights, hair ribbons, Mary Janes, lockets; yellow jumpsuits
Marilyn: pink jean skirt, ruffly blouse, knee socks with hearts, pink barrettes
Carolyn: "cool" jeans, sweatshirt with stars and moon, headband, yellow push-down socks
Kristy: jeans, pink and blue sweater, white turtleneck
Claudia: hideous hair (lots of little braids pulled back and held in place with a series of scrunchies), hand painted t-shirt, tight blue capri pants, push-down socks, fruit basket earrings
MA: plum skirt over plum and white body suit, white suspenders (I remember wanting this outfit when I was 10)
Dawn: oversized blue shirt with green on the inside, so green showed where cuffed it, green skirt, clogs (which are never cool; even Mallory says so)
Jessi: jeans, t-shirt reading "You are looking at perfection" (that's almost as good as Dawn's "I'm Awesome" necklace...anyone remember which book that is?)
Next week: since I've done Kristy, Claudia, Jessi and Mallory since starting this back up, it's going to be one of the other girls. Most likely Dawn or MA since I don't have any Stacey or Abby books. Let's tentatively say #50 Dawn's Big Date, but since I've revealed that Dawn books tend to turn my stomach (which is in bad enough shape anyway).

"Girls, rum, mango and papayas." BSC Mystery #8: Jessi and the Jewel Thieves (1993)

aka Jessi Misinterprets Something and Hilarity Ensues
I had this written a week ago, but didn't get to post it, due to poor health. It's posted here as I wrote it at the time.
Wow, this one is packed with ridiculousity. I think it's supposed to come off all cute, like a sitcom, but instead it makes Jessi and her friend Quint look really stupid.
Jessi goes to stay with Stacey for the weekend in NYC, so she can see her friend Quint perform at Julliard. While visitng Quint, she overhears a couple of men planning a jewel heist. She and Quint chase these men all over Central Park, but eventually discover that they were rehearsing for a play.
Back in Stoneybrook, Becca is spending the weekend with the Pikes. She feels like her family has abandoned her and acts like a whiny baby until MA helps her run away to her home for a couple of hours.
Interesting tidbits
Jessi points out she didn't kiss Quint the first day she met him. I'm soooo relieved. I was picturing her as big slut before she said that.
Jessi's parents and Aunt Cecelia are going to a wedding, hence why Becca is staying with the Pikes. Given their history, I'm surprised the Ramseys didn't leave Becca in charge of Squirt. They have no problem leaving Jessi in charge of them both.
On that note, whenever I read a Jessi or Mallory book, I remember that the legal age to leave a child home alone in the state where I grew up was 12. Of course, a lot of parents didn't follow that, but I can't even imagine leaving an 11 year old in charge of a small child.
I love how, during the description of the girls in chapter 2, they always have to point out that Claudia's not a porker. It's always like, "Claudia eats like a pig, but she's just the right weight!"
Jessi says Dawn usually brings her own snacks to BSC meetings, but doesn't Claudia usually have some healthy, low sugar snacks for Dawn and Stacey?
Jessi actually acknowledges how stupid it is to send postcards on a weekend trip. I've never understood why these girls do that.
The "jewel thieves'" conversation is so clich├ęd, I knew when I read it back when I was 12 that either a) they were in a play or b) the ghostwriter had watched waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too many crappy old movies. Among the phrases are "double-crossing weasel" and "lily-livered, chicken hearted wimp," and the two men are straight out of central casting.
Jessi says she calls Mallory and says "It's me" and Mallory knows who it is. Is she surprised? I'd hope she'd recognize her best friend's voice.
Aren't Quint and Jessi a little old to "play detective?" I think I was really into that when I was eight or nine. A friend and I used to spy on all kinds of people, hoping to find a mystery.
I find it ironic that Jessi talks about how great it is to reread books (specifically, Misty of Chincoteague). Rereading this one is killing me.
Quint and Jessi are not subtle about following the "jewel thieves." I'm really surprised the two men don't realize they're being followed.
Stacey's dad takes Stacey, Jessi and Quint out for lunch and lets Jessi choose. One, how is Jessi (who has not spent much time in NYC) supposed to know what the options even are? Two, she and Quint choose the Palm Court, which is the restaurant that the two robbers mentioned. Really?
Jessi apparently loves the carousel in Central Park so much, she gives her horse a name and pretends he was real.
Parts of this book read like a guide book for NYC. Guess that was because MA wasn't there to fulfill that role.
Claudia misspellings: haden't (hadn't), notbook (notebook), probibly (probably), woulden't (wouldn't), beleive (believe),Becka (Becca), culd (could), haveing (having), ackting (acting), fammily (family), seene (seen), hapenned (happened), parrents (parents). And my favorite, hippily instead of happily. Oddly, this entry occurs right before the chapter about MA and Mallory babysitting the Pikes and Becca on Saturday. Claudia babysits later in the book on Sunday.
Becca's being all pathetic because her family left her behind. While it's all very bratty, she has a bit of a point. They had to hire a babysitter to watch Squirt anyway, so why not take Becca with also?
Dawn apparently has nothing better to do with her Saturday than cover MA's babysitting job (probably unpaid). I think I remember that happening in another book too, where one of the girls called someone over to cover her job so she could go "save the day" with one of the charges. (I want to say it was #9, aka Dawn Sucks out My Soul.)
MA mentions her dad going away on a business trip when she was in third grade. Which is consistent with several other books, including SS #11, the "remembering" book.
Jessi spots the "jewel thieves" in the audience at Quint's Julliard performance. She says one of them is staring at her. Well, of course he is! She was staring at him first.
Jessi and Quint actually attempt to go through the suspects' trash.
Jessi and Quint get kicked out of a jewelry store. I don't know why, but this makes me laugh. I think it's that it's the most realistic part of the whole story.
What are the Kishis eating? Claudia finds a bunch of paper towel rolls and "several" oatmeal boxes in the recycling bin. That's awfully convenient. I don't know anyone who eats that much oatmeal.
The Pikes call paper towel rolls "Hoo-hoo tubes." Never heard that before, but I don't know a kid who hasn't used one as a microphone at some point.
Becca names her dragon Charlotte after Charlotte's Web. Wouldn't her first connection to that name be her best friend?
Jessi buys Becca a troll doll. Ahh, memories.
Waiter at the Palm Court: green pants, white jacket, mustard sash. Jessi thinks it's cool and can't wait to tell Claudia about it
Jessi: black velvet dress, jet necklace; sweater with geometric designs in primary colors (borrowed from Mallory), jeans and black boots
Next week: Mallory and the Trouble with Twins

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

"I'll call the pediatrician, Russ and Peaches, the Simpsons, the neighbors and put an ad in the paper." #123 Claudia's Big Party (1998)

AKA Claudia and Janine Break the Rules and Get Busted

This one is near the end of the series and about four years after I stopped actively reading the books. Unlike everything else I've blogged (and about 75% of the series) I've never read this one before, not even during my blitz of the local libraries. Some of the titles (mostly, for some reason, Stacey ones) seemed too stupid to bother reading, and others (like this one) just never made it onto my list, or came home with me but I ran out of time before reading them.
Interestingly, both my copy of this one and #2 came with the name and phone number of the same little girl inside the front cover. In 1998, she lived just down the street from here, hence why the books were dropped at a local thrift store.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, the plot. Claudia is back in eighth grade after her very silly trip back to seventh grade. She feels like she doesn't have enough time for everything, because, in addition to a large school workload, she's being pulled in different directions by her friends, AND Janine is feeling lonely and wants to spend more time with her. So when her parents go out of town for the weekend, she decides to invite her friends all over to get to know each other. Only, of course, word gets out and her cozy gathering of the BSC and her four seventh grade friends turns into a raging party of random classmates. Aunt Peaches and Uncle Russ break up the party, and tell the sisters their parents will be informed. Claudia and Janine get into one last fight and then make up. They get points from their parents by telling the truth before Peaches can tell them, and also for cleaning up so well.
Meanwhile, in a parallel case of siblings, Bill and Melody Korman are warring with one another. Bill has nothing nice to say to Melody, and she doesn't know how to respond to his meanness. After two negative sitting jobs, the BSC decides they have to solve this problem. Jessi gives MA an idea. She takes the three Kormans for a walk, and MA pretends she lost the key to the house. Melody and Bill have to work together to try to find it.
Interesting tidbits

Right off the bat...Claudia's friend Joanna reminds her they are going shopping and spells the word out. Claudia's surprised that it has two Ps in it. Even she says you'd think she'd know how to spell one of her favorite activities.
Apparently, Claudia's boyfriend, Josh, likes her other friends and doesn't mind going shopping with them. I see. Let's take bets. Does he come out of the closet in high school, or does he wait until college?
Ahh, so that's what Claudia's dad does. He works for an investment firm; he's a partner, in fact. I've always liked getting details about what the girls' parents do for a living.
Is it wrong that, as Claudia is describing her seventh grade friends, I'm trying to figure out who is who on the cover? (Speaking of the cover: ever notice that, after MA got her haircut in #60, she almost always looks like she's wearing a wig on the covers? They really just did a lousy job on her hair.)
Really? The Kishis leave their door unlocked on BSC days so the girls don't have to wait? That seems more than a little dangerous and stupid.
They're setting up Mallory's move to boarding school. When she comes in to the BSC meeting, she doesn't look at anyone. Later, when asked if she wants a sitting job, it's clear she's been crying, and she turns down the job. Poor girl. I went through about three years of the kind of hell she's been experiencing for a couple weeks, and if you don't develop a thick skin and learn to ignore it, it's really tough.
This made me laugh. When Janine wants some candy, she doesn't ask for it; she asks Claudia if they can add C12H22O11 (the chemical compound for sucrose) into the equation.  
Janine keeps trying to get Claudia to do things with her, like bake cookies. When the parents say they're going out of town, Claudia says she doesn't like the gleam in Janine's eye.
I've always liked the Korman kids. Leaving aside the stupid toilet monster, they've always seemed very normal. They moved into the crazy Delaney mansion, turned off the ostentatious fountain and made the place look more like one where children live. And Bill and Melody always seemed to be friendly and fun. Even their fights in this one sound normal.
Speaking of the Kormans' mansion, Abby uses the back staircase. Really? How many houses have more than one staircase?
When Bill and Melody get into a shoving match, Abby tells them they can't have the ice cream sundaes she made them. Is it horrible that I really, really wanted her to eat hers in front of them after she threw theirs in the sink? (BTW, isn't Abby allergic to ice cream?)
Josh and Claudia find Janine watching TV. She tells them she was "channel swimming" and inadvertently throws the remote at Josh. When he returns it to her, he calls it her "electronic wand." He's pretty quick with a quip.
Ahh, Josh. He makes a big scene because he's nervous to go on a date with MA, Logan, Stacey, and Stacey's "older man," Ethan. He ends up inadvertently sitting in MA's lap, but plays it off by saying it's good to see her again.
Poor, poor Janine. She recently broke up with her boyfriend, and you can tell she's been a little lonely lately. She keeps trying to (really lamely) bond with Claudia, who is (as usual) being a bit of an ass about it. For example, for most of the story she never really attempts to do any of things Janine wants her to do, she cuts Janine off before she can finish, and she doesn't really listen to her stories.
More Mal worries: she says she did okay on a test because she got an 86 on it. Everyone's concerned about her because normally she'd consider that to be almost failing.
Wow. Janine is sarcastic to her parents as they are leaving.
Claudia keeps describing herself as taffy being stretched thinner and thinner. It started making me hungry.
Janine and Claudia peruse an art website, back in the days when everyone had dial up and you waited for pictures to load. Sounds horribly dated now but way too "current" for a BSC book.
Claudia tries to think up a list of trivia about her various friends. Some of the trivia is too generic (such as liking the Mets for Logan) and some is kinda mean (do you think Mal, who is already having a tough time, wants everyone to know she talks in her sleep?)
They keep talking about how big the party is getting, but Claudia only counts 21 people at one point. She had originally told Janine 12 guests, but it's more than that. She has invited the six other BSC members, Logan and Shannon, Abby's twin sister, Anna, and her four younger friends. That's 15, not including Janine and Claudia. Then Pete, Rick, Austin, Erica, Emily and Shannon's best friend Greer also make it. That makes 23 people, including the hosts. I guess it's 40% larger than the party was intended to be, but it's not like 75 kids had showed up.
Some of the people at the party are acting more than a little bit crazy (and out of character). I'm not surprised when a couple of people we don't know that well go into the Kishi parents' bedroom to watch WWF death match, but Claudia finds Abby, Anna and Shannon playing keep away with a COOKIE in a room where a vase was already broken. I just don't see it. Also, Janine takes all of Claudia's seventh grade friends to her room and show them stuff on the internet, so she's no longer monitoring the party, and these friends are not mingling the way they're supposed to do.
I do see THIS happening though. When the kids are playing with the cookie-decorating supplies, Pete Black squirts icing into his mouth. When Kristy tells him he's gross, he sprays some on her arm. She pretends to be mad, but then licks it off anyway.
When Peaches catches the girls in the middle of the party, she seems more hurt that Claudia and Janine lied to her than upset that they had a party without permission. They had told her they didn't want to eat dinner with her that night because they had special "sister plans."
Ouch. Claudia and Janine get into a fight after Russ and Peaches leave. Claudia snaps at Janine that she just wishes she actually had any friends. That's cold, mostly because Claudia KNOWS it's true. Janine only agreed to the party because she thought maybe she could hang out with Claudia's friends.
I know MA is trying to bring the Kormans together, but there's a small flaw in her plan. Bill and Melody have decided that the only way to get into the house is to break a window on the back door and unlock it from the inside. MA has placed the house key in Skylar's stroller, where they find it as they put the stroller away. What if they hadn't seen it? Would she have had to follow through with breaking into the house? (Also, it's a good thing that the Kormans don't have an "emergency key" they keep in the garage or under a rock or something.)
When Janine says she doesn't know how to reconnect with her old friends, Claudia suggests she throw a party. That makes the sisters laugh and they end up hugging.
First thing Claudia's parents want to know when they hear about the party is whether drinking was involved. I'm not surprised. The BSC never did delve into that issue that I can remember, and many kids do drink at age 13.
Josh: khakis, denim shirt and tie (which he takes off...just the tie, not the rest! Although, maybe if they HAD been drinking....)
Janine: black pleated skirt, loafers, sweater with red trim
Claudia: black jeans and turtleneck; fleecy jacket with turquoise, pink, lime and red stripes (ewww!), ribbon earrings
Next week: probably a Jessi book

Thursday, August 9, 2012

My BSC collection

In order to make this more fun for me, I've been buying BSC books from the local thrift stores. In two weeks, I've amassed a collection of 15 books, 5 super specials, and 2 mysteries. I intend to keep gathering as many books as possible in this way.
I was talking to a good friend of mine (hi, Tessie!) and she agreed to help me out by looking at her local thrift stores. In order to avoid duplicates, we made a list of my top "wants"--books that were so bad or hilarious that I have to have them, or that have a special meaning for me. Here it is:
#43 Stacey's Emergency
#95 Kristy + Bart = ?
The one where Claudia discovers the little boys are being abused by their father
Mystery #7, Dawn and the Disappearing Dogs
Super Special #15 Babysitters' European Vacation
We were joking about these. I've never read the last one, hence why I want to find it. #43 is a big joke in my family. We never say the title properly; if I get a chance to blog it, there will be a video as part of the blog, explaining it. Mystery #7 is known by Tessie and me as "The Mallory Book" because Mal looks like a moron on the cover. The other two are just fun “issue” books.

"That's good...because the Abominable Snowman also steals homework." BSC Super Special # 7 Snowbound (1991)

This was always one of my favorite super specials, mostly because, while most of the girls' stories were interesting, they were something that could possibly actually happen. Sure, Stacey's story would have been more interesting if she and her mother had been chopped up by a serial killer. And there's no way Claudia's parents would let her stay ALONE with three children under the age of six when she could just walk across the street and join them. But, I've been stuck in a number of snowstorms where the power and phone and heat were out and we just had to do what we could. So I was a fan of this one.

In case you couldn't tell by the incredibly original title, the BSC is snowed in, in a variety of silly set ups.

Kristy's at home, but she's invited Bart over, and he's forced to spend the night. Meanwhile, Karen's pet rat is on the loose, and Kristy decides she needs to shave her legs for the first time.

Claudia is babysitting for the Perkins sisters and the parents can't make it home. She can't find the crazy dog for a couple of hours, and teaches the girls how to eat dirty snow.

Stacey's mom takes her to get a perm and then decides (for some reason) that it would be easier to take the back roads back to Stoneybrook. They get stranded and taken in by a stranger and his family.

MA and Mallory are babysitting the Pikes for nearly twenty four hours. The concern at this sitting job isn't a missing animal, but that they're nearly out of food. They clean out the freezer of food that will go bad, and then Logan brings them a pack...on cross country skis.

Dawn and her mother barely make it to the airport, and then discover that Jeff (whom they were supposed to pick up) isn't there because his flight was rerouted. They're forced to spend the night, and of course Dawn makes friends with some small children.

Jessi and her sometimes-boyfriend Quint get stranded at Jessi's dance school. Quint had come to town to go to a dance with Jessi. The two of them play surrogate big siblings to a bunch of little homesick dancers.

Interesting tidbits

On the first "real" page that's not handwritten, Kristy tells us that Emily Michelle is adopted, but she doesn't think of her that way. Then why even bring it up?

All seven babysitters are bringing dates to the Winter Wonderland (original name...think it was used in several other December books) dance, and the fourteen of them are going to hang out together. I'll buy that Bart and Quint, who don't go to that school, would be okay with this, and even Ben, who is getting to hang out with a bunch of older guys. But don't Logan and the other dates have their own cliques, and wouldn't they want to spend some time with them?

David Michael (I'm going to start shortening David Michael to DM and Emily Michelle to EM, the way I always type MA. Obviously, Kristy's mom became obsessed with double names somewhere after Kristy's birth) is singing the name game and Kristy's desperate to cut him off before Bart hears him say fart. When DM whispers something really goofy into the phone before hanging up, Bart asks who wound him up. Sounds like a normal 7 year old in December to me.

Emily Jr, Karen's rat, goes missing. I seem to remember getting extremely desperate for a book one day and reading my sister's Little Sister book where that happens as well; I'm pretty sure it warranted a super special. I don't think I realized it was the same plot as this.

Claudia misspellings: descibe (describe), claudy (cloudy), afternon (afternoon), disapperntened (disappointed), patently (patiently) and flury (flurry) She also uses an apostrophe at the END of the word (didnt') and spells Myriah and Gabbie's names wrong TWICE--once as Myria and Gabie and once as Mariah and Gabby.

Claudia describes Dawn as healthy looking. I'm sure she didn't mean it that way, but it sounds like she's calling her chunky. "She has a healthy appetite."

Claudia mentions that Mal and Jessi have "semi-boyfriends." Is that because they're eleven or what? Why is Logan MA's boyfriend but Ben, who always hangs out with Mal at this point in the series and has gone on several dates with her, a semi-boyfriend? On a related note, how old is Quint supposed to be? I always got the idea he was older, like 14. Why would a 14 year old want to "date" an 11 year old?

When Dawn tells Sharon Jeff is nervous about flying, Sharon says he's going through a phase in response to the divorce. That sounds like a lame excuse to not actually deal with the problem. At the very least, shouldn't she blame it on her marriage to Richard, which is more recent and more likely to bother Jeff (seeing as he'll be spending Christmas with Richard.)

When Mrs. Pike details her plans for her day in NYC (which sound more like the plans for a WEEK in NYC...seriously, three museums, Rockefeller Center, Lincoln Center and a musical in one day?), Claire asks if she'll find time to use the bathroom.

Nicky's glasses look really thick in the illustration. And they're those giant plastic 80s frames.

Does Stacey really need to go all the way to the mall to get a perm? There must be a salon somewhere in Stoneybrook.

Every now and then, these girls actually act their age. Stacey mouths off to her mom in the car and jokingly asks her if she can go see Santa.

What time do these girls get out of school, 1:30? How can Kristy do homework and watch two movies with Bart before dinner? Even assuming that those movies are 90 minutes each and dinner at the Brewer/Thomas house is pretty late (say, 7pm), they still would have started the movies at 4pm at the latest. Later, MA and the Pikes don't get home from school until after 3.

Umm. If it's December, Emily should be wearing more than just a diaper (that's hanging open on one side.) Even if the house is set at a warm temperature, she'd still be pretty chilly. (Tessie, my best friend, adds: it's possible that Emily is like her own little sister Bee, who used to rip all her clothes off at that age and didn't mind the cold.)

Bart looks about 10 in the illustration.

Convenient. Jessi said there was food at her dance rehearsal so no one faints. But when exactly were the dancers supposed to eat it...and what kind of snack food is Cup'o'Ramen? (I also find it suspect that not a single parent showed up. There's a fair shot that someone lives within walking distance and would be able to get there anyway.)

I've always remembered the description of Mallory sleeping like an eggbeater and couldn't remember what book it was in.

When Byron asks if he can have a popsicle for breakfast, MA says she didn't know if he should have chocolate ice cream for breakfast. But popsicles are fruit flavored. She's thinking of a fudgesicle. (Side note: Why is it always Byron who wants to eat the grossest combos? Not that a popsicle for breakfast is that bad, but he's usually the one eating fried baloney and banana, or salami and peanut butter or whatever.)

Sharon drives in snow just like my mom does. Only Sharon apparently curses more than my mom does. (Wouldn't it have been awesome if they could have just said what Sharon said? My friends all cursed like sailors by the time we were 13.)

I've always been amused by the way Kristy describes her older brothers. In this one, she says Sam practically lives in the fridge, and that he can sense the presence of ice cream.

Kristy calls DM Toast-for-Brains after he asks if Bart will sleep in her room.

More Claudia misspellings: evry (every), realy exited (really excited), flacks (flakes), Thrusday (Thursday), sleding (sledding), befor (before), and stoped (stopped). She also says billed instead of build and no instead of know. She spells Myriah wrong twice again (including a new spelling, Maria) and Gabbie once, though she does get it right (but not capitalized) the second time.

Claudia heats up spaghetti in a double boiler. I don't even know how to use one of those.

How old is Laura Perkins? She's old enough to hold up her head and eat puree, but is still a baby (she's younger than Lucy). Does she sleep through the night? Claudia puts her to bed and then barely even mentions her again.

I'm always surprised when the pictures in the super specials actually match the descriptions of what is happening. It was not the norm. For example, in the MA chapter, there's an illustration I already mentioned because I was talking about Nicky's glasses. In the story, Nicky makes Claire do a "crumble," so she's in a ball on the floor. Then the triplets all come in and make the bizzer sign at Nicky. In the illustration, Claire is just kneeling at MA's feet with her arms around MA's ankles, while only one of the triplets is making the bizzer sign. However, in the Jessi illustration, she's holding hands with a sad looking little girl, and there's a little boy in line ahead of her. In the story, once the little boy in front of her gets off the phone, the little girl (Holly) won't let go of Jessi's hand while she dials her home phone number.

 Adam frightens Claire with stories of the Abominable Snowman. They're actually kind of clever.

Why does the heat still work at the Pikes' house when the electricity is out?

Sharon says that Dawn has picked up MA's one bad habit, which is worrying too much. But I think that's not even close to MA's worst habit. How about letting everyone walk all over her?

Dawn relates being stuck in the airport to being stranded on an island with Claudia. Idiot.

More illustration silliness. Mallory looks like she's a full head taller than MA, who is about the same height as the triplets.

Claire asks if robbers ring the doorbell and Mallory's not sure. WTF?

After the electricity came back on, Mallory says the only light that should have been "off" is the one in the rec room. I think she means on.

Yet more misspellings: evning (evening), electricy and electricty (electricity), whorst (worst, though I read it as, most whore) and prowd (proud)

Claudia is spending the night in Myriah's room with her, after she put Gabbie to bed in the other room. I don't know about you, but if I were 13 and alone with a three little girls, I'd want to keep them as close together as possible. And I can't imagine Gabbie would be so easy-going about going to sleep alone in the dark without her mommy and daddy. She's two, after all. A lot of kids her age are still in cribs.

Chewy is always described as being a huge dog, so why is Claudia looking for him under the couch or behind a table? And seriously, even with her mother there to help, they never even check the basement.

Jessi says she overhears Quint saying the words "bowling bag" to another one of the "guy dancers." I misread it as "gay dancers."

The coffee shop across the street offers the dancers free breakfast. Unless he lived upstairs from the shop, how did the owner get there? The streets hadn't been plowed yet.

MA tells Logan that Pizza Express isn't open (even though it's only 9 am and there's two feet of snow on the ground). Logan responds all sarcastically.

Heh heh. MA says that the reader will never guess who was at the door, but on the opposite page, there's a picture of a boy on skis. It has to be Logan, since he's the only person they've spoken to on the phone who could have skied over.

Kristy says she rummages around under the sink and happens to find an electric razor. Where did THAT come from? Was it Elizabeth's, and if so, why is it in the kids' bathroom? Or did someone buy it for Kristy in the past and she just filed it away? It would have been funnier if she'd borrowed, say, Charlie's razor to use (as she does with his hair dryer.)

Dawn's so concerned that people will think Sharon's snoring is coming from her, she makes a giant show of how awake she is.

Stacey says her mom called AAA at 1pm, and, after driving slowly home from the mall, they arrived at "nearly two." Ooookay. I've never called AAA on a "good day" (meaning one where there wasn't a snow storm and accidents everywhere) and waited less than half an hour for them. If it normally takes half an hour to get to the mall and Stacey's mom drove slowly, it would probably be 45 minutes to get home, at the very least. My guess would be they probably wouldn't get home until closer to 3 or least.

Final Claudia misspellings: bilt (built), abuot (about), arond (around), rigth (right), kichen (kitchen), shold (should), parnets (parents), grate (great), huged (hugged...she does this right after spelling it correctly), mabe (maybe), beter (better), freind (friend). Most of those are pretty normal, though a few make her look a little dyslexic.

Apparently, if Bart turns his eyelids inside out, it's fun. When Alan Gray does it, it's totally immature.

Next week will probably be #123, Claudia's Big Party. Mostly because it's the only book in my collection I haven't read yet.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Super Specials

I came to the series a lot later than most of the bloggers I've seen. As such, many of the early books were already written, and I never really questioned a lot about the order. There were already several super specials and I think I started reading right around when the first mystery came out. (I definitely bought #3, Mallory and the Ghost Cat, when it was brand new.)

But back when I was trying to read all the books in order, I stopped to think about the placement of these books. I felt it was important to read them in order, especially because they often refer back to other books, even the mysteries, that have already happened. The worst example of this, for me, was how they kept mentioning that MA had been in counseling. I had read every book, 1-64 at least part way through and had read almost every book after that, up to 73. (I still have not read #65. We'll see...) I had seen several references to MA being in counseling but never the book it originally came from. Turns out (and I discovered this about six months ago) that it never really happened in a book; the first reference to it actually comes from the BSC chain letter book my mom wouldn't buy me because it was too expensive. It's the secret MA tells Claudia that no one else knows.

 Anyway, my sister was making fun of me for having a BSC blog and I was telling her how I couldn't find SS #1, and how I had to read it before I could go on to #10. Why? Because it takes place in summer vacation, before Stacey leaves for NY and Mallory and Jessi join the club. Since school starts in #10, it must occur before then. It also has to be after #8, since it references how MA and Stacey were mother's helpers in the events of that book.

What about the other SSs? I have a few ideas.

#2--Between #24 and #26. Because Emily has already been adopted and Mimi is still alive.

#3--Between #28 and #30. Stacey's back but Richard and Sharon aren't married yet.

#4--Right before book #36. Makes sense, because Aunt Cecelia is introduced in the former and moves in with the family in the latter.

This becomes harder as the books move on and fewer life-changing things happen. There's fewer changes as the books go on and most of the ones that do happen involve Dawn moving back and forth to California. You know, for example, that SS #12 happens when Dawn moves back to Stoneybrook after her "six month" stay in Palo City, but I honestly don't remember what exact book number in the regular books she reappears in. It has to be between #77 (when Dawn is in Cali) and #84 (when Dawn is in Stoneybrook.) Likewise, you know that SS #13 occurs after book #89, when Abby arrives in town, because she's in that one.

"Is he thrifty, honest, clean, hardworking and considerate of old ladies?" #32...Kristy and the Secret of Susan (1990)

aka, Kristy Discovers She Can't Solve Every Problem

Bet you thought I was gone, huh? I really did mean to come back back in March with a review of book #9. I even read most of the darn thing. But, Dawn just sucked out my soul. Truly. Maybe it was the fact that I owned the book and didn't have to get it back to the library. Or maybe it was just the fact that it sucked donkey balls.

But in any case, since I just can't bear at this point to go back and reread about Dawn's secret passage, I decided to skip ahead. I couldn't find the next book (which should be SS #1...see my next post) at either of my libraries. I suddenly realized why no one has ever really blogged these books in order before.

So here I am. I plan to do one book a week, except during exam weeks (one week in August, November, February and May) until I want to kill myself...or Ann M. Martin and her ghostwriters, whichever. I decided to restart my BSC library so that Dawn and the Awful Boring "Mystery" of Her Barn isn't sitting on its own. I found 3 books this weekend, so we'll start there.

Before I begin reviewing this one, I have to say it was one of my favorites as a child. Why? First, because it was hard to get ahold of and I only read it twice. We owned books 1-16 because my parents bought those in sets of four. The collection in the tiny library in Elburn, Illinois circa 1991 contained books 1-40, and I was certainly not the only one reading them. There were a couple of books (this one, #26, #33 and one other I can't think of) that were almost always checked out. Our collection at home began in earnest at #41, though we didn't own EVERY book, and ended at #73, when I decided I was WAY too old to be reading these books.

The other reason was that it was a fascinating topic to me as a child. Most of the "issues" dealt with in BSC books I was already at least a little familiar with. I had heard of anorexia and knew what it meant to be deaf. We had an adopted family member like Emily Michelle, so that wasn't that interesting, either.

But I'd never heard of autism before I'd read this book. Which is ironic, because I really should have been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome around the time I was obsessed with these books. It made reading about Susan a lot more interesting. I now know that every autistic child is different and that Susan isn't necessarily typical of autism, but I don't think the portrayal is too far off.

Anyhoo, in this doozy of a tale, Kristy gets a three day a week babysitting job for Susan Felder for a month. Susan has autism and has been away at a special school; she's getting ready to go to a new school. Susan's mother explains autism to Kristy, but Kristy thinks that if she can just make Susan some friends, everything will change, Susan will get better and get to live at home with her family. Instead, nothing changes, Susan gets sent off to her new school and Kristy moves on to her next project.

Meanwhile, the Hobart family moves into Mary Anne's old house. Because they're Australian, the other kids make fun of them and the Hobarts feel like outcasts. Kristy tries to force them into a friendship with Susan, but eventually they make their own friends (and oldest brother Ben falls in LUV with Mallory, as Stacey would say.)

Interesting Tidbits

Why is Emily Michelle still drinking from a bottle? I get that she's supposed to be developmentally delayed, but even 9 month olds can drink from a sippy cup.

I'm amused that Kristy says Sam and Charlie are embarrassed to be seen in Nannie's Pink Clinker. Other than being pink, it's not really that different from Charlie's Junk Bucket. I've always pictured them both as being old-school VW Beetles...I want to say there's something in one of the books that gives me that idea about one of those cars. Although, how could Charlie fit the entire BSC in a Bug? (P.S....Kristy mentions Charlie has a sticker in the window that says Baby-sitter on board. You would think that would be something he really wouldn't want to advertise. I know when I was seventeen, I only gave my sister rides places because my parents would take the car away if I didn't.)

Kristy calls Dawn drop-dead gorgeous. This is funny, considering in #4, Mary Anne says she doesn't think Dawn is pretty.

Kristy says Charlie could drive her to the Felders' house 3 times a week right after school and then pick her up after the meetings. First, why not just go straight to the Felders? If they didn't want her right after school, she could always hang out somewhere and do homework until they did want her. And who says Charlie will always be free at those times, anyway? Isn't he usually at football practice or something?

Susan's mother, Mrs. Felder, does a good job explaining autism, at least at first. She says that children with autism are in their own worlds and don't want to leave it. She then describes some symptoms of autism: lack of eye contact, no or little meaningful communication, "stimming" (demonstrated in the book by hand flapping and clucking noises), and not liking to be touched. But she then goes on to say that children with autism go on to live in group homes and work in sheltered workshops. That's true of some children, but others are able to successfully live "normal" lives in their own ways. They live on their own and take care of their own needs. It really depends upon the symptoms and how severe they are.

Once again, Kristy thinks she knows a child better than the parents, and after meeting her for all of five minutes.

Heh heh heh. Kristy says she learned to stand up for what she believes in from Dawn. Bull. Kristy's always had that skill.

Mal and Jessi write a joint club entry where Mal says she's "in a crush" with the boy who's later revealed to be Ben Hobart. It makes me picture the two of them sharing a chair, taking turns writing. Joint entries always seemed a little silly to me. Why not have them write it up separately so you can see how their opinions of the job compare?

Talk about dating the book: all the kids in the book liken the Aussie Hobarts to Crocodile Dundee. Ten years ago, I would have said it would have been the Crocodile Hunter. These Any Australians that 8 year olds are familiar with?

After Jessi tells the Pikes not to call the Hobarts Crocs, Claire asks if she can call them silly-billy-goo-goos instead.

Wow, the Hobarts are wearing Swatch and Reebok. If there was a girl Hobart, I'm sure she'd be in Laura Ashley.

James said he ate Weetabix for brecky. Did they bring the Weetabix from Australia with them, and if not, I'd like to know where they got it so I could get some myself.

I think they gave the Hobarts an 11 year old brother just so Mallory could have someone to have a crush on.

Mallory (I think) tells Dawn to take a job with Jenny Prezzioso because it will be character-building. This cracked me up, more so when Dawn says she already has enough character.

Kristy's first real babysitting job with Susan isn't until page 64 of a 145 page book.

Kristy asks why Susan didn't eat lunch, and Mrs. Felder says she doesn't know why, but Susan just has problems with eating. Most people with autism have sensory integration disorder, and if the food texture, smell or taste bothers her in any way, Susan probably wouldn't eat it. A sweet little girl I know with autism won't eat any foods that have been mixed together. Rice, peas and ham are all fine, but don't try to put them in a casserole or soup. I myself don't eat meat because I don't like the texture.

Awww. I don't think the kids in the books are "cute" very often, but when Emily came in and asked Kristy, "Scooze me. I have dance?" I had to smile.

When Kristy tells "Bob-or-Craig" (aka Mel) that Susan takes requests on the piano, he asks for "Swannee River," a song I can't imagine most children in 1990 (or now) have heard of. I can barely hum it myself. Later, the same bully tells Kristy the Music Man was a good movie.

Ooh, I had a hard time reading the part where Kristy describes the special ed class. First because of the dated language...retarded, handicapped. Also, the lack of people first language (a boy with Down syndrome, not a Down syndrome boy. The person ALWAYS is supposed to come first.) Then there's the fact that the whole thing was so manipulative and completely out of place.

Kristy feels like she failed because she didn't change and "fix" Susan in a month. And because Mel charges neighborhood kids money to see the "dumbo" do her tricks.

Claudia misspellings: apertiment (appointment, I think?), geuss (guess), whith (with), wehn (when), trubble (trouble), finaly (finally), freind (friend). She also uses their for they're (which I admit I caught myself doing in this entry.) Most of that I can understand and some of it actually makes sense. Friend and guess are not easy to spell, and trubble is a logical misspelling. But wtf is apertiment?

The Felders tell Kristy that they are expecting another daughter--Hope--and Kristy offers to baby-sit after she's born. Surprisingly, (or maybe not so much) they're never heard from again. Mrs. Felder presumably has that baby, but, unlike many of the other one-off characters, they never pop up in another story, even just calling for a sitter.

Kristy shows up early to the Kishis' and finds Claudia attempting to pick her own door lock...which isn't locked. Book title: Claudia the Safe Cracker

Claudia: short flared skirts, leggings, ankles socks with flats;
Stacey: short, tight pants, push-down socks

New Characters:
Ben, James, Mathew and Johnny Hobart (11, 8, 6 and 4)--33, 30, 28 and 26
Susan Felder (8)--30

Next week, I'll be doing one of two Super Specials. I haven't decided which one yet.