Monday, December 17, 2012

"Nicky, Margo and Claire can't be held prisoner in the Vanessa School of Poetry forever." BSC #122: Kristy in Charge (1998)

There really isn't that much to say about this one. I don't know why, but it struck me as pretty boring.

SMS starts a program called Teachers of Tomorrow (TOT) where students spend the week teaching a class. Most of the BSC signs up; Kristy is assigned a gym class. The boy teaching the boy's half of the gym is none other than Cary Retlin. The two of them don't cooperate at all, and nearly get thrown out of the problem. Of course, they pull their shit together at the last minute and do well on the last day.
Meanwhile, Mallory is teaching an eighth grade English class and has no confidence about it, which shows through. The kids start making fun of her and she never really gets it together, though she actually gets a few of the kids on board when she reads poetry to the class.

The sitting subplot is that Vanessa sees what Mallory is doing and decides to start a poetry school. She forces her sisters and Nicky to sit through it, despite their objections. Eventually, Abby shows her that she's sucking all the fun out of her subject, and the younger sibs eventually WANT to write poems with her. And of course, Kristy learns a lesson from this that she takes back to the TOT program.

Interesting tidbits
When Kristy says she wants to volunteer for the TOT program for extra credit, Abby tells her she gets great grades, so she doesn't need extra credit. Isn't there a whole plotline in Kristy for President about how she's tanking science class? Incidentally, how much extra credit is she getting, and in what class?

Kristy chooses classes for those interested in TOT to teach. She says Mallory should teach English and Stacey should teach math, and MA should teach secretarial science. (I can't imagine schools having a class like that, especially middle schools.)
Since TOT volunteers don't get to pick their class, Mal says if she has to do an algebra class, she'll write a poem about it. (Maybe she should get Vanessa to do it for her.)
Stacey, Kristy and MA are all given seventh grade teachers to cover for, while Mal is given an eighth grade teacher. Makes no sense. I can see there being a rule that you can't "teach" in your own grade, but in that case, I'd probably assign eighth graders to seventh grade classes and seventh graders to sixth grade classes, and not let the sixth graders take part.

Claudia misspellings: thot (thought), terned, vershun (twice), strang, Clair.
Vanessa says that spelling was invented to confuse people. Claudia, naturally, agrees. Later, she asks for words that rhyme with fly, and Claudia suggests Eskimo pie.

Kristy ticks me off in this one. She signs up for TOT because she wants to show other teachers the "right way" to teach. She thinks that she knows more than teachers who have at least four years of schooling and years of experience. Chances are, her "cooperating" teacher could be nicer or more fun, but Kristy really thinks she will teach Ms. Walden how to teach classes and that she'll change her.
Kristy also thinks that gym teachers don't write lesson plans, so she doesn't listen to any of the training she's given. Of course, the first day is a complete disaster, partly because she's so keen to do everything differently, and partly because she and Cary can't get their shit together.

Weird! Mrs. Pike has a cell phone. She tells Stacey and Jessi to call if they need her.
Vanessa can't get her brothers and sisters to continue going to her poetry she attempts to blackmail them.

Cary and Kristy fight all through their second class together, and their kids end up in a giant brawl. One kid loses a tooth; another breaks a bone. They (K & C) act like a pair of six year olds. Generally, when Cary shows up in a story, he's all suave. While he enjoys making Kristy look bad, it's usually not at his own expense.
They get sent to the vice principal's office. Remember when that was scary? I remember I got called to the office once, to give a statement on being assaulted on the school bus, but my whole sixth grade class thought I was in trouble.

This story starts the downward spiral of Mallory that leads to her deciding to head to private school. I haven't read the MA book where she decides to leave SMS, but it's on the bookshelf. The students are all calling her Spaz girl because she accidentally sent a piece of chalk flying at the students. Kristy suggests Mal pretend the eighth graders are first graders who are calling her Poo-poo Head instead.
Abby calls Vanessa a tyrant. It's...about right.

When Abby starts her sitting job at the Pikes by finding Margo, Claire and Nicky playing Super Mario. A short time later, she finds Vanessa, bound and gagged and stuffed behind a chair.
Kristy and Cary actually shake hands and enjoy each other's company for a moment. I've always imagined that, if Cary were a little more mature, he would just ask Kristy out.

Claudia: White shirt with a "man having a great idea" (a bald head with lightning bolts coming out of it)

Next week: #101 Happy Holidays, Jessi (though it will probably not be posted until later in the week. Depends on when I get it read and when I get access to a computer to post it.)

Monday, December 10, 2012

"I can handle this criminal on my own, I think." BSC Mystery #24: Mary Anne and the Silent Witness (1996)

Oh, Holy Hell. This book is awesomely bad! I can't wait to catalogue all the awesomeness.

I'm sure you're not surprised to learn that the plot is convoluted--after all, it is a BSC mystery! A man named Reginald Fowler is trying to develop Miller's Park into a shopping complex, to which various townspeople (including the BSC) disagree. Meanwhile, the BSC has new clients, the Martinezes, whose house Fowler would have to buy to follow through with his plan.
Odd things have gone on at the Martinez house, including a fire in their garage, after which their usual sitter quit. The BSC discovers that someone has been threatening Luke Martinez, and he's always suspicious of his sitters. At the same time, various vandalism is occurring in the area, and Mary Anne keeps being at the wrong place at the wrong time. After being brought to the police station on suspicion of vandalism, MA tells the cops she saw Fowler talking to a teenaged boy. But Fowler was out of state at the time. Eventually, the BSC discovers that Fowler has a twin, who is out to stop his brother's dastardly plan. The twin blackmailed the Martinezes' former babysitter's boyfriend (are you following that?) into committing the vandalism. Turns out, the boyfriend had stopped by to visit the babysitter and had started the fire at the Martinezes with his cigarette.

Luke saves the day by finding a paper on which Fowler mapped out his future plans for Stoneybrook, which include demolishing most of the town and building industrial complexes and apartment buildings. The twin is arrested and Fowler's plans for Stoneybrook are denied.
Interesting tidbits:

The cover of this book would look like a poster for an awful horror movie, if it were dark outside. Little Amalia is busy ripping up paper (wearing a Claudia outfit--pink shirt, purple leggings and red high tops), while Luke is either writing creepy messages on the window, or he's paralyzed by reading one someone else wrote on the window. And Mary Anne--who, for once, doesn't look like she's wearing a wig--is wearing an atrocious get-up, one that wasn't even the slightest bit stylish, even in 1996. Plus, she's wearing too much blush.

This one takes place right after Dawn permanently moves back to California and Abby joins.

MA eats Grape Nuts, with skim milk and maple syrup, for breakfast. Sounds yummy.
Claudia, just so you know, Pebbles Flintstone ponytails are NEVER cool. On anyone. Ever.

Heh heh heh. Kristy mentions what an amazing coincidence it is that, right after they learn about the plan to develop Miller's Park, they get a new client who live right outside of the park. It's not really that coincidental for a BSC book, though.
Sharon calls MA a celebrity, and MA asks if she won an Oscar or something. Actually, she just had a letter to the editor published in the paper.

There's a whole bunch of letters in the text about the Miller's Park issue and most of them are pretty boring, but one of them made me laugh because a local business owner called the situation a brouhaha.
Mary Anne gets spooked because she's babysitting the Martinezes and a figure runs away from the yard. Outside, she finds the words DON'T TELL written in the ash of the garage fire. Of course, this isn't scary because it's a BSC book and you know they always win in the end. But if I were thirteen and saw that, I would pee my pants. I would have been on the phone with my mom so fast.

This is the book that introduces Cary Retlin's family. I now wonder, after last week's California Diaries books, whether Cary and Benson Retlin exist as well as Steig.
I laughed so hard when MA got hauled in by the police. Now, both she and Stacey have been questioned by the coppers.
How does Mrs. Martinez have Richard's phone number?

The BSC's police friend, Sgt. Johnson, takes over questioning MA when she gets to the station. He convinces Richard to let him talk to Mary Anne alone. I think that's a little bit illegal...or at least, a really, really bad idea.
Kristy uses *69 to try to find out who called Luke, but they never mention the actual digits. They just say "she dialed three numbers." I guess they didn't want kids using it to play around.

Jessi's hair is done up in beaded braids in this story. Usually, she's shown just wearing a ponytail.
MA think Logan looks especially cute with uncombed hair. I...don't get it.

Abby brings cookies to the Martinezes, and tells Luke to eat one even though he's not hungry. That's a good message to pass on. (Luke takes the cookie but inspects it as if he thinks Abby's trying to poison him.)
Later Abby makes the kids play a game called Secrets where you tell the others secrets about yourself no one else knows. First, I can't believe even an eight year old would agree to that game. Second, Amalia's so little, her only secret is that she loves Barney...which is probably not really a secret.

Once again I ask how big Claudia's room is. Jessi's doing ballet stretches on the floor during a meeting. (Although, I'm thinking about my childhood bedroom and realizing there probably was room for a desk, a director's chair and a bed, plus Jessi doing stretches on the floor. But that room was huge, and for some reason I've always pictured Claudia's house (and Kristy and MA's old houses) as being on the smaller side.)
MA calls the operator numerous times, trying to track down Fowler's twin brother. She uses various accents and thinks she's hilarious. I'm betting there are only a few operators and she's getting them over and over, and they probably think she's an idiot. (Wouldn't it have been easier just to use a phone book?)

Why would the Martinezes want a bunch of virtual strangers cleaning out their garage for them? I could see if the BSC were going to be scrubbing down walls or something, but they're actually going through and deciding what to keep and what to toss. Stacey's sitting that day, and MA and Kristy come over without pay. I would have been a little suspicious if I were Mr. Martinez...
Of course, the BSC finds a clue the fire department missed. Stoneybrook should fire all their cops and fire fighters and just hire the BSC instead. It'd be a lot cheaper!

Stacey actually says, "Well, duh," to Mary Anne at one point. The only way that would have been more wrong was if Claudia had said it.
Heh heh heh. Kristy's so upset about bad publicity she isn't eating (or making fun of) her lunch. MA mentions the lunch as it was described on the menu: "Fish sand. on bun w/coleslaw". Later, MA puts tartar sauce on her fish sand, and later they throw away the remains of their fish sands.

Remember phone booths? Mary Anne, Logan and Mallory stake out the one that Kristy reached when she used *69. Because the person who called is just going to hang out there.
Mary Anne goes into Ted's Tools and starts asking questions about who had bought a certain shade of paint recently. Not only does Ted remember, he actually gives her a name. Sounds like a really bad idea. What if she were a stalker or something?

Oh, good night. There's supposed to be a meeting between one of the twins and Boyfriend Beau that night, and the BSC decides to go to it and get dirt on the twin...but they call Sgt. Johnson "as backup." What cop in his right mind agrees to play back up for a bunch of little girls?
Why would the Martinezes have Luke present the map at the town council meeting? The kid's traumatized enough already.

New characters
Luke and Amalia Martinez (8 and 3)--24 and 19

Benson and Steig Retlin (11 and 8)--27 and 24
No outfits in this one!

Next week: Keeping up the Cary Retlin luv, next week will be #124 Kristy in Charge.

Monday, December 3, 2012

"I mean, cool, let's eat, not cool, you're starved." California Diaries #1: Dawn (1997)

I decided to go out on Black Friday this year, though it's not normally my idea of a good time. But being me, I didn't head to the mall or Best Buy or something like that--I went to the thrift store instead. I didn't find any BSC I didn't already own, but I did find three California Diaries books. Since I'd never read them before but I've heard they're not bad (not to mention the fact that they were half price), I picked them up. The other two were about Maggie (from the We <3 Kids Club) and someone named Amalia, but the first book is Dawn, so I decided to blog about it.
Dawn and the other eighth graders in her Cali school are forced into the high school building because the middle school is overcrowded. Some upperclassmen haze a number of the eighth graders by throwing a "secret" party and inviting them, then calling the cops and getting them arrested. Maggie, Sunny and Dawn leave a sleepover at Jill's to attend the party. Sunny, whose mom is dying of lung cancer, gets drunk and they make it home late. Sunny and Dawn end up getting in some trouble, and they lose Jill as a friend. But they make two new friends, Amalia and Ducky, so all is well.
Interesting tidbits
The whole book is done in Dawn's handwriting. It's a lot less annoying than I expected it to be.
The premise behind the books is that Dawn's California school, Vista, makes the students keep a diary, though no one ever reads it or grades it. Dawn apparently goes through notebook after notebook in keeping her diary.
Humorously, the book starts at the beginning of eighth grade (a few weeks in)...despite the fact that, during eighth grade, Dawn's mom got married, she spent months in Cali and then moved back to Stoneybrook for at least a few weeks.
In the BSC books, Maggie's dressed all punk, with green hair with a tail, and leather. These days, she's Miss Perfect, worrying about grades and dressing like Daddy's little girl. Jill, on the other hand, is regressing and is acting really immature and dressing like a six year old.
Dawn is in study hall in her first day in the high school building, when a "big guy" starts making out right in the middle of class. The monitor yells at him and calls him Dex, and Dawn thinks it’s funny that this big, scary looking guy is named Dexter.
Dawn says she doesn't miss Mary Anne or the BSC very much.
Heh heh heh. Jeff went clothes shopping with Carol and the housekeeper (Mrs. Bruen) and they came home a short time later with only a pair of tube socks. I can't think of a single boy who actually wore tube socks in the 90s.
 When Carol's gynecologist calls, she tells Carol she's 3 weeks pregnant. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you generally don't know you're pregnant until you miss your period, at which point you're 4 weeks along. You're already 2 weeks pregnant when you conceive, because they count from the beginning of your menstrual cycle. I don't think it would really be possible to find out right at 3 weeks. Maybe they mean 3 weeks since conception (aka 5 weeks pregnant)?
Totally off topic, but I just picked up the Amalia book and it's full of illustrations. The front of the book says they're done by Stieg Retlin...which is the name of Cary Retlin's younger brother in the BSC books. This Dawn book is dedicated to Laura, whom I can only assume is Laura Perkins (which probably answers my earlier question as to whether there actually a Laura Perkins.)
Oh, Lord. Dawn tells Carol that she was eavesdropping and overheard the pregnancy news. One of the first things she blurts out is that they should name the baby Ashley but spell it Ashleigh. Yuck.
Much like Dawn and her ears, Sunny pierces her navel without her parents' permission.
Heh. The pizza guy asks if Maggie's famous and Jill tells him that Maggie's dad knows John Travolta, Gwyneth Paltrow and Demi Moore.
Maggie, Dawn and Sunny attend the "secret" party where a lot of drinking and smoking is going on...Dawn says the drink tastes like strawberries and insect repellent, which, to be honest, is what most punch at high school and college parties tastes like.
Yuck. Sunny gets quite drunk, and AMM's "drunk dialect" is even worse than her allergy dialect. "Dawn? It'sh me, Shunshine."
Dawn and Maggie get thrown in the pool...and Maggie is not wearing a bra. She apparently is quite chesty. I feel her pain, but even at thirteen, I would have never left the house sans bra. Not a smart choice.
Amalia and Ducky, the other two characters who get books in the series, are both sort of introduced at the party. Amalia hangs out with Maggie and Dawn during the party, while Ducky (who is older and has a car) rescues them when they don't make it home on time.
I like Ducky. He says he doesn't drink or smoke, because his body is a temple and he only puts pure things in it, like Mountain Dew and Pez.
The party was in the backyard of a house while the owners were out...and the house turned out to be owned by one of Ducky's teachers.
Jill says she wishes Dawn and Sunny had gotten into trouble over the party intead of just getting a lecture, and the two of them part ways as friends. (She's not even really mentioned in the Maggie book and not at all in the Amalia one.)
Over all, that wasn't bad. The Dawn one was actually written by AMM, not ghostwritten. Both the Sunny and Amalia ones are ghostwritten by one of the usual BSC crew. They're pretty good also, but because they build on each other, I felt like I was missing something. I've got to get my hands on the Sunny one that happens between Dawn and Maggie. Apparently, she runs away from home and gets herself a reputation, and something happens with a boy. Interesting. And I've got to find the Ducky one too, because I just have to know if he's gay or not. (Am I pathetic or what?!)
Next week: I will actually finish Mary Anne and the Silent Witness, which I started just before I found these guys. Should be done and posted around Thursday.