Monday, December 30, 2013

“So? He can feed it to Rudolph.” BSC #92: Mallory’s Christmas Wish (1995)

How was everyone’s holiday? I should have read this one last week. I actually (gasp!) enjoyed most of it. (Of course, that may be because Christmas is actually over!)

Mallory comes up with the idea of a non-commercial, old-fashioned Christmas, an idea the Pikes love. But then Vanessa enters them into a contest and the prize they win is being filmed for the Christmas episode of what’s essentially a reality show. At first they like it, but the camera crew quickly gets in the way of their holiday and Mr. Pike winds up firing them.

The subplot surrounds the nursing home and a fundraiser the BSC helps with. It’s more realistic than most of their big-event storylines because the BSC didn’t plan and organize it; they just pitch in.

Interesting Tidbits

Ze Cover (Sorry, I’m watching Les Mis while writing this; I’ll try not to get too overtly French…or more accurate, cockney British):

Mallory, red heads generally shouldn’t wear pink. Of course, that yellow doesn’t look any better on her. (Also, according to the author’s note, the man in the green jacket is the artist, Hodges Solieau.)

Mallory starts off by writing yet another story based upon her own life. LAME!

I’d eat friddiggity for dessert with Margo! (That’s how she pronounces frigidity; it reminds me of how Tessie would have pronounced it at seven...and how it kept coming out of my mouth today.)

Is it sad that I’d rather read Mallory and the Seven Simian Siblings than this book?

This makes me laugh mostly because it’s (bordering on) true: “By the time Claire is eleven, she’ll have an apartment of her own, a personal butler, and a salary.” Now, I don’t believe that, but I do believe that the Pikes will get more lenient with each progressive child. (I still hold a grudges over this fact in my own life.)

Oh my word. A food the Pike triplets won’t eat! Byron looks disgusted at the suggestion of lamb stew. Vanessa: “Lamb stew, Lamb stew/Start with some herbs then chop up the ewe!” Margo: “Ew!” Vanessa: “Exactly.”

I hate to admit how much like Mallory I used to be. Obviously I don’t have seven insane brothers and sisters. But she and Jessi went down town, pretending to be French refugees, hoping to find some kind soul to shelter them from the cruel world. I’ve never done that with someone else (in public) but I spent a large amount of my childhood pretending to be someone else.

I’ve only just started chapter two and there’s already been about six conversations I want to record exactly. Apparently the BSC has the same kind of word skills that Margo does: nobody (except Mal the nerd) knows what ‘a tizzy’ is. (I’m reminded of SS #15 for three reasons: first, Claudia talks with her mouth full and Stacey instructs her to swallow, which happens in that book; second, the conversation between the various club members reminds me of the conversation between Claudia and Dawn when Janine calls Claudia a laggard and they don’t know what that means. Also Mal uses a word that no one else knows the meaning of. My suspicion is confirmed: they are ghostwritten by the same person.) Of course, it doesn’t help that Mal attempts to explain a tizzy by saying it’s the same as being in a dither. Really, what eleven year old knows words/phrases like that? (That’s right. A really nerdy one.)

Ha! Mallory hates being called a junior member—can you blame her? So she gets a bit of satisfaction by being taller than Kristy is. Speaking of, is it just me, or are all these girls on the tall side? We had a missing thirteen year old in our local area this week, and she was 4’11”. Kristy is the shortest BSC member and she’s taller than that. I’m pretty sure I was less than 5’ at that age.

“Kishi Scientific Ener-joy Theory.” I subscribe!

Typical Abby. Her BSC/car analogy: Kristy is the headlights, Claudia the chassis, Stacey the gas gauge, Mary Anne the engine, Abby herself the bumper. (I guess Mal and Jessi are the cupholders and the like, because they aren’t mentioned.)

Mal is, I think, the only BSC member to come straight out and suggest that Kristy is jealous of Abby, which is the first thought I had when I read a book with Abby in it.

Mrs. Pike suggests that they’re going to be arrested by the Christmas carol police for butchering the 12 Days of Christmas. (Sample lyric: five silly-billy-goo-goos) Can we arrest some pop stars for the same reason?

When the producer, Mr. Henry, arrives, he explains the reality show he’s filming while using a large variety of big words. Adam does exactly what I used to do as a kid: he agrees with everything that’s said, and then when Nicky asks him what that meant, he says, “I don’t know.” I feel there are a lot of adults who behave that way also.

You know it’s bad when Claudia is correcting Abby’s word usage.

Wow, I didn’t know that Aunt Cecelia had a good side. But a store clerk finds it by suggesting she’s Jessi’s older sister. (What do you expect from a store that sells Jessi a box of ‘tchotchkes’ labeled “Junque”?)

Mallory. Shouldn’t you be able to tell the difference between Marilyn and Carolyn, especially since you were the one who helped let them have their own style?

 The title quote is what Haley says when Margo drops cheese on Claire's letter to Santa.

The Pikes are, in some ways, the perfect family to film for a reality show: There are a ton of ‘characters,’ they’re nuts, and they love the camera. My favorite moment during the filming of cookie baking: Nicky drops some eggshell into the cookie batter and this is apparently fabulous. The camera crew not only gets a close up on the shells in the batter; they film Margo going, “Mmm, crunchy!” while Nicky freaks out. Meanwhile, Mr. Pike is laughing his ass off. (I’m not sure why; this sounds like a normal day at the Pikes.)

Mallory goes to visit Uncle Joe and he’s watching an acne cream commercial at top volume. I’m tempted to call 1800-ZIT-GONE just to see what you really get.

Interesting. Becca still sorta believes in Santa, yet Margo and Nicky, who are younger/the same age, no longer believe, and even Claire’s suspicious. I get this, though. It would be hard to maintain the Santa story when you have a bunch of older kids in the family scoffing over the suggestion. I remember that as soon as I stopped believing, my sister did too. It’s possible that Jessi was better at pretending for Becca’s sake than, say, Vanessa and the triplets would be.

Is anyone surprised by the BSC member’s responses to being filmed? Mary Anne ducks away to stay off camera. Kristy films a ‘commercial’ for the BSC while explaining their involvement with the nursing home. Abby hams it up, putting on a bib and knit baby hat.

Vanessa is full of butchered Christmas carols. I wish I were that quick on my feet. (I’m going to have to write them down for next year. There’s only so far you can go with annoying co-workers with Soap Opera Digest carols…)

I’ve never done television, bar appearing in a few news segments. (I’ve appeared in the police blotter for impersonating a dead body, but that’s another story all together.) I can only imagine how irritating it would be to have to redo spontaneous moments in order to catch them on camera. Part of the ‘joy’ of the holidays is the fun and unpredictability, especially with kids involved. So moments like Margo and Nicky falling off the sled should just be allowed to happen and not be recreated for film.

Innnnnnnteresting. Robert invited Stacey to a concert for the same night as the babysitting event. She turned him down because she had the previous commitment. (And because she just barely got back into the club five books earlier.) But she is unbelievably cranky about it. I love this because it’s realistic. You know there has to be moments when these girls don’t want to participate in whatever giant activity that’s planned, for whatever reason.

Kristy embarrasses Logan by pointing out he’s a boy. You’d think he’d already know that.

Heh. The babysitters are unprepared for once. While running the ‘nursery’ at the nursing home by supervising the kids, they don’t have any place set up for changing diapers. (They learn this the hard way.)

Mallory refers to Adam as the Terror of Slate Street. I like it. (It does let his brothers off the hook a little too easily though.) Also, I’m not sure how that happened. Adam wasn’t one of the singers that were looking angelic—Jordan, Nicky, Vanessa, Margo and Claire were.

Points for consistency: even though I didn’t mention it last week, Mallory mentioned that the Pikes do Secret Santa. I’ve done this in the past, but apparently, in the Pike household, you have to grant your Secret Santa’s wish. Mallory gets Adam, who asks for some kind of slithery creature, so she buys him a toy snake. Vanessa gets Mallory, who asks for the greatest Christmas book ever written. Vanessa’s way of granting that wish is actually really sweet: she gives her a blank book and tells her to go write it. Awww!

Later, you get to see a few other Secret Santas: Vanessa gets a newspaper that says she was elected president. (Of all the people in the house, she’s not the one I would have predicted would want that.) And Byron, who asked for his own phone, gets a toy telephone that had been passed down through all the siblings as babies. He uses it to order a large pizza order.

How is no one in the Pike house up at eight in the morning? You’d think Claire and Margo at least would be out of bed by then.

You know that the television situation is bad when the triplets start throwing tantrums. Byron screams at the top of his lungs when they call cut right before he’s supposed to open his present, and later Jordan whines that he hates Christmas. Claire and Margo throwing fits is one thing, but ten year olds is something different. It’s what makes the Pikes kick the camera crews out entirely. (I’m not saying ten year olds don’t/shouldn’t throw tantrums. I’m just saying that there’s usually a very big reason behind it.)

I know that the Pikes wrote into the contract that they could cancel at any time, but can you just imagine how much money would be lost in a move like this? I think the company could possibly still scrape together a special with the footage they already have, but it does kind of ruin the effect to not actually have Christmas Eve and Christmas day.

I think this is the first time I’ve ever looked at the ‘scrapbook’ at the back of a Mallory book. The picture of the Pike family is kinda hilarious. Vanessa and Margo both look way older than the triplets.

No outfits again. Sorry!

Everyone have a happy new year. I’ll see you in January with my take on The Ghost at Dawn’s House…I hope

Monday, December 23, 2013

“It’s the jelly. It’s organic.” BSC Super Mystery #4: Babysitters’ Christmas Chiller (1997)

I have been told (repeatedly) that I am a Scrooge. So ignore my fake enthusiasm for this book and for the holiday season as a whole. :P
There are three separate mysteries in this doozy. The most remote first: Claudia and Stacey are in NYC and weird things keep happening. At first they blame Stacey’s boyfriend Ethan, who’s been acting weird. It turns out he has a crazy ex who lives in Stacey’s building and is out for revenge. Because that happens to me all the time.
Second, Mallory stumbles upon a pregnant amnesiac and she actually manages to uncover her identity, despite the police being stumped.
The third mystery occurs in Abby and Kristy’s neighborhood, with some MA and Dawn involvement. Various neighbors keep having their houses broken into and ransacked. The word “Naughty” appears on the wall. Meanwhile, several other houses (Kristy’s and Abby’s) receive messages saying “Nice.” Turns out a lot of the neighbors had let go their gardener and this was his lame-o idea of revenge.
Merry Christmas y’all.
Interesting tidbits
The cover: It looks like they put Logan on the cover and then said, “Wait, he’s not in this story,” and replaced his head with Mary Anne’s. Also, Abby has ridiculously skinny legs for an athlete.

One final note: nothing is stolen at the houses; just ransacked. So why is there a wall of missing electronic devices behind Mary Anne?
I’ve been trying really hard to read all the handwritten journal entries—I used to skip most of them when I was a kid. But this story starts with five pages of Jessi’s handwriting. I got three sentences in and quit. Hope nothing important is in that part!
Oh noes! Mary Anne is late to a meeting! But don’t worry. She “makes up for it” by bringing Dawn with her.
If this book had no title or cover, you’d still know it was a mystery because they bring up the mystery notebook on page 13.
Has anyone else ever noticed that Mallory is totally obsessive-compulsive, especially about the mystery notebook?
You can tell it’s not 1988 anymore when Claudia keeps showing up wearing Docs.
I actually like this: Stacey wants to be a tax attorney so she can fight with the IRS.
Yay, Claudia spelling time! Allot (a lot), all ways (always), exsiting (twice), doubel, hapenned. I can actually understand all of these.
Claudia’s so afraid of getting lost in NYC that she says she wouldn’t have minded holding Mr. McGill’s hand. This would make me laugh if it weren’t for an incident in downtown Chicago when a pedophile kept trying to grab my friend Teah’s hand when we were little girls. (It’s part of the reason I want to work for NCMEC, as mentioned here.) Instead, Stacey grabs her dad’s coat and Claudia grabs Stacey’s. This is smart.
Mr. McGill takes the girls to a restaurant that serves both Italian and “Southern Louisiana.” A) I’ve eaten at a restaurant like that and YUM! B) Why not just say Cajun?
I love how they slip a hint to the solution of the story onto page 33. Watson’s sorting mail and one of the bills is a renewal for the gardener.
Agatha Kristy. Grooooooan!
Kristy twirls her “mustache” while talking to Shannon. Stop copying me, Kristy! (She doesn’t do an evil laugh with it, though.)
Mallory wrote the script for her church’s pageant. Isn’t it already written in the Bible? I guess it sounds better to say she wrote it than she adapted it.
I don’t mean to sound politically incorrect, but would Mallory and Jessi go to the same church? I mean, we don’t really know because church almost never shows up in these books. Abby mentions being Jewish far more than any of the other girls mentions being Christian. I think this book marks the only time the Pikes say grace.
Second time this month Becca has been a ham in a play. Maybe I was wrong last time. This time, she’s the inn keeper and she offers Mary and Joseph a stable with “rustic accommodations.” (For the record, Margo and Claire are shepherds, Nicky is an angel and the triplets are the three kings.)
Mallory is actually pretty good with panicky situations when they come across the amnesiac woman. Jessi can’t think straight but Mal keeps asking her questions and trying to straighten out who she is. She’s the one who thinks of asking if she has an ID on her.
I am totally childish. Stacey wonders what Ethan’s hiding in the closet and the first thought that popped into my head was “himself.”
When Mallory gets called down to the station to talk about Mary the amnesiac, she takes her mom with her. I’d say that was because the SPD finally got some sense, but I think it’s because she’s eleven and not thirteen like the other girls.
Honestly, Mallory would probably make a good police detective. She keeps listening to Mary talk and trying to come up with hints as to where she might be from (an accent) or who she might be.
And now we get our obligatory Chanukah lesson thanks to Abby and Anna. And I’m asleep again. (By the way, why do the Stevensons have a Chanukah party and only invite Abby’s friends? Doesn’t Anna have any friends of her own?)
Mary Anne kicks dreidel ass. I don’t know why that’s so funny, but it is.
Dawn actually likes Abby’s fried jelly donuts. That’s high praise. (And the intro quote is Abby’s response.)
This cracked me up: When the Papadakis house is burglarized, the BSC all go over to offer their help, which the family welcomes (I wouldn’t have wanted them all there, but whatever.) Hannie’s upset and ready to cry, so Dawn gives her a hug. Then a few minutes later she suddenly realizes that Dawn is there at all.
Aww, this didn’t crack me up: Little Sari is scared to go to sleep and doesn’t want Abby to turn off the lights.
How crappy a job is Sgt. Johnson doing that it takes Mary Anne to find critical evidence after everyone’s been told they can clean up?
Okay, so some stuff is actually stolen at the Papadakises, including the VCR.
I can’t believe Kristy’s the first person in her neighborhood to think of a neighborhood watch.
Hint #2: Mr. Korman finds a rake in his yard the day after the Papadakises are robbed.
More Claudia spelling! Werid (weird), startted, prity, turnned, wierd, flet (felt), beeing, followwed, theres (there’s).
Claud and Stacey actually go to a coffee bar. Yet again, I’m reminded it’s not 1988 anymore.
Gross. The control panel in the elevator of Stacey’s dad’s building is covered in “blood” that Stacey doesn’t notice until she hits the button and gets it on her glove. A) How did no one else notice this? B) How did she not look before she touched? Yuck.
Claudia and Stacey love the movie Fame.
I know this isn’t supposed to be funny, but I laughed again when Stacey receives a “present:” a jack in the box with her face pasted over the clown’s. Sophisticated Stacey in the Box. Only $19.99!
Also members of Mallory’s church: the Rodowskys and the Hobarts.
Vanessa manages to rhyme “lambnap” when Claire’s stuffed lamb goes missing, before she realizes how upset Claire is. It would have been funnier if she’d kept rhyming even after realizing how distressing it was.
I love the image of Mal and Jessi beating Stacey and Claudia over the head with so much horse information against their wills that they can’t help but know horsey details.
The two houses that were broken into both had “Naughty” written on their wall in red. Then Kristy’s family receives a note in their mail box that says “Nice.” I get that from a certain twisted perspective. So why did the criminal then break into Abby’s house to leave a “Nice” note? Why would he want to do damage to the home of a family that still employed him?
Abby refers to Watson and Nannie as The Master Plantman and The Guru of Gardens.
Clue #3: Mrs. Korman spotted a vaguely familiar truck driving around at night.
Yet more Claudia spelling! Dont (three times), may be (maybe, twice), parrinoid.
Stacey and Claudia window shop inside Tiffany’s and a clerk even lets them try stuff on. Why? Don’t they work on commission?
“Someone” nearly pushes Stacey onto the subway tracks. This is the part where I would have gotten an adult (other than the doorman) involved, but Claudia and Stacey just keep it to themselves. The rest of the stuff going on in Stacey’s building (gum under the elevator buttons, florescent lights being stolen) is silly and prankish, but that’s actually serious.
Okay, so Ethan’s psycho ex is behind all the stupid little pranks in Stacey’s building, but how much skill does she need to break the elevator so that Claud and Stace are stuck between floors?
Mrs. Pike says she has an announcement to make and Mal assumes she’s pregnant. Her only worry is about how Claire would react. I’d be freaking out, wondering things like where the parents would plan to stuff a new baby in an already overcrowded house.
The Pikes have a fax machine?
Mallory’s one of those nerds who carries a briefcase. That…doesn’t surprise me.
Dawn: “Oh! It’s beautiful!”
Jessi: “The burglar?”
Dawn: “No. The snow.”
One of my favorite moments is when the BSC show up at Morbidda Destiny’s the morning after her burglar alarm goes off and offer to look for clues. She treats them as they should be treated: strangers (mostly) who show up ridiculously early in the morning to bug her. She even glares at Abby for a moment before she realizes she’s her next door neighbor.
I know I said it before, but of the families in the BSC universe, the Kormans are some of my favorites. They just seem normal (barring the Toilet Monster) and they seem to actually like spending time with their kids. Mr. Korman helps Bill, Melody, Linny and Hannie build a snow fort in the yard.
Again, not supposed to be funny, but…: Claudia suggests they go meet Ethan’s crazy ex, Cybil, in the basement like she wants them to do. She says everything will be fine as long as they “don’t pull some dumb horror movie stunt like getting separated.” Later, Stacey points out that “one lunatic could ruin your day.” And then some! Like your makeup or hair!
That said, I would so pay to see movies made out of these super mysteries. They’d be so horrible!
Sharon drives an Outback. Is that environmentally sound? Besides, if you’ve seen the map of Stoneybrook, the Pikes live just doors away from Mary Anne. She lives on the corner of Burnt Hill and Slate, right next door (and across Slate Street) from the Braddocks. The Braddocks’ back yard abuts the Pikes’ side yard. It probably would have been faster for MA to walk there. (Which is what she does a short time later.)
Is anyone surprised that Mary goes into labor right before Christmas in a snow storm?
Ugh. Our Christmas presents to Dawn this year: A) she gets to be in the book at all and B) she gets to be the one to solve the gardener mystery.
Kristy, Abby, Dawn and Jessi all gather at Abby’s during the sting operation to catch the gardener in the act. (Watson calls and fires him, and then police officers are staked out everywhere for when he shows up). Abby’s house is two houses down and on the same side of the street as Kristy’s. How can they even see anything unless the houses are really staggered? You’d think Morbidda Destiny’s house would block the view.
Best (and final) Claudia spelling of the book: Thair (there) aloane, loonatick. (Only three mistakes, but hey, she only wrote one sentence!)
Ha ha ha! Ethan, Stacey, and Claudia try the coat thing again when they’re stuck in the basement without any lights (and, as Claud points out, a loonatick.) Claudia’s holding a shirt and then she realizes that Ethan and Stacey are on the opposite side of the room and she’s holding on to the crazy person!
Claudia’s so considerate. She leaves the room so Stacey and Ethan can make up and make out. Aww.
Sign it’s not 1988 anymore #3: Both Stacey’s dad and Richard have cell phones.
Kristy tells everyone that Mal and MA will be sad to miss out on catching the gardener, while MA thinks Kristy will be jealous that she wasn’t there when Mary goes into labor and Mal finds out her real name (which, for the record, is Lisa Papademetriou.)
Lisa/Mary names her baby Nicholas. It’s funny for two reasons: A) every Greek family I’ve ever known has at least one Nick somewhere in the family tree and B) you could almost argue he was named after Nicky Pike.
And, because Jessi served almost no purpose in this book (she’s also the lucky so-and-so who gets to introduce the club members in the first chapter before anything happens), there is a seven page epilogue all written in her handwriting that I once again didn’t read.
Ooh, there are actually outfits in this one!
Claudia: red turtleneck dress, yellow braided belt, purple tights, yellow socks, black Docs, braided hair with rainbow ribbons. (So many colors…it makes my eyes hurt just picturing it.)
Stacey: dark blue skirt, blue and green patterned shirt that is short in front and long in back, dark blue tights and navy ankle boots, gold star earrings
Ethan: black jeans, black Docs, black sweater, white t-shirt, hair bleached white
Morbidda Destiny: long brown skirt, black and brown sweater
Next week: We’re finishing off the year with #92: Mallory’s Christmas Wish (or whatever the hell it’s called. Bah humbug.)
Starting in January, I’m going back to the roots of this blog. I’m starting over at the beginning of the series and blogging all the books I haven’t read as chronologically as /possible. So the first week of January will be the book that nearly killed the blog. That’s right, I’m finally going to tackle the damn Ghost as Dawn’s House, which will be followed by #10, #12 and #13…

Monday, December 16, 2013

“No, dear. I don’t think there’s anything Mary Anne and I require from the Nutrition Center today.” BSC #114: The Secret Life of Mary Anne Spier (1997)

There are four separate things going on in this book. The A plot revolves around Mary Anne’s secret life…as an elf. She spends way more money on her dad’s credit card than she can afford to pay back, so she takes a job at the mall’s Santa Land and tries really hard to keep it a secret. Plot #2 involves her elf coworker, Angela, who is seventeen and is living at a shelter because her parents kicked her out. MA tries to help her out a bit.

Meanwhile, in BSC land, the club is working together to “save” a program at the hospital to get gifts for kids who are stuck there over the holidays. They plan a fair and ask for donations for the fair, and then donations to come to the fair. It probably would have been a lot easier to just ask for money donations, but this is the BSC here. The final plot involves the fact that Dawn is back from vacation and she and MA have trouble reconnecting because MA is so busy.

Interesting Tidbits

Y’all know I love shiny covers, right? (even when they're blurry like this)

My only other commentary on this cover is that, if Mary Anne doesn’t want anyone to ever know (as the tag line says), maybe she should leave her elf head on. Just a thought.

Who all else thinks that Richard would never actually give permission for MA to take his credit card…especially without setting a limit like, “You can only spend $100.”

Okay, here comes the “retail loss prevention officer” in me again. Where I work, we would NEVER allow a teenaged girl to use a credit card simply because the last names matched. I’ve only ever worked one place that allowed that, and they had to have a signed letter from the credit card holder.

Whoa…I’m trying to determine how much MA spent in 2013 dollars. For starters, she spent probably well over $100 dollars on Sharon alone. Add in that she seems to have bought a gift for everyone, and it really adds up. I’ll give you a total at the end…

Kristy asks MA a Kwanzaa question. Shouldn’t she already know all about Kwanzaa?

Stacey’s trying to collect dues and she actually says, “Open your wallets, kiddies.” Since it’s a Christmas story, can I call her Scrooge for the rest of the blog? (Never fear, Abby actually does call her Scrooge shortly thereafter.)

Umm, ew. Why would you make stew with both beef and tofu in it? MA says she can pick out the tofu and Sharon can pick out the beef. That’s crazy. If something’s cooked with beef, it smells and tastes like beef. I eat a lot like Sharon does (partly by choice and partly not) and would not have touched the stew.

Sharon puts her fork in her pocket. This one I can almost actually buy…

Sharon seems surprised that Richard would charge MA interest on her gifts. Has she met the man? Actually, I’m totally on Richard’s side on this one…although I would have told my kid how long she had to pay the bill. (She thinks she has six weeks, but she really only has two because Richard, unsurprisingly, pays the bills right away.) She’s never going to learn to be financially responsible if he lets her get away with stuff like that. Makes me wonder whether Dawn had to pay interest on those two plane tickets she had to pay back….

One day, I am going to go back and comment on who said each of my random opening quotes. This one is a Richard.

Aww, Mary Anne says she’s starting to think of Sharon as her mom.

I know MA is desperate, but I can’t believe she actually goes along with lying about her age on her job application. Of course, she also goes on the world’s most slack job interview. She’s going to be working with children, and they don’t ask for any ID or do a background check or anything. She’s hired right on the spot.

Charlotte agrees to make donations for the BSC’s ridiculous Santa-Hanukkah-Kwanzaa Town, so she starts clearing out her family’s pantry of every food she doesn’t like. I shudder to think what kind of refreshments the BSC would make from pate, pickled beets and corn relish, but it was pretty realistic. She ends up replacing them with brownie mix and potato chips, saying, “My parents would just buy more anchovies anyway.”

Richard doesn’t want Mary Anne turning into a “mall cat.” I’m glad he’s such a concerned parent.

Is it really sad that when MA says the Santa is great-looking, I thought she meant buff instead of round and jolly, with an authentic beard?


Not this:

I agree that small children are often afraid of Santa. But how is Mary Anne with her giant elf head any less scary? I would have been petrified of that head when I was a kid…and when I was a teen, for that matter.

Dawn’s being a little bitchy when she first arrives in town. By this point the California Diaries have started, and you’d think that with all the drama Dawn and all her friends are going through, she’d welcome something that’s the same and comforting. Instead, she kind of makes fun of the BSC and the way they have to turn everything into a project and save the world. Don’t get me wrong—obviously, I make fun of that on a regular basis—but until not long before, Dawn was part of that.

Logan has his own theory as to why MA is spending all her time at the mall: it’s where she meets her secret boyfriend.

We get to hear what Dawn is buying all her California friends. The only one I want to comment on, though, is that Ducky is getting a picture of ducks on a lake. Is she being ironic?

Logan actually gets to be funny a couple of times: “It is good to be a carnivore…Meat, yum. Deep-fat-fried-fries, yum.”

Jackie actually glues blocks onto his head.

Heh. Dawn, Logan, Kerry and Hunter come through the Santa line. Hunter is the only one to recognize Mary Anne (although, how, I’m not sure). But the part that amused me was that Kerry—who is nine and therefore, probably doesn’t believe in Santa any more—makes a face when MA gives her a balloon, but she takes it anyway.

“Mary Anne, I had no idea you were such a nut.” Those are the loving, heartfelt words Dawn shares when MA tells her the truth.

And Richard is, of course, stern when he learns the truth and basically threatens MA with hell if she lies to him again. The end!

Okay, I didn’t find exactly what Mary Anne bought for each person, but my estimation is that she spent between $450 and $500. She says she spent three times as much as she had saved. So are we supposed to believe that MA made about $300 in two weeks, working a couple of hours a day, a couple days a week? Don’t think so.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

“You can’t put toe puppets on those stinky feet!” BSC #103: Happy Holidays, Jessi (1996)

Oh holy hell, this book is so depressing. Aunt Cecelia has been being nastier than normal, so Jessi’s dad tells her off. She tries being nicer, and as part of this, she lets Squirt loose in his car seat while they’re driving. They have an accident and Squirt is kept in the hospital for a while leading up to Christmas. Everyone blames him/herself for the accident and the whole family squabbles all through Kwanzaa.

Meanwhile, Jessi and the BSC are putting together a Kwanzaa festival to teach all the non-African Americans in town all about it. This line basically involves a bunch of kids we’ve never met before making messes.

Interesting tidbits

I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t read as many Jessi books, but I just don’t remember the Ramseys being quite as noisy as they are at the beginning of the book. Among other stuff, Squirt keeps pretending to burp, and Jessi’s dad is singing at the top of his lungs while dancing with a broom. It’s actually pretty amusing. His song lyrics: “You’d better not bup/I’m telling you why/Cecelia is hot on your tail!/He sees you when you’re sweeping/and buys you a new car.” I like his version of Santa…

Jessi says the holidays make her a little kid again. Hon, you’re eleven. You are a little kid.

Becca says she doesn’t believe in Santa, but he could be real…maybe he has a factory and buys the gifts from various places and gets them to homes by Fed-Ex (although she calls it Ex-lax.) I like this kid.

Aaaaand here’s the entire history of Kwanzaa. And I’m asleep.

The BSC spends the first two pages of chapter two debating the weather, before eventually calling Janine in to answer their questions. Abby calls her a walking CD-rom. Even though I know this is written in 1996, that just seems so weird and wrong.

Jessi is taller than Kristy, which isn’t too surprising. She’s 5’2”.

Abby once again answers the phone in a crazy fashion, only this time, the client takes her literally and she ends up embarrassed.

Aunt Cecelia has terrible road rage. She sounds like me (only, since she’s got the kids in the car, she curses a lot less.) Apparently, she’s one of those people who drive slowly in the left lane.

Oh, and she parks in a handicapped spot. I’m trying to figure this out. Aunt Cecelia is one rule-loving lady normally. I somehow can’t picture her thinking it’s okay to park in the handicapped parking, but it does kind of follow her being a really crappy driver. (Jessi’s dad says AC has her own logic and that there’s no arguing with it.)

When AC starts telling Jessi and Becca they’re spoiled for the first time, Becca responds by putting her fingers down her throat. She’s pretty sassy in this book.

Right after AC tells Jessi they are at the mall to shop for others, she spends an hour shopping for bras. *cough*hypocrite!*cough*

Every decent Kwanzaa book is mentioned by title and author in here. There’s a shocker.

I like Ebon because he reminds me of myself. Everyone is making mkeke mats of construction paper. Ebon reads the glue bottle and understands the word ‘non-toxic’ enough to try tasting the Elmer’s.

When AC tries to follow her brother’s orders and be nicer to Jessi and Becca, Jessi can’t help but want to test her. She actually sounds like a regular kid and not a super-babysitter when she says she has the urge to behave horribly and see how AC responds.

I want to make it clear that I’m not making fun of Kwanzaa; it sounds like a great holiday, celebrating culture and family. I’m just making fun of the way every third BSC book reads like an informational pamphlet.

AC actually starts to cry. She, Jessi and Becca all blame themselves for the fact that Squirt got unbuckled from his car seat. Becca suggested the idea, AC approved it, and Jessi actually did it.

When everyone sees Squirt for the first time after the accident, he greets everyone by name except Jessi. He calls her juice.

Abby does a notebook entry for the Kwanzaa planning meeting. She starts it “Captain’s Log, Stardate 12/15.” She ends up being the only BSC member when the meeting starts. Mr. Harris shows up and thinks he’s in the wrong place because he’s expecting Jessi or another African American. Abby replies, “If I saw you in a synagogue, I might be a little confused, too.”

And Abby gets worse. The kids have come to Mary Anne’s house to cook some delicious-sounding African food. Abby tells them it’s okay if they drop boogers into the soup, because they can try again later. Suddenly I’m back at Girl Scout camp when the only rule at the dock was that you weren’t allowed to pick your nose.

Aww. Mallory might be a big dork, but she’s a really good friend. She and her dad buy the Ramseys a tree and put it up. Later, she gives up her own Christmas day to baby-sit poor Becca (who has the flu) so the rest of the family can be with Squirt for the holiday. See my rant about that later.

Why in the world was Baby and Company open on Christmas?

I get that the Ramseys had a Christmas with Becca before they all left to go to the hospital. I get that Becca, being ill, should not go to the hospital. But you’d think that, since Christmas is partly about family togetherness, someone would want to stay behind with Becca so she wouldn’t feel so bad and alone.

Of course, Squirt comes home on the first day of Kwanzaa, umoja, which is a celebration of togetherness. And the Ramseys celebrate by fighting.

Jessi’s aunt, uncle and cousins come to town for part of Kwanzaa and the fighting between her dad and AC gets even worse. Eventually, her cousin Keisha screams at everyone to stop, leading Squirt to be startled and burp. That’s what it takes to break the tension, everyone starts cheering and eventually AC ends up cracking up.

Becca, who is usually described as having terrible stage fright, turns into a total ham while narrating the Kwanzaa celebration play.

Why would you put crazy Abby in charge of the play? She kept encouraging the kids to adlib. Omar, playing a devil, who receives the sole of a shoe instead of a girl’s soul (the basic plot of the whole play), looked at the sole and says, “Ew, you shouldn’t have walked in the cow shed!”

Other than the sappy ending, this book has to be one of the most depressing BSC books out there. I think it’s even worse than the one where some girl we barely know dies. Not only is Squirt injured and hospitalized, but instead of coming together, Jessi’s family (who, other than AC, seem to be among the most normal in the BSC) totally cracks under pressure. Lovely.

New characters:

Omar and Ebon Harris (7 and 6)—24 and 23

Marcus and Sara Ford (9 and 7)—26 and 24

Bob and Sharelle Ingram (7 and 5)—24 and 22

Tomika Batts

Ronnie Olatunji

Duane Hicks


Becca: green and red dress; black shoes (her Kwanzaa/Christmas dress)

Next week: I wanted to get this one out of the way first because it’s the worst of the holiday books. I haven’t decided which one is next.

Monday, December 2, 2013

“No one’s going to horse-nap your dumb pink pony.” BSC Mystery #4: Kristy and the Missing Child (1992)

Before I begin, let me say that one day I hope to be employed by the National Centerfor Missing and Exploited Children. Therefore, this is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. Last time I reread this book as an adult, I was sitting there thinking, “You know, if this was real life, they would have been more likely to find his remains…” and imagining the rest of the book as an episode of Bones. Charming, huh?

After a Krushers –Bashers practice game, Jake Kuhn walks home alone. He never makes it and is missing for about two days. Everyone is worried and the BSC organizes some search efforts. Eventually, thanks to his friend Matt, Jake is found in the basement of a house being built in a construction site. Kristy ends up a heroine.

Meanwhile, Mary Anne is failing home ec, but “invents” Jell-O Jigglers and somehow, that leads to her passing.

Interesting Tidbits

You know me. I like to start with the cover. Other than the fact that the boy in green is Matt (because he always looks the same and he’s on at least 3 covers) I have no idea who the kids are supposed to be. I’m pretty sure this is a scene from later in the book, so maybe I’ll get back to you.

The book starts with the first sitting job Kristy’s ever had with the Kuhn family. It would be funny if it weren’t so typically BSC. I can almost see a meeting about this book: “We want to have a kid go missing. What’s a family we haven’t exploited too much yet?”

Jake’s having a Ninja Turtle birthday party and he gets to be Donatello. That was always my favorite Turtle, too. (If I’d had themed birthday parties, my ninth birthday probably would have been a Turtle party.)

Even if she hates to sew and cook, I still can’t picture Mary Anne failing home ec. Classes like that tend to be based on effort and improvement, so as long as she was trying, I can’t picture the teacher failing her.

I’m not even going to try to guess how Claire lost her sneakers at Krushers’ practice.

Nannie made chocolate chip cookies and added extra chips. Bart, DM and Kristy are shocked that they’re so good. Really? More chocolate always equals better….

Mrs. Kuhn’s first name is Caroline, and Mr. Kuhn is Harry.

Mallory gets Adam to do what she wants by referring to him as “My dearest darling favorite triplet-with-a-name-beginning-with-A.” She has the brothers do a table setting race, which could be dangerous. (I’m picturing broken dishes and forks to eyes.)

Oooh, missing child = emergency BSC meeting! Although, this is one of the few times when there was actually an emergency leading to the meeting.

Kristy’s shocked that Mary Anne lost her temper over her sewing. Even meek people have tempers, Kristy. Better she throws a tantrum over a hem than over the bullcrap you pull sometimes….

Were there really kids on milk cartons in the 1990s? We always got plastic jugs of milk, so I don’t remember ever seeing a missing child on a milk carton.

Kristy’s mom drives a green station wagon. Sweet.

Mrs. Kuhn doesn’t think that the BSC emergency meeting is a helpful thing, and I have to agree. They just sat around and discussed how they couldn’t believe Jake was missing. Pointless.

I love how, despite the fact that the Kuhn family has barely been mentioned before this point, everyone in town is friends with them. Nannie and Ms. McGill are friends with Mrs. Kuhn, while Sharon’s known Mr. Kuhn since they were small.

Heh. Stacey, Patsy and Laurel are eating popcorn covered in various toppings. Stacey lets the girls pick their own toppings. Patsy just grabs a random container and ends up having popcorn with maple syrup. Doesn’t sound too terribly bad, but not only does Stacey tell Patsy her popcorn looks gross, she also says, “Ew—I mean, that might be good.” It’s actually good to see one of the babysitters not think everything their clients do is so adorable.

Patsy’s convinced she’s seen her dad’s distinctive car, but both Jake (at the beginning of the book) and Laurel kind of dismiss her thoughts as wishful thinking. What cracks me up about this is that Laurel keeps talking about Patsy as a little kid and acting like she’s so much more mature than Patsy is. As I established just recently, Laurel is six and Patsy is…five.

Real book: Stacey reads from The Indian in the Cupboard to the Kuhn girls.

Claudia made a sign for the search party and spelled three out of four words correctly. It’s got to be a record.

So I’ve reached the part where they’re searching around for Jake, and Kristy’s on a team with Stacey, Matt, Haley, DM and Charlotte. The boy in the striped shirt on the cover could be DM, but then who is the blond boy? (I’m totally obsessed with this today.) This is when they check the giant drain pipe.

Charlotte: “I want to be profound. What is profound, anyway?”

Kristy actually cries because she feels responsible for Jake disappearing.

Why the hell would Mrs. Kuhn call Kristy to let her know there’s a lead? Wouldn’t it make more sense to call Nannie or Elizabeth?

Okay. Here’s what I don’t get about MA and her being the worst home ec student in the history of the world (other than what I’ve already mentioned.) MA keeps screwing up Jell-O of all things. I pretty well suck at cooking, but that’s a simple, straight-forward recipe. I fail to see how she could even come close to screwing it up. I could make Jell-O when I was eight. But apparently, sometimes her Jell-O doesn’t set, while other times, it’s hard as a rock. If she’s that bad at following directions and measuring, shouldn’t she be failing science, too?

Kristy thinks it’s funny that Mary Anne is failing home ec. What a wonderful best friend she is.

Is it just me, or does it seem odd that Mrs. Barrett, whose home is often a wreck, is “one of those people who never runs her stockings or spills tomato sauce on her blouse.”

Another real book: Buddy made a diorama of Charlotte’s Web.

Oddly out of place: Kristy gets distracted by what her face would look like to someone trying to kiss her. She keeps leaning in to the mirror at different angles. I guess the ghostwriter was trying to lighten things up?

Sam is drinking milk out of the carton right in front of Watson, who apparently doesn’t care. Hmmm.

Kristy hopes that Jake is with his father because then he’s not lost somewhere, hungry and scared. She says she can’t imagine any father doing that. The vast majority of younger children who turn up missing are family abductions, while most older children who disappear are runaways. Only a small percentage of children who are lost are actually kidnaped by strangers.

Kristy’s dad does “something with horses” and lives in Petaluma in this one. It was only a year after this was published that Polly Klaas was abducted and murdered in Petaluma, California. She and I were the same age and that’s why I’ve always had an obsession with missing children. If this book came after that event, I’d think it was ironic.

They slip in all the safety tips about what to do if a stranger tries to kidnap you into a conversation between Elizabeth, Watson, Kristy, DM, Karen and Andrew. And suddenly I’m back reading Missing SinceMonday.

And of course Kristy saves the day by finding Jake and gets an award for it at the school’s awards night. It’s pretty ridiculous. The person who found Jake was Matt Braddock, not Kristy. She just happened to be the “adult” with him when he came up with the idea.

Heh. Bart calls the police and Mrs. Kuhn from Jugtown after he and Kristy find Jake. He also buys Jake a bunch of junk food and throws it down the hole to him. Luckily it falls within his reach, because he injured his leg. I keep picturing it bouncing out of Jake’s reach and getting perverse pleasure out of it. I’m a twisted little cruller sometimes.

Oh, good. Kristy doesn’t actually take credit for finding Jake, which is something that would have been very much in her character. She makes sure the newspaper reporters interview Matt and know he’s the one who located Jake.

When Kristy’s describing the awards night outfits, she says Mal, Jessi and Dawn were just wearing jeans. Did they forget to put on their shirts?

Pete Black thinks he’ll be class clown (I would not have picked him for that award, and neither did the rest of the class), but he’s also the MC because he’s class president, so he comes out wearing a clown costume. (He also made me laugh earlier in the book when he showed Kristy a drawing he’d made for an automated Jell-O launcher that could launch Mary Anne’s Jell-O and kill from large distances.)


Kristy: dress (she almost wears this); jeans, sweater, loafers

Bart: white button down, acid washed jeans (hawt)

Claudia: black jumpsuit with a red belt

Stacey: tie-dyed leggings, short dress that looked like a man’s shirt (does anyone else think Stacey and Claudia stopped behind some trees on the way to school and swapped clothes?)

Mary Anne: skirt she was hemming earlier in the story

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

“Oh, yeah. Right. Wheat germ biscuits. I have them hidden under the bed with my endless supply of tofu.” BSC #56: Keep Out, Claudia (1992)

As is so often the case, the plot of this one revolves around sitting jobs for one client: the Lowells. Mary Anne sits for them and finds them angelic but nosy. But when Claudia sits, the kids are brats and have no respect for her. Later, Mrs. Lowell calls and requests anyone except Claudia, making Claud think she’s done something wrong. But when Jessi shows up for the job, Mrs. Lowell basically slams the door in her face. Kristy figures out the family is a bunch of racists and when Mrs. Lowell calls again, Kristy tells her there are no sitters that meet her qualifications.

Meanwhile, the Rodowskys’ urge to be stars causes Claudia to put together a band with all the kids from the neighborhood. They put on a performance of Fiddler on the Roof for their delighted parents. The Lowells are originally part of the band until their mother discovers what music is being played. No one really learns a lesson, except the sitters…which is the most realistic part of the whole thing.

Interesting tidbits

As almost always, we start with the cover. The Lowell children look like something out of my childhood nightmares. I think it’s the way the oldest is staring combined with the way the little one is pointing that makes it so creepy. Plus they’re all so blond they look like they’re starting their own Aryan brotherhood (which I guess is the point.)


Yet another book that’s not ghostwritten. Hmm.

Claudia starts off by making an argument for phonetic spelling. I could get behind a few of her ideas…I really don’t know why the letter C exists except as part of the CH combo. Klaudia, anyone?

Hmmm. Apparently Jessi and Kristy hoard their BSC earnings. I can see Kristy doing this, but doesn’t Jessi use at least part of hers for ballet supplies? She doesn’t strike me as the miserly type either.

Mistake! Shea is practicing piano at the Rodowskys while Archie and Jackie build a rocket ship out of Legos. Jackie, being Jackie, knocks over the ship and goes outside while Claudia and Archie clean it up. Later, Jackie comes back in and Claudia tells him that she and Shea cleaned up the Legos.

I have a hard time believing that Janine would ever misplace her house key.

Since I am such a contrarian, every time they mention that Mary Anne has never made a mistake in the record book, I keep hoping to find a time when she actually does make a mistake.

Mrs. Lowell’s name is Denise.

I remembered very distinctly the part where the Lowell kids start interrogating Mary Anne and wanting to know, among other things, what religion she is. MA replies that she’s Presbyterian and I had no idea what that was when I was eleven.

I would totally play Teenage Mutant Stinky Turtles with Jamie.

With several pianos, a violin, flute, trumpet, guitar, tom-toms and a bunch of kazoos and the like, I can’t imagine the kid’s band could be any good at all. No one but a parent could stand to listen to anything like that.

There’s Mr. Ohdner again!

Is it awful that I am amused by the fact that Jessi wrote an entire page entry for a job that never happened?

Oh, so this is the book where Jessi puts together her Kid-Kit to be an office kit. It’s mentioned in a few other books.

Jackie wants to name their band The Beatles. Instead, they settle on All the Children, with the (sappy) idea that they all have different ethnic backgrounds.

Archie keeps cracking me up in this book. First, he says “Duh” to Claudia and Jackie in chapter one. Then he mis-sings the lyrics to Tomorrow, and when Shea tells him he can’t sing any more, he says, “Can I have a tambourine solo?”

Elizabeth: “Kristy? Are you alright? You’re awfully quiet.” Sam: “Quiet for Kristy, or quiet for a normal person?” I love you, Sam Thomas.

When Kristy figures out that the Lowells are prejudiced, she tells the whole club. Claudia gets mad and you get the idea it’s the first time it has ever happened to her. Meanwhile, Jessi just gets quiet and philosophical—because it isn’t the first time something like this has happened to her. I like the line Jessi’s dad uses to explain prejudice: “They don’t hate you. They just don’t understand you.” (Not that that, or anything else, makes being discriminated against any less horrible.)

Mrs. Lowell calls and specifies a blonde, blue eyed baby-sitter. So instead of being mature and saying that’s not how the club works, Kristy gives her a bunch of reasons not to want the club to sit for her. She says that Logan’s available, but Mrs. Lowell says boys don’t babysit. So she offers to come, but points out she might be babysitting her adopted sister. At least she didn’t come out and say, “Sorry, we don’t sit for bigots.”

It’s kinda odd that the main plot is mostly over by the end of chapter ten out of fifteen.

Why in the world would a bunch of kids have all seen Fiddler on the Roof and prefer the music to Annie? Don’t get me wrong, I love Fiddler. But Annie is way more kid-friendly.

Kristy suggests that Karen might want to be Miss Kazoo during the band concert and wear a bathing suit and a crown. This is (just one reason) why they should quit inviting Karen to stuff.

Poor Jackie. They let him be the MC of the concert and Claudia keeps giving him more and more advice before finally saying he should just use his good sense. Jackie tells her he thinks he was born without good sense. Just because he’s klutzy doesn’t mean he’s got no sense.

Claudia wants to pig out on junk food because her parents are serving liver for dinner. Mal suggests that’s akin to serving monkey, which nearly sends Kristy off on one of her disgusting food tirades. I can’t believe Mallory didn’t know what response that would have, even if she doesn’t eat lunch with Kristy at school.

Apparently, if you dial W-E-A-T-H-E-R on the phone in Stoneybrook, you get a weather report. I am shocked that Claud spelled weather correctly. Whether, waither, wether…I’m sure there are more….

Claudia gives Jackie a hug and he’s disgusted and hopes Nicky (the supreme girl hater) didn’t see. I’m trying to figure out when kids grow out of that and start liking the opposite sex. I feel like that had already happened by the time I was in fourth grade, so I’ll give Nicky and Jackie a couple years.

And of course the concert goes well and the band is never, ever heard from again. The end!

P.S. I was reading the preview for the next book—the Voldemort book (I do not name it) and found a spelling mistake: nickle for nickel. I wonder if that’s in the actual book, too?

New characters:

Caitlin, MacKenzie (Mackie) and Celeste Lowell (8, 6 and 3)—29, 27 and 24
Next week (or possibly the week after): Let’s make fun of something near and dear to my heart: