Sunday, May 26, 2013

"Whenever anyone caught a mouse in a trap, I felt sad, like it might be Stuart Little." BSC #80: Mallory Pike, #1 Fan (1994)

So last week was finals, and I was too busy writing papers (and tearing my hair out) to sit down and pay attention to much of anything. So this week, you get two Mals for the price of one, lucky you! However, I decided to read two of the doofiest Mallory books back to back, so unlucky me.

I've been making an attempt to read one books every month that I have yet to read. Some of these are going to be easier than others. For example, I have three Claudia books waiting on my shelf I've never read, but there's only one Mary Anne I've never read, so I'm hoping to get ahold of it. This is the Mallory I have not read yet for this month. And I never read it because I could just tell how much Mal was going to piss me off.

So Mallory has to do a project for school about a career she might like to have in the future. She decides to write a play for child actors and compare her experiences writing it to that of an author she enjoys--who just happens to live in Stoneybrook! Wow! What a coincidence! Mal somehow decides that authors can only write exactly what they know, so the author--Henrietta Hayes--must have lived the life of the character in her books, and Mal's play must be about her real life. But her play is unbelievably bitchy toward her siblings, and after she blows up at Henrietta Hayes, she learns that should write about what's real, but that doesn't mean you have to be autobiographical. Of course, she gets an A+ on her project and everyone likes the final version of the play.

Interesting tidbits

Oooh, the very second page mentions the time Mal met her favorite author, as mentioned in SS #11. And page five mentions #47! Let's see how many references to other books they can throw into one chapter. (Actually, that's it.)

Mistake! Mal says Claire is four.

Oh, Claudia. Time for some spelling: elumantiry, skhool, anchint, lerned, fuw, and aboot (is she Canadian?) She also uses two for too and grate for great.

Here's what I don't get. Why does Mallory think that most writing is autobiographical? Hasn't she ever read works where a male writer uses a female voice? Or read very different books by the same author? Or historical fiction? I know authors always put a little bit of themselves into everything they write, but I never made any kind of delusion that the authors had lived everything they write.

Also, how does Claudia know the word autobiographical?

Heh. The author Mal wants to interview for her project keeps sending her form letters. I don't even think she reads her fan mail at all, despite the fact that she later says she "gets to it eventually.") (I'm still reading the Alice books I mentioned before, and Alice got a letter from an author that basically said, "I'm glad you like my book, but this letter sounds like someone forced you to write it.")

Interestingly, Mal is reading a series of books by Henrietta Hayes with a main character named Alice in it, and she gets into the same types of scrapes that Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's Alice does.

Mal tells her mother she's going to meet a complete stranger, and her mom doesn't even blink. What if Henrietta Hayes were a child molester, or senile, or what have you?

On the same theme, why would Henrietta Hayes let Mal into her house? She has no idea who she is. are such a dork. Remember back in SS#15 when she wrote a story about Mariel who lives in Stoneyfield? Her characters in her play are even lamer this time. The main character is named Valery Spike, and she has siblings named Myron, Atlas, Gordon, Ranessa, Ricky, Margarita and Delaware. Plus, she's a total martyr who does all the work for her parents, because that's how Mal sees her life. (Later, when Haley calls her on the family resemblence, she changes Ranessa to Jill.)

Mallory discovers that Henrietta Hayes had a rough life: her whole family died when she was young, she was a foster child, her marriage ended in a horrible divorce, and she lost her daughter to a hit-and-run driver. Mal is completely outraged that she doesn't have a house full of brothers and a set of loving parents like the character in her Alice Anderson books. She then calls the books lies.

This makes me wonder if AMM didn't get this kind of commentary from readers sometimes....

Kristy writes a fairly bitchy notebook entry regarding Mal's play. It's basically about how Mal made her bed and has to lie in it, because her siblings found out about the play. Vanessa claims Mallory is "deflaming" their characters, and the Pikes all threaten to picket the play.

This is actually pretty funny. Mal's sibs picket her bedroom instead, holding signs. Claire's is the best: she drew a picture of Mallory and put a red circle with a slash through it. When Mal opens the door, she yells, "Mallorybusters!"

When Mal changes the play, she makes her brothers and sisters initial off that they approve. Margo refuses to initial until Mal makes her Margo character's name Melissa. (Nicky's character ends up being called Ed, which Nicky thought was "the coolest name a guy could have.")

When Mal gives the actors the rewritten play, they only have two more rehearsals to learn it. The kids are all eight and nine. I can't imagine that would go well. Don't they usually give young actors like that a couple months to learn lines and blocking?

Mal says if that if she knew Matt Braddock would be at the play, she would have arranged for a sign language interpreter. Uh, Mal? Haley's in the play. Of course Matt is in the audience! (His mother interprets for him.)

GAG. Henrietta thanks Mal on the acknowledgement page of her book about Alice Anderson's family reunion.

Humorous. The book ends with Mal writing the first piece of a "book" about Valery. Here's the line that made me laugh: "Valery tended to be a complainer..." Truer words were never spoken.

I was trying to think of one good thing about this book, and I think I found it: Karen isn't in it.

No new characters or outfits in this sucker. Blecccccchhhhh!

"Like Kristy, Claudia is a lot of fun, but I don't know if you'd call her a 'regular person.'" BSC # 59: Mallory Hates Boys (and Gym) (1992)

This, it must be said, is probably the second most annoying of the BSC books I read as a child. There was basically a BSC reject pile in my mind: books that I read only once and never wanted to read again. There were several books in this pile: #12, #37, #57 (of course) and this stinker. I was the same age as Mal when this book came out, and I remember thinking two things:

A) She was acting like a seven year old where boys were concerned (Boys have cooties!)

B) She was acting like a total idiot in every other way.

The plot? I'm glad you asked. Mallory has to take a co-ed volleyball unit in gym class, and the boys are taking it really seriously and keep being mean to her because she sucks. So she benches herself in gym class and keeps getting detentions. But when she realizes that benching herself is hurting her grade, she talks to her teacher, who tells the boys to lay off. Then Mal discovers she's good at something in gym class and it's happily ever after.

Because that's not enough "awesomeness," some of the sitting charges have been acting crazier than usual. Mal thinks it's just the boys, so she posits the theory that Stoneybrook boys are just awful. When Ben disagrees with her, Mal suggests a sibling swap. Ben's brothers act like doofuses (doofi?) at Mal's house, while her brothers behave at the Hobarts', teaching Mal that it's just being around her that makes boys nutso.

Interesting tidbits

Want to know what I looked like in gym class in 1992? Look at the front cover. Substitute an orange shirt and black shortie shorts for the gym attire and straight light brown for Mal's curls, and you have me. (That's a long way of saying I had those hideous man-style glasses back then. I didn't think I would be able to see as much if I used little lenses.)

Heh. Mallory and Ben are doing homework together, and the Pike boys get together outside Mal's room and make kissing noises and so on. Sounds like pretty typical siblings to me, but Mal's so embarrassed that she and Ben go to his house instead. (Even funnier, when she heads to the BSC meeting from Ben's, Claudia, Dawn, Stacey and Kristy tease her about it too.)

I really do feel for Mal on hating gym and especially volleyball. The only two things in gym I was any good at were soccer and hockey. Oh, and the year we had a unit on relaxation, I was pretty good at that too. Volleyball in my school was a lot like volleyball as described here.

I also remember being really jealous that SMS only had gym a couple days a week. Ours was daily, and I grew up in the only state that, at that time, required students to take gym class every year in middle school and high school.

Mal decides to faint to get out of gym class, only she waits until everyone else is already out of the locker room before she fake faints. Idiot.

The gym teachers in this one are Ms. Walden and Mr. De Young, the same teachers from #122.

No wonder Mal's teammates hate her. Instead of trying to hit the ball and missing (or just hitting it lamely and costing the team a point) she runs away from it. She needs to take some Daria lessons....heh.

Jamie is being a crank pot during a sitting job and hides on Mallory. When she scolds him, he calls her a grouch head. So, being terribly mature, Mal calls him a hider head. Way to stoop to the four year old's level, Mal.

Mal stops paying attention during the game and a volleyball hits her in the face. The kid who hit her is actually really nice about it, but when Ms. Walden calls her on the fact that she wasn't paying attention, she snaps in the teacher's face and gets benched for the first time. This is what gives Mal the idea to voluntarily bench herself.

When she gets her first detention, Mal imagines that it will lead to a life of crime. Because that's likely.

Although, Mal takes the written notification of her detentions and hides them from her parents and pictures herself as wanted for mail fraud (which is technically true.)

Logan notes the change in the kids of Stoneybrook. Mal says he doesn't notice it's just the boys because he's a boy himself.

Mistake! Dawn says Buddy is seven and Suzi is four. They're eight and five.

Best line in the whole book: "For a sensible person, you can be really illogical sometimes." The speaker is Jessi.

Mal's theory: only "American boys from Stoneybrook" are pains. (How do you explain the fact that Logan's little brother, who spent most of his five years in Louisville, is being a brat at one point, then?) What makes those boys into pains? Well, gym class, of course! This theory makes absolutely no sense.

Ben is the logical one here. He keeps telling Mal she should just grin and bare it, and pointing out that actually playing volleyball can't be worse than lying to her parents. He's also the one who points out that she could fail gym if continues to sit out.

Ms. Walden's theory of what happens after Mal quits volleyball: next she quits college, then quits jobs. That's almost as good as Mal and her life of crime.

DM wants to watch GI Joe, while EM likes Care Bears. Because this is actually 1985, not 1992.

This scene made me laugh. While Care Bears is on, DM turns on a tape player to drown it out. Kristy turns it down, so he turns it back up. This goes on for a while, until Kristy takes the batteries and throws them out the window.

When Mal's mom finds out about gym class and detentions, she's all sympathetic. My mom probably would have been sympathetic too--if I'd told her about the problems in class or even about getting a detention for sitting out. But she would have been furious if I opened her mail and hid the detentions from her.

Mal and Ben decide to trade brothers without asking their parents. Why would the Pikes and Hobarts be okay with that?

The Pikes have a ping-pong table in their basement.

Unsurprisingly, the Hobart kids act like lunatics at the Pikes' house. I maintain the reason that boys act crazy at the Pikes' has a lot to do with how they parent. The Hobarts, having four kids spread out over seven years, were able to set rules and routines and discipline their kids. This is why the Hobart kids are generally well behaved and why the Pike boys behave while there. The Pikes, with eight kids in six years, are generally just trying to survive. Since there really aren't too many rules, the kids act nutso. And Mallory's little sisters are just as zooey and crazy as her brothers, if you want to be honest about it. (Silly-billy-goo-goo, anyone?)

Sure enough, Mal comes up with this idea herself in the next chapter.

After volleyball, the next unit in gym is archery. (Really? I never ever had an archery unit in school.) And Mal turns out to be so good at it that she makes the archery team. Because all middle schools have archery teams. And the team is never, ever mentioned again.


Claudia: Purple MC Hammer pants, neon green leotard top (a combo of words that one should never speak), red braided belt, tropical fruit earring, two hoop earrings (the colors! the horror, the horror!)

Dawn: black stirrup pants, fleecy top with red and pink roses, high tops, four sparkly rose earrings (sounds better than most of her clothes)

Mallory: one piece denim jumpsuit

Next week: I dunno what I'm doing next. Probably #14 Hello, Mallory.

Monday, May 6, 2013

"Thaaank yoooou. You saaaaved my sooooul." BSC #29: Mallory and the Mystery Diary (1989)

Stacey and her mom are still unpacking in their new, post-divorce house. They head up to the attic for the first time and find a gorgeous old trunk. Since the McGills don't want it, Mallory takes it home. Inside she finds a bunch of old clothing and a diary of the year 1894 from a young girl named Sophie. Sophie's mother died after childbirth and shortly thereafter, a portrait of her disappeared from the home of her father (Sophie's grandfather.) Sophie's father gets blamed but Sophie's certain he didn't do it. Mal is determined to solve the mystery. She even holds a séance to try to reach Sophie or her father Jared.

Meanwhile, Mal's also tutoring Buddy Barrett in reading. She discovers that he doesn't like to read because he thinks it's boring. Mal lets him read comic books and Encyclopedia Brown books. Since he enjoys mysteries, Mallory tells him about Sophie and the portrait. In a hidden pocket of the trunk, Buddy finds a confession from Sophie's grandfather (Old Hickory) that he couldn't stand to look at his daughter's portrait, so he had it painted over and let his son-in-law take the blame. Mystery solved, and Buddy's been working so hard at reading that he gets moved up to the intermediate reading group from the low group.

Interesting Tidbits

The cover is kind of weird. Mallory and Buddy actually look cute on it--Buddy has super-long eyelashes--but there's something off about it. After looking at it for about ten minutes, I realized that they have very pink skin tones. I guess it could be from the lighting. Or bad art.

Mallory muses on the difference between a journal and a diary; she says a diary is where you record your every doing during the day, every day, while a journal is where you record your deep feelings and only write when you feel like it. I was kinda rolling my eyes at this. But I'm also reading all of Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's Alice books (there are a whole lot of these, and I read about the first ten or so when I was 12ish). In the very first one, Alice is eleven and her teacher makes her keep a journal, and the teacher says the very same thing about journals and diaries. I guess Mal is vindicated. (Of course, The Agony of Alice was published in 1985, so it's possible that the ghostwriter had read it. Unlikely, but possible.)

Apparently, being a member of the BSC makes Mallory feel cool. I guess something has to.

Stacey and her mom decide to keep the packing boxes that held all their stuff. Stacey says its because it took so much effort to collect them, but I think there's something else to it. Perhaps they don't believe they'll be staying in that house for long? It wouldn't be surprising, considering they've moved three times in less than two years.

Who moves out of a house and leaves an attic full of stuff? I realize it's in the attic for a reason, but you've also kept it for a reason. There must be some kind of value to it.

Heh. Stacey calls Claudia and Mal "Nancy Drew and Miss Marple" because they want to know what's inside the trunk, which is extremely heavy. Mal only manages to get it to her bedroom by paying the triplets a dollar each to help move it.

The trunk is locked, and there are various suggestions on how to get it open. Adam suggests a bobby pin; when that doesn't work, Byron suggests a credit card and Vanessa, a clothes hanger. Later, Vanessa suggests smashing the lock with a hammer and Kristy thinks Mal should use dynamite.

Poor Buddy. It's pretty embarrassing when your little sister reads better than you do.

Heh heh. Buddy: Mallory. I am not Cinderella. You can't order me around. Mallory: I'm not your wicked stepmother, but I am your tutor, and it would help if you followed directions.

Sophie's spelling is almost as bad as Claudia's. She uses laff for laugh and borther for brother. Also, complacatons, thinck, Octuber, becuase, cleer, eventully, certin. You know it's bad because Buddy calls her on it.

Because Mallory is almost as stupid as Dawn, she's convinced that Sophie and her father are haunting Stacey's house.

The Pikes aged nine and older have to be in bed by 10. I remember being horribly jealous of this, because I had a 9 o'clock bed time when I was reading these books...and I was older than Mallory.

Kristy's brothers and sisters are bored, so they sit in front of the television and watch Sesame Street...and Peewee's Playhouse. Remember when Peewee was cool instead of a pervert?

Sweet...chapter nine starts by describing everyone's clothes. (See below) I had a jumpsuit very similar to Stacey's, about two years later, except hers is striped and mine had tiny flowers on it.

Jessi posits that a silence in the meeting must be at twenty to six, because silences happen at twenty to or twenty after the hour. I remember hearing this before. It's actually five forty five, so maybe the lull monster's clock was slow.

Mal, when a kid uses pictures and the words around it to figure out a word he doesn't know, it's called "context clues."

Buddy's teacher, Mr. Moser, must be taking lessons from the Kishis' rules of Good Literature. He told his class that comics were trash. Honestly, much like Claudia, if you can get a kid like Buddy to enjoy reading anything, his reading skills will improve, and he'll be more likely try reading Good Literature. (Look, I caught a Case of the BSC Caps!)

Kristy, describing a séance to Jessi: "It's when a person wearing a turban on her head goes into a trance and the voice of George Washington comes out of her mouth. Then she collapses on the table from the effort of it all." (She's been watching too many cheesy movies.)

Everyone gets into the séance idea except for Kristy and Stacey, at least initially. Stacey eventually decides it might be fun, and Kristy agrees only if she can be the channeler...which she does, dressed up in a stereotypical gypsy costume. I think she just uses it as an excuse to dress up. Karen plays Lovely Ladies, Kristy plays Madame Kristin.

For those of you up on BSC history: Yes, Sophie's grandfather is THE Old Hickory, upon whose grave they embarrassed the hell out of Cokie in #17.

After they find the painted-over portrait, they show it to Stacey's mom and tell her the story. She offers to have the original portrait restored, and she says she's doing it because she doesn't want Sophie and Jared's ghosts hanging around her house. (Let's hope she was kidding.)

By the way…I totally rocked a side ponytail today. Although I didn’t wear a super-trendy outfit with it, I did feel like Claudia for a minute. Then I realized I can spell and that thought went away.


Mallory: jeans and white shirt that says I <3 Kids (makes her sound like a pedophile)

Kristy: jeans, turtleneck, pencil over one ear, visor

Jessi: leotard, sweatshirt covered in hearts, pink pants with a drawstring

MA: printed jumper over a striped shirt (this outfit is making me dizzy)

Claudia: jeans, white blouse, pink sweater, white socks, and loafers

Stacey: blue and white jumpsuit with cuffs, high tops with the tongues rolled down (this needs to NEVER come back into fashion.)

Dawn: pants, baggy shirt, straw hat

Next week: #80 Mallory Pike, #1 Fan

MAY: Happy Birthday, Mallory!

When I was growing up, I liked Mallory. Okay, let me rephrase that. A large chunk of the time, I thought she was a supreme dork. It's more along the lines that I was LIKE Mallory. I liked to read and write and I cared about my grades. And yes, I was more than a little dorky, and insecure. Mallory was definitely the queen of insecure.
I only have a few Mallory books I haven't read, but I have enough for the whole month. Let us revel in the nerdiness that is Mallory Pike.