Monday, June 3, 2013

"Alan Gray is the Benny Ott of the eighth grade." BSC #14: Hello, Mallory (1988)

So. This is the first Mallory book. It is not, of course, the first book with Mallory in it--she was introduced in one of the original books written back in 1986--but it is the first mention of Jessi and her family, and the first whole book written from Mal's standpoint.

The story is pretty straightforward (but stupid.) Back in #13, which I have not yet chronicled, Stacey moved away and left an opening in the club. Since Mal was always a good help to the sitters, they invited her to "audition." But they must have decided they really didn't want her in the club for some reason, because they give her a ridiculously hard test that they don't even know they answers to (until they look them up) and take her on a trial sitting job, which she flunks. So she and her new friend Jessi start their own club and sit, two for the price of one. Since the BSC sees them as a threat, they invite both Mal and Jessi to join.

The subplot is all about the racism the Ramseys encounter--did you know they were black?--and how Becca is having a hard time making friends. But eventually, the good neighbors step forward, and Becca and Charlotte become BFFs.

Interesting Tidbits

The whole first paragraph is about how Mal has to wear glasses. Does she think she's the only one in the world or something? Just a couple pages later she mentions how Nicky and Vanessa both wear glasses also, so bad vision must run in the family and probably both of her parents have it, and most of her sibs will probably someday need glasses. I guess she just needed something to angst over, before AMM decided Mal needed a nose job.

Real book alert: Mal is reading Freaky Friday, The Incredible Journey, and Dr. Doolittle all at the same time. (Not simultaneously...she's not Dr. Reid.)

Nicky breaks his finger, so the Pikes leave Mallory in charge of her six other sibs while they take him to the ER. I get that it's an emergency, but please. It's a broken finger. There's not much that can be done for it but splint it. Why do both Pike parents need to go? One should be sufficient. (Plus, six kid in the care of an eleven year old? Really?)

The Pike rule is two sitters for more than five kids. Later, in #81, BSC rules would be two sitters for more than four kids. As a kid I'd always just assumed the BSC had kind of picked up the Pikes' rule and made it their own, so what's with the discrepancy?

Kristy writes a notebook entry about the meeting Mal attends. Why? It's not a sitting job. (BTW, Mal says the notebook is very fat, and this is only book 14. Can you imagine that notebook by the end of the series? It would probably be a whole pile of the extra thick notebooks.)

After all these years, I finally had to figure out what a squiggle pin is. I had to Google it, and it is not at all what I was expecting. I don't remember anyone ever wearing pins like that, and yet the BSC wore them all the time in the 80s. (On a side note, Google kept diverting me to squiggle pens, and I found a really humorous article about them.)

Jessi tells awful jokes...or at least, the kind of joke that is only funny once. Most of the ones she tells in this story were the kind that are funny when you're in second grade or so.

The "test" the BSC gives Mal is ridiculous. First they ask "When does a baby cut its first tooth?" Mal answers eight months, because that's when Claire got her first tooth. Kristy says the "correct" answer is seven months, which is malarkey. I didn't get a tooth until I was closer to a year old, and one of my nieces cut a tooth at four months. Next they want to know the difference between creeping and crawling. How much you want to bet not a single one of the girls in that room knew the correct answer before they looked it up in a book? (Creeping is hands and knees; crawling is scooting on the belly. I've remembered that ever since I read this book the first time.) She's then asked what a tourniquet is and when you remove one. Finally, Mallory is asked to draw the digestive system. (Later, when they discuss the results of the test, Claudia calls it the divestive system, so you know how well SHE would have done on that test.)

Claudia spelling! Malory, experyence, Maria (twice), Gabie,aboat, grils, Elzabeth, Gaby, Melory (twice), yonger, exited, heres, whith, scemed, befor. She also uses to instead of too.

When Mal babysits for Gabbie and Myriah Perkins with Claudia, she makes a couple of small errors, like letting the dog in when they were told to leave him in the back yard, and asking the girls what they want to eat instead of looking in the kitchen and announcing a healthy snack. She also spills milk and drops a glass. But she cheers up Gabbie when she's sad with a creative pajama party idea, and the rest of the job goes well. Still, when asked to rate the job on a scale of one to ten, Claudia gives her a three.

Claudia mixes up soy sauce with soy formula. Idiot.

Humorous. Chapter 8 starts with the following sentence: "There are a lot of things I do well, and one of them is mope."

I love the "racism" in the Pike family. Mal is afraid to say the word black in front of Jessi. When Jessi comes over to the Pikes' for the first time, Claire asks if she's there to clean the house, because the only other black people she remembers were house cleaners.

Jessi makes fun of the BSC's name. She says it's like naming a restaurant "The Restaurant," which is sorta true. But then she and Mal name the competing club they start Kids Incorporated, which sounds way worse.

While Dawn is babysitting for her, Suzi Barrett uses all the disposable diapers in the house to fix her "horse," aka the table. Dawn makes her take them off the table leg and refold them. These days, Dawn would have lectured Mrs. Barrett about using disposable diapers instead of cloth diapers, to boot.

Mal breaks up an argument between Nicky and Margo by ordering them to go downstairs and catch a dinosaur.

When Jessi and Mal are sitting for Becca and Squirt, Becca is making gigantic bubbles with a special bubble wand. Another little girl across the street wants to come play, but her mother won't let her. Instead, Charlotte comes over, complete with banana bread and a dinner invitation from Dr. Johanssen, and says that her mother says there was a girl there who could be her friend. Do you think Dr. Johanssen was more concerned about Charlotte making friends, or with trying to make the neighbors feel welcome? It almost sounds like she ordered Charlotte to go be nice to Becca. Luckily, they get along well, so it works out for them.

Dawn and Claudia get pretty nasty when they squabble. Dawn lectures Claudia about eating Ring-dings and says she'll get fat and have pimples. Claudia turns around and says that if she'd ate health food, she'd turn into a pale, skinny Dawn. Kristy ends the argument by telling them to shut up. Nice, huh?

When deciding whether or not to join the BSC, Jessi mentions how the neighbors have treated her. She says that things are starting to settle down in school, and says that Benny Ott has stopped shooting rubber bands at her. The sixth graders ask if boys are still weird in eighth grade, which leads to these answers:
            "Definitely." (Kristy)
            "Sort of." (Dawn)
            "It depends." (Claudia)
            "Not really." (Mary Anne)

Mal gets a second chance to sit with Claudia, and this time, instead of shaming her in front of the children, Claudia sits back and lets her do the sitting.


Mallory: red jumper with her name across the front (REALLY?), white blouse, and of course, tights with little hearts on them (I must admit that when this book first came out, I still loved tights with hearts. But I was seven, not eleven.); jeans, sweatshirt reading "I'd rather be writing my novel", sneakers

Kristy: sneakers, jeans, pink turtleneck, pink sweater

Claudia: short, tight pants, ballet slippers, t-shirts with sequins; overalls, hightops

Mary Anne: yellow sweater, squiggle pin (see above), short skirt of sweatshirt material, yellow tights, ballet slippers

Dawn: baggy jeans with the cuffs rolled up, shirts with the tails out, big belts

New Characters:

Jessi, Becca and Squirt Ramsey (11, 8 and 1)--36, 33 and 26

Laura Perkins (newborn)--25

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