Thursday, June 20, 2013

"When I open my mouth, I'll knock them out with the licorice smell." BSC #75: Jessi's Horrible Prank (1994)

Not much plot here, but kind of hard to explain. Jessi's new short takes is on computer programming, and the teacher, Mr. Trout, is a bit clueless and boring. The class starts playing pranks on him, going so far as to rip the toupee off his head. Jessi's not really involved in that, but at the Sixth Grade Follies, where the students make fun of the teachers, she does an imitation of Mr. Trout while wearing a bald cap. He leaves soon after, and Jessi thinks she's at least partly responsible.

Meanwhile, Becca has been obsessed with the Follies and gets a bunch of sittees together and they put together the BSC Follies where they lampoon the BSC. Awww.

Interesting Tidbits

The cover. I think we've all had a class like this one. Maybe not such a stereotypically dorky teacher teaching it, but still. No one is paying attention at all. (Partly because the teacher is teaching on the side board? heh) They are showing SMS's diversity on the cover, except that the girl behind Jessi, who looks darker than she is, is Puerto Rican.

On the second page, Jessi explains the Short Takes Program at SMS as a series of "revolving" classes, then explains that the building doesn't turn around like a revolving door (thank you, I had no idea!) The Short Takes classes always sounded pretty cool to me as a kid, and now the middle school I went to does something similar. All the sixth graders take art, music, information literature (basically, how to research and make a powerpoint) and world cultures. In seventh grade, they take four different classes, including industrial arts. Then, they get to pick from a variety of classes for eighth grade.

Jessi caught a case of the caps. SMS has two teachers that look like Dolly Parton and are known as Dolly One and Dolly Two among students. Jessi explains they're short and large chested, with big smiles, tons of makeup and Major Hair. The funny part is that the two teachers are completely okay with their nicknames. I don't think we nicknamed too many teachers in school, but I do know we were careful never to let them hear the nicknames we did come up with....

Ooh, there's a Mr. Trout outfit! See below.

Claudia wants to pierce her nose and Kristy's completely against it. She says it looks like Bessie the Cow. So Claudia clips an earring onto her nose and moos. Every now and then, these girls actually act their ages.

Huh. In this book, Stoneybrook is "part suburban, part rural, and part ritzy." Wouldn't it have been neat to have them have a client out in the rural area every now and then, or if when Abby had moved in, she'd lived out there?

Jessi's dad calls Aunt Cecelia Aunt Cecelia. I guess it's like when parents call each other Mommy and Daddy.

I thought this was a mistake: "Stacey is one of the BSC's three blondes." But because Shannon is filling in for Dawn at this point, I guess it's correct if you count Stacey, Dawn and Shannon. But isn't Logan blond?

Book name drop: Wuthering Heights. MA's read it three times and the pages are "blistered from teardrops." I read it, but I just found the characters annoying.

One of the sixth graders has Claudia-itis: "Exacly 10 mins. before the end of class, we will all dorp our books on the floor at the same time. Pass this note on!!!!!!!!!" (I counted to make sure I had the right number of exclamation points.) It must be a boy, because it's written in all capitals. (Insert eye roll here)

Mr. Trout demonstrates the folly (get it? folly?) of hiring professionals to come in for a couple months and teach a class. Although Mr. Trout appears to actually be a fully trained teacher. He has trouble understanding what's interesting to the kids (losing their interest right away) and also has no idea what their starting level in the topic is. Jessi says that even when she tries to pay attention, she has no idea what's going on. I wrote DOS command programs in sixth grade, so it's not impossible for these kids to write programs, but it sounds like Mr. Trout is lecturing way over their heads. The only way this class would be truly interesting is if they gave all the kids computers and let them actually write code.

Also, Mr. Trout really brings on his own problems because he never disciplines the students. If he'd taken the very first prank and overreacted, sending the pranksters to the office, the kids would have stopped. Instead, he just ignores the pranks and they keep getting worse and worse.

This made me smile. Jessi's looking for a bag of pretzels and Becca hauls them out of her room, and blames them being there on Squirt.

Heh. Jessi refers to the Pike kids as the Seven Terrors: Chaos, Disaster, Ruckus, Racket, Pandemonium, Turmoil, and Noise. Is it wrong that I wonder which is which?

Favorite moment of the book: Jessi's walking to school with Claudia, Mal, Stacey and MA and she is trying to clear a sore throat by making growling sounds in it (doesn't work, sister, believe me). Claudia says this to her: "Jessi, we are approaching school. Please behave yourself. If you toss a clam on the sidewalk while everyone's watching us, I swear I'll never speak to you again." (Between this and the cow imitation, I totally love Claudia in this book.)

Second favorite moment of the book: Logan is at the BSC meeting, and when Kristy says "order," he orders a burger, as he apparently does every time he comes to the meeting. Kristy tells him it's not funny anymore. Claudia (of course!) then suggests that Kristy find a different way to open the meeting, such as yelling, "Yabba dabba doo!"

I repeat. Claudia is definitely my favorite character in this book. After the SMS Follies is over, ice cream is served in the cafeteria. When Jessi arrives in the cafeteria, all of her friends "mob" her except one. Claudia is over "mobbing" the ice cream.

Ooh, I got one right. Mr. Trout leaves without notice, and a sub named Mr. Bellafatto shows up. In his first five minutes in class, he makes the kids get up and follow the correct seating chart, giving them all their first and only warning. He then sends a kid to the principal's office right after. After that, all the goofing around stops and he has their full attention. Mr. Trout wouldn't have had as many problems if he'd run the class that way.

The BSC follies are actually pretty funny. Here's an overview:
·         Marilyn Arnold as Kristy shouted all her lines and then wandered off to do batting practice
·         Vanessa Pike as Claudia wore a dog bone in her hair, ate junk food throughout the entire skit, and decided a clock would make an interesting hat
·         Carolyn Arnold as Mary Anne cried the whole time
·         Buddy Barrett played Logan and refused to put his arm around Carolyn
·         Margo Pike as Dawn ate carrots through the whole thing
·         Becca as Jessi kept doing ballet warm ups
·         Suzi as Mallory kept writing in a notebook that said Mal's Greatest Story
·         Charlotte as Stacey was dressed fancy and being snooty (heh)
·         Haley as Shannon kept doing singing exercises until she sounded like she was howling

But the best moment of the whole thing was when Vanessa as Claudia answered the phone and said, "Hello, Babysitters Club! Who? The Pike triplets? Sorry, you'll have to call the Monkeysitters Club."

Only question is, how do the kids know exactly what happens at a BSC meeting? Do Mal and Jessi go home and talk about Kristy calling meetings to order right on time and Claudia's candy stash and so on?

In the end, Jessi feels guilty about her role in "driving" Mr. Trout away. Here's my issue with that. She didn't really do anything awful to him. She didn't take part in any pranks (despite the title of the book!) and she never really had a mean thing to say to him or about him. Everyone tells her that her skit in the Follies wasn't the cause of Mr. Trout leaving, but she doesn't believe them. She actually tries to get him back, first with a petition and then with a letter. But she's learning a lot more from the sub than she did from him. Mr. Trout writes her back and says, a) It wasn't her fault; she was a good student and her skit wasn't why he left and b) he's realized that he's not meant to be a teacher and instead he's going to go into research.


Mr. Trout: too big pants that make a puddle on top of his Hush Puppy shoes, tweed jackets, Tattersall shirts with pocket protectors

Claudia: cat's eye glasses, alligator barrette, tie-dyed t-shirt, bell bottoms (mixing eras much?)

Next week: It's a tossup. Let's go for #16 Jessi's Secret Language, but I reserve the right to change my mind.

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