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:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

“The bat grabs onto his neck and starts sucking his blood.” BSC #87 Stacey and the Bad Girls (1995)

You all owe me big time. I could be finishing up an epic installment of my fanfic, which is awesome because a) I am trying to cram way too many plot points into one story and b) Hay and Tiff finally make up. (Hay: Is this where we’re supposed to hug? Tiff: Let’s not push our luck.)

Instead, I put it aside to read this piece of fine literature. Stacey’s new friends have been eating her out of house and home, so her mom helps her get a job in the Kid Center at Bellair’s (where her mom works). Stacey’s friends keep showing up, shoplifting and using her discount (and then probably returning the merchandise for full price.) They go to a concert together and Stacey’s friends are all drinking and get them kicked out. Stacey decides to not be friends with most of them anymore and rejoins the BSC because she misses them so much.

In the stupid subplot, Dawn’s second cousin randomly comes to stay with the Schafer-Spiers for a couple of weeks and she’s all unhappy. Meanwhile, Dawn decides she wants to go back to California (setting up the next book.)

Interesting tidbits

The cover: Grunge lives!!!


Stacey starts the book by dreaming that she and Robert are flying over NYC, heading to her old living room. C’mon, Stace, you’re dreaming about your boyfriend and the best you can come up with is flying?

Heh. Robert is a regular teenaged boy: Stacey tells him about how a grocer in NYC used to annoy his customers by calling the women Toots, so guess what his new nickname for Stacey is? (She gets back at him by calling him Dimples. I’m trying to remember if any of the SS illustrations of Robert show him with dimples…)

U4ME…Best band name ever, except all the boy bands on Daria. (Boys are Guys, the Backyard Boys, Boys from the Street, Gang of Boys, Guys-to-Guys)

Stacey puts on a bike helmet and calls it her HHH—hideous hair-flattening helmet. I know she means that it’s hideous because it flattens her hair, but I prefer to pretend it flattens her hideous hair.

Since when is there a convenience store in Stoneybrook named Jugtown? Sounds like a store where winos buy Boone’s Farm (not that I would know about that stuff…heh.)

You’d think that in a book where Stacey isn’t a member of the club, we wouldn’t have to get to know how the club was formed. No such luck. (Although she is slightly bitchy while describing some of the members, mostly Kristy and Dawn.)

In case it was not abundantly clear by now: “Her [Mary Anne’s] last name rhymes with cheer, not crier.” (This is like the scene in, I think, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when Hermione explains how to pronounce her name because lots of little fans were saying “her-me-own.”)

I’m sorry, Stacey, but saying anything is très something is pretentious (unless you’re French), but saying that something is très gross is pretentious and childish as the same time.

Ooh, alternate meanings for BSC: Being So Creative, Bring Some Children, Butter Salt and Candy (the meetings), Building Self-Confidence and Better Stay Clear.

Stacey rates men “on a scale of 1 (bowser) to ten (turbo-hunk).” Skyllo, the lead singer of U4ME, rates as 15 on this scale.

Stacey’s mom calls her a grunge-sponge, which does not mesh well with “sophistication.”

WWKD: What would Kristy do?

Stop with the acronyms, Stacey! Was that ever cool? In addition to HHH and all the BSC ones, she says that nose rings are NMS. Plus trying to choose outfits is known as SDT (Stacey’s Daily Trauma…that one I actually like.) I’m sure there will be more to come… (okay. I made the WWKD one. But Stacey asked the question.)

“Well, bless her, she does look like her mother.” This is said by one of Stacey’s mom’s coworkers. It sounds like an insult, doesn’t it?

Stacey gets the job at Bellair’s by walking off in the middle of her interview to play with a kid. If only all job interviews were that easy…

Seriously? Dawn calls Kristy a poop. In the BSC notebook.

Stacey suggests that Dawn’s never mentioned Amy before because Amy’s dad works for a meat packing plant. I’d say that’s too childish even for Dawn, but she did just call Kristy a poop.

So Amy is coming to stay for three weeks and sleeping in Jeff’s room. I can understand putting away some of Jeff’s things (so that Amy doesn’t mess with them) and changing the sheets on the bed, but they actually buy new sheets and cover Jeff’s superhero stickers with baby animal stickers. Seems like a lot of effort for a short term visitor, plus Stacey says Jeff was furious when he found out.

Setting up the next book, Stacey mentions that Dawn’s been thinking of returning to California in the intro chapter (which does NOT mesh with the previous book) and then Dawn finds out that Sunny’s mom has cancer, a major plot point in the California Diaries.

After the earlier Daria reference, I was amused to see characters named Timothy and Brittany Taylor. (Look, Tessie! There IS a Brittany in the BSC-universe! Forget what I said yesterday.)

This book has way too much Dawn and Stacey in it and not enough of the other girls, but I’m proud to bring you some Claudia spelling: drawrs, honistly, tride, cereus (serious), somthing, agin, cushin. Oh, and Maryann. I’m sorry, but if Mary Anne is one of her oldest friends, you think she could at least get her name right…

Dawn and MA have been babysitting Amy every day after school, but no mention is made of what is happening to her while they’re at school. You can’t tell me that they enrolled her in daycare for three weeks…

Dawn and MA decide to invite someone over to play with Amy, who is six. My thoughts went to Margo and Claire, who live right down the street, but I guess because neither one of them is actually six, they weren’t on the list. Instead they invite over Laurel and Patsy Kuhn. I routinely forget the two of them even exist, and I had to look in the Complete Guide to find out how old they are. (FTR, as Stacey would say, Laurel is six, Patsy, five.)

Robert makes Stacey turn into applesauce by telling her a story about bats and then complimenting her. It doesn’t take much for her, does it?

U4ME is totally the OneDirection of this series. Girls swoon, boys hate it, the songs are stupid but catchy, and the “artists” are (allegedly) hot.

Woo, a ten percent employee discount! Where do I sign up? (I get twenty percent and complain that that’s lame.)

Here’s what bugs me about the shoplifting/stealing Stacey’s employee discount part of the story. Part of my job description is loss prevention. I am responsible for making sure, as much as humanly possible, that non-receipted returns are legitimate. I research sales on items in the computer and if the return is fishy for any reason, we count the floor stock, review video tapes and more. And if we do decide to go ahead with a non-receipted return, as the Bellair employees do, we never give the return in the form of cash. That’s a pretty standard practice. Stacey’s friends buy things with her employee discount and return them full price the next day and get cash for them.

Stacey makes reference to Logan Bruno, Boy Babysitter when she mentions how the bad boys used clean-cut, respectable Logan to cover for them shoplifting and wonders if her friends are doing the same. Yet she stops worrying because Robert likes them, so they must be okay.

Stacey’s friend Sheila (the cheerleader) actually says, “Stacey, don’t have a cow.”

How you know Stacey’s friends are awesome: they con her into waiting in line alone to buy tickets for all of them. And then when they all bring alcohol to the concert and get busted, they drag Stacey down with them.

I suddenly love Stacey’s mom. She actually believes Stacey when she says she wasn’t drinking, but she’s also still mad at her anyway. She says (and it’s very true!) that Stacey should have realized that her “friends” were users and done something about it before it got to this point. It’s very realistic that Stacey didn’t really realize what her friends were doing for a while and that she continued to let them do it when she actually figured it out. But it’s also good parenting on her mom’s part, so way to go. (Although, I would have grounded Stacey for more than three days if she were MY daughter.)

How pathetic is Claudia’s life that she actually spends time reading the BSC notebook to Stacey over the phone? Doesn’t she have some art to make or a Nancy Drew to read?

Hah! After the Laurel and Patsy visit is a fiasco, Margo and Claire are the next visitors. I guess I wasn’t too off base.

Giant coincidence of the book: Amy gets Dawn and Mary Anne to play hide and seek with her so she can run away. She manages to find her way downtown. I’ll buy that. But when she tries to find the train station (so she can ride the train to London) she ends up…at the Kid Center at Bellair’s.

Heh heh. “I told them you wanted to join. No one threw a tantrum or fainted or barfed, which I thought was a good sign.” Claudia, on Stacey rejoining the BSC.

Wait a minute. Earlier in the book, Stacey says Dawn was working as treasurer and Shannon was filling in as alternate officer. When Stacey goes to a meeting, however, it’s Shannon who’s calling for dues.

Claudia wants to sponsor Stacey’s “re-memberification.”

Interestingly, no one objects to Stacey rejoining the club except Kristy and Dawn. Maybe they read what she wrote about them in chapter two?

It’s time to head back to my fanfic and decide what to do with Byron now that he’s no longer trapped in the bathroom!


Mrs. Grossman (Stacey’s boss): gingham shirt, jeans

Amy: Laura Ashley dress (of course!!)

Stacey: khakis and button down shirt; U4ME t-shirt and sweater (to the concert)

Jacqui: black floppy hat, skull earrings, rhinestone nose ring (but apparently, no clothing)

New characters:

Amy Porter (6)--24

Next week: Shall I do Claudia or Kristy? It’s a tossup. Probably #56 Keep Out Claudia, simply because I haven’t decide which Kristy to make fun of yet.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

"You're getting in the way of science!" BSC #72: Dawn and the We Heart Kids Club

Before we begin our regularly scheduled snark, I need to point out a few things. This book is half the reason I quit reading the series. It is utterly, utterly ludicrous. Even as a 13 year old I knew how crazy and wrong Dawn stealing her dad’s credit card and flying across the country was. I remember finishing this book and going…WTF? Not only did Dawn throw the world’s most expensive and illegal temper tantrum, but the whole plot is just so…out there. I remember being really annoyed that Mr. Schafer would not only break off his engagement but his whole relationship because of it.

This brings me to point number two. I’ve finally figured out what it is that bugs me about Dawn. First of all, by this point in the series, she’d become a caricature. Plus, she’s a total hypocrite—either that or she’s got all her friends totally snowed. They describe Dawn as an individual who doesn’t care what others think about her, but she spends a whole heap of time being insecure about just about everything. I like the Dawn of the California Diaries so much better, even though she’s all preachy and holier than thou. At least she openly talks about her insecurities.

So I’ve pretty well spoiled the important parts of the plot for you. The We Heart Kids Club gets publicity and starts having problems because of lack of organization. They finally pull their poop together and start having more structure to their club. This leads into the Kristy subplot, wherein she’s jealous of the W3KC (the not-so-convenient acronym) and tries to get publicity for the BSC.

The other, personal plot is the one I mentioned above. Mr. Schafer gets engaged to his girlfriend Carol, and Dawn somehow interprets this to mean that her dad doesn’t want her around. So she runs away from home, to Connecticut. When she gets shipped right back to California, dad and Carol break up and Dawn (rightly) feels responsible.

Interesting tidbits

The cover of this book cracks me up. All the girls look the same, except Maggie. I have a hard time remembering she dressed all punk in the BSC books after picturing her as she is in the California Diaries—dressing retro, with a Daddy’s little girl haircut, singing in a band and being anorexic….  Add to that the fact that they all look sunburned and one of them is wearing socks with her beach attire and I just don’t know what to think.

Dawn thinks “being bicoastal” sounds glamorous, and she says that having friends on both sides of the country is great. I think it sounds miserable. No matter where you choose to be, you’re missing someone you love.

Stephie calls Joanna’s boyfriend a hunk, and then asks if it means something good.

Oh, shut up Dawn. You’re Stephie’s babysitter, not her parent. If Stephie’s dad says she can bake a cake, then let her bake the cake. Quit complaining about how much sugar is in it. You don’t have to eat it!

I always forget how much I love Jeff until he shows up in the book telling awful jokes.

I’m totally embarrassed to be reading this. Dawn mentions how young Carol tries to be even though she’s thirty-two (translation: old). Makes me feel ancient…

Although, Carol does say that the chimichangas smell bodacious. I didn’t even use that word back when it was hip.

Mary Anne is reading Julie of the Wolves. Sounds strange that someone who reads Wuthering Heights would read that. I think I read that in fifth grade.

Why do all the (former) hippies in these books have ridiculously named kids? I know some hippies gave their kids goofy names, but I think most of them didn’t (especially if their kids got named in the seventies and eighties). My friend Moni (whom I’ve mentioned before) had hippies for parents, and while she does have a brother named Moses Freedom, most of the family has (relatively) normal names, if you can consider Shemona normal.

Did you know Maggie has had dinner with Keanu Reeves? I think that’s mentioned in most of the California-based books.

Heh. After Stephie uses a word she doesn’t know what it means, Dawn does the same thing with the word indisposed. (And yes, she uses it correctly.)

How does one “grunt politely”? I’d think that by definition grunting is rude.

All the girls are drooling over the photographer who accompanies the reporter. He has a ponytail and “luscious” brown eyes. Umm, hot?

The article is…uh…interesting. It describes Dawn as “a silken-haired beauty with a laugh like pealing bells.” While that’s nice, what does it have to do with her as a babysitter?

I’m not even going to describe the television interview the W3KC gets, other than to mention that the reporter has a bald spot that gets covered in spray paint prior to going on air.

Carol gives Dawn a director’s chair with a visor and sunglasses. Ditch the sunglasses and she’s Kristy.

When the W3KC gets all the publicity, they start getting tons of new clients and decide to actually write down all their jobs. That’s when Maggie discovers she’s double booked herself…and Dawn discovers that the record calendar Sunny’s using is from last year.

This part was funny, though. Sunny asks Jill to spell her new client’s unusual last name, and then asks Maggie what her new client’s name is. Maggie replies, “Smith, S-M-I-T-H.” And Sunny just kinda rolls her eyes at her.

Dawn wants the club to come up with a few rules to prevent the kind of issues they’ve been having. All they manage to come up with is a club handshake. Honestly, that sounds more realistic out of thirteen year olds than anything the BSC does.

I always hate reading the subplots where Kristy is jealous. She’s beyond obnoxious in those cases. In this book, she spends the whole entire time trying to get the same level of publicity for the BSC that the W3KC got and it keeps backfiring. (Stacey writes Dawn a letter in which she refers to this as the “Kristy Crisis.”)

Shannon thinks Dawn is telegenic. She has to explain what that means to Claudia, who thought she meant telepathic. (I don’t know why, but I always love when Shannon shows up in the story…even though she basically just spends chunks of time making Claudia feel stupid.)

Every now and then, they remember the bit from early on about Jessi wanting to be a comedian and give her something almost funny to say. When Claudia remembers she put some Reeces Pieces under the mattress, she makes MA get off the bed so she can retrieve them. MA mentions she thought the bed felt lumpy, and Jessi says, “Mary Anne Spier, the princess and the pieces.” Hey, she’s funnier than Jeff, who’s also trying to be a comedian.

There’s another almost-plot thrown in where Stephie wishes she had a mom. The main reason seems to be that a mom would buy her shoelaces without her having to ask for them. I know that’s just symbolic of a mom, and that’s actually pretty deep coming out of an eight year old. It bugs me that it’s put out there but never dealt with…I mean, Dawn can’t solve Stephie’s problem—her mom’s still going to be dead no matter what—but maybe she should say something to Stephie’s dad or nanny or someone?

Apparently, Carol doesn’t usually wear makeup. Man, if I ever start dating an older man with kids and saying bodacious, I could be Carol.

Jeff and Dawn are each given a small amount of wine to drink during the engagement-announcement dinner. Jeff decides to gulp his, while Dawn has the sense to sip.

I just love how Dawn decides that her dad getting engaged means she’s not wanted. It’s a totally irrational leap. Dawn’s dad didn’t have to agree to let Dawn and Jeff live with him, and yet he did, despite the fact that Dawn’s waffling over where she wants to live had to have been disruptive for everyone.

Dawn thinks her letter sounds sneaky. I think it sounds bitchy and selfish and bratty and a lot of other worse things than sneaky. You be the judge:

Dear Dad,
I won’t be home from school because I’m on my way to Stoneybrook. But I’m sure you don’t mind. Now you can spend as much time as you want with your future wife. You won’t have a daughter around to cramp your style.
Good luck with your wedding plans. Tell Jeff I still love him. And don’t be upset. I’ll be with people who care about me.
Love, Dawn

Why does Dawn’s dad leave his credit cards all over the top of his dresser? If he doesn’t keep them in a wallet, wouldn’t inside the dresser be better? It’d be harder for Dawn to steal one that way.

Dawn leaves her house wearing a wide brimmed hat when she takes a taxi to the airport. She says the last thing she needs is a neighbor recognizing her. Honestly. Like the neighbor wouldn’t know who was getting into a taxi in Dawn’s front yard anyway.

Second best line in the whole book: “Suddenly, two thousand miles away, I felt pretty stupid.”

Dawn’s surprised when her mom meets her at the airport. Did she really think her dad wouldn’t call her? No matter how bad things have been between them, they’ve always seemed to put Dawn and Jeff first.

Sharon’s actually vibrating with anger when she picks Dawn up. I love it. (Is it really sad that I’m enjoying Dawn getting into trouble soooooooo much?)

What flight goes over both Kansas and Minnesota?

Ooh, Dawn’s dad has given me some more great adjectives to describe Dawn: Immature, irresponsible, underhanded, spoiled, reckless.

Aww, I really do love Jeff. He tells Dawn he doesn’t blame her for what she did, and says that if she’d told him, he would have gone with her. It’s nice to see such a close sibling relationship in these books.

Oooh, there’s a (scary) book idea! Fifty Shades of Kristy Thomas.

Third best line in the whole book: Dawn tells Stephie how the W3KC finally got their acts together. Stephie: “I can’t believe you girls are thirteen and you just thought of that.”

Jeff interrupts Dawn doing her homework to tell her more terrible jokes. She tells him to go call Robin Williams.

Best line of the whole book right here. Jack and Carol get into an argument. When they suddenly go quiet, Jeff says, “Did they kill each other?” Love, love, love Jeff.

I love this one so much more as an adult than I did as a teen.


Joanna (Stephie’s nanny): short, fringed skirt, tight beaded top

Rhonda Lieb (the reporter who interviews the W3KC): cotton cardigan, white t-shirt, gray stirrup pants

Mary Anne: LL Bean nightgown (yeppers)

Next week: I’ve decided that I’m going for cheese this month. I think next week will be #87 Stacey and the Bad Girls

Ps. All the 3s in the acronym originally had less than signs in front of them, but blogger considers them broken tags. Blah.