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.

1 comment:

  1. Mallory was so thoughtful here!

    I found this book terrifying. Reading about Squirt being unconscious after the car accident when I have two little kids? NOT FUN.