Tuesday, April 29, 2014

“Shouldn’t we be saving our food for when we really need it?” BSC #39: Poor Mallory (1990)

So, as you can guess by this original title, Mal’s dad loses his job. So not only is Mallory poor, but she’s feeling sorry for herself because she’s sitting for the Delaneys of the $400 cat and giant, ostentatious fish fountain. Mal encourages her brothers and sisters to be thrifty and do odd jobs to earn money. Otherwise, she’s concerned that they’ll have to go on welfare. Meanwhile, her mom’s temping and her dad’s job hunting/moping around the house. It takes him less than a month to find a new job. (Good thing he didn’t lose his job now.)

Meanwhile, Amanda and Max Delaney are having trouble because they got a new pool and can’t tell which of their friends likes them and who just likes their pool. Mal finally suggests they invite them over and say they can’t use the pool because there are no free adults. Only one girl doesn’t show up, so the kids figure out who their real friends are.

Interesting Tidbits

And of course, I have to start with the cover. I think Mallory moved to California when she wasn’t looking, as everyone’s swimming…during the school year. Plus, all the kids are blonde. And Mal’s totally ignoring them while she has a mope.


Why is Mal voluntarily singing a song the triplets taught her? Normally, she seems to find them and their behavior a little embarrassing, yet she and Jessi are singing the songs on the way home. Even worse, Mal continue singing after Jessi leaves, only to realize how gross the song is while she’s singing it. Didn’t she pay attention to the lyrics before she began singing it out loud…in public?

This book pretty much confirms what I’ve always suspected about the Pikes: because all four boys share a room, they have the master bedroom. Mal says Mr. and Mrs. Pike’s bedroom “isn’t very big.”

I always wondered, when I was a kid, about the birth order of the triplets. I know now that it’s Jordan, Adam and Byron. I had to laugh when I found that out, because whenever I refer to them, I always say their names in the opposite order. That’s also the order Mal uses in this book when she introduces them. I picked up three other random Mal books (#29, #80 and #92, if you must know) and she either uses that order or alphabetical to refer to them—never the correct birth order.

Mr. Pike calls Mrs. Pike to let her know people are being laid off at his company (they use that term and ‘fired’ like they are the same thing.) So instead of waiting to find out whether he actually will lose his job, she just up and tells the kids so she can ‘prepare them.’ That sounds like a not-smart idea, especially if he hadn’t lost his job. They would have worried for nothing.

Mal actually says, “But it’s especially bad when you have eight kids, a wife—and a hamster.” We all know that hamster is such a financial burden.

I am going to count the number of times the “word” dibble comes up in this story. Wait for my final number at the end of the entry. (For the record, dibble is a word, according to my spell check. Dibbly is not.)

I have sparkly nail polish on my toe nails. According to Mal, I’m totally sophisticated!

I have to chuckle every time they put an ellipsis (…) in the text before they reveal that Logan is an associate member, usually in conjunction with an exclamation point. (For example, “Guess who are other associate member is…that’s right, Mary Anne’s boyfriend Logan!”) Because with the pro-feminist thing that keeps popping up in these books, you’d think there’d be less surprise that a boy babysits. It would even things out a bit. (And I still maintain Logan only joined the club to get into Mary Anne’s pants.)

The title quote is what Nicky says when the Pikes sit down for dinner right after Mr. Pike loses his job.

Mrs. Pike says that on days when she’s temping and Mr. Pike has a job interview, Mal may need to babysit for free. Then, in the next chapter, the BSC offers to give Mal a M-W-F month long job at the Delaneys’ and give her as many other jobs as possible. So…what’s going to happen if the Pikes need her to sit for free? She’ll already be busy.

Apparently, Mal has never sat for the Delaneys before. I guess because they haven’t really appeared since before Mal joined the club. They never attend all the crazy group activities the BSC puts together.

The Winslows live next door to the Delaneys. AMM must know someone with that name, because it’s also Sunny’s last name.

Mrs. Kilbourne works in this book. Yet later, in Shannon’s Story, the whole problem is that she doesn’t have a job and feels purposeless.

A brief mention is made to the Pikes’ having had a cat. I was going to compliment the ghostwriter on that little bit of trivia (the cat was named Sarge and is mentioned in book #1) but this book was actually penned by Ann M. Martin herself.

What month does this book take place in? I’m in chapter 6 and that hasn’t been established. It must be either very early in the school year or very late, as it’s warm enough for the kids to go swimming. In New England.

There is a Timmy is using the pool while Stacey is sitting. The Delaney’s rule is that the kids have to be “good swimmers”—which means swimming the width of the pool without stopping. (That’s a really lame definition of a “good swimmer”, but I guess it works, as you only really need to be able to swim half the width of the pool—or less—to get to the edge.) I’m working under the assumption that this is Timmy Hsu, as he is the Delaney’s neighbor. But isn’t Timmy the kid who later nearly drowns in the same pool (then owned by the Kormans) in Mary Anne to the Rescue? I don’t have a copy of that one yet. (I checked the BSC wiki my coworker/friend Kinsey found. [“I just wanted to find out who exactly Byron and Haley are!” Yeah, I talk about my fic too often at work.] It is Timmy Hsu who nearly drowns because he got into the deep end and couldn’t swim. This is either a mistake by the ghostwriters or it’s a different Timmy.)

You know it’s bad when Karen is actually the nicest non-babysitter in part of the story. The first time all their friends ditch them, Amanda and Max are left alone with Stacey…and Karen. She’s the only one who didn’t leave just because the Delaneys wanted to get out of the pool. It’s probably the only time I can actually say I’ve liked Karen in a story. (Second sign of the apocalypse?)

Mal comes home and finds her dad in front of the television with a box of crackers and a glass “of something.” Vodka, perhaps?

Vanessa’s been pretty “glass half full” throughout most of the book. The triplets and Mal are all getting made fun of for being poor. Vanessa points out that Becca bought her a popsicle so she didn’t feel left out. Meanwhile, Jordan wants to hit an ex-friend with a baseball, so you know how well he’s taking things, and Byron’s “sensitive” so he’s the one concerned about whether they’ll be homeless.

Mal has to keep explaining financial concerns to Claire so that she understands where the money goes. Claire actually apologizes for it. But then Mal launches into a complicated explanation of what a mortgage is instead of saying, “Houses are expensive, so people pay for them a little each month for a long time.”

Do little kids usually have desks in their rooms? All the kids in BSC books do. I didn’t even have a desk in my room when I was a teen. I always did my homework at the kitchen table, or in front of the television while watching soap operas.

I like the Papadakis kids a lot in this book. They point out that Karen and DM are going over to the Delaney’s just to use their pool (David Michael doesn’t even like Amanda and Max) and that it’s mean to treat them that way. And that’s coming from a couple kids who don’t even like Amanda and Max themselves.

Amanda is reading Superfudge. I will always love Fudge books.

I really do feel bad for Amanda and Max. Sure, they’re brats. And yeah, Amanda can be bossy. But she knows she’s sometimes bossy and she actually acts concerned about whether she’s driving her friends away. Both kids’ feelings are really hurt when they’re friends only like them for their pool.

And of course, the BSC can’t solve their problems unless their sittees have a parallel problem for them to see. Mallory actually points out to Amanda that they have similar issues.

Mal totally tells off the girls who have been making fun of her at lunch. She sounds totally mature and totally-un-middle-school.

Amanda and her friends play Snail, even though she and Max still think Stacey’s a weirdo.

Becca and Jessi get way too excited because Aunt Cecelia goes out for the afternoon and Jessi’s in charge. They eat the least-nutritious snacks they can find and relax.

Vanessa’s doing hairstyling for money on the playground. (I wonder where she learned to French braid. Does she ever help Margo and Claire with their hair?) Funniest part of that story is that Becca says she made one girl look really nice...by giving her a side ponytail.

The return of Secret Agents! Vanessa teaches Charlotte and Becca how to play. Most disturbing is that Jessi just lets them go outside to spy on people without asking where they’re going or anything. She just tells them not to be pests. (It works out okay, as they were apparently spying on her.)

This made me laugh. Mal’s father tells her, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” Since she doesn’t know what that means and this is before you could just look stuff like that up, she calls Kristy. Kristy’s able to explain it, as Watson is the King of Clichés.

The Pikes don’t have any rules, but apparently, Adam is not allowed to say he’s going to “blow cookies.” That sounds like something a set of parents who won’t let Mallory wear oversized shirts with leggings would say.

There’s a weird moment when the triplets are talking about their odd job service and Adam mentions they painted all of Sharon’s lawn furniture. But he says “Dawn Schafer’s mom’s lawn chairs.” Wouldn’t they call Sharon Jeff’s mom, or has Jeff been gone for long enough that they forget him when he’s not around? And how many Dawns do they know, anyway?

Mal keeps kicking Adam under the table because he keeps being a smart-ass during dinner. Maybe she was right when she called him “The Terror of Slate Street”?

Another real book: Uncle Roland, the Perfect Guest. I haven’t read that one, but hey, if Mary Anne and Mal like it….

The BSC has a sleepover at Mal’s and they prank call the girls who were bitches to her. I can’t picture that being something that some of these girls (Mary Anne, mostly) would be okay with. But Mary Anne actually insists on doing the “pig farm” call because she has a great imitation of a southern accent.

My favorite moment of the whole book: Adam has a “slime gun” that he uses to slime Claudia and Kristy at the beginning of the slumber party. (This is why they should stick to Kristy’s or Mary Anne’s for slumber parties.) Mal’s dad says he’ll take care of it…which he does by finding the gun and giving it to Mal with the suggestion that she put it to good use. I love you, Mr. Pike.

New characters(? Some of these guys may have appeared in earlier stories, but I’m not sure.)

Angie, Huck, Timmy, Cici, Meghan (Max and Amanda’s friends)

No outfits unless you count the swimsuits, which are not described.

So Mal seriously uses dibble or dibbly 6 times! Meanwhile, she says stale (the opposite of dibble) 4 times, and Jessi says it once.

Next week: We get to change coasts and pretend to be California girls.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

“I have to warn you that I found a pot of honey inside.” BSC #37: Dawn and the Older Boy (1990)

This book is the start of the “Dawn makes a fool of herself for a boy” trend that continued to pop up through several of the books. If she’s this annoying and pathetic when she’s thirteen, can you imagine what she’ll be like when she’s seventeen and the guys she’s got crushes on want her to put out? Heh.
A friend of Sam and Charlie’s named Travis takes an interest in Dawn. He buys her things and keeps trying to get her to change her look. She thinks he wants to date her, but eventually just figures out he sees her as a project for him to work on. Meanwhile, James Hobart is putting on a play and his friend Zach keeps pulling him away from the play to do “boy things.” It’s interesting because the BSC is minimally involved and never attempts to “solve” the problem. It’s less interesting because it’s only there so people can make the connection between how Travis wants to change Dawn and how Zach wants to change James.
Interesting Tidbits
I am so totally sacrificing for the sake of my blog today: It is a gorgeous, eighty degree Easter…and instead of hunting for eggs with my nieces and nephew (or eating Cadbury Cream Eggs), I am reading a book about Dawn.
The cover: All I want to point out is the kid on the left shooting his straw wrapper at Dawn. He's totally cut out of the later covers so they could put the stripe down the side.

How does Dawn know what material Claudia’s clothes are? Did she ask, or can she just sense it?
Mallory sleeps on an air mattress during the sleepover at Kristy’s. Is she just a princess, or are all the girls sleeping on them? I mean, Watson could have bought a bunch of air mattresses for BSC sleepovers. (I am imagining this purchase happening at my work and it’s hilarious.)
I think it’s funny how stereotypical and clichéd Ann M. Martin likes to make all of her characters. Stacey’s from NYC, so she must be sophisticated. Dawn and Travis are from California, so they must like health food. I’ve been to California. There are as many fast food restaurants per capita as in the rest of the nation, and I’m sure people do eat the food, or they’d go out of business. And I’m sure there are some unsophisticated, dumpy dressers in New York.
Oh no! Dawn’s late to a meeting because she was at a sitting job! You’d think Kristy would accept that as a valid excuse, but she doesn’t. What happens when someone needs a sitter all afternoon and evening, say, from right after school until ten p.m.?
Mallory and Ben, sitting in a movie theater…I can’t think of a way to finish that song. I guess this is Mal and Ben’s first date, although Mallory refuses to call it that….   
I’ve always wondered about the “driving at seventeen” thing in the books. In several BSC books, they mention you can’t get your license until you’re seventeen; other times, you can get your license at sixteen but no one ever does. I will have to Google; stay tuned until the end of this entry.
Why does Travis have an interest in Dawn? I guess he sees her as a “project,” but why?  Because she’s blonde and from California? It’s not as if she particularly did anything to charm him the first time they met.
Mistake! Dawn says that Ben is her age—that he’s “in her class.” But he’s in sixth grade with Mal and Jessi.
I would ask how Gabbie Perkins remembers everyone’s name, but my niece Kennady remembers everyone’s name, including people she’s only seen pictures of, and she just turned three.
Travis is a terrible braggart. I’m bored just reading when he’s talking about how all the clubs want him and he’s the world’s best athlete. Snooze….
Speaking of snoozing, Karen’s in the next chapter. (Although the title quote is how Karen says she knows a bear lives in her tent because of the honey pot.) Could this book get any worse?
Yes, it could. The A plot and the B plot meet, as Dawn realizes that James is trying to change who he is just to please Zach and fit in, but doesn’t make the connection to herself. (Honestly, I’d ask why he wanted to do that, but he’s eight. All you want when you’re eight is to have friends and fit in.) Zach was one of the jerks making fun of the Hobarts in #32, though, so I don’t get why James is so desperate to be friends with him specifically.
Although, the point about James always hanging out with girls and not doing “boy stuff,” (despite the fact that he plays sports and things like that on a regular basis) is kind of the eight year old version of what happened a lot in my high school to a couple guys who later came out of the closet….I’m not drawing any conclusions there. I’m just sayin’.
Dawn’s teacher lets her class out ten minutes early. I’ve never gone to or worked at any school where that was allowed. Later, Dawn finishes a test early and is allowed to leave all by herself.
When Dawn finally finds out Travis is dating someone, she stalks him for a while and then tells her friends about what’s been going on. (Dawn is totally a stalker. I’m pretty sure she basically stalks Stacey in #83, and I want to say she does it a few other times too. Not to mention various sundry mysteries with ‘stakeouts’ and stuff.) Kristy says that Dawn read too much into the situation (which she definitely did) while Claudia and Stacey are closer to the opinion that Travis definitely led Dawn on. I’m stuck on this, because I agree with both of them. He should have realized how the situation would look to her and not played with her heart, but she also should have realized that him not asking her on a real date or trying to kiss her means something. I definitely find the Travis character more than a little skeezy…what is he doing taking middle school girls out shopping and to eat?
Mrs. Pike actually agrees to see the Hobart/Perkins play. I know she’s just trying to be nice, but she really should get a job or something. She needs a life.
Mistake? The following sentences are a little…odd. “Then Mary Anne thought about Dawn and Travis and got an idea. Dawn would be sure to read the notebook.” It’s a Dawn book. Shouldn’t that say, “Mary Anne thought about Travis and me and got an idea.”? I’m not sure if this is supposed to be MA’s thought process or if it’s just a flat-out mistake. Either way, it’s awkward.
So MA writes all about Dawn and Travis in the notebook. Where everyone will read it. Wouldn’t have been much more sensitive to tell Dawn these things to her face instead of embarrassing her in the notebook?
What would the BSC do without their sitting charges? (Not literally, because obviously they just wouldn’t have a club.) I mean, they solve half of their life problems because the exact same thing is happening right in front of them with a group of eight year olds! Some of these stories might have taken years to resolve if the BSC hadn’t seen themselves in the events happening to the kids.
Dawn makes fun of Travis’s stone washed jeans. I think this may be one of the few times Dawn and I have agreed on anything (other than health food). It was 1990, so the jeans probably looked like this:

Sexy, no? (Humorously, when I looked up "stone washed jeans" on Google images, a whole bunch of photos of Mario Lopez from Saved by the Bell came up.)
To go with our NYC and Cali stereotypes, apparently people from Louisville love grits and have hound dogs named Beau. Lewis (Logan’s cousin…remember him?) is trying to get Dawn to not believe those things about him, yet even he thinks people from California love health food.
So that’s everything….except my research. Currently in the state of Connecticut, you can apply for a learner’s permit when you turn sixteen. After 120 or 180 days (depending on whether you take an approved course or are taught at home), you can get your “restricted” license that applies until you’re 18. You cannot drive with passengers except a driving instructor or parent/guardian who is at least 20 for the first six months, and then after that only with immediate family for the next six months. So essentially, these days, you can get a ‘permit’/license at sixteen, but you’ll be going on eighteen before you can give the entire BSC a ride to the mall the way Charlie always does. I’m wondering if maybe the age has changed through the years, hence the inconsistency to the statements throughout the BSC books. Then again, it could just be another BSC issue and have nothing to do with the real world in any way.
Claudia: black bib overalls, white turtleneck, black patent leather belt, white socks, black ankle boots, white barrettes (Dawn compares her to a penguin; I thought of a checkerboard.)
Dawn: blue button down shirt and jeans
Travis: blue work shirt, faded jeans
Sara, Travis’s girlfriend: white flight suit

Next week: Mallory’s Poor! Ha ha!

Friday, April 11, 2014

“Haley washed the mirror as if she were washing a bomb.” BSC Super Special #4: Babysitters’ Island Adventure (1990)

Bloody hell! I loved this one so much as a kid I almost wanted to save it and do it last. And I still love it now, just for its sheer ridiculousness. If you couldn’t tell by the title, this is the one where Dawn and Claudia have an Island Adventure, stranded on an island off the coast of CT with Jeff, Haley, Becca and Jamie. Everyone’s individual stories? Why, I’m glad you asked.
Dawn: realizes she’s not as great in a crisis as she thinks she should be. Spends a lot of time taking care of Jamie, who gets very ill
Claudia: is the heroine of the book, working out a way to collect water to keep them all alive and also arranging their rescue
Kristy: cancels a Krushers/Bashers game because her friends, a player and a cheerleader are missing. Gets into a fight with her lovah boy Bart over it.
Mary Anne: gets into a fight with Dawn because Dawn caused a fight with Logan. Tells her she never wants to see her again, so of course she’s all teary when Dawn disappears.
Stacey: has a fight with her dad because she cuts short an overbooked, exhausting weekend in NYC to come back and help look for her friends
Mallory: has no plot. She’s just there for her friends when they’re upset and helps search
Jessi: has to deal with Aunt Cecelia, who’s mad at Jessi for being left home alone with Becca and Squirt for the weekend.
Interesting Tidbits
As they used to say on one of my favorite television shows, “Okay, gang, let’s rewind!” Before I begin snarking about this one, I need to discuss its logic a little. I realize that’s stupid, but I just wrote a whole paper on the ‘logic’ behind the so-called war on terror and G.W. Bush’s awesomely-circular reasoning, so this can’t be any worse, right? Right?!?
·         1. First assumption we have to make is that Dawn and Claudia would actually take a sailing class. Dawn, I’ll accept this assumption for. She’s earthy and nature-y. But Claudia? So far, the only outdoors-type activity we’ve seen her get into is skiing. But we needed someone to play the heroine (not heroin, which I also just wrote a paper about! If I spell it wrong at some point, I apologize) and Claudia was the best choice. She’d be more likely to go sailing than Stacey, first off. They describe Mal as level headed and Mary Anne as organized and Kristy as a power source, so it wouldn’t be surprising if any of them kind of took charge while Dawn fell apart. Claudia had to be the one to go, so I’ll forgive the logic fault behind this.
·         2. Next, we have to assume that these parents would actually trust the BSC enough to allow their kids to get in a BOAT, supervised only by a thirteen year old. Jeff, of course, isn’t a big deal in this respect, because he’s with his sister. That’s family; I’ll buy Sharon allowing that. Becca isn’t too big of a stretch either. Dawn and Claudia aren’t related to her, but she’s like a member of the family anyway. I’ll even accept Haley’s parents letting her go, since she’s nine and would be with a friend. But the Newtons have to be runner up for the Stupidest Parent of the Year Award. Jamie is four. Four-year-olds generally aren’t known for their swimming ability, and yet they allowed him to get in a tiny boat with a random neighbor of theirs, when he’d been sick recently? That sounds like a terrible idea from the start!
·         3. Let’s not even discuss the actual winners of the Stupidest Parents of the Year Award, the Ramseys, who thought it would be a great idea to leave an eleven year old in charge of an eight year old and toddler for the weekend. Hello, Child Protective Services? This especially bothers me because Aunt Cecelia lives near enough to just drop everything and be at the Ramseys’ in a very short period of time. She probably could have come and spent the weekend there.
All this, and I haven’t even opened the book yet! Hee hee!
The cover! Let’s forget for a moment that Mal looks hideous or that Kristy has no neck. Let’s forget that Mary Anne is one of those goofs who has to wear a nautical outfit to watch people get in a boat or that Jamie has a bowl cut (that look needs to go back to 1980 and never come back). Let me just point out that if Haley weren’t wearing purpley-blue, I would probably not be able to tell her and Jeff apart.

Alternate officer = substitute teacher. That’s not a bad analogy.
In Jeff’s first appearance in the book, Dawn keeps calling him dweeb and he calls her geek in response. Ah, sibling love.
Okay, one last piece of logic-ing, related to one above. Claudia and Dawn are trying to make their boat crews even. By what stretch of the imagination is Becca and Jamie and even crew to Jeff and Haley?
Both chapters three and four are from Dawn’s point of view. I get that Dawn and Claudia are going to have more chapters than everyone else, simply because of the nature of the book. But so far, three of the four chapters have been Dawn…and the fourth was a Mary Anne. Claud hasn’t even had a chapter yet.
Claudia spelling time (as chapter 5 is hers): Satruday, afternon, mabe, woldnt, fiar, freinds, figt, picknick, insted, baskit, wold, helthy, couldnt. She also spells Mary Anne as Mary Ann, tried as tired twice, and has an awesomely run-on, nonsensical sentence: “I fell bad for Dawn on the other hand mabe if she cont cousin cons keep her mind on the race Ill win but then it woldnt really be fiar.”
Did no one check the weather report for the day of the race? I know storms can come up with no warning, but you’d think there’d be some warning of storm that big.
Everyone say it with me. Missing BSC members equals…wait for it…Emergency BSC meeting! Although, this probably actually does qualify as an emergency for once.
As soon as they get stranded, Haley decides they must be on a ‘desert’ island. I completely get this logic, even though it’s coming from a fictional nine year old and not Ann M. Martin herself (this book is not ghostwritten). Deserted island sounds an awful lot like desert island, and when people in cartoons/movies/television get stranded, it’s usually on a desert island.
Real books about people stranded on islands: Baby Island (which Becca has also read, although Haley brings it up) and The Cay (Jeff’s selection.)
Dawn actually asks if anyone has matches, and then gets upset when she thinks Jeff really does have matches. Silly girl.
I actually like that silliness settles over the crew the first evening they’re castaways. Because a) it sounds realistic and b) better to read that than read about them all crying and wanting their moms, which would also be realistic.
Jeff mentions they’re on Gilligan’s Island. Wouldn’t that have been more appropriate if Mary Anne were along? And Mallory, since she’s almost a Ginger? (Okay, I’ll stop now.)
And then, in the middle of the action, we get to hear about how much it sucks to be Stacey and have divorced parents. And I’m yawning.
This made me laugh. Claudia mentions at one point that she used to think that if they kept sailing past Greenpoint, they’d hit England and Jeff thinks they could be in Nova Scotia. But according to the map at the beginning of the book, they were heading south. Wouldn’t it be more likely that they’d hit Long Island, seeing as they’re in Long Island Sound?
More Claudia spelling (there’s going to be a lot in this book, I expect!) didnt’, expet, iland, butiful, realy, caracter, wether, cleered, agian, thot, wehn. She also used exited for excited.
This was one of the things I’ve always remembered about this book: Becca gets the idea to spell ‘help’ with seashells on the beach, only the older girls realize the shells are the same color as the sand.
The remaining members of the BSC (just Jessi, Mal, MA and Kristy) have their emergency meeting at the Pikes’. Kristy says they’ve never had a BSC meeting anywhere but Claudia’s room, but wasn’t one of the plot points of #2 that they had emergency meetings at school and Trevor and Alan were looking at the record book? Plus I feel like they’ve held other emergency meetings in other places.
Kristy takes minutes during the emergency meeting, while she’s talking. She says it’s hard to do, but why doesn’t she delegate it? Mallory would be an excellent choice, as she’s the only other member there who isn’t missing a sibling.
Jeff decides to instruct the younger kids on how to build a fort. He originally wants to do it in case they ever need it for shelter, but Claudia “corrects” him by suggesting that he means it would be really fun. Dawn references the night she and Jeff babysat together. Last time I read this book, I didn’t realize it was something that had actually happened in one of the books.
There is a bookmark in the middle of my book with the ‘BSC vacation checklist’ on it. Among the listed items to remember to bring is a favorite BSC book. I remember going on one vacation and having fifteen BSC books in my bag for a week-long trip; the year after, I ended up bringing five and every Lurlene McDaniel book I owned for three-week trip.
No one can get a hold of Mr. Schafer to tell him his kids are missing. Richard and Sharon are helping to search while MA is sitting home moping, so she tries to reach him again. What was she going to do if she actually got a hold of him? Can you imagine her trying to break that news to him? “Hi, you don’t know me, but I’m Dawn and Jeff’s stepsister. They went boating and didn’t come home…” Yeah, me neither.
Another thing I’ve always remembered about this book: How stupid the news reporters were. They ask Sharon how she feels about her kids being missing, which is a very dumb question and not likely to get a response you can air. She says, “How do you think I feel?” instead of what I would have said, which would have been some version of “Get that microphone out of my face,” with a couple of curse words thrown in.
Third memory: Haley throwing a temper tantrum when the kids find out that Claudia’s boat got pulled out with the tide. Jamie tells her to go to her room, which I find funny in kind of sad way.
By second night, there are indeed people on the island whining that they want their moms. Surprisingly, it’s Dawn and Claudia rather than the kids.
Two points I want to make, randomly, before I start chapter 16. I feel like, of all the super specials that don’t include a kid’s point of view, this is the only one crying out for one. We get to hear from several Pike kids through the series (I know there’s a Byron and Margo and maybe others), a couple of Barrett kids, Karen (of course) and David Michael and even Andrew in a super mystery. And of course, Jeff shows up in a couple of those, so why not this one?
Second, sometimes I feel like they put up a wall with all the names of the kids in the series on it and then threw darts to decide who was going to be the focus of a book. It’s the only way I can figure out to explain why some of the characters are so over-exposed. And then they’d get to a story like this one and go, “Who haven’t we focused on for a while? Oh, we’ve never told a Haley story, so let’s throw her in there. And it’s a long weekend, so let’s bring Jeff in from California. Becca? Okay, toss her on board.”
Claudia spelling! Mornig, frist, wehn, mondy, forhead, releeved, becuase, anyboddy, paniced, thoght, colect, realy, brians. She also uses fell for felt and hopped for hoped.
Claudia really was using her brian for creating a water collector! (My aunt and uncle brought me and my cousins all Mickey Mouse ears from Disney when I was very small. I have a cousin named Brian; his hat said Brain, so my uncle spells about as well as Claudia does.)
Kind of off topic, but I suddenly remembered a trilogy of books I read about kids surviving a sinking boat and being stranded on an uncharted island. Their story was much more dramatic than this one, featuring smugglers, a kidnapping, a kid with a rap sheet, and an atomic bomb. They actually try a water collector like this but it doesn’t work, so one of the kids (who got sent on the boating excursion because he had no friends and spent all of his time watching the discovery channel) actually set up a distillery for removing the salt from the ocean water. Later, they build a raft much like the one Dawn suggests.
Claudia actually cleans up the trash pile in their cave.
The moms in this story are so awesome with the reporters. Stacey’s mom actually rolls up the car window on one reporter’s microphone.
Mallory doesn’t even get a chapter until chapter 18; by then, there have already been two Kristys, two Staceys and two Mary Annes.
I’ve never quite understood this: when the Pikes go out to search, they take two boats. The oldest six Pike kids, Kristy and Stacey are all going searching, and Mr. Pike, instead of organizing by gender (logical) or by pairing oldest-youngest (also logical), splits them in half by taking the Babysitters and Jordan while the other four go with Mrs. Pike.
Stacey’s the one to spot the first piece of Dawn’s boat. She’s also the first to go to pieces about it. (Horrible pun intended. I’m so sorry.)
Time for more awesome spelling, courtesy of Claudia Lynn Kishi: Mondy, mornig, afternon, somthing. She also uses tired instead of tried, and apparently, everyone was just mopping around. Hey, she already s\traightened the trash….
Watson actually says “Resume yourself” when Kristy jumps up for no reason. He and Richard should hang out together.
Jessi actually uses the operator to place an emergency call to Kristy when she can’t get through.
Claudia spelling: It’s still ‘mondy afternon.’ Frist, colecter, singal, insted, relly, arond, reskew. She also uses grate for great and spells Batman as batmen.
My favorite part of this entry, though? When Claudia suggests she’d make more money as an inventor than as an artist. She didn’t really invent anything…she put a tarp on some sticks to collect water and aimed a mirror at an airplane. Those were both really good ideas, but they weren’t inventions.
As soon as they know they’re getting rescued, the islanders get serious senses of humor. Claudia tells the rescue plane to have the Coast Guard bring Ring-dings. Haley says (in a deadpan) that it took them long enough to find them, and Jeff swears to Dawn (who was supervising Jamie and thinks they were all kidding about being rescued), “It’s the truth. Batman’s honor.”
The first thing Becca tells Jessi when they’re reunited? How she got so hungry she actually ate fish.
At the end of the story, before they get taken to the hospital to be checked out or get a chance to take showers or change, the girls get thanked by the mayor for being heroes. The drawing accompanying this is pretty interesting. Jessi, Dawn and Mallory are all the same height as the mayor, and Claudia comes up to Mallory’s nose.
Heck, in the next photo, Haley’s taller than Claudia. Did Claud shrink on the island or something?
In the epilogue, Dawn makes everyone talk about what they learned during this adventure. Stacey’s and Jessi’s are my favorites. Stacey says she learned it is possible for her to push her parents around when necessary. (She says she’s kidding, but I don’t think she entirely is.) And Jessi starts off by saying, “If Aunt Cecelia stays a second longer, I am going to scream.”
Claudia: tank top, drawstring pants, unbuttoned button down shirt (for a boat race! Silly girl!), big earrings; long-sleeved polo shirt tucked into jeans

Coming soon: I’ll be back next weekend, assuming I’m able to suffer my way through #37 Dawn and the Older Boy. Would everyone be okay if I just quit reading the Dawn books all together? (Just kidding. Actually, there aren’t really too many Dawn books left I really hate—just #37 and #57.)

Monday, April 7, 2014

“Did you know my mommy is the boss of the whole library?” BSC #35: Stacey and the Mystery of Stoneybrook (1990)

I know I read this as a child. I just have absolutely no memory of it. Tessie and I were discussing it after I reread it circa 2010. (BTW, my picture is of Tessie and me. I'm the one on the right.) This is an overview of our conversation:
Me: Hey, remember that BSC book when an old guy living in a nursing home messes with the BSC’s heads and tells them his house was haunted?
Tessie: Oh yeah! And then he dies and they get all freaked out! What was the name of that one? I know it was a Kristy.
Me: Umm, no, it was a Stacey. It’s called Stacey and the Mystery of Stoneybrook.
Tessie: No, I’m pretty sure it’s a Kristy.
She used to own a copy of this book, so you know it’s a winner if she owned it, yet didn’t read it enough times to remember it. She remembers everything!
Anyhoo…I just pretty much summarized the entire plot for you up above. It is the most pointless “mystery” ever. I think the only other thing you need to know is that Charlotte is staying with Stacey while her parents are out of town and she gets sick.
Interesting tidbits
The cover: Oh, look at the house! It’s scary! Charlotte actually does look kind of freaked out, but humorously, they’re not even looking at the house.

Whenever they mention that Stacey’s dad lives on the Upper East Side, I get the theme song to the Jeffersons playing in my head. “We’re movin’ on up…to the East Side!”
I can’t imagine allowing my thirteen year old to drink cappuccino, as Stacey does. I guess this is just supposed to be another sign that she’s really sophisticated.
Finally, an explanation of Boontsie, Stacey’s awful nickname: it’s what her dad calls all toddlers. It’s still stupid.
First sign of the apocalypse?  Stacey wears a pink shirt with red socks!
And, on page 22, Stacey’s already being condescending about Stoneybrook and small town gossip. She’s all, I guess when you live in a small town, anything is news. Please. Even funnier is the fact that, even though she claims to not be interested in the news about the house being torn down, she keeps bringing it back up.
Claudia finds a box of wheat crackers in her box labeled charcaols. So close, yet so far away.
Stacey’s surprised when Charlotte is upset that her parents are leaving her. A) Her grandfather is ill, so she’s probably a little worried about him. B) Her parents aren’t leaving for the day or even an overnight…they’re going to be gone for a week. And no matter how mature Charlotte may be, she’s eight. I remember being left home for four days with family friends when I was seven and hating it, even though I liked my hosts.
How can Charlotte and Stacey play Clue? You need three people for that. I’ve tried to play it with one other person before and it just doesn’t work.
Charlotte loves The Cosby Show.
Stacey reads Charlotte’s Web to Charlotte and reads Summer of My German Soldier on her own. She also puts a copy of The Long Winter in the room Charlotte is using.
Stacey won’t let Charlotte go in the house being torn down, yet they walk around the outside of the building, on the private property. She gets points for keeping her safer, but hello? Trespassing? And they’re still in a construction site. It’s really not that safe.
Stacey references The Amityville Horror while looking at the spooky old house.
Speaking of the house, here’s a list of reasons why it scares our supposedly-sophisticated teen heroine: She sees a face in the window; Charlotte hears clanking sounds that Stacey says are pipes; they come across a giant swarm of flies; they hear moaning sounds.
Charlotte is way too excited to go to a BSC meeting. I can get that, because I always wanted to hang out with the older kids when I was that age. But she even wants to pay dues. Even the regular members don’t like doing that.
Charlotte answers the phone Abby-style: “No job too small!” I’m more than a little disturbed by that.
This book is full of the babysitters letting their charges play games that are annoying but distracting. Stacey teaches Charlotte how to play War even though she thinks it’s boring. Later, Kristy lets DM and Karen play the Name Game with people and then objects. (I always loved playing that at their age, but we always made sure to do Art, Chuck and Mitch after we ran out of people we knew…)
Kristy reads Ozma of Oz to her brothers and sisters.
And now Stacey’s bitching about the pediatrician’s office. Although I want to dislike this because it’s mostly over-done jokes about the reading selection (a Reader’s Digest from 1979) I actually liked it for a couple reasons.
1.    She makes fun of Goofus and Gallant from Highlights, saying she’s always thought of Gallant as a goody-goody. I’m reminded distinctly of both my sister saying the exact same thing and a moment in Clerks: The Animated Series where Randal says he’s going to sue the makers of Highlights. (I’m trying to track down a clip of this.)
2.    She actually sounds like a regular thirteen year old girl in this whole chapter. They make a point of saying that Stacey and Charlotte are like sisters; well, sometimes sisters don’t get along (something Stace acknowledges later.) Stacey finds Charlotte’s whining annoying and she’s embarrassed to be at the pediatrician’s office, reading a magazine for small children.
Is Stacey’s mom getting some compensation for Charlotte staying with her family, or is all the money going to Stacey? Because even if Stacey is watching Charlotte most of the time, she’s going out of her way to feed and supervise her, and she’s the one legally responsible for Charlotte while her parents are away.
Heh. Here are mysteries I’d read: Laine and the Hotel Safe Mystery and Laine and the Ghost of Elvis. Those are the mysteries Stacey said you’d find in NYC, paraphrased by me into BSC book titles.
Caludia speling tyme! Wordes, sentense, libary, knewe, coud, referense, libarian, Gabie, Miryiah. She also uses grate for great and to for too.
And now Stacey and Charlotte are hallucinating a fire in the window of the old house. (Until I finished reading, I thought maybe it was the sun hitting the window at just the right angle that was causing it.)
On that note, I’m wondering if Blue Balliett ever read this book. There are a lot of similarities between the “haunting” of the house in this book and the events going on in the Robie House in The WrightThree. But that book (and the two in the same series—Chasing Vermeer and The Calder Game) are totally awesome and I highly recommend them.
Claudia thinks she feels a hand on her arm while looking at the old house. “They probably wanted to steal my soul!” Stacey: “More likely they wanted to steal your Ding-Dongs. Even spirits like junk food.”
Smorgasbord at the Pikes: two cans of cold Spaghetti-Os, baloney and grape jelly sandwich, baloney and peanut butter sandwich, bread and butter, a fried egg, cereal, a ham sandwich, and carrots, yogurt and wheat germ. (Guess which one Dawn ate.)
I know I always think it’s stupid how the kids in these books are always putting together projects like lending libraries and haunted houses and stuff, but I’m always amused when they put together a play. I guess that’s because I can think of at least four plays I helped put together as a kid, including one with a Double Mint commercial in the middle of it. This time, the Pikes put on The Wizard of Oz. They make Dawn play the Wicked Witch (ha!) and get to Emerald City in a space ship.
Mr. Pike actually walks Dawn home. I’m surprised there’s not more of this type of thing going on in these books. I mean, these are really young girls and they’re sometimes leaving sitting jobs at 10pm. I would want my imaginary 13 year old (the one who’s not allowed to drink cappuccino) to be escorted home too.
Mr. Hennessey, the owner of the house, talks like a character from an old Wild West movie. I guess it’s supposed to show how old he is, but it’s just stupid. He tells the girls all kinds of wild and crazy stories about ghosts living in his house, but obviously he just enjoys scaring the girls. I mean, a man whose nose looks like it’s made of rubber?
I know that Charlotte loves mysteries, but how responsible of Stacey is it to keep taking her by the ‘haunted’ house and scaring her with stories about it? Charlotte’s not sleeping and she’s having nightmares.
Stacey sees flames again, only this time, she’s the only one seeing them. I think I’ve come to a few possible conclusions about the house.
1.  The construction (destruction?) crew broke a gas line, causing people standing over the line to have hallucinations.
2.    Stacey be trippin’ on some LSD.
After the house comes down, Stacey runs back to Mr. Hennessey at the nursing home, only to learn he’s passed away. I think it’s supposed to be sad and spooky, but it comes across as a total cop-out.
Charlie and Sam talk to some of the work crew and actually get plausible explanations for all the things everyone saw bar that last set of flames (I stand by my theories.) The first flames—and the face in the window—were a worker with a blow torch. The clanking and moaning sounds were from the pipes, and the horde of flies was actually a swarm of bees (which is actually way more scary than flies in my opinion.)
Stacey: blue tank top, white jumpsuit, white pushdown socks with blue hearts (how “sophisticated”), wide blue patent leather belt, necklace of plastic sea creatures (ditto); same white jumpsuit (wouldn’t it be dirty after a train ride? Those trains aren’t exactly clean) pink shirt, red socks; short skirt with pink polka dots, suspenders, oversized white shirt (with suspenders? Wouldn’t that bunch up and look awful?), pink hightops, pink heart earrings
Claudia: tie-dyed t-shirt dress

Coming soonish: The next book is one of my favorite. That’s all I’m going to say.