Thursday, May 29, 2014

“My mom says she sounds like a bantree, whatever that is.” BSC Mystery #2: Beware, Dawn! (1991)

The exclamation point makes it more scary, right? Right?!?
As a kid, I only ever read eleven of the mysteries: the first ten and then #12. This one was one of my favorites, though I can’t remember why. The only one I read more often than this was another Dawn: #7 (although my sister and I always called that one The Mallory Book. I think that will have to be one of the books that I vlog*.)
The kids of Stoneybrook have had the stupid idea of creating a Sitter of the Month contest where all the kids have a vote. Shortly thereafter, the sitters start receiving freaky notes and disturbing hang-up phone calls. After Jamie lets something slip, Dawn figures out that it’s Mel, one of the boys who were picking on the Hobarts and Susan Felder in #32. The BSC sets a trap and then turn him into his parents, who get him some help.
Interesting Tidbits
Woo! I always loved doing the Find the Picture in Highlights.
Did you ever think that a lot of the scenes in the BSC books (the descriptions of the members and the club) were written generically, and they would just go through and change the “I”? Like someone below the “manuscript assistants” on the food chain was tasked with finding 100 different ways to describe the BSC members and then, when one was picked to go in a book, they would adjust it so that instead of “Dawn’s” it would say “my.” That’s the only reason I can come up with for Dawn saying that Jeff missed “his” dad (instead of “our” dad) so much that he had to move back to California. Either that, or Dawn and Jeff have different dads.
Mary Anne and Dawn are waaaay too interested in Mal and Ben’s alleged “romance.”
Dawn says she’s given up on trying to lecture Claudia about junk food, but I’m about 100 percent sure that’s not true.
Wahahahaha! Ben told his friend that Mallory was a “bonzer sheila.” And the girls are all like, is that a compliment? Especially after they find out that a sheila is a female kangaroo.
The Brewers (and DM) have very specific rules about eating crackers. Everyone gets their own bowl and they have to count and make sure they have the exact same number of crackers. My sister and I used to do that with M&M’s, only we both had to have the exact same number of every color (if she had 8 red, I had to have 8 red), and I couldn’t eat my colors mixed together.
Why and how exactly did Mrs. Newton come to be running the Sitter of the Month contest? It’s not explained. I guess she’s more neutral than a parent of a sitter, but if the kids at school came up with the contest (which is all malarkey anyway), then wouldn’t one of the parents of a child at the school make more sense? Like Mrs. Arnold or Mrs. Rodowsky or someone?
Are the Prezziosos using cloth diapers? There’s this whole argument between Dawn and Jenny because Jenny thinks the pins on Andrea’s diaper are too tight.
I started laughing during Dawn’s argument with Jenny. Dawn wants to show her “Sitter of the Month” abilities off by being patient and not arguing, but then she basically pouts that Jenny’s not giving her a chance to show she’s a good sitter. So she shoos Jenny from the room in a not-very-kind fashion (that’s good, leave the four year old unsupervised) and then makes her answer the phone! Awesome choices.
Oh, yeah, I’ve always remembered this! Dawn is bored after Jenny goes to bed, so she starts writing a letter to Jeff. She decides it’s boring and starts over again: “Dearest Little Bro, What’s up? What’s fresh? Everything’s cool back here in Stoneybrook. What’s happening out there in sunny Cal?” She’s trying way too hard. It reminds me of the dad on American Pie: “Keep it real, homies.”
Mr. X has a lot of time on his hands, as he cuts letters from magazines to write his missives. The first one? “You’d better watch out, you’d better not shout! I’m going to get you.” Honestly, Claudia should be proud of him, because a) it’s a collage and b) he has better spelling than she does.
Heh heh, whenever this kid shows up again for the rest of the series (assuming he does…I can’t remember a re-occurrence) I’m going to call him Mr. X.
I’m only 5 pages into chapter 7, and already in those five pages, we’ve recapped part of two stories: #10 (the first sitting job with the Rodowskys) and #2 (because Mr. X’s phone calls remind Dawn of the Phantom Phone Caller…which she wasn’t even around for.)
I kinda love Shea. You don’t get to see him (or Archie) as much as Jackie, but he sounds sensible. For example, he thinks the second letter (“I’m watching you”) and a bunch of hang up calls deserve a call to the police.  I mean, I wouldn’t call 911, but if I got two creepy letters, I’d probably be calling the non-emergency line. And I’m 33, not 13!
Like I said a couple weeks ago, I like when the babysitters make mistakes. Becca talks Jessi into letting her watch Snake Boy Loose in San Francisco…and of course, winds up scared out of her wits. Honestly, that’s not that bad…probably it will teach Becca that she’s too young for such things and will teach Jessi that her parents have rules for a reason.
Jessi’s Mr. X letter: “Best wishes from your secret admirer” accompanied by a bouquet of headless flowers.
Best Mr. X letter so far, received at the Pike household: “Do you like your hamster? If you do, you’d better keep an eye on him.” This really made me laugh. The Pikes take turns hiding the hamster various places, including in the oven. (Mal: “We don’t want to cook Frodo.”)
Hmmm. I was trying to do these books in order, based upon publishing dates from a wiki source. But I blogged this one a little early; it occurs shortly after #46. Dawn mentions MA and Logan breaking up (and hints that they’re back together, though she never just comes out and says it) and then mentions the toilet monster. I thought we were okay until that damn toilet monster.
The title quote occurs during Kristy’s sitting job with the Kormans; Bill says that when Skylar shrieks, scaring the poop out of them. (He means banshee.)
Dawn decides Kristy must be Mr. X because she’s the only one who hasn’t gotten phone calls. (All the girls but Claudia and Kristy have gotten notes.) But why would she threaten Frodo the hamster? That’s more of a threat to the Pike kids than the Pike sitters.
Ooh, Claudia spelling! Whooever, wuld, dissapear, fase, eurth, danjerus, buging. Oh, and Mr. X is a “reel pane.”
Muggie Maggie. I read that during my fourth-grade obsession with Beverly Cleary. I read everything she ever wrote that year (after I finished the Judy Blume catalog). And when I finished Beverly Cleary, I started reading…well, take a guess.
Mr. X smears baked beans all over the Johanssens’ front stoop. Ewww.
Later he decapitates one of Lucy’s dolls and leaves the headless doll on the front stoop. This is after Dawn’s figured out his real identity. And instead of telling Mrs. Newton, she just shoves the headless doll into the toy chest. Why? It’s not like she could get in trouble for the situation. And if she leaves the headless doll around, Jamie might get blamed for it. I’m really, really disturbed by that.
Emergency meeting time!
Dawn tries to take charge during the “Capture of Mr. X” and goes overboard. Stacey calls her a “four-star general,” but I would have called her “a little Kristy” or something. She keeps getting irritated with Mary Anne for saying “yes” instead of “check,” and for making jokes.
Mary Anne points out that Mel might not be Mr. X, so Dawn says that she wants to catch Mr. X no matter who he is…even the Queen of England.
And the incredibly cheesy ending: the Sitter of the Month contest ends in a tie…between all seven sitters. How many kids voted? Seven? Fourteen? Twenty-one? I smell a conspiracy. I think that someone, somewhere should investigate this. The Better Business Bureau? The FBI? I think this one may be a job for the X-Files…
Squirt: purple sleeper with dinosaurs (sooooo cuuuuuute, and the only outfit in the book)
Next week: #42 Jessi and the Dance School Phantom

*Yes! There will be a video blog entry coming up! It will not be the whole entry, and it will probably be rambling and a little stupid, but one of the books in the next few weeks is crying out for me to speak and do motions. I apologize in advance for this.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

“If that were true, I’d be a Snickers bar or something.” BSC #40: Claudia and the Middle School Mystery (1991)

You readers are soooooooooo lucky! The next three books I blog are mysteries: this one, mystery #2, and #42! I always loved the mysteries as a kid for the same reason I always loved Scooby Doo: even though the stories were really stupid, I always wanted to be the one driving around in the Mystery Machine. (I am SO Velma.) I wanted to catch dance school phantoms and figure out who Mr. X was and so on. (I never read most of the later mysteries where the BSC was catching ‘real’ criminals. The only one I know I read with that element in it was the one where Stacey helped catch a counterfeiter. Now, I’ve been in retail loss prevention for five years and still never seen a counterfeit bill. Sigh!)
That said, this really isn’t a mystery. You know from the beginning what happened! Claudia and another girl, Shawna, are accused of cheating because they got the exact same (good) score on a math test. Because the score is better than her normal grades, Claudia is the one suspected of cheating, but of course Shawna is actually the culprit. The BSC tries to help Claudia ‘solve’ her problem, but it’s actually Janine (who had helped Claud study, hence the good grade) who brings the situation to a head.
Meanwhile, the triplets broke a window but won’t admit who did it. They end up grounded because of it, until the BSC helps them recreate the crime.
Interesting Tidbits
Le Cover! Claudia looks so shocked, while Shawna is all “ha ha!” If anyone walked in on this scene, they’d know who the cheater was right away. (Shawna’s clothes on the original cover, btw, are representative of everything that was wrong with early 90s fashion…except the stretch pants and neon. And her clothes on the redone cover are representative of what was wrong with mid 90s fashion)

The tag asks “How could anyone accuse Claudia of cheating?” Now, let’s be fair here. We all know the BSC is good and perfect and never does anything wrong, but I think that this is a fair assumption on the teacher’s part. Claudia is not known for her math skills. Shawna took a big gamble on copying off of her in the first place. What if Claud had bombed the test?
The title quote is Claudia’s response to “you are what you eat.” She prefers “you are what you wear.” I’d rather be a Funyon than a t-shirt, but whatever.
Ugh…I’m only at the beginning of chapter two, and Claudia’s already said/written “I’ll tell you about that later,” three times. It bugs me when they do that—partly because they seem to really think that someone would pick this series up in the middle and read #40 without reading the first ten or so books first, and partly because it’s just lazy.
Worst transition between one sitter and another EVER: They mention the ghost of Jared Mullray when talking about Dawn, and then switch to Stacey by saying, “I don’t think Stacey believes in the ghost.” Lazy, awful writing!
I love how Janine is just giving Claudia all these test taking pointers now. Stuff like, take a deep breath; do the problems you know how to do first and come back to the ones you’re not sure about later. I think I figured those things out in about fourth grade, but I know that they taught us studying and test skills at various points through the years. Although, knowing Claudia, they probably just never got through until now.
Ha! Claudia says she’s actually embarrassed by her spelling.
Okay…Claudia says she’s in ‘remedial math,’ which is fair enough. Most schools these days don’t call it that, but it is what it is. Yet Shawna is one of the ‘best students in the class’ and ‘always gets good grades.’ If she’s that good in remedial math, shouldn’t they put her in regular math?
Here’s the problem with Mr. Zorzi blaming the cheating on Claudia. He seems to have made up his mind about her before even asking, and he never gives her a chance to defend herself. Shawna just says, “I would never cheat,” and boom, it must have been Claudia—despite the fact that she obviously knows the material. When he shows the two girls how they got the exact same wrong answer on a problem, Claudia explains exactly what she should have done on that problem to get it right.
How does Claudia know who Emily Dickinson is? She compares Vanessa Pike to ED. (It’s a fair comparison, to be frank.)
Speaking of the Pikes, did you ever notice how Margo doesn’t really have too much of a personality? Sometimes she’s bossy, but otherwise she’s not nearly as well defined as the others. This book just says she’s a pretty good kid.
There’s an elaborate description of Stacey playing hopscotch with Claire that reminds me so much of trying to play games with my niece that it’s not even funny. Luckily, the Pepper has never called anyone a “silly-billy-goo-goo.”
Has anyone ever stopped to think of where Claudia buys her junk food? (There are no grocery stores in the map of Stoneybrook.) Does she buy them at Jugtown, which still makes me think of a liquor store? How far does her sitting money go if it pays for the crazy markups on food from convenience stores, art supplies and crazy clothes?
Claudia mentions the ‘popcorn-y smell of tacos’ warming in the oven. Part of me wants to boggle, but then…I actually get it. The hard taco shells—the ones made of corn—do smell vaguely like popcorn. It’s not the first olfactory connection I would have made when thinking of tacos, but this is Claudia here. She’s kinda special.
I love, love, love that Janine stands right up for Claudia when her parents question her. I get their point of view, because when they ask her about the cheating incident, she says that she doesn’t know what to say instead of saying, “I did not cheat, and I can’t believe this is happening.”
Dude, Claudia. Your parents are standing behind you. Let them help you! Let them talk to the principal! I know it would have ruined the book: “And my dad talked to them and I got to retake the test and was proven not to be a cheater. The end!” on page 52, but seriously. What kind of message are you sending to girls who are reading this book?
I think it’s interesting that every time someone’s accused of something they didn’t do (cheating on a test, stealing a ring) Mary Anne’s always the one who says, “You know, if you did do it, you should admit it, because we’ll still love you anyway.” I don’t know if she’s just so “sensitive” that she wants to give the person an out to admit guilt or if she really doesn’t actually trust her friends at all.
It says something about how Claudia feels about teachers that she didn’t believe that Shawna had to have cheated—instead of just making the same mistakes Claud did coincidentally—until Stacey says it. Even though Mr. Zorzi said the exact same thing.
There’s this weird thing where, during the BSC meeting, all the babies are mentioned by full name: Laura Elizabeth, Lucy Jane.
Ha ha! The girls are all gossiping about Shawna’s friend’s new perm. This was 1991; mall hair was still everywhere. I’m surprised more of the BSC members didn’t have perms and teased bangs.
There’s this whole plot point about how Dawn and Shawna switched lockers at some point during the school year, so Dawn knows Shawna’s locker combo. A) Why would they switch lockers part way into the year? If they accidentally got assigned the wrong lockers, they could have just kept them. B) Um, lock scrambling? It seems like a really poor choice to allow Dawn and Shawna to know each other’s locker combinations. C) Every school I’ve ever worked in assigned lockers alphabetically. You can’t tell me there’s not someone between Riverson and Schafer in the alphabet. (Of course, SMS works under its own unique logic, so this point may be completely moot.)
Best notebook entry ever: Jessi tells Mal to remind her, when she’s ready to have kids, to never have triplets.
Going back to my earlier obsession with Pike triplet order: Claudia keeps using Adam, Jordan, Byron. (I promise I won’t do that for every book…just ones with lots of triplet in them.)
Really? The triplets are surprised that Jessi knows how to speak Pig Latin. I’m pretty sure most kids that age know how to speak it. I keep having Soap flashbacks while reading this: “Id-day ou-yay ask Urt-bay about his affair-ay?” “What?” “Did you ask Burt about his affair-ay?”
Claudia tries to think like Nancy Drew. And I laugh.
So Dawn breaks into Shawna’s locker and finds an incriminating note. (Why would Shawna keep that? It’s bad enough that she was bragging about getting away with cheating in the girl’s bathroom, but that’s really stupid. What if it fell on the floor with all the other stuff in her messy locker and someone found it?) Dawn gets really into it. And suddenly I’m having an image of adult Dawn as a P.I., breaking into people’s cars to find evidence that they’re having affairs or whatever. And it’s totally hilarious.
The paper I just finished writing this morning was about the exclusionary rule. For those of you who are not criminal justice majors, I’ll shorten it for you: if evidence is illegally gathered, it can’t be used in a court of law. So Dawn entering the locker (not really breaking and entering, as Claudia keeps calling it, but still not legal) and taking the note would be violation of the Fourth Amendment’s ‘unreasonable search and seizure’ clause.
Claudia comes up with all these really awful ideas of how to goad Shawna into confessing that she cheated…like using the words copy and cheat over and over again while talking to her.
Yay! We finally got some Claudia spelling. She doesn’t have her first sitting job until chapter 12. Brillyunt, beleive, tripplets, nevver, werse. She also switches your and you’re.
When Mal helps the triplets reenact the baseball-to-window incident, they go way overboard (big surprise there). But what cracked me up was that they were so happy to be ungrounded that Jordan actually hugged Mallory.
Oh, and they say that all the triplets are equally at fault for the window, but Jordan threw the pitch and Byron is the one who batted. How is that Adam’s fault?
Oh hell yeah! The Ms. Frizzle outfit! I only read this book a couple times as a child, but I always remember this outfit (see below.) My favorite part of this is that, when she gets called to the principal’s office wearing this outfit, she’s all embarrassed.
Claudia’s been working on a collage all book long, and when she finishes it…she gives it to Janine. For believing in her. I’m not kidding when I say it’s actually really sweet.
The BSC has a party to celebrate Claudia’s name being cleared, and Janine attends. It’s full of classic lines, including Kristy telling Claudia that Nancy Drew would be proud of her, and a call back to the very first math problem in the book.
Claudia: blue and green tie-dye t-shirt dress, green leggings, fancy “Princess Di” earrings (not a reference you see any more), ballet flats; blue tropical fish skirt, green blouse, sand dollar barrette, jellies covered in stickers of shells and sea horses (what is she, four?)

Next week: Mystery #2: Beware, Dawn. (And another Soap reference appropriate to this that I kept thinking during all the math problems. “Algebra. Who needs it? Never in all my life have I ever had to solve for X.” I love you, Jessica Tate.)

“No, she’s not. She’s being a jerk.” BSC Super Special #5: California Girls! (1990)

It’s been an interesting week for me. My car blew up (again) and now, both of my pairs of glasses are missing an arm. Only me…. But I am here for your weekly dose of BSC-goodness anyway, despite the fact that I can only see about two inches in front of my face. Forgive any mistyping, okay?
In this lovely number, the BSC buys lottery tickets and actually wins ten thousand dollars. They take the money and buy tickets to visit Dawn’s dad in California, where they each have their own adventure.
Dawn: hates her dad’s girlfriend, Carol, because she thinks she tries too hard to be cool. Yet she starts to respect her when she actually lays down the law at one point.
Kristy: is jealous of the We Heart Kids club and feels all competitive. Discovers she’s not the only one who knows something about sitting after she takes a sitting job for the DeWitt kids.
Mary Anne: gets close to Stephie, who is like a mini-MA, with no mom and a strict dad. Deals with Stephie’s asthma.
Claudia: meets a smart guy and pretends to be smart so he’ll like her. Eventually takes Dawn (and Janine)’s advice and finds he likes her for her.
Stacey: goes surfing and makes friends with a bunch of older teens. Gets into a car accident with them.
Jessi: goes to visit Derek (remember him?) at the set of P.S. 162 and gets to be an extra. Fights with Mal.
Mallory: is an idiot. Decides to be a ‘California girl’, which apparently means being blonde and wearing, as Jessi puts it, 75 pounds of makeup.
Interesting Tidbits
So, the cover. Just a few comments. First, Stacey’s swim top is awfully tiny. What’s holding it up? The girls are all really flat chested here. (Heh…) Second, I love the fact that someone read the books (at least a few of them) before giving cover art direction. Mary Anne’s actually wearing a caftan and putting on sunscreen.

Who believes that Claudia’s sensible parents, who won’t let her read Nancy Drew or eat junk food, would really let her buy lottery tickets? Nobody? Okay, moving on.
A ten p.m. news broadcast in Connecticut? I grew up in the Midwest where the news was on at ten, so I used to never get “film at eleven” jokes. But I’ve spent enough time in Rhode Island to know that most local news airs at eleven in the Eastern time zone.
Someone needs to teach the BSC that lottery winnings are taxed. You’d think math-whiz Stacey would know that.
Actually, what would have been really funny here is if Sharon, who bought the tickets for the BSC, refused to give them the money. Technically, since it’s illegal for kids to buy tickets, those winnings are hers.
Dawn describes Kristy as average-looking. I know we all can’t be “drop-dead gorgeous” but that seems like a mean way to describe your friend.
Jessi actually addresses a postcard to Becca and Squirt. I get not leaving him out, but he’s more likely to eat a postcard than read it.
Good to know it’s not just cafeteria food Kristy makes fun of. She’s also trying to place the smell of airplanes.
The movie on their flight to CA (remember those days when there was one screen in the front of the compartment and everyone watched together?) is Vertigo, which leads to this: Mallory: “Who’s Alfred Hitchcock?” Claudia: “Who’s Vertigo?”
And of course, in any ‘group flight’ scene, there’s always one person who’s not a good flier. I don’t remember Mary Anne having a problem with flying before, but I can accept it because she’s basically just gripping the seat’s arms and reminding everyone to buckle up.
Claudia apparently really loves spaghetti. That’s not something I ever remember coming up in any other story.
This actually cracked me up: Claudia and Stacey are on one side of the plane while the other five girls are in the middle, and they keep shouting back and forth. Jessi notes how much the other passengers must have loved them. (Yet of course, she doesn’t tell the others to stop.)
Shocking. I thought everyone in AMM’s universe had to be I Love Lucy fanatics and know the entire ILL catalog, but Jessi’s not familiar with the time Lucy went to Hollywood. (Neither, to be honest, am I.)
I don’t know why, but I crack up every time they talk about Stephie and her ‘inhalator.’ Maybe because asthma is one thing I actually understand (my mom’s had it my whole life and I’ve had it my whole adult life). My asthma’s similar to Abby’s, with the crazy-long list of allergies to go with it.
Heh. Dawn sends a postcard to her mom and says even though she’s glad to be back in California, she’ll definitely come back to CT. We all know how that works out.
Dawn keeps pointing out how Carol’s too young for her dad, but too old for so many other things she does, like driving a convertible, suggesting Claudia flirt with boys, and advocating surfing. (This is obviously before Dawn started surfing herself.) I feel so ancient when I realize that I’m older than Carol…
Claudia chapter, so guess what! We have a postcard, complete with awesome misspellings. Allready, yesteday, whent, realy, skylites. She also asks, because it wouldn’t be a Claudia postcard without this one, “Who are you?” Oh, and spells Bradford wrong. Y’know. The street she’s lived on for her whole life?
Jeff’s a big fan of the Grateful Dead, which cracks me up, especially because Claudia’s never heard of them.
They keep referring to Stephie’s nannie rather than nanny.
Mallory writes a postcard addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Pike. I knew there was a book where her dad was named Daniel! (She also refers to her ‘darling brothers and sisters.’)
Oh, Mal. She tells Carol that going to the Max Factor museum was “dibbly fresh.” (Later, Kristy refers to a pillow fight the same way. They were really trying to make these terms popular, weren’t they?)
How much money did Mallory spend on makeup? I’m not even going to try to do the math. Mal might be goofy and feel like an ugly duckling, and I could see her buying some concealer or a little mascara and lipstick to wear when her parents aren’t around (or put on at school, a la Stephanie Kaye on Degrassi) but she apparently dropped a couple hundred on makeup. I can buy the expense, though, because she went to a makeup counter in a department store. She could have bought the same kinds of products for half as much at Walgreens.
Heh. Becca has better spelling than Claudia does.
Stacey wipes out while surfing and all she can think about is whether her bikini top has fallen off.
Bart sends Kristy a postcard, telling her to let all the cute girls know he’s available. Then he signs the postcard ‘love ya.’ He’s really a prince among men.
Jessi is spelled Jessie at one point.
I’m amused when Dawn tells Carol that everything is ducky, even though this is long before Ducky shows up. (Also, this was right after a reference to Jeff being an Islanders fan, and I had to go and find out whether the Anaheim Ducks existed yet at this point [they didn’t.])
More Claudia spelling! Studos, specal, whith. And she once again wants to know who Janine is. At least she spells her street name correctly this time.
Mary Anne actually corrects Jessi’s grammar. A) That’s not nice and B) I don’t think most thirteen year olds would notice the error or mind if their friend said positive instead of positively.
Because various elements for this book are not clichéd enough, Claudia orders escargots at the French restaurant.
Vanessa actually writes Mal a postcard to send her a poem. It’s about as bad as you’d imagine, but Mal actually likes it.
The title quote is Kristy’s response to Mal moping around after being told her looks weren’t right.
During a visit to Universal Studios, King Kong pops up right outside the tram the BSC is in, and Mary Anne swears he had banana breath. (I went there myself about four months after this book came out, but I can’t remember enough to verify or deny that claim.)
Haha! For a bunch of girls who like I Love Lucy and Leave it to Beaver, it’s kinda odd that they’re not familiar with McHale’s Navy.
Okay, I take back what I said a couple weeks ago. The nicest handwriting in the series belongs to Janine.
Jessi addresses a postcard to Mom, Dad and Aunt Cecelia. Normally, she refers to her parents as Mama and Daddy.
How many postcards could Mal have sent Ben when they’ve been gone for a little over a week?
Heh. When Mal dyes her hair back, the whole BSC goes with her to a drugstore to help her find the right shade. They ask a clerk where the dye is and she eyes them all suspiciously, which is the correct assessment on her part.
You know how I feel about Dawn most of the time, but I like that she actually comes around to respecting Carol. As soon as Carol stops trying to be hip and cool and acts like an adult, Dawn automatically respects her. She even tells her dad she’d be okay if he married Carol. We all know it doesn’t last, but it’s a cool little moment.
I really hate how Mal and Jessi are portrayed as so much younger and less mature than the older girls. Heck, in the next SS, Jessi’s the one getting a romance and a kiss. But in this one, they’re all perplexed when Claudia’s floating after a date.
I’m far too amused by the return of ‘blowing cookies.’ We always said blowing chunks growing up. Cookies is funnier. (Made funnier still by the fact that Dawn references it “as Mal’s brother Adam would say.”)
Medieval Times! My school started taking sixth graders there the year my sister was in sixth grade, two years after I went through. (They’ve been doing ancient history as the social studies topic there since the seventies or something.) So I’d never been there until I worked at my old middle school for a semester with the sixth graders.
Dawn writes a postcard to her dad on the plane trip back to Stoneybrook and actually tells him that Stacey’s afraid Claudia’s going to barf up her peanuts.
Stephie, like many of the boys in this series (and Karen), writes in all caps.
One last Claudia spelling! She writes a letter to Terry that includes the following: pormised, photoe, artwrok, workig, sclupture (that’s a favorite of hers), seagul, moveis, realy. Also she uses write for right and lick for like. If she was still trying to make Terry think she was a genius, this would probably cure him right (write?) away.
And, foreshadowing the next SS, Dawn says they need to buy lotto tickets again so they can go visit Stacey’s dad.
Claudia: red shirt with Mexican hats and cacti on it, blue striped pants, polka-dot suspenders, blue striped engineer’s cap, cowboy boot earrings (I have a vision of this now burned into my brain. I’m going to need a lobotomy to remove it. Anyone game?); pink Laura Ashley dress, pink flats
Stacey: wide-legged cropped pants, Hard Rock Café t-shirt, high tops (How is this in any way sophisticated?)
New characters:
Paul, Carter, Rosemary, Alana and Beau (Stacey’s surfing friends)
Terry (Claudia’s luv interest)
Stephie Robertson (8)—33
Erick and Ryan DeWitt (8 and 6)—33 and 31
Next week: Its a mistery!* #40 Claudia and the Middle School Mystery

(*yes, I did that on purpose! It’s not the glasses—one pair of which is now charmingly fixed with electrical tape.)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Hey gang...

I have two posts for you from the past two weekends. I just can't seem to get my act together and actually remember to upload them. But I just turned in my research paper, so a single two page paper stands between me and summer vacation!* Yay! So look forward to getting several posts on Wednesday.

*summer vacation=two weeks off before summer term starts....

Monday, May 5, 2014

"I said she was probably eating ground up cow knuckles, but she said she didn't care." Baby-sitters Club Chain Letter

Prepare to feel gypped…I didn’t have time this weekend to sit down with a super special, but I also didn’t want to break the chronological-order thing I had going. (I am SO OCD sometimes.) So I cheated.
I wasn’t going to include the Chain Letter because it is so stupid, but I figured it was a good way to sneak a book in this weekend when I just didn’t have time to read a ‘real’ book. There’s not really a plot to this—the BSC is separated and scattered and they write each other postcards and letters. Among what they’re writing is a chain letter Kristy gets from her cousin, wherein you have to tell one person a secret you’ve never told anyone before. Rather than sum everything up here, I’ll just break down each piece of correspondence.
Tidbits (they’re not even interesting!)
The whole stupid book starts with a get well soon card from Karen…because NO BSC book is complete without her! It’s how we learn that Kristy is spending her vacation in the hospital, having had her appendix removed.
Kristy is so bored in the hospital that everyone is sending her cards and calling her and so on. She gets the chain letter from her cousin Robin. In an actual good moment of continuity, Robin is mentioned way back in book 1 because she’s diabetic. But she must be Kristy’s cousin down her dad’s side, because she didn’t come to Watson and Elizabeth’s wedding or anything.
Oh, and Robin’s secret, if you must know, is that she once broke a perfume bottle and blamed it on the dog. (She also has stationery with robins on it. I think that would get old really fast…)
Kristy sends her note to Stacey and spends a whole page whining about the hospital before she admits her secret: she hates her dad. Here’s my thing: why is that a secret? Sure, she’s never said it before, but I sometimes hate my dad for similar reasons. I think I ‘got’ Kristy’s emotions toward her dad long before my parents got divorced. I think even those whose dads couldn’t be said to have abandoned them in any way will completely understand that.
Claudia writes Janine a postcard. She starts off, “How are you”…which is an improvement for her…until you read the rest of the sentence: “and who are mom and dad.” She keeps spelling museum wrong and starts up a thread that carries through the book asking if the BSC answering machine is working. The funniest part is at the end when she asks why the museum would put in a ‘statu’ that was missing an arm and part of its nose. I’d think that if anyone would understand the artistic value of that, it would be Claud.
I wonder, reading this, how each of the BSC a) decided who to send their secret to and b) knew who’d already been chosen. Stacey sends hers to Mal, which makes sense given the secret (she once dyed her hair red, as Mal will dye her hair blonde next week when I finally read that super special). And I get why Kristy picked Stacey for her dad story; she’s got divorced parents too.
Funniest part of Stacey’s letter to Mallory is that Stacey and Claud (who are in NYC together) went shopping at Bloomingdales with Stacey’s dad. Claudia bought leopard print socks, saying you can’t find stuff like that in Stoneybrook. Stacey: “My father said he wasn’t sure you’d want to find it anywhere.” (The title quote is what Stacey said about Claudia's vendor hot dog.)
Dawn sends Claudia a postcard about how she, Mary Anne, her dad and Jeff went to Disneyland, even though she practically grew up there. (Mr. Schafer sure is nice to keep letting his ex-wife’s stepdaughter visit him.) Well, Dawn, don’t ask Mary Anne where she wants to go if you’re going to get huffy about going there. Of course she’s going to say Disney. All tourists would say Disney!
Mal and Jessi are in Sea City together as mother’s helpers (again), so Mal leaves her note under Jessi’s pillow. She admits that she once cheated off Jessi on a test. I like this for a couple reasons: Mal’s a nerd, and it shows that even nerdy people sometimes feel the urge to cheat. Plus, Jessi actually already knew because she caught Mal doing it. (She sends her a note telling her they’re still friends anyway.) Plus, Mal’s handwriting is going all over the place on her note—it’s not in perfect straight lines, which is more realistic than you usually see in the letters and postcards.
Jessi’s stationery is covered in horses. Are we surprised?
In her chain letter, Jessi admits to Mary Anne that she and Becca were once playing pirates and Jessi actually played with fire and made a hole on a rug. (The letter is very long and completely crammed onto a small piece of paper…I kinda blanked out reading it. The rest seems to be about the surprise party for Kristy the BSC puts together.) I like this because it’s almost realistic—she eleven, and eleven year olds make mistakes.
Stacey sends Kristy a postcard in reply to Kristy’s secret. Two comments. A) Should you really write about someone’s “deep dark secret” on the back of a postcard where anyone could see it? B) It’s a NYC postcard, and Stacey wrote on the other side, pointing an arrow to a building and saying, “My apartment (just kidding.)” I love when Stacey tries to be funny. I really do.
Logan is in Louisville with Lewis, so he writes MA a letter and Lewis keeps interjecting. My favorite part is when Lewis asks about the weather and Logan asks him if he’s ninety. Lewis says old people don’t just talk about weather and Logan retorts, “No, sometimes they talk about bocce ball.”
Mrs. Kishi leaves an actual memo to the BSC about Mrs. Rodowsky calling the home phone and signs it Mom (Mrs. Kishi). Heh.
Mary Anne sends her secret to Claudia, and this is the only significant part of the book right here: she tells her that she was once having trouble with school and home and her father sent her to a therapist. I’ve read enough other people’s commentary on the BSC to know that a lot of people never read this book, and spent a lot of the later books going HUH? when that would come up. I know it’s mentioned several times in the books after this came out, such as #85, when Claudia refers a child to the therapist Mary Anne saw, and #93, when Mary Anne goes back to see her again. I think it’s a really nice thing. I’ve had a lot of therapy through the years and it’s nice to see a well-established, not psycho character saying they’ve seen a therapist. “If Mary Anne needed a little help, then I guess I might, too.” It’s a positive message. (Even Claudia tells MA she’s proud of her for admitting she needed help.)
Margo sends Stacey a postcard, just to tell her she saw Toby with an ugly girl and that the new lifeguard at the beach is also ugly. I guess they have to have something “funny” every so many notes, so Margo finishes the letter with pictures of an eye, a heart and a ewe, then explains, “That means I love you, not I love sheep.” That would have been much funnier if it was, say, Nicky.
On her letter to Dawn, Claudia spells her friend’s last name wrong and doesn’t capitalize it. I’m not going to pass on all of her misspellings (I know; you’re so disappointed) but she does tell Dawn it is the chan leter. And spell her best friend’s name wrong. Her secret? Well, first off, let me say that if we assumed that all of these “secrets” were mine, I’d probably feel the worst about Claudia’s. She stole from Mimi. It was only a dollar, but she was old enough to know better.
Oh, and she wants to know where Sharon took her answering machine to be repaired. Wouldn’t it be cheaper just to buy a new one?
There are some really disturbing “photos” of Dawn and Mary Anne that look like they came from a photo booth. I’ve looked through this book maybe ten times before and never saw them until now. For some reason, they were in the letter from Claudia to Dawn, so I’m not sure where they’re supposed to be in the book.
Jessi needs to be a secretary or something someday, after she’s had some typing lessons. She makes a professional-looking memo and tells each person to read the note, cross of their name, and pass it on. I’ll blame most of the mistakes on a crappy Sea City typewriter.
Dawn has the stupidest secret of them all. She tried to convince MA that she saw Cam Geary in first class on their flight to California. She thought it was funny at the time, but now she can’t figure out how to tell Mary Anne the truth. And then MA writes a mushy love letter to Cam about how they were on the same plane. She calls him ‘my dearest Cam,’ and says I love you. I wonder if she’s ever told Logan about this??? I mean, I know it’s just a hopeless crush, but Logan’s not exactly a prince. He’d probably get all pissy and jealous.
Heh. The book ends with Kristy’s thank you card to Robin. The only important thing I got out of that? Jessi admitted to her parents what happened with the rug, and they are expecting her to pay for a new rug. As well they should.
Next week: I really, really will read California girls.