Monday, June 23, 2014

“Try lip-reading someone who’s got a mustache.” BSC #30: Mary Anne and the Great Romance (1990)

I wasn’t ready to go back and finish my British book by reading #45 just yet. So I decided to flash back in time to a book that I blogged but the entry got lost to the mists of time. Enjoy!
Richard and Sharon have decided to get married! (Like anyone didn’t see that coming at some point.) They want to just do a small justice of the peace affair, but Dawn and MA talk them into having an actual shindig, with a church wedding and a fancy dinner afterwards. They deal with realities like Mary Anne being upset about having to move and Jeff not really knowing Richard at all, but of course the wedding itself is romantic and perfect. And Mary Anne and Dawn decide to share a bedroom.
Meanwhile, the Arnold twins (in the most obvious foreshadowing EVER) are fighting and unhappy despite the fact that they are allowed to not dress alike anymore. Marilyn has no friends, so she makes one up because she’s jealous of Carolyn’s friends. Finally, they decide to have separate bedrooms and decorate them in their own styles, and they become friends again.
Interesting tidbits
The Cover! That’s a mighty big wedding cake for such a small wedding. And I can’t remember for certain, but I think both Dawn and Mary Anne are wearing Laura Ashley at the wedding.

This was the first book of the “new” decade.
Sharon-ism: she left a high heel in the vegetable crisper. (One of the most fun things about writing fanfiction in that household is deciding what Sharon’s going to put where.)
Let’s say that you were given a cover-less BSC book, one you’d never read before. You could always tell when a plot point is going to figure big into the plot. If something that normally would be covered in chapter 2 in one sentence is explained in elaborate detail in the first two pages of the book, it will be very important. The first two pages of this book are all about Sharon’s divorce and how Richard and Sharon used to date as teens.
I remember noticing this as a child on about my 16th read-through of this book: Claudia gives out M&M’s during a meeting, and at one point it’s written M&Ms and twice it’s written M and Ms. They’re actually supposed to have the apostrophe they were named after two people whose name started with M, so both ways it’s written in the book are wrong.
I want to know what Marilyn’s been watching on television (or what books she’s been reading.) When she invents her friend, Gozzie Kunka, she gives all these crazy details to what has happened to Gozzie through the years. And they’re pretty good, too—good enough to fool Mary Anne.
Carolyn’s been hanging out with Vanessa and Haley and Charlotte (but not Becca, interestingly enough). That’s something that doesn’t seem to have kept up in later books.
There’s something really sweet about the fact that Richard kisses both Mary Anne and Tigger when he comes home.
Um. Why does Mary Anne have to ask how old Sharon will be on her birthday? She knows that she and Richard are the same age (give or take). So unless she doesn’t know how old her own father is, it’s kind of a silly question. (Plus, she's seen their yearbook and knows what year they graduated. It doesn't take Stacey the Math Whiz to figure out how old they are.)
I remembered wanting to play Sardines as a kid, but there were never enough of us for the game to really be worthwhile.
The title-quote comes from Mary Anne’s diatribe explaining why Matt doesn’t read lips. I remember standing in front of the mirror and trying to read my own lips after reading this.
I think this exchange sums up the Marilyn-Carolyn subplot: Mary Anne (playing with a kaleidoscope) Right now, I see a thousand Carolyns moving around. Marilyn: Great.
Last week, I forwarded the idea that Laura Ashley is rather incongruous to Dawn’s California Casual style. Here, Mary Anne says the same thing.
More foreshadowing: Kristy points out that sometimes stepparents bend over backwards to try to side with their stepchildren so they can form a closer relationship. Which, of course, is exactly what happens in #31.
Heh. Logan says y’all.
A ten minute time out for a two year old seems a little harsh. My friend Zee does a minute per year with her girls, although she adds a minute for every time her four year old says she hates her. (Last time out I heard about was about eleven minutes long.)
Kristy almost calls Karen “young lady” when she gets in trouble, even though she hates when her mom does that to her. Zee and I have had that discussion, too…only in her case, the hated phrase was “missy” and she uses it all the time!
You know, I’ve always wondered about the BSC members getting paid to sit in their own families. I’ve talked with several moms who say that do not and will not pay their older children for watching their younger children, because “that’s not how families work.” I guess it would be different if their children were members of a babysitting business.
I liked this one: Charlie gets the Junk Bucket in this book (although it is not named yet) and takes Karen, Andrew, Emily and Sam for a ride in it. DM comes home a few minutes later and is mad that he didn’t get to go. He makes a sign that says NO PARKING and hangs it up. When Charlie comes home, he gets the message right away and takes DM for his own private ride.
As a kid, I never thought I’d agree with Richard, but considering that they have to pay for Mary Anne to go to college, and probably half of Dawn and Jeff’s college educations, it makes more sense to save money for that than to have a fancy wedding. Especially when they’ve both been married before.
Real book: Baby Island. Maybe Haley recommended it to Carolyn?
Is it really a good idea for Mary Anne to tell the twins that they can have their own separate bedrooms before asking their parents? What is Mrs. Arnold had said no? We readers know it’s the sensible solution to the problem, but the Arnolds may have had a specific reason why the girls couldn’t be separated.
So Mrs. Arnold got new carpets and new wallpaper and all new bedding for three bedrooms in two weeks? She should get a job as an interior decorator.
No one figures out Gozzie is a figment of Marilyn’s imagination until page 126. A seven year old could have had that one solved on page 37, when she’s first mentioned.
Dawn actually turns Kristy off eating her Jell-O, by pointing out that it jiggles. How has Kristy never noticed this before?
I was right! Dawn and Mary Anne are both wearing Laura Ashley at the wedding.
How big is the car if Richard, Sharon, Dawn, Jeff, Mary Anne and the triplets all fit inside? That actually gets answered a minute later when it’s explained that they borrowed one of the Pikes’ station wagons. Everyone could actually be belted in that way. (On the other side of the same issue, why would anyone not related to them willingly take the triplets anywhere?)
The book ends with Sharon throwing the bouquet, in the only cliffhanger in the whole series. I’m really wondering how many single women there were trying to catch the bouquet. I bet it was mostly the BSC.
Outfits
Claudia: pink tunic over white shirt with pink and yellow umbrellas, yellow belt with pink buckle, black knickers, yellow stockings
Dawn: Laura Ashley dress, blue shoes; Laura Ashley sailor dress
Mary Anne: baggy sweater covered in flowers, green skirt; Dawn’s Laura Ashley dress

Next in BSC Timeline: We’re plunging on ahead. I’m being a rebel and skipping #45 for now, so we’ll be exploring #47 Mallory on Strike

BSC swears and more!

I didn’t realize how fully the BSC has taken over my life until the other day. I was training a sixteen year old coworker (why yes, that does make me feel ancient. Thank you for asking) and she saw a paper I had written a note on. She picked the paper up and said something that would have sounded completely nutty if I didn’t work with her: “What the Ducky McCrae is this?”
Yeah.
I guess I use my BSC swear words more often than I think at work. Obviously, when you work on the sales floor of a store, you cannot really swear and you need to watch what you say. I used to say a lot of “sugar” and “fudge” but that got boring. So instead of what the heck/hell/other word, I started saying what the ducky. And then when I read the California Diaries, it turned into what the Ducky McCrae.
One of my coworkers got “spoken to” for saying “For the love of God,” because someone might be offended. It was something she said every time she was frustrated, so she amended it to “For the love of Pete.” A couple weeks ago, I wrote a passive-aggressive note to my underlings and modified it to “For the love of Pete Black.”
As I said, yeah. Taken over my life!
On a completely separate note, “Teah” (Tessie’s sister and mom to some of my “nieces” and “nephews”) got all excited this weekend and tagged me in the following photo on Facebook. She bought a collection of 57 Little Sister books at one of my favorite book stores.


She’s thrilled that her daughter will someday be reading the books she loved so much when she was a kid. The Pepper is six and just finished kindergarten. The LS books are just a little above her reading level but I think she’ll be ready for them very soon. I’m glad that our Peppery-goodness likes to read, but my first thought was, “Don’t give her any Karen books! They rot the brain!” (Think I can get the sixteen year olds at work to call stupid and annoying coworkers Karens? I’d try it if we didn’t have an awesome coworker who’s actually named Karen.)

Ah, well. Teah’s already ask if the Pepper can borrow my BSC books when she’s old enough for them. I said, no promises. (Heh heh.) Actually, I was thinking that if I started Pepper her own collection, then I have an excuse to continue going to thrift stores and also to not share my books.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

“Leave it to Claudia to identify a candy wrapper from ten feet away.” BSC Super Special #6: New York, New York! (1991)

Before I begin, a very distinct memory of this book. The main thing I took away from this as a child was that there were food vendors on the streets in NYC and you shouldn’t eat their food. I remember this clearly because there’s a whole couple paragraphs near the beginning that consist of Stacey reassuring all the parents that their children (most of whom just went to New York, without any adults, TWICE in last week’s book) would be just fine. One of the things she says is that none of them would want to eat from a food vendor, and Claudia whispers “I would” under her breath. I’d never been to New York when I first read this, so I was picturing all kinds of awful things.
So, the plot? It’s a two-week school break and everyone’s going to NYC to stay with Stacey’s dad and the Cummingses. Individual plots:
Claudia and Mallory: are taking an art class with a ‘famous’ artist, who seems to prefer Mal’s labored work to Claudia’s artwork. Eventually, Claudia realizes that he’s putting so much pressure on her because he thinks she has real potential but not enough focus, and he finally praises her. Mal realizes she’s not really an artist but it doesn’t matter because she just wants to draw mice and mushrooms and illustrate children’s books.
Stacey and Mary Anne: agree to babysit some British children and show them the sights. Think they’re being followed by a kidnapper until they find out it’s really just the kids’ bodyguard.
Dawn: is afraid of everything until she meets a cute boy who gets her to go out and see the city.
Kristy: finds a dog and tries to keep it, but ends up finding it a good home.
Jessi: finds a boy and tries to keep him…oh wait. That’s not right. Anyway, she gets her first kiss and has her first ‘boyfriend.’
Interesting Tidbits
The cover? Why, I’m glad you asked. First thing to note is that Dawn and Mallory’s pictures from the redone covers come from this book. And Dawn’s wearing a denim shirt with jeans. AGAIN. Forget Kristy having a uniform. Speaking of Kristy…what’s with the pegged brown pants and oversized turtleneck combo? Not attractive.

That said, several of our favorite sitters are being mighty touristy here. Of course Mary Anne would wear shorts that say I heart New York, even if no one else in the universe would ever want to wear those. Jessi’s shirt (New York Ballet) is a gimme. And someone had to wear a Statue of Liberty hat and a Hard Rock shirt. I don’t really believe that trendy and sophisticated Stacey would actually wear that outfit, even in 1991. And Mallory’s really failing at the bunny ears.
Oh boy! Oh Boy! OH BOY! Because this is the super special Claudia is responsible for, there’s four whole pages in her handwriting at the beginning! Which means tons of her spelling, right? Let’s see…hapened, serius, braging, lesons, scluptures, jewlery, desplay, exibits, clases (multiple times), Conneticut (I get that, because that’s how I used to spell it), waht, whitch, whant, profesional, havn’t. This is the point where she points out she’s not a good speller, near the end of page one!
More spelling: glorous, grils (girls), realy, lessins, confuzed, insted, indignintly, freind, parnets, personilly, studing, welcom, gues, exited (excited), infromation, illistrate.
You know where the BSC is going? New Yurk! Maybe you should learn to spell the name before you go there, sweetie. (More spelling errors: guidbooks, arond, lyricks, siad, batterys, answerd.)
There are several jokes/moments that I so did not get as a child when I read this. First one comes from in the middle of Claudia’s handwritten intro, when Mary Anne is singing “New York, New York, a wonderful town!” And Stacey interrupts her with the correct lyrics, which I didn’t know at the time were “New York, New York, a hell of a town!” She gets cut off before she can swear, though.
A little bit more Claudia spelling and we’re into chapter 1: beleive, havnt, studing (again.) The last one makes me laugh because Claudia is talking about studying under this artist/teacher she has a crush on, and it looks more like studding that studying. (BTW, the teacher’s name is McKenzie Clarke, but she keeps calling him HIM.)
Who has random two week vacations during the school year? Around here, you’re lucky if you even get a full week for spring break. We had so many snow days the past few years that the kids in a couple school districts just got Friday and Monday off.
So things are no longer ‘dibble’ but instead ‘chilly.’ Not really an improvement, but I’ll go with it.
Claudia’s excuse for describing her friends is to imagine how they’re packing. Stacey would be packing leggings and “baggy black and white and red tops” which sounds totally appropriate for the era. Kristy would have jeans, turtlenecks and t-shirts. Etc.
Of course, everyone has to come to the train station to see the BSC off. I think it would have been more realistic if each girl had come with a single parent, who then waited to make sure they safely got on the train. But all the Pikes come, and all of Kristy’s five thousand relatives (and the dog) and Mary Anne actually brings Tigger in a carrier…even I wouldn’t do THAT. So everyone at the train station is staring at them. This is when Stacey promises not to let anyone ride the subway alone or eat a hotdog from a street vendor.
Kristy’s full of crazy cracks any time you take her to New York. First she quips that the exterminator in Mr. McGill’s apartment was spraying for sewer rats rather than roaches, and then when Stacey takes a deep breath in and says, “I can almost smell…” Kristy finishes for her: “New Jersey?”
The second thing I didn’t get as a kid: Mary Anne references all the things that have happened at the Dakota, such as Rosemary’s Baby being filmed there and famous people dying there. This was before I became obsessed with the Beatles; I don’t think I even knew who John Lennon was in 1991.
I understand being wary if you grow up in a small town and go to NYC without an adult, but two things here. A) Dawn’s from LA, not La Rose, Illinois (population, as of about ten years ago, 300). She might be from the suburbs, but she’s not from some small Podunk town in the middle of nowhere. B) They paint her as such an idiot, to the point where she screams when the doorbell rings. You all know Dawn’s not my favorite sitter, but I’m actually embarrassed on her behalf reading this.
The little British diplomat kids’ attire cracks me up. I realize that I lived in a small farm town when I lived in England, and none of the children in my school had “upper class” backgrounds, but when we were out of our school uniforms, we wore sweatpants and jeans and corduroys and mostly, faded, old dresses. Nothing even vaguely similar to these kids’ outfits.
Kristy and Dawn have this kind of antagonistic relationship when they’re in New York. Kristy just really loves to pick on the fact that Dawn is a big scaredy cat. This time, she suggests that a building under construction could fall on their heads, leading Dawn to be scared of scaffolding. Yet she agrees to babysit her when she’s too scared to leave the apartment.
The title quote comes from Dawn’s assertion that she saw a giant roach; Claudia corrects her with the knowledge that it’s in fact a 3 Musketeers wrapper.
Claudia spelling time again! (Chapter six is another Claudia, despite the fact that we haven’t heard from Mal or Jessi yet. I don’t think I noticed as a child how much less attention the two of them got.) Malory, awhil. She’s also very exited on several occasions and says she’s too exited to wright more.
If it’s Fine Arts League of New York, why is it written Falny instead of FALNY? (Okay, so I’m a pedant. But in this case, I’m a correct pedant.)
Kristy actually enjoys walking around Central Park without babysitting. This is shocking. I thought everything was better when you’re surrounded by a huge group of children?
Oiny. Heh.
Kristy wants Jessi to create a distraction (so she can sneak the dog into the Dakota) by fainting, which, of course, Jessi refuses to do. I’m reminded of a Daria episode with a similar moment: Jane: Use your womanly attributes. Daria: Gotcha. I’ll give birth.
Dawn’s guy (Richie Magnesi, the son of Mr. McGill’s downstairs neighbor) has a tail (in his hair). That would not be a selling point any further.
Yet more Claudia spelling: calss, feild, bildings, intresting, skatting.
I loved the Saturday Night Live reference at Rockefeller Center (“Live from studio 8H in Rockefeller Center, it’s Weekend Update!”) And I’d forgotten all about David Letterman’s network move until I read that he used to film there also. (I also had no idea who David Letterman was in 1991; I was so out of the cultural references loop at that age!)
I’ve figured out what’s bugging me about Claudia in this book. It’s the fact that she’s such a good artist that she’s used to hearing praises for it all the time. I get her being upset when McKenzie Clark is criticizing her work, even when she admits she wasn’t paying attention to (and therefore, not following) the directions. No one likes to be criticized, even when it’s warranted. But she’s not satisfied when he’s watching her work and not commenting at all, either. And then she takes it out on Mallory.
Jessi’s embarrassed that Laine walks her over to Quint’s house. I’m completely on Laine’s side on this. You always want someone to know where you are when you’re with new people. Jessi needs a little bit more of Dawn’s caution.
Quint doesn’t want to study at Julliard because the neighbors all make insinuations. They call him ‘sissy-boy.’ I think it’s the closest I’ve ever seen in these books to a gay reference. I can’t say much; I’ve only known one boy who ever did ballet, and he actually is gay. He used to get a lot of gay jokes when he was younger and he actually stopped doing ballet because he was suicidal for a while. He got a lot of therapy and he’s now sixteen and out and proud; even took another boy to homecoming last year.
One thing that this book does get right: Alistaire and Rowena say things are “brilliant” a lot.
Have you ever noticed what a drama queen Mary Anne can be? I think this sentence sums it up: “Mary Anne had decided that the man in the sunglasses and rain hat was on a mission to kidnap Alistaire and Rowena and create an international incident, which, among other things, would destroy the reputation of the BSC.” Because everyone blames the thirteen-year-old sitter when children get kidnaped as part of international intrigue.
The World Trade Center. There’s a reference you don’t get in more modern books.
I almost used this as the title quote: “Tell them what? That we’re being followed by a bad dresser and that they should alert the fashion police?” This is in reference to the man in sunglasses and rain hat (the kids’ bodyguard) who is following Stacey and Mary Anne everywhere. I get two things out of that: 1. Every time it says rain hat I picture The Man in the Yellow Hat from Curious George. 2. Tessie and I used to play a video game named Midnight Rescue that had an unnamed title character that we used to call The Bad Dresser. We used to spend a lot of time purposely making him run into walls. Let’s see if I can find a picture of him on Google…

Ahh. There we go.
Another perspective on Dawn. She’s afraid to go out in New York…until a “cute boy” takes her out. Suddenly it’s not so scary anymore! This does not say good things about her in my opinion.
Um. Speaking of potentially-gay boys, how does Richie know where all the Laura Ashley stores are? Why would he care about that? (By the way, my store sells Laura Ashley bedding. It’s all covered in stuffy floral granny prints. Yet Dawn seems to love Laura Ashley. It hardly seems California Casual, does it?)
Stacey has this crazy idea that one of the British kids is carrying microfilm for a smuggler who is trying to get it back. A) She sounds like Mary Anne (a fact MA herself confirms on the next page) B) Isn’t that the plot of “Family Ties Goes to London” or whatever it was called? Someone slips something into the backpack of the youngest son (who is, like, five) and then chases them all over trying to get it back.
Another Claudia chapter. Plenty of misspellings, but the only new one is wirth.
I cracked up laughing when Kristy said, “or, as Watson would say, in a tizzy.” I used that word in one of my fanfics, only it was a different stepdad using the term: “Only Richard would use the word tizzy.”
Real book: A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry. Another one of those “death” books I became obsessed with when I gave up the BSC. (I’ve also read everything Lois Lowry ever wrote anyway.)
Mal’s actually jealous of Claudia’s sugar-filled lunch: fluffernutters, Oreos, chocolate chip cookies, Fritos. Claud says it’s okay because she’s drinking apple juice and there are raisins in the cookies.
Yes, Jessi. I’m sure that Quint’s parents were worried that their son and an eleven-year-old girl were about to tell them they were getting married. That’s a very logical worry. (If Jessi had been around for a few more weeks, it would have been funny if she’d thought they were worried that she was pregnant.)
Last Claudia spelling (ultra-mega-sad face) Roeena, Alistare, evning, fantastick, shoping, restraunt, ourselvs, limmossin. Oh, and they spent the hole day in NY City.
I really hate it when my computer autocorrects Claudia words, but at least it’s proof that she’s not too terribly far off track. Sometimes, at least.
Another banner (this one printed off the Pikes’ computer).
Oh, I have always remembered this: When they pick Kristy up, all of her family (even Sam and Charlie, who in real life would have been mortified) were wearing shirts that said BREWER on the back and THOMAS on the front.
This is hilarious: Janine: “It’s totally, um, what’s the word? Oh, yeah? Totally awesome.” It’s sweet that she tries and too funny that she fails.
Claudia sends a letter to Mac saying he would be really proud of her. (I don’t know if he’ll agree after reading the letter. She actually says he would be prowd of her, among other things.)
A couple of other notes from the “random letters” section at the end of the story. Mal writes a thank you note to the Cummingses and asks if they know how many bathrooms are in the Plaza hotel. She then follows this up by saying, “If not, don’t worry. I bet Mary Anne knows.” If she doesn’t she can certainly find out!
Quint may be the only boy in this whole series to not write in capital letters.
Claudia should be so proud. Alistaire also spells it New Yurk. He says that Rowena “licked the toy store.” I’m sure it tasted terrible.
And that is the end of Claudia’s New York “dairy.” She finishes it on this appropriate thought: “Mom even thought my speling had improved but I am not so sure.”
Ooh! This is a first! The previous owner of my book “Taylor,” according to the front page (although based upon the handwriting, that may have been the last name of a teacher) actually sent in the contest entry in the back of the book. I never did that in any of my books, and none of the others I’ve picked up second hand have had that either.
New characters
Alistaire and Rowena Harrington (7 and 4)—31 and 28
Outfits
Alistaire: white sailor suit with navy trim, knee socks, black “not Mary Janes but they Look Like Mary Janes”; gray pants, red suspenders, red bow tie, white shirt
Rowena: white sailor dress, white tights, red Mary Janes, red hat; gray skirt, red suspenders, white shirt, red headband

Next week’s book is a surprise.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

“That’s funny. You’ve never noticed my nose job.” BSC #43: Stacey’s Emergency (1991)—British edition

So I blogged this on Saturday evening, and then Sunday, instead of celebrating Tessie’s birthday with pedicures, I spent the whole day in the ER. I guess I just couldn’t read about Stacey’s health problems without having a few of my own. (For the record, I will be better in a few days.)
I promised you all a vlog entry, but I want to apologize for it before I post it. There’s a reason I don’t generally do videos. I tend to look everywhere BUT at the camera, the camera work is shoddy (it’s sitting in my lap) and I have certain tics (like pushing my glasses up my nose) that I just cannot control for the short amount of time the video is recorded. That said, watch on if you dare!

So. The plot. For more than the past ten books, they’ve been foreshadowing Stacey getting ill: she’s tired, she has to watch her diet more, whatever. Stacey’s making things even worse by sneaking chocolate and not telling her mum she’s feeling poorly. (I’m going a little Brit here). She ends up hospitalized in NYC while visiting her dad. Her parents bicker and refuse to be in the same room, but she has a talk with them and they promise to stop making her life hard(er) by grilling her about the other. We all know how well that goes.
Meanwhile, Charlotte is crazy-worried about Stacey being ill, so she gets all hypochondriac. It’s as boring as it sounds.
Interesting Tidbits
There is a lot of diabetes in my family, so when I read this as a kid, I worried a lot about my dad and uncles and grandmother getting sick like Stacey did. It wasn’t until I got older that I learned the difference between Type 1 (juvenile) diabetes, like Stacey has, and Type 2 diabetes, which runs in my family. For those who complain about the way Stacey’s diabetes is treated, I suggest one of the One Last Wish books by Lurlene McDaniel, about a girl with Type 1 diabetes—which, it should be noted, Lurlene McDaniel’s son also suffers with. The book is called All the Days of her Life and is notable for being one of the very few LM books in which no one dies!
Even though this is the British version, let’s talk about the American cover. It’s one of my favorites. 1) Action is happening there! You really want Stacey to catch that bowl! 2) This actually happens in the book, as Charlotte and Becca make a massive mess as Martian fudge makers. They’re even wearing deely-bobbers (that’s the technical term for the antennae the girls have) and aprons, just like it says in the text:


Brit-isms for the first three chapters: a posh hotel instead of a fancy hotel; Claudia likes to wear ‘hairslides’ and plait her hair; Claudia keeps winegums in her bedroom (rather than, say Mounds bars); Mal wears ‘a brace’ on her teeth; Kristy and Claudia are chairman and vice chairman of the club; Stacey is very good at ‘maths’; they eat Maltesers at the meeting
You know this is a diabetes-centric book very early on, because Stacey’s discussion of how she gives herself insulin is a) very detailed and b) happens in the first couple of pages.
Real book: The Dancing Cats of Applesap.
I laugh every time someone describes Stacey’s perm as fluffy. I can’t explain that reaction at all. Maybe it’s the association between her hair and a towel.
Just so everyone knows, the official ‘genius IQ’ isn’t 150 like they say in these books. It’s 130, which is two standard deviations from ‘normal.’ If I remember my statistics class (from twelve years ago) correctly, 90 percent of the population has an IQ between 70 and 130.
If I ever get divorced, I’m going to move to Stoneybrook. It’s apparently the thing to do.
Stacey considers herself the seventh member of the BSC, because they were a six before she moved back. Interesting. She also says that she doesn’t think there will be any more members unless someone else ‘has to’ leave. That’s actually kinda accurate.
Cootie catchers! Of course, we never called them that growing up, but I know a few people who did. I made one on Christmas when I was avoiding celebrating and wrote really foul ‘fortunes’ inside.
I’m really loving all the British candy. I used to love Maltesers, until I overdosed on them once. Haven’t been able to eat anything with malted milk ever since.
Chapters 4-6: Stacey’s dad lives in a flat; Stacey ‘clears up’ the fudge making mess; Stacey wraps fudge in a serviette rather than a napkin; a form teacher rather than a home room teacher
Stacey’s parents are jerks. Her dad calls to talk to her about the weekend she’ll be at his place and asks where her mother is. Stacey tells him honestly—she’s only at the Pikes’—but her dad gets all pissy with Stacey because he’s mad at her mom for not being home. I do love Stacey’s response, though: “I’ve been able to stay home alone for several years now. Sometimes, I even babysit.” And her mom’s not really any better.
I stock the ingredients for what I call “Betty Crocker’s Cheaty Whale Fudge”* in my house on a regular basis because I find that it’s sometimes the only cure for PMS, but do most people keep all the ingredients for ‘regular’ fudge in their cupboards? Even if that’s normal, how does Charlotte know that they have all the ingredients, or even what the ingredients are? (Maybe her mom bought them and promised to make fudge with her sometime soon, and it just never happened?)
I would so totally stay at the Grand Sparkle-Glitter Hotel. I imagine the d├ęcor is done up in rainbows and unicorns.
Oh, no. Mary Anne is SO that girl who would spot a celebrity and follow them into the bathroom, shoving a piece of paper under the stall for an autograph. She has the potential to be a celebrity stalker. She wants Stacey to bring back table scraps from any famous people she sees. Kristy: “If, for whatever strange reason, I ever end up as a celebrity, don’t let Mary Anne anywhere near me.”
I have two distinct memories of this book: One is of Stacey going into the bathroom on the train repeatedly for more and more sips of water, which she has to drink straight from the faucet.
Chapters 7-9: Charlotte and Claudia play pairs (Memory); rubbish instead of trash or garbage; Stacey’s specialist is on holiday (vacation); Charlotte sends Stacey a parcel
Claudia spelling! Charlot Johansin, whant, mihgt, whith, Charlote, beleive, worreid, surprized. She also keeps spelling Martians as martins.
Stacey’s mom calls Claudia while she’s at the Johanssens’, sitting for Charlotte. Um, how did she know she was there? Wouldn’t she have called Claudia’s number? Maybe she called the Kishis and they told her where Claudia was, but is it really responsible to call a teen and tell her that her best friend’s in the hospital while she’s babysitting?
To make that worse, Claudia actually thinks it’s her job to tell Charlotte…instead of telling Dr. and Mr. Johanssen when they get home and letting them break the news.
If Stacey loves Porky Pig and has a pig collection, how is it that she’s never had a stuffed pig before?
Stacey muses as to why the hospital stamps their name on their sheets, saying she doesn’t think anyone wants to be reminded of their hospital stay like that. Yet you know that someone, somewhere, has a set of stolen hospital sheets in the closet.
Why is there no shower in Stacey’s hospital room? You’d think that long-term visitors might need one.
Stacey’s mom (mum) calls her Lovey. I’m fairly certain that’s not in the American version.
Chapter 10-12: Charlotte sleeps in a nightdress; Jessi posted a letter; Stacey calls her friends ‘you lot;
Is it weird that I’m wondering who is covering all of Stacey’s sitting jobs while she’s in the hospital? You know that had to be one of the first things out of Kristy’s mouth when she heard!
I’m as bad as Claudia today: I keep trying to spell Charlotte as Charlote. And then when I tried to write Charlote on purpose, I spelled it properly. Ugh.
Another real book (probably): The Dachshunds of Mama Island. I’ve never in my live had to spell dachshunds before; ‘wiener dogs’ is so much easier to write.
Charlotte’s list of hypochondriac complaints: sore throat, stomachache, headache, earache, pinched nerve, ulcer, diabetes, anemia (actually, anaemia). It would have been much more realistic if Charlotte just decided she had diabetes, like Stacey.
Ooh, the other thing I’ve always remembered: Laine visits Stacey and brings her a bunch of stuff. The one I really remember is the mirror that laughs whenever someone looks into it. I wanted to give one to my sister back when I was ten.
Stacey has a crush on Ross Brown. Why does that name sound so familiar? (She says as she grabs her complete guide to the BSC…which she keeps nearby because the map comes in handy while fanficting.) He’s only mentioned in the guide as being Stacey’s crush in this book, but (correct me if I’m wrong—and I know you will!) isn’t he the one who later develops a crush on Abby in Abby’s Un-Valentine? I don’t own a copy of that yet.
The title quote is Stacey’s response to the idea that you can always tell when someone’s had a nose job—in this case, Cokie. Only one kid in my (fairly wealthy) high school got a nose job, and that was senior year, when she was eighteen. But the gossip about her was just as thick as the BSC makes the gossip about Cokie sound.
Chapter 13-15: ‘full stop’ instead of a period at the end of a sentence; motorway rather than highway; dust cart instead of garbage truck (that one took me a while); piggy in the middle instead of monkey in the middle
Go, Stacey, go! Her parents start arguing in front of her, and she tells them both to shut up and then kicks them out of her hospital room. And she makes them both cry. Normally, I’d say she kinda deserved it: I mean, she does know her parents are divorced and not going to get back together, and also that they don’t want to be in the same room, yet she makes them stay anyway. But even though it’s easy to forget in these books, she’s only thirteen! Her parents need to learn to get over their egos and get along for the sake of their daughter, especially when she’s sick and needs them.
More Charlotte diseases: Lyme disease, arthritis, kidney disease, another sore throat. She sounds like Veda in My Girl, how she’s constantly dying of something because her dad owns a funeral home.
Another real book: Five Little Peppers and How They Grew. I remember I read part of that one once because it was mentioned in this book, but I don’t think I finished it.
Charlotte suggests making a banner for Stacey’s homecoming. No, Charlotte, no! Bad Charlotte! No more banners!
Even this book has a mistake…there is a quotation mark at the end of a paragraph when no one is talking.
No outfits, unless you include Stacey and Charlotte’s nightdresses.
*Basically, this is just a can of sweetened condensed milk, a bag of chocolate chips and a little bit of vanilla. Heat and stir, then let settle for a couple hours. I got the recipe from Betty Crocker, and the Cheaty Whale bit is an old inside joke from high school.

Next week: We’re headed back to NYC for a more successful trip…Super Special #6!

Monday, June 2, 2014

“How come detectives always have a chubby friend?” BSC #42: Jessi and the Dance School Phantom (1991)

Totally embarrassing admission: when I first read this at age ten, I totally couldn’t figure out who “did it” until the BSC did. I haven’t reread this one since age twelve or so, but I still remember the ending. Jessi gets the part of Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty but someone’s jealous and keeps trying to sabotage her. They come up with a trap to corner the saboteur, who turns out to be Hilary, whose stage mother is a raging bitch.
Meanwhile, the BSC throws a pet show (talk about weird and random) and all the kids get super competitive, so Jessi comes up with the ‘genius’—and totally obvious—idea of giving everyone a prize of some variety.
Interesting Tidbits
Cover Time! (Great, now I have MC Hammer playing in my head. Appropriate for this era, no?) Jessi looks cute in her little dance skirt, which is not normally part of her dance attire. But a couple comments on Dawn’s outfit: first, I think she’s worn a very similar outfit on several covers (including last week, when I didn’t comment on the cover at all. A shocking oversight!) Second, I think two of my coworkers were wearing the same outfit last week…if you remove her loafers and replace them with Vans.

I like that there’s consistency in the names of all of Jessi’s ballet class members. Someone’s read the other Jessi books! There’s Katie Beth (who has the deaf sister), and Mary (who later has anorexia), and Carrie (whom they always refer to as being ‘old’ and graduating soon) and Lisa. And of course, Hilary.
I don’t know why, but every time they describe Squirt as being five pounds, eight ounces, I think, “That’s not that small,” even though it is pretty small for a non-NICU baby.
Becca, after hearing that Jessi has to kiss a boy: “I’d rather kiss Misty.” Sounds like a typical eight year old. Actually, I think I kissed a boy for the first time at eight, so never mind.
I have always remembered Jessi’s description of how to break in toe shoes by banging them against the banister.
Ooh, let’s list all the clues that Hilary’s the culprit. We find about her jerk-o mom pretty early on, and then when Jessi’s toe shoes go missing, she’s the one who suggests they check “one more time” after Mme. Noelle cancels class.
The ghostwriters sure love the whole scary note thing, don’t they? Jessi’s first one says BEWARE.
This is during the MA/Logan breakup, and Jessi says the two of them are still really good friends. That doesn’t sound accurate to the two Mary Anne books on the topic.
Ooh, fake gossip! Someone named Jennifer Cooke looked like a cross between Princess Di (third time she’s come up in about a month) and Minnie Mouse. I’m trying hard to picture this and…nope.
A second note: WATCH YOUR STEP. This happens when someone steals Jessi’s spare dance outfit.
Ooh, let’s reference really awful Little Sister books! How many BSC fans actually read those books? I did, only because they were already in my house and I read everything I could get ahold of. This one is the Hannie/Scott “marriage”. I only mention that because Hannie offers to let Scott enter Noodle the Poodle in the pet show, then withdraws the offer. Scott asks if that means they’re getting a divorce, which totally cracked me up.
More Hilary clues: she snarks at Jessi and tells her she’s been “sleeping on the job.” She’s also the one to discover that Jessi slipped and fell because the floor was wet and slick.
Note numero tres: I TOLD YOU SO. FROM NOW ON, WATCH OUT. Oh, and they’re all written in this blood red pen.
Yay, more continuity! When Jessi hurts her ankle during the fall, her dad takes her to Dr. Dellenkamp.
Jessi gets all kindsa paranoid and starts suspecting everyone in her dance class. Carrie, because she told her the wrong dance move right before she hurt herself. Lisa, because she’s “too nice.” (That makes me laugh.)
Another note. Like last week, I’d be running to my mommy if I got notes like these. IT COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE. TOO BAD IT WASN’T.
More laughing: Mary Anne says the person writing the notes sounds “mean.” I’d have used words like “psychopath” or “nutcase.”
Did you know Mrs. Barrett looks like a model? I mean, you might have forgotten, since I haven’t mentioned it in a while.
Once again, poor Charlie has taken leave of his sense and driven six BSC members to Jessi’s dance rehearsal. And they totally embarrass him by acting like teenagers. They’re all pinching each other (about five of them are crushed together in the backseat, with Mallory sitting on Claudia’s lap). And then Dawn and Claudia shout at a hot guy. I’m mostly amused by this because when I was about Charlie’s age, I was in the car with a guy who decided to yell, “Hey, look at that ugly dude!” while we were stuck in a traffic jam. With our windows open. And the “dude” heard him! Luckily, he just laughed, but that could have gone badly.
Jessi finds her old dance leotard in her dance bag—shredded. Okay, I get upping the creep factor, but after the leotard was stolen, she bought a new dance bag with a lock on it. So how’d that get in there?
New note, attached to red rose: WATCH OUT FOR THE THORNS. This is followed by a whole bunch of others that aren’t too terribly interesting, but they help Jessi rule out Carrie as a suspect.
The title line is Mallory’s response to Stacey calling Claudia the Nancy Drew of Stoneybrook, and Claudia asking who would be Bess. I’ve never read Nancy Drew, but I do know enough to recognize the names Bess, George and Ned from the series.
Speaking of, I was asking Tessie the other day how come there aren’t any chubby people in this series. There’s only Norman, who gets called out every now and then and they always have to point out how fat he is. It’s mean. They point out how short Mary Anne and Kristy are, so why not have an overweight sitter? Come to think of it, I would have LOVED it when I was a kid reading these if one of the girls had had a serious acne problem, as I did (and still sometimes do.) But none of them does—just the occasional pimple in a super special.
Another part of this book I always remembered: When Jessi finally corners Hilary to make her write a sign—so that she can “catch” her using the red calligraphy pen used to write the notes—she’s been practicing the moment in her mind for days. Yet she never plans what she’s going to ask Hilary to write!
Jessi comes up with the “great idea” to give every pet a prize, but here’s the thing: someone’s feelings are still going to be hurt. Some of the prizes are way better than the others. For example, would you be happy with “Shortest legs” when someone else got “Smartest pet”? Of course, I’ve only ever been in one pet show, and I won first place in the “Pet that looks most like its owner” category, so who am I to talk? I thought that was a great compliment at the time. (I took the neighbor’s golden retriever, and I had long, blonde hair. I wore all yellow and sat next to the dog, panting.)
All of the BSC goes to Jessi’s performance, so Logan babysits Squirt. He’s probably just relieved that they didn’t ask him to go to the ballet.
Outfits
Jessi: black velvet dress
Claudia: shimmery dark-blue minidress, hair braided with silver ribbons, silver sandals that lace up the calves (Claud LUVS those sandals)
Stacey: tuxedo
Kristy: dress
Mallory: skirt and blouse
Dawn: Laura Ashley dress
Mary Anne: pink jumpsuit (NOOOO, MA, don’t go to the dark side!)
Becca: ruffly pink party dress

Coming up next: We’re headed to an NYC hospital, because it’s Stacey’s Emergency.