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.
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.


  1. Yeah, 5 lb 8 oz is gigantic for a premie! My dad was term and 5 lb 10 friend's premie was 2 lb 4 oz (doing okay now, some cerebral palsy that causes left side weakness).

    I love your story of how you won the pet show award.

  2. sjsiff i am born iwth cerebral palsy there is hope

    1. Late reply, but I'm glad you're doing well! One of my uncles has cerebral palsy too, and he's doing great--homeowner, full-time job, married with a daughter, etc. My friend was relieved to hear about him when her son was first diagnosed.