Thursday, July 17, 2014

“I had taken a vacation with lunatics.” BSC Super Special #8: Babysitters at Shadow Lake (1992)

Watson’s aunt and uncle want to leave him a cabin in Massachusetts in their will, so they encourage him to take the family up there to see if it’s something he would like to accept. Watson lets the kids bring friends, leading to a grand total of (ahem) 20 people going on vacation together. Everyone gets their own story (including DM and f***ing Karen):
Kristy: really wants to show Watson how much they love the cabin. She also convinces her friends to spend the night on Shadow Island.
Claudia: decorates the little speed boat and enters in in a boat show with much larger craft.
Mary Anne: I think when they wrote this up, they forgot MA. She doesn’t have a plot line. She’s mostly just babysitting for Karen. I’m so sorry, Mary Anne.
Stacey: Sam keeps pestering her, and it takes her forever to realize he likes her. (Um, he’s a fifteen year old boy! Does she expect him to be mature about it?) Eventually, they get together…which lasts for a dozen books or so….
Dawn: is a moron. She decides there must be a mystery (and, because that’s not stupid enough, a Lake Monster.)
Mallory: is annoying. She keeps getting bug bites, so she’s crabby and wears a jungle ensemble with mosquito netting on it.
Jessi: meets a hot guy and forgets all about her 'boyfriend', but then decides that she and this guy are just friends.
Karen, Hannie and Nancy (the Three Musketeers): spend all their time cleaning up a playhouse they find in the woods and making a bet with the boys.
David Michael, Linny and Nicky: try to build a fort that’s better than the girls’ playhouse, but lose the bet. Linny and Nicky, who don’t really know each other, don’t get along so well.
I have three really strong memories from this one, but I’ll put them into the tidbits as they come up.
Interesting Tidbits
The cover! Just two weeks ago, I mentioned this cover, not knowing it was coming up so quickly. I made the comparison between 1980s “Weird” Al Yankovic and Mallory; you be the judge:

Okay, so she doesn't have a mustache, but other than that it's pretty close, right? Besides Mal, the girls all actually kinda look cute here. I LOVE Kristy’s outfit (minus the scrunchie) and would totally wear that. In a good move, they do not have Dawn roasting a marshmallow. Can you hear her whining about processed sugar? Yeah, me too. Only other thing I have to say is that if Stacey is trying to whisper to Mary Anne, she should cup her hand the other way.

In the letter from Watson’s Aunt Faith that introduces the plotline, she mentions that Watson hasn’t been to Shadow Lake since he was twelve, yet the same caretaker still cares for it. Let’s try to guess Watson’s age here. He’s bald, which doesn’t necessarily mean anything (I went to college with a bald guy, for example). I’ve always pictured him being somewhere in his late forties. (Back then, to me that was “really old”—my parents were young parents and not even close to that age.) For shits and giggles, let’s say he’s fifty. It’s then been 38 years since he’s been to this cabin. Either the caretaker is ancient or he was ridiculously young when he started being the caretaker.
More clues to Watson’s age: he hasn’t seen his aunt and uncle for twenty years, since he was “a very young man.” I’m guessing that puts his age closer to 45, or even younger.
Oh, lord. Kristy wants a gavel to start BSC meetings.
Dawn actually considers (in her entry for Watson’s book) whether it’s okay to call him Watson or not. It does seem kind of weird. I mean, it’s normal for kids to call adults by first name sometimes, but considering that they always refer to all the other adults by Mr. or Mrs. So and So, it’s unusual. I guess it would be kind of awkward to call him “your stepdad” all the time when addressing Kristy.
Did I tell you all how much I love Charlie? When there’s too much luggage for the cars, he suggests leaving Karen behind so there’s more room.
Why, oh why, would you bring Boo-boo to the cabin in the woods? What if he gets loose and runs off?
Stacey teaches the “Three Musketeers” the Great Chicago Fire song about Mrs. O’Leary’s cow. I used to love that one as a kid, especially because it was REALLY annoying to others.
Jessi draws a floor plan of the house, and all I can wonder after seeing it is…where’s the front door? Do you have to walk in through the kitchen? (Okay, I also wondered why Aunt Faith and Uncle Pierson needed a cabin which can sleep twenty-eight.)
Do you believe that all eleven girls (seven members of the BSC, Three Musketeers and Emily Michelle) are scared of spiders? They all jump out of bed and freak out when Karen thinks she sees one. Shouldn’t there be at least one sane one?
The title quote comes from Stacey’s assessment of things, only partway into day two. Well, Stacey, you’ve been on vacation with Sam and Dawn (who are the main reasons she says this) before and you survived. Maybe you should know when enough is enough.
Kristy calls Mary Anne “Miss Encyclopedia of Bad News.” I…actually like that. MA does tend to jump to negative conclusions.
This is one of my favorite super specials. Not as high as #4 (just for sheer ludicrousity (not a word, but don’t judge me)), but up there. It’s the dialog; it’s crisper and funnier than normal. It does appear this one was not ghostwritten, so that may be why.
Here’s example #2 of the dialog. Right after MA suggests that Mal could be being bitten by a deer tick (which led to Kristy’s comment as above), Sam suggests that Stacey should be bitten a lot by mosquitos because they love sweet blood. (This could be a diabetes joke or a comment on her personality; you choose.) Kristy calls him Dracula. Sam replies that he’s a man of many secrets, and Kristy says, “Man? You don’t even shave yet.” I love this, as it actually sounds like a brother and sister talking.
OH HELLS YES! Here we go. I am going to transcribe this whole conversation, as it is one of my favorite things in all of BSC-dom.
Mal and Jessi were supervising Andrew and Emily who were trailing Kristy, who was trailing Dawn and Stacey on their monster hunt. I took my eyes off Karen and her friends long enough to glimpse Stacey, who was holding her hand to her forehead and gazing across the water.
“Yo!” shouted Stacey.
“Yo?” repeated Mal.
“She’s from New York,” I heard Kristy say to Mal, who nodded knowingly.
It goes on, but the only other bit that I have to share is when Dawn decides the shape Stacey sees looks just like the Loch Ness monster and Stacey replies, “Nessie is a close, personal friend of yours?”
I may require alcohol to get through the Karen chapters (even though I am on painkillers and that’s a bad combo.) If I stop making sense, I’m sorry. I hope you understand.
It’s always bugged me how Karen (and a lot of the other kids) never use contractions and the sentences are always much simpler. I guess it’s supposed to sound the way a second grader would write; it made sense when I would pick up the Little Sister books. But reading it in these books puts my teeth on edge, and not just because it’s Karen.
Karen flat out lies and disobeys Mary Anne. But then she mentions The Secret Garden and all is forgiven. Will no one actually punish Karen?
Kristy has a problem with her over-thirty mother wearing a bikini. Well, honey, if your mom still has a bikini body after giving birth to four children, she should flaunt it!
The girls are kind of bitchy to Mallory. Yes, she looks like a dork in her mosquito-proof headgear, but she’s their friend and she has a problem. Yet instead of sympathizing with her, they make her walk ten paces behind them. And Kristy tells her she’s an embarrassment.
Ah, this brings back memories. Jessi agrees to give her lovah boy (his name is Daniel, because you know I love to be precise about these things) a dance lesson, but first she has to rewind the tape. Those were the days.
Real books: Maniac Magee and The Hero and the Crown.
Linny and Nicky spend a whole chapter arguing. They only stop when they find a common enemy: the girls.
This makes NO sense. The bet the kids make involves doing each other’s chores for a month. That would be okay for Linny and Hannie, who are siblings, and maybe even for Karen and David Michael, who do sometimes live together. But is someone supposed to drive Nicky over to Nancy’s house so he can do her chores (or vice versa)?
Yay, Claudia spelling! Michele, waht, geting, thicking (thinking), satruday. She also keeps misusing words: boot for boat, shoe for show, the Faith Person instead of the Faith Pierson, Lack for Lake. More amusingly, she spells Andrew as Andrea, Emily as Emil and Kristy as Kirsty.
Andrew’s suggestions to decorate the Faith Pierson: a turkey, a pirate, a crayon, a hobo, Gumby and a Hershey bar.
Ah, a Sam chapter. Awesome! (And I’m not kidding about that. I actually enjoy Sam’s point of view. In fact,  I wish we could have had chapters from more of the older siblings, like Janine and Charlie.)
I guess Sam feels the same way about Karen as Charlie does: he hears someone singing a song and thinks Karen’s in the boy’s dorm. When he finds out it’s Andrew, he thinks, “Oh no, there’s going to be two of them!”
Mary Anne is reading The Wind in the Willows.
Oh, my second memory of this book (The first was the “Nessie” scene where Stacey says yo.) Dawn takes EM and Andrew to the dock to look at the boats. Emily keeps saying “boot,” even though the other two keep correcting her with “boat” and she said it properly earlier. However, they find out she was referring to a cowboy boot decoration on one of the boats when she later says “boot on boat.”
More Claudia spelling! Parad, decrated, prety, yestruday, whith. Also Kristy ‘road’ in the boat.
Claudia dresses the Faith Pierson up like the Lack Munster.
“You must be crazy, Kristy…You’re not playing with a full deck. You’re a few bricks short of a load. The lights are on, but nobody’s home.”
“I get the picture.’’
“Wait, can I just say one more thing?”
“Be my guest.”
            “The cheese has slipped off the cracker.”
I have used ‘the cheese has slipped off the cracker’ many times in my life. It has served me well. And, well, I guess I have Dawn (and Ann M. Martin) to thank for that.
I always liked when Jessi would pop a sense of humor into the books. It seemed to happen randomly through the series, until Abby came along (and kind of stole that thunder.) Mallory overpacks for their night on the island and then describes all the things she has in her bag: she’s got mosquito spray, tick spray, general bug spray, etc. This leads Jessi to ask “Who’s General Bug?”
Mallory mixes up the theme song to the Beverly Hillbillies with Gilligan’s Island. I laugh because my dad used to tell us bedtime stories by reciting the lyrics to those songs. “Let me tell you a story about a man named Jed…” I joke that someday, I’ll be able to tell those ‘stories’ plus the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and The Nanny.
Mal says they don’t plan on using the tents they brought to the island, but you’d think someone with as many insect bites as Mal has would want to sleep in a tent. (It would have been interesting if they’d kept up the ‘Mal gets eaten alive by insects’ thing in later books, the way they do with the ‘Mary Anne sunburns’ thing.)
Ooh, a DM spelling mistake! He keeps spelling fort as forte and were as where. (I went back to his earlier entry and found a few more: figthing/figth, bild.) He still has better spelling than Claudia. Oh, and I think he has the same handwriting as Logan…
Kristy sure is creative with the descriptions of disgusting smells. After the Three Musketeers bathe themselves in perfume, Claudia suggests the bedroom smells like cabbage and sewage. Kristy suggests it’s more like the combination of a fish head and old chicken skin in the garbage disposal.
According to this book, Quint is eleven (I’d always thought he was older for some reason).
Kristy actually dreams that Stacey and Sam are getting married, but Sam is late to the wedding because he’s making prank calls.
This one still makes me laugh after all these years: Claudia’s cleaning out the refrigerator, but after she keeps announcing all the gross things she finds, she gets removed from the job and made to clean the grill.
Two notes from the epilogue. First, a funny: Mallory writes a complaint to the people who make the insect repellent she used on the trip, complaining that it didn’t work. In return, they sent her a coupon for her next purchase of the bug spray. Second, when Watson writes to his aunt to accept the cabin, he calls Kristy his daughter (rather than stepdaughter). She’s beyond happy about that.
Claudia: pink tank top over white tank top, black and pink bicycle shorts, three pairs of flop socks (hawt), neon yellow sneakers
Stacey: black leggings, long black t-shirt with a starfish on it, black flop socks, high tops; Hard Rock Café shirt and wrinkly shorts
Mallory: yellow sundress (which looked awesome with her safari hat and mosquito netting)
Kristy: drawstring shorts, shirt with Pokey and Gumby on it
Jessi: jean skirt, yellow tank top, flop socks, high tops

Coming up next week: #52 Mary Anne + 2 Many Babies


  1. Iiin...west Philadelphia, born and raised...

  2. I always thought of Watson as being in his early 50's, and Elizabeth in her mid to late 40's. I know Kristy guessed at her age as 37, but it was said with a question mark - and that she didn't really know. At 13, 37 would seem to be "old." I figured David Michael was a surprise later-in-life baby. It would also explain why she suggested that she wasn't particularly close to the Spiers. I put Watson's first wife as being a lot younger than him.