Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Fake BSC covers

One of the things I love about Googling the BSC covers is finding all sorts of interesting fake covers. I don't just mean the ones that have had minor photoshopping (changing Mary Anne's hair; plastering one Jessi face onto another Jessi body) but ones for not-real BSC books. Here are a few examples I found today alone.

All I can tell is that this one has something to do with zombies. Anyone get the reference? (If it's Walking Dead, don't tell me. I don't want o know.)

There's is a Pinterest BSC board with a bunch of hand-drawn covers labeled "BSC 2014. Here are a few examples:

I'd join the Gluten free fight club! Sign me up!
Real credits for this go to:

“Thank you Kristy Thomas, talk show host.” BSC #85: Claudia Kishi, Live from WSTO (1995)

This definitely has to be one of the more out-there plots this series ever conceived. Seriously, I’ve seen more realistic plot twists on Dr. Who (can you tell I’ve been fan-girling all weekend?) Claudia enters a contest and wins a month-long gig as a DJ. How, I can’t figure out exactly. See my tidbit below. Anyway, her ‘assistant’ is the contest runner up, none other than Claud’s old ‘friend’ Ashley Wyeth. The two of them butt heads a lot, and Claud’s format involves auditioning a lot of really terrible kid acts. They manage to get their acts together (like the pun there?), have fun and save the radio station to boot. Go Claud go!
Interesting tidbits
Haha, my book has a screw up before you even get to the story. Normally, there’s a title page with the BSC logo, then the copyright info (with the information about your book maybe being stolen), and then the acknowledgement of the ghostwriter…er, manuscript assistant… and then chapter one begins. This book has not one but TWO extra pages that both just say “Claudia Kishi, Live from WSTO”. One is the first page in the book; the other is right before chapter one begins. Amusing.
Le Cover! Claudia’s wearing a tuxedo, which is straight out of the book, and so Claud:

The book begins with Kristy boring Claudia, MA and Dawn with a Krushers story. You’d think she’d have learned to judge her audience by age thirteen, but I guess not.
Janine, on Claudia’s attire: “Is that why you wore your jacket to breakfast this morning? To cover that up so we wouldn’t have indigestion?” I love you, Janine.
Claud calls that outfit (the Frankenstein jumpsuit, another Janine gem) ‘deconstructionist’ but changes out of it before going to the Pikes…because there’s already enough deconstruction in that house
Mallory creates this neatfreak monster and tells stories about him that are good enough to enthrall all seven of her younger siblings. It doesn’t help that she gets Ben to dress up as the monster and act out the story, but I actually enjoyed hearing about the monster’s search for a tooth brush. I’d read that book.
Claudia starts feeling sorry for herself because she no longer has a best friend, has no boyfriend and—outside of art, which apparently doesn’t count in this book—has no activities to get involved in. She makes a list of potential things to shake her life up. Her spelling is, of course, intact.
1.    Tuba
2.    Tap dancing
3.    Cooking
4.    Corr Chorrus
5.    Swiming
6.    Dramma club
Then of course, she gives up on most of them without even trying, especially after learning that chlorine would damage her hair and she’d have to audition for the chorus.
Claudia loves having club meetings at her house…because then she’s almost never late.
Claudia brings up how much Mal and Jessi love The Saddle Club. I wonder if they call it TSC and run out to buy all the books when they first come out, the way BSC fans used to…
I love that Claudia thinks tofu tastes like warm socks. Tofu has absolutely no flavor, just an odd texture, so what she tasted was whatever flavoring was put in with it. Maybe whoever made the tofu shouldn’t be allowed to cook anymore.
Claudia says that Dawn doesn’t care what anyone else thinks of her. I think the last book shows that it’s more that Dawn does care what others think; she just stands up for herself in the midst of it. (I didn’t make fun of Dawn too much yesterday, did I? I actually kind of liked Dawn in most of that book.)
Claudia brings up the two choices she hasn’t rejected from her list (tap and drama) at the BSC meeting. First Jessi tries to give her a tap dancing lesson (which Claudia says makes her feel uncoordinated, despite the fact that Mal, Shannon and Dawn all catch on pretty quickly). Then Kristy tells Shannon to give her a drama lesson, telling her she has the floor. Claudia’s response is the title quote.
Claudia attempts to write a contest entry…four times. The following are her spelling mistakes: hoast, becaus, expirience, exacly, freinds, stacion, hoste, importanse, expeshully, rabbid, intensly. When I was a kid, I would have tried to spell especially as expeshully.
While considering this, she eats about seven pounds of junk food. Considering she’s not really into exercise, how does she not weigh 700 pounds?!
Her final entry isn’t really all that good, but after rereading it, I do get why Claudia made the short list. She’s self-depreciating—“I’m an expert at talking. Just ask any of my friends”—and shows a sense of humor. She even uses this colorful quote about having an open mind but not letting bats in. (I’d never heard that one before; it’s silly but accurate.) But how in the hell does this get her the winning slot? All I can imagine is that they took all of the entries that met certain qualifications and then put the names into a hat and picked one.
The two funniest bits about Claudia winning the contest? First of all, she rudely hangs up a BSC phone call to hear who won. Second, the host describes Claudia as enjoying mysteries, art and ‘fine dining,’ which throws Kristy for a moment.
Awww. When Claud tells her family that she won the contest, her parents want to know if it will interfere with her homework, but Janine actually pours ginger ale into champagne flutes for a toast. That’s so sweet!
Anyone surprised to learn that the Junk Bucket is air conditioned by ‘two holes in the floor?’ I’m more surprised it’s only two.
More Claudia spelling, this one from a list of notes about her radio show (which has the working ‘titel’ “Four Kids Only”: theams, frenship, seasin, seggments, geusts, storys, awdition, posible
Ashley makes fun of Claudia’s spelling. I get that, because I used to make fun of my friend Kelly’s spelling…and we were best friends. Ashley and Claudia barely tolerate each other.
Kristy’s already on my nerves and the book’s not half over yet. First she tries to go to Claudia’s meeting at the station with her, then she just assumes she’ll be on the show, because of course she’s got great ideas. I think she’s been hanging around Karen too long…she’s decided she needs to be a star! She tries to get the Barrett-DeWitts to put on a play, but she doesn’t write it out or anything (not that Suzi, Madeleine or probably Taylor could read it anyway). Instead, she just tells everyone what to say and expects them to memorize it.
Loved this:
Dawn: Claudia is going to kill you, Kristy.
Kristy: Nahh. Too many witnesses.
Isn’t it Robin Hood and Maid Marian? The book keeps spelling it Maid Marion. My great aunt was a Marion, but that’s traditionally the male spelling.
Ashley and Claud sit through three million auditions (okay, only forty…remember what I said yesterday about exaggeration?) My favorite audition was when Alan Gray came in wearing a mask and calling himself Oswald McBelch and burped Row your Boat on key.
Claudia’s possible acts for the first show:
            Frank and Tim (comidy)
            Peet and Ericka (bike advise)
            Shinning* Time stacion corrus
            Bil and Katie (at the movys)
            Rijina, Cathy, David (goest story)
*It’s the Shinning! “No beer and no tv make Homer…something something.” “Go crazy?”
Kristy tries to get Mal to go on Claudia’s radio show with her clean monster (the Oogly Oogly Beast), and when she refuses, Kristy steals the character and convinces the younger Pikes to audition with her. That’s taking things too far.
Claudia goes to every planning meeting with a bag full of candy. Bob, her tech, says he would hate to be her dentist. But being Claudia, she probably has perfect teeth in addition to clear skin and not being Cartman from South Park. (“I’m not fat, I’m big boned!”)
Bob is in college. He says he remembers listening to WSTO (which is having funding problems and may go out of business) when he was a kid. He also says his parents listened to WSTO when they were kids, and that’s where they heard that WWII was over. Okay. Let’s do some math; you know how I love those words. Let’s say that Bob’s dad was five when WWII ended. Much younger than that and he wouldn’t really remember it, right? That made him fifty-five at the time this book came out (5 in 1945; 55 in 1995). I guess that’s not as old as I thought; I guess I was thinking 2015, not 1995. If Bob is, say, twenty, then his dad was about my age when he was born. And as I’m hoping to have a kid in the next few years, I’d say this is more than plausible. (I thought Bob was older, but he says he’s still in college. I guess it’s just the name Bob makes me think of someone middle aged.)
Claudia wonders why one of the callers made her think of Stacey. Now, a lot of stuff has been making her think of Stacey throughout the book—she even waxed philosophical about her friendship during the ‘friends’ episode of the radio show—but this girl said she’d had a fight with a friend and wanted to make up, but the friend hated her. How would that not make her think of Stacey?
I like that the Arnold twins actually tell Kristy what they’re thinking about her radio ideas. Marilyn said that one was pretty stupid and then Carolyn told her another was boring.
Ted Garber is totally RL Stine. He writes a popular kids book series called Night Frights. And of course, because this is the BSC, he lives in Connecticut. And agrees to be on Claudia’s show.
Claudia seems surprised that Kristy is a ham when she finally gets on the air (with a children’s literature Jeopardy game she put together with Marilyn and Carolyn.)
So during a call-in segment earlier in the month, a boy called and said his parents were getting divorced and everyone in his family was very unhappy about it. (Dad had gone away; sister told mom she wished she was dead, that sort of thing.) Claudia gave him the phone number of the therapist Mary Anne went to once, same as she did for the boy who wrote her personals column for the same reason. During the final show, they do another call-in segment and the mom calls to thank them for their great advice. She’s so happy she writes a check that saves the day and the station can stay open. Yay, happy ending.
Now that the book is over, I was updating my BSC lists. I’m sure it doesn’t surprise any of you that I have MULTIPLE lists dedicated to the BSC, although most of them are just the titles arranged in different ways. I’d found three more BSC-related books in my last few thrift store outings and needed to mark them appropriately. I only have twelve more books to complete my collection, and so far I’ve only had to buy two of them through sources other than thrift stores (#35 and #82). What was interesting to me was what babysitters are harder for me to find. I own all but 7 original series books, 1 mystery and 4 friends forever books, as well as every super special, super mystery, portrait collection, readers’ request and California diary. I own every Dawn, Jessi and Stacey book, and I’m only missing one Mallory (#108), one Abby (#127) and one Kristy (FF #5). Now, if you’re doing math with me—c’mon, you know you wanna—that means that I have nine other books to find…and they’re all Claudia and Mary Anne. Actually, Mary Anne books are the hardest for me to find. I’m missing six Mary Annes…including all three of her FF books.
Luckily for me, I don’t need another book until #97, so I can continue thrift storing (that’s what the cool kids call it) and hopefully find it in time.
Claudia: backwards t-shirt, ‘Frankenstein’s jumpsuit’ which consists of two pairs of overalls cut in half with half of each sewn together; stretch top, jeans and button down shirt; tuxedo with a red cummerbund, sparkly socks, red sneakers

Next: Finally get to read a super mystery! I’ve never read this one before, so that should be interesting.

“Bring a bigger house.” BSC #84: Dawn and the School Spirit War (1995)

Hey y’all. I sat down to read this one last night, but wound up drinking and watching Dr. Who instead. Maybe I’ll have better luck tonight? We’ll see!
SMS is having a whole school spirit month to support the baseball team in their ‘big game.’ Dawn is so anti-competitive and feels that the spirit element is out of control. The whole school divides in half, for and against the spirit month. Some kids take it way too far, doing things such as gluing lockers shut and ruining school spirit murals. Dawn, Mary Anne and Mallory are anti-spirit, while Kristy, Claudia and Jessi are pro-spirit. It’s as exciting as it sounds.
The B plot is too stupid for words. I’ll let you know if I come across a bit of it worth mentioning.
Interesting Tidbits
I love Dawn’s face on this cover. That used to be me during spirit events.

Speaking of, did anyone have a school spirit month in school? We used to have spirit week, but only maybe a third of the school actually participated in any one theme day. No one shamed you if you didn’t take part, either.
That said, I’m not surprised that Dawn is all about athletic activity but not about competition. I know a lot of families who won’t let their kids play competitive sports—they can’t join a football or volleyball team—but instead encourage cooperative or individual sports and activities, such as ballet, rock climbing or yoga.
They’re discussing Stacey leaving the club, as they do in every book when she’s gone. It’s interesting, because I have #84 and #85 right in front of me. #85 has the original cover style, where they listed the BSC members on the back. It says that Dawn is the treasurer and Shannon is the alternate officer. That book came out when it wasn’t sure if Stacey would rejoin the club or not. This one has the redone cover with the faces along the side, which didn’t originate until after Stacey had rejoined the club…so it still has Stacey’s face in the margin. It would have been better and less of a spoiler if they’d taken her out, whether or not they put Shannon in.
I love it when they describe Mallory and put in subtle digs to her looks. Like Dawn says that since Mal is so nice, when you see her you see a nice person so she looks good to you. Um, thanks? I’d be insulted if someone said that about me.
I love that the most horrible event in spirit day is pajama day. We used to LOVE pajama day back in elementary and middle school. It was a good excuse to wear those cute matching jammies and be comfy all day. Wait until these girls get to college when every day is pajama day.
This is what actually got to me about it. Dawn says she doesn’t wear pjs—she wears sweats or night shirts…which is what she should wear if she wants to get into the spirit. They don’t have to be an actual set of pajamas. (Some of the teachers would come in robes and curlers.) Mary Anne, meanwhile, says that you have to wear your real pajamas when Claudia says she wants to silk screen stuff on a pair of pajamas. Does that make Claud’s silk screened pjs fake?
I agree with Dawn: mandatory attendance at pep rallies is stupid. I don’t agree that cheerleading is stupid, though. If girls just had cheerleading for a choice and didn’t have their own sports teams, I’d be with her. But cheerleading is hard work and as much an athletic activity as a baseball game.
Mal and Jessi are cleaning the second story windows during clean your school day, but the fact that they’re talking to Dawn, who is outside, made me think that they were also outside. Which made me picture them manning one of those skyscraper window cleaning rigs, which is hilarious.
Claudia spelling! Tru, Barett, choyse, hous, forsed, togither, cud. She also says the Barretts and DeWitts ‘half groan close.’ Ha!
The eighth grade color for color day is yellow. Look down below to see what everyone was wearing. (Back in my day, a lot of kids would have done a yellow scrunchie or earrings and called it good.)
So the B plot is that the DeWitt-Barretts moved into too small of a house…something we already knew. The title quote is Claudia’s suggestion to Mary Anne on how to deal with a sitting job for them.
After Dawn and MA start a petition to end spirit month, someone writes Go back to California you weirdo on Dawn’s locker. Think that’s maybe why she goes back in four books? I mean, that’s all it took for Mal to decide to leave Stoneybrook….
Ha! Alan, who’s mad at Dawn for her anti-spirit-month petition, dumps spaghetti and meat sauce in her lap. Claudia (who’s pro-spirit but still a loyal friend) is the only one sitting with Dawn for reasons too stupid to explain. She actually throws a pudding at Alan (which is a waste of a perfectly good pudding, dammit!)…which starts a food fight.
What I do like about this story is that it’s typical of what happens when people have very strong opinions. It reminded me so much of when there was a debate in my college over whether or not student health should hand out condoms. Both sides were adamant they were right, there was a lot of campaigning, and there was even some mild violence. Of course, that’s actually an issue that some people think is actually important, as opposed to whether or not the school should force frivolity.
Lindsey DeWitt is prone to my style of exaggeration: “She was just mad because Buddy stayed in the shower for five years.”
Double ha! Buddy suggests picketing because it worked for the Pikes when Mallory wrote that play about them.
Triple ha! The anti-spirit kids put together a protest in the cafeteria during the spirit activity. The principal looks in, rolls his eyes and looks away. Honestly, it’s hilarious, and probably pretty accurate to what he’s feeling at this point.
Also, Dawn calls it an anti-pep pep rally.
So a whole meeting is called with parents, students and teachers involved, and it quickly devolves into a shouting match. Sharon suggests that the reason is that some people believe that they’re entitled to control their own destinies while others feel that that leads to the fall of civilization and that people should just follow the rules. This is both kinda deep for her and surprisingly accurate.
Richard wasn’t able to make the meeting, but he has this to say to Sharon (who stood up for Mary Anne and Dawn during the meeting): “You nearly set off a riot. I’m impressed.” This is interesting; you’d think Richard would be closer to the side of following the rules than setting your own path. (He’s actually kidding.)
Interestingly, the mother of one of the girls’ classmates (who shouts about them at the meeting) is an old frenemy of Sharon’s from school. She was apparently Cindy Sherwood in high school and still is Cindy Sherwood, and her daughter has that last name. Either she was married in high school or she’s a single mother…hmmm….
The Barrett-DeWitts solve their own problem by deciding to add an addition onto their house. (If they can afford that, why couldn’t they afford a bigger house in the first place?!?) Suzi suggests they need to include a ‘bazillion’ bathrooms in the addition so that everyone can go at the same time.
Mary Anne sums up the spirit month debacle: “Logan, I care about anything that concerns you. I just didn’t think I should have to wear pajamas to school if I didn’t want to. That’s how it started, and somehow the whole thing blew up in to something bigger than it should have been.” She then says that everyone should be allowed to express their school spirit as they see fit.
Claudia: purple rain hat and slicker covered in designs, with a matching umbrella
Mrs. DeWitt: sweatshirt and jeans, with her hair unbrushed; black velvet pantsuit
Dawn: jeans, blue workshirt, yellow socks
Mary Anne: yellow sweatshirt dress (WANT), yellow leggings, black flats
Grace: yellow slicker, yellow pants, yellow high tops, daisy earrings
Alan: yellow balloons, yellow plaid pants; Batman pajamas
Bruce: yellow football jersey
Kristy: bunny pajamas and bunny slipper

Next (aka tomorrow; the BF is out of town, so I have more time to read and write): #85

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

“Wouldn’t it be great if all we had to do to get this kind of approval was add two plus two?” BSC Mystery #20: Mary Anne and the Zoo Mystery (1995)

A couple of comments before we discuss this lovely piece of ‘literature’:
1.    Have you noticed that the plot lines of the mysteries get more and more convoluted (not to mention stupid) as the stories go on? Here are the summaries of some of the early mysteries: “Claudia thinks someone has been rummaging around in her bedroom when she’s not around and that Janine is being weird. These two things are related, because Janine has been ‘borrowing’ Claud’s clothes and makeup to impress her new boyfriend.” “Jake Kuhn goes missing, and since Kristy was the last person to see him before he disappeared, she puts together a search party and helps find him.” You can’t sum this plot line up in two sentences or less!
2.    In order to avoid actually reading the book, I went through and counted all the mystery books. Mal and Jessi each get one, (no comment…I’ve discussed that already), Abby gets three, and Dawn gets five. That makes twenty-six books to spread among the other four baby sitters. Stacey and Kristy each get seven and Claudia and Mary Anne get six. Claudia’s books are mainly artsy mysteries…paintings and museums and photographs and baking and the like. Mary Anne gets the most random mishmash of mysteries, and this must be the worst.
SMS eighth graders are given an assignment to study animal behavior in groups. Since the students are given free passes to the zoo in order to fulfill their tasks, most of our crew is at said zoo when weird things begin happening. Cages start being opened and animals are escaping. Eventually, Mary Anne and company work out that one of their classmates accidentally got ahold of the master key to all the doors and let one of the animals out, but that gave the assistant director of the zoo the idea and he let the rest of the animals out. The zoo enacts a sting and catches him in the act.
Meanwhile, there’s some irony in the subplot. A small elephant is caged at a local mall and the BSC plans a walkathon to raise money to free it and send it to a zoo…where it will be caged. (Actually, it goes to a wildlife preserve, but it’s still kinda funny.)
(I’m in a mood today, so there may be no interesting tidbits. Read at your own risk.)
Sharon-itis: shoes in the fridge, orange juice in the hall closet
Wow, this book is so boring that you get a full-on summary of both books #4 and #31 in the first chapter.
Dawn also spends part of chapter one musing about the names of the cover-gorillas, Mojo and James. This scene actually happens in the book, when Jessi and Mary Anne take Matt Braddock to the zoo to have him sign to the gorillas. Couldn’t Jessi just have done that and not involved the poor kid?

Logan tried to get Mary Anne and Dawn to go to the movies with him, and when they say maybe, he offers to pay. It really looks like a threesome to me….
Why do they always point out that it’s so great that Watson lives in a mansion? When Karen and Andrew live with him, there are ten people in the family (four Thomas kids, those two, EM, Nanny, Elizabeth and Watson.) That’s the exact same size as the Pike family, and they survive with a four-bedroom house. My mom is one of six, born nearly as close together as the Pikes (when the youngest was born, the others were 7, 6, 5, 4 and 2) and they had a two bedroom house and turned a former laundry room into a third (tiny) bedroom.
Even though Stacey’s not in the club at this point, we still have to hear all about her. They’re talking about how she’s been ignoring the BSC members and how Shannon’s been filling in as much as possible. Kristy wanted to consider replacing Stace…the audience definitely knew that a new club member was coming, since they’d had that ‘Name the New Babysitter’ Contest. (I’d filled out an entry but never mailed it, partly because I didn’t want to win the prize and partly because I knew my entry would never be chosen anyway. It was far too trendy and didn’t rhyme. All the twin names in the BSC universe either rhyme or share the same first letter.) I think readers were supposed to believe that the new sitter would replace Stacey.
Kristy suggests the new science project will be a step up from dissecting frogs…like dissecting muskrats. Shannon says she’d actually like to dissect a muskrat, because it would be an improvement over what her science class is doing….studying paramecia.
Ha! The science teachers try to build enthusiasm about the zoo project by…dressing in costume and jumping out of a car.
The title quote is Dawn’s response to a chimpanzee that can add. Later that same chapter, she knocks on Mary Anne’s head and says, ‘hello?’ as if she’s trying to figure out if Mary Anne’s brain is working. It's not often that Dawn makes me smile, but this worked.
The teams for this lovely animal behavior project? Well, I’m glad you asked. Mary Anne is paired up with Alan Gray and Howie Johnson; Claudia, Logan and Dawn make up another group; Kristy is paired up with a girl named Lauren Hoffman and, of course…Stacey.
Mal offers to write up a story about Babar the elephant for the school newspaper, but considering Jessi was sixth grade correspondent, shouldn’t she be the one to write that?
Logan apparently does Steve Martin imitations: “Excuuuuuse me!” Does he have a headband with an arrow on it, as well?
Kristy’s team is studying dogs, which seems easy enough…except that Stacey doesn’t own a dog. I get that Kristy’s mad at Stacey, but it’s pretty bitchy of her (and Lauren, whom I don’t remember being in any of the plots...perhaps she hates Stacey for some reason, too?)
Edith the Emu, part of MA, Alan and Howie’s “Fur, Feathers and Flippers” project, escapes from her cage. MA happens to be right near the head of the zoo (but not near the emu cage) when that happens, so she gets to hear all about it. How convenient.
MA also calls Edith “least likely candidate for a breakout.”
Stacey is as much a subject of conversation in this book as Babar the elephant, the zoo project, or the mystery.
Alan is outraged that soda costs a dollar at the zoo. That seems really cheap to me, actually.
It’s funny having Alan and Howie along in solving this mystery. It’s like the prerequisite episode of a kid’s cartoon when the bad guy has to work together with the good guy to solve a problem.
When Becca’s friends come over, she refers to them by full name. How many Haleys and Charlottes does she know that she has to specify? I know when we were growing up it wasn’t uncommon to have Jenny K and Jennie M in one class, but we rarely had to do full names.
I love Squirt. He’s hit the terrible twos and is behaving very badly. Everything is MINE and he steals things just to get a reaction and get chased. Sounds normal and age appropriate.
The most boring part of this book is the fact that Alan and Logan have a running rivalry going, each claiming his group is going to win the extra credit and prize for having the best report. (Honestly, these reports sound ridiculous. The kids aren’t allowed to use any source but the info kiosk at the zoo. If they watch the animals the same time of day a few days a week, they won’t get to see that much.)
“Everyone likes chocolate cake.” Everyone, Mary Anne? What about Dawn?
When Jessi takes Matt to the zoo, he asks Mojo the gorilla who opened the emu’s cage. She responds with the word food. This would make sense if the person who opened the emu’s cage was a) the same person who opened the other cages and b) someone who routinely fed the gorillas, but neither of those is really true.
The suspects: A couple wearing matching sweat suits (because that’s a crime. Or because they’re discussing how much various primates cost); Alan and Howie (because they were standing in a patch of red berries and stains from the berries were found in the vicinity of several cages that were opened); the zoo’s director and her assistant (who have been fighting about the crimes).
Claudia spelling: disasstur, sunday, thoght, hapen, wold, weer, reddy.
How is the first part of the mystery solved? Mary Anne goes to use the info kiosk to learn about the bears and discovers it doesn’t work. The kiosk keys look exactly like the cage keys (what a stupid idea) and she figures out that she has the missing master key. She, Alan and Howie pooled the contents of their pockets and MA’s purse in order to get enough money for a soda, so she realizes she must have switched keys with someone else. After accusing Alan, she discovers that Howie accidentally let the emu out in an attempt to test the key, which he found on the ground. He’s not responsible for the giraffe or gibbon cages being opened.
The track suit pair turns out to be a wealthy couple considering opening their own private zoo…hence why they were discussing how much the animals would cost.
Let’s stop for a minute. Mrs. Wofsey, the director of the zoo, wants to enact a sting operation on her assistant (who’d been caught in a lie and was the most likely suspect.) She’s determined not to involve the police because all the evidence is circumstantial. Um, the police’s job is to find evidence. I’ve seen an episode of Forensic Files where the victim of an ongoing crime enacted a sting operation with a video camera. The police couldn’t use her video and had to redo the same setup with their own camera. Therefore, any evidence gathered in this event without police involvement probably couldn’t be used in a court…
…especially when half the people involved in the stakeout are thirteen year old eighth graders. MA, Dawn, Claudia, Logan, Alan and Howie are actually stalking the suspect. Oh, and then there are actually zoo employees in the gorilla enclosure…disguised as the gorillas!
Claudia is actually a decent detective. She can follow the suspect no matter how he disguises himself because she noticed he has a distinctive gait.
Seriously? This is how the book ends: “So Logan and I are planning a trip to the zoo next weekend with Alan and Howie. Not!” I may throw up.
Dawn: purple and white baseball jersey, jeans and a purple visor
Howie: all black (for the sting operation)
Alan: camo pants, t-shirt, ball cap (for the same)
Next: #84

“I guess that you’re shouting.” Claudia’s Book (1995)

Before I begin, let me state for the record: the ‘photos’ in these books are hilarious. I wish I could figure out how to upload them without a scanner for your enjoyment. Let’s just point out that in every photo except the one with her as an infant, she’s rocking a side pony.
The ‘plots’:
            Baby Days: exactly what it says. Not too interesting
            Happy birthday to me: Nobody shows up to Claudia’s sixth birthday except Kristy and Mary Anne
            The Truth about the Tooth Fairy: Claud thinks the tooth fairy will steal all her teeth, until she learns her mother is really the tooth fairy
            Boo for Fourth Grade: Claudia starts falling behind in school, so her parents send her to an alternative school. But she’s so miserable and depressed there that they let her go back to SES…even though she’s flunking out.
            The Sea Rose: Claudia goes to the beach with Kristy and her family. They lose David Michael and Claudia realizes how hard Kristy’s life can be.
Interesting tidbits
Woo! A whole book full of Claudia spelling! *insert high pitched excited scream*
Claudia says she sees the world as a big circle with her at the center. That sounds egocentric, but at the same time, on some small level, it’s accurate for a teenager. Kids are the center of their parents’ world, and while her friend group may not revolve around her exactly, it’s an understandable thing. It’s like those diagrams they make you make in thought modification class where you draw a dot that’s you, a circle of close friends and family, a larger circle of friends and coworkers and acquaintances, etc.
In this book, Claudia’s dad is a lawyer. Just like Mal’s dad and Mary Anne’s dad. I’m pretty sure he was an investment banker or something similar in an earlier work. Why can’t anyone ever be a garbage man or a construction worker? I once floated a theory that Abby’s dad wasn’t really dead…her mom just told her that because he was in prison for life without parole….
Ha ha! Claudia calls Stacey and just says, “Hi…math.” It’s like a Stacey code.
Although, Stacey does know Claudia very well. She tells her the autobiography assignment is a self-portrait…where the medium is words. Not only is this mighty poetic for Stacey, but it is also a very positive way to phrase things for Claudia.
“An Artists Life by Claudia Kishi.” So far, six words and only one mistake. But there’s more: Connectticut, anouncement, stoneybrook, gazett, bussiness.
Good continuity points for whoever remembered that Claudia’s birth announcement was in the newspaper that had since gone out of business.
It’s a couple days after Claud’s birthday right now (July 11), but I’d like to point out that she shares it with my childhood best friend and also my nephew (the “Bubbler.”)
Claudia says she doesn’t remember being born. Is this supposed to be a surprise?
Four-year-old Claudia muses on the potential taste and texture of concrete. Yum? She said she was interested in junk food even then, but it sounds more like teeth-breaking food.
More spelling: tramatic, hapened, beatiful, kindergarden, elementery.
Not surprised Claudia is very good at jigsaw puzzles. She says that she liked to match colors, but it’s more that she has very good spatial awareness. (I have no spatial awareness. This is why I suck at puzzles and run into doors and stuff.)
Claudia says she had two pigtails and a flowered blouse in her picture in kindergarten, but the artwork shows a solid shirt and (as I mentioned earlier) a side pony. The label on the picture: “Me, Kristy and Mary Ann in kindergardin. Prakticaly grown up!” (BTW, kindergarten Mary Anne has no neck. Hee hee!)
So the Kishis solve the ‘no one shows up to Claudia’s birthday party’ problem by moving the party into the Spiers’ backyard and having the entire Thomas and Spier families join them. I’ll buy that; it’s nice for Charlie and Sam to be there, as well as Elizabeth. But does anyone buy that either Richard or Patrick (Kristy’s dad, who is still around at this point) would let Mr. Kishi paint their faces like a clown?
This I like: Janine’s present to Claudia was her very first mystery book, which got her hooked on reading mysteries.
More spelling: strate, truble, atention, wurst, wurld, secund. Also, grate for great.
The section about the tooth fairy reminded me of how my first grade teacher tried to teach us about graphs by making a tooth loss graph and adding to it every time someone lost another tooth. There were twenty four of us, and my name was at the end (because I had moved in during the school year). And everyone had between one and six teeth lost…except me. (Like Claudia, I didn’t lose my first tooth…it was pulled. And that wasn’t until I was nine. I HATED that graph.)
Various people who get mentioned during Claudia’s younger days: Alan, Pete, Rick, Emily, Cokie
Second grade Claudia also has snacks stored in her bedroom. Must be nice to get an allowance big enough to allow that.
Claudia calls the tooth fairy the t.f. and makes stupid tooth fairy traps for her. They’re dumb when seven year old Claudia makes them, and even stupider when the 13 year old sitters make them.
Claudia got a Susan B. Anthony dollar for her tooth. Her mother had said that she got a special prize because pulled teeth were worth more. Teeth seem to be worth $20 these days, which is ludicrous. And what about that woman who allegedly gave her daughter $600?
Claudia finds out the truth about the t.f. and isn’t upset…she’s relieved. Most kids seem to feel a little ripped off when they find out.
Spelling! Discuvery, realy, favorit, tho, wasnt, promis, terible. She also uses forth for fourth and tim for time.
Claudia’s fourth grade teacher sounds pretty nice. She knows Claudia is struggling, so she lets her do things like do some of her book reports orally with illustrations because the important thing is the reading comprehension and not the written presentation. (Sometimes, that is the focus, which is why Claud did have to write some of them.) It’s like I said when poor Shea was having trouble with his science homework: if the facts are the important part, then he/other struggling students should be allowed to do things like dictate their work or draw pictures or what have you.
I also like that when the Kishis determine that Claudia doesn’t want to go to the Stamford Alternative Academy, they let her sulk and throw tantrums for a few days before sitting her down and telling her to knock it off. They let her have her feelings, but don’t let them dictate their behavior—they think they are making the best choice for her. That’s the problem with too many parents these days: if the kid throws a big enough of a tantrum, they get their way.
I kinda love the teachers at Stamford Alternative Academy. When Claudia doesn’t do her homework, they have ‘conferences’ with her as to what’s holding her back from doing her homework, asking for her input on to how they can better help her. Then they ask her whether she’ll be able to uphold her end of the contract (ie, do her homework) without them having to contact her parents. All while looking like she’s wounded them.
Claudia’s parents deny her request to go back to SES…until she stops doing art projects, refuses an ice cream sundae and doesn’t want to shop. Then she starts sleeping all the time. Quite obviously, she’s depressed by that point.
More spelling: autobiograffey, altho, sumer, vacashun, relize, somone.
The title quote is Claudia’s response when Kristy shouts, “Guess what!” at her.
Eleven year old Claudia packs almost as much as thirteen year old Claudia does. The only reason she has less in her suitcase was because her mom was helping her.
The Thomases actually have a rear-facing seat in their station wagon that folds down. The few times I’ve ever rode in one, the rear seats were sideways, one on each side of the trunk.
Claudia gets the first experiences of real sibling rivalry when she spends time with the Thomases, between Charlie teasing the girls, Sam and Kristy slipping ice into each other’s clothes, and Kristy threatening to strap David Michael to the roof.
In a photo of the Thomases and Claudia at the beach, Kristy’s face looks incredibly flat. Also, she’s taller than Claudia.
At one point Claudia says David Michael is five. One chapter later, Kristy says he is four; he says he’s four and a half. If it’s two years prior to this story (Claudia = 11), then he should be five, or even five and a half.
The lifeguard runs into the ocean to save someone. Since DM is missing at this point, Claudia assumes that a shark must have eaten him. (DM kept asking the same lifeguard about sharks earlier.) Way to be dramatic, Claud.
Interesting. Claudia’s parents actually offered to get her a computer as well, and she’d turned them down. I’d always thought it was unfair to buy a computer for one child and not the other. (On the other hand, they do things like set up adarkroom in the bathroom for Claud, so maybe not so uneven.)
Claud gets a B-; A+ for content, but she still needs to work on things like organization, grammar. Oh yeah, and spelling her lifelong friends’ names correctly.
Six year old Claudia: lion tamer outfit of black tights, black rain boots, red jacket with no pants (oooh!)
Nine year old Janine: Laura Ashley dress
Five year old Mary Anne: pink flowered dress, pink tights, Mary Janes
Five year old Kristy: navy shorts and shirt and her best sneakers
Next: Mystery #20

“They look disgusting, so they must be good for you.” BSC #83: Stacey v. the BSC (1995)

Stacey’s been spending all of her time hanging out with Robert and his friends because she thinks they’re so much more mature than the BSC. She’s been late to—or missing—meetings and has gotten subs for her jobs on several occasions. Kristy keeps getting more and more upset. The final straws come right back to back, when Stacey has a party and doesn’t invite the BSC (besides Claudia, who comes but ends up regretting it) and then, because of that, skips the subplot talent show. This breaks Charlotte’s heart because Stace had promised her she’d be there (Charlotte was really nervous about performing.) Stacey gets into a big fight where she and the other BSC members call each other bitches and assholes (or maybe I just imagined that part! hee hee!) and Stacey both drops out of the club and is simultaneously fired. It’s OH HELL YEAH! awesome.
Interesting tidbits
The cover: What kind of movie is this they’re watching? ‘Cause Stacey and Claudia are laughing their asses off and Mal looks like she’s going to throw up. I’m picturing a scene like the one with the beer in American Pie, where it’s either very funny or very disgusting, depending on taste. Also, it looks like all the background people are looking at the BSC, not the screen. Although, Kristy is throwing popcorn and Claud and Stace look like they’re screeching with laughter, so I don’t blame them.

Claudia starts off the book by making Stacey pose and not move for a very long time…and then she doesn’t even draw Stacey, just her ‘essence,’ which seems to involve a bunch of bright colors. I’d have thought Stacey’s essence would be more ‘sophisticated.’ (Also, Janine wants to know if it’s a still life or landscape. Ha!)
“And suddenly BD gave way to a big, ugly D.” The very juvenile part of me is chuckling very hard over that statement. (In this case, BD is ‘before divorce’, and D is ‘divorce’.)
Hee hee. Stacey is calling Kristy childish for singing about Stacey and Robert sitting in a tree, but then she turns around and starts talking about LUV…because that’s terribly mature.
‘Discretionary surplus enhancement’ is a fun finance way of saying pizza party, but it doesn’t really make sense. Wouldn’t ‘discretionary supplementary calorie intake’ or something be more accurate?
“The Amazing Mind of Kristy Thomas.” Sounds like a really bad kids’ movie.
Mary Anne allegedly sobs while watching Barney. So do I, but that’s not because I’m super-sensitive; it’s because it’s so mind-numbingly awful.
Usually the BSC members refer to Dawn as not caring what others think and being a bit of a free spirit. Stacey here calls Dawn “easygoing, intense, open-minded and opinionated.” It’s interesting, because I’d agree to her being intense and opinionated, but not so much easygoing. I’m of two minds about her being open-minded, because I’ve always pictured Dawn being one of the members who, as they aged, was willing to try all kinds of stuff: pot, making out with a girl, mushrooms, acid, skydiving…you name it.
Did you know Dawn doesn’t lecture people? I’m not trying to Dawn-hate here (any more than normal), but there are several books when she spends pretty much the whole plot lecturing…
Adam is disappointed when Mary Anne shows up for a sitting job instead of Stacey (who asked MA to fill in at the last minute so she could go out for pizza with Robert). I thought he didn’t like girls that much…so what’s the deal with him being so excited to see Stacey? Maybe she’s just more fun than Mary Anne is….
I can’t even imagine making pizza with the Pike household. Mrs. Pike needs to be introduced to frozen pizza, seriously. (Not to mention the fact that the kids spend more time dancing and playing the spoons than anything else.)
Seriously? Stacey is wearing turquoise wool slacks to the pizza parlor, and she asks her mother if she pressed them. A) It’s a pizza place. Garlic sauce, cheese threads and marinara sauce…chances are you’re going to get a little bit dirty. B) That’s the second time someone in this story wore wool slacks. Am I reading about 13 year olds or 80 year olds?
Stacey’s mom is a terrible driver, which Stacey blames on her not driving often before she moved to Stoneybrook.
Stacey’s grossed out by the thought of pineapple pizza. Has she never heard of Hawaiian pizza before? (I used to order pineapple and anchovy….)
Dawn spots Stacey at the pizza place while Mary Anne is subbing on her sitting job and then starts spying on her, ducking behind booths and the jukebox to watch her. Stacey says that the whole thing is very juvenile and I have to agree. Honestly, what I can’t figure out is whether Dawn was stalking Stacey (trying to figure out if she’d really had an emergency [heh—Stacey’s Emergency!] or not) or whether she was just downtown and spotted Stacey and started spying on her.
At the end of chapter five, Stacey wonders if she’s outgrowing the BSC. I honestly don’t think it’s a matter of ‘outgrowing.’ She feels like she’s more mature than Mal and Jessi, who are younger than her, and Kristy, who does things like calling Robert her true lovey poo. If Stacey had seriously left the club and not come back (and I’m sorry, I would have been able to figure out if I’d read this book back in 1995 that this was not going to be a permanent departure), it wouldn’t have been a matter of her being more mature so much as finding new friends and moving on. The fact that Stacey keeps being late to meetings and skipping jobs to hang out with her boyfriend and his friends belies her claims of maturity. Mary Anne hangs out with Logan and his friends, but she doesn’t skip meetings or jobs to do it. She makes the BSC a priority, which Stacey doesn’t do in this book. That’s not an issue of maturity level.
That said, I do have to agree with Robert’s friends that the BSC takes itself waaaaaaay too seriously.
After Dawn tells the BSC about the real reason Stacey missed a job, they’re all upset with her. She calls them the Six Sisters of Doom, which is kind of funny.
The title quote comes from Claudia’s attempt to smooth over everyone’s feelings with Goobers and pretzels. And it works! (Claud keeps being put in the peace keeper role at this point in the book, since she’s stuck in the middle.)
Ugh. Stacey tells herself not to be a snob, but then she turns around and does just that. She invites Mary Anne to the mall to smooth over any hurt feelings about misleading her about the job. (Stacey never said it was an emergency, but also never corrected Mary Anne when she assumed it was.) First she’s embarrassed when MA says ‘bestest’, even though she’s just joking. Then she says she’ll have to wear a mask to the mall so no one sees her with MA…because she’s got a sticker on her backpack that Stacey finds childish. Mary Anne is her friend…and had been a very GOOD friend to her, at that.
“Boy, was Mary Anne furious. She socked me in the jaw, pulled my hair, and refused to talk to me for a month.” Obviously, Stacey’s just kidding, but this would have been much more interesting than MA just forgiving Stacey…again…and cheerfully agreeing to reschedule their shopping trip.
Linny wants Emily and Sari to sing a ‘doot’ of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. It reminded me so much of Tessie, because she would read words when she was a kid and not know how to pronounce them. (He means ‘duet.’) In fact, she used to pronounce Sari as Sah-RYE.
All the kids in Kristy’s neighborhood come over to her house while she’s sitting to audition with very questionable talents. My favorite comment, though, is when she says that Melody Korman did not live up to her name.
The Fat and Sugar Capital of Stoneybrook. I bet Claudia loooooves eating there!
Why the hell would Dawn agree to go to Burger Town (the aforementioned fat and sugar capital)? She asks Kristy and MA if they have anything besides ‘cow carcasses’ on the menu. I don’t eat red meat either, but I generally avoid places where everyone else will be eating them, as well.
Kristy really is behaving like a seven year old (or Alan Gray) all through dinner. I don’t blame Stacey for being a little embarrassed by her, after she ate butter, spit soda out her nose and stuck straws up her nose.
“I can smell spring.” “That’s just exhaust from Burger Town.” Trust me, those two things smell nothing alike.
Stacey takes a phone call from Robert while sitting for Jamie and Lucy. Jamie hadn’t wanted to eat his dinner, but Stacey made him. He then threw it back up…and because Stacey was on the phone (ignoring him), he had to walk to the bathroom, throwing up all the way, by himself. The Newtons tried to call (twice) so they know Stacey was on the phone during her job. They say it’s no big deal and accept her apology (especially because she cleaned up the mess as best she could), but then they turn around and complain to Kristy about it. It’s kind of passive-aggressive, but at the time they told her it wasn’t a problem, they didn’t realize how upset Jamie was over it.
Robert was planning to have a party and invite all of his friends, but he waits until the last dang second to ask his parents, who tell him no. (This is such a teenager thing!) Since they’d already invited everyone, Stacey just asks her mom if she can have it at her house instead. Her mom says as long as Stacey does all the prep and clean up and all she has to do is ‘look motherly’, then it’s fine. My mom would NOT have been that pleasant about it.
This is a problem though, for Stacey, and even more so for Claudia. When the party is first planned, Stacey invited Claud but not the rest of the BSC. Now that it’s at Stacey’s she doesn’t have the built-in excuse that Robert doesn’t know the BSC well and that’s why they’re not invited. But Stacey doesn’t want to invite them because they’re so ‘immature.’ Poor Claudia is stuck in the middle; she knows her friends will be mad if they find out, even though none of it is her fault.
I guess these girls are young enough that they haven’t figured out that they can have more than one clique of friends. I never really thought of that as an adult concept but I guess it is.
Stacey’s mom actually practices how she’s going to introduce herself at the party, whether she should be hip or formal. It’s not as bad as ‘Keep it real, homeys,’ or ‘What up, yo,’ but some of them are pretty silly. Oh, and then she puts on a baseball cap—backwards—and starts dancing with the guys. I guess she’s supposed to be the ‘cool’ mom.
Dawn is being pretty passive-aggressive in this book. First she was spying, and then she shows up at Stacey’s during the party (which half the class was invited to, explaining how she heard about it) with Mary Anne because ‘you hadn’t said that you were doing anything.’ If they hadn’t known about the party somehow, they would have just called Stacey and asked if she was free. Stacey’s behavior is pretty childish in this book, but Dawn and Kristy (who keeps being borderline obnoxious) aren’t looking much better.
Claudia spelling: talant, thriling, perfict. She also uses weak for week. Oh, and then she helps Dawn and Mary Anne make a banner that says KID’S TALANT SHOW. It takes eight year old Maria to point out the spelling mistake. Oh, and Charlotte (also eight) corrects the grammar on it. (Kids’, not kid’s)
I woke up in the middle of the night and when I couldn’t go back to sleep, I started thinking about this book. (No, I didn’t wake up because I was thinking about the book. I’m not THAT pathetic.) I was trying to figure out what the hell Dawn’s problem was. Then I suddenly realized it wasn’t really that Dawn had a problem. Someone had to be the passive-aggressive snoop. It wasn’t going to be Mary Anne—who is too sensitive and nice for that—and Kristy had already been put in the role of dictator, bugging Stacey for her BSC-related issues. Mal and Jessi, because they were younger, had to appear to be super-young so that Stacey could call the BSC immature. And Claud was the sympathetic friend, stuck in the middle until Stacey crossed her. Dawn was the only one left.
Chapter fourteen is the most OH HELL YEAH! chapter ever. I can’t/won’t repeat it word for word, simply because a) it’s almost the whole chapter and b) another blogger has done that before. But here’s a summary (in my own language, with my take in parentheses):
Claudia: If no one else is going to bring up the fact that Stacey has been selfish and obnoxious lately, then I am.
Stacey: What the hell do you all want from me? I’m human and I’m allowed to have a life outside the club. I have a Venn diagram of different groups of friends, and you weren’t part of that circle! (Yes, she actually brings up Venn diagrams. It’s hilarious.)
Kristy: You’re so immature. You should have told us you were having a party and not inviting us, and after Dawn and Mary Anne showed up, you should have called them to smooth things over. (All true!)
Stacey: I’m immature? You’re all big babies! At least I wasn’t sticking straws up my nose or spying on you from behind a jukebox.
Dawn: Oh, so we embarrass you. We’re not mega-cool like you and your other friends. (Yes, she says mega-cool. I’m going to start calling Stacey mega-cool instead of trendy and sophisticated.)
Stacey: You guys don’t want to be my friends, you want to control me. (This is also true. Tis the BSC cult, yo.) I quit!
Kristy: You can’t quit, you’re fired! Adios, bitch!
What’s actually interesting is that Mal and Jessi, who by this point in the series are largely relegated to a small supporting role, don’t say much, but what they say is very significant. Mal’s the one who says that everything started changing once Robert came into the picture, which is both very true and pretty observant of her. (Stacey can’t believe ‘meek little Mallory’ had the guts to say it.) Jessi is then the one who, at the very end of the conversation, points out that no one is making Stacey stay if she’s so miserable in the club. It’s not a cogent argument like Mal’s, necessarily, but it solves the little war. Stacey is, at least for the moment, happier not being a member of the club, and without her around, there’s less drama.
That’s pretty much the end, except Stacey makes it up to Charlotte by attending her piano recital and says she doesn’t regret quitting. I kind of wish she’d felt that way a little longer, not because I hate that character but because I love the drama-rama.
Claudia; really big shirt (sumo-big), giant wool pants with a sash, old work boots, hair barrette shaped like teeth
Stacey: turquoise linen slacks (but apparently no shirt! Woo!)
Dawn: down coat with big hood, six foot scarf and LL Bean boots (it’s March; I guess this is the California girl in her showing through)

Next: Claudia’s Book