Sunday, January 10, 2016

“A little softball flavoring never hurt anyone.” BSC #101: Claudia Kishi, Middle School Dropout (1996)

OMG. I haven’t even opened this book yet and it’s already made me…itchy.
School is barely back in session, and Claudia has just started eighth grade (…again). Her schoolwork slacker-ism is worse than normal, and everyone involved is concerned that Claudia didn’t get a solid foundation the year before and that her grades are just going to be worse as the year goes on. So they…put her back in seventh grade.
This is so preposterous for a couple of reasons. This would never happen in real life. A lot of decision making goes in to deciding to retain a child in a grade or skip them ahead. It’s not just a matter of grades or ability but of social standing. Kids know when one of their classmates repeats a grade, and they are merciless. Now, imagine if they put a kid back a year in the middle of the school year. Claudia manages to make some good friends, but many kids would never survive.
And then of course there is the aspect of the ongoing Time Warp Stoneybrook exists in. I might—might­—buy this plot line if Claudia hadn’t been through eighth grade approximately 7x1025 times. (I’m only exaggerating slightly.)
Interesting Tidbits
The cover: Just two little things. What in the blazes is Claudia eating here? And what’s with that boy right behind Claudia, just to the right? He looks like he’s about to vomit.

Ha! Claudia gets a phone call that starts, “So, what are you wearing?” Unfortunately, it’s not a dirty caller. It’s just Stacey.
Claudia acknowledges the events of #100, saying that everyone is still formally-polite with one another, not quite comfortable. (For those of you who are wondering, as someone does every now and then, what happened to #100 and the other books I’m ‘skipping’…it’s because I’ve already blogged them.)
Claudia says her IQ is just fine. In fact, I’d bet her IQ is actually pretty high. Claudia says she’s been tested for learning disabilities and doesn’t have any. I know a lot of people disagree with that assessment—sometimes, I wonder about it myself—but I stick by my theory that Claudia was dealing with old-school teachers who didn’t present the information in a way that she could relate. If there were more projects in her history class, she might enjoy it more. (Claudia even says she likes science, because there are so many experiments.)
Even Rosa, Claudia’s tutor, points out how smart she is. She’s smart enough that she can skate by in subjects, learn enough just to pass a test, but never really confine any of the information to her brain. I like that Rosa—who takes college classes with Janine—gets Claudia in a way that Janine and Stacey, who are always offering to help her, don’t.
Claudia wears a clip on nose ring, and only Mallory thinks it’s cool. Does anyone else picture Mal someday with thick eyeliner, dark red lipstick, Buddy Holly glasses and a couple piercings herself?
You know that one of the guys in Claudia’s art class—which is by invitation only—because he wears a goatee and beret. I rolled my eyes so hard when I read that that they still hurt.
Abby likes sitting for the Pikes, because there’s so much chaos and movement there. I buy that. (Mal leaves to take another sitting job while Abby and Jordan are in charge at the Pike household, which I still find weird even though I just read the book where the triplets were promoted to ‘official helpers.’ Oh, and Jordan’s idea of ‘helping’ is to tell Nicky his Halloween costume idea was dumb. He eventually agrees to help him make it better, though.)
The B plot in this oh-so-lovely-not-at-all-a-waste-of-my-time book is that Jackie is still in the hospital and he’s bored out of his skull. (Get it? He had a head injury. I figure that pun is about as good as any Abby ever makes, so get over it.) So Kristy came up with the idea to write letters and cards to all the kids in the pediatric ward. This leads to a whole Halloween party in the hospital and what a hospital I used to be affiliated with called ‘Reverse Trick or Treating,’ which is actually Carolyn Arnold’s idea.
I never stopped to think about this when I was a kid, but now that I’m older—and reading these books back to back to back, I really wonder how they decided which kids should be involved in each project. Adam is the one who made the phone calls inviting people over and he called…James Hobart, Shea Rodowsky, and the Arnold twins. I’ll buy the first two, as there are virtually no other ten year old boys in this series that currently live in this town. (The only one I can think of is Sean Addison.)  And while Marilyn is Margo’s friend and Carolyn, Vanessa’s, they’re also girls and probably, in Adam’s point of view, have cooties. It all goes back to my theory that sometimes, the writers would just throw darts at a wall with all the character names on it, and have those kids be involved in the B-plot project.
The BSC throws a welcome-home party for Jackie, and, among other minor disasters, David Michael drops a softball in the punch. The title quote is Mary Anne’s response.
Apparently, Claudia is soooooo cool that all the seventh graders want to be like her. Everyone wants to sit with her; many think her clothes are really cool and copy her; and the boys are all in awe. (She eventually calls the girls who copy her clothes ‘Claudia wannabes.’ If that were a band, I’d so buy their music.) That’s not even close to the experience I had in school with kids who were held back. They were almost universally pariahs, but I suspect that they were marginalized long before they were ever held back.
Claudia is actually happy to be back in seventh grade—because she’s doing so much better, academically—until she learns about the dance. She’d been planning what she would wear and who she would hang out with…and then she learns that the evening dance is just for eighth graders. I can understand this, but it goes back to my second point in the beginning of this entry: this is at least the tenth time Kristy and company have gone through eighth grade, and never once has there been a dance that the younger grades, including Mal and Jessi, haven’t been able to attend.
Heh heh. Claudia’s mom is that mom—the one who hands out raisins or dried apricots to the trick or treaters. Most people know that fact and don’t even come to the Kishis door any more. It’s like Mrs. Kishi knows that if she buys candy, Janine and Claudia will eat half of it before she gives it out.
Costume time! Mary Anne is Little Red Riding Hood, while Kristy is the Big Bad Wolf. Abby is going to be a soccer player and Jessi, a ballet dancer; way to put so much effort into it, girls. Stacey is going to be a flapper, while Mallory wants to be Emily Dickinson. I love the latter idea, but who would recognize her? It’s like the time I dressed up as Laura Bow—which involved looking a little flapper-y—and no one knew who I was at all. “I wanna marry an archeologist…and keep his artifacts warm!”*
HA! Claudia is depressed about not getting to go to the dance, so she doesn’t feel like doing her homework. She imagines that means she’ll get sent back to sixth grade and then some: “Claudia Kishi, Teenaged Kindergartner.”
More costumes: Alan Gray, the guy from The Mask. (There’s a dated reference.) Cokie, Barbie. Ron, the guy who has a crush on Claudia, is dressed as a knight. Claudia also sees kids dressed as Bart Simpson, Spock and a werewolf. Some of the teachers even get into the spirit of getting dressed up. Claudia sees Dracula, the bride of Frankenstein, Einstein and a gypsy.
Kiddy costumes: The triplets are all pirates, while Vanessa is a hippie and Nicky, a mummy. Margo and Claire are Pocahontas and/or Sacajawea. (They were arguing because they, like many other girls in 96, both wanted to be Pocahontas. Abby suggested Sacajawea instead and then they argued over that.) Charlotte and Becca are a doctor and ballerina, Jamie, a robot, and Jenny, a kitten. Laurel Kuhn was a fifties bobby socks and poodle skirt girl, while Patsy is a fairy princess.
Oh, pizza toast. The best way to celebrate? I guess….
So Claudia’s artwork wins first prize, and she learns her art teacher was held back not once but twice and survived. Suddenly she realizes how good her friends are and that this being-sent-back-illogically-to-seventh-grade thing isn’t as bad as she thought.
*No, I’m not marrying an archeologist. But…I did get engaged this Christmas! So I have that going for me…Maybe I should celebrate with a pizza toast?!
Yes, I am wearing a Hufflepuff shirt!
Claudia: tie-dye leggings, black overall shorts, red high tops; black sweatshirt with the collar cut off, black jeans, purple high tops with orange laces; black wool jumper over red turtleneck; moss green Gap jeans, rust cardigan, platform Mary Janes, Pebbles Flintstone ponytail with moss green scrunchie; punk Halloween costume that she never wears: leather jacket, fishnet tights, spandex miniskirt, colored streak in her hair; black jumper with red embroidery, white turtleneck, earrings with red glass beads
Rosa: overalls, Doc Martens, black newsboy cap; overalls, shirt and straw for a scarecrow costume
Stacey: khaki skirt, white blouse

Next: We get to polish off the super mysteries! Hooray!

“How could the ceiling give her strength?” BSC #99: Stacey’s Broken Heart (1996)

Here’s something that says a lot to me. When I started this blog, I had read every single Dawn book ever written, except for the California Diaries (which I have now read and enjoy more than Dawn’s BSC books). Actually, I didn’t read #98 until a few weeks later, but work with me here. Dawn is the only sitter you could say this about, which is odd, considering how much I make fun of her. And it’s still true to this day. I have one or more books from each sitter that I have still never read:
Kristy: #118
Claudia: FF #7
Mary Anne: #102
Abby: M #28, M #35
Mallory: #108
Jessi: #115
And I’ve left one sitter out…let me explain why. Including this book, traveling through the Friends Forever series but leaving out the mysteries, Stacey has 9 more books I have to read for this blog. And of those, I have read…one.
Yup. I’d never read #94 before I blogged it a couple years ago, either. What does this mean? I guess I felt like Stacey was the sitter I had the least in common with. As much as Dawn may annoy me sometimes, we both wore what we liked rather than what was trendy and we both didn’t eat meat, so I could relate to her sometimes. On the other hand, I’ve never been considered boy crazy, or sophisticated. I did well in math in school but could never relate to Stacey’s mania for it. I definitely don’t have diabetes, and my parents didn’t divorce until I was much older. I never read Stacey’s Secret Friend, for example, because I felt I would relate better to the secret friend than to Stacey and therefore would think Stacey was an idiot. I generally wind up liking most of Stacey’s plots okay once I get reading, but I need an incentive (like a BLOG) to get me started.
Robert’s been acting weird lately, and Stacey finds herself acting jealous and insecure around him. She goes to spend a week with her father in NYC, babysitting for the Walker kids, and while she’s there, Claudia tells her that she saw Robert kissing another girl. Stacey and Robert break up, but it’s okay, because Stacey conveniently meets another guy in the city she likes even better.
Meanwhile, with Kristy in Hawaii and Stacey in New York, Abby takes over as both secretary and president. Kristy doesn’t think she can handle both jobs, so Abby overcompensates to prove she’s capable. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go as planned and her Mexican Festival planning is a hot mess of a disaster.
Interesting Tidbits

This cover kinda makes me laugh. Robert actually looks like a young teen boy, complete with Converse sneakers. Stacey looks like she can’t stand to be apart from him for one second…or she just came back and he’s just given her some bad news and is trying to fix it with flowers.

It’s not a sign of a healthy relationship that Stacey is analyzing Robert’s smile when he’s talking to Andi…on page four. They don’t give too much lead up to this break up, other than Robert ‘flirting’ in SS#13. It’s interesting, though, that that the girls all think he’s flirting while Robert just sees it as being friendly. I’ve maintained before that your friends are often the best judge of your relationship. If one friend hates your boyfriend, then it could just be bad blood. But if all your friends hate your boyfriend…or think your boyfriend is flirting with other girls…then they’re probably right. Trust them.
Stacey got a new computer game, and she invites Robert over to play it with her. Ms. McGill has a rule that Robert is only allowed in the kitchen if he comes over, so Robert asks if they’ll be able to play, since the TV isn’t in the kitchen. So Stacey plays computer games on her TV?
This is a little disturbing. Stacey didn’t want to play tennis with Andi and Sheila because she wanted to keep Robert all to herself. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be a sign that Stacey doesn’t trust Robert, or if she’s got an unhealthy obsession with him.
Stacey calls Kristy The Mouse that Roared. It suits.
Here’s a valid question: The whole B plot comes about because Kristy doesn’t think Abby can handle being BSC president and treasurer at the same time. Abby then sets out to prove her wrong by trying waaaaay too hard. Kristy suggests that Abby be treasurer and Mary Anne should be president during that time. But what about Claudia? What’s the point of her being VP if it’s all just ceremonial? (Kristy does indeed suggest this next when Abby calls her out.)
Abby: “Besides, I hate to break it to you, but this isn’t the White House.”
I think this is the first time Robert’s younger sister is mentioned. At this point, she has no name.
OOH, ooh! Robert LIED to Stacey! He told her he was playing basketball with his guy friends. Since Stace has no plans, she decides to go watch them play. When she gets there, Robert’s friends are all there, but he isn’t. This is turning into a soap opera, which makes me all sorts of gleeful. (That, and just as I wrote that, Reid and Rossi made a soap opera joke on Criminal Minds.)
Um, this is special. Emily Bernstein calls during the BSC meeting to tell Stacey she saw Robert at the mall with another girl. She says she isn’t sure she did the right thing—which I definitely agree she did. But here’s where she goes wrong. She calls during the meeting. She says she didn’t have Stacey’s number, so she called Claudia’s number when she knows Stacey will be there. I’ll buy that she has Claudia’s number; maybe she got it while Claud was working on the newspaper that one time. But she knows she’s calling to tell Stacey personal, private info while she’s with six other people. Wouldn’t it have made so much more sense to call Claudia and ask for Stacey’s phone number? Either Emily’s not as bright as she usually comes across or she gets her rocks off causing drama.
Claudia’s spelling! Beleeve, riting (writing), notbook, sade, haf (have), aboat, wat, happend, themselfs, furst, presitent. She also uses no for know and to for too.
Claudia’s concerned at the end of Abby’s first attempt at a group project, because Abby’s stance is that you don’t need to be…well, Kristy…to be organized and keep things running smoothly. But things end badly when Marnie Barrett briefly goes missing and Abby ends up calling 911 right at the same time they find her. Honestly, the only thing Abby did wrong in this case was not have some other plan for what Marnie and Ryan were going to do during this activity. Those two are too little for papier-mâché, and they just wind up making messes and causing problems.
Stacey, listen to Claudia. If she tells you that it’s stupid to spy on Robert instead of just talking to him directly, she’s right. Of course, the behavior in which Stacey’s indulging is much more entertaining and much more teenager-y. I love it.
Hee hee. Robert and Pete went in to see a ‘romantic Julie Talbert movie.’ I think Stacey should stop worrying about Robert and Sue, or Jacqui, or Andi, or any other girl. Pete and Robert, sitting in a tree! Yes, I am so terribly mature today. Oh, and since Pete grew out his hair over the summer, Stacey suggests that he might be the ‘girl with dark hair’ Emily saw Robert having lunch with. Hot dog!
Whenever Stacey starts talking about NYC, I want to punch her (metaphorically). She says that going through the tunnel into the city makes her feel faster, more sophisticated and smarter in New York. And smarmier and more annoying, too.
So Abby decides to have a group activity to make signs for the Mexican Festival. But she doesn’t know when or where the festival will be and doesn’t have a template for the kids to copy. So the signs end up unreadable messes…and she wasted a bunch of money on them.
During the sign-making, Margo asks Claudia for spelling help. Hee hee! Oh, and then Claud helps Sara Hill make a sign that reads ‘BSC Mexican Festuval, Gaems, Food and Fun, Nexd Sadurday at no one.’ Sara is nine. I’d think she know how to spell a couple of those words, at least.
Stacey, Stacey, Stacey. People keep talking sense around her, and she refuses to listen. First it was Claudia suggesting Stace be upfront with Robert. Now, Stacey’s dad is suggesting that she and Robert are too young for a committed relationship. Stacey actually thinks that her dad thinks she and Robert can’t work out because his marriage broke up, rather than because they’re middle schoolers!
I love it! The Walker kids are all excited because their dad let them have Fluff for lunch. A couple years ago, Tessie said she used to love to come to my house during the day because my mom would let us eat peanut butter and Fluff sandwiches. I couldn’t even imagine eating Fluff for lunch anymore, but I do still love it on ice cream.
The title quote is what Henry says in response to the fact that his mother said ‘Give me strength!’ while looking up after he made a huge mess of his breakfast. Grace: “Cereal is not heavy.” Little kids are so literal.
Abby’s festival works out okay in the end and actually makes a bunch of money. But everything’s half-done when the festival is due to start, and it’s only because everyone starts thinking WWKD—What Would Kristy Do?—that it all comes together. They all call their friends and family (Logan, Shannon, Anna, Ben) and put them, plus Mal’s oldest sibs, to work to make sure everything actually happens.
“How will I ever find another guy who will let me blow my nose on his sleeve?” Umm, why would you want that? (It’s taken out of context and actually makes sense in the break up scene. Still gross.)
New Characters
Ethan (15)—34
Andi: tennis whites
Sheila: purple unitard (ewwww!)
Claudia: turquoise leggings, large purple top with fabric paint unicorn
Stacey’s Mom: beige pants, sleeveless tunic, scarf
Stacey: khaki Bermuda shorts, yellow cotton shirt with violets on it; flowered sundress; another flowered sundress; black sleeveless dress with black sandals; skinny black pants and a pink cardigan
Pete: denim shirt
Mrs. Walker: gold, purple and orange African print gown
Henry: white shirt, black pants
Grace: cobalt blue party dress with lace collar
Ethan: jeans, white t-shirt, gray sports coat
Next: The world’s most illogical plotline, #101

“Will you be eating the leaves raw or steamed for dinner tonight?” BSC Super Special #13: Aloha, Babysitters! (1996)

I’d make an aloha joke, but the title already did that. Obviously, the BSC—or at least, most of it—is on its way to Hawaii. It’s a super special, so we have to go down the checklist of things that all super specials are required to have:
1.    Point of view of random people that we don’t normally see? Check. We have a Robert chapter and a Logan chapter. After this book, Dawn chapters start to count as well.
2.    “Romantic” drama? Check. Logan and Mary Anne are trying a ‘separate but together’ thing that means that he is off with his other friends for most of the book while Mary Anne spends some time mooning about that.
3.    Some big event? Check. Stacey is in a helicopter crash of sorts. I was expecting something volcano-related, given how much super specials love acts of god. (Hurricanes, snow storms, and a tornado we still haven’t seen.)
4.    Babysitting, of course? Check. Mal and Kristy are sitting at home, while Mary Anne and Claudia sit in Hawaii.
Listy-goodness. Here’s what everyone is up to:
Jessi: the book is Jessi’s project for Mal, who doesn’t get to go to Hawaii. She spends the whole book recording everything and taking so many photos that she doesn’t even really have fun
Abby: gets to be in a commercial
Mary Anne: tries the TBI—Together But Independent—thing with Logan…by babysitting random Hawaiian children. She and Claudia seem to spend a lot of time together
Claudia: gets upset because she feels personally responsible for Pearl Harbor or something
Dawn: tries to clean up a random beach with the help of some more random Hawaiian children
Stacey: her helicopter goes down and she has to walk a long way to safety, without food. She winds up hospitalized
Mal and Kristy: stay home. A lady sees Mal dealing with a client’s tantrum and makes a big stink about her babysitting skills…until her own child throws a similar tantrum in Mal’s presence
Interesting Tidbits
The cover. Mary Anne’s shorts are…weird, and she seems concerned by them. How is Robert the only one wearing flip flops? When I went to Hawaii, I never took my sandals off. Oh, and Dawn is totally hitting on Robert.

Aaaaand, on page 5, we have our first Claudia spelling, when she says that ‘You gyes are turning this into a totle mess!!’

‘Chapter 2’ (really chapter 1) starts off by Kristy describing her family as large: ‘Not large as in fat, but as in numerous.’ Now I’m picturing the whole Brewer-Thomas clan as being 300 pounds apiece and it’s making me snicker.
I don’t know why, but this is one of my all-time favorite Abby moments. She’s ‘rowing’ an imaginary boat on Claudia’s bed while ‘doo-dooing’* the theme to Hawaii 5-0 when Kristy calls the meeting to order. Abby then makes a screeching sound and explains that’s the brakes. Stacey: ‘Canoes don’t have brakes.’
*That’s what it’s ‘officially’ known as when you ‘sing’ a song by going ‘Dee-da-dee-da doo doo!’ or whatever. Back when I used to play a lot of Cranium, my friends and I made an unofficial rule that doo-dooing was allowed to be considered whistling for those who couldn’t whistle.
Speaking of Hawaii 5-0, Abby mentions that she’s been watching a lot of reruns of both that and Magnum PI. It seems almost normal for Abby, who’s acknowledged to watch both Leave it to Beaver and I Love Lucy. But I also like the fact that she says she’s watching them on the Stoneybrook version of Nick at Nite.
Here’s a valid question: Why is Anna not going to Hawaii as well?
Abby packs like Claudia (read: suitcase is waaaaay overfull) but for different reasons. Claud packs like that because she has to have fashion for every occasion; Abby packs like that because she waits until 5 minutes before she’s supposed to leave the house to throw things into her bag.
“This is a tour bus, not the Magic School bus.” This is what is said when Jessi suggests the bus to the airport got them all the way to Hawaii. Who said it? I’ll give you a hint: she’s dressed up like the teacher from the Magic School Bus before.
Now Logan is using The Brady Bunch as his Hawaii reference.
Mary Anne name drops Jean-Claude Van Damme.
The title quote is a Logan line this time. You can guess upon whom it was aimed.
Jessi writes a super-long note to Mal at the beginning of her second chapter. It was really TL,DR but I did catch this part: Jessi indicates that Abby was snoring. Abby crossed it out and said I WAS NOT. Oh, honey. You have allergies. Of course you were snoring. Get over it.
Ooh, spelling mistake. Jessi continues her journal entry to Mal all through the chapter, and at one points she says that Abby is ‘suffed up’ instead of stuffed up.
Holy potatoes, people. This conversation about gave me a heart attack:
            Claudia: I don’t photograph well when I’m hungry.
            Dawn: You just ate a whole bag of Doritos upstairs.
            Claudia: Not true! I gave you three of them.
YOU MEAN TO TELL ME THAT DAWN ATE DORITOS?!?!?!! They’re full of preservatives and ingredients you can’t pronounce. I’m not surprised in the slightest that Claud ate Doritos before breakfast; I’ve been known to do that with Funyons before. But this conversation would have made a lot more sense if Claud said she’d given the three Doritos to someone else.
It’s amazing how, every now and then, I actually learn something from BSC books. I have this other series of books that I’ve loved for a long time and am trying to collect all of. In that series, the principal of the school the characters attend returns from years abroad…in Hawaii. He has a ‘Hawaiian accent’ that’s all kinds of strange and uses Hawaiian words. When he finds out the main female character doesn’t know how to swim, he tells her ‘That’s kapu.’ I could use my context clues for most of the Hawaiian words, but never exactly figured out what that meant. Now Jessi’s tour guide explains that kapu was the Hawaiian culture, which the white settlers killed by forcing the Hawaiians to behave like the whites. I’m still not sure what it means in the context of not being able to swim, though.
I do love this: Jessi has gone through two rolls of film in one walking tour, taking photos of everything, but she gets mad when Claudia knows exactly what Mal would actually want to see a photo of: Jessi’s face after she accidentally swallowed a spicy pepper.
More Claudia spelling: Jessi mentions Claudia’s eating the world’s biggest banana split, with four flavors of ice cream and multiple toppings: ‘Rong! Its only three difrent flavers of ice creme. They cheeted me.’
When Jenny Prezzioso first shows up in the story, she’s throwing a tantrum. Mal calls her Tropical Storm Jenny. OMG…Mal made a funny. And Dawn ate Doritos…first and second signs of the oncoming BSC-apocalypse? (Oh, and in case you couldn’t tell/haven’t read this one in a while…it’s Jenny who throws the tantrum in public. Her parents are actually trying to discipline her gently, instead of giving her whatever she wants to end her tantrum. Mal is instructed to just walk away from the tantrum and let Jenny work it out on her own, which is actually solid parenting.)
I like this, too: Jenny saw a commercial and didn’t understand what was going on…just the visual image of a fairy waving her wand and making toys appear. So she wants to be that fairy, too…by using phrases from the commercial like ‘low, low prices’ and ‘enchanted world of deep discounts.’ Reminds me of the kids who want the latest as-seen-on-TV product, even though they don’t know what it does. The commercial just made it look so cool.
Claudia spelling: buntch, Perl (Pearl), musiam, intresting (after she tried fascinating twice), reccomend, Mallery. Oh, and she uses your for you’re.
A food Claudia won’t eat: baked breadfruit with pe’e pe’e. When my family and I were in Hawaii, we drove by Pe’e Pe’e Street on the same day we went to the Boiling Pots. There was a lot of toilet jokes that day…mostly told by my dad.
Real book: A Fence Away from Freedom, about Japanese internment camps
Abby reads a book about how people speak in Hawaii, and how directions on Oahu are all toward the volcano (diamond head) or away from the volcano (ewa), or towards the beach or away from the beach (or something like that.) So when she orients her towel, she puts it “surfer”—in other words, pointed towards the surfers.
Here’s what I don’t get about Abby’s appearance on a television commercial for sunscreen. They were short an actor, Abby piped up and said she could play volleyball…okay, I buy that. But they ask her how old she is, she says eighteen…no one bothers to check this; instead they just tell her to show up tomorrow for the shoot. And then none of her teachers bother calling her mother or finding out more about this alleged shoot before agreeing to let Abby go. What if it were really a porno or something? (I’m getting images of a BSC porno, with all sorts of disgusting inappropriateness…and it’s way funnier that the 300 pound Karen from earlier….)
Haha! Stacey starts her first chapter by saying Wowee, Maui. We used to have to watch a video at my last employer where a woman would say, “Maui? Wowee!” in a really horrid perky voice. Every time Stacey speaks now, I am going to hear her having that voice.
Oh, and there was this thing in an earlier chapter (I can’t remember where) where Stacey was pissy at Robert and they had a fight on the plane. Meanwhile, Abby and Claudia kept seeing this girl Sue flirting with Robert. I assume this is setting up #99, which I have never read (but think I read next.)
Claudia spelling: Mowy (Maui), Coolaw mountans, windword, Oahio (Oahu), hotell, clift, hunderds, soldgiers, awthentique, ourselvs, plesent, sumer, Ema (Emma). Oh, and she’s just jocking again—this time, about being hurled off a cliff (clift?)
Oh, look, a Gilligan’s Island reference. This one is legitimate, though: the island in the opening credits can be seen from the girls’ hotel.
Even though the whole story about Mary Anne deciding to babysit during a Hawaiian vacation she’d scrimped and saved and tried to sell health food for (whhhhhhhyyyyyy) is beyond stupid, I did like the idea that she found a missing boy—which then led to her sitting job. The little boy went missing from the lobby, and when MA heard his little sister screw up the room number by putting the digits in the wrong order, she checked all the other rooms with the same numbers and found him locked in one of those. It reminded me of a scene in one of my favorite books. The boy (Thomas) gets locked into the bathroom at the back of the bus, and no matter how much he gets told to ‘turn the handle to the right’ he can’t get back out. Even though he’s nearly grown, he breaks down crying. Just as they run out of ideas, one of the brainier kids tells him to turn it to the left and click! it opens.
Only Robert note of interest? He’s decided he wants to be a paniolo, a Hawaiian cowboy. He’s a little old for that fantasy, but I can still dig it. Oh, and he thought sugar was mined, not grown. This makes me giggle because I can totally picture that.
The people in Stacey’s helicopter when it goes down: Pete Black, Renee Johnson, and Mari Drabek. I don’t know about Renee, but all the other names mentioned as being on this trip (Austin, Trevor, Alan, Sue, etc.) have all been eighth graders we’ve already met.
Pete pukes just before the helicopter crashes, and when Stacey comes to after blacking out, she doesn’t think Thank the heavens I’m alive; she thinks about how much it smells like barf.
‘Stalking people in playgrounds is not exactly a normal thing for an eleven year old girl to do.’ But Mal’s never really been normal, has she? She has this whole speech planned for when she finally runs into the woman who gave her a piece of her mind during Jenny’s tantrum. But she decides to be the bigger woman—er, eleven year old—and not gloat when that woman’s son throws an even bigger tantrum in front of her.
Ooh, yet another spelling mistake in a handwritten entry! Mary Anne (of all people!) spells Hawaii as Hawii. Don’t get me wrong, I like seeing someone other than Claudia make a spelling error, but it would make more sense to see it from anyone other than Mary Anne. Or Mal. I picture the two of them being very conscientious with their writing. (I actually think that no one spell checks the handwritten parts other than Claudia’s—to make sure she mispells enuf wurds.)
So, the first outfits (other than vague ‘bikini’ or ‘swimsuit’) belong to the kids Mary Anne is babysitting. So, boring, and I’m not going to repeat them. I would if they were interesting, like the kids in SS#6. I liked this aspect of it, though. MA took the sitting job because she wanted to learn about Hawaiian culture, but the Reynoldses are very typical Americans, eating Apple Jacks, wearing normal clothes and watching cartoons. She realizes she didn’t expect them to be wearing leis and hula skirts and eating a luau, but she was expecting something different and exciting. It’s a little bit of unconscious racism I think a lot of kids her age experience. They don’t mean anything bad by it; it’s a learning experience.
Claudia spelling: elven (eleven), oclock, nite, havn’t, serch, partys, calld, noboddys’, beleave, shes, manely, becuz, cant. She also uses were for we’re and writes togetherness (spelled properly) after trying twice to spell solidarity.
Abby tries to cheer everyone up: ‘Knowing Stacey, she’s probably found the only electrical outlet in the forest.’
Mistake in the text, not in the handwriting: ‘breakfast wasn’t exactly a laff riot.’ WTH? How did that slide by someone?
When Dawn convinces everyone to go clean up a beach she found, Jessi calls her weird—until Dawn explains it’s better than moping about Stacey—and Abby calls her ecologically correct. Interestingly, Dawn says she hates that term, although she’s such a future Democrat (she’s totally be voting for Bernie) I’d think she’d love political correctness.
Dawn actually contemplated boycotting the luau because they were serving the traditional roasted pig. Look, I don’t want to look at a roast pig either, but there’s so much more to a luau than the food. Just don’t look, Dawn. Just don’t look.
Logan should press charges. Mary Anne actually socked him in the shoulder. Don’t put up with that abuse, Logan. Women can beat men, too.
Wow, a modern (for the time) television reference! When Abby was in the sunscreen commercial, she didn’t wear any sunscreen. She tells Mal in her final entry that her skin is coming off in ‘chunks’ and she looks like something off The X-Files.
Last Claudia spelling: parints, Perl Harber, dilemna, lauhg, atall, cusin, injurred, fiting (fighting), freind, inturnmint, normul, hav, refusd, gess, kno. She also uses now for know.
Aww, happy ending again. Mal thanks Jessi for the journal. She says she would thank her a million times…except she’s afraid Dawn would yell at her for wasting paper. ‘Bout right.
New Characters
Scott, Lani, and Raymond Reynolds (8, 5 and baby)—27, 24 and 19
Next stop: We end 2015 by finishing off the BSC’s summer and taking a peek at Stacey’s Broken Heart

“I love it when you talk legalese.” BSC #98: Dawn and Too Many Sitters (1996)

So how many of these books feature ‘too many’ of something? Mary Anne gets that a couple times. There have been a few times that it’s been Teeki and Too Many BSC Books (2015), too.
It’s summer vacay, and the BSC is trying to raise money because SMS is sponsoring a trip to Hawaii. Most of the club members get permission to go, but they have to raise their own money to pay half the cost. As such, they’re fundraising through dubious methods and taking as many sitting jobs as possible. They decide to take on Jeff and the triplets as babysitters in training (BITs) after the boys express interest in starting their own club. The BITs all have their shortcomings as sitters, and the four of them eat all of Claudia’s junk food. Just as the club starts thinking of dumping them, the boys quit. All the sitters save enough money and get to go on the trip.
Interesting Tidbits
The cover: Dawn and Kristy’s expressions are priceless here.

Does it surprise anyone that I love this book? It’s got high doses of all my favorite sitting charges, and then some. Plus, as I pointed out in the last entry, it uses the word fart! I’m basically a ten year old boy sometimes myself, so I love that.
Dawn says that Jeff used to be normal, but not anymore. That’s the definition of a preteen boy, I’d say. (Oh, and Sunny knows how to get rid of Jeff when he’s being annoying: she suggests she knows a girl he should meet.)
Sunny’s trying to study by osmosis. This is funny to me because, in seventh grade, my science teacher had us sit with our textbook on our head for an entire class period and then leave our books overnight with him. The next day, we took a test over a chapter we hadn’t studied yet, to see if we’d learned anything by osmosis. (We didn’t.)
Jeff and Dawn start bickering, so Carol yells, “Yo, chill!” I can see why Dawn would find this cringeworthy. That’s the kind of thing I’d say as a joke when I was still working with teenagers instead of thieves.
Reading material for the trip to Stoneybrook? Jeff has The Kannibal Krew and Dawn, a Sierra Club magazine. But Dawn winds up falling asleep and dreaming that the BSC doesn’t want her back. They take a vote and everyone but Mary Anne votes for Abby instead of Dawn. I don’t know why she thinks it needs to be a competition. If it were an Abby story, I’d understand. She is the competitive type, but Dawn shouldn’t really know that.
I’ve always wondered about Dawn and Jeff’s route from CT to CA (or vice versa). It’s always seemed like they take direct flights. I could never figure out which airport they were going to; it could be a Connecticut airport, which would be small, or a New York airport, which would involve a long drive. In this one, they had a connection in an NYC airport to CT.
I love this: Jeff goes straight to the perfect audience for his god-awful jokes…Richard. Not only does he enjoy Jeff’s jokes…he knows a few equally bad jokes of his own. And he actually says something funny the next morning at breakfast!
Sharon-itis: barrette in the spinach salad or house key in Jell-O (hypothetical but still funny)
Ooh, and then Sharon gets to be funny: she says she ‘must attack the mall.’ I know that’s how I always feel about, say, Christmas shopping. It’s a feeding frenzy and the products are chum. (Gross, I know, but I refuse to enter indoor malls between Black Friday and New Year’s.)
I’m so sick of the way the BSC and Dawn’s California friends throw her parties and give her presents every time she leaves or comes back. I could maybe understand it the first time. But think of how much money these girls have spent on presents for someone they’re going to see again in a few months.
Claudia’s the one who first brings up the exciting news that SMS is sponsoring a trip for the students. She doesn’t tell anyone where they’re going, instead asking for suggestions. Which leads to…Mexico, Antarctica, Palo City, Downtown Stamford, and SMS summer school. Yeah, I definitely would want to pay to go to the last two, if I were them.
Shannon can’t go on the Hawaii trip because she’s going to camp starting the next week. (Logan: And I’m leaving for the Swiss Alps tomorrow. Mary Anne: You are? Logan: Nahhh. Sounds cool, though.) Both Mal and Kristy are also unable to go, Kristy because her family is going to Hawaii shortly after the trip ends and Mal because her parents can’t afford to pay half.
A big deal is made out of how expensive this $500 trip is. Now, I know it’s been nearly twenty years, but four of the teens I used to supervise went on a 10 day trip to Europe this summer, very similar to SS#15. All of those girls either agreed to pay the whole total for their trip, or half, same as the BSC. And theirs was $2400.
Sharon says she’d be willing to approve Dawn going on a sailing trip along Long Island Sound. Is she nuts? Not a good idea for Dawn, considering how it worked out last time she went sailing.
Jeff wants some of the ‘orange gloppy stuff,’ at dinner, which turns out to be sweet and sour pork. Or, as Dawn and I would call it, ‘sauce-drenched hunks of cooked dead pig.’ Yum?
Dawn actually questions Jeff’s grammar. I get it, though: he’s taken to calling the triplets JAB and referring to JAB in singular, but I think that she’s missing the point of the whole conversation. (Which is that Jeff and the triplets want to become babysitters, of course.)
The title is what Sharon says when Richard lays out the contract about the Hawaii trip to MA and Dawn.
Dawn keeps trying to insult Jeff’s jokes, but it doesn’t faze him. He thanks her after she calls his joke the worst joke in the history of the universe.
In keeping with my tedious over-chronicling of the Pike triplets, Byron is the one who comes up with the BIT idea. In addition to being described as more sensitive (and sometimes, by certain people, nicer) than his brothers, he’s routinely the logical triplet—the one who has the good ideas.
Abby makes a really terrible joke and Dawn says she should meet Jeff. I knew my most recent-still-in-progress fanfiction had a source!
I like this: Kristy agrees to let Jeff and JAB be trainee sitters because she knows they won’t last at it. This is true specifically of this book, and also true in general of ten year old boys. She says they’ll last until the first diaper change, which is funny given what happens next.
Ahh, here we go. The ‘tooting’ scene, as my niece would say. This scene has been thoroughly analyzed, for one very specific reason. For those of you who haven’t read this book for a while (or aren’t as enthusiastic about bodily function humor as I am), Byron lets loose a silent-but-deadly, and all the boys make a huge scene about it, rolling around laughing and accusing each other of being the one who let one loose. The analysis all comes from one single line: right after the gas-passing, Byron shoots a look at Jeff. There are those who believe that he was embarrassed to fart in front of Jeff specifically; these are, of course, people who believe that Byron had a little crush on Jeff. Me? I just think he’d farted in front of Jeff before and knew it wouldn’t pass unnoticed. The girls could potentially ignore a horrible smell, but Jeff isn’t exactly the type to let that stand. \ bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbm/,. *
Here’s the real kicker on the poot smelled ‘round the world, though: Jeff, Adam and Jordan proceed to accuse each other of the act. Byron, meanwhile, is completely mortified and it shows. It should have been completely obvious to the others exactly who was responsible.
Ha ha! Jeff helps Jessi babysit for the Prezziosos. The whole point of the chapter is that, although he’s good with Jenny, he’s not so good with baby Andrea. The best part is that Jenny calls him a baby for being scared to change a diaper. You know you’re being a weenie when a four year old calls you a baby.
Dawn, Dawn, Dawn. *shakes head* She has a health-foods ‘bake’ sale, and is surprised when she barely sells any food.
So what else are the BITs doing? Jeff wore rubber gloves to his next sitting job. Adam didn’t like the sound of babies crying. Jordan enjoyed changing diapers (uh, no comment) but ruined Jamie Newton’s art work. Byron drank a bunch of formula (I know he’s supposed to like eating, but, seriously…WTF?) and then double booked himself. He almost left Mal alone to sit for his siblings by herself, but instead told his coach he had another commitment instead of staying at the Little League game.
There’s this on-going thing about how the BITs are too young—they aren’t responsible yet. Yet everyone seems to forget that they are only a year younger than Mal and Jessi. Of course, there are many scenes where the older BSC members mention how much younger Mal and Jessi are/act. I don’t know if this book is supposed to be funny/ironic in that respect…and also what happens in Adam’s next babysitting job.
Okay, let’s describe this aforementioned sitting job in detail—or at least in summary—before I explain the implications. Stacey takes Adam to sit for the Braddocks. Haley freaks out about the idea of Adam being her sitter, because he’s only a year older. So she starts acting like a little shithead, suggesting Adam is Stacey’s boyfriend. (He brought her flowers on Mal’s suggestion.) Adam proves he’s not ready to be a sitter by egging her on and making things worse. Being Haley, she’s ready to punch Adam. Stacey has to play referee during her whole job, making it much harder than it should have been.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s discuss what this means. First, it’s proof of what the sitters have been saying: Adam (and the rest of the boys) aren’t really ready to be sitters. A big part of me wants to say duh because they’re only ten years old and most people would agree that kids that age probably should have their own sitter rather than be the sitter, but okay. The other point is Haley’s idea that Adam can’t be her sitter because he’s just a kid like her. She says, “It’s like we’re the same age.” This is the same complaint the triplets occasionally make about Mal. Like I said, I can’t decide if this is supposed to be funny, or ironic, or if this kind of went over all the writers’ heads.
(Oh, and I can’t help but read this and think how much it sounds like Adam and Haley were flirting when they’re calling each other ugly dork and cootie breath and birdbrain. If they were a couple years older… Feel free to let that form all kind of opinions about me in your minds.)
I’d forgotten all about this! Remember how Mary Anne’s behavior in #88 was sort of left dangling? She was cold and distant to Dawn and told her she had to sort things out in her own way. Dawn took that to mean she was planning her own special goodbye, but it never happened. This is Dawn’s next book with Mary Anne (and her second-to-last book in the BSC, period), so it finally gets addressed. MA tells Dawn she thought she had done something to make Dawn leave. It’s so normal-teen and so Mary Anne, but it’s nice that she’s self-aware enough to know it and over it enough to tell Dawn.
Mary Anne actually tells Dawn that because Dawn’s been charged with firing Jeff as a BIT. Mal is supposed to do the same for the triplets. But the two of them wind up getting lucky because the BITs have decided to quit. It’s kind of a cop out, but I think it was another attempt at humor or irony. In the note to the reader, AMM says the boys decided they weren’t ready to sit, but that’s not really true. They decide that sitting is taking up too much time—in other words, they got bored with it.
I don’t know who Livi Becker is, but the book is dedicated to her, and she’s randomly mentioned in the middle of a scene.
In order to raise enough money to get to Hawaii (and not lose their parents’ deposits), the BSC put on a fair at the Fourth of July before the fireworks. It’s all pretty standard BSC fair, although this was funny. The BITs help out, with Adam and Byron as Kristy’s magician’s assistants. When one of the audience members realizes he has the same magic kit at home and knows how all the tricks work, Kristy says, “I shall now perform the magic trick of making Linny Papadakis disappear,” and motions for her assistants, who come at him like bodyguards. Linny pipes down.
So it looks like the BIT experience did some good for the Pikes. Mal and Jessi babysat, but barely had to do anything. Byron played with Claire, Jordan played with Nicky and Vanessa, and Adam made lunch. It’s suggested that, if the triplets are around, only one sitter will be necessary for the Pikes for the future. That lasts for all of, like, ten books or so, I think. We’ll see.
So that’s it. My final Dawn book. I’m actually kind of sad about that. Dawn may not have ever been my favorite sitter, but I’ve invested a lot of time (read: too much time) in this series and the idea of not getting a whole book of Dawn again is a little depressing.
The BSC just depressed me. Oh man, I need a life.
*Sorry. Scout (formerly the B3 kitten, now the B3 fat cat) decided to sit on the keyboard because I was ignooooooooring her. I didn’t notice she’d typed something until I posted this. But the letters in question are appropriate given the topic, so I decided to let it stand.
"Grr! I am vicious!" says Scout
Kristy: big purple glasses, loud striped shirt, mismatched suspenders, a pair of antennae
What’s next? Of course! SS #13!