Sunday, February 21, 2016

“That’s because Kristy would kill us.” BSC #105: Stacey the Math Whiz (1996)

Okay. Let’s talk for a second here. Whatever happened to good, old-fashioned mediocrity?
I mean, in the early book, Stacey was the BSC treasurer because she liked math and volunteered. She says she’s good at it, but that could just mean she gets Bs compared to Claudia’s D-s. Or maybe she just thinks she’s good at math but isn’t really. In any case, by the time you hit this book, Stacey is like the Good Will Hunting of SMS. She’s the queen of calculus and the princess of trigonometry.
What’s my point? Can’t any of these girls ever be ‘good’ at something or ‘like’ something without being world-class at it? I get that Claudia is not a good student; I like and support that. But I think it would mean so much more—and be more realistic to those who liked it—if she was a good artist without being world class. I mean, the girl wins every art contest she enters, even against stereotypical (beret and goatee) adult artists.
That’s Stacey in this book, too.
There are two Stacey-related plots dancing around each other. Stacey is flattered into joining the mathletes. With her help, the team wins every competition. Meanwhile, Stacey’s dad loses his job and spends all his spare time with Stacey, taking her out to expensive dinners and shows. He gets tickets for a U4ME show that is the same time as the state finals. Stacey has to decide where her priorities lie. She realizes that her dad is asking too much of her, by assuming she’s always going to jump whenever he’s free. He eventually gets a new job and goes back to his old self—but promises that he’ll make more time for her in the future.
In the b-plot, Stacey has been tutoring Lindsey DeWitt in math. She says Lindsey is stubborn and exhausting, but the truth is, she’s not learning anything from Stacey. Claudia takes over her tutoring and brings the math down to Lindsey’s level, and suddenly she gets it. (It’s really a rehash of book #63, when Claudia learned nothing from tutoring with Stacey, but learned tons when she was helping Shea Rodowsky.) Lindsey takes part in a ridiculous Math Fair at SES and even correctly solves one of Stacey’s mathlete problems.
Interesting tidbits
The cover. Stacey’s having way too much fun with the ‘wheel of mathematics’, and the kid behind her, Jason the nerd, is totally thinking, ‘I hope no one can tell I just crapped myself.’

Or not.
Just for the record: I have never read this book before. You have been warned.
Stacey keeps Capitalizing Everything to Make It a Title. First it’s The Stacey McGill Guide to Third Grade Math and then The Stacey McGill Philosophy of Appearance. (I’m hearing Tiffany from Daria in my head: “I love philosophy.”)

Claudia’s philosophy on junk food? (No, I’m not going to capitalize that.) If any element of it could maybe potentially be healthy, then it’s health food. That includes the peanuts in peanut M&M’s, and the powdery ‘cheez’ substance on Chee-tos. Uh, if you say so, Claud.
Ha! Stacey suggests Kristy kind of has a Winona Ryder feel. I wonder if this is back when she had that pixie hairstyle? I always wanted that hairstyle but never had the guts for it….
Abby’s hair must grow super-fast. She cut it short, to match Anna’s in book #104. This book is about a month later, and it’s already long again.
I love it when the BSC characters have images for words. Whether it’s Claudia thinking of prunes when her mother says ‘prudent’ (which seems to fit, as anyone who would say prudent would probably eat prunes, too) or Stacey visualizing pancakes stuck to a griddle when she says ‘unflappable.’
Apparently Stacey’s parents’ relationship has improved from ‘wanting to kill each other’ to ‘not wanting to kill each other.’ I guess that’s nice for them, but even more so for Stacey herself, who is always getting put in the middle.
Who has leftovers when they eat lobster? I’m not even sure that would reheat okay…
Claudia spelling: kno, wating, breth, nite, hapened, blaim, Linsy, horified, hadnt’. She also uses your for you’re and feint for faint. But the best bit of all is that she calls herself Claudia the Tooter and says she tooted ‘Linsy.’ Growing up, we never used to euphemism toot for passing gas, but I know it’s big these days. It’s what my nieces and nephews use. They would think Claudia the Tooter was hilarious.
There’s something funny about Claudia correcting Buddy when he says he’s the Abdominable Snowman.
Mistake: Ryan DeWitt is spelled Byan.
I love it! Claudia actually tells Stacey how awful her math notes were after her first tutoring session, saying, “You’re much better at understanding than explaining.” Basically, Stacey’s problem is that she’s using adult words to explain math…to an eight year old. Claudia, whose own math skills were much more slowly acquired, had to take those adult concepts and break them down. Sometimes, she probably did this on her own; other times, the teacher did it for her. It’s therefore a lot easier for her to explain things to Lindsey in a way she’ll understand.
Stacey’s first mathlete match is between SMS, Stoneybrook Day, and Kelsey Middle School. She thinks she won’t run into anyone she knows, because she doesn’t know anyone at KMS and only Shannon and Bart at SDS. I think that might be the last time anyone mentions Bart in this series, although I’m probably wrong. (And of course, her parents and the BSC are all there.)
Abby, Kristy and Claudia totally embarrass Stacey (and MA and Mal), by shouting and dancing when she shows up on stage. I think Jessi’s reaction is best, though: she’s staring at them ‘as if they’d lost their minds.’ You can picture her subtly shifting her chair away from the rest of the club, pretending she doesn’t know them. Brilliant.
The head of the math department at SDS is named Reverty Schmidt. I had a small laugh at that name just before the members of the SMS team did the same. Glad to know I have the maturity of a fictional thirteen year old…
I’m having more fun doing the math problems Stacey gets than reading the book. I do very well with number-y problems, but not so well with anything that involves drawing or shapes. I’m very spatially-challenged, but I still try to solve the problem before Stacey does. Several I solved easily, including a couple of old problems that are in every book of brain teasers out there.
Stacey’s dad has a serious case of road rage. He’s like I would be if I had to drive through NYC. (Not that the interstates in Kansas City are a treat…my favorite is getting on 35/29 and having to get over four lanes of traffic to make a left-exit in less than a mile. Fun.) He reminds me of my dad…not in the driving-sense, but in the cheapness sense. He drives around like a nut trying to find a street parking space because he calls parking garages a rip-off. I once had to walk four miles to Wrigley Field because he didn’t want to pay a fee to park. (Stacey’s dad ends up with a parking ticket, so you see how well that worked for him!)
Stacey’s dad went to NYU. I’ve always imagined that Stacey would go there as well.
Ha? Stacey dreams with visions of sugarless plums, instead of sugar plums. At first I thought that was cheesy, but it’s growing on me.
Stacey’s having a Claudia moment: when Ms. Hartley, the mathlete coach, calls the team a juggernaut, Stacey pictures a jug of milk in outer space.
Riiiight. The families of Stoneybrook really are pathetic, aren’t they? Several BSC client families show up for Stacey’s third meet, the southern Connecticut district championship. You can’t find something better to do on a Saturday? (Besides, one of those families was the Barrett-DeWitt clan. Ya really think two eight year olds, a six year old, a five year old, a four year old and two two year olds are really going to sit still and watch middle schoolers do math? Seriously.
Oh, now that’s not nice. Buddy keeps making fun of Lindsey for being stupid, since she needs help with math. I think Buddy forgets that he had to be tutored for his reading not that long ago…
Mal sums up her sitting job by turning it into a mathlete-style math problem. This line was funny, too: after Nicky unravels an entire roll of toilet paper (who does he think he is? My cat?) and claims it’s for his math fair project, Vanessa quips, “What’s it called, arithmetoilet?”
Stacey is running late for school. Claudia and Mary Anne, waiting for her, actually bet on whether she overslept (MA) or had a hair emergency (Claudia). Claud wins.
The title quote is Claudia’s take on why people just don’t blow off BSC meetings. (Mary Anne suggests Stacey should not be blowing off mathletes for the U4ME concert because she’s a member of the team and shouldn’t let her teammates down, same as the BSC members don’t let each other down.)
Ooh, it looks like…uh, special…driving runs in the McGill family. Stacey says riding with her mom is like riding a bull. Isn’t there a book where Ms. McGill points out that she didn’t learn to drive until she was much older? I’ve read so many books at this point that I can’t remember when that happens.
Abby and Jessi make their notebook entry into a list of ‘What we learned at the SES math fair.’ There are only three entries, and only #3 is any good. Abby writes: “Even third graders can make you feel stupid.” That sounds like the story of Claudia’s life.
What is everyone doing for the ‘math fair’? Buddy has a booth about probabilty (spelling all his). Haley and Charlotte have teamed up (with Matt) to do math-related tricks. Lindsey’s project is an old math brain teaser about how you can turn a triangle made of ten dots around by moving only three of them. Vanessa—unsurprisingly—explains the math of poetry. Margo’s booth is about making change, while Nicky’s is about how to effectively estimate.
Oh my god. Jessi and Abby make an awesome math/poop joke. It’s too awesome for me to even repeat.
This is disappointing. No new characters (except a girl whose mom does her math fair project for her, who’s pointless) and no outfits. Stacey says she and her dad go to Zingy’s and buy her a new outfit, but we never get to hear about it.
Next: Mystery # 28

1 comment:

  1. Stacey tells Mrs. Barrett that her dad didn't get his driver's license until he was in his 20s because he grew up in the city in SS 10, Sea City, Here We Come. For a mom and driving, possibly you're thinking of Sharon saying she doesn't like driving while it's snowing and that moving to Cali was a relief for that reason. This happens in SS 7, Snowbound!