Sunday, March 20, 2016

BSC Fun! Or not.

In my latest vlog, I mentioned my similarity to Mallory in appearance. To misquote myself, I looked just like Mallory when I was eleven, except the hair. And I promised to prove it. Before we get to that, I want to prove that I wasn’t always a big dork. So here are two photos of me when I was cute, before I wore Hufflepuff shirts and randomly quoted Doctor Who.

And…here I am, circa age twelve. Wasn’t I gorgeous? Don’t you love my oversized glasses, great hair choices, and amazing sense of fashion? I knew you would.

Here’s the (allegedly) fun part. How many people here will admit they’ve ever dressed up like Claudia? Or that there is a photo of them, somewhere, wearing an outfit like Mary Anne used to wear? Or even that they’ve seen a stock photo and said to themselves, “Hey, it’s Stacey!” and are willing to prove it? If I have enough responses, I’ll make it a contest and find an appropriately cheesy prize to mail to the winner.

Don’t let me down now, guys. 

“This is even more boring than being bored.” BSC Mystery #29: Stacey and the Fashion Victim (1997)

I know we’ve vlogged Stacey before…okay, no we haven’t. We’ve (what’s this we crap? I must have multiple personalities or something…) only vlogged Stacey’s Emergency. So let’s talk.

I really think that someone came up with the title of this book, and then worked out a convoluted plot line to fit the very punny tag. Stacey is modeling at an event at Bellair’s Department Store called Fashion Week, which consists of catalogue shoots and fashion shows. Someone keeps sabotaging the models and shoots, so Stacey and the BSC investigate, and they find out the culprit was a model with a very pushy stage mother. She wanted to stop modeling and thought making it look like someone was out to get her would get her mother to back off.
In the B plot, Abby catches Buddy Barrett and Lindsey DeWitt getting ready to try a cigarette, leading to the kids in town convincing various adults in their lives to quit.
Interesting Tidbits
The cover: I think Stacey is the fashion victim here. I do know the seventies were back around that time, but still. Ew.

This book is going to be chockfull of outfits, isn’t it? I’m excited, but only if the clothes are better than what Stacey’s wearing on the cover.
Remember mini backpacks? Those were definitely all the rage when I was a teen. Stacey wears one with her ‘business-y outfit’ for Take Your Daughter to Work Day, totally ruining the adultness of the outfit.
What did everyone do for TYDtWD? Stacey helped her mom be a buyer at Bellair’s. Claudia went with her dad to his investment banking job, where she understood nothing but lunch. (Sounds like a normal day at school for her, before she went back to seventh grade.) Kristy rearranged her mom’s desk for efficiency.* Mary Anne thought watching Richard—who’s a corporate lawyer at this point; that seems to change on a regular basis—work was pretty interesting. Both Abby and Jessi did their mom’s photocopying…and they both copied their faces.
*Do we even know what Kristy’s mom does? She works in an office with a copy machine, but I think that’s all I know about her job.
When Stacey tells everyone she’ll be a model for Fashion Week, Mal and Jessi are predictably against it, which is no surprise. They also had a problem with the Little Miss Stoneybrook pageant, remember? And Kristy is against it as well, but mostly because Stacey won’t be able to do any sitting that week. (Typical.) Interestingly, it’s Mary Anne—who’s experienced the world of catalog modeling and commercial auditions with the Prezziosos—who suggests that some non-professional modeling could help Stacey learn to be more independent and confident.
Ooh, I have a new goal in life: to become Princess Bellair. Forget using my brain for anything!
Oh, and I now have the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song stuck in my head. Think Princess Bellair is related somehow?
Stacey gets bored enough during the Fashion Week intro meeting that she lets Cokie tell her all the gossip about all the other models. Stacey says she doesn’t even like gossip. (Bitch, please. I don’t know a single girl her age who doesn’t enjoy at least a little gossip. I do understand her point about the fact that all the models want to do is badmouth each other behind their backs, but a little rundown of who’s who, like Cokie gave, is something most of us can appreciate on some level.) The title quote relates to this passage, only it’s not from the book. It’s what my sister used to say when she was a small fry and my mother used to try to get her to clean instead of whining and moping.
Oh, and then guess who’s gossiping with Claudia about one of the models a couple pages later…
So the mystery begins in earnest at the end of chapter five. Before that, we are introduced to only some of the people involved in Fashion Week, so each of the people with a name is automatically a suspect. I give you:
            Mrs. Maslin, who runs the show
            Harmony Skye, a ridiculously named up-and-coming model
            Sydney, the latest thing in fashion**
            Cynthia, who’s past her peak (at sixteen)
            Blaine, a local girl who is just getting started and trying to break into the big time
            Mrs. Skye, a totally obnoxious stage mother
            Roger Bellair, who used to date Sydney and is working on the shoot
            Dylan Trueheart, the agent who ‘discovered’ Cokie
**If Sydney’s that big a model—she was on the cover of a teenage fashion magazine recently—what the **** is she doing surrounded by amateurs at a small-time fashion show in Podunk, USA?
First incident: Harmony, who hasn’t eaten all day, drinks some tea and then has stomachaches, gets sleepy and becomes pale. Mrs. Skye thinks someone drugged her.
The instructions the photographer gives the models are laughable: “Okay, girls, let’s see you act like long-lost sisters who are thrilled to see each other again.” But I’ve read and seen other materials about fashion shoots, and they’re equally laughable. I’m thinking about Tootie on The Facts of Life: “How can I make love to a camera when I’ve never even kissed a boy?”
Second incident (and a bunch of little ones that only get a sentence or two): Blaine, Sydney and Harmony find some of their outfits from the shoot shredded. Someone exposed a bunch of rolls of film. A model discovered a spider in her shoe (although that might just be a coincidence.) Blaine gets locked in an elevator. Harmony fell off the catwalk when she was blinded by the light. (I forget who sings that song, but it’s now stuck in my head.) Someone got a rash from their foundation—which is exactly why I don’t wear makeup. A bunch of creepy notes keep showing up, written in makeup.
Claudia spelling! Wacthing, shur, defenetly.
Wow, this story is so boring that I can’t even find anything to mock.
I’m amused by the fact that various people keep talking on ‘cellular phones.’ I realize they were still sort of new technology—my friends started getting cell phones in 98—but I can’t imagine using that many syllables to discuss something that’s so common place these days.
Stacey’s from New York, so when she references tall buildings, she mentions the Empire State Building and the World Trade Center.
Incident 3: Stacey and Harmony lean on a railing on the roof of Bellair’s. It gives way and they fall a few feet, not injured. Someone had removed the screws…and it had been Harmony’s idea to stand against the railing.
I know I’ve been very quiet about the B-plot, and that’s because it’s basically been a non-entity. I don’t think it’s ever been mentioned in any of the books that anyone smoked unless it was a specific plot point. (The girls on the SMS softball team, for example, when they thought they’d burned down that shed with their cigarettes.) I guess we’re supposed to be surprised that Franklin DeWitt and Mrs. Hobart smoke, but I wasn’t really shocked to find that Watson occasionally puffs on a cigar or that Aunt Cecelia smokes. If anyone in this book was going to have a humidor, it would definitely be Watson.
Stacey decides that modeling was fun, but she never wants to do it again. It would have been an awesome spin-off series if she’d been discovered: much edgier than the California Diaries—with cocaine, affairs, and even more gossip! I’m so sad we didn’t get that series.
Stacey: white linen blouse, navy skirt, heels; raspberry romper, white sneakers, white baseball cap, pigtails; red/white striped bathing suit and cover-up, red flip flops, straw hat, slicked-back hair; denim minidress, espadrilles, bangles, French braid; pink wool jumper; plaid skirt and white shirt; navy blue suit; trendy jeans, tight shirt, platform shoes; flowery, ankle-length dress
Claudia: white jeans with artistic paint on them, denim shirt (stealing Dawn’s attire, I think), high top sneakers, chopsticks in her hair
Harmony: long skirt, crop top; neon paisley miniskirt, white gogo boots, fluffy white jacket (this outfit is making my eyes hurt and I can’t even see it)
Watson: a tux (seriously)—and all the rest of the Brewer-Thomas family also dresses up

Next: #108

“Some of us need to concentrate when we’re driving.” BSC #107: Mind Your Own Business, Kristy (1997)

Okay. This book drove me nuckin’ futs when I first read it a couple years ago, and there is one, very simple reason why. If you’ve never read this book before, here’s a very quick summary: Kristy meddles in Charlie’s love life. That’s annoying enough by itself, but it’s so Kristy that you’re not even surprised by it. Here’s what I found so obnoxious about this book: Kristy keeps telling Charlie to give up his new girlfriend because she’s trouble, and she’s flippin’ right! I would have liked the book a hell of a lot more if Kristy had warned Charlie that this girl, Angelica, was no good, and she turned out to be wrong and Angelica was harmless….
A more detailed plot summary: Kristy throws a spring-break spring training for the Krushers and Charlie agrees to help. He just broke up with his girlfriend and enjoys the attentions of the Hsus’ sitter, Angelica, so much so that he slacks on his part of the deal. He promises to get some famous baseball player to come to the training camp but doesn’t follow through. Kristy tries to get Charlie and his ex back together but just pisses him off.
Kristy wins four tickets to a rock concert and agrees to give two to Charlie in exchange for a ride to the concert. Kristy, Charlie, Angelica and Claudia are on their way to the concert with Angelica driving Watson’s car when they get pulled over. Angelica crashes the car and admits she doesn’t have a license. Charlie realizes that Angelica’s a liar and a bad seed and he gets back together with his ex, who gets the baseball player to come to the training camp.
Interesting Tidbits
The front cover: All the ladies love Charlie…

The back cover: The story summary begins “Kristy’s brother Charlie is a good guy….” This is an understatement. Not only does Charlie shuttle Kristy (and her friends) all over the place, but every time he drops her off and discovers she needs help with whatever she’s gotten herself into, he drops everything and takes care of it. He does things like run concession stands at Krushers’ games and transport the team from place to place, even when it means getting stranded at a ‘haunted’ house. He came in during the Pike plague and helped cook and clean even though he didn’t get paid. Charlie’s the kind of kid you can be proud of, whether he is your son, your neighbor or your brother.
Porky, Arnold and Piglet: Kristy’s nicknames for her brothers. I get Porky and Piglet, but it took me fifteen minutes to get the Arnold reference. It shouldn’t surprise me that Kristy would make a Green Acres reference, given the fact that these girls love Leave it to Beaver and I Love Lucy.
Kristy makes the Hillary Clinton argument: if you have a forceful personality and a penis, people call you strong-willed and a born leader. But a female with the same quality is either bossy or a bitch. (Okay, Kristy doesn’t say the latter, but it’s obviously what she means. You all know that’s what some of her classmates will call Kristy behind her back.)
The Brewer-Thomas clan has six pets, but it took me absolutely forever to list them all, since it’s usually just Boo-Boo and Shannon that get mentioned. The rest of the pets are all Karen and Andrew’s—two goldfish, and two caged small animals that used to live at the ‘Little House’ until Karen and Andrew started switching houses every other month instead of just staying with their dad on weekends. (I still haven’t pinpointed exactly when that happened.) Karen’s rat is named Emily Jr.—which is supposed to be a compliment, but hopefully that rat’s dead long before Emily Michelle is old enough to figure that one out. And if I remember correctly, Andrew’s hermit crab is named Bob.
Charlie is looking at college brochures…during spring break…of his senior year. He should have already chosen a school by then.
Oh, and the brochures include Levithan Polytechnic Institute and Rhineback School of Arts. Would any person be considering those two schools at the same time? If you really don’t know what you want to study, you go to a big state school, where you have 3000 major choices. (David Michael suggests that Charlie go someplace where he can train to be an astronaut, which is such a 7 year old thing to suggest.)
Obviously, this story revolves around the Krushers, and Bart does indeed show up. There goes my theory that Bart does not show up again after he breaks up with Kristy.
When Kristy calls the meeting to order while picking up a phone call, Mrs. Kuhn thinks she dialed Pizza Express by accident. That leads to various BSC members quipping, “One babysitter, extra cheese with pepperoni?” and “Is that a deep dish sitter or a Sicilian?”
I’m picturing Jessi giving the Kuhn kids ballet lessons and it’s hilarious. I think it’s mostly because they always describe Jake as being pudgy and klutzy—the eight year old boy version of myself—that I find him plié-ing so funny.
Kristy asks Bart to help with her Spring Klinic (she spells it with a c at this point, but it’s the Krushers, so k it is. Plus, then I can all it Kristy’s Krushers’ Klinic and shorten it…) He turns her down because then the Krushers would know all his secrets. Kristy says it’s only a game, so who cares, but I’m actually with Bart on this one. Plus, that may be the only time in the history of the world that Kristy’s called softball ‘only a game.’
Ha! Charlie knows just how to annoy Kristy, which is absolutely no surprise. When the radio station called Kristy to let her know she’d won four tickets to the Blade concert, she thought it was Alan making fun of her. (She didn’t realize that they pre-tape most radio segments. I had that argument repeatedly with my sister when she was tying up the phone line trying to win radio contests in her teens. Seriously, people: when you hear them answering the phone and telling some schmuck he’s the 57th caller out of 101, that’s when you can quit calling, because they’re recording the call with the actual winner.) So later when Kristy’s crabby, Charlie asks her if she had a fight with her boyfriend, Alan.
Charlie’s post-high school dreams? Clown college. Awesome.
So the big baseball star Kristy promises the kids will be at the KKK? (I told you I was going to shorten it!) His name is Jack Brewster and he used to play for the Mets. What bugs me is that Kristy goes all gaga and starts telling the kids everything, and Charlie just says he ‘might’ be able to get him to come. It tells me Kristy wasn’t really listening—she only heard the words she wanted to hear. (I don’t know anyone who does that. Certainly not my mother, who tells all my relatives all the prospective details about my wedding that ‘might’ happen…just after I told her not to tell anyone anything until it’s set in stone!)*
Huh. I don’t remember ever hearing that Kristy’s dad used to play minor league ball, but he makes a lot more sense when you factor that in. He’s like a little boy who didn’t get what he wanted for Christmas…so he ups and leaves his family for the chance to be a reporter for a sports team instead. Still not okay, but his logic is a teensy bit less shady now.
I’m not surprised that the kids on the Krushers love Charlie. I kinda love him myself.
Various things Kristy calls Angelica before she learns her name: Monica, Jessica, Seneca, Veronica, Cressida, Sparticus.
Oh, and Kristy does eventually call it Krushers Klinic. I don’t know if I remembered that or it was just a logical assumption. (You know Karen’s sitting back there on the bench going, Crushers’ Clinic in her head…)
Double Ha! Mr. Pike calls Jessi ‘Jesserina’. It’s such a dad joke and I adore it.
I no longer have that list I used to amass of the members of Kristy’s Krushers, but I do know that the KKK has more members than the team usually has. As of now, the only additions to the regular krew (see what I did there?) that I’m aware of are Vanessa and the triplets. Vanessa’s usually a cheerleader, but she’s playing in this book. And I guess that the triplets’ can attend the KKK around their Little League practices….
Kristy refers to the sounds Charlie’s car makes as ‘the mating call of the Junk Bucket.’ That put a really inappropriate picture in my head, like a scene out of a documentary about wildlife.
You know Angelica is a bad girl because she smokes!
Claudia’s idea of a good snack: she wraps a licorice string around a pretzel.
This is interesting, and I never noticed it before. After Mrs. Barrett became Mrs. DeWitt, the assorted Barrett-DeWitt kids seemed to do everything together. But only Buddy and Suzi are Krushers, despite the fact that Lindsey, Taylor and Madeleine are all the right age to join.
Dumbass. Kristy tries the sitcom-staple of setting Charlie and Sarah up to go to dinner together. It never works for kids of divorcing parents, so why does she think it will work in this case? It’s double-bad because Charlie invites Angelica along. Kristy talks him out of it, but it still goes very badly.
Number of baseball puns in Abby’s KKK sitting notebook entry: five. Number of sentences: five. She’s batting a thousand.
Abby’s method of dividing the kids up for a practice game: “All kids with vowels in their names, to my right. All kids with consonants in their names, to my left.”
Shocking. Kristy admits that she was an idiot for butting into Charlie and Sarah’s break up.
*It wasn’t until chapter 9 that I realized Kristy didn’t tell the kids at the KKK that Jack Brewster might come. The kids weren’t all showing up because of JB; they were showing up because they idolize Charlie. He’s the one who tells the kids Jack Brewster will be coming.
Ooh, this is awful: when Charlie slacks on his co-coach duties, Kristy calls him on it. Charlie points out that he’s volunteering, and therefore, he can slack if he wants to. Kristy suggests he’s just like their father. This has to be the ultimate insult for one of the Thomas kids, but especially for Charlie. (Part of the reason I liked the FF series so much was that Patrick leaving was addressed: Charlie was allowed to be angry at this dad—for good reason—while Sam got to play peacekeeper, a role that I think matured him.)
Finally, a sign that Charlie is a teenaged boy and not perfect: He’s really mad—understandably so—after Kristy’s comment, but he comes to KKK anyway. He then makes Mary Anne play message girl and relay questions and messages to Kristy, because he doesn’t want to talk to her. Passive aggression at its finest, folks.
So Blade—the band Kristy, Claudia and Charlie love—has a new CD called…Shrunken Heads. Yet they write love songs that Abby and Kristy were embarrassed that Charlie was singing along with.
Watson drives an Oldsmobile, which Charlie asks to borrow. When I was remembering this story, I thought that Watson’s car was a stick, because Charlie sucked at driving it. Instead, he says he’s not used to power breaks and power steering. (I’ve driven a car without those things, and it’s really not that different, so I don’t get this, but okay.) Angelica convinces him to let her drive because she’s getting car sick. Kristy hates the idea because Watson loaned Charlie the car and she feels like letting Angelica drive is sneaky and wrong. Kristy’s right, for more reasons than she knows, but Charlie’s so mad at her he won’t listen.
I don’t understand why Mr. Kishi is mad at Claudia when he picks her up at the police station. Watson? Yeah, I get him being pissy. His car is stranded on the highway and possibly totaled. Plus, Charlie let someone else drive the car, a totally stupid choice. But Mr. Kishi? I don’t get that one.
Oh, snap. The title quote is Watson’s snarky response when Charlie tries to defend his actions on the way home from the Stamford police department. Later, he tells Charlie to ‘rethink his social attachments’, which is Watson-speak for ‘you’re not to see Angelica anymore.’
Ha ha! Angelica convinces Kristy to hand a letter over to Charlie. Kristy notices the letter is typewritten and suggests that’s formal and took extra effort. This is no longer true. These days, if I wanted to take extra effort, I’d definitely handwrite it.
Oh, and then Charlie actually reads the letter out loud to Kristy! I’ve got a younger sister and if I got a letter from a significant other like that, I’d never let her know what it said.
In the aftermath of everything, Charlie fears that he actually is like his father, because he promised to help Kristy with the KKK and instead, let her and the kids down. He thinks he’s immature because he can’t figure out where he wants to go to college or what he wants to study. But Kristy points out that he held the family together when Patrick left. Charlie would get up in the middle of the night to feed David Michael. He even learned to write a check and paid the bills. Kristy tells him she looks up to him so much that she sometimes asks herself, “What would Charlie do about this?” when she’s stuck on a problem. That’s sweet.
In the author’s note, AMM says that she actually went to Walt Disney World as ‘research’ for super special #1. Sure, Ann. I believe that’s the only reason you went there. *wink*
This is my 200th post. I should celebrate, and I think I will…by eating a few Cadbury Crème Eggs…(Actually, watch this space. I plan to do something fun..ner than normal coming up in a few posts.
Claudia: fringed leather vest, oversized plaid shirt, wide tie, bell bottoms with two different color legs, VCR hair clips

Next: Mystery #29

“Mom, Abby’s allergic to Stoneybrook.” BSC Portrait Collection: Abby’s Book (1997)

The story of Abby! Dum da dum! Heh, drama.
From Birth to Backpack: Abby as a small fry, looking identical to Anna but not acting identically
Red and Blue Just Won’t Do: In first grade, Abby and Anna’s teacher couldn’t tell them apart, so she makes them each only dress in one color
Without Dad: Abby’s dad dies in a car accident
The Shooting Star: Abby’s family goes on vacation to Florida, but they don’t spend any time together until Abby makes them enjoy each other’s company
New Places, New Faces: Abby’s point of view on moving to Stoneybrook
Interesting Tidbits
The cover: Abby’s actually kinda cute here. And according to the note on the inside of the book, that’s actually a real Aretha Franklin CD cover.

Abby says she doesn’t approve of forcing kids to write about their lives instead of living it. But we’re also talking about a girl who forgot she had to write a whole autobiography assignment until the weekend before it was due, so that explains a whole lot.
Anna is eight minutes older than Abby, but she walked a couple of hours earlier than Anna did. I would have thought, given their personalities, that Abby would have walked early and Anna would have chilled for a month or two until she decided to join her.
This is stupid. Abby’s parents knew they were having twins. They even knew they were having identical twins and that they were girls. But her parents were completely surprised by the fact that their twins arrived early. I would think that would be something they’d prepare for, since that’s pretty par for the course for twins.
Oh, Abby. She even makes preschool puns.
Abby hates that no one can tell her and Anna apart in first grade and calls them both Abby-Anna. Being five, she can’t vocalize what’s bothering her. You’d think that the kids would figure it out eventually, since even then, the two of them had completely different interests, but it’s not helped by the fact that the two girls insisted upon identical school supplies and insist upon wearing the same outfit. It’s the same story as the Arnold twins: twins with different interests and different personalities, who dress identically. Only difference? Mrs. Arnold made her daughters dress that way. It just never occurred to Abby and Anna that they could wear different clothes and still be twins.
I’ve always wondered when schools switched to allowing twins to be in the same classroom. When I was in elementary school, twins had to be separated so they would develop separate identities. I can see how that would be difficult for some twins, though, so I could see letting them stay together for a couple of years.
Abby and Anna switch colors so that Abby can prove no one can tell them apart. When their dad comes to school at recess, he can tell they’ve switched but goes along with their scheme. Unfortunately, the girls think their dad can’t tell them apart either, and it depresses them enough that they tell their parents what’s been happening at school
So, school starts after Labor Day where Abby lives, yet by October 15—six weeks later—there’s been enough time for a) everyone to confuse the Stevensons’ identities b) the two of them to wear their colors and c) the two of them to look different long enough that they establish separate friends who know their identities. Sure.
Abby and her dad have an ongoing joke about Abby rolling her eyes and saying how much she love meatballs. I’m not sure if there’s something I’m not getting or if it’s just a lame joke. (That’s actually the last thing she ever said to her dad before he died, so I have to wonder how long it took before she ever ate another meatball.)
Oh, and with all the pasta here—the spaghetti and meatballs Abby’s dad was going to make for dinner that night, the ziti casserole a neighbor brings over after hearing about the accident—all I can think is, isn’t Abby allergic to tomatoes?
Abby overhears her grandfather say that his death was instantaneous, so her dad didn’t suffer. I was Abby’s age when my grandfather died and no one told me anything, but I overheard stuff. A lot of stuff. Some of it made it harder to sleep and some of it made me easier. Honestly, looking back, I really wish someone had just told me straight up that he had a DNR and they’d pulled the plug, but I think they didn’t think I could handle it.
Even though this book is really lame, I found myself trying not to cry when Abby and Anna were talking to their mother. It had been a little more than a month since their dad died, and there was no food in the pantry, no dishwashing detergent, a house full of dirty dishes and full trashcans, and Abby admits she’s worn the same pair of socks for three days in a row. Abby says they need to pull the house together, and her mother says she needs to pull herself together. It’s sad because it’s actually realistic. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to lose a husband…never mind having to carry on for your daughters. Hard.
I like this: Abby’s family pretty well fell apart after her father died. This was partly because he was all about routine and traditions, and her mother couldn’t stand to follow those routines because they hurt too much. They got back into routines a couple months after her father died, when Rachel Stevenson decided to pull herself together for the sake of her daughters. But it took them several years to figure out that they needed to start new traditions as a way to honor their father and become a family again.
Abby’s friends from Long Island? Elvia, Jennifer and Joyce. I go back to the idea I had last week that the writers just started using a random name generator at some point and didn’t stop to think how many people named Elvia or Joyce were born in 1984. (This book: 1997. Abby’s friends: 13.)
Oh, and apparently all/most of Abby’s LI friends were also Jewish.
It’s so much more obvious in the Abby books how all these characters are so one-dimensional. When the Stevensons decorate their Stoneybrook house, Anna picks out a four-poster bed and flowery, Laura Ashley-esque wallpaper—a match for the types of clothes she is usually portrayed wearing—and is mostly concerned about where she’ll put her stereo and CD collection. Abby picks a traditionally-masculine wallpaper with tan and blue stripes and is interested in a fold-out couch for her friends to sleep on. At their going away party, their friends give Anna violin CDs and Abby a bunch of balls. It’s obvious through all this that Anna is very introverted while Abby is—duh—the extrovert of the two, and then of course, one likes sports and the other likes music….
Actually, I think it would be a lot more interesting if Abby, the outgoing, smart-mouthed one, dressed like a future nun and played the violin, while Anna, the introverted, quiet one, were into sports and dressed like she had no fashion sense.
Anna says the title quote, followed by, “We have to go back to Old Woodbury.” (Their mother reiterates that Abby also ‘has allergic reactions when she’s under stress.’ So she’s suggesting that Abby’s allergic to her emotions?
Abby acknowledges that she and Kristy have a lot in common, commenting how odd it was that Kristy seemed to like Anna better when they first met. She does admit that she was telling her crappiest jokes at the Thomas’ house when they spent the night there, but otherwise seems confused as to why Kristy was so opposed to her in the first place.
When Abby makes a really bad rhyme-pun, Kristy compares her to Vanessa. This is both awesome and awful at the same time. I can’t decide who should be more insulted, Abby or Vanessa.
Abby gets an A-. Didn’t some of the other girls get two grades, one for content and one for mechanics? I know Claudia did, because she got a decent grade for content and a lousy grade for mechanics like spelling.
Five year old Anna and Abby: white t-shirts, green cardigans, black jeans; overalls and a yellow shirt (Abby); flower-print dress (Anna)
Nine year old Abby: jeans, turtleneck, cowboy vest

Next: #107

“If there’s one thing worse than a cute, obnoxious boy it’s a cute, obnoxious boy who thinks he’s smart.” BSC #106: Claudia, Queen of the Seventh Grade (1997)

Claudia’s doing much better the second time around in seventh grade, and has amassed a loyal group of friends. Her friends nominate her for seventh grade queen, which, of course, she wins. Her king is Mark Jaffe, who’s a cute slacker. Claudia plans this epic, ambitious ‘prom’ complete with a food and clothing drive. She and Mark squabble a bit but of course, they end up dating. Claudia also feels pulled between her (eighth-grade) BSC friends, who are kind of pissy about her queendom because ‘you’re really an eighth grader,’ and her seventh grade friends. Each group seems to be a little jealous of the other.
The Addisons are looking for a sitter for the first time since Sean caught the pyromaniac bug back in Mystery #13, and Sean is one angry kid. He’s being teased at school, and decides he’s too old for a sitter. You know how I love dysfunctional families. J
Interesting Tidbits
The cover: All hail Claudia! I’m surprised no one is salaaming.

Aaaaaand…the book begins with Claudia helping her classmates with their homework because she ‘gets’ it better than they do. Although, I do love her mnemonic device for remembering the classification for living things: Kindly Pass Claudia Oreos, For Goodness Sakes. (We always used King Philip Came Over For Good Spaghetti…because we weren’t allowed to use the original version. “No Spaghetti Before Marriage!”)
I like Russ, who says he was meant to be a pioneer in the Wild West but was born in the wrong era.
This says so much about Josh, right here. Everyone—Claudia, Josh, and their other friends Jeannie and Shira—are in Joanna’s room. Shira reminds Joanna that she’s not allowed to have boys in her room, and Joanna says, “Josh doesn’t count.” I can take that one of two ways. Either Joanna and Josh have been friends since they were in diapers, so she just considers him one of the girls, or Josh is feminine or non-threatening…and probably gay. Hell, he even briefly considers running for seventh grade queen before stating he’s the wrong gender.
By this point in the series, Claudia’s fashion is considered ‘found fashion’ and she’s described as shopping in thrift stores a lot. I guess that was the mid-nineties version of funky clothes.
Real book, one that makes MA cry (natch): Mrs. Fish, Ape, and Me, the Dump Queen (I’ve never read that. it sounds…odd.)
Babysitters Club, the Musical. Coming to Broadway next spring!
More real books, these ones for seventh graders: Call of the Wild (I read that in eighth grade and hated it, but I think that had more to do with hating the teacher than the material…) and Hatchet.
Shira’s mom is apparently an adult Dawn. She has a car covered in environmental group bumper stickers and she wants Shira to start a food drive at school. Although Dawn would probably have a bike instead of a car, because it’s more environmentally friendly.
What kind of name is Duryan? I understand that, after a while, the authors ran out of names and started digging deeper and repeating names. I’ve always loved Shira and Shiri, which is Hebrew for song or tune, and Joanna and Jeannie are pretty normal names. But the two other candidates for seventh grade queen are Abigail and Duryan. I know a Darian, and a durian is a southeastern Asian fruit, but what is Duryan?
Either Kristy thinks the ‘graduation song’ is Pumpin’ Circumstance or she knows the correct name and Claudia misheard her. I’m leaning toward the second.
The title quote is Claudia’s take after talking to Mark for the first time.
This is soooooo Mary Anne: When she takes her first job for the Addisons, the Addison parents ask to talk to her before the job begins, and she thinks they’re going to fire her before she even starts the job. I was always paranoid like that growing up: The teacher wants to talk to me, so I must be in trouble.
Later, Claudia describes Mary Anne’s emotions after discovering the truth about the Addisons as her ‘internally having a cow.’ (Okay, she didn’t say internally; that was my word. But it’s what she meant.) 1. I can’t imagine MA having a cow…unless she was fighting with Dawn. 2. I’m totally going to use that every time I pissy and don’t display it.
First Claudia confuses scepter with septic—suggesting she doesn’t need one because she can use the public restroom—then she wonders what the purpose of a scepter is for. Shira: Hitting peasants over the head, I think.
I really don’t like Mark. I can’t decide if it’s because he reminds me of too many boys I knew in school, or because the fighting is too obviously setting Mark and Claudia up to date, or the fact that I know she breaks up for him in favor of Josh later…I just want to skip all the pages with Mark on them….
Ooh, I can see why Claudia would (eventually) want to date Josh: “Under his green woolen watch cap, his ears stuck out at an odd angle. He looked like an earnest little chipmunk.” Sezzy.
Ha. After Mrs. Addison calls and wants to set up further sitting jobs with the BSC, where they are sitting for Corrie but supervising Sean, Abby ‘looks green.’ She’s never met the Addisons, just heard about Sean setting fires and heard how the two kids verbally assaulted each other throughout Mary Anne’s job, so I don’t blame her. She demands a police escort for her job with them, but honestly. It’s no different than the setup the BSC has with the Pikes at this point, where they only have one sitter because the triplets are considered to need less supervision.
Jessi’s take on this is spot-on: She suggests that the sitter will be sitting for both Addison kids, but will have to make Sean feel like he’s not being sat for. It’s kind of a precarious position. Remember the problems Dawn had when she babysat for Whitney but didn’t/couldn’t tell Whitney she was her sitter?
Sean is reading My Side of the Mountain. Don’t worry; he didn’t set the book on fire.
Josh signed up for every committee for the dance, but he signed up for the food committee as Ronald McDonald and the music committee as E. Presley and so on.
Mark has a friend who goes by Spud. I think that says everything you need to know about Mark.
I like that Mal and Jessi are actually really nice to Claudia throughout this whole book. Abby, Stacey and Kristy keep teasing Claudia about Josh, Mark and the seventh grade, but Mal and Jessi want to know all about her whole committee meeting and whether or not Mark’s being an ass (answer: yes, of course he is.)
OOH! Mr. X is back! When Abby sat for Corrie (and supervised Sean), she wound up at the grocery store with both kids, because Sean decided to buy steak for dinner but didn’t bring enough money. He spotted a blond boy and refused to be spotted with Abby because he didn’t want the boy to realize he had a sitter. After Sean convinces his parents to let him stay home alone one afternoon, he has an accident and calls the BSC for help. Stacey discovers that that boy was Mel, aka Mr. X. Mel’s been making fun of Sean, claiming he doesn’t have to have a sitter—which turns out to be a lie.
Come to think of it, Mel and Sean should get along pretty well. They both had to get counseling after being the culprit in a BSC mystery.
The dance isn’t coming together exactly the way Claudia planned, but she’s trying to keep everything together…until she starts laughing hysterically over something really stupid.
Ha. Jeannie calls Mark Markie-poo. I might only find this funny because I hate Mark so much, but I don’t even care.
Claudia gets mad at Kristy because Kristy keep suggesting that all the seventh graders are babies…so she throws Milk Duds at her and points out how that makes her (and Mal and Jessi) feel. Kristy pauses for a moment…then tells her how to improve her aim. And admits she’s been acting like a jerk! That may not be a first, but it’s close to it.
I think Josh is the only person more surprised that Claudia kissed Mark than Claudia is. Obviously, he’s got a little crush on her. Aww, so sweet. (I like Josh and liked Claudia with him, even if I think he’s gay.)
The end. BLECH!
Claudia: leopard print blouse, hip huggers, headband, flats, ankle socks; foulard dress (wearing Queen Elizabeth’s clothes); spandex pants, Hawaiian shirt with ‘Ed’s diner’ on it, and Doc Martens (actually QE wearing Claudia’s clothes)

Next: Back to Abby…

“Going out with him would be like going out with one of the Pike triplets!” BSC Mystery #28: Abby and the Mystery Baby (1997)

I’m still angry about this book.
I’ve never read it, you see. But it has been thoroughly spoiled for me. I first started re-reading the BSC because I found a blog similar to this one. That blog was incomplete, only covering a smattering of the stories in the vastly-complex BSC universe. (I don’t think there is a blog out there that could cover every BSC universe book, including all the Little Sisters and Kids in Ms. Colman’s Class. Your brain would rot long before you ever got too far into those series.) I was aware of most of the BSC titles, but I hadn’t kept up with the mysteries. When I found out there was a book titled …and the Mystery Baby, I was excited. When I was a child, I always wanted to find a baby on my front stoop and get to keep it. I actually thought that if I did, my parents would let me raise it, even though I was ten or so.
So why am I so pissy? My local library is part of a large library system with a lot of branches. They have most of the BSC books, but my local branch only had about ten or twelve of them. I took home every one of the BSC books I’d never read, including Abby in Wonderland, and then I requested to have some of the books I really wanted to read transferred over from other branches, including this book. But before it ever arrived, Abby in Wonderland totally and completely spoiled the entire mystery of this book. I got crabby enough that I never bothered to read it. Why bother?
Abby finds a baby on her front stoop, and, despite police and social services involvement, the Stevensons are allowed to keep the baby. They name him Eli and the BSC attempts to figure out who he is and why he was abandoned. It turns out that Abby’s aunt, Miriam, left her son with the Stevensons because she was ill and needed to go to the hospital. Miriam hadn’t spoken with her family in years because they didn’t accept the baby’s father. Miriam recovers and she and the baby—really named Daniel—are reunited with the family.
In the B plot, Mal and Jessi suggest a ‘writing month’ and poetry slam for the kids.
Interesting Tidbits
The cover: That poor baby, sitting uncovered on a front porch in what is clearly in the middle of winter. Brr!

When Abby first finds the baby on her stoop, she is a lot less surprised that I would have been. I probably would have started off by saying, “What the…?” Abby just drags the car seat inside, gives the baby a cuddle, changes his diaper, and calls him a cute little booger. When she finally does stop to wonder why the hell a baby was just randomly on her stoop, she does the most logical thing…and calls Kristy. Kristy shows up with Nannie, which is a little surprising, given that Kristy seems to think that 99 percent of mysteries don’t require any adult involvement.
The BSC gets introduced by what they would bring to caring for the strange baby. Kristy had already met the baby and called the cops, because she’s so logical and such a leader. Claudia would make a mural or mobile. Stacey would start a college fund. Mary Anne would knit a blanket or booties. Dawn would read up on organic foods for babies. Mal wouldn’t panic because she’s used to babies and Jessi…would fit the baby for ballet shoes. Hm. Poor Mal and Jessi. They always get the short end of the stick.
At the BSC meeting, Stacey is wearing Hush Puppies. I know those are shoes, but I always imagine the fried food instead. I’m actually picturing Stacey wearing greasy yumminess on her feet.
“I know it’s a mistake to confuse fiction with fact,” says Mal, for whom there is a whole book of her doing exactly that. Maybe she learned her lesson…?
This should be a huge clue to the mystery of the baby: Abby’s mom announces they’re allowed to keep the baby, ‘for now.’ Tessie—my best friend and pseudo-sister, for those of you not in the know—is a social worker and a foster parent. I don’t care what state you’re in, if a baby is dropped off on your doorstep, you don’t just get to keep it…unless you can offer some evidence that you are biologically related.
Come to think of it, at this point, no one has stopped to wonder why the baby was dropped off at Abby’s house of all houses. If you decided you couldn’t raise your baby, where would you drop it off? I know these days you can, in many states, drop your child at a fire station or a hospital without penalty. But if you were going to choose a house, how would you decide? Abby’s house isn’t the first house off the highway or even in a neighborhood. It’s got a long, imposing driveway, and doesn’t look particularly family-friendly. In fact, if someone were watching the house, they’d realize that it was occupied by a couple of latch-key teenagers and a harried parent who’s rarely home. If I were driving around Abby’s neighborhood with an infant I couldn’t care for, I’d be more likely to drop it off at, say, Kristy’s house or the Papadakises’. There’s probably a stroller on the front porch, a child’s bike or two in the front yard, or at least a mini-van with a car seat in the driveway….all good hints that this is a family who has and loves children.
Right after I put all that logic and thought into the last post, Mal theorizes that Abby’s house was selected because she lives in a rich neighborhood. So at least someone is thinking, even if that’s really a simplistic way of thinking.
The first two clues: Abby finds a pharmacy receipt from NYC in her yard. Later, Maria Kilbourne mentions that she saw a green car drop baby Eli off.
I love how we have to be reminded that Abby’s Jewish in ‘subtle’ ways on a regular basis. Her grandparents use pretty common Yiddish phrases all throughout a brief phone call with Abby, and they all get explained. I knew what mazel tov meant when I was pretty young, and bubbelah as well. But even if you didn’t, kids old enough to read these books should be able to use context clues to determine approximately what those words mean.
Ahh. I kinda love this. The Pikes have gotten into the spirit of Writing Month…which means the triplets are writing disgusting poems, of course. Actually, everyone is writing poetry, which makes Vanessa upset. I can only imagine: Pretend you had a huge family and you only had one personality trait…and then everyone else in your family decided to tread into your territory. But my favorite part is that, even at nine, Vanessa responds to the drama that is her life by becoming a mopey, Emo teenager who hates everyone and everything. Remember when I mentioned teenaged Mal as the fangirl with the nose ring, thick eye liner and chunky glasses? Vanessa would totally be dressed all in black with even more eyeliner than Mal, still writing really horrible poetry. Only now, it would all be about death and none of it would rhyme, ‘because life has no rhyme or reason.’
This is ridiculous. The sentence above regarding Mal not being able to distinguish between fact and fiction comes from Mal and Jessi’s writing workshop. A woman in that group had written a story in which a woman abandoned her baby right before baby Eli turned up at the Stevensons’, so M&J are convinced that means she might have done the same thing. So the two of them start stalking her and never see her with a baby. She never buys diapers or baby food or anything else for a baby. Which verifies for Jessi and Mal...that she must have abandoned a baby…as opposed to the thought that maybe she never had a child to begin with….
Kristy, on the other hand, suspects the weird nanny that Mrs. Stevenson hired to take care of the baby while she’s at work…mostly just because she’s a little odd. No solid concrete evidence, but that’s never stopped Kristy before.
The BSC and Anna are looking at the Stevensons’ Bat Mitzvah pictures when Claudia spots a cute boy. The title quote is Abby’s response. (I almost went with ‘Check out Kristy in a dress,’ Stacey’s commentary on the photos.)
Claudia spelling: Malory, quesion, whant, writter, leav. She also uses no for know and your for you’re. It’s a joint entry with Mal, and all I could think during the first part was, how does Mal not go through and copyedit Claudia? I would have such a hard time with that if it were me. But then Mal ends the entry by suggesting it’s a good thing that Claud doesn’t want to be a writer, given her spelling. Ha, ha! This is actually followed by a mistake where Abby says that Claudia wasn’t offended by Stacey’s joking, not Mallory’s.
I like this, too: The Arnold twins are fighting over ridiculous things like the fact that Carolyn is jealous that Marilyn’s toothbrush is purple and hers is ‘ugly green.’ That sounds almost exactly like 20 different arguments that my sister and I used to have. Realism!
Carolyn really is a girl after my heart in this book. When she sets up a writing station, she includes paper, pencils, a dictionary, a thesaurus…and a baby name book. I name a lot of characters through baby name books. Although, why do the Arnolds have a baby name book? You can’t imagine they used one to name their twins, who have the stupidest twin names ever. (What would they have named two boys? Sean and John? Mark and Clark?)
This should be enough for most people to solve 90 percent of the mystery. Abby called the pharmacy on the receipt she’d found and attempted to verify it wasn’t her mothers. She checked on whether they had any prescriptions in her mother’s name, Rachel Stevenson, and even her mother’s maiden name, Goldberg. Obviously, the pharmacy had never heard of HIIPPA or however you spell it, because they had no problem telling Abby they had a prescription in the name of M. Goldberg. A couple chapters later, Abby sees the name Miriam written in her mother’s office and remembers that’s her aunt, the sister her mother talks about. Obviously, Miriam Goldberg would be the M. Goldberg from the pharmacy.
Come to think of it, the Goldberg family isn’t exactly the most forgiving bunch, is it? Between Rachel and her parents not talking to Miriam for years and Gram Elsie not talking to her sister for years over a little case of blabber mouth, they really are unforgiving. It’s actually kind of interesting because you can see Abby pushing her little family unit not to be like that in a few books. The Stevensons aren’t as dysfunctional as say, the Kilbournes, but they aren’t really terribly close either.
Abby actually makes the M. Goldberg connection after she realizes that Miriam is ‘Eli’s’ mother. Abby’s mom had been horrified/fascinated by the blanket the baby had been wrapped in. When Anna and Abby finally find a picture of Miriam, she’s barely more than a baby herself, clutching the same blanket.
“You’ll be grounded for fifteen years.” I can’t decide whether Anna is serious or hyperbolic.
Apparently Miriam was never married to Daniel’s father, which is pretty progressive for a BSC book. But it sounds to me that Abby’s grandparents largely disowned her because she was in a relationship with this guy, but long before she ever got pregnant. Makes you wonder: was he a drug dealer? A pimp? A hippie? Hmmm….
Abby actually likes the triplets’ rap about boogers and puke. Makes the comment about wanting to date one of them take on a whole different spin. Hee hee!
Just when I thought the ‘Mary Anne cries about everything’ shtick couldn’t get any worse, she actually cried at a song about chlorophyll.
So what happened to our other suspects? Mal and Jessi’s suspect, as you can imagine, never had a child; her story was just a story. And the nanny was nervous because this was her first nanny job, so she was acting a little jumpy. That’s it, that’s all. Lame.
Claudia: red flannel mini-dress, black and white checked vest, black tights, red high tops, red scrunchie
Stacey: stonewashed jeans, white shirt, green v-neck sweater, brown hush puppies

What’s next? #106