Sunday, May 29, 2016

“Why would they hit cars?” BSC #115: Jessi’s Big Break (1998)

This is the last Jessi book in the entire series, folks. Why did Jessi’s tale end so early? I can’t be sure. I honestly think that #108 would have been Mallory’s last book if the whole boarding-school plotline hadn’t come up.
Jessi gets to go to a three week dance class in New York City called Dance New York. DNY includes both a professional school and dance troupe and special programs like the one Jessi is in. Jessi stays in Brooklyn with her cousin Michael—Aunt Cecelia’s son. She meets up with her old friend/sorta-boyfriend Quint and gets introduced to his friends, including a girl named Maritza. Jessi feels very at home living in NYC and hanging out with Maritza and her friends, who are all African American. She gets the opportunity to audition for the school/dance troupe, but turns it down when she imagines leaving Mal and the BSC.
The subplot features Mal and Becca, who are both really missing Jessi while she’s enjoying herself. Jessi invites Mal to spend the weekend with her
Interesting Tidbits
Look, it’s leotard central!

Ouch. After Aunt Cecelia plays downer to Jessi’s good news, Jessi repeats her dad’s joke: Aunt Cecelia only moved in with them because no one else would take her.
Remember in SS#14, when I mentioned Jessi’s uncles Arthur and John? She’s back to having uncles named Arthur and Charles these days. What’s the point of having a bible for the series (published as the Complete Guide) if the ‘manuscript assistants’ don’t even read/use it?
I’ve never really stopped to think about Jessi and Becca’s relationship before, but here goes. Most of the time, they seem to get along really well. But there are a few occasions when they don’t, and it all boils down to the same thing. Remember back in the first Jessi book, when Jessi was really surprised to find out that Haley was sometimes jealous of Matt? Well, wouldn’t make just tons of sense if Becca were occasionally jealous of Jessi? Jessi gets all this attention for dancing, while Becca doesn’t even have activities that she’s involved in. It makes her bratty behavior in this book completely understandable. (She does things like tell Squirt Jessi will be going bye-bye and suggest that Jessi will be homeless, eating rats.)
Jessi says all she remembers about her cousin Michael is that Aunt Cecelia used to yell at him a lot. Mallory: “She yells at everybody.”
Claudia calls Mary Anne’s preppy fashion “L.L.J. Crew Bauer.” I so would not have gotten that joke when I was ten, or even when this book came out (when I was nearly seventeen.)
I like Jessi’s cousin Michael, who behaves a lot like the other men in the Ramsey family, making jokes about Aunt Cecelia and teasing her. I feel sorry for his wife, though, who seems nervous around the Ramseys. Can you imagine having AC for a mother-in-law? Ugh.
Awww! Shortly after Jessi leaves for NYC, Mallory comes to babysit for Squirt and Becca. Squirt’s all excited to see her…because he thinks Jessi will be following her. He actually sits in the window, calling her name.
There is a wicked-lot of ballet terms in this book, paired with explanations of what the mean. I’m so bored reading them that I’m going to fall asleep. Be back in six months….
My high school journalism teacher would be so disappointed reading this book. She always hated repetition of the same word when it was possible to phrase it another way. In less than one page, the word gab/gabbing is used five times to describe how Jessi, Maritza and Tanisha were talking. Buy a thesaurus!
Jessi’s friends in NYC: Maritza, Tanisha, Quint, Rasheen, Simi, Brandon, Julissa, Denise, Marcus, Celeste, Michiko and Randy.
This is odd to me. Michael went to art school, and then business school. He says that Aunt Cecelia was upset when he gave up art. Aunt Cecelia doesn’t really seem to be the type to suggest that her child live as a starving artist while he tries to ‘make it’ in New York. It makes more sense to me that she’d have urged him to go back to school. Even Jessi is surprised about AC.
Claudia spelling: kayoss (chaos), Charlot, Becka, figgured, triplits, diegnosis, seperation, anziety
The BSC and the Pikes plan a surprise party for Jessi, which is nearly ruined by, in turn, nearly every kid there. My favorite? When Byron fell over because, in his words, Nicky farted. You know how I love when these books let kids be kids.
The title quote is Claire’s response when Mrs. Pike suggests the Ramseys may have hit traffic on the way back from NYC.
Becca’s all grumbly about Jessi acceptance to DNY, and so when Jessi repeats that the head of the program told her she was one of them now, Becca responds, “He sounds like Darth Vader.”
I liked the ending to this one. The first person Jessi tells when she makes up her mind is Aunt Cecelia, who’d been rallying for her to go to the program while everyone else had been more logical and conservative about it. The invitation was open, meaning Jessi could start right away, or next semester or school year, or in a couple of years even. Jessi decides she’s not ready to go away, so she tells AC she’s going to accept…later. AC actually compliments her and tells her she likes the way she thinks. It’s a good point. Jessi’s eleven. If she’s that good of a dancer, she should wring everything she can out of Mme. Noelle and live her life as much as possible before reaching for the stars. I remember reading about how much Olympic athletes practice in any day and how much they give up to be the best. I’m sure ballet’s much the same way.
Sorry, I just realized how short this entry is. I guess there really wasn't much to say either way about it. I'm not sure if that is good or bad.
Claudia (the Snack Czar): leopard print jumpsuit, black silk shirt tied at the waist, steel-toed combat boots, rhinestone-studded cats eye glasses on top of her head.
Next: Mystery #33

Sunday, May 22, 2016

“I felt as if a big day-old Swedish meatball had lodged itself in my throat.” BSC #113: Claudia Makes Up Her Mind (1997)

The Claudia-related ridiculosity continues in this classy little number. Claudia’s doing so well in seventh grade that, against all reason and logic, the school gives her a choice. She can either continue in seventh grade or go back to eighth grade. Meanwhile, Claudia has another choice to make, between her loser-slacker-hottie boyfriend Mark and her cute-sweet-maybe-gay friend Josh.
In the sitting plot, the kids decide to throw a Color War as well, with dubious results.
Interesting Tidbits
Le Covere! “Two boys…two grades…How will Claudia ever decide?” Well, Mark’s doing his best Zach Morris imitation with that shirt, and he’s also looking at anything but Claudia. Meanwhile, Josh is doing his best puppy dog impression….

First thing we establish: seventh grade is tres immature, with spitballs being thrown and girls squealing about it. Yet that wouldn’t be too out of place if you replaced Brandon and Bonnie with Alan and Cokie….
So it’s Color War time, a fun SMS tradition that we’ve never heard of before. Each grade picks a color that everyone must wear for the week, and then the grades compete, with the proceeds going to a charity chosen by winning grade. Sounds like fun, honestly. But Claudia’s upset because the seventh grade picked orange for their grade color, saying no one looks good in orange. Umm, she wears orange in a LOT of books. She’s right that it’s not a color that looks good on most people, but it’s not unknown for her to be dressed largely in orange. (And later she finds an orange outfit right in her own closet.) Josh’s response to Claudia’s horror: “Let me guess. You flunked homeroom.”
Josh + Peter Lerangis = gold! First Shira says to ignore Josh because he ODed on Cocoa Puffs that morning, then Josh suggests that Mark can’t help Claudia with the Color War because he’s too involved in “all that extracurricular hanging out.”
Abby chastises Kristy for being bossy by pointing out that the BSC is not a dictatocracy. If Kristy had her way, it would be!
Stacey, regarding the orange seventh graders: “What’s your charity, Fashion Victims of America?” No Stacey, that was you in book #111….
Alan signs up to be eighth grade color war coordinator. He’s got way-girly handwriting, similar to Kristy’s. Josh asks if he’s Claudia’s ex, based upon her reaction to him. Claudia thinks that’s absolutely disgusting, which I find really funny, given the series ends with her dating him.
Claudia’s list of suggestions for the Color War, spelling intact: limrix, stilt race, battel of the rock bands, best originle outfit, race to pull 100 yards of dentle floss across football feild, janiter’s mop toss, hi score on vidio game to be agrede upon. There’s also another entry that might say cheet match or chest match. I think the second makes more sense, assuming she meant chess. Also, Claud’s friends suggest a bake off, a hog-calling contest, art contest and ‘weird foot races’, which sounds awesome until they explain it means three-legged races and stuff like that. (I was imagining ‘weird foot’ races, rather than weird ‘foot races.’)
When Claudia gets a note from the guidance counselor, wanting to meet, her first thought is to panic and assume that she’s getting booted back to sixth grade. This degrades into her being sent to reform school. ‘Cause, likely. But no more stupid than what actually happens.
Mrs. Amer says Claudia hasn’t been in seventh grade for very long and is doing very well and is cognitively working above the seventh grade level. Here are my thoughts on that. 1) She’s actually been in seventh grade for a year or more at this point. She was moved in October and went through an entire year, on to summer vacation. This is likely November based upon the one book a month progression. (This is confirmed later in the book, when Claudia mentions Thanksgiving decorations.) So that argument is very bunk. 2) If she was cognitively way above eighth grade, why did they ever put her back in seventh? 3) I’ll answer that question. She was put back in seventh grade because the subjects start building on themselves about this time. It’s definitely true for math and English; not so much for some other subjects. So since she didn’t retain seventh grade information, they put her back in that grade to re-learn it all. Which makes the argument for putting her back into eighth grade ridiculously stupid.
The Papadakis kids actually threaten Abby that she’ll never sit for them again if she doesn’t agree to take them to the kids Color War that was arranged behind the BSC’s back. Future mafia members, maybe?
It’s interesting that both Mr. Kishi and Janine are advocating for Claudia to go back to eighth grade. Mrs. Kishi’s response is nicer (“I support you whatever you decide”) but if Claudia were my daughter, I’d be more like, “You’re doing well in school for the first time, and it’s really important that you get a solid foundation before head off to high school.”
Favorite image in this book so far: Josh threatening to beat someone up for Claudia. Since he’s mentioned as being short/hinted at being prepubescent, I’m sure he’s really scary to other guys.
The title quote is Claudia’s reaction to debates about her choice.
Awww. Josh reminds me so much of a guy I had a huge crush on when I was about fifteen. That’s probably why I like him so much. He lives the opposite direction from the school from Claudia, but says he doesn’t mind walking, because he’ll reach his house eventually anyway. “Columbus proved it.” And he gets so flustered when talking to Claudia that he starts babbling.
Alan’s way of showing his admiration of Kristy: he picks his nose over her lunch tray. (And we’re supposed to think that the seventh graders are all immature?!?) Claudia gets back at him by writing a backwards KICK ME on his chair and then feeling glorious when people kicked him later in the day.
I love that Claudia is the only person in the whole of the universe who doesn’t realize that Josh has the hots for her. I’d say she was clueless, but Tessie went through the same thing one time. Her: “You knew he liked me? Why didn’t you tell me?” Me: “I thought you knew! He wasn’t exactly subtle!”
Ha ha! Kristy wrote the word butt! Ha! (I’m now officially as mature as Alan and Brandon-the-seventh-grader.)
“I’d kiss the ground you walk on if it wouldn’t ruin my orthodontia!” Josh admits his crush for the first time. Sooooo sweeeeet! And then he asks Claudia if they can go to a PG-13 rated movie, because he never gets carded. Heh.
Anyone surprised that Claudia won a Snickers eating contest, decided to go back to eighth grade, and got together with Josh at the end of the book?
Claudia: plaid skirt, purple leggings, lace-up boots, white linen skirt, black tie, vest; orange rayon bowling ensemble; orange striped harem pants (I have no idea what these are, but they sound absolutely awful) and navy blouse

Next: #115

“This raisin is practically mummified.” BSC #112: Kristy and the Sister War (1997)

Compared to the other books in this time frame, I like this story a lot. Why? Another glimpse into the life of the dysfunctional Kilbourne family, paired with a dose of Pike triplets. What’s not to like?
Shannon is busier than normal, and Tiffany and Maria both feel like neither she nor their parents have time for them. Kristy encourages them to try to make Shannon’s life easier so she’ll have more time, but that backfires and Shannon ends up angry at her sisters. So they declare war and pull pranks on her. Kristy manages to broker a peace deal between the sisters.
Meanwhile, all the middle schools in Stoneybrook are pulling together for an ‘all-school’ dance, which leads the kids to decide to have an ‘all-kids’ dance. Only trouble is that the kids want to plan it all themselves, but they’re all paying more attention to whom they want to take as their dates than the planning. In particular, Maria and Tiffany both zone in on Jordan Pike, leading to even more Kilbourne-sister fighting. Once Abby declares the kids dance a date-free zone, the planning goes much more smoothly and everyone has a good time.
Interesting tidbits
The cover: Oh look. Universally bad fashion sense. On the plus side, they finally got Maria’s hair right.

What is with the Brewer-Thomas crew and naming their pets after people? I never stopped to think about it, but DM named their dog after their neighbor and Karen named her rat after her little sister. I don’t know which is a bigger insult, but if the family every gets another pet, it should be a potbellied pig or a donkey, so the insulting naming can be completed.
Charlie’s newest nickname for Kristy: Your Royal Cluelessness. I do love the relationship between Charlie, Sam, and Kristy, how the three of them are always teasing one another, but the love is there behind it all. (I’m remembering in SS#8 when Sam says he’s a man of mystery, and Kristy laughs at the idea of him being a man. I’m so glad I don’t have older brothers….)
Kristy compares Mary Anne to a ‘facial tissue’ by describing her as ultra-sensitive and ultra-gentle. I’d be more concerned if she starting calling her ultra-absorbent, myself.
Maria says the title line while she and Tiffany are trying to bake snickerdoodles. Since when do snickerdoodles have raisins, anyway? The worst part is that the girls make a huge mess baking the snickerdoodles while Kristy is babysitting, and Shannon has to clean it up because she’ll be the only one home that night. Kristy makes a big point of saying how she’s a responsible babysitter a couple paragraphs earlier, so why doesn’t she clean up before she leaves?
Tiffany and Maria’s list of ways to help Shannon is sweet, though mostly misguided. I can’t believe Kristy let them ‘help’ with Shannon’s algebra homework—by changing the Xs to numbers—or thought it would be a good idea to clean Shannon’s bedroom. I don’t think Kristy would want David Michael and Karen cleaning her bedroom, after all. Forget the fact that they used a greasy rag to ‘wash’ her window and smeared upholstery cleaner around instead of Pledge. Have they never heard of privacy?
Claudia spelling! Exitmint (aren’t those the butter mints you get when you leave some restaurants? Never mind. Even Abby wouldn’t approve of that pun.) Havent, committe, enything, thats. She also uses reel for real, but she spells more words correctly than incorrectly.
The kids that get together to be the representative committee of all the elementary schools are an odd bunch. First, let’s consider the fact that there are two public middle schools in Stoneybrook. Yet we have representatives of only one public elementary school. By my calculations, there should be at least two, more likely four. (Two schools to feed into each middle school, which feed into the same high school. But what do I know? I went to a KES that was the only school that fed into a KMS, which was the only school that fed into a KHS. And yes, all the Ks were the same.)
Then there are the random kids who come over. The meeting is held at the Korman house and includes the Kormans and the Kilbournes, who all go to SDS. Then Karen and the Papadakises come over, and they all go to Stoneybrook Academy. That makes sense, since they’re all local. But the kids from SES? The Pike triplets, Becca and Charlotte. I know the triplets had to be there or the story loses a plot line, but they seem like the last kids in town who’d be interested in planning a dance. And are they friendly with these other kids at all? Tiffany calls Jordan out by name the first time he speaks, so she knows the triplets well enough to tell them apart. Becca and Charlotte are similar in age to Maria, Melody, Hannie and Karen. They’ve all done events together before. I could picture Maria being good friends with the two of them, frankly. Maybe the triplets have hung out with Bill and Linny once or twice? I think the whole thing would make more sense if Vanessa and/or Nicky had come with them.
I’d completely forgotten about the subplot in which Claudia and Mark set up Kristy with one of Mark’s friends, mostly because he’s ‘big into sports’ and so is she. Um, that could describe a lot of guys. It’s not a very rare quality or anything.
Not only do Maria and Tiffany decide to war with their sister, they actually draw up a declaration of war and a list of acts of war. Between this and the fact that Tiffany is a ‘natural leader’ at the dance committee meetings, you almost expect her to go into politics.
Their first act of war made me laugh. They used Shannon’s name the way the Smurfs used to use the word Smurf. The only thing about the Smurfs I really remember (other than that god-awful theme song, which is now playing in my head) is that they used to use Smurf and Smurfy all the time: “It’s a Smurfy day,” and “Go Smurf yourself!” Okay, I don’t think they ever said the second one, but you get the idea. The two of them sit at the dinner table, ignoring their sister, saying things like, “Shannon you,” and “You’re Shannon.” That would definitely work to annoying someone.
Actually, I think the best part of this whole sister war is Shannon’s response. She figures out very quickly that her sisters are trying to get a reaction, so, since they’re going about getting her attention all the wrong ways, she ignores them. It’s very similar to when my nephew used to throw temper tantrums and I’d just step right over him and go talk to his sister. Once he realized I wasn’t going to give him an audience, he quit. The only problem for Shannon is that her sisters are just getting more and more mad when she’s not giving them the attention they’re seeking.
Kristy agrees to let Claudia take her shopping before her blind date with Mark’s friend. Claudia, though, doesn’t make any concessions to the fact that it’s Kristy she’s shopping with, so she drags her into a fancy boutique where a plain white t-shirt costs $79. Like me, Kristy’s never seen the point of overpriced clothes. She goes home after her mall expedition and puts on a $5 t-shirt.
Ooh, book foreshadowing. Claudia and Kristy go on their double date. Kristy’s not too impressed with her date, but she’s even less impressed with Claudia’s boyfriend, Mark. He’s late and doesn’t apologize, and he ignores Claudia during their date and mostly talks to his friend, Kristy’s date. She thinks Claudia can do much better. And we all know they break up in the next book.
“History books of the future will probably show that it was the Spaghetti Incident that ended the Sister War.” I love that Kristy’s treating this like it’s a real political incident, where incidents like the Sweater Situation need to be capitalized.
Kristy thinks Tiffany and Maria are too young to be interested in dating. Tiffany’s age is established as eleven in this book, despite the fact that she’s sometimes ten. That’s the same age as Mal and Jessi, both of whom have had sorta-boyfriends. And Maria is the same age as various characters throughout the series that the BSC has followed the ‘romances’ of. I’m thinking specifically of #51, when Laine thought the BSC was ludicrous for being interested in the romantic interests of the Arnold twins, Nicky and James. And I had a boy I ‘dated’ when I was eight; we even kissed each other. Although, in Tiffany and Maria’s case, I think it really is just something for the two of them to bicker over.
My favorite prank, besides the Smurfy one? The girls put ‘sorta-purple’ hair dye in Shannon’s shampoo. End result? She looked like Barney, until she washed her hair with normal shampoo.
Remember how I said Shannon was ignoring her sisters’ bad behavior so as not to give them an audience? Well, she wasn’t doing it on purpose. She doesn’t even realize that her sisters are craving her attention until Kristy points it out.
Continuity: kids mentioned at the final planning meeting for the all-school dance include Shannon’s friends Greer, Lindsey and Polly. Also, some of the kids mentioned as living in Kristy’s neighborhood, who go to Kelsey, are there.
Here’s the problem with this all-school dance. There were adults, such as Mrs. Kilbourne, on the dance committee. But these adults are nowhere to be found when it’s time to put the plans into action. The committees all decided on things like food, music, and decorations. Then they roped in more people to help actually put the food, music and decorations together…and those people think the plans are still open for debate. About the only people who aren’t trying to change things are Kristy, who doesn’t really care, and Stacey, who suggests it would be more prudent just to go with the already-made plans.
Alan also has a nickname for Kristy: Your Kristiness. He calls her this right before she drags him into the middle of the floor during the planning session and forces him to dance with her. It’s an odd moment, and so not Kristy. I could picture Stacey or even Shannon using that method to calm everyone down, but Kristy? Nahhhh…
Maria said her father was reading briefs at the dinner table, and Kristy pictures him reading the label on a pair of underpants.
I’m amused by which kids have little things for each other in this book. Linny and Charlotte are interested in each other, while Bill keeps punching Hannie in the shoulder. (Abby calls that a sure sign of love in a nine year old.) Melody really wants Nicky to dance with her, although Nicky’s not interested in ‘stinky girls.’ Oh, and Tiffany’s convinced she’ll get her man because she’s an older woman.
Haha, lesbian fanfic fiends! Shannon and Kristy go to the dance together, and Shannon’s convinced they’ll have a great time. Hell, the two of them start off the dance by dancing together.
Awww, even Alan found a love match. He met a girl from SDS who enjoys pranks and gross outs as much as he does.
Allegedly happy ending for the Kilbournes, who agree to spend more time together. But I imagine that will be a temporary fix, and before long, everyone will go back to being too busy and pretending the family doesn’t have problems. (“Growing up in a repressed household is so boring next to this stuff. We always have to pretend problems don’t exist. Gets pretty inconvenient when there are odors involved.”) Maybe I’m jaded? Or perhaps I’m just realistic.
Shannon: purple lycra…everything. (Bad Shannon!)
Maria and Tiffany: SDS uniforms (gray and green plaid kilts, white shirts, gray sweater vests)
Maria: jeans and a sweatshirt
Tiffany: overalls, red turtleneck
Claudia: jumper made of overalls, covered in embroidered designs; pink corduroy mini-skirt, lime green sweater and scrunchie (“Careful. Don’t hurt yourself with that scrunchie.”); tux
Kristy: green turtleneck, blue jeans; flowered skirt, fleecy vest, cream blouse
Cokie: Dalmatian go-go boots, leopard mini-skirt, zebra top

Next: #113

“It feels like you’re in the rain forest.” BSC Mystery #31: Mary Anne and the Music Box Secret (1997)

This book is a whole mess of plotlines all mixed in together, mostly unsuccessfully.
While Granny and Pop-pop* are on a cruise, a flood ruins their basement. The BSC agrees to supervise the cleanup, and Mary Anne finds a parcel labeled “Do not open or you will be cursed.” Inside is a music box that plays Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Hidden in a secret compartment is a letter and a photo of a sailor…a sailor about whom MA had been having dreams since ever since she ripped the paper off the music box, long before she ever found the compartment. At the end of the story, Mary Anne learns that the letter, which was addressed to L.S. and signed H.I.W., was written to Granny by her first love, who died in a war. She kept the box with the letter and his photo in his memory and hid them away now that she was happy with Pop-pop.
Weird things start happening at the house, though, when plumbers start tearing up the yard. Everyone—friends, neighbors, plumbers and contractors—start acting odd. Plus, in pile of old letters Granny wrote her cousin June, she reports all these mysterious goings-on that happened more than fifty years ago in the house where Granny lives now, with a star crossed romance between two teenagers named Lydia and Johnny, and an embezzler. On Sharon’s go-ahead, they dig up the yard and find a box full of documents—but not embezzled money, like everyone expected.
In the B-plot, the Barrett-DeWitt kids build a playhouse in the shed, but it’s too big to fit out the door.
Interesting Tidbits
This is actually the very last BSC book I bought to complete my collection. J
The cover: Late-stage Mary Anne seemed to wear an awful lot of really awful cutoff jean shorts. This is really odd to me, as she’s described as being preppy and these super-short, super-awkward shorts don’t really work with that image for me.

And the book starts with Sharon-itis: Mary Anne finds Sharon’s car keys in the bread box. Richard says they just as easily could have been in the medicine cabinet or Sharon’s underwear drawer.
This book takes place in August, near the end of summer vacation, so it pre-dates #110. My mystery placement is always a little off, but I’m (almost) over it.
Huh. Sharon is planning a surprise anniversary party for Granny and Pop-pop, and Mary Anne says she is really organized when it comes to big projects like that. I guess I can see it. I keep my work schedule organized easily, but often can’t remember where I left my keys either. (Though I never find them in my underwear drawer.)
*It’s always Pop-Pop in the books, not Pop-pop. But I’m lazy and it hurts my fingers to capitalize the second p.
Because Granny and Pop-pop just left on a cruise, MA introduces the BSC members as employees on a cruise ship. (I’m so hearing The Love Boat theme playing. Claudia or Abby would have to be Isaac, giving the double point and wink…) Kristy’s the cruise director and MA, her assistant. The creative director? Claud, natch. Stacey’s the purser, Abby, the athletic director, and Jessi, aerobics instructor. Mal would be in charge of story hour, which I didn’t realize was a cruise ship ‘thing.’
Why is the idea of Granny and Pop-pop playing board games funny? My grandmother likes to play board games sometimes. It’s not as if games are only for children….
When Mary Anne opens the ‘cursed’ package, she jokes that her hair turned white and her fingernails grew long. Actually, to me, the fact that she no longer believes in curses means she’s come a long way since #17, when she wore a necklace simply because she believed she’d be cursed otherwise. That said, she ruins the effect by being a little afraid to open the wooden box she finds inside. I personally would have been far too curious to wait even five minutes before opening it, but I’m well aware that I’m a nosy person.
The plumber, Jim, and contractor, Eddie, working on Granny’s house are also working the Barrett-DeWitt house. Jim makes the following observation after Mary Anne says she knows the seven kids in that household well: “Only seven? I was positive there were at least a dozen.” I imagine that’s true in many large families: the chaos and the noise make it seem like there are more kids than there really are.
The contractor for both the DeWitt house and the Porter (Granny and Pop-Pop) house has a brother named Jake who works with him. I didn’t figure out that Jake was Eddie’s brother at first because Eddie spoke to him when four BSC members were taking thirteen kids on a ‘tour’ of the addition to the DeWitt house. Some of those kids were the Kuhn kids, so when Eddie said, “Right, Jake?” I thought he was talking to Jake Kuhn. It’s actually realistic to have two characters with the same name in one scene, but not normal for the BSC universe.
We don’t have a real mystery yet—just a mystery box—but here are all the people we’ve met so far (AKA suspects): Hank and Esther, Granny and Pop-pop’s friends—Hank used to live in the neighborhood when he was a child, as did Granny; Jim and Dooley, the plumbers; Eddie, Jake, and Lori, the contractors.
Mary Anne and Claudia are with Sharon when the plumbers mention having to dig up the yard. MA notices that Hank gets upset at the idea, and she’s curious if Claudia noticed too. At this point, she hasn’t told her friends about the mystery box yet, so Claudia is way more interested in an impending coffee cake than she is in odd behavior.
Granny and Pop-pop live at 747 Bertrand Drive.
The BSC is really obsessed with the letter, which is to L.S. from H.I.W. They are determined to figure out what those initials stand for, as if that will solve the mysteries.
Claudia spelling: anywon (that’s one of my favorites, right up there with babbysitting), culd, thats, exacly, majore, suspekt, dont.
In Dawn’s Portrait Collection Book, Granny’s name was Rita. In this book, it’s Grace.
Back ‘more than fifty years ago’ when Granny was MA’s age, the home she currently lives in was owned by the Bailey family. (Granny grew up in the house next door.) Lydia Bailey, the teenage daughter, was dating a boy named Johnny Buckman, but her father didn’t approve. The two of them were sneaking around behind her father’s back, and there was a whole thing with him embezzling money from the bank where he worked. Granny caught someone burying something in the yard. MA thinks it’s the music box, but that seems like an odd leap. I agree more with Abby and Kristy, who assume what was being buried was money.
I’m trying to put together a timeline of this neighborhood. Granny grew up in the house next door, and Hank lived on the same block. Granny and Pop-pop ‘moved back’ to Stoneybrook after they got married (from where?) and moved into the house they live in now, which must be where they raised Sharon. Jim the plumber lived across the street until he was nine or so, but Sharon doesn’t recognize him. That means he either moved out of the neighborhood before she was old enough to remember (she’s in her early forties, making him fifty-ish) or he was born after she moved out (making him in his twenties). Either of those could work, until MA says that Jim lived in the neighborhood the same time as the Baileys did.
More Claudia spelling: bleery, cemickals, darkrum**, wuld, wirth, somthing, cant.
**I know more than a few people who would love to drink some darkrum….
The BSC really are terrible actors. They pretend they found a metal box in Granny’s backyard, trying to convince anyone who knows about the alleged buried treasure that they located it. MA says that she’s trying to make her voice sound as loud and enthusiastic as possible, so I’m imagining just how fake that sounded. But it worked! Hank, Jim, and an old man the BSC had seen around the neighborhood, who turned out to be Jim’s dad, all were extremely eager to see what was in the box.
Jessi is really enthusiastic about the Barrett-DeWitt family’s new kids’ bathroom. It’s decorated with ‘jungle-animal’ wall paper. She says the title quote, but to me, that would not be a positive thing…. (Oh, and jungles and rain forests are so not the same thing.)
Here’s my real question regarding the Barrett-DeWitt house. If the parents could afford to build this luxurious addition to the house, why couldn’t they afford a larger house in the first place?
Oh, and since when do people bring potluck food AND presents to housewarming parties? I’d be insulted if I thought I was expected to bring gifts for the whole family and feed myself at a party thrown by family friends. Where I live, it’s vogue for some people to throw themselves housewarming parties and register for gifts, but I find that unbelievably tacky. To me, a gift for a housewarming party is a bottle of wine, not towels and rugs. (It’s even tackier that the Barrett-DeWitts open those gifts in front of the guests, as if it were a birthday party.)
Granny tells MA the truth about the music box after MA finds the ID bracelet the soldier was wearing in the photo among Sharon’s things. Sharon said she got the bracelet from Granny to wear to her prom—and that Granny never explained the stars on it, just told her to always remember her first love (Richard.) Granny then wants Mary Anne to have the music box and the bracelet, now that she has her first love, Logan. It’s about the only part of the story that makes sense to me.
Stacey: pink denim overall shorts (after all those mean things she said about Tess’s overalls last week?!), white baby tee, purple Doc Martins, white baseball cap
Claudia: paint-splattered painters pants, tie-dyed t-shirt, red high tops, two braids with purple ribbons
Mary Anne: flowered skirt, blue blouse

Next: #112

“You’ve never wanted to be my friend. All you’ve done is pity me.” BSC #111: Stacey’s Secret Friend (1997)

This is one of those books where I go into it hoping that it’s not nearly as bad as I expect it’s going to be. Look at the cover for a second. Yes, Tess wasn’t exactly fashionable for 1997, but neither were some of these other kids. And the back cover is so condescending toward Tess: “Why won’t Tess wise up? Doesn’t she want Stacey’s help?”
(Really bad cover copy, sorry.)
Umm, no. I’ve never read this, but I’m pretty sure Tess never walked up to Stacey and said, “Look, the kids are all making fun of me. Can you give me fashion tips?”
I was way more of a Tess than a Stacey in middle school, believe me.
So Tess Swinhart is new at SMS, and Stacey and the other kids think she’s strange. After she accidentally ruins the papier-mâché Stacey and Barbara* were working on and then dumps some papier-mâché on Alan, he nicknames her Swine-heart the Destroyer, because her upturned nose and taste for pink clothing make her look vaguely like a pig. It gets worse and worse until a football game where it all comes to a head. Everyone is voting for a new school mascot, and one of the choices is pig. Someone pastes a picture of Tess over the pig picture, and Stacey doesn’t realize it before she holds it up. People start throwing things at Tess and she falls out of the bleachers, breaking her ankle and spraining her wrist. She then tells Stacey off, because she figured out some time back that Stacey didn’t really like her for her. She does let Stacey help her get back at a boy who was trying to embarrass her, and she ends up good friends with Barbara. And Stacey realizes she was kind of a jerk.
Meanwhile, Jackie and Nicky have been acting odd, with Nicky putting on fake muscles and acting like Jackie’s bodyguard. Eventually, Jackie is able to ‘use his words’ to sort out the disagreement with the three boys, and they’re all friends again. So intellectually stimulating, it hurts.
Interesting Tidbits
*Unlike last week, when I couldn’t place Ethan, I remembered Barbara right away. Even if I’d forgotten, she’s introduced as, basically, the girl whose best friend died in the drunk driving accident. (#93)
Right off the bat, when we meet Tess, one of the first things that gets described is her outfit. Stacey hates it, but I thought two things. 1. I love retro clothes, so I drooled at the white blouse with Peter Pan collar. 2. If Claudia had worn it, Stacey would have thought it looked great. (C’mon, you know you were thinking it too!)
Also, Tess is described as ‘five foot nine and big boned’ and I was wondering, who’s that big in eighth grade? Then I remembered that my best friend from school was even taller (she’s now six foot) and had a solid frame like that, so I shut my mouth.
HA! Claudia: “I’m sure some people think I’m strange because of the way I dress.” Truer words have never been written.
Stacey’s English class is studying The Canterbury Tales. I really hope they’re reading the sparky bits!
King shows up in the story, subtly continuing the pig theme by calling Tess Babe. It actually worked, because he acted like he was flirting with her, calling her Babe because he was interested…not because of the then-current pig movie.
Tess wears huge black-framed glasses, so Stacey tries to drop hints to her, suggesting she should get contact lenses. These days, Tess would be so fashionable and hipster! (Oh, and Stacey brings it up by asking Barbara if she knows Mallory, since Mal wants contacts. Barbara thinks that Mal is cute, which goes along with my theory that Mal actually is a lot cuter than she thinks she is…she’s just awkward and not sure of herself.)
Claudia spelling! Defanately, sumthing, bruther, secrut, ajent, mishon, wut, culd. She also uses wright for right.
Ooh, I love when they reference old plot points! “Shannon thinks Shea has a crush on Claudia.” Not only is this a great referral to #63, but Shannon did hang out with them quite a bit (and still does on occasion) so it’s fun to bring in her point of view.
Mrs. Rodowsky got a new cell phone (cellular phone, of course)! Next thing you know, they’ll talk about emailing each other. Wacky! (That’s what Shea keeps calling Jackie, who actually stole his mother’s phone and took it to school with him. These days, I know kids about his age with cell phones….)
“Glasses are easier. Besides, I like them.” Yes! I feel that way about contact lenses, too.
Stacey keeps trying to help Tess…but only behind the scenes. She keeps pushing her to wear makeup, dress more fashionably, and be more social. Yet she doesn’t really want to be her friend; she just sees her as a project. This becomes clear when she doesn’t invite Tess to sit with her and her friends, but I don’t think Stacey even realizes it. When Kristy asks her why she didn’t invite Tess to sit with them, Stacey knows she should have but can’t figure out why she didn’t. This is it, right here. This is exactly why I never read many of the later Stacey books until now. This aspect of Stacey—the condescending idea that she has that because she’s pretty and popular that everyone wants to be like her—is exactly why I hated the Staceys of my high school.
You know it’s bad when even Claudia suggests that Stacey’s not really helping Tess. I wouldn’t say Stacey is as bad as Alan and Cokie, who keep calling Tess names and making comic strips making fun of her, but trying to force someone to fit in to one narrow view of how a middle school girl should be isn’t exactly being nice, either. I was a very square peg at that age, and, like Tess, I didn’t want to change to fit in. I had a couple friends who accepted me for who I was, and that was all I really needed.
Stacey says you can’t feel mascara, but she’s wrong. Tess says it makes her eyes itch and her eyelashes sticky, but Stacey says you can’t feel your eyelashes. Well, I have very long eyelashes and they hit my skin and glasses on a regular basis. If they’re sticky, I know it, and when I first started wearing mascara, I put on too much of it and it was very sticky and clumpy.
By chapter ten, the following people have all questioned Stacey’s motives with Tess: Claudia, Kristy, Mary Anne…and Tess herself. King is still subtly mocking Tess, and even asks her out on a date to a restaurant called Hog Heaven. But since Stacey knows he’s teasing her, she keeps telling Tess not to fall for his crap. Tess thinks Stacey has a thing for King and that’s why she’s so set on Tess not talking to him. Honestly, if Stacey really wanted to help Tess, instead of trying to make her conform, she should have told her, “I don’t want to be rude, but I’d want to know if it were me…” and then tell Tess that everyone’s making pig jokes about her (based upon her looks, last name and love of the color pink), and tell Tess she thinks King’s part of it. Stacey just keeps deflecting Tess from the jokes instead of explaining them.
It gets even worse when, during the football game, Stacey catches Tess sitting and reading a magazine while everyone else is cheering. She decides Tess is pigheaded (and then gets mad at herself for it) but then says the following: I sighed. Maybe this was all my fault. If I’d sat with her at least I could have taken the magazine away and made her stand up and cheer. I had my work cut out for me. Aaaaaand this is where I want to bitch slap Stacey.
Stacey is the one holding up the pictures of the mascot choices, so a lot of people think she and Barbara—who was reading the choices out loud—are responsible for the Tess picture. Stacey didn’t know it was there until she held it up, and as soon as she realized, she dropped it so no one else could see it, but she still feels guilty about it. She assumes Barbara does as well, but Barbara says she feels terrible for Tess but has nothing to feel guilty about. I liked that because it’s true. Barbara didn’t take that picture and paste it on the poster; she didn’t know it was there. She’s actually been nice to Tess and never tried to make her conform, which makes her a nice contrast to Stacey.
The title quote is what Tess says when Stacey tries to find out why Tess is mad at her. She says she doesn’t need Stacey’s pity, because she’s happy the way she is. Go, Tess, go!
Stacey discovers that Tess’s fashion tastes are what is currently trendy in Paris, where Tess lived until recently, and suddenly she feels a little differently about Tess. Once again, that’s what bothers me about Stacey. If, as Tess said, she’d ever just had a real conversation with her, she might have found out they liked each other and they could have actually been friends. The whole thing is totally Stacey’s fault, and it takes her a while to acknowledge that.
This could have been way worse. If Tess had had less self-esteem, she might have not stood up for herself, and this might have ended very badly.
Tess: short pink cardigan, white blouse with lace trimmed Peter Pan collar, brown corduroys, black boots; hot pink sweat suit with lace trim; pink, red and yellow plaid polyester pantsuit; baggy pink overalls, satin shirt with pink and green daisies, pink barrette; blue jeans, blue sweatshirt; pink corduroys and pink nubby sweater; pink blouse with puffy sleeves, short black skirt

Next: Mystery #31

“Judging from that little belly of yours, you could take a tip from him.” BSC Super Special #14: BSC in the USA (1997)

Jack Schafer tries to take over Watson’s role as the cool BSC dad by agreeing to take Dawn, Jeff, and a couple friends across country in an RV. Watson, not to be outdone, decides to take the rest of the BSC along with Elizabeth, David Michael, Karen and Andrew. The groups take two different routes and meet in Palo City.
The Schafer-mobile takes the northern route and includes the following plotlines:
Dawn is a whiny brat, because she wants to see a ghost town and then is shocked to discover that it’s cheesy.
Jeff hates being surrounded by girls and goes rock climbing.
Mary Anne feels like Jack is picking on her by taking shots at Richard repeatedly, and meets her grandmother at the Mall of America.
Stacey meets up with Ethan (who?) in Seattle after a bunch of ridiculous hijinks.
Claudia fights with Stacey and is surprised that her favorite modern bands aren’t in the rock and roll hall of fame.
Kristy wants to go to as many baseball stadiums as possible, and runs into her dad in San Francisco.
Plus, each RV has group drama…this crew runs out of gas in the middle of the Badlands and has a run in with a bear.
Watson’s crew takes a southerly route and this happens:
Mallory gets emotional at Assateague Island after seeing the wild horses.
Abby convinces the kids (Karen, mostly) that Elvis is really alive, and then gets upset at the Grand Canyon.
Jessi inexplicably decides she wants to see the plantation where her ancestors were slaves.
Karen sulks because she almost doesn’t get to see her chosen landmark, while David Michael is shocked to discover that rodeos are inhumane.
This group experiences a tornado and keeps running into another RV with a girl the group finds really annoying.
Interesting Tidbits
The cover. Everyone looks really cute here, as opposed to the internal illustrations. (Most of them are okay, but a few are notably awful.)

The prologue is Dawn’s letter to Sunny, written across the course of a couple days. The only interesting part is that she lets Jeff write his commentary in between paragraphs. He suggests that Jack will be bringing the RV from Palo City, carefully stowed under his seat on the plane.
AWKWARD! The first real chapter starts when Jack Schafer shows up at the Spier household and eats breakfast with Sharon, Richard, and the three kids. He acts like an ass at the table, commenting on the food. It goes very badly until Dawn throws a bagel at Jeff and Richard winds up laughing. I think it was just nervous tension, because I can’t picture Richard thinking throwing food was actually funny.
Everyone gets to pick one place to go during the trip, and who goes in what RV is decided by that. Jessi, Abby and Mal go with the Brewers because their choices are in Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia respectively. That’s how Kristy ends up in the Schafer RV even though her parents are in the other—there weren’t any ‘good’ baseball stadiums along their route. (Also, it’s not exactly fair that Kristy’s one place is ‘as many baseball stadia as possible.’)
Sam and Charlie aren’t going along because they’re going to camp. (Don’t the two of them usually get out of stuff by having to work?) And Nannie is staying home with Emily Michelle, because the Brewers figured out something my father never has: camping (even in an RV) with a two-year-old is a horrible idea.
I like this conversation:
Mary Anne: What does RV stand for, anyway?
Watson: Ridiculous vehicle.
Anyone surprised that Claudia packed three suitcases, including two down parkas, for a summer RV trip? Me neither. Moving on.
When mapping out the trips, Kristy has a Claudia moment. She says that Mallory wants to go to Chinkateeg. To be fair, I don’t know how to spell it either, and Kristy knows it’s wrong. Spell check got me Chincoteague after I tried to spell it twice.
Jessi says everyone loves the smell of fried chicken. Has she met Dawn? I’m sure Dawn doesn’t like the smell of fried chicken (even though she does eat chicken in some of the books.)
Jessi’s grandfather is Arthur Sr. and she has an uncle, Arthur Jr. (I also have a grampa Art and an uncle Artie.) But when she points to a family portrait from when her dad was growing up, it’s her dad, Aunt Cecelia, Uncle Arthur and Uncle John. Umm, what? Jessi’s father is John Phillip Ramsey Sr. Do they have two kids named John? Maybe his name is Alex in this book, like it was in SS #2. In #103, Jessi has an Uncle Charles, so I’m betting that’s who Uncle John is supposed to be.
Baseball stadia and teams that get name-dropped: Cleveland Indians, Jacobs Field; Wrigley Field; Milwaukee Brewers; San Francisco Giants, Candlestick Park.
I had completely forgotten about Ethan, whom Stacey met right as she was breaking up with Robert in book #99. I mean, that was more than 10 books ago, including one Stacey story and one Stacey mystery in which Ethan was mentioned exactly zero times.
For Kristy’s stadium fetish, she originally just insists upon getting a baseball cap at every stadium they pass. But when they arrive in Cleveland while a game is going on, they wind up watching it, and at least several others, along the way.
Oh, and Cleveland lost to the Red Sox, whom Stacey calls the ‘Boston Somethings.’ C’mon. I know she’s supposed to not enjoy sports, but really. The Red Sox are one of the best known teams out there; a lot of people who know nothing about baseball have at least heard of them. And then Stacey grew up in NYC, and anyone who has ever lived in or visited the Northeast knows about the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry.
The girl who annoys the stuffing out of Mal, Jessi and Abby along their trip is Liz, short for Felicitas. I remembered her being Karen-esque and thought she was Karen’s age, but Mal says she’s similar in age to her and Jessi.
Liz says that Assateague is a funny name, which kind of makes me laugh. She’s not allowed to explain why it’s funny—this is a BSC book, after all—but even a ten-year-old should be able to figure that out.
DM, regarding Liz: “She’s either a genius or a robot.”
When Mal finally sees the herd of beautiful wild ponies running free across the plains, she gets all misty-eyed. (I’m just going to let that horse-book pun lie there.)
CLAUDIA SPELLING WOO-HOO! (Sorry; it’s a really long entry, wherein they go to the ‘Rockin Role Hall of fame.’) Exept, anthing, gess, groops, drov, thot, wer’e, cant, abot, dy, ofence, Shafer, Pitsberg. She also uses grate for great; afterword for afterward; ones for one’s; herd for heard; their for there and wile for while.
Claudia also says (spelling intact) that, now that they’re in Chicago, Kristy can’t stop talking about Wriggly Field and Stacy (yes, she spells her best friend’s name wrong, twice) can’t stop talking about Marshal Field. I was wondering whether Kristy would want to go to Wrigley Field or what was then Comisky Park (It was the ‘new’ Comisky, which is now U.S. Cellular Field.) And I remember all the controversy when Marshall Field’s was purchased by Macy’s.
There’s this ridiculous subplot in which Claudia grabs an open notebook, only to realize that it’s Stacey’s diary. So she shuts it, determined not to read it, and Stacey catches her and assumes she was actively reading it. They fight pretty much the entire rest of the trip. (Honestly, I’m surprised those two didn’t fight more often. I kinda loved that subplot in the FF series because it was so realistic.)
Abby spends the ride from Chincoteague to Memphis trying to convince everyone else in the RV that Elvis is still alive. (Her evidence: all those tabloid stories can’t be wrong!) She says that the Brewer adults barely tolerate her musings. Reminds me of how my dad always wanted to tell my friend Teah to shut up when she was spending the night at my house, but never did because she wasn’t his kid. (She would do things like yell EW! when she saw what we were eating for dinner, or make fun of whatever he was watching on television.) She gets so annoying that the Brewers actually drop the kids off at Graceland and refuse to go in with them.
Ha! Stacey has to find shopping everywhere they go, so she convinces everyone they have to go to Woodfield Mall. Woodfield’s not even that exciting, although we always used to drive there in high school…so we could go to Build a Bear, back when that was the only location in the area. (I can understand why she’d go to Water Tower Place, though.)
Mary Anne suggests that Jeff got his knack for really bad jokes from his father. Zing!
Remember when the BSC used to describe Dawn each book by saying she’s strong in her convictions, but she doesn’t lecture? Well, in this book, she lectures a man selling ‘stuffed animal entrails,’ AKA bratwurst.
I suddenly love Mary Anne’s grandma. Jack teases MA because she doesn’t like her seitan cutlet (seitan = wheat gluten, my mortal enemy), suggesting that she and Richard must eat a lot of red meat. Grandma responds with the title quote.
Jessi really wants to see where her family were slaves, even though her grandmother warns her against it. Yet when she gets there, she’s haunted by the images she sees of lynchings and other atrocities, and scoffs the idea that the Daltons, the plantation’s owners, were humane slave owners. Her argument is that they considered their slaves property and only gave them one name, so how humane is that? Of course, we all know that was normal at the time, and the humanity of a slave owner depended on things like how much they whipped their slaves and the like. Racism is a hard topic for a kids’ book, even one for middle grade readers like this. Say too much and you might scare them; say too little and they’re under-informed. This book tries to straddle the line by having Jessi get scared but not really letting the audience see what scared her.
What kind of numbnuts heads into the badlands without first checking the gas gauge? Jack Schafer, ladies and gentlemen (if any are reading this). My favorite part of this semi-realistic but still stupid plotline? Everyone is freaking out, and Jack tells them not to panic…while panicking. Yes, folks, do as I say, not as I do.
Mallory sums up one of her RV-mates in a single sentence: Abby, you are so weird. This is always the truth, but even more so when Abby is writing an entire notebook entry in cowboy vernacular.
Andrew and I are road-trip spiritual buddies. He starts asking “Are we in California yet?” in Arkansas. My dad used to force us to take three week car/camping road trips. My sister and I got sick of each other by day three, by day seven I’d have read all the books I brought with me and by day ten, I’d be sick of sightseeing. (My refrain all through a three-week trip through Eastern Europe was ‘I’m not looking at another church or castle,’ which drove my dad nuts because that’s largely all he wanted to see. That, and Auschwitz….) And I’m not even a four year old who can’t read a book/play a lot of the games kids play in cars.
Watson’s Baylor roommate, whom they visit in Oklahoma, is Chet Romney. And because it’s Oklahoma, they get caught in a tornado. Obviously, someone did a little research: the first hint that something is off is that Abby gets goosebumps on her arm and says all of her hair was standing on end. That’s actually all it takes to get the Romneys to turn on the radio and find out a tornado is coming. (That wouldn’t be enough for me, but that plus the sky turning green would be.) Abby describes the sound of the tornado as an approaching freight train. Think they watched the television special we used to watch in school every year, It Sounded Like a Freight Train?
Woot! More Claudia spelling! Nitime, midle, exept, cyoty (coyote), weerd, cant, disapeered, shoud, sleping, folowing, pepole. Oh, and Claudia’s afraid of gheeler monsters, which took me a while to decipher.
Dawn thinks coyotes are vegetarians. I’m not up on coyotes, but I’m pretty sure they’re scavengers and they eat meat. (Claudia suggests they should have kept a doggy bag of seitan to feed them…so that one of them doesn’t become first course.)
By the way, my spell check doesn’t think that seitan is a real word. Sort of like how Mary Anne didn’t think it was a real food!
Unfortunately, Jack Schafer finds a cop who brings him back to the RV. It would have been so much more entertaining if Watson and company arrived in Palo City and the other RV didn’t. Concerned about Kristy, Watson tracks the path the other RV was supposed to have taken on the way home. He finds it abandoned by the side of the road, with only one person inside. That person’s hair is white, and they keep rocking back and forth, saying the same thing over and over again. Someone else’s bones are found, scattered by coyotes. Rumors come to haunt the area that a ghost is often seen hitchhiking at that site. When people pick her up, she quotes baseball facts at them and then disappears the next time they drive by a stadium of any variety….
When they hit the rodeo, David Michael keeps shouting Yahoo! Karen corrects him, saying that cowboys say Yee-haw! I kept waiting for someone (Abby, most likely) to say Yippee-kay-yay-ay! or however you spell it, but sadly, it didn’t happen.
Jeff’s favorite things about the road trip? Getting a climbing lesson (lessen, as he spells it) at Grand Tetons, seeing the dig site at Mammoth, and, of course, getting stranded and thinking he was going to die. Priorities, that one.
And his least favorite part? Too many girls in his car. He says Dawn’s always been weird, and so are Claudia and Stacey, because they’re fighting. He says he actually likes Mary Anne but she’s been unfriendly on the car trip. (I’d really love more of Jeff’s perspective on Mary Anne, considering how odd MA feels about him. I mean, they’re technically related, but they haven’t really had too much of a chance to get to know each other.) He doesn’t mind Kristy, though, because they can talk baseball and she doesn’t tattle on him.
I like this bit of Jeff’s chapter, just because it’s accurate:” Dawn says the delay [of Old Faithful] is because of what people have done to the environment. But Dawn says that about everything.”
This is actually pretty clever on the whole behind-the-scenes-BSC crew’s part. I don’t know who came up with this idea, but it’s a good use of the massive BSC history. While driving through New Mexico, the Brewer RV sees a sign for Zuni, the town from #44. Since DM had a pen pal, they decide to go visit the town while they have the chance.
I would totally visit the Buzzard Gulch Haunted Village. I have a lot more fun looking at corny cheese (or cheesy corn) than I do looking at nature. No offense, nature.
Andrew: How did the desert get painted? DM: With a sagebrush! This is what happens when you contain people in an RV for too long.
O. M. G. I just realized something. Chapter sixteen is all about Dawn whining because Buzzard Gulch is too touristy. Chapter seventeen starts with Karen whining because her parents are trying to convince her to skip her choice of sites*. I’m totally picturing Karen growing up, getting contact lenses, growing her hair out longer…and being just like Dawn. Only instead of vegetarianism and the environment, Karen will totally be a grammar nazi. She could use those skills for good, by becoming the editor of the school paper and proofreading her classmates’ papers (for free or for a modest profit), but you know that won’t happen. I always imagined Dawn growing up and eventually mellowing out—spending a little time drifting or traveling, then working for a non-profit, or maybe even becoming a lawyer for environmental causes. Karen might someday outgrow her vision of the world as black and white—most kids her age do—but I suspect she’ll always be annoying and rub people the wrong way.
*I’m about to say something nice about Karen here; don’t panic. She’s not even all that whiny about what happens. Plus, I think it is completely unfair for the Brewers to try to talk Karen into another site. That’s the sort of thing that used to happen to me all the time when I was growing up, and I actually responded much the same way Karen did. She doesn’t actually argue; she contemplates choosing another destination, but having to give up her original choice makes her sad, so she cries silently. She doesn’t throw a fit or even make crying sounds. Elizabeth sees her quietly, sadly debating and they manage to fit her choice in.
Stacey’s adventure in Seattle is both dumb and predictable. Ethan is there for the summer, so the two plan to meet at a certain time on a certain day. Stacey remembers that it’s a coffee shop with a name like Corner Coffee, and it’s next to a park. Well, duh, this is Seattle in the 1990s. There was a coffee shop on every corner. (This is now true in almost every city, and every second or third one is a Starbucks. Mary Anne sees a Starthrower coffee shop, which I guess is the BSC version.)  Only there are four different coffee shops with similar names, plus Ethan changed the time and left her a message that she never got. So wackiness ensues, naturally.
But my favorite part of the whole event? Stacey’s all ready to see Ethan: she’s brushed her hair, straightened out her clothes, and put on her shoes. Right as she starts to leave, Kristy points out she has a Chunky wrapper stuck to her tush. I felt like Jeff: I laughed at the part that wasn’t really supposed to be funny.
Apparently, Stacey just needed to get kissed so she could get over her anger at Claudia. I won’t say what that has me thinking about her, because it’s really inappropriate.
Mary Anne did the same type of thing I did before I ever went to San Francisco: she read up on how to deal with earthquakes, so when the ground started rattling a little bit, she dove straight for a doorway. Of course, this just gave Jack another chance to make fun of her. She finally gets the balls to tell him that his comments hurt her feelings, which is awesome. Being MA, though, she doesn’t do it until he asks her if she’s having a good trip.
Jack admits that his teasing can be too much and that he’s sorry. The two of them are in a really weird situation, though. Think back to what I said about Jeff and Mary Anne; now take that a step further out. MA points out that the two of them are almost-family, but they aren’t actually related. (She ponders a name for their relationship, suggesting ‘Dad once removed.’) I really don’t blame Jack, Sharon and Richard for being all awkward when they’re in the same room earlier in the book. Mary Anne knows that Jack’s always been really nice to her, and no one else seems bothered by his teasing, but to be fair, he does tease her more than the others.
Liz from Chincoteague shows up briefly in the middle of the story in a notebook entry, but then she’s also at the San Diego zoo. What I love is that none of the kids is happy to see her. Not the BSC members, nor the little guys. She’s a know-it-all bitch who, among other things, talks down to DM and Karen, and is really rude to Andrew. To sum up the BSC members opinion of Liz:
            Liz: Why would parents do such a thing? [regarding animal parents who reject their babies]
            Abby (to Jessi): Maybe the same reason her parents left her with her grandparents.
Actually, the Liz thing reminds me of a little girl I once met. She was my dad’s best friend’s daughter. I was about BSC aged, and she was about Karen’s age. She was the whiniest, most spoiled brat I have ever met in my life, and she demanded I play all her games with her. After two hours of being ordered around, I told her I was done playing and went to try to read a book. She pulled the book out of my hands and hid it. (My mom had to ask her mother to give it back to me before we left.) She then proceeded to tell her mother that I was rude to her and boring and stupid and annoying…in front of me. I was so happy to leave their house, especially after I heard her say to my dad, “Someday, I want to come to visit you…after Teeki is married.” Liz annoys the poop out of the Brewer crew, and then Jessi catches her whining to her grandparents because the kids are boring and don’t know anything. They make their excuses and leave, making everyone happy.
I don’t know if this is a mistake on the part of the writers or if Kristy was so distracted that she made the mistake. In her notebook entry, she says the Brewers won the game at Candlestick Park where she ran into her father. But the game announcer says that the Giants were playing the Pirates, so I don’t think that’s true. (Kristy did go to the stadium and get a hat when they were in Milwaukee. She should have gotten several, to give to her mom and Watson. It would be appropriate…)
This is so Kristy. Her dad makes a small effort to talk with her when she locates him, but she doesn’t want to sit down and have a soda with him. She says they have to get back to Jack and Jeff, but really, she just wants to be the one to walk away from him this time.
OOH! There’s a picture in the final chapter, featuring the BSC, some of the kids, and the We Heart Kids Club. It’s actually accurate to the notebook entry as to who was talking to whom. Oh, and Abby, who is actually lip-synching Elvis in the picture, appears to have forgotten her pants. I really wish I could upload these drawings, because that part is funny, as is the picture of Kristy and MA in San Francisco. MA looks like someone mashed her face up flat.
Since Claudia had very little to do in this book, there’s an offhand comment about her buying a sketch in an ugly frame that looks like it’s inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe. Jack’s friend, the owner of the RV, sees it when Claudia is trying to remove the frame and agrees that it’s an O’Keeffe knock-off…until the frame comes off and it’s revealed to be an authentic O’Keeffe.
The book ends with a couple of WHKC comments, like how Jill is thirteen going on eleven. This to me is a lead up to the California Diaries books, which had already started to be published. Yet, Maggie’s hair is still all green and punk, while when the CD start, she’s got a blonde bob.
Of course, the epilogue is all letters. It includes the following spelling errors:
            DM: Romny (Romney), Lesster/Leter (Lester), leter, killd; youre for your, hear for here, rite for write, blue for blew
            Jeff: its for it’s, you’re for your
            Claudia: thot, alot, conversasion, generus, scetsh, evury, becuase, inspirred, feling, valuble, scetch, youll; its for it’s
My final super special, except the FFs ones.

Next: #111, also known as ‘Stacey tries to change someone to make her fit in instead of accepting her for who she is.’ Should be fun!