Sunday, August 7, 2016

“Between Haley and Josh, I was beginning to suspect we’d had a pod invasion recently.” BSC #128: Claudia and the Little Liar (1999)

Welp, here we are. Four more original series book, one each for our original four characters. All the Abby, Mal, Dawn and Jessi books are finished…we’re moving on.
Claudia babysits for the Braddocks, and inadvertently busts Haley in a lie. Haley then starts a smear campaign against the BSC and Claudia in particular. In the end, Claudia and the Braddocks talk to Haley and learn that she’s been trying to throw attention off the fact that she’s struggling in school. She says she told one small lie and got away with it, so she let it snowball out of control. Once her parents and the BSC forgive her, she turns back to her usual sunny self.
Meanwhile, Claudia and Josh are having problems. In the end, they decide they’re better off as friends than dating.
Interesting Tidbits
The cover. The facial expressions here are priceless. I also love that, as time moved on, most of the characters eventually changed styles to be more modern. Stacey finally ditched her perm in the late 90s when girls no longer wore them. Haley was originally described as having short hair with a tail, but those went out of style around the same time as perms did. So she’s just got a bob on the cover.

Josh is helping Claudia before a BSC meeting—they’re decorating uniforms for a ridiculous girls’ basketball league the kids in town put together—and leaves just as the first few members show up. What’s notable about it is something Claudia picks up on right away: various club members describe him as ‘cute’ or ‘adorable,’ which makes him sound more like a puppy than a boy.
The Braddocks are going to school for a PTA meeting about the spring dance. What elementary school has a spring dance?
I’ve always been interested in when the clients blame BSC members for what goes on in their houses. Remember back in #21 when Marilyn and Carolyn Arnold switched places, and Claudia got blamed when the wrong one went to a piano lesson? That always seemed completely unfair to me. It was the first time Claudia had ever met them, and they were identically dressed and, you know, identical twins. She shouldn’t have been held responsible for not knowing which was which. In this story, Haley doesn’t want to do her homework, but her parents and Claudia insist. She futzes around upstairs for a while and then hands Claudia a book report for her to look over. When the Braddocks get home, Claudia tells them that Haley’s report is on the dining room table…and learns that she just printed out last month’s report instead of doing her new one. Instead of blaming Claudia, like Mrs. Arnold did, the parents blame their daughter, who lied and manipulated.
This was funny: when Haley gets grounded for her lies, Kristy needs another player for her basketball team, so she makes Stacey fill in. Stacey, whom she had roped into volunteering to help coach, pretty much against her will…and whom she harshly coaches (and benches!)
Girls on the basketball team: Haley, Vanessa, Karen, Charlotte, Becca, Sara. Most of the girls are described as ‘eight and nine year olds Stacey didn’t know.’ But I have two thoughts about that. First, Karen is seven; did she get on the team by nepotism or something? Second, Charlotte, Becca and Vanessa aren’t usually into sports, so why are they playing?
“You can’t trust anyone over nine.” Seriously?!?
Claudia is reading The Case of the Artful Crime, which Google tells me is a real Nancy Drew mystery.
The title quote is what happens during a ‘weird’ date with Josh. He’s acting odd and distant, and Claudia remembers the movie Invasion of the Body Snatcher. She later refers to the alien that has taken control of Haley’s body.
Claudia is the perfect person to have these problems with Haley. First, having had her own problems with schoolwork—and having said the exact same things about homework being a conspiracy by teachers to ruin your free time—she gets where Haley is coming from. She’s also become the people-reader of the group, the one who gives good relationship advice. When she overhears Haley and Vanessa talking about her on the phone and calling her a tattletale and traitor, she knows that it shouldn’t hurt, because Haley’s just venting, but of course it does hurt. She’s human and has feelings.
Haley starts telling everyone that the BSC members are spies, so when Abby sits for the Rodowskys, Shea and Jackie hide from her. Archie doesn’t…but only because he wants to spy with her.
Mary Anne solves the Haley problem by suggesting role playing. Haley tries, like most people do, to make herself look better by diminishing everything she’d done wrong. She claims Claudia ordered her around, refused to let her talk on the phone about school work, etc. Between her parents and Mary Anne—an impartial party—pointing out the imperfections in her story (“If you were only on the phone for a second, when did Claudia have time to force you to get off?”), she admits that her story isn’t absolute truth. And finally, she admits that she didn’t want to do her book report because her book was flying right over her head and she didn’t ‘get’ it.
Kristy puts her best players as starters in the basketball game. She says that Haley’s a strong player, but with her grounding, she didn’t practice enough, so she’s second string. She also includes Charlotte on second string, which isn’t too surprising, but Karen is also on the second string. I can argue that she’s younger and likely smaller than the rest, but I’m really just taking pleasure in the fact that Kristy second-stringed her own (annoying) sister.
Not much to say about this one, but that’s probably a good thing. This is the type of problem I could see the BSC having on a regular basis. A lot of kids lie about everything they can get away with, and it’s completely normal for them to blame anyone who spots their lies for their problems. The basketball team suddenly popping out of nowhere is stupid, but otherwise, a very realistic story.
No outfits in this one except boring basketball uniforms. Poop.
Next: #129

“I need to English muffin.” BSC #127: Abby’s Un-Valentine (1999)

It’s Valentine’s Day (duh…) and Abby’s not feeling the love. Ross Brown asks her to the V-Day dance and she turns him down, because she’s not interested in dating, or dancing, or romance. Most of her friends don’t understand her attitude and try to get her to change her mind. Even Anna is trying to get Abby and Ross together, and when Abby realizes those two have more in common, she tries to get Ross to switch his affection. It doesn’t go right—he mistakes Anna for Abby and thinks the twins tried to trick him--but eventually, he and Anna hit it off and go to the dance together. Meanwhile, Kristy and Abby spend V-Day watching horror movies.
In the B-plot, Scout the guide dog puppy is graduating to real training, meaning it’s time for her to leave the Thomas-Brewer house. Andrew, who had gotten close to the puppy, is upset because Shannon is DM’s dog while the kitten apparently likes Karen best (stupid kitten.)
Interesting Tidbits
I love this cover. Abby has a real WTF look on her face.

Abby-logic: Valentine’s Day is not a real holiday, because they don’t close school for it. I sorta get that—especially if you don’t like V-Day—but then Halloween and most (especially non-Christian) religious holidays aren’t real, either. She also says that V-Day is just an excuse for candy and silliness, and she doesn’t like the silliness. WHAT? You’d think Abby would love ridiculosity. (not a real word, apparently, but it should be.) She seems to enjoy chaos, especially of her own making.
I like that Abby’s main objection to dating is that boys are completely immature at her age. She’s not opposed to dating, per se, and has mentioned several times that she finds various guys cute. (Including Sgt. Johnson…maybe she has a thing for older men?!? They’re…usually…not middle-school immature.)
“Mallory is no longer with us.” Whenever someone says something like that, I assume the person has passed.
One of Abby’s complaints about V-Day? Too much PDA. I have to agree with that one!
Do you think Abby read the BSC books before she joined the club? How else would she know that Erica Blumberg got the Most Creative Excuse award in mystery #4 or that Jacqui Grant was one of the girls who got busted for drinking at a concert in #76? I realize that the others could have told her these things, but who would remember all these details? She’d have to be Dr. Spencer Reid… (Yes, I am watching Criminal Minds right now. I bought the entire series on DVD in the past few weeks…)
Bad pun alert! Josh (remember him? He really only gets mentioned in Claudia book, and it’s been a while since I’ve done one of those) decorated up Claudia’s locker in candy and kiddy-Valentines. Abby mentions how…sweet…it is.
“Email and romance do not belong in the same sentence.” How true.
Abby’s version of the love story between Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning (with a little bit of paraphrasing on my part): Lizzie Barrett enjoyed ill health and lying on a couch until the Robster came along. I’m remembering…something…I read once about how in the Victorian era, fainting and looking ill were trendy.
There’s this whole Little Sister plot about how Karen and Andrew’s mom and stepdad, Lisa and Seth Engle, moved to Chicago for six months. Karen and Andrew were supposed to live with them, but Karen got too homesick and moved back to live with her dad. Much like the whole Pumpkin-the-kitten-thing, it’s barely mentioned in the BSC books, until now, when Andrew moves back.
I’m not up on beef suet, but is that the sort of thing most people just have sitting around in their fridge? We never did growing up, and I certainly don't now. MA uses it to make the pinecone bird feeder craft, but I remember making the same thing in Brownies with just peanut butter, which most people DO stock.
Interesting. At one point, Abby says that neither she nor Anna has too many friends. Later, she mentions that she and Kristy aren’t close, because Kristy’s too bossy. (Read: both Kristy and Abby are bossy and the neither of them likes it when the other bosses her around.) So who does Abby consider herself to be close to?
Heh. Abby keeps turning nouns into verbs. Anna is violining, while Abby bagels herself. (Kristy’s response is the title quote.)
Kristy is actually pretty insightful about her friends’ behavior. She tells Abby that Mary Anne, Claudia and Stacey all want Abby to get together with Ross because they’re happy with their boyfriends and want Abby to feel that too. Kristy also says that she knows that people can be happy when single, but her friends have a little growing up to do. I don’t know about the last part, but some people do have to learn that they can be happy when they’re single. A friend of mine from high school constantly had to have a boyfriend, and if she broke up with one, she instantly found someone else, no matter how unsuitable, to date. She’s now married to a guy whom she told ‘propose or I’ll break up with you’ and that worked out so well that she’s cheated on him for most of their marriage. But I think it’s overstating things to say that most people don’t know that you can be happy without a significant other, especially at an age where a lot of girls have never had a date before.
Kristy relates the Abby-Ross relationship to hers with Bart. She says that she went out with him to dances and stuff mostly out of peer pressure, even though she knew she’d never feel romantically about him. Abby then stares at her…and somewhere, some people’s minds go straight to the two of them kissing. (I know I made fun of the over-‘lesbianity’ of fanfic. I want to straighten out my opinion…I don’t have a problem with ficters choosing to interpret the characters as gay. I just want to see a logic behind it, or a buildup.)
“Thanks for the roses. They’re very…pink.” Here’s what’s interesting about Ross showing up at Abby’s house with a bouquet. Claudia, Stacey and Mary Anne were all horrified that Abby turned Ross down, and that she didn’t do it gently, because she might have hurt his feelings. Seems they couldn’t be more wrong. She needs to be even more obvious with him.
Claudia spelling: cant, beleve, leeving, shes, warnd. She also uses fore for four (type that four times fast), its for it’s, groan for grown, and to for two.
Nannie has a catering business? That must also have been more of a plot in the Little Sister books. This is pauling me off. I don’t want to have to read those awful books in order to understand what’s going on in Kristy’s house! (I used to post at message board that would turn curse words and certain ‘trigger’ words into ****. The name Paul was considered a trigger word for reasons that are far too stupid and complicated to explain. For a long time, I would say that things pauled me off instead of pissed me off, since both words turned into ****.)
Jessi has to play peacemaker during a BSC meeting. It’s actually a nice role for her; with Mal gone, she’s got no set place anymore. Abby gets tired of the three with boyfriends trying to shove her at Ross, so she (not-so-nicely) insinuates that they would date anyone just for the sake of having a boyfriend. When neither side will back down, Jessi jumps in with a question about the Andrew plotline that throws everyone off her stride.
“Charlie, you’re a guy, right?” If I were Charlie, my answer to this would be so sarcastic: ‘Well, I haven’t checked in the last half hour or so….’ Instead, he actually listens to Abby and then gives her solid advice.
When will the BSC learn that their ‘great ideas’ that involve manipulating people will never work?!?
Is anyone surprised that Valentine’s Day is on Saturday? No, me neither. Moving on.
I love this: Abby makes a pun in her head, and it cheers her up. She doesn’t even need to share it with anyone else.
Kristy and Abby’s V-Day plans? They’re skipping the dance in favor of pizza and a movie: Pepperoni Man, a horror film about a delivery guy. I’d watch it! (Abby makes a horror movie pun about sitting dead center.) She even wins a prize at the theater: a giant box of chocolates to share with her Valentine. She says she’ll take it to the BSC meeting on Monday, but I couldn’t help but think that she went back to sit next to Kristy….
Claudia: blue, white and gray woolly sweater covered in snowflakes, long black tights, thick blue socks, hiking boots with silver snowflake shoelaces
Stacey: short brown leather skirt, pale stockings, knee-high boots, soft butter-colored sweater with pearl buttons
Shannon: jeans and blue sweater
Abby: sweats
Anna: jeans and old sweater

Next: #128

“What am I going to do with a silver doorknob?” BSC #126: The All-New Mallory Pike (1999)

Ahh, here we go. This book begins a change in the BSC. By this point, they must have realized that the series were coming to an end. The Friends Forever series narrowed the focus of the characters and the action. There were fewer characters—fewer sitters and fewer clients—and the plots were (mostly) more realistic. There were no more festivals, no more giant group activities. Just four girls, their friendships, their love lives, their homes and the occasional sitting drama. Interestingly, it’s not just the BSC who wind up being the focus of stories. I’ve always wondered whether the characters who got more page-time in the FF series were the authors’ favorites, or whether fan letters had any input. I say that because, for the most part, the non-BSC members who get stories are often ones who interested or intrigued me through the whole BSC-universe.
Why am I saying this? Because the evolution and development of one of those characters starts here. He’s always been one of my favorites, but small pieces of development through the years led to this, and then much more development through his sporadic appearances thereafter.
Mallory leaves for Riverbend Hall. She feels like she fits right in, except with her roommate, Alexis. Alexis creates impossible rules, rifles through Mal’s stuff—including her diary and a care package sent by the BSC—and even draws on pictures of Mal’s friends. She tries to get along with her, talking things out, but Alexis won’t budge. After Mal gets the school staff involved, Alexis tears the room apart entirely. The staff admits that they put Alexis with Mal because they thought she’d be able to get along with her where no one else could, but it’s decided that Alexis’ problems are just too big, so the two of them are separated.
Meanwhile, the sitters are dealing with Pike Family Room Wars. With Mal gone, Vanessa has her own room, which most of her siblings are not happy about. This includes Vanessa, who likes the idea of her own room, but not the realities. The ideal situation would seem to be putting the four girls in the larger bedroom, because only three of them would be in it most of the time, while the boys could room in twos. The trouble? Adam and Jordan are fighting the idea. Byron agrees to room with Nicky, solving the problem and leading him to take a leadership role among his siblings.
Interesting Tidbits
Did you know that Sam Thomas set the spaghetti-sucking record? I’m more than a little disturbed that Mal knows that. Was she there, or did Kristy just…brag…about that during a BSC meeting?
When Mal describes her family as all matching except for her, does anyone else think about the possibility that she’s got a different father than the rest? I mean, I know it’s possible for her to just have different looks. My friend Zee has four kids and three of the four all look like a combo of their dad, with his straight brown hair, and their mother, with her pale coloring, gray eyes and freckles. The other daughter has curly hair, much lighter in color, and a much fuller face. She’s still an obvious combo of the two families—she’s the spitting image of one of her aunts—but when my mom saw pictures of the oldest two girls, she assumed they had different dads.
Mallory and Jessi plan on emailing each other once she leaves for school. It was one thing when Mrs. Pike was emailing in the last book, or when characters were surfing the ‘net, but these girls are eleven. My niece will be nine in a couple weeks, and I can’t imagine her mom letting her have her own email address, but maybe things were different back in 1999? (Later you learn that Mal’s email address is provided by her school, which is a little different. You know that’s got to be monitored.)
Mal has this little moment the morning she leaves for school wherein she realizes she already packed her robe, so she’s going to have to go to breakfast in her pajamas. This is the same house where ‘see food’ and running around naked are normal. Is she really concerned about her P.J.s?
There is a joint Mary Anne-Jessi notebook entry, and I really had trouble differentiating their handwriting for some reason.
When the Pike parents drive Mal to Riverbend, Claire gets very upset and wants to know why all three of three of them need to go live in Chassamoosetts. Meanwhile, Vanessa dresses all in black, looking like ‘a romantic heroine wasting away from sorrow.’ I can totally picture this.
Mal’s friends? Smita Narula, Pam the prefect, and Sarah Bernhardt, an actress who was named after a famous actress, and Jen Bodner, who used to be Alexis’ roommate.
Mallory says she doesn’t really miss boys. Insert your own gay joke here….
Oh no she din’t! Mal’s roomie is a real piece of work. When Mal comes home after her first day of class, Alexis is reading her diary. She claims Mal left it open on the bed, and that she considered that an invitation to read it. That’s someone with absolutely no sense of boundaries. You almost want to get a lock for your trunk after something like that…
Ahh, Byron is already a teenager in training at age ten. When asked how he feels about the room situation, he just shrugs and says, ‘whatever.’
Vanessa’s door sign? “Poet at work/Knock, you silly jerk” Niiiice.
Mal’s way of handling Alexis is to avoid her and allow her to have the room to herself except when sleeping. Sarah, Mal’s actress friend, is making a drama out of the Alexis situation. She’s so stealthy and spy-like in her tracking of Alexis that Mal keeps waiting for her to suggest they synchronize watches. (I’m picturing a scene from Soap: “Let’s synchronize watches. It is now…threeish!”)
I miss Claudia spelling. Oh, sure, she still misspells things on emails, but it’s not the same when it’s not in her belabored handwriting. Wasnt, eether, thats. She also uses gong for going.
The title quote comes from Abby and Claudia’s joint email. Abby says that, for solving the Room Wars, Ambassadors Kishi and Stevenson will be awarded the Silver Doorknob. After Claud’s question, Abby suggests she could make an earring out of it.
The Siege of Vanessa’s Room. Sounds like an epic saga poem, penned by one V. Pike.
You’d think the Pikes would be better able to handle fights between their kids, even with their obvious hands-off policy. (To some extent, I agree with this policy. Give them a chance to sort things out for themselves before dictating a solution.) But Mr. Pike sits the seven kids down and asks them to tell him what’s going on, without any direction. He seems surprised that everyone starts talking at once. Abby has to whistle before they get quiet.
If I wanted to, I could write a whole dissertation on the ‘evolution of Byron.’ A lot of you are aware of my extreme fondness for that character, which stems from several different scenes throughout the series. In one book, he offers Nicky part of his lunch after Adam and Jordan tease him; in another (#73), he’s the logical brother who is the only one of the triplets able to bring any sense of order—however small—to their kickball team. Here, it takes a while to notice that while the Pike kids are arguing about Vanessa’s room, Byron never takes part. He simply complains that Adam and Jordan’s posturing causes the three of them to be punished with extra housework, and then says ‘whatever’, like I mentioned before. While his brothers and sisters are laying siege (I just love that term), Byron is sulking in the basement. He tells Abby that Adam and Jordan are acting like babies about the whole situation, and he just wants some peace and quiet. He’s not the actual one to solve the problem here—Abby is—but his attitude allows the solution to work. Later, in the FF series, he takes a more mature role in things. He fills the big sibling role Mal used to play, and more.
The Alexis situation is solved when Jen, her ex roomie who had a single room, agrees to switch rooms with her. She and Mal get along okay, and that lets Alexis have her own room. Mal finally feels completely happy at school.
You do have to wonder why they didn’t give Alexis a single room after two different bad roommate experiences, anyway. My sophomore year of college, there was a freshman who, like Alexis, went through two roommates in one semester. She was really immature and would walk into your dorm room and start going through your stuff without being invited in. Her first roomie was very easygoing and could get along with (almost) everyone, so we all knew who was the problem when they fought. Her second roommate wouldn’t put up with a single ounce of crap, so that pairing lasted about two weeks. They told her she had two options at that point: she could either pay more money for a single room, or she could get the hell out of the dorms. That wouldn’t work with a sixth grader, but it seems pretty cruel to start Mal off at boarding school with a roommate who had already terrorized two others on the thought that the oldest of eight could make it work.
Mallory: jeans and blue sweater; flowered flannel pajamas
Alexis: black sweater, short black skirt, black high tops, five black metal hoop earrings; orange sweater, black jeans
Sarah: long purple skirt, silky, shimmery purple shirt

Next: #127

“They’ll either kill each other or make up.” BSC #125: Mary Anne in the Middle (1998)

*Sniff, sniff* This is the last original BSC book that haven’t read.
Mallory is waiting to hear whether she got in to Riverbend, the boarding school she visited in the previous book. When she learns she received a full scholarship, she’s thrilled and definitely plans to attend. However, not everyone is as excited. The Pike kids waver between being marginally happy to thinking that Mal leaving means that she’ll no longer be their sister, while Jessi is beyond angry. She feels that Mal is running away from her problems, abandoning her and her family, and being selfish. The two of them keep using Mary Anne for a sounding board, and push her to the point where she brings the two of them together and forces them to talk to each other instead of her. Then the BSC has a ridiculous We Love Mallory Day to celebrate Mal before she leaves.
In the B plot, the old people at the nursing home get a Christmas party. Again.
Interesting Tidbits
The cover: My only comment here is that Jessi is wearing her watch on her left wrist, which is normal for right handers. (I think my obsession with watches comes from being a lefty and wearing my watch—back when I wore one—on the ‘wrong’ side.) Oh, and that is not a flattering look on Mary Anne.

Mallory is supposed to be helping Mary Anne babysit for the various younger Pikes. Instead, the triplets and Vanessa are off…somewhere…being quiet, and no one thinks that’s a bad thing. Mal’s instead checking out her appearance in the mirror, wondering if she should cut her hair. It leads to a fabulous conversation in which Margo, trying to be helpful, points out that Mal’s face is ‘too fat’ for short hair. When Mal gets upset, Claire tries to soothe her by pointing out she likes people with fat faces…like Barney the dinosaur.
I need to go back and reread chapter 2 in several books until I pinpoint where Boo-boo the cat died and was replaced by Pumpkin the kitten. Pumpkin first shows up in Little Sister #102, but the BSC glosses over it. In #122, which is a Kristy book, Boo-boo is still around, #123 mentions ‘several pets’, while #124 doesn’t mention the Brewer-Thomas pets at all. There’s my answer… RIP Boo-boo. We hardly knew ye.
Jessi’s having a party at her house to introduce her Dance NY friends to her BSC friends. Almost everyone is excited about that, except Mal (who was jealous of Jessi’s dance friends, remember?) and Kristy…who’s worried that there won’t be any sitters available that night. That’s never stopped them before!
Poor Mal. I really do feel sorry for her. I know a lot of people find her to be a hopeless dork—even I do sometimes—but that doesn’t mean she deserves the bullying she’s getting at school. Period.
Once again, Claire is taking both an a.m. kindergarten session and a p.m. session. I’m not sure how that works. I can imagine a school being willing to swing that once—in an emergency—but this is every day for several weeks. Is she really doing the same assignment in the morning and again in the afternoon? Listening to the teacher read the same story? How do they arrange a lunch for her? It’s all so illogical.
“Probably for the first time ever, all the Pike kids were silent.” Probably true and definitely a little funny.
Oo-ooh! Angry Jessi is so manipulative. She knows Mal wants to go to Riverbend, but when she hears that the Pike sibs are less set on the move, she tells them Mal only thinks she wants to go, giving them a chocolate-related analogy, and encourages them to tell her they don’t think she should go.
Mary Anne is the perfect first-person for this story. Not only is she sensitive to everyone’s point of view—to the point where she’s actively flip-flopping on what she thinks Mal should do*—but Jessi brings up the fact that she dealt with Dawn leaving. MA points out that her head knew Dawn had to go, but her heart felt deserted. (*At first she was vehemently opposed to the move. Then, after talking to Mal and realizing how happy she was about it, she supported the move. After talking to the Pikes and Jessi, however, she feels really conflicted.)
I like this: Abby teaches the Hobart boys about Chanukah. James accepts an explanation about the menorah, but wants to know why the Jewish people are celebrating. (That’s pretty cool in and of itself; when I was teaching elementary school, the kids didn’t care why—they just wanted to play with the dreidel and get gelt.) Abby originally says that people celebrate Chanukah so they can get presents for eight days. I’m reminded of the episode of South Park where Stan and Cartman decide to become Jewish to get more presents…
Mal is obviously depressed. Among other things, she tells Mary Anne that she’s considered not telling the rest of the BSC she decided to attend Riverbend: “What if I simply didn’t show up one day?” she says. This is partly based on the fact that she’s so angry at Jessi for not supporting her, but that's the kind of comment I said all the time when I was depressed: No one would notice if I just disappeared.
The title quote is Abby’s reaction when MA schedules Mal and Jessi for a joint job with the Barrett-DeWitt kids. This sounds exactly like all those wacky sitcoms where the kids are trying to get their parents back together. Only Claudia seems to think this could be a bad idea. At this point in the series, Claudia has become the sensible, people-savvy person. I’d honestly listen to her in this case.
Mr. and Mrs. DeWitt are going shopping for furniture…in December…right before the holidays. I can’t help thinking that, with seven kids, they should be strapped for cash. That furniture will make a pretty crappy Christmas present….
Here’s what gets me about this story. Jessi’s friends from Dance New York come to visit, and one of them completely understands what Mal is going through and encourages her to go ahead, because Jessi will come around. That feels like a slap in the face to Jessi, but it’s true. Why doesn’t Jessi point out to Mal that she had the opportunity to become a full-time member of the dance troupe out in New York, and gave it up at least partly because of Mal? Mary Anne brings it up a couple chapters later, reminding Mal of how unhappy she was seeing Jessi making other friends.
Honestly, I’ve always seen Mal and Jessi, like many of the other BSC friends, being friends partly because they like sitting and partly because of some tenuous hold on each other. In the case of these two, they both like horse stories and are oldest children. As they age, that would probably change a bit. They’d probably outgrow most horse stories. Jessi, who’s outgoing and a ham, would probably become friends with theater-acting kids or jocks as time went on. Mal, who’s more introverted, would find friends more into sitting-type activities, like writing and theater-watching kids. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t stay friends, but much like most elementary or middle school friends, they probably wouldn’t be best friends any more. These books, and other series like them, which featured groups of girls with one thing in common, had to create friendships like that. In order to appeal to the widest audience, the stories needed to have outgoing characters, introverted characters, and the girls need to have a wide variety of interests.
Kristy’s mom buys bulk at Cost Club. That’s almost as bad a rip-off as Ricky Rouse and Monald Muck.
Mary Anne is able to very quickly convince the four youngest Pikes that Mal isn’t abandoning them simply by talking to them. If Jessi hadn’t encouraged them in that thinking, they probably would have been supportive from the start. They’re a little hurt still, and worry about missing her, but MA is able to convince them that she’ll come back, and that they can visit and write her letters.
Continuity: Mrs. Hobart brings ‘one of her famous homemade cakes’ to the old-folk’s Christmas party. Mal made a whole point about how awesome Mrs. Hobart’s cakes were in an earlier book, commenting on how her mother always bakes from a mix. (I think that was book #59, when she and Ben switched brothers for the night…)
“I’m staying home and being the ref for the fight of the century.” Mary Anne finds her balls and brings Mal and Jessi together to end this once and for all. Mal admits that it’s very hard for her to leave Jessi—as hard for her as it is for Jessi—but that she feels like she has to do this for herself. That’s all it takes for them to start hugging and (all three of them) to start crying.
Claudia: self-tie-dyed t-shirt cut into beaded fringe, matching beaded jewelry

Next: #126