Monday, June 29, 2009

Bonus: Little Sister #4: Karen's Kittycat Club

Tagline: Karen has a club now, too!

Cover: I have a few Little Sister books around here, so I thought that I might as well blog those, too. I started out with the Little Sister books and then moved up to the BSC. I guess I just got used to Karen, because she doesn't annoy me as much as she does other readers of the series(es). But this book is pretty annoying. I'll get to that. The cover....the orange checkerboard is very overwhelming. I can barely even read "Little Sister." Hannie has red hair? And I think we need to stage a pigtail intervention for her. Amanda Delaney looks appropriately princessy, but no way is the cat that Karen's holding Boo Boo.

Plot!: Hannie's family gets a new pet, a cat...and Karen realizes that now she and Hannie and Amanda all have pets. So she decides to form the Kittycat Club, because....she wants a club. I guess? But they don't know what to do, so they decide to cat-sit, but they don't get a job, partly because no one needs a cat-sitter and also because no one needs a six year old cat-sitter. Karen's other friend, Nancy, is jealous because she can't join the club. It's pretty much a failure on all sides. So the club folds and Karen starts a Fun Club, and that's a success. For this one book, and then is never mentioned again.

Points of Interest:
  • Hey, did you know that Karen is a Two-Two? She has two of everything!
  • "Mommy and Seth's house is little." Yeah, because she's not a millionaire like Watson. I wonder though if it is really little or just little compared to a mansion. It's in the same neighbourhood as Nancy's house, and I never got the feeling that it was a shack, but the way that Karen describes it it kind of sounds like it.
  • Karen rationalizes that Shannon (the dog) likes David Michael more than her because she sees David Michael more than her. Because NO ONE would ever not like Karen just because.
  • Karen decides that The Kittycat Club is a purr-fect name for her lame club.
  • Karen always has the same lunch: an apple, a celery stick with peanut butter, chips and milk. It feels like it's missing the main part.
  • Hannie making fun of Amanda's four hundred dollar cat never gets old. Of all of the musketeers, I think Hannie has the most potential.
  • Karen and Nancy fight a lot in these early books. This isn't as dumb as the Karen-Nancy sleepover fight, because Nancy has a point in this one at least, but it's still drawn-out.
  • The club almost has a job...but it turns out that the woman who called them thought that Karen was actually Katie Bower, sixteen. If this woman can't even read a children's jumbo print flyer, how is she managing on her own? How does she read labels, on food or medication? Someone needs to be called about this.
  • In Karen's Big House room, she has Moosie, Tickly nineteen stuffed animals, and seven dolls. And this is the room that she lives in for two days, every other week.
  • Karen practically starts sobbing at the song 'Does your chewing gum lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight?': "I was nearly in tears. Imagine losing the flavor of your chewing gum."
  • Nancy got upset with Karen because Karen started the Kittycat Club with Hannie and left Nancy out of it. So when Karen wants to start the Fun Club, she goes to Nancy....and leaves Hannie out of it. I don't think she's actually learned anything from this.
  • People who come to the Fun Club who we never hear from again: Heather, Nina, Kim, and Vicky. They're "girls from school."
  • Karen decides that the Fun Club is a success. It kind of is a Kristy-like thing to do - take something ordinary like playing and turn it into a big giant deal.
Final thought: I wish there was a book about Watson and Lisa's marriage. I picture it as being like one of Judy Blume's adult books.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

#78: Claudia and Crazy Peaches

Tagline: Claudia's aunt Peaches is back. Let the games begin!

Cover: Yes...those crazy waiter games! The cover depicts a scene from the book, where Claudia and Crazy Peaches make (or buy?) dinner for the family, then dress up like waiters. But why does Claudia have something like a plain black vest? That's not crazy! Maybe Peaches brought's not quite clear. Anyway. Aside from looking like they've maybe poisoned the family, this cover is pretty unremarkable.

Plot!: Peaches and Russ move back to Stoneybrook, and they are also expecting a baby. Claudia gets really excited and spends lots of time with Crazy Peaches, because she's just so much fun. But then Claudia needs some time to herself, and Peaches doesn't take that well, and they have a fight. Then Peaches loses the baby, and Claudia is convinced it's her fault. But they make up, and Peaches and Russ decide to start trying again soon for another baby. In the subplot, Natalie Springer becomes a BSC charge, and she's friendless, and becomes clingy with Claudia, so the BSC starts a Friendship Campaign for Natalie (no, really).

Points of Interest:
  • "Have you ever ahd one of those tingly feelings - the kind that tells you something is going to happen, but you're not sure what or when or where?" I feel like Claudia is oversharing here.
  • There's a Wizard of Oz reference on the second page. It's starting to become like I Love Lucy!
  • Thankfully, Claudia describes her own skin as "clear," not "creamy."
  • At the beginning of the book, Claudia is already really behind in her English class. I almost want to tell her not to bother catching up, because she's going to fail anyway (at least one of the times she finishes the eighth grade).
  • I wonder how old Peaches is, and what the age difference is between her and Claudia's mom. Peaches and Russ met in College, according to a story Peaches tells Claudia in one of the Friends Forever books, and Claudia has only ever known her as Peaches. So if she was 20 when she met Russ, let's say Claudia was born around that time, Peaches would be in her early 30s. Claudia's parents have always seemed older than that to me.
  • According to Claudia, Bart is "crazy" about Kristy. There's a lot of craziness in this book. Also: really?
  • So Russ and Peaches, who is two months pregnant, are going to move into Claudia's house for awhile, and immediately the BSC goes crazy (theme?) with plans - Kristy's going to keep her fit, Jessi is going to force her to listen to classical music, Mallory is going to monitor her journal writing. I would have politely told these kids where to stuff it.
  • The Natalie subplot is boring. It seems like the BSC is always trying to change kids to get other kids to like them.
  • Russ calls Peaches "little mother." I'm glad he doesn't have facebook, or else I might have to submit him to STFU, Marrieds or STFU, Parents.
  • Claudia and Peaches spend gobs of money on baby furniture, supplies, and clothing...and she's still only two months pregnant! Who does this? They're not even living in their new house yet!
  • They go to see Bringing Up Baby, because they think it's about a baby. It's not, but they love it anyway. Because Claudia, who is barely literate, really love old black-and-white movies from the 1930s. (Bringing up Baby is a good movie, and it's totally logical that a teenager might like it, because I liked it myself when I was around 13...I just don't see Claudia as a big fan. She'd like color movies, like a big splashy musical...or The Wizard of Oz.)
  • Are you ready for your stereotypes? The Italian man at the gourmet shop is called Guiseppe DeSalvio and he looks just like Chef Boyardee. He speaks English, except for words like "signorina" and "bambino."
  • Ugh. As if we haven't had our fill of old movies, the flower stand (a flower stand?) is called Zuzu's Petals.
  • Heh. Claudia's gym teacher told her that sparkle socks were inappropriate for gym class. But doesn't she know that Claudia is an artist?
  • Peaches calls Claudia a sulky teenager. Normally I'm on the side of the grownups in these things, but Peaches seems really...immature. She wants Claudia to blow off school to look at wallpaper or something, and isn't able to look at people beyond herself. She seems really ill-equipped to be dealing with parenthood.
  • Claudia immediately thinks that because she was mad at Peaches, she caused the miscarriage, just like she thinks she caused Mimi's stroke. I want to say that it's really self-important of her, but it's kind of true of people to think like that.
  • Stacey has a new hat that she's really proud of: it's velvet, with patches of different colours, and has cool beadwork around the brim. Sure.
Final Thoughts: Since I haven't read it yet, you can get a perspective on this book's follow-up Claudia and the World's Cutest Baby over at Dibbly Fresh.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

#62: Kristy and the Worst Kid Ever

Tagline: Need a sitter for Lou? Don't call the Baby-sitters!

Cover: Kristy looks like she's adopting the same baby-sitting strategy as Dawn in Dawn and the Impossible Three. But nevermind that - I want to talk about the Papadakis children. Compare and contrast to Welcome to the BSC, Abby below. Hannie's still rocking the pigtails (which is consistent with her Little Sister character, too), but she doesn't look Chinese. Linny, on the other hand, looks about five, and he has a much different skin colour than his sister, Hannie (dropped adoption plot?). Why is that dog all over the furniture? The Papadakises have a poodle (named Noodle). Is that covered in the book? And Lou could not look more butch if she tried, which I guess she is trying to do. Why does her sweater have an elbow patch, though? Maybe it's because she's poor. But when I see that, I don't think 'poor,' I think 'academic.' Finally, the book acts as a kind of historical record - someday people will see it and ask "did people really have televisions that looked like that?"

Plot!: The Papadakis family takes in a foster child - Lou (and don't call her Louisa). She has difficulty adjusting because she misses her mom (who ran off), and her father (who is dead) and her brother (in a different home). So the BSC tries to figure her out. Meanwhile, they are having an auction at SMS to benefit...something, and people are bringing in fancy items. So the BSC decide to get celebrity items to sell, as well as baby-sitting hours. And they worry that the items won't come, but they do, and they're a big hit. Yay.

Points of Interest:
  • My copy, which I bought used, has the following inscription: "Dearest Ashley, Happy Easter Dear, all my love, Nana." Poor Nana.
  • In a strange bit of continuity, Sam has his job delivering groceries for the A&P, which was mentioned in Kristy's Big Day, and maybe other places. But how does a fifteen year old with no car deliver groceries? On his bike? Walking? It makes no sense, ANM!
  • Boo Boo, Watson's cat, has gray fur and terrible yellow eyes.
  • Hannie and Linny and Karen and David Michael discuss whether they want a girl foster kid or a boy foster kid. With Lou, they kind of get both.
  • There are two Wizard of Oz references in the first two chapters. Lazy.
  • Kristy says Dawn "appears to be easy going," with the implication that she isn't, which might be the best description of Dawn in any Chapter Two. She's not California Casual, people!
  • Logan flexes an arm, and Mary Anne blushes. I like the Mary Anne in the Friends Forever series a LOT better.
  • The auction is for new computers. That's a lot more realistic than the carnival to fund the arts program in Welcome to the BSC, Abby.
  • The social worker is "pinch-lipped," because basically every career woman in this series is some kind of uptight unhappy woman.
  • The BSC makes a big deal about Lou wanting to be called Lou, and not Louisa, which I find strange. Firstly, she's introduced to them as Lou, so it's not like all of a sudden she's like, call me something else. Also: Kristy goes by Kristy, not Kristin, and Stacey doesn't go by Anastasia, Jessi doesn't go by Jessica, Hannie doesn't go by Hannah, and so on. They don't go "I went shopping today with Anastasia, excuse me, Stacey." And they try to make it into another case of Lou being 'difficult.' Please. These thirteen year olds need to chill.
  • The Papadakis parents aren't doing anything with Lou - she's always either at the Brewer house, not playing with Karen or with a baby-sitter. Shouldn't they be, like, more involved with her? They don't seem prepared or interested in this at all.
  • I don't know anything about the Craine family at all. Margaret and Sophie and Katie? Who are these people?
  • The BSC has to do some brainstorming for the auction so they don't feel 'guilty' when then they goof off, eat junk food, and fall asleep at their sleepover. Gah.
  • Okay, the cover picture actually takes place at the Brewer house, so that's...Boo Boo being held, and Shannon jumping up. MAYBE it's David Michael in front, but that makes even less sense. Speaking of David Michael, I once read a BSC fan fic where he was Watson's biological child. Weird.
  • Would Lou's social worker really show up and talk to Lou without one of the foster parents there? It seems...dangerous.
  • Lou and her brother Jay go to live with her aunt and uncle, and she seems okay with this, eventually. The baby-sitters marvel at the change in her, like they had never considered how much this had taken a toll on her and that all of her problems couldn't be solved by playing in Karen's playhouse.
  • Lorne Conners, some fake artist who won four "Grammies" sent the BSC a T-shirt, autographed, for the auction. They had written to famous people and asked for items. It's kind of like when Zack Morris sells Johnny Dakota doorknobs. Anyway, by some miracle, the items actually arrive in time. In addition to the shirt, they get toe shoes from a ballerina, a boxed set of autographed books, an autographed baseball from a sports team, a blanket from a horse that won the Kentucky Derby, an autographed picture of a track and field athlete, and Cam Geary's jacket.
  • In my version, Chapter 15 is just in plain type, not in the traditional block letters.
  • Heh. Watson buys a hand crack phonograph. Dirty!
  • Logan buys Mary Anne diamond earrings. Too bad there wasn't a diamond ring there - Stacey might have got one for a great price!
  • I've never understood the ending: Stacey announces that the BSC contributed the highest ticket item of the auction, which is 24 hours of baby-sitting. And Jessi notes that they're worth more than Cam Geary's jacket, which went for more than a hundred dollars. If that is true, and the hours went for more than a hundred dollars, why didn't they mention this during the auction? It's needlessly confusing. To me. And I don't like being confused by ANM.
Final Thought: Has anyone read Abby and the Best Kid Ever, where Lou comes back? I haven't.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Off-Topic: Michael Jackson

I am having a very hard time processing the news of Michael Jackson's death. I didn't have a specific book planned for today so instead I will just point you in the direction of a Michael Jackson/BSC connection, in case that's how you want to remember him. The BSC Wiki has only one reference (that I could find) for Michael Jackson, on the page for Baby-Sitters on Board! I'm not sure, but I think it's a reference to them seeing the Captain EO show.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

#90: Welcome to the BSC, Abby!

Tagline: No one said it was going to be easy!

Cover: The hidden message of the tagline is "So run, Abby, while you still can!" Yes, this is the first book narrated by Abby Stevenson, the club's new Jewish member. She first shows up in Kristy and the Dirty Diapers, and at the end of that book she's a BSC member. Anyway, on the cover she's baby-sitting for the Papadakis family. Hannie looks Asian. Linny looks tall, but I've always pictured him tall, so that's okay. Sari she has developmental problems. Also on the cover: Noodle the Poodle, Pat the Cat, and Myrtle the Turtle. Abby is rocking a very mid-90s dress/tights combo with a really long necklace that just seems impractical for baby-sitting.

Plot!: Abby is the BSC's newest member, but she's also asthmatic. She has an attack while sitting for the Papadakis kids, which sets off Kristy's inner judgement monitor, and Abby is worried that they're going to kick her out. So she's all eager about this fund-raiser carnival and handles another asthma attack, and Kristy sees that someone can have allergies and babysit at the same time. In the subplot, it's also about Abby, and about her family. Her dad died a few years ago in a car accident, and she and her twin sister feel like they can't talk about him. But then they find his bathrobe and it gets their mom talking, and they get closer. And in the baby-sitting plot (kind of), there's a carnival to raise money for the arts in schools, and the BSC has a book with buttons and cakes and stuff.

Points of Interest:
  • Abby calls Kristy a "bossy beast." There's a reason why the Kristy/Abby slashfic writes itself.
  • Abby's from Long Island and uses Yiddish expressions, just in case you weren't tired of all the other stereotypes ANM has used.
  • Pine Barrens makes me think of the Sopranos.
  • Her mom went from being a an editor at a publishing house. Is that a career you can just...transition into?
  • A lot of the stuff related to Abby's dad reminds me of With You and Without You, also by ANM (but actually by ANM).
  • Even Abby calls Emily Michelle 'Kristy's adopted sister.' That seems sort of...insensitive.
    Also, even Abby gets all worked up over Watson's mansion. Doesn't she live, like, two houses away? On a street full of mansions? Something tells me her house isn't that different.
  • Abby calls Claudia's skin "creamy" and "perfect." Ew.
  • Abby's speech patterns remind me of Juno, except even less cool.
  • When Abby is taken away by the ambulence, Kristy is looking at her like a sick person who can't finish a job. And when she calls to see how Abby is, the conversation is "brisk." God. I know she's club president and all, but can't she ever think of these people as her friends? Or even just as...people?
  • Watson rents the following things for the carnival: a Ferris wheel, bumper cars, a whip, a tame haunted house, and a fire engine ride. Why couldn't he just donate that money to the art program?
  • I Love Lucy alert! Grape stomping reference when they crush the cardboard boxes. Because all 11-13 year old girls in the mid-90s went CRAZY for I Love Lucy.
  • Shannon and Abby's sister Anna hit it off right away, because they're both invovled with extra-curricular activies. Sure? Shannon's really intriguing, as far as BSC members go. I mean, she gave up a trip to France - by purposely failing a test - because she was having trouble with her mother.
  • The carnival earns enough to fund arts program in Stoneybrook for a whole year. I'm so sure.
Final Thought: Abby has by far the best headshot on the cover; Stacey has the worst (even worse than Mallory).

Monday, June 22, 2009

#55: Jessi's Gold Medal

Tagline: Go for it, Jessi!

Cover: Does anyone else hear "Go for it, Heather!" from "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion"? I do. I've tried to do at least one book of everyone in the club before I repeat, but then I did two Claudias. Partly because I was so excited about my new books, partly because I didn't have any Jessi books that really inspired me. Jessi and the Dance School Phantom, maybe. I haven't read the later ones about her. Then I remembered that I also would need to do one of Abby's books, so that will probably be next (I don't have either the Shannon story or the Logan books...yet).

Anyway, back to this book. I wonder which one Jessi is? Also, couldn't they have at least tried to make the girls' arms look synchronized? That's kind of the whole point of the book.

Plot!: Speaking of the point of the book, Jessi is discovered to be a natural for synchronized swimming because of her ballet talent. She's partnered with Elise Coates, someone we've never heard of before and will never hear from again. They're worried that they'll embarrass themselves, because they've never read a children's book before, but in the end, because this is a children's book, they win. Oh yeah, synchronized swimming is a sport in the SMS Olympics, and in subplots, different members of the BSC are entering different events (including a boy vs. girl Kristy vs. Alan race). And because baby-sitting has to come in somewhere, they hold a mini-olympics for the kids they baby-sit.

Points of Interest:
  • This is the book that has the 'horses sweat, gentlemen perspire, ladies glow' nonsense that is totally not true. Ladies sweat; let's get over it.
  • Jessi is a born dancer. It's not conceited, it's just true. Just so you know.
  • Jessi's dad sounds like James Earl Jones. Cool?
  • Ugh. It's a hot day, and then the Ramseys have seafood casserole for dinner. It seems...heavy to me.
  • Stoneybrook has a sports complex with three pools, including an Olympic-sized pool. I have absolutely no idea in my head about what Stoneybook is like. Sometimes it's this tiny little town and then it has three middle schools and a university.
  • Claudia was wearing: shorts, a Hawaiian shirt, and sandals. Wild.
  • Oh, Alan Gray. I prefer Cary Retlin in terms of Kristy antagonists; he's kind of a bad boy, and Alan's just kind of a doofus.
  • Ugh again. Even though she hates sports (and gym! There's a whole book about it), Mallory decides to be part of the sports festival....because everyone else is doing it. BSC books are really all about group-think. My favourite one, Mary Anne's Makeover, is the classic example of that.
  • Dawn enters the Javelin throw, because she's so, like, offbeat and different. Yawn.
  • Jessi and Elise decide to get to know each other better after the competition is over. And then we never hear of her again. She just drifts off into the black hole of people who aren't fanatical about baby-sitting; it's a place very similar to the high school classroom where all of Zack Morris' ex-love interests are.
  • I thought Alex Kurtzman was the super-serious guy who carried a briefcase and wouldn't let people cut in line. So why's he participating in the backwards race?
  • Kristy wins the boy vs. girl race against Alan, of course. They try to make it dramatic,'s not. It's about as dramatic as the Lisa vs. Slater obstacle course at the Malibu Sands. Has there ever been a girl vs. boy race that the girl didn't win?
  • Speaking of no suspense, Jessi and Elise win the award for best synchro routine. I wonder how the rest of the team feels, being beaten by the two newest girls in the group. Take that, losers. Then Jessi and Elise decide to quit. So...everything is back the way it was before the book started. The end.
Final Thought: I really do love the (real) Olympics.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Mystery #11: Claudia and the Mystery at the Museum

Tagline: What kind of crook would steal art?

Cover: Apparently Claudia, the art savant, has never heard of an art thief. Or the cover writer hasn't. Anyway, this cover...has a lot of look. First of all, the background is quite purple. My copy is more pinkish purple than this picture looks, with the reddish "Mystery #11" in big letters. Right smack in the middle is Claudia, in a look that's also described in the book. She's with Corrie Addison and Marilyn-or-Carolyn Arnold, actually I think it's Marilyn because she has the longer hair. Corrie looks like how I imagine a mini-Mary Anne to be. Claudia has the same "whuh?" look on her face that she also has at The Mystery at Claudia's House (there is no mystery, by the way - spoiler?) and also in the illustration of her in Snowbound.

Plot!: Claudia, who likes art, by the way, did you know that? Anyway, she's really excited about this new sculpture exhibit at the conveniently opened Stoneybrook Museum. While she's there with some kids, some ancient coins are stolen. Claudia decides she's on the case! With the rest of the BSC, of course. So while they do their typically stupid stuff to chase criminals, they eventually find out that the real bad guy is the janitor, and not the two-eyed man.

While they're doing this, Claire Pike wants to be a STAAAHH! And she has a video of her singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" that she drags all over Stoneybrook, trying to get herself discovered. Eventually, she moves on, because she's five.

Points of Interest:
  • Even though I just said that I hadn't read this one before, I totally have. The subplot about Claire and her 'Over the Rainbow' video was very clear, and I knew the basics of the museum plot.
  • Remember in Kristy and the Secret of Susan, how Susan is withdrawn but then plays the piano? Or can say the date of something? That's what Claudia reminds me of, when she goes from being barely literate to spouting out all of this random art stuff.
  • Don Newman, this famous sculptor, supposedly lives in Stoneybrook. For a small town, Stoneybrook sure has a lot of famous artsy people living in it.
  • Claudia really wants to go see the sculptures in the museum, so she makes a plan - that involves also taking Corrie Addison and the Arnold twins. I get that she wants to share art with these kids, but couldn't she just do something on her own? I'm going to have to start commenting on stuff like that or else I'm never going to get through the whole series.
  • If the BSC members were animals, what animals would they be? It must be Chapter Two time! Kristy = dog, Mary Anne = koala (?) Claudia = parrot, Stacey = jungle cat, Dawn = dolphin, Mallory = a horse like Black Beauty, Jessi = a dancing Lipizzaner, Logan = hawk, and Shannon = cat.
  • The museum is part art gallery, part science center, part interpretive center, all in one. I would love to see their mandate or collection policy.
  • Claudia's first list of suspects: a janitor, a man with one blue aye and one green eye, and a Brownie troop.
  • After like, two seconds, the BSC decides they're going to solve the mystery. Because that's normal behaviour for a group of 13 year olds.
  • Watson didn't give any money to the museum. I find that weird, but maybe he was tapped out after spending lots of money to take his stepdaughter's friends on all kinds of trips.
  • I really don't think I could care any less about the Pikes going shopping.
  • Claudia calls something 'super-chilly', which she explains means 'cool.' Lame.
  • All of the girls get really excited at the museum, thinking of all of the kids who would love a place like this. Can't they just like it for themselves without wondering what Charlotte Johanssen will think of it?
  • When Claudia talks about Don Newman's sculpture 'Daphne,' that looks like a woman and a tree, I always think of like, a woman's torso, but on a skewed angle. Made of brown clay. Having that mental image was one of the ways that I knew I had read this one before.
  • Claudia, thinking that Daphne might be a fake, goes to harrass the curator, who reacts about the way you'd expect if a 13 year old came in and starting barking about art thefts and forgeries. And then she steals papers from his desk, and for the rest of the book they call him a creep and a thief. These girls need to chill.
  • Speaking of needing to chill, everyone makes a big deal about Claire wanting to be an actress. First of all, she's five. It's a phase. She wants attention - she has seven brothers and sisters! Secondly, let her parents deal with her being disappointed or whatever. They're her parents! Thirdly, just because you want to do something for one day doesn't mean that you're always going to want to do it. I know that Vanessa is a super-poet, Mallory a writer, Jessi a dancer, Claudia an artist, etc. but other people have phases! Let her outgrow it - she's five!
  • Mrs. Arnold is taking her daughters to the museum? A parent doing something with their own children?! This is highly irregular.
  • The security guard tells Jessi that there isn't really any more security at the museum? Why not just broadcast it in case any other thieves have any ideas.
  • Claudia phones up Don Newman to talk to him about his sculptures. Instead of being somewhat wary, he invites Claudia and her father to his fancy party. That's similar to what happened to Mallory when she stalked Henrietta Hayes, isn't it, where she shows up at her house and ends up becoming her assistant.
  • A lot of time is spent on Claudia wondering what to call Don Newman - Don, or Mr. Newman. This happens a lot in BSC books. Maybe ANM wanted people to call her Ms. Martin when they saw her.
  • Claudia acts like a lunatic, dragging Don Newman away from his party, making baseless accusations against the curator, and racing into dead ends.
  • At the party to celebrate Don Newman's sculpture exhibit, the sculptures....have already been taken down. It was a one-week exhibition? At a new gallery? It seems really short to me - I would have thought they might want to milk it for a bit longer. Maybe they have a new hot Stoneybrook talent all lined up - oh, wait, no, the curator tells Claudia that they want to do an exhibit of youth art, including her stuff. Right.
  • The book ends with a pizza toast. Yawn.
Final Thought: I think Marilyn Arnold's cover outfit is a lot wilder than Claudia's.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sidebar: New Accquisitions

I have just returned from a very successful trip to my local Salvation Army. Well, it started as a trip to the grocery store but something told me to keep going. And I did, and I found:
  • Super Special #5, New York, New York!
  • Super Special #8, Baby-sitters at Shadow Lake
  • Mystery #1, Stacey and the Missing Ring
  • Mystery #2, Beware, Dawn!
  • Mystery #5, Mary Anne and the Secret in the Attic
  • Mystery #11, Claudia and the Mystery at the Museum
  • Mystery #26, Dawn Schafer, Undercover Baby-sitter
  • Super Mystery #1, Baby-sitters' Haunted House
  • Super Mystery #2, Baby-sitters Beware
All for the low, low price of $7.11 - which is not bad for 9 books. And these aren't usually the kinds of books that you just find, I mean, they're not the ones that I usually do. I usually get the lower numbers of the regular series, the occasional Karen book, a few Super Specials. But this was a good find, I think. There are even some here, like Mysteries #11 and 26 that I haven't read, and the Super Mysteries I find really interesting, because I remember them being more dangerous and stuff, but I don't have a really great idea of what they're like.

This inspires me to recap even more books, so look for these to come soon.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Super Special #2: Baby-Sitters' Summer Vaction

Tagline: Good-bye, Stoneybrook...hello, Camp Mohawk!

Cover: I thought this would make a good Super Special to start with, because I don't have Babysitters on Board (here). Camp Mohawk one is a good one to start at, because while it's pretty silly, it's not flat-out ridiculous like some of the other ones (California Girls, NewYork New York, or the last couple). The cover gets the summer camp feeling across. I've always thought it was (from left to right): Kristy, Dawn, Jessi, Mary Anne, Stacey, Mallory, Claudia. But Stacey and Dawn aren't always easy to tell apart, even though they should be, because Stacey should have shoulder length permed hair and Dawn should have loooooong cornsilk hair. But they never do. Anyway, the rest of it is typically odd. Jessi is showing off her looooong dancer's legs. Kristy is short. Mary Anne, being all bent over like that, would be way too tall if she straightened up. Claudia's legs are so short that she can't even touch the ground. It looks like somebody kicked Dawn in the balls.

Plot!: The BSC decides to be summer camp consellors, because they watched some camp movie and thought it would be fun, or something. And of course, everyone in Stoneybrook also decides to send their kids there. So they go to Camp Mohawk and have varying plot lines:
  • Stacey gets sick and spends most of her time in the infirmary.
  • Claudia falls in luv with a Japanese-American guy named Will.
  • Jessi meets some racists but changes their minds through the power of dance.
  • Mallory dorks out with Jessi.
  • Mary Anne feels way uncool compared to the other counsellors, so she acts all schmoopy
  • Dawn gets lost while camping.
  • Kristy gets a makeover.
  • Logan gets teased because Mary Anne is his girlfriend.
This is the first Super Special with the 'classic' line-up that includes Mallory and Jessi. Stacey is still in New York, but she convinces her parents to let her leave NYC for this wilderness.

Continuity Fairy: The Super Specials always have random things assigned to them. Like Stacey - she's not normally a hypochondriac. And Kristy doesn't really care what people think about her. Plus, everyone is racist.

Points of Interest:
  • Kristy calls Stacey the New York branch of the BSC. God. Can't they just be friends without making EVERYTHING about the club?
  • Stacey's the one who makes it into a book, the one who is like, "Okay, guys, write down all of your experiences because I need a memory book!" That's another consistently dumb plot device.
  • She's reading Catcher in the Rye. Of course. Isn't it a little scandalous for a BSC member? Shouldn't she be reading some Paula Danziger or something?
  • Dekanawida is NOT A HARD NAME.
  • Sometimes I'm curious about the relationship Emily Michelle will have with her siblings when she grows up. I mean, when I'm thinking deeply about fictional two-and-a-half year olds.
  • Dawn watches The Parent Trap once a week? Because of the divorce? That seems...not healthy. Does Dawn ever get therapy? Even in the California Diaries? Mary Anne does, though, doesn't she? I have a memory of someone talking to a therapist of some kind.
  • Seven of the Pikes go to camp? (All but Claire, because she's too young). What? Do the Pikes come from money? Because they probably ALSO go to Sea City that summer. Crazy. Meanwhile, how awesome would that be for Claire, to have all of her parents attention?
  • They really sing the Bottles of Beer on the wall all the way there? I doubt it. They'd get sick of singing it and trail off, I would think.
  • Do we know Mimi's first name? Claudia writes a postcard to Mimi and addresses it to Mrs. L. Yamamoto.
    But Claudia starts the postcard with: Hi, Who are you? So maybe it's not for Mimi after all. Maybe she's part of a random postcard mailing project.
  • Junior CITs is the dumbest part of this book. And there are a lot of dumb parts. You're eleven years old! Who wants all of that responsibility? Be a kid! Have fun!
  • Stacey got a body wave for her hair. I still don't really know what that means.
  • Jessi is complaining about everything: there are no black kids at camp. she can't be a CIT. Her roommates all have names that begin with MA. Wah.
  • Mallory makes Junior CIT armbands. Lame.
  • We have to hear everyone explain that the counselor gets a private area, and that Mrs. Means is called Old Meanie. It's not more interesting the third time.
  • Mallory 'haughtily' defends the Bobbsey Twins, and then gets accused of reading them. Instead of denying this or explaining she just has a good memory (or a general knowledge brain), Jessi instead insists they DO read the books, which they don't. If she'd said they read horse stories, the bonding that happens later (spoiler?) could happen now. Stupid.
  • Mary Anne name-drops Julie Harris and Faye Dunaway. Mary Anne is about the only BSC member I can see knowing those actresses, but I still don't buy it. At least it's not an I Love Lucy reference.
  • Mary Anne tries to impress the other CITs by revealing she has a boyfriend, but they aren't that impressed by Logan. Probably because "he's from Kentucky and is on the other side of the lake" sounds a lot like "she lives in Canada."
  • One of Dawn's campers just wants to read Anne of Green Gables, so Dawn calls her stuck-up. Yeah, take that, Heather! Reading is so uppity. Feminists like conformists, right, Dawn?
  • Ugh. Nonie.
  • Jessi and Mallory seem even more co-dependent than usual in this book. Between linking arms to walk places together and getting up early to say good morning to each other, they seem more coupley than they ever do.
  • Kristy claims she doesn't know what her name means. According to Wikipedia, it means "follower of Christ." Would that really not have been in a baby book? Kristin, in the 80s? I don't believe it. I also don't know why I'm choosing THIS to be hung up on.
  • At the 'canteen,' Claudia buys: a snickers bar, an almond joy, a mars bar, a bag of doritos, two packages of peanut m&ms, a pack of twinkies, and cheese doodles. I think she has some kind of problem.
  • Mary Anne calls it 'Lake Dukakis.' Ha...ha?
  • Logan compares writing for Stacey with 'The Diary of Anne Frank.' I usually love ANM's efforts to talk about real books, but this one just feels odd.
  • Rick, Logan's co-CIT, is WILD. We know that because he wears a Hawaiian shirt over his camp clothes.
  • Dawn said she's never met anyone like Heather - quiet, prefers to read, and calm under pressure. Uh, that sounds a lot like...Dawn's best friend/step-sister, Mary Anne.
  • Dawn's speech to the campers when she takes over as counselor sounds a lot like Charlie's speech when Watson and Elizabeth go on their honeymoon. Of course, it was a cliche to begin with: you MUST stay up late, you MUST eat junk food, etc.
  • I always thought that Dropsy was when you dropped stuff a lot. No, I'm serious.
  • Claudia has this weird speech about how her parents want her to marry a Japanese guy (probably), so she's really glad that the guy at camp that she hasn't actually ever talked to is Japanese.
  • For no reason (is it in the public domain?), Dawn's campers sing "Monster Mash" while on their hike. I know that Karen sings it in a Little Sister book, too.
  • I don't even know how to end this, because all of the non-plots have non-endings. Dawn is no longer lost. Kristy goes to a dance. Claudia falls in luv and then cries. The end.

Final Thought: I never really liked summer camp.

Friday, June 12, 2009

#40: Claudia and the Middle School Mystery

Tagline: How could anyone accuse Claudia of cheating?

Cover: "Hmm. This is very odd." That's what I imagine Mr. Zorzi saying. Is that who it is? I get him and Mr. Zizmore mixed up. Anyway, while he's murmuring "veeeery peculiar...", Claudia is busy being all "like, I don't KNOW!" and Shawna is...looking kind of like how I imagine Shannon Kilbourne to look. As in, she's kind of dressing like Janine, but trendier. Speaking of dressing, Claudia's outfit is not outrageous. What Claudia wore was boring. It's jeans, a shirt, and a vest. With earrings. And her hair is pulled back. Maybe something wild is happening below the picture. But you know if they described it, it would totally be like, "Claudia was wearing another one of her wild outfits. She had jeans that flared at the knee into day-glo yellow pleats. She was wearing a man's blue dress shirt with white stripes all over it and her sleeves were rolled up to the elbow. Over that she had layered this funky brown vest. She had dangly earrings and her hair was all piled on top of her head. It would look weird on someone else, but Claudia was totally pulling it off."

In real time, when this book was published (1991), Claudia would have been 17.

Plot!: Claudia has been studying with Janine to bring up her math grade. She gets an awesome mark on a test, but then her teacher accuses her of cheating off of Shawna Riverson. Claudia knows she is innocent, so she sets out to prove it, through such great plans as breaking into her locker or saying words like "cheat" and "lie" over and over again. That doesn't work, so Janine goes right to the principal and gets Claudia another chance. Cornered, Shawna finally confesses and Claudia celebrates with cookies and cake.

Meanwhile, one of the Pike triplets breaks a window, but they won't say who did it. They are grounded and it's all uncomfortable at home. Eventually they reenact it and it's found at that none of them broke the window because they all did, or something dumb like that.

Continuity Fairy: Claudia isn't really dumb, she just...blah blah blah, or something. They are really inconsistent with Claudia and whether or not she has a learning disability.

Points of Interest:

Final Thought: For someone who reads a lot of mysteries, Claudia is spectacularly bad at solving this one. Maybe because it's NOT A MYSTERY.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

#80: Mallory Pike, #1 Fan

Tagline: Mal's favorite author lives in Stoneybrook!

Cover: Oh, Mallory. But we'll get to that. Meanwhile...what's with the terrible spookiness of the cover? The dark mailbox, the bare branches...the baggy jeans. Is it safe to ride a bike with pants like that? And her thighs look GIGANTIC. Strange. And she's riding around in a bike with a basket on the front, like she's Jessica Fletcher or something. If you're dying to be cool, like Mallory is, would you really want to ride a bike with a basket? Also, if you look really close, Mallory's lips are pursed into the pout of judgementalness. Which fits, story-wise, considering who big of a moron Mal is in this book.

Plot!: Mallory starts spazzing out over Henrietta Hayes, who writes a YA series called Alice Anderson. She writes her a fan letter (even braving almost being late to a BSC meeting in order to mail it), and that's how she finds out that H.H. near Stoneybrook! Of course! Mallory sends her a bazillion letters and is crushed when H.H. doesn't personally write back, because Mallory wants to interview for this ridiculous English project she has to do. So Mallory goes to her house and is all, "Don't you know WHO I AM?" and H.H. decides to humour her by allowing Mal to interview her, and then offers Mal the chance to be her assistant. Along the way, Mal gets the idea that Alice Anderson is based on H.H. or her daughter or something, because she thinks all FICTION is based on TRUTH and stuff. So she freaks out at H.H. for lying, and H.H. awesomely puts her in her place. But then they work it out and Mallory just goes on being awkward.

At the same time, Mallory tries to write a play about her family exactly as they are, because authors don't lie. And her family revolts against this idea of perfect 'Valery Turnpike' and her crazy family. So Mallory re-writes it and everyone's happy.

Continuity Fairy: A lot of the Mallory books are people dumping on Mallory, so that is consistent. And there at least a couple "Mallory is a writer" books, although this one is probably the most annoying because of the whole "all fiction is true!" thing.

Points to Consider:
  • This book, in addition to 'gratefully acknowledging Suzanne Weyn,' is dedicated to Summer Lynne Headley. Part of me hopes that Summer Lynne Headley is a girl that contacted Ann M. Martin and was all "why are you spreading LIES?"
  • Opening line: "I love English class." Really, Mal? I never would have guessed.
  • Mallory recounts meeting Amelia Moody and being too shy to say anything. I think that's in The Baby-Sitters Remember?
  • Mallory spends a lot of time thinking about what her book jacket picture will look like one day. This time, she doesn't want a picture at all. Jessi tells her she's better looking than she thinks. Ha!
  • The stupid English assignment is work 80% of their term mark. That seems ridiculous.
  • I do not like how they writer her as Mme. Noelle. Just write Madame. It's not that much more space.
  • We're all reminded about the time when Mal won Best Overall Fiction in the Sixth Grade. Sometimes I think that might be the high point of her life.
  • We get a detailed explanation of what a skip-it is and how to use one. Why not just tell us about a ball-in-a-cup?
  • Mallory decides to involve kids in her school writing project. Because between being a Pike and being part of the BSC, she doesn't spend enough time with kids. Whatever.
  • Mallory cries when she's finished reading Alice Anderson. because it's just so awesome. I'm crying and I'm only on the first channel.
  • She explains that Nannie moved in to watch Emily Michelle "during working hours." But at night, she's off the clock!
  • Who describes their friend as having creamy skin? It's disgusting sounding.
  • Mallory spends the first few chapters tripping over her ego, but everyone else is not impressed: the Kids Can do Anything leaders don't fall all over themselves for her, her English teacher doesn't like her proposal. Poor Mallory!
  • Mallory gets a form letter from H.H. and decides to stalk her. I mean, call her on the phone because she lives close. It's actually kind of creepy.
  • The Kids Can Do Anything Club: a boring plot device.
  • Some kids that Mallory doesn't know are in her play group. Haven't these kids' parents discovered the amazing wonderfulness of the Baby-Sitters Club.
  • Mallory, after reading HALF of H.H.'s books, decides that she is actually Alice Anderson or Alice's mother. I think she actually hurt herself jumping to that conclusion.
  • Mallory calles H.H. the world's greatest living writer. What about Marguerite Henry?
  • There's a VERY long explanation of why H.H. sends out form letters. We get it, Ann M. Martin. You're very busy!
  • Mallory says she wants to find out what happened to Alice (because she thinks H.H. is Alice and she is a stalker). And H.H. reacts like this is the most genius thing ever and she had never even considered writing a reunion book. Bull.
  • H.H. uses an electric typewriter, but not a computer because that's sooo high-tech. In 1994. I think even Jessica Fletcher had switched over by then (what's with all of my Murder, She Wrote references today?)
  • Oh, Mallory's play. With Ranessa, Ricky, Margarita, and the rest.
  • Mallory announces that J.M. Barrie is not considered one of the world's greatest writers. He's no Henrietta Hayes.
  • Oh my Lord. Claire is changed to Delaware. What is Mallory on?
  • Library shoutout! Mallory goes to the public library to see what is published about Henrietta Hayes. Mrs. Kishi, of course, helps her out, and Mallory freaks because she realizes that Henrietta Hayes is a big fat liar!
  • Mallory's efforts at directing a play suck. Maybe because she's, oh, I don't know, eleven.
  • Okay, I have to write this all out: "I mean..." I said shakily. I had to tell her. I just couldn't hold it in any longer. "I mean you're not being fair to your readers. Your books don't tell anything about your life. They're all made up.! They're lies!" By the time I reached the words "lies," my voice was shaking.
    Ms. Hayes gave me that blank look I'd seen before. Then she drew her shoulders back, suddenly looking taller. "Mallory," she said in an even cool voice, "I have not lied. My books are not meant to reflect my life. They are novels. Fiction. I suggest you look up the definition of those words in the dictionary before you go about hurling accusations."
    The phone rang then. "Excuse me, that's probably George, calling ahead of schedule," Ms. Hayes said in a formal voice.
    With a final icy stare, Ms. Hayes went toward her study.
  • I think it's odd that Mallory calls her Ms. Hayes, even when she thinks she's married. Weird.
  • Ms. Hayes is her maiden name, she never changed it. I like Ann M. Martin's feminist inserts.
  • Mallory tells Danielle, a girl sick with leukemia, that the whole future of the play rests on her. But no pressure.
  • I would much rather be reading a Henrietta Hayes biography than this book. Also, I think of this whenever I hear of Helen Hayes. Thanks, ANM.
  • Nicky thinks Ed is the coolest name a guy can have. It makes me think of the Meg/Ron think from Family Guy.
  • If Mallory knew Matt Braddock was coming to the play, she would have arranged for a sign language interpreter. Because Stoneybrook has so many sign lnaguage interpreters who can come to an elementary school play, probably for free.
  • Mallory's teacher says it was the best project in the class. As if.
  • Kristy starts getting antsy because it's 5:05 and none of them are at Claudia's house for the meeting that starts in 25 minutes. I definitely could not be part of the BSC.
  • The beginning of Mallory's next book sounds like the most boring book ever:
    Valery Turnpike produced her first place, saw her work with a famous author completed, and was surrounded by good friends and family all on the same day. Valery tended to be a complainer, but on that day she opened her eyes and realized for the first time that she was a very, very lucky person.
  • At the back of the book there's a contest to name the new BSC member: Dear Diary, I'm 13 now...finally in the 8th grade. My twin sister and I just moved her and this great group of girls asked me to join their baby-sitting club... I'd rather have one of the BSC dolls advertised a few pages later.

Final Thought: I wish Henrietta Hayes stayed around to lay icy smackdowns on random people from time to time.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

#5: Dawn and the Impossible Three

Tagline: Dawn thought she'd be baby-sitting - not monster-sitting!

Cover: Yes, let's start with the cover. Suzi's yellow romper looks impossible cute. Marnie looks adorable. But otherwise, this is just a mess. Dawn looks like the human equivalent of a "waaahh-WONHHH" horn. And denim on denim does not scream California casual, but I'll give them a pass because it's so early in the series. And the shirt does seem like something Dawn would wear, with all its earthiness and everything. But aside from that, okay...I know that we're supposed to feel for her and everything, but what are the kids really doing? Making faces? Leaving a block on the floor? Playing quietly by themselves? Maybe Dawn could deal with it if she turned away from the camera, unfolded her arms, stood up straight, and gother act together. At least in the new cover the kids look a bit more...impossible. But I'm distracted by the lamp that's glowing super hard in the background. What an odd detail.

Plot!: In Dawn's first book narration of the series, we join her as she's adjusting to life in Stoneybrook and with the BSC. But she and Kristy are passively-aggressively fighting over Mary Anne. Her mom, who is dating Mary Anne's dad, is driving her crazy with all of the disorganization. And she's sitting for the Barretts - who she calls the impossible three! Luckily, she and Kristy patch things up while swinging in a hayloft, Dawn learns to live with her mom, and after a child abduction, Dawn confronts Mrs. Barrett about her parenting skills and all is okay. Until next time...

Continuity Fairy: Mrs. Barrett is pretty consistent to how she is later. It doesn't make sense to me that Stacey would be Mrs. Barrett's bridesmaid at her wedding to Franklin DeWitt, but I'm getting way ahead of myself. The ground for Dawn and Kristy's sometime animosity is pretty well laid, too. And Dawn has a lot of annoying pro-health food rants.

Points of Interest:
  • The club is the most important thing in my life. I think we heard Stacey say this too, at some point. Maybe even Jessi, and probably even Mallory. This was why I could never really identify with the books, even though I loved them: I was never this dependent on other people. Not that I remember, anyway.
  • Dawn calls Connecticut cold and sloppy. But she also says that California has one season (summer), so I'm not sure she's a reliable narrator.
  • Okay. I was going to leave this until I got to a Mallory book (whenever that was), but since Dawn sits for the Pikes, I might as well bring it up now. WTF is up with the Pikes? At this point, they're all a year younger than the rest of the series - i.e. Mallory is ten. Okay. This book is published in 1987. So let's say:
    Mallory was born in 1977, the triplets 1978, Vanessa 1979, Nicky 1980, Margo 1981, and Claire 1983. The triplets and Mallory I understand, but who has FOUR KIDS under TWO and then has another kid? and then ANOTHER? AND ANOTHER? AND NOW WE'RE ONLY AT MARGO. By the time Claire is born, that's eight kids under six.
  • Accoding to Dawn, Claudia is Japanese and beautiful.
  • Ugh. Dawn's going on about her house and its old-ness. Boring.
  • Aside from the whole "we're rich and he's poor" thing, why is Dawn's grandparents (Granny and Pop-Pop) richness never brought up? Like, do they ever take them on a big trip, or anything? Maybe in the later books or mysteries...weird stuff comes out in the mysteries. Random stuff.
  • Suzi and Buddy are introduced...and Suzi has a skinned knee. What a monster!
  • Mary Anne has contact lenses? That seems...unlikely. Is that a regularly mentioned detail? You would think she would sympathize with Mallory when she's going on about braces and glasses.
  • Janine tells Dawn that "continue on" is redundant. I think of that pretty much think of that every time I hear someone way 'continue on.' Thanks, Ann M. Martin
  • I find it kind of strange that the family member have to call and ask for a baby-sitter.
  • Dawn sympathizes with the Barretts because their parents just got divorced and their mom is disorganized.
  • Jeff suggest that they have 'all-natural frozen meatless pizza' for dinner. If that's what they always eat, why not just call it pizza?
  • Dawn says that their house in California was bigger than their Connecticut house, and they have lots of extra stuff. Okay. Why cart this stuff cross-country if they don't have room? Also, I thought their house in California was one level. This is still bigger than a rambling old farmhouse? And wouldn't half of the stuff still be with their father? It just doesn't make sense.
  • Dawn is 'deciding' whether or not she likes boys.
  • Shillaber twins shoutout!
  • Oh, my Lord. Dawn and Mary Anne - who get squeally when their parents are in the same room together - haven't even thought of the fact that if their parents got married, they'd be stepsisters. Like, hadn't even crossed their minds. Not realistic.
  • "I turned and saw an absolutely gorgeous young woman rushing toward us. She looked like a model. Honest. She was wearing a silk blouse, a sleek linen suit, and gold jewelry - not too much, but enough so you noticed it. Her hair fell away from her face in chestnut curls and she smelled of a heavenly perfume." I think Dawn has a crush on Mrs. Barrett.
  • I actually don't mind Karen that much. I think because I read the Little Sister books first and then the BSC books, so I was used to her. I have a harder time with the character of Kristy in the LS books, I think.
  • Kristy says that Watson isn't a cook, so he wouldn't have fennel and corriander. Why do I think that Watson is a really good cook? Maybe after his heart attack, when he and Nannie butt heads.
  • Dawn has a barn with hay but no animals. How long has that hay been there? Wouldn't it be like, moldy or something? It just seems unsafe.
  • Dawn wears blue jean shorts and a white T-shirt that says GENIUS INSIDE. Of course.
  • Heh. Mallory, who is usually quite well behaved, gave Byron the Bizzer Sign and he began to cry. This sentence is all awesome.
  • Mallory steals Marnie's brownie, because Marnie is allergic to chocolate. Dawn speaks crossly at Mallory and accuses her of stealing a baby's brownie. Poor Mallory!
  • Claudia's journal entry has spelling errors (shocking!) but is still readable. One thing I hate is how unbeliveably ridiculous Claudia's spelling becomes in the later books.
  • Mrs. Barrett is thirty-three? How does Dawn know this? Did Mallory tell her? Strange.
  • Dawn eats taffy?! But what about the sugar?
  • Bradford Court and Watson's house are three and a half miles away. I'm not up on my miles, but that doesn't sound like a lot of distance...?
  • Sometimes Kristy makes me laugh: "How would you say my grandfather looks?" I asked them. "Well, he looks very nice," replied Kristy. "This is the first time I've ever met him, of course, but I'd say he looks good, although his shirt doesn't exactly match his pants."
  • Mr. Barrett shows up and abducts Buddy. It's kind of scary. Mystery #4, when Jake Kuhn goes missing, is also sort of scary.
  • Jordan Pike bursts into tears when questioned by the police about Buddy's disappearance. Do all of the Pikes cry in this book?
  • Also, Jordan takes piano lessons (what?) and Vanessa takes violin lessons. I'm pretty sure these aren't mentioned later on. Where are the Pikes getting this money?
  • And then Dawn confronts Mrs. Barrett and tells her off. It's so Dawn-like.
  • Foreshadowing! The club discusses Mallory as a future member. It's like it was all planned ahead of time!

Final Thought: If Dawn loves California so much, why doesn't she marry it?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

#73: Mary Anne and Miss Priss

Tagline: Too perfect to play? Jenny thinks so.

Cover: The two pictures are pretty much the same, but shrunken, which makes the background look a little more...wild in the newer version. Also, Mary Anne is rocking the slouch socks and baggy sweatshirt look. It makes her legs look really short, and since she's s short person to begin with, she must look really short in person? Speaking of short, Jenny's proportions are really odd. And is Mary Anne left handed? She's wearing her watch on the right side, which is the way I wear it but not the way right handed people usually wear it. The blond girl is giving off a bit of a Karen vibe but maybe it's Hayley Braddock? And the one triplet is busting out with a "Yo, this is whack!" Whack, indeed.

If Mary Anne was 12 when the series first started in 1986, when this book was published she would have been around 20.

Plot!: Mrs. Prezzioso has started Andrea in baby modeling, which makes Jenny jealous. Jenny tries to get attention by dressing up, then by dressing down and finally by making messes. Mary Anne decides to confront the parents, but surprise! They've been paying attention to their child and don't have to be clued in by the babysitter. Eventually, Jenny gets a modeling job too and also joins the kickball team and it all works...somehow. Meanwhile, Mallory is feeling taken advantage of because her parents expect her to help around the house by babysitting but she's still not allowed to rejoin the BSC. So she decides to talk to her parents. Confrontations all around! And she gets to rejoin the BSC. And in C-plotville, the triplets run a kickball team and it's a mess, but the BSC helps them get it together and it works out, too.

Continuity Fairy: Mary Anne says that all of the Pikes have chestnut brown hair, except Mallory. I thought in the earlier books Nicky also had reddish hair? Also, there's a big difference between the reddish brown that she's described as and the carrot orange that she's usually sporting on the book covers.

Points of Interest:
  • Claire Pike calls them "flutterbys." Nofe-Air.
  • Mary Anne cries at Pollyanna. Among other things.
  • She wears clip-on earrings! Whoo hoo!
  • This is at the point in the series where Dawn is in California, Mallory had mono, and Logan's volleyball team made it to the state tournament. Is there a sport Logan doesn't play? Although I guess that's realistic, considering he's a 13 YEAR OLD BOY. Who has a state tournament for 13 YEAR OLD BOY TEAMS?
  • "Besides," Jordan burst out, "Mallory is only a year older than us. Why should she get to be on her own and not us?" Not only on her own, but taking care of other children! Why is Jordan the voice of reason?
  • Mary Anne does a lot of gasping in this book, like when Mrs. Prezzioso orders a sitter indefinitely. When I was little I always pronounced that name as "Perezzo." I always read it as Bryan and not Byron, either.
  • Mary Anne refers to American Sign Language as Ameslan. Sure.
  • Heh. Jenny calls the Pikes pigs, because they're playing in the dirt.
  • The Schafer-Spiers eat Health Loaf: meatloaf without meat, made with walnuts, carrots, zucchini, and tomatoes. It actually kind of sounds okay.
  • After sitting for Jenny twice, Mary Anne goes right to abnormal psychology textbooks and diagnoses Jenny as having a "deep-seated emotional disturbance."
  • A lot of the "Andrea is a baby-model" stuff feels lifted out of the Claudia/Rosie Wilder stuff
  • Ann M. Martin's vision of a career woman: "Ms. DeVries wore a navy blue linen suit with navy blue heels. Her collar-length blonde hair seemed to be glued in place like a helmet."
  • Mrs. Prezzioso tells Mary Anne that the money is going into the girls' college funds. How is that any of Mary Anne's business?
  • Mallory rejoins the BSC. Everyone pretends to be happy.

Final Thoughts: This book had a lot more chances to be outrageous but just falls kind of flat. Maybe because no one cares about Jenny Prezzioso.

Monday, June 8, 2009

#6: Kristy's Big Day

Tagline: Kristy's a baby-sitter - and a bridesmaid, too!

I feel like this title needs an exclamation mark: Kristy's Big Day! But let's not get too excited - she's not the one getting married, after all. She's a baby-sitter - and a bridesmaid!

Cover: The old classic cover features Kristy in a very flowy, hippie dress with long flowing brown hair. Her face looks a little old for her, but maybe people in the 80s just naturally looked older? She's there with Karen and Andrew, her soon-to-be stepsiblings. Andrew looks like a short old man. The updated version, which is the one I currently own, has a brand new picture showing the same scene. Kristy's dress has all of the same elements (including the tied-to-match shoes), but looks completely different. More like 'Kristy,' I think, because she didn't really develop her inherent Kristy-ness until after the series had been progressing for awhile. Karen is acting more like Karen, running around the room throwing petals - white petals, in a nice detail, because she gets afraid when her white petals mix with the black magic of Morbidda Destiny.

Plot!: Watson and Elizabeth (Kristy's Mom) set a date for their wedding: the third week in September! But then various things happen that mean the wedding is going to have to be moved up. So it is - to two weeks from now. Kristy is still coming around to Watson, and now she's not happy about leaving her house and her neighbourhood so quickly. While all of this is happening, Kristy's mom realizes that 13 kids are going to be hanging around prior to the wedding (the relatives and friends' kids). So Kristy suggests that the BSC looks after the kids - and amazingly, they are available! So for the princely sum of $600, the BSC is running a day camp! They assign groups by age and plan different events. Not everything goes smoothly, and kids cry and have their clothes switched. But in the end, everything is resolved and the wedding goes off smoothly. There's only sort of one big plot.

While all of this is happening, Kristy is also trying to think of a gift for her mom and Watson. She eventually decides to give them a variation on a family tree, showing their two families joined together.

Continuity Fairy: We rarely ever hear about Kristy's family or her mother's good friends again, but I think they do come up, or are at least mentioned. Her cousin Robin must be on her Dad's side? We meet Nannie for the first time. Stacey loves (luvs?) Mary Poppins.

Points of Interest:
  • At the beginning of the book, Kristy calls Watson a jerk. That's pretty strong language for this series!
  • "Oh, yick, yick, yick," said David Michael. "Pew, pew, pew." Who says that? Why not just "yuck" or "gross"?
  • "When you reach the drinking age," replied Mom pleasantly, "then you may drink." "But Mom, a year from now I'll be going to college." That's what you think, Charlie! A year from now you'll still be schlepping Kristy across town to BSC meetings.
  • I'd forgotten that Watson and Elizabeth had gotten engaged at the end of the first book. I'd been thinking that they got engaged at the beginning. Instead, they set a date in September, that instead gets moved to two and a half weeks from...chapter two.
  • Do we ever hear how Elizabeth's trip to Europe goes? That's why their wedding changed in the first place.
  • Similarly, do we ever find out why the Perkinses are so desperate to move into Kristy's house?
  • Kristy asks why her mom is so worried about the money. Her mom answers: "Honey, Watson and I and Watson's ex-wife and your father all have various ideas about how to spend our money." Isn't there something about that sentence that just seems weird? I thought that Patrick (Elizabeth's ex-husband)'s idea of how to spend his money was to NOT spend it on his family.
  • Kristy goes to the Final Fling with Alan Gray, who is fifty percent pesty and fifty percent fun. Claudia went with Austin Bentley, and Stacey pissed off Dorianne Wallingford (best name ever) and went with Pete Black. Dawn and Mary Anne went out for pizza with their parents.
  • In the original edition, Lisa and Seth (Karen's mother and stepfather) were called Sheila and Kendall. That was changed for the new edition.
  • The pay for the BSC works out to three dollars an hour. $600 for the week (for all of them) sounds like a lot; $3/hour does not.
  • David Michael was voted best citizen by his classmates. He sort of becomes a non-entity in the rest of the books; this is his moment to shine.
  • Claudia wants to buy 120 bags of peppermints. Yick, yick, yick.
  • This book was the first time I had ever heard the name Maura. Or Berk.
  • Whoa! Karen's shoes are black with a strap; looks like the first cover got that one right.
  • Claudia's ring dings come from the STILL LIF AND PORTRITS box.
  • According to the BSC Wiki, Nannie's real name is Janet Taylor. Does that make Kristy's mom's maiden name Elizabeth Taylor?
  • Library shout out! Kristy and Claudia take seven kids (including Jamie Newton) to story hour. I hope it was a drop-in program.
  • Watson has three toaster ovens. For a bachelor. Who has his kids every other weekend. That seems ridiculous.
  • All of the parts with the kids are very boring.
  • Kristy's rehearsal dinner dress is an over-sized white sweater dress with silver designs woven into it. Hot.
  • Kristy's mom wears antique earrings (old), her dress (new), Nannie's pearl necklace (borrowed), and underwear (blue).
  • Okay. Morbidda Destiny might not be a witch, but she doesn't really have any social graces. Who appears at the front of the wedding when the bride and groom are kissing? To give them a gift? Was she invited or not?
  • Stacey got her pictures developed at a one-hour photo place. She's soooo sophisticated!

Final Thoughts: Ann M. Martin has gone on record with this as one of her favourite books in the series. It's one of my favourite books, too. All of the early ones are written in a much better style than the later ones - especially the ones in the later half of the series, written by ghostwriters. They're still fun in a different way, but in this one Kristy shows real growth. She's struggling with Watson and the Brewers. She's a tomboy but really excited about wearing a bridesmaid's gown. She has conversations with her brothers about what this means for them. The Thomas/Brewers are very interesting to me - and although it is near the end of the series, Mind Your Own Business, Kristy! has a really interesting take on the Charlie/Kristy dynamic.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

#3: The Truth About Stacey

Tagline: Stacey's different...and it's harder on her than anyone knows

This book, like most of the earlier ones, has been released with two completely different covers. The first one (at left), has Stacey breaking the fourth wall to laugh with us about Charlotte Johanssen and her crazy love of chocolate. Stacey, who is rocking the sunglasses even though it's November, is looking a little rounder than I've ever thought of her, probably because of the continued reminders of her watching her weight and the way the later illustrations show her. The layered green turtleneck/pink-orange open shirt is not doing her any favours, either. It's not very big city. She does, though, look ALMOST age-appropriate, something that cannot be said for the re-vamped cover (at right). She better not get closer to that window, or else she'd cut the glass with her cheekbones. Also, with her raincoat/patterned sweater/baggy cream pants combo, she looks more like a proto-soccer mom than a 12 (at the time? Her birthday's in April, as we find out in Mystery #1 where her birthstone is a diamond, so maybe she's already 13, but I don't think it's mentioned) year old baby-sitter. And her expression is so much more dramatic than the situation calls for.

Charlotte: Look Stacey, chocolate!
Stacey: {Goes into a thousand-yard stare of impending flashback}

Her eyes are dead. She looks like she belongs on a Lurlene McDaniel cover...about a college girl with a failing liver or something.

Also, what's she doing with her leg? It's strange. Charlotte is wearing high-waisted pants, but that's not even worth mentioning about this cover.

Plot!: Stacey has been hiding the truth...the truth about Stacey. She has diabetes. Except...don't we already know this about Stacey? I'm pretty sure it comes out in the first book, when Kristy goes after her about being on a diet. So the truth is...she's a bedwetter? She had a fight with her former New York BFF? She doesn't like her parents running her life? That's what they're doing, taking her to New York so she can be examined by some hotshot semi-quack doctor while her parents plan their next medical jaunt.

While this is all happening, the BSC is under attack from new upstart The Baby-Sitters Agency, fronted by Liz Lewis and Michelle Patterson, older sitters who can stay out until 11:00 or even midnight! But ZOMG, guys...they don't even like babysitting; they're just in it for the money. And they hire babysitters who let Jamie Newton play in the street without his mittens or his hat and who burn a cigarette hole into his couch cushion! So the BSC tries various ways to compete with the BSA, and in the end they have an old-fashioned showdown, which they win (of course).

And on the baby-sitting front, Charlotte Johanssen is shy and has no friends. So Stacey convinces her parents to move her ahead a grade, naturally. And things all work out in the end.

Continuity Fairy: I don't think we ever hear about Stacey's cousins Jonathan, Kirsten, and Cheryl ever again.

Points of Interest: In almost every BSC appearance, Laine and Stacey have some kind of fight (except maybe New York, New York, where Laine basically acts like an activities director). My favourite might be Stacey's Ex-Best Friend, but I'm getting ahead of myself. In this one, we find out that Laine and Stacey haven't really been friends since Stacey peed all over her. What was the attitude towards diabetes like in 1986? Because Stacey's parents sort of treat it like she has AIDS or something, with all of the secrecy and shame that they have towards it. But I'm kind of with Laine here: not only did Stacey pee on her, her best friend was keeping this big secret. So, there.

All of the BSC/BSA interactions are pretty hilarious, because the BSC (who have been in business now for like, six weeks) take it all SO. SERIOUSLY.

"Then," said Kristy, "you must know the kids pretty well by now. A good baby-sitter knows a lot about the children she takes care of. Do you know what Jamie Newton's favorite kind of sandwich is?"

Liz paused. "I only baby-sat for him once," she said.

"It's peanut butter and honey, toasted," said Mary Anne, finding her voice.

"What's Charlotte Johanssen's favorite TV program?" asked Kristy

Liz and Michelle glanced at each other. "Mister Rogers," Michelle said triumphantly.

"Michelle, Charlotte Johanssen is almost eight years old. Her favorite program is The Cosby Show."

"Have you ever sat for the Marshalls?" asked Claudia.

"I have," said Liz. "Two girls: Nina, three, and Eleanor, one." I really thought she was going to add, "So there.")

"Right," said Claudia. And do you know what it means when Eleanor rubs her ears?"

"That she has an earache?"

"No, it means she's getting hungry."

"Do you remember what Nina is allergic to?" asked Mary Anne.

"For heaven's sake, what is this - Twenty Questions?"


Final Thoughts: Stay tuned for my look at The Truth About Stacey: The Graphic Novel!

Welcome to Sheep Are In!

This is going to be a new venture for me: a blog devoted to re-reading, sharing, and snarking the Baby-Sitter's Club series. Oh yes, there will be snark - but usually out of love. This series was huge in my not-so-long-ago childhood, and I am still drawn to it now, reading it with a different set of eyes. Anyway, there will be more details as we go along, so enjoy the ride!