May 15, 2013
Summary: Claudia starts sitting a lot for Nate and Joey Nicholls, and immediately realizes that there is something Very Wrong. Their father is very strict, going off about the slightest things and obsessing about cleanliness and organization. The boys are terrified to do anything that might make him mad. They’re also not allowed to have any stuffed animals, which is really depressing. Claudia thinks Mr. Nicholls is just strict, and since she’s just the sitter, she can’t really say anything about his behavior.
…Until one day when Mr. Nicholls, thinking Claudia has left, yells at the boys and possibly slaps one of them. Claudia calls an emergency BSC meeting (one of the few times that’s actually a good idea) and tells the other girls what happened. They agree that since she didn’t see the slap, she can’t accuse Mr. Nicholls of anything, but it doesn’t sit well with them. Claudia’s mom works with Mrs. Nicholls, so Claudia tells her what happened, and Mrs. Kishi agrees to talk to her.
Mrs. Nicholls tells Mrs. Kishi that nothing happened; her husband just has a temper, but he’s not dangerous. However, the BSC girls become even more suspicious when Mrs. Nicholls calls to cancel all the sitting jobs she’s lined up with them. A few days later, recurring character Erica Blumberg calls Claudia, knowing she’s sat for the Nicholls boys before. She’s sitting for them right now, and one boy has bruises on his arm while the other has a black eye.
Claudia immediately calls her mom, who takes Mrs. Nicholls home to get the boys. Claudia gets restless waiting to hear back and decides to go over as well, to at least give Erica some support. Just as she, Mrs. Kishi, and Mrs. Nicholls get there, Mr. Nicholls also shows up. There’s some yelling in the house, but everyone except Mr. Nicholls leaves in Mrs. Kishi’s car. They take Erica home, and the rest of them go to Mr. Kishi’s office in Stamford, knowing Mr. Nicholls won’t think to look for them there.
Mr. and Mrs. Kishi help Mrs. Nicholls arrange to stay with her sister in New York, then buy her everything she’ll need for a car trip there. Once everyone is safe for at least the night, Claudia and her mom both break down, emotionally worn out. Late that night, Claudia gets a call from Mr. Nicholls demanding his kids back. She’s understandably shaken. The Nichollses end up leaving town, with nothing completely resolved, and though Claudia’s sad that she might never see the boys again, she’s glad they’re safe. She also buys them stuffed animals.
The B plot is about the BSC girls organizing a bunch of kids for a St. Patrick’s Day parade. Top o’ the boring to ya.
Thoughts: Is everyone sufficiently depressed? I need to go look at some pictures of puppies now.
Claudia is completely awesome in this book, though. When she sees something, she says something. She would make a good New Yorker. My only problem is that when the girls are discussing the events at the end, they agree that Claudia was right to tell someone, and agree to tell each other if something like this happens again. I think they should have been encouraged to tell an adult instead.
Mrs. Kishi is also awesome here. She gives Claudia good advice, immediately takes control when she finds out what’s going on, and comes across as someone you don’t want to tick off.
For a small town, Stoneybrook sure has a lot of parades.
Erica gets invited to a BSC meeting. Wow, she breached the inner sanctum! Oh, the things she must have seen.
February 19, 2013
Summary: Remember when Claudia was bumped back to seventh grade? Apparently she’s done really well there. But instead of having her continue to repeat the year, her teachers and guidance counselor decide to give her the option of going back to eighth grade. She can either continue to thrive in classes she actually understands, or she can go back to struggling to pass her classes. Yes, this seems like a great idea.
Claudia, to her credit, takes her time considering her options. And because she’s a teenager, her schoolwork isn’t the only thing she thinks about. There are her friends, which she has in both grades. There’s the fact that she’s queen of the seventh grade. And there’s her boyfriend, Mark. Even when he keeps flaking out on her and proves to be a typical immature 13-year-old boy, Claudia wants to keep dating him.
That is, until she finds out that her friend Josh has a massive crush on her. (This is the guy she friendzoned in the past.) Their seventh-grade friends are pretty shocked that Claudia hasn’t picked up on his obsession with her, but she has her head in the clouds 95 percent of the time, so they should have expected that. Just like a 13-year-old girl, Claudia doesn’t have any interest in Josh past friendship until she finds out he likes her. Then all of a sudden she has another decision to make: Mark or Josh?
Long story short: She picks Josh and eighth grade. And everyone’s all, “Oh, you’ll do great, we’ll help you, you’ve come so far.” Yeah, we’ll see.
The kids at SMS are doing a color war, so the B-plot is them putting on a color war with their sitting charges. It’s dumb and boring.
Thoughts: If the school will give Claudia tutors when she goes back to eighth grade, why didn’t they provide them before, when she was failing eighth grade? And really, they shouldn’t have sent her back to seventh grade. They should have waited until the end of the year and had her repeat eighth grade, since that’s the year she had trouble with. But of course, that never would have happened, since the girls are trapped in eighth grade for all eternity.
Though I don’t agree with her, I like Janine’s logic: Claudia should go back to eighth grade so she doesn’t have to spend an extra year in middle school.
Abby completes a three-legged race by dragging her partner over the finish line on his back. And that’s why I love Abby.
January 22, 2013
Summary: The BSC’s newest clients are the Cook/Madden family. Mom Rebecca is the granddaughter of one of Claudia’s favorite painters, Grandmother Madden. She’s in town to settle Grandmother Madden’s estate and clear out the house. Claudia’s excited because she thinks there might be some paintings in the house, but Rebecca says that after a bad review, her grandmother destroyed all her artwork. The only paintings in the house are from her students. Grandmother Madden’s grandchildren are the only ones with any of her paintings, and Rebecca’s the only one of them who actually likes hers, since she’s also a painter. The other grandkids won’t participate in the estate sale because they don’t think they’ll get any money.
The BSC girls help with the estate sale, and since this is a mystery, weird stuff starts happening. Mr. Ogura, who works with the company holding the sale, keeps popping up and acting weird. Claudia also keeps spotting a woman who looks a lot like Rebecca. Rebecca’s husband, Mr. Cook, isn’t too thrilled to be involved with the estate sale, and has told his wife that he doesn’t support her decision to apply for art school. He also doesn’t support his seven-year-old son Jimmy’s love of painting. Mr. Cook is kind of a jerk.
Other mysterious happenings: A yellow cat named Goldie shows up. Well, that’s not really mysterious, but Rebecca does mention that her grandmother had a series of yellow cats, all named Goldie. In fact, she put a little yellow cat in the corner of all of her paintings. And Claudia finds a painting she likes of a Japanese woman, but it goes missing. There are all sorts of scenes with paintings being delivered and moved around, and it’s hard to keep track of what’s going on, but the bottom line is that none of the artwork in the house seems to be Grandmother Madden’s.
Since Claudia’s only smart when it involves art, she figures out what Mr. Ogura and the mystery woman are after. The painting of the Japanese woman was painted over two of Grandmother Madden’s paintings stuck together. Instead of destroying her artwork, Grandmother Madden let her students paint over them. Also, the mystery woman is Rebecca’s cousin, who was hoping to get her hands on some paintings. Claudia busts her and Mr. Ogura, who were working together, after they lock her in a closet, which is really creepy when you think about it. I mean, she’s 13.
The B-plot is also artsy: The girls are asked to help out with a new children’s art room at the Stoneybrook Museum. Ms. O’Neal, the woman who runs the room, is clueless about children and art, and thinks they should have structured assignments. The woman is so uptight she literally clutches her pearls. The girls have to keep convincing her that the kids should be allowed to explore and experiment. What’s nice, though, is that once Ms. O’Neal sees the kids’ artwork, she shows that she knows what to say to them and how to praise their efforts.
Thoughts: Mr. Cook doesn’t think Jimmy should paint because painting is something you learn to do in kindergarten. Oh, yeah? Well, I learned math in kindergarten. Should I stop using math, Mr. Cook? In the end, he does become more supportive, but if I were Rebecca and my husband thought so little of something I was passionate about, I would think seriously about whether I wanted to stay in that marriage.
Abby tells Corrie Addison she’s a great painter – as good as Pele. Really, she couldn’t think of one artist?
Stacey carries a calculator in her purse. *cough*nerd*cough
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to stop writing – I learned the alphabet in kindergarten, so it’s no longer something I should be using.
September 4, 2012
Summary: Claudia’s adjusting to being in the seventh grade, doing better in her classes and making friends. When she’s nominated as queen of the seventh grade, she realizes how popular she is. Then she wins and has to plan the seventh-grade prom with Mark, the most popular guy in the grade. He’s your typical cocky teenager, and all the girls love him. He’s like Cary Retlin crossed with Alan Gray, but desirable. And of course, he has a softer side, like when he admits to Claudia that he was held back in the third grade.
Despite her newfound popularity, Claudia finds that being the queen isn’t that fun. Planning the dance is a lot of work, and Mark isn’t very helpful. Plus, the BSC girls aren’t really supportive and don’t care about her seventh-grade social life. Claudia and Mark kiss, and the girls flip out because he’s so immature and Claudia hates him and he’s, you know, not in the eighth grade. Claudia finally tells them all to shut up because she’s no longer in the eighth grade either.
The dance goes fine, but Claudia and Mark never talk about their kiss. She talks to her seventh-grade friends about it, including Josh, who clearly has a crush on her that she’s clearly oblivious to. And then she totally friendzones him! Anyway, Claudia and Mark have to dance to the official seventh-grade song, and they kiss again, so apparently that means they’re dating, even though they never talked about their feelings for each other or anything. Yay, middle school!
The B-plot is familiar: Sean Addison is ten and thinks he’s too old for a sitter (shades of Jeff Schafer and the Pike triplets). But he’s clearly not mature enough to watch his sister while their parents are out. The BSC girls try to give him freedom while they’re sitting, but he doesn’t quite follow the rules. One day he tells his parents there are no sitters available to watch him, so he’ll have to stay by himself. He tries to wash the dishes but uses the wrong kind of soap. Stacey comes to his rescue and tells him he’s not doing a great job of proving that he’s responsible. This is obviously a problem between Sean and his parents, but that family’s all kinds of messed up, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s never any conclusion there.
Thoughts: Everyone in this book is annoying. Shut up, everyone. I mean, seriously:
- Kristy acts like Claudia’s still an eighth-grader who just happens to be taking different classes. She thinks Claudia being the queen doesn’t mean anything even though Claudia thinks it’s an honor. She also chastises Claudia for letting her seventh-grade friends leave messages on her answering machine, since it’s the club’s line. (Watch yourself, Kristy. Claudia only lets you all use her phone out of the kindness of her heart.)
- Stacey keeps calling Claudia’s seventh-grade friends immature.
- Abby refers to Josh as “the little one.” I mean, I don’t like him either, but come on.
- Mark is, like I said, a typical seventh-grade boy, and what’s more annoying than that?
- Josh is the tagalong kid brother you just can’t shake. In some ways, he’s more annoying than Mark.
- Sean is a total brat to his sister, which is definitely not the way to get your parents to back off.
It just made me hate the whole book.
There’s a girl in the seventh-grade named Duryan. What kind of name is Duryan?
The prom is publicized all over town, which is stupid since it’s only open to SMS seventh-graders.
Claudia thinking one kiss is nothing but two means a relationship might be the most 13-year-old thing about her.
July 17, 2012
Summary: A family named the Hatts stay with the Kishis when they return to Stoneybrook after being away for a few years. There was some sort of scandal surrounding their departure, but the BSC girls don’t know much about it. It seems like it had something to do with Stoneybrook’s lighthouse (yes, really), which the Hatts own. Some digging around nets the girls the information that a teenage boy named Adrian Langley died after falling out of the lighthouse. Mr. Hatt tried to save him, but Adrian’s father still blames him for Adrian’s death.
The BSC girls help with the Hatts’ lighthouse clean-up, and Claudia finds a note saying something about the reader being “one of us” if he/she can last a night in the lighthouse. It also has a drawing of a gargoyle on it. Janine sees the note and says the gargoyle looks like the one over the door to Stoneybrook High School. The girls learn that there was a gang (yeah, I bet – Stoneybrook doesn’t know what a gang is) that adopted the gargoyle as a mascot, so the note was probably part of an initiation ritual.
Meanwhile, the Hatts are receiving threatening notes (mostly playing on their last name) telling them to leave Stoneybrook. The girls suspect two of the Hatt kids, Laura and Steve, might be sending the notes. The lighthouse is also smoke-bombed. No one seriously thinks a ghost is involved, contrary to the book’s title; the girls alternately suspect Mr. Langley, Adrian’s brother Paul, Steve, and Janine’s boyfriend Jerry, who’s been kind of a jerk lately.
Paul lets the girls see Adrian’s room, where Claudia snags a photo of some of his friends. She finds out later that Adrian isn’t in the picture. She thinks that the photo is of the gang members, and that one of them is trying to keep everyone away from the lighthouse. At a party Steve throws in the lighthouse, Claudia learns she’s right. One of the guys in the photo sneaks in, turns out the lights, and falls, because he’s a moron. He explains that he wanted to get back into the lighthouse and retrieve the note the gang left for Adrian before the Hatts could find it. (Why he waited almost ten years to do this isn’t explained.) Now everyone likes the Hatts, including Mr. Langley, and Jerry and Janine are okay again, even though she kind of had her eye on Steve.
Also there’s a comet, and the kids in town think it’ll make bad things happen, but Kristy lets them know they’re idiots. It’s dumb.
Thoughts: Suddenly there’s a lighthouse in Stoneybrook? To go along with the coastline we’ve heard so much about?
A party for a comet viewing is proof that Kristy has lost all control.
Claudia: “Sunday? That’s in two days!” Janine: “Your math is improving.” I love you, Janine.
Ben Hobart scares some kids with comet stories, and Abby says that if they can’t sleep that night, she’ll have their parents call them. But three of the kids he scares are his own brothers, so that makes no sense.
Charlie: “Steve Hatt!” Me: “Steve Holt!”
Hey, Adam, “you’re still ugly” only works as an insult if it’s NOT directed at your identical triplet.
June 10, 2012
Summary: We already knew Claudia isn’t that bright, but now there’s proof: She’s doing horribly in eighth grade. (You’d think she’d be better at it since she’s done it five times, but whatever.) She agrees to get a tutor and try harder, but nothing helps, and no one thinks she’ll be able to catch up. Ultimately, Claudia’s sent back to the seventh grade. And she’s ticked.
At first, things actually go well. Claudia remembers a what of what she learned in seventh grade the first time, and she has an easier time learning new material. The other girls in the grade think she’s cool and try to copy her clothes. But the social aspects of the change get to her – she can’t go to the eighth-grade Halloween dance, and she doesn’t have anyone to sit with at lunch, since she doesn’t know anyone else in the seventh grade.
Claudia gradually gets more and more annoying about not liking being in the seventh grade. She accidentally insults Mallory and Jessi, since she believes anyone younger than an eighth-grader is immature, but doesn’t even realize it. Fortunately, she’s been taking an art class with a famous teacher who sees a ton of potential in her and awards her the grand prize in a class competition. The teacher confides that she was held back twice but has still accomplished a lot in her life. Claudia learns her lesson and starts adjusting to her new life.
The B-plot is all touchy-feely: Jackie Rodowsky is just getting out of the hospital, and he tells the BSC girls and their charges how much the kids still in the hospital would like some company. This leads the girls to start a Hospital Buddies program, pairing healthy kids with hospitalized kids for letter writing and visits. The healthy kids also voluntarily split their Halloween candy with the sick kids.
Thoughts: Claudia says she’s been tested and doesn’t have a learning disorder, but that can’t be true. At the very least, she has to have ADD.
Oh, ghostwriter. There can’t be two Halloweens.
“There wasn’t one person in that whole grade who even approached the level of coolness I’ve attained – and they all knew it.” Huh. Claudia’s kind of a bitca.
I wish they’d addressed Claudia’s snobbery more. If I were Mal or Jessi, I would have said something about her attitude toward sixth- and seventh-graders. And she’s never had a problem with hanging out with 11-year-olds before, so it’s especially surprising here.
March 15, 2012
Summary: Claudia’s Aunt Peaches has her baby and Claudia quickly loses her mind. It doesn’t help that the baby is named Lynn, Claudia’s middle name, and Peaches and Russ ask her to be the baby’s godmother. She becomes obsessed with the kid, inviting herself over all the time and teaching her aunt and uncle how to parent. Peaches reacts in a way that some would describe as mean but that I would describe as totally appropriate: She tells Claudia to stop being a know-it-all.
Claudia doesn’t realize how nuts she was until she goes on a class trip to Philadelphia. One of her classmates, Melissa, is basically obsessed with her and keeps following her around. Claudia just wants to hang out with Stacey and Abby, but the girls are too nice to say anything to Melissa.
Melissa and Claudia get lost in Philly, pretty much because Melissa’s a know-it-all (are you sensing a pattern here?), and Claudia gets mad at her. Melissa later apologizes for being a pest and Claudia realizes she was being a pest to Peaches. Peaches forgives her and asks her to be a little more considerate and maybe call before she comes over.
In the B-plot, the Arnold twins keep watching horror movies and having nightmares. One night when Mary Anne’s babysitting, they watch a making-of feature on one of the movies, and the twins are fascinated by how all the special effects are done. They get really interested in becoming directors and make a movie with Kristy. It starts out kind of stupid, but I liked the resolution.
Thoughts: No way is Claudia too dumb to know who Bach was.
She does, however, know that “hermano” is Spanish for “brother,” so she’s smarter than anyone with the last name Bluth.
The baby gets Claudia’s middle name and Claudia for a godmother. If I were Janine, I’d be pretty ticked.
I’d love to know where Claudia got the money to buy so much stuff for Lynn and Peaches. I mean, a fully-stocked diaper bag? No 13-year-old has that kind of cash; I don’t care how much sitting she does.
December 20, 2011
Summary: The students at SMS are still taking Short Takes classes, and Claudia, Stacey, and Abby are in one together about theater for kids. The class writes a play about the first Thanksgiving for some third-graders, deciding to tell the real story rather than the polished one everyone knows. (Women were property, the Europeans were mean, etc.)
Some parents attend a rehearsal and suddenly a bunch of them are furious about the way Thanksgiving is being presented. And they go incredibly over-the-top about it, even labeling the play “un-American.” Finally the principal decides that the class has to either rewrite the play so it’s more “traditionally” Thanksgiving or scrap it altogether. At first the class wants to scrap it so the protesters don’t get the pleasure of getting their way, but when the class realizes that the kids will be disappointed, they agree to a rewrite. However, they decide to go on under protest, printing “censored” on everything and basically protesting the protest.
The kids perform the rewritten play, and then some SMS students stage the original play. A ton of protesters show up and disrupt everything, even booing the actors and making it impossible for them to continue. (So reasonable and appropriate.) After the play is over, the class tries to avoid the protesters, and then suddenly it’s all over. And I guess 20 years later the crazy super-super-conservative protesters start demanding to see politicians’ birth certificates.
Meanwhile, it’s actually Thanksgiving, and while all the BSC girls had plans that took most of them out of town, they get canceled, so everyone’s in Stoneybrook for the holiday. They come up with the “brilliant” idea to get everyone’s families together for dinner. That means dinner for 36 people. I don’t know why in the world their parents would agree to this. Oh, and then Dawn makes a surprise appearance.
Thoughts: “One of Stacey’s favorite classes was called Math for Real Life. (I would call a course like that Learning to Hire an Accountant, but who asked me?” Ha! I’m right there with you, Claudia.
I’m surprised no one objects to Carolyn playing a male character.
I like that Claudia admits that the play isn’t actually that great. Usually the BSC girls are super-duper awesome at everything, but it’s much more realistic that a play written by a bunch of 13-year-olds in a short amount of time would be pretty mediocre. Now, if Mallory had been one of the writers, I’m sure it would have been a different story….
While the BSC girls, Sam, Charlie, and Janine are watching everyone’s younger siblings at the Pikes’ house, Sam tells the triplets he’s hiding a dollar bill (made into an origami turkey) and they have to clean their room to find it. Then he tapes it to the handle of a broom, knowing they’ll never look there. Sam is almost as cool as Charlie.
November 10, 2011
Summary: Claudia and Mary Anne enter a baking competition with Shea Rodowsky. There are two divisions, one for kids 9-15 and one for people 16 and up. Logan also enters (with his sister and a friend of his), as do Cokie Mason and her second banana, Grace. Except Cokie has to drop out at the last minute because she gets sick. The BSC gets hired to watch the competitors’ kids, which is dumb, but whatever, people other than Mary Anne and Claudia needed a plot.
A few of the teams experience weirdness, like ovens being set to the wrong temperature and ingredients being switched. Claudia and Mary Anne team up with Grace to figure out what’s going on, and Claudia’s surprised to learn that she and Grace have a lot in common, like their love of Nancy Drew. They suspect another contestant’s father, who’s putting a lot of pressure on his daughter, and…there aren’t really any other suspects.
The girls do some spying and catch the guy running the contest, Marty, making out with a contestant, Julie. Claudia comes up with a plan to trap the culprit by sprinkling some flour around their work station, setting up a mirror so they can spy without being noticed, and pretending to leave their station. They catch Marty “white-handed” in the act of messing with their oven. Claudia also realizes that since she saw Julie driving, she’s at least 16 and therefore not eligible for the junior division. And then they finish the competition and Claudia, Mary Anne, and Shea win with a cake Mary Anne’s mom used to make. Also, Cokie’s all ticked, which cracks me up.
The B-plot is about the BSC girls taking care of the kids at the competition, and helping them make their own restaurant. There’s a kid who keeps breaking stuff and blaming his sister, who goes along with it so her brother won’t get in trouble. But the kids aren’t regulars in the series, so who cares?
Thoughts: I like that Claudia’s the one who figures out how to solve the mystery, and that she does it in a clever way. Score one for street smarts!
But the whole plot makes no sense when you realize that Kristy is supposed to serve as “cake cop” and make sure nothing fishy happens. Plus, there are judges around while people are baking. So why doesn’t anyone notice the sabotage?
Either I read this out of order or the ghostwriter screwed up, because Dawn’s still in Stoneybrook in this book. I’m just going to blame the ghostwriter.
Claudia’s dad gets a cordless phone. Mr. Kishi is so with it.
Someone needs a book of baby names, because there are two characters named Anna in this book, and there’s a third coming in the next one.
September 5, 2011
Summary: Claudia’s all mopey over not having Stacey around, so she enters a contest to host a radio show. She wins, and Ashley Wyeth comes in second and gets to be her assistant. They get to plan their own shows, book their own guests, and basically do whatever they want. Ashley’s kind of annoying and passive-aggressive, and she and Claudia don’t get along very well at first, but eventually they both calm down and make it work.
Kristy, however, is disastrously irritating. She’s all “Ricky, put me in the shoooooooow!” and keeps trying to sell Claudia on ideas for plays. Her first involves the Barrett/DeWitt kids, her second involves the Pike kids, and her third never gets off the ground because the Arnold twins think she’s nuts. Finally, she and the Arnold twins come up with a Jeopardy!-type game involving children’s literature that fits in with a theme Claudia and Ashley had already picked. Unfortunately, this means that Kristy gets her way and will never learn her lesson.
Claudia and Ashley do some call-in segments, and in one a kid calls in looking for advice on handling his parents’ separation. Claudia recommends that he call a therapist. A couple weeks later, the kid’s mother calls to thank Claudia for her help, then donates a bunch of money, which will keep the struggling station afloat for a few more months. Stacey also calls, having listened to all the shows, including one about friendship in which Claudia said that she misses her former best friend. So they’re on the path to reuniting.
Thoughts: I’m a little surprised that Claudia’s bored, considering she has a hobby that takes up a lot of her time, as well as lots of sitting jobs. And even though Stacey’s not around to hang out with, she does have six other really close friends.
“Dawn gave me a list of songs to play (ecology-oriented, of course).” DAWN. SHUT UP.
Kristy gets Charlie to drive Claudia to the radio station. Charlie is the nicest brother ever. I can guarantee none of my brothers would have chauffeured my friends around when we were younger.
Claudia wears a tux and sneakers for her first radio show. If I saw a 13-year-old girl wearing a tux, I’d think she’d forgotten to take her medication that morning.