April 3, 2013

BSC #115, Jessi’s Big Break: So They Think She Can Dance

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 6:17 pm by Jenn

If "Center Stage" taught me anything, it's that these kids are way too happy

If “Center Stage” taught me anything, it’s that these kids are way too happy

Summary: Jessi spends a few weeks in New York, dancing with an elite program that could springboard her to superstar status. She stays with her cousin Michael (Aunt Cecelia’s son) and his wife, who remind her how awesome New York is, in case someone in this series hasn’t mentioned that in the past five minutes. The dance classes are wonderful, Jessi makes a ton of friends, and she feels independent and grown-up in the city.

Back home, Mallory and Becca are lonely and mopey. Mal is at least mature enough not to whine, but Becca is a brat, and I can’t believe her parents (and Cecelia) put up with her attitude. Mal goes to visit Jessi one weekend and feels out of place since Jessi’s New York friends are all dancers. Also, because Jessi’s so busy with classes and taking in the culture of the city, she doesn’t call home very often.

Jessi’s only problem in New York is Quint, her sort-of boyfriend. He keeps wanting to talk to her, and she’s afraid he’s going to tell her he wants to date. She doesn’t feel ready, so she keeps putting off The Talk. Eventually, though, she tells Quint that she likes him and can see herself dating him, but not until they’re older. He’s fine with it and things between them relax.

So now that Jessi’s New York experience is completely awesome, she gets some good news: David Brailsford, the director of the program, wants her to apply for another program, one that will keep her in New York permanently. It’s a real honor, but it means leaving her family and friends, and dancing even more than she already is.

As much as Jessi immediately wants to say yes, she does some really mature thinking about the situation. She worries that she’ll get bored after the freshness of being in New York wears off, and that she’ll run herself into the ground by dancing so much. She won’t have time for anything else in her life. Plus, of course, she’ll be away from her family and friends.

Jessi’s parents are supportive of whatever she chooses to do, and surprisingly, Aunt Cecelia is her biggest champion. She regrets not following her dreams when she was younger. She’s even disappointed in Michael for giving up a potentially successful art career to attend business school. Ultimately, Jessi decides to defer the decision until she’s older, and use the time before then to learn even more in Stoneybrook. She’ll get to live her normal life while still finding a way to follow her dream. Not bad for an 11-year-old. I don’t even know how to snark on that!

Thoughts: Aunt Cecelia encouraging people to follow their dreams seems out of character to me. The Cecelia we’ve seen so far strikes me as the sort of person who would want her son to go to business school and do something practical instead of hoping to make money painting.

At the beginning of the book, Jessi learns she’s in the program and then has to convince her parents to let her go. So why did they let her audition if they hadn’t yet decided whether to let her go if she got in?

If I’d talked to anyone the way Becca does in this book, I would still be grounded today. But no one says a word to her! They’re just all, “Oh, she’s upset because Jessi’s gone.” Yeah, but she can be upset with her mouth closed.

Quint is five-eight at the age of 11? Holy cow.

All the ballet terminology thrown together makes me think of “steppity-step and jazz hands.” (Bonus: The other actor in that scene is Principal Green from Dawson’s Creek.)

Mallory writes in the BSC journal, “Several of the children were pretty difficult.” That girl is 11 going on 40.

Brailsford: “You’re one of us now.” Run, Jessi! He’s a cult leader!

July 3, 2012

BSC #103, Happy Holidays, Jessi: In Case You Forgot, Jessi’s Black

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 10:15 pm by Jenn

Fox News is soooooo mad about the “happy holidays” in the title

Summary: It’s almost Christmas, but since this is Jessi’s book, that means it’s also Kwanzaa. We get to learn all about it. Jessi keeps emphasizing that it’s a holiday about unity and family. Jessi, Becca, Squirt, and Aunt Cecelia are in a car accident a couple weeks before the holidays, and Squirt is admitted to the hospital with a head injury. All the family’s togetherness goes down the drain. They fight with each other, worry about Squirt constantly, and don’t have time to get ready for the holidays. Also, Cecelia is really, really annoying.

The BSC girls are putting together a Kwanzaa festival, complete with a play (of course), which introduces them (and us) to other African-American families in Stoneybrook. Jessi tries to find time to help out, but she’s not really feeling the Kwanzaa spirit. The intra-family fighting continues until dinner one night when Jessi’s cousin Keisha tells everyone to basically shut up and celebrate already. Then the festival goes well, so everyone’s in a good mood again.

Thoughts: I didn’t remember much about this book, and I was all set to roll my eyes the whole way through it, but it’s not that bad. It emphasizes the importance of family and shows how close the Ramseys are.

I don’t think I know anyone who celebrates Kwanzaa. And outside of this book, I think the only time I’ve read about it was in The Boondocks. (Man, I miss that strip.)

Squirt gets hurt because Cecelia lets Jessi undo his carseat strap while she’s still driving. So…shouldn’t she be charged with child endangerment or something?

Also, if I spoke to any of my brothers’ kids the way Cecelia talks to Jessi and Becca, they wouldn’t be nearly as patient as Jessi’s dad is.

One of the kids in the Kwanzaa play wants to sing “Colors of the Wind,” so now that’s stuck in your head, too, ha ha ha!

Mallory brings the Ramseys a Christmas tree since they don’t have time to get one. Aw, sometimes Mallory’s a little awesome.

Apparently Becca’s over her horribly, legendary stage fright, since she narrates the play.

July 13, 2011

BSC #82, Jessi and the Troublemaker: Girl Gone Wild

Posted in books tagged , , , at 10:14 pm by Jenn

Danielle's hair is super cute

Summary: Danielle’s back, and she’s better than ever! Or something like that. Her cancer’s in remission and she’s enjoying all the activities she couldn’t do while she was sick. Like sledding in the basement, flooding the bathtub to make a swimming pool, and driving a car. The BSC girls think she’s going a little wild, but her parents don’t seem to mind, so they decide it’s not their problem (possibly the first time that’s happened). That is, until the aforementioned car incident, which involves Danielle driving with Haley, Charlotte, Becca, and Vanessa in the car and crashing into a neighbor’s vehicle.

Danielle’s parents realize that they’ve been cutting her too much slack, and that just because they’re happy she’s doing well doesn’t mean she can’t be punished for misbehaving. They’re also a little embarrassed that a group of 11- and 13-year-olds were smarter about the situation than they were. Danielle’s friends are all mad at her, so Stacey gets them all together and notes that they got in the car voluntarily, so they’re partly at fault. Plus, part of being friends is forgiving each other, so they need to get over it, which they do.

Speaking of Stacey, she’s acting weird through the book, backing out of sitting jobs and showing up late to meetings, but instead of finding out what’s going on with her, we have to deal with a dumb sub-plot about Jessi and Becca thinking Aunt Cecelia’s getting married. She’s not. Then they try to fix her up with the guy they thought she was marrying. It doesn’t work. Dumb!

Thoughts: When Kristy thinks you need to “rein it in a little,” as she says about Danielle, you know you’re out of control.

Everyone complained about sitting for five kids in the last book, but in this one, Kristy says nothing about watching six kids.

I can’t believe not one of the BSC girls thinks Jessi’s wrong about Cecelia getting married.

I also can’t believe no one asks Stacey why she’s acting so weird. Usually the BSC girls are so much nosier than they are in this book.

How ironic that Stacey gives a monologue about needing and forgiving friends when we know what she does in the next book….

April 3, 2010

BSC #36, Jessi’s Baby-sitter: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Cecelia?

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 7:31 pm by Jenn

Nice Cosby sweater there, Jess

Summary: Jessi’s aunt Cecelia (introduced in Baby-sitters’ Island Adventure) moves in with the Ramseys after Jessi’s mom decides to go back to work. Cecelia is really unlikable, taking charge of everything and bossing Jessi and Becca around. The girls try to get revenge with some very Von Trapp-like pranks, but Cecelia gets meaner and meaner, even forbidding Jessi from attending a BSC meeting (GASP!) because she was late coming home from a sitting job.

Jessi’s working with Jackie Rodowsky on a science-fair project (a model of a volcano, because there always has to be one) and basically doing everything for him. Eventually she realizes that she took charge of the project like Cecelia has taken charge of her life. This leads her to actually talk to her parents (what a concept!) about the Cecelia situation, as they didn’t know what was really going on, and the family works things out.

Thoughts: Why do Jessi’s parents let Cecelia talk to Jessi and Becca the way she does (in front of them, no less)? My brothers would never let me criticize or order their kids around that way. Which I never would, since, you know, THEY’RE NOT MY KIDS.

Jessi thinks Cecelia moving in is “a matter of life and death.” First Mary Anne goes all drama queen, and now Jessi. These girls are weird.

Kristy takes roll (not role, ghostwriter) at meetings. I’m picturing Summer from The School of Rock. Kristy’s a factoter.

We get another mention of the triplets’ Wandering Frog People game, which, much like the noodle incident in Calvin and Hobbes, is sometimes mentioned but never explained. “That has been going on for about two years now, which is one year and 364 days longer than Mal had hoped it would last.” Hee.

The Pike kids create their own library, which I thought was awesome when I was younger. Let’s be honest, I still do.

On top of some ongoing foreshadowing of Stacey’s health going downhill in Stacey’s Emergency, we get some brief foreshadowing of Mallory’s family’s situation in Poor Mallory! Color me shocked that the ghostwriter knows how to use this technique.

March 28, 2010

BSC Super Special #4, Baby-sitters’ Island Adventure: The One With the Shipwreck

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 1:19 pm by Jenn

"Uh...what are we waving at?"

Summary: Dawn and Claudia have been taking sailing lessons, and they decide to have a little race. It ends in a tie, and for their rematch, they agree to race to an island a few hours away and have a picnic with Jeff, Jamie Newton, Becca Ramsey, and Haley Braddock. A storm hits while they’re racing and the six end up stranded on an island. Yes, really. We get everyone’s perspective on the event so Dawn can keep it all for posterity. Because I’m sure she would want to remember every detail of a traumatizing experience.

Dawn takes care of Jamie, who’s sick, while Claudia takes charge of the other kids (with lots of help from Jeff). Claudia also proves that she’s smarter than she seems by rigging up a system for collecting rainwater, which saves everyone from dehydration, and using a mirror to signal a plane, which rescues everyone.

Mary Anne has a big fight with Logan, accusing him of standing her up, which turns into a fight with Dawn, who was supposed to give Mary Anne a message telling her that Logan wouldn’t be showing up. Mary Anne tells Dawn that she never wants to see her again, so when Dawn vanishes, Mary Anne feels guilty. She manages to hold it together a lot better than you’d think Mary Anne would, though.

Jessi is left in charge of Becca and Squirt for the weekend while her parents go away (more on that later), and after the boating incident, she calls her aunt Cecelia, a really annoying woman who seems to think she should be in charge of her brother’s children. Jessi spends most of the rest of the book complaining about Cecilia, and will spend most of the next book, Jessi’s Baby-sitter, doing the same.

Stacey is in New York with her father when the six are shipwrecked, and she wants to go back to Stoneybrook to help everyone search for them, but her father won’t let her go. Even though his daughter’s best friend could be dead. Shut up, Stacey’s father. She winds up standing up to him and going home anyway. Yeah, that’s about it.

Kristy is her typical take-charge, let’s-solve-this-problem-ourselves self, but she gets stumped when she realizes that there’s an upcoming game between her Krushers and Bart’s Bashers. She decides to cancel the game, which makes Bart accuse of chickening out. Apparently that’s what passes for conflict here.

Mallory does pretty much nothing except help with the search effort. Once again, Mallory is the forgotten BSC girl.

Just like in SVH, a near-death experience makes everything okay.

Thoughts: I was more excited to reread this book than any other, because I absolutely loved this book when I was younger. I always thought it was SO exciting. If I’d ever gotten stranded on an island, I would have used tips from this book to survive. (Let’s be honest, that’s still the case now that I’m an adult.) I have a feeling this book is part of the reason I’ve always liked stranded-on-an-island stories (I liked The Swiss Family Robinson, too), which means it’s probably part of the reason I started watching Lost when it debuted.

Jessi’s parents let her sit for Becca and Squirt by herself for an entire three-day weekend. Um, NO. SHE’S 11. I don’t think I spent the night alone in my house until I was 15 or 16, and that was without any kids to look after, especially not a baby. There is absolutely, positively no way this would happen; I don’t care how mature Jessi is.

Mary Anne wishes she never had to see Dawn again just because Dawn forgot to give her a message from Logan. Oh, yeah, that’s completely reasonable. I never realized Mary Anne was such a drama queen.

Why does Kristy make Stacey write about her New York sitting jobs in the club notebook? I thought the notebook was used to tell the other sitters what they might need to know for future sitting jobs. The BSC girls will never sit for the kids in New York. Clearly the power has gone to Kristy’s head.

Claudia and Dawn aren’t sure if Jamie, who’s four, is old enough to know to stay away from a fire. Uh, he’s four, not stupid.

Logan and Mary Anne have this stupid fight about her believing he stood her up, and then after the boating incident, he calls to tell her he’s sorry her stepsister is missing but he still can’t forgive her for the fight. Logan kind of sucks.

Bart sucks, too, for accusing Kristy of cancelling a game because she thinks his team will win and not because she wants to look for her friends. Though at least he apologizes. Take a lesson, Logan.