January 9, 2013

BSC #111, Stacey’s Secret Friend: Don’t Make Me Over

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 8:28 pm by Jenn

Tess just raided Mallory's closet, that's all

Tess just raided Mallory’s closet, that’s all

Summary: Stacey meets a new girl at SMS, Tess Swinhart, who’s nice but seems a little weird. Stacey thinks she just needs a makeover; she always wears pink, she never wears makeup, and her hair isn’t styled like anyone else’s. Due to the pink thing, Tess’ slightly porcine nose, and the fact that the first part of her last name almost contains the word “swine,” Alan gets everyone at school to start calling Tess “Swine-heart” behind her back. Tess is pretty oblivious and doesn’t get it when people start oinking at her. There’s also a comic book circulating about Swine-heart the Destroyer. Stacey decides not to tell Tess anything because…well, good question.

Since makeovers fix everything, Stacey tries to take Tess on as her project (a la Cher and Tai). She gets her to read some magazines, puts some makeup on her, and encourages her to wear something other than pink. Tess humors her a little but clearly couldn’t care less about whether or not her clothes are trendy or “in.” Most of the time, she just ignores Stacey, which is smart, because Stacey gets super-annoying. She also keeps saying she’s not Tess’ friend, since no one likes Tess and I guess, as Cher would say, Stacey’s “stock would plummet.”

At a football game, the students vote on a new mascot by applauding when Stacey and other students hold up signs with pictures of their choices. Stacey holds up a pig and everyone goes wild. She doesn’t realize until it’s too late that the pig picture has been replaced by a drawing of Swine-heart the Destroyer. Tess is so shocked at the reaction that she falls off the bleachers and breaks her ankle. She’s furious with Stacey and orders her to leave her alone.

Even though everyone knows Stacey would never switch the pictures, a bunch of people tell her that she wasn’t much of a friend to Tess. She just thought of Tess as a project and didn’t tell her what people were saying about her behind her back. Though, in Stacey’s defense, she did warn Tess not to trust a guy named Clarence King who asked her out, since Stacey thought it was some sort of scheme. But anyway, Stacey feels bad about everything and apologizes to Tess. While at Tess’ house, Stacey discovers that Tess lived in France, and her wardrobe is in style there. So suddenly Tess is cool.

The BSC girls band together with Tess and another girl, Barbara (who was best friends with Amelia and has become good friends with Tess), to enact some stupid 13-year-old revenge on Clarence. They mess up Clarence’s clothes and take pictures, then threaten to share them with everyone at school if Clarence and Alan don’t leave Tess alone. And then I don’t think Tess is ever mentioned in the series again.

The B-plot is kind of clever: Jackie Rodowsky and Nicky Pike have been acting weird. In fact, Nicky seems overly protective of Jackie. Eventually Abby learns that some kids were hassling Jackie, so he hired Nicky to be his bodyguard. I guess Nicky is intimidating or something? Why not hire the triplets?

Thoughts: This book brings up an interesting question: If you knew someone was being mocked behind her back, would you tell her? I think I would, because if I were the person being mocked, I’d want to know.

Stacey says that Alan has no sense of humor about himself, but aren’t a lot of his jokes at his own expense?

Tess and her friends once carved a bunch of ducks, painted them to look realistic, and put them in a river to confuse people. I’d rather hang out with that group than the BSC girls.

Nicky, up in a tree with Jackie: “We were practicing invisibility.” Claudia: “Well, practice visibility and come down from there.” That cracked me up, for some reason.

Moral of the story: Solve your problems with blackmail.

June 10, 2012

BSC #101, Claudia Kishi, Middle School Dropout: I Am So Smart! I Am So Smart! S-M-R-T!

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 3:51 pm by Jenn

The kids behind Claudia look like they’re about nine

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.

May 17, 2012

BSC #100, Kristy’s Worst Idea: Sometimes I Doubt Your Commitment to the BSC

Posted in books tagged , , , at 10:43 pm by Jenn

The real bad ideas here are everyone’s clothes

Summary: School is back in session (eighth grade again! Woo!), and the girls are so busy with non-club activities that it’s hard for them to keep up with meetings. Kristy is not pleased. She tries to organize a big fall celebration including activities like maple sugaring (huh?) and apple picking, but no one else is interested. Plus, Jessi wants to take a ballet class and Mallory wants to join a writing group at the same time as club meetings. There’s also a stupid Mary Anne/Claudia fight.

Then Jackie Rodowsky falls out of a tree and hurts his ankle while Kristy’s sitting for him. She blames herself for his injury and starts doubting herself as a sitter. Add that to the other girls having trouble getting to all the meetings and everyone wanting time to do things other than sit, and it all equals Kristy deciding that the club should disband. The girls will keep sitting, but they won’t have meetings anymore.

Kristy surprises herself by being a little relieved at first. She has lots of free time now, and she gets to avoid sitting, which she still isn’t comfortable with. The other girls have a harder time: Mallory and Abby have no other friends, Claudia’s overrun by phone calls from parents who don’t know the girls’ home numbers, and Stacey can’t buy clothes because she’s not making any money. Also, their sitting charges think the girls hate them, and the parents can’t live without the BSC. (They start hiring other girls in Stoneybrook, including Cokie, but of course, non-BSC sitters aren’t as good as the BSC girls.)

Jackie tries to fix everything by riding his bike to Kristy’s house, but he falls off and winds up in the hospital. All the girls rush over to check on him, and he begs them to work things out. Kristy gets everyone together and suggests that the club start meeting again. Stacey is the only one who isn’t sure; she’s afraid they’ll backslide again. Kristy suggests a month-long trial period to see how things go. But there are still dozens of books left in the series, so obviously it works out okay.

Thoughts: Why would Kristy buy Mallory clip-on earrings when she has pierced ears?

Mr. Papadakis is so upset about the club splitting up that he offers them a retainer to get back together. Dude, take it! Free money!

“If a cologne were based on Cokie, it would be called Obnoxious.” Snerk. She would probably take it as a compliment, though. You just know one of Cokie’s life goals is to have her own perfume.

Jackie’s mom is all, “Oh, he’s okay, it’s just a concussion.” Um, they have to DRAIN FLUID FROM HIS SKULL. That’s not “okay.”

Claudia: “The last time Mr. Hobard called, I made him help me with my math homework.” For some reason, that cracked me up. That, and her telling Janine that her homework is covered in ink blots because she was stabbing it with her pen.

December 11, 2010

BSC #63, Claudia’s -Freind- Friend: Me Fail English? That’s Unpossible!

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 12:34 pm by Jenn

Why don't we ever get to see Claudia's truly crazy outfits?

Summary: Claudia’s failing English, and she dreads returning to the resource room, where she can get one-on-one attention from an actual teacher, so her parents let the BSC girls tutor her. Except it turns into just Stacey tutoring her, and Stacey’s kind of a bitca about it. Basically, Stacey should never be a teacher. She makes Claudia keep a diary to get her in the habit of writing and to use some of her vocab words from class, but Claudia also keeps a diary complaining about Stacey. After the two girls get in a huge fight, Stacey winds up seeing the secret diary (of course), but it helps her realize that she was too hard on Claudia.

Shea Rodowsky is also having trouble in school – he’s just been diagnosed with dyslexia, and also needs help with his English work. The BSC girls are enlisted to tutor him as well, but Claudia, of all people, is the one who connects with him the most, as they’re able to help each other. Each helps the other feel less dumb, and they come up with some creative ways to learn and remember certain spelling rules.

In a sort of B plot, the girls are receiving notes from a secret admirer. At first they think the notes are for one girl from one guy, but after getting a whiff of some of Cokie’s perfume on a note, they decide that she’s pulling the same trick she pulled in Mary Anne’s Bad Luck Mystery, only with nice notes instead of threatening ones. They put on their ugliest clothes to meet the note-writer at a restaurant…and then find out that the notes are from a bunch of the kids they sit for. Jackie Rodowsky organized the outing to show appreciation for the girls. Fortunately, the kids don’t seem to notice how bad the girls look, and they all have a good time.

Thoughts: I don’t get why the Rodowskys don’t just hire Mallory to tutor Shea, since she was so awesome with Buddy Barrett.

Non-sports-lover Mary Anne knows Jackie Robinson played for the Dodgers? Doubtful.

So Claudia’s failing English, her parents and Janine apparently don’t help her with her homework anymore, and they let 13-year-olds tutor her. They really don’t care, do they? They’ve already put all their eggs in Janine’s basket.

Why does Shea ask Claudia to help him with his spelling right after she tells him she’s bad at it? I think he should also ask for help with listening.

November 1, 2010

BSC Super Special #9, Starring the Baby-sitters Club!: Jessi Ramsey is Better Than You. At Everything. EVERYTHING

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , at 10:45 pm by Jenn

Is it just me, or does Stacey look like a dude?

Summary: Stoneybrook Elementary, Middle, and High Schools put on a production of Peter Pan, and some of the BSC girls, their siblings, and their charges try out. And then there’s drama. Lots of drama.

Jessi thinks she’s a shoe-in for the role of Peter, since she’s a dancer and has tons of stage experience. She is wrong. Kristy winds up with the role, and Jessi is told by the director, Mr. Cheney, that even though she’s a good dancer, she’s no better at singing or acting than Kristy. Jessi is, to put it mildly, murderous with rage over the turn of events, and when she’s cast as an Indian, she withdraws from the show. She’s further disappointed when the other BSC girls, especially Kristy, refuse to put up with her crap. (It’s awesome.)

Jessi becomes the assistant choreographer, but then gets mad when Mr. Cheney won’t recognize that she’s basically his righthand gal and he would cease to exist without her help. On opening night, Pete Black, who’s supposed to be playing Nana and the crocodile, breaks his nose and can’t play his parts, so Jessi agrees to fill in for him. I’m sure she wishes she’d thought of breaking Kristy’s nose so she could take her place.

Kristy actually wanted to be Nana and the crocodile, so she’s really surprised when she lands the lead. Her plot mainly involves her struggling to memorize her lines, and having to deal with Cokie and her issues. (Cokie’s playing Tiger Lily.) Kristy wins this round, singing all of Cokie’s solo lines with her.

Dawn is cast as Wendy and takes it upon herself to modernize the play, since she finds it sexist. No one puts up with her crap either.

Stacey is Mrs. Darling, and Sam is cast as her husband. He keeps joking around, which drives her crazy, and he finally admits that he was just trying to show his friends how much fun he has with Stacey, since they’ve been teasing him about dating a middle-schooler. They actually solve their problems through communication, which is amazing.

Mary Anne becomes the “backstage babysitter,” looking after all the kids in the play. Mallory is working on costumes but finds herself bored a lot, so she tries to impinge on Mary Anne’s territory. Mary Anne awesomely stands up to her, getting her to back off.

Claudia helps design the sets. That’s it.

Jackie Rodowsky is Michael Darling, and he inadvertently causes all sorts of problems by complaining that they’re not allowed to really fly and by being scared of Pete in the crocodile costume. He gets straightened out with a good talking-to from Mr. Cheney, and he overcomes his herpetophobia when he finds out Jessi will be in the costume.

Karen whines her way into the role of Tinker Bell and is generally a little gnat who never shuts up.

The play goes well. Happy ending!

Thoughts: This was one of my favorite Super Specials when I was a kid – I was big into theater, especially musicals, and I loved books about people putting on plays. I also watched the Mary Martin version of Peter Pan numerous times when I was younger. (Hey, just like Squirt!)

Why is Jessi, not Mallory, writing for the school paper?

Do we really have to call the play a “musical extravaganza”? It’s…not really that exciting.

I’m surprised Dawn wants to play Tiger lily, considering the unPC-ness of the role.

Stacey sings “Mack the Knife” at her audition. I’m going to need a ruling from Simon Cowell. What’s that, Simon? Boring, old-fashioned, and forgettable? I agree.

Why would Dawn waltz at her audition? I haven’t seen Peter Pan for a little while, but I’m pretty sure Tiger Lily doesn’t waltz.

Uh, Cokie and I watch the same soap opera. I bet Carly is her favorite character.

You know why Karen’s so annoying? Because people keep enabling her. Mr. Cheney should have ignored her and not given in to her demands to be Tinker Bell. Let her learn at an early age that life isn’t fair. (Though points to him for giving her a non-speaking role.)

So they cast a bunch of elementary-school kids in the play but don’t get anyone to look after them? This seems like a top-notch production.

Mary Anne: “Peter promised her and her brothers an adventure, didn’t he?” Dawn: “Oh, that’s just like a man. They always say stuff like that.” Dawn. You’re 13. The only man you know is your father, and his promises all involve Disneyland. On the other hand, I don’t exactly appreciate Mary Anne saying, “So what if the play is sexist?” Uh, you should, actually. Anyway, if Dawn has such a problem with the play, why did she audition in the first place?

The actors are expected to start memorizing their lines after about two rehearsals. Seriously?

I love how they skip over all the boring stuff and suddenly it’s, like, a week before the show opens. Makes sense to me.

Aw, my high school choir director/theater teacher said, “Sing out, Louise,” too. I miss him.

Dawn’s dad can’t come to the play, so Richard tapes it for him and gives her flowers. Aw, Richard’s all right.

September 18, 2010

BSC #56, Keep Out, Claudia!: Claudia Gets All the Serious Books

Posted in books tagged , , , at 3:49 pm by Jenn

Children of the Corn! Except it's Claudia, so...Children of the Candy Corn

Summary: The BSC girls start sitting for a family named the Lowells, whose three children are kind of weird. When Claudia takes a job for the family, Mrs. Lowell is cold toward her, and the kids act strangely around her. Then when Jessi goes over to sit, Mrs. Lowell won’t even let her in the house. Kristy figures out that the Lowells are racist, which especially hits home since the girls are helping a bunch of their charges form a multicultural band called All the Children (gag), which will perform songs from Fiddler on the Roof. By the way, the band was Jackie Rodowsky’s idea (as he keeps telling everyone), so he’s the Kristy of the sitting charges, I guess.

Kristy’s realization leads to a Very Serious Conversation at a BSC meeting, in which the ghostwriter schools the readers about centuries of wrongs done to people because of their races and religions. Just as we’re all getting sufficiently bummed out, Mrs. Lowell inadvertently makes things funny by calling to request a blonde-haired, blue-eyed sitter. They should send Jessi over again just for laughs. Kristy proceeds to tell Mrs. Lowell that she has an Asian sister, which freaks the woman out. She then notes to the other girls that all of the club members have family situations that wouldn’t suit the Lowells  – Dawn and Stacey are blonde but have divorced parents, Mary Anne has a stepfamily, Logan’s a boy, and there are just too dang many Pikes. Shannon gets no mention because she’s the exception that proves the rule.

The kids put on their concert (and the band is never mentioned again), which the Lowell kids show up to, most likely against their parents’ wishes (Mrs. Lowell didn’t want them in the band because, you know, there are non-white kids there). The BSC girls are sad that they had to deal with bigots but hope the kids don’t grow up believing what their parents do. They want to get revenge on the Lowells but decide that would make them no better than bigots, or something, so they decide to just brush them off if they ever call for a sitter. Which, why would they if they might get a non-Aryan?

Thoughts: Trivia tidbit #1: Kristy and Jessi hoard their money, according to Claudia. But wouldn’t Jessi spend a lot of hers on ballet stuff?

Kristy admonishes Claudia for not saying anything about her bad experience with the Lowells, and Claudia says she wrote about it in the club notebook. So Kristy didn’t read the notebook! I wonder if she has to punish herself.

Trivia tidbit #2: Jamie Newton is part Native American.

Jackie, upon being hugged by Claudia: “Do not hug me. You are a girl! I hope Nicky didn’t see that.” Love it!

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.

December 27, 2009

BSC #20, Kristy and the Walking Disaster: Count the ’80s Sports Movie Clichés

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , at 9:24 pm by Jenn

But they're supposed to have matching shirts and mismatched hats! Sigh

Summary: Kristy starts a softball team called Kristy’s Krushers, comprised of kids who are too young/not talented enough for Little League.  The team also consists of Jackie Rodowsky, the walking disaster, as we’re reminded at least 30 times. He’s a klutz, but the kid can hit a baseball, so shut up, Kristy. You put a two-and-a-half-year-old on your team and you’re worried about Jackie?

Anyway, the kids aren’t the best players, but they try really hard, which makes Kristy really proud of them. The team plays Bart’s Bashers, made up of kids who are a little older and a little more talented, and coached by a guy named Bart Taylor, who Kristy develops a crush on. In the end, the Krushers lose, but Kristy gets the guy. Like I said, ’80s sports movie clichés abound.

Thoughts: Other than her constant referrals to Jackie as a walking disaster when the poor kid is really just a klutz with bad luck, Kristy’s not too bad in this book. She’s really patient with the kids when she’s coaching them, and she turns out to be a natural. I think she’s found a calling.

Though she’s dumb enough to let Jackie mix up pink lemonade by himself, so she gets what she deserves there.

Mallory says Claire only has baseball-related tantrums. I know some grown-ups like that. I’m pretty sure she becomes an equal-opportunity tantrum-thrower as the series progresses, though.

Claudia pulls out one of Jackie’s loose teeth. EWWWWWWWW.

Bart has a rottweiler named Twinkle. What’s the point of having a big dog like a rottweiler if you’re going to give it a Disney name like Twinkle?

This is a weird moment: “Thanks to me, Jessi really did have an easy sitting job. But I’m not complaining.” Do you usually complain when one of your friends has a good day, Kristy? I guess not, or you probably wouldn’t have as many friends as you do.

Karen refuses to spell Krushers with a K because it’s wrong. Part of me admires her refusal to use improper spelling, but the rest of me wants her to shut up.

So Marnie is two and still considered a baby (also, the girl never talks, which is weird), but Gabbie is two-and-a-half and basically considered a preschooler? Should I stop looking for logic in Stoneybrook?

No way would Kristy let Bart be the umpire at their first game. Doesn’t the ump have to be, I don’t know, impartial?

A kid calls Matt Braddock a dummy and his sister Haley responds, “If you call him a dummy one more time, I will personally rearrange your face.” How did I forget how awesome Haley is? If only every kid in this series could be that cool.

Kristy says that Dawn’s notebook entry is “pretty meaty.” Hee hee.

November 15, 2009

BSC #10, Logan Likes Mary Anne!: People from the South Talk Funny

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 6:06 pm by Jenn


Sorry, son, that hand's gonna have to come off

Summary: There’s a cute new boy at school named Logan Bruno, and the BSC girls want him to join the club. Except having a boy at meetings makes them awkward, and Mary Anne is especially tongue-tied because she thinks Logan is cute. They start hanging out, and even when Mary Anne has embarrassing moments, Logan stays interested in her. He also proves to be good with kids, as evidenced by the way he handles a disastrous experience sitting for Jackie Rodowsky (making his first appearance in the BSC-verse). Logan agrees to become an associate member of the club – he’ll take jobs but doesn’t have to attend meetings – and he and Mary Anne are on their way to a relationship. Oh, and she gets a cat.

The B plot also involves Mary Anne – it’s her 13th birthday, and Stacey comes up with the idea to throw her a surprise party. Except it’s Mary Anne, and shy girl + big surprise = disaster, so everyone ends up regretting the decision. Of course, it all works out.

Thoughts: Someone should have known that throwing Mary Anne a surprise party was a bad idea. The girl hates being the center of attention, and a surprise party would have put her right there. I find it hard to believe that even Kristy, her lifelong best friend, wouldn’t point out that they should come up with something else to do. Though Mary Anne’s reaction (running away) wasn’t exactly reasonable either. So maybe it’s a draw.

I’ve always found the phonetic spelling-out of how Logan speaks amusing, because my brothers grew up in Louisville and never talked like Logan. I think Ann M. Martin/the ghostwriter was confusing a Louisville accent for a deep-south accent. Logan would fit in well in Savannah.

This book features one of the more memorable BSC outfits, Mary Anne’s “famous-cities skirt.” It’s “a full white skirt with the words Paris, Rome, and London, and sketchy pink and blue pictures of the Eiffel Tower, the Tower Bridge, and other stuff scrawled all over it.” I bet if that skirt actually existed, lots of  ’80s girls would have bought one.

Dawn actually eats birthday cake in this book, then washes out her mouth. I’m surprised she ate the cake and didn’t complain about it for ten minutes. Of course, at this point in the series, she hadn’t yet reached her maximum level of irritation.