October 29, 2013

BSC #125, Mary Anne in the Middle: This Was Supposed to Be Good News

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 9:06 pm by Jenn

ff

Mary Anne, stop raiding Richard’s closet

Summary: Mallory can’t stand going to SMS anymore, so she’s strongly considering going to a boarding school in Massachusetts called Riverbend. Jessi’s ticked that she’s leaving, and the two of them stop talking. Instead, they talk to Mary Anne. Mary Anne is sympathetic to both of them, but she can see how miserable Mallory is, so she supports Mal’s decision to go to Riverbend.

Mallory learns that she was accepted at the school, and when announces that she’s going, everyone flips out. All of a sudden, everyone loves Mallory. Her siblings are especially upset, which is kind of funny since a) they never listen to her and b) you’d think they’d be happy to have one less sibling to have to deal with. Jessi’s furious that Mallory made up her mind without consulting her best friend, and especially mad that Mallory talked to Mary Anne instead.

So this fight goes on forever, until Mary Anne snaps and tells the two to come to her house. She makes them get their issues out in the open, which leads to them making up. Mallory’s still going away to school, but Jessi now understands why she made that decision and is a lot more supportive. Then everyone has We Love Mallory Day, because Mal’s self-esteem is so low, she has to be reminded constantly that people actually like her.

In the B-plot, the BSC girls organize a sort of Christmas ornament drive for the local nursing home. They also throw a party for the residents, which would be a lot sweeter if we weren’t constantly reminded how the girls are awesome do-gooders who are always working on some kind of charity project.

Thoughts: “I didn’t say you were fat. You just have a big face.” Thanks, Margo.

Interesting that Jessi acts the same way over Mallory leaving as Becca did when Jessi went to New York. And Jessi considered moving away, too! She’s an annoying hypocrite in this book.

Mary Anne sends Mallory and Jessi on the same sitting job while they’re fighting, because that’s worked out so well for the BSC girls in the past.

There’s a really sweet moment where a man at the nursing home is surprised that Kristy knows his name, and when Kristy says she remembers it from the last time the BSC girls were there, the man is so happy that he almost cries.

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….

March 26, 2011

BSC #75, Jessi’s Horrible Prank: Peer Pressure

Posted in books tagged , at 6:54 pm by Jenn

Both of those guys playing tic-tac-toe are idiots

Summary: Jessi’s next Short Takes class is about computer programming, and it’s taught by a nerdy, antisocial guy named Mr. Trout. The kids in the class play pranks on him and he does nothing to stop them. Jessi thinks the pranks are dumb, but she doesn’t want to be an outcast, so she just puts up with them. Also, she can’t deny that using a fish hook to snag the guy’s toupee is funny.

Jessi’s helping out with the Sixth Grade Follies, a talent show that involves making fun of teachers. It’s organized by two teachers nicknamed the Dollies for their love of (and resemblance to) Dolly Parton. They are awesome. Jessi’s first enlisted to play one of the Dollies, but then her classmates decide that she should play Mr. Trout. She thinks his presence in the skit might be construed as mean or embarrassing, and she doesn’t want to do it, but again, she gives in to peer pressure and agrees to do it. Everyone thinks it’s hilarious except Mr. Trout, who is a no-show in school the Monday after the show.

Everyone tells Jessi that Mr. Trout leaving wasn’t her fault, even though the skit was basically the straw that broke the camel’s back. She puts up a petition to allow him to come back, but no one really takes it seriously. The Dollies try to convince Jessi that Mr. Trout just didn’t have a sense of humor about himself.

Jessi still has horrible guilt over her part in Mr. Trout leaving, and she eventually tells the principal, Mr. Kingbridge, about all the pranks. He tells her that some people aren’t cut out to be teachers. Who knew you couldn’t be sensitive and be a teacher? I hope that doesn’t screw up any of Mary Anne’s future plans. Also, Jessi’s the only person who doesn’t think Mr. Trout brought the abuse on himself. I hate to see how SMS handles bullying. Anyway, she writes Mr. Trout a letter of apology and he tells her he doesn’t blame her.

The B-plot is one of those stories where the BSC’s sitting charges do something the BSC girls are doing. Becca is inspired by Jessi to put on a kids’ version of the Follies, where they make fun of the sitters. Their jokes are all in fun, though, so no one gets upset. The jokes are all spot-on, too.

Thoughts: “Her stepfather is a millionaire, which is a long story I’ll leave for later.” Uh, her mom married a rich guy. There’s your story.

Now suddenly Jessi’s a bad singer? But I thought she was supposed to be awesome. Well, now I don’t know what to believe.

Haley asks Stacey if Kristy is president of the BSC. I must direct Haley to this wonderful (and frightening) site.

Jessi’s mom says she didn’t know Jessi had such a “sense of comedy” But we know from Hello, Mallory that she loves jokes. So either the ghostwriter screwed up (never!) or Jessi’s mom has early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Vanessa, as Claudia in the Follies, eats a bunch of junk food, then says a clock would make a good hat. Love it!

January 30, 2011

BSC #68, Jessi and the Bad Baby-sitter: Dawn Leaving Was Supposed to Make Things Better

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , at 6:24 pm by Jenn

NO GUM AT MEETINGS! DI DI MAU!

Summary: With Dawn back in California, suddenly things are really busy for the club (maybe the parents waited until she was gone to hire sitters so they wouldn’t have to deal with her)? Kristy doesn’t want to hire a new member, since they’ll have to get rid of her when Dawn comes back – for some reason she doesn’t want more than seven regular members – but business is so heavy that Shannon and Logan are even tapped out. Wendy, a friend of Jessi’s from school, is interested in joining the club and is really good with kids, so Kristy agrees to let her come to meetings.

Wendy proves to be an unfortunate choice as a new member – she misses meetings, she’s late to jobs, and she just doesn’t seem to care. Basically, the club isn’t any better off with her than they were without her. Kristy’s fed up because Wendy won’t listen, but Wendy’s more fed up with the club trying to dictate her life, so she quits club. Fortunately, even though we’re probably supposed to think Wendy is a horrible person, Jessi decides she’s still a friend, she’s just a loner. Uh, more like she just didn’t want to drink the Kool-Aid and give her life over to the BSC. Anyway, Shannon suddenly has free time and agrees to be the alternate officer (ooh, what an honor!) until Dawn comes back.

In the B plot, Mallory’s really, really tired, which makes everyone mad because she keeps turning down jobs and falling asleep at random times. Her doctor says she’s pretty much fine, which makes me wonder where that doctor went to medical school, because being really tired and sleeping all the time is NOT FINE. Whatever, it’s just a set-up for book #69.

In the C plot, the Barrett and Pike kids decide to make a video for Dawn. They gather up some other BSC charges and put on a performance that’s a twist on Snow White, involving pollution and Captain Planet. It’s actually really cute and funny. Across the country, Dawn has a similar idea and makes her own video for the BSC girls.

In the D plot, Margo becomes a little klepto. Jessi busts her and tells her to tell her parents, but she doesn’t, so Jessi tells Mallory. Mallory makes Margo confess, which leads to her returning what she stole. The motives here aren’t really discussed, and I don’t think the shoplifting is ever brought up again, so it’s pretty pointless.

Thoughts: Jessi makes hot chocolate by microwaving chocolate milk. Wow, lazy.

Kristy tells a client she can’t talk to her until the BSC meeting starts. And that’s how you lose customers.

Kristy not wanting an eighth member of the club makes absolutely no sense. Maybe she thinks seven people are too many to control and they might band together and overthrow her.

Claire, re: Mallory: “She fell asleep while she was reading me The Three Bears. I don’t blame her. I think it’s a very boring story, too.” Hee.

Vanessa gets curlers tangled in her hair, and Jessi has to cut them out. If I came home and found out my daughter’s friend had cut my child’s hair without permission, I think I’d have a problem with that.

December 18, 2010

BSC Mystery #8, Jessi and the Jewel Thieves: Punk’d

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 2:57 pm by Jenn

Yeah, you guys don't look suspicious at all

Summary: Jessi goes to New York with Stacey for the weekend so she can see Quint in a big performance. Quint and Jessi overhear an argument from an apartment across they alley from Quint’s and realize that the two men fighting are planning a jewel heist. They spent much of the rest of the weekend stalking the guys (Frank and Red), who stop by two places with stealable jewels: the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a jewelry store. Jessi and Quint want some sort of evidence to take to the police, so that the cops don’t think they’re just silly kids, and it’s a good thing they wait, because it turns out Frank and Red are actors practicing their lines. Oops!

While Jessi’s in New York and her parents and aunt are out of town at a wedding, Becca stays with the Pikes and cries the whole weekend. Poor Mallory and Mary Anne are incredibly patient with her. Mr. and Mrs. Pike do nothing, which is no surprise.

The rest of the book is basically a guide to New York, because we all know how much this series looooooves the Big Apple. And Jessi and Quint decide to just be friends because they’re too young to be in a committed relationship.

Thoughts: Stacey has Jessi leave her shampoo and conditioner behind before they go to New York because she has too much stuff with her. Is she going to let Jessi borrow hers? Wouldn’t Stacey use some expensive, ultra-sophisticated lightening stuff?

If Mallory would stop whining about her geeky self and just take care of kids, she would be so much more awesome. She should also be a teacher instead of a writer. And not just beacuse I don’t want to have to be associated with her in a writerly way.

Vanessa’s poem: “How fair their little faces are, the flowers of the Spring, turned up to catch the sunbeams that the elves and fairies bring.” I bet Vanessa got all sorts of guys in high school.

You know what would’ve shut Becca up? If, when she stared whining about her mom abandoning her and not loving her, Mary Anne had said, “At least your mother’s still alive.”

When Claudia brings over art supplies to help Becca and the Pike kids make dragons, Becca names hers Charlotte after the spider. Somewhere, Charlotte Johanssen is TICKED.

Quint plays the race card after being kicked out of a jewelry store, but Jessi points out that the guard who kicked them out was also black. Is it wrong that that made me laugh? Like, you’re 11 and a ballet dancer, kid. No one would mistake you for any kind of threat.

Quint suggests that he and Jessi put on disguises (glasses for him, a Halloween wig for her) and pretend to be delivering something so they can see Frank and Red’s apartment. Quint should definitely stick to dancing, because I don’t think the book-learnin’ is going to get him very far.

November 17, 2010

BSC #61, Jessi and the Awful Secret: All She Wants to Do is Dance

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

Even Jessi's legwarmers look sad

Summary: Jessi volunteers to help out with a dance class for underprivileged kids. One of the other volunteers is her classmate Mary, who thinks she needs to lose weight and shows other classic signs of anorexia. Jessi’s really worried about her and starts looking into the disorder (aided by the BSC girls), but when she discusses it with Mary, Mary denies that anything’s wrong. Jessi’s afraid to tell any adults about Mary’s dieting and weight loss, so she keeps quiet while Mary steadily gets worse. Finally, after Mary collapses during class, Jessi tells her to talk to their teacher, or Jessi will do it for her. Mary balks, but Jessi follows through, and Mary finally gets help.

In what I guess would be the A- plot, the BSC girls inspire Jessi to help start a scholarship for two of the underprivileged kids so they can continue to take dance classes. Watson, awesome as ever, agrees to fund the scholarship, and Martha, a girl in the class who Jessi thought had a lot of potential, is picked as one of the recipients. Martha is black, and her mother admits to Jessi that she enrolled Martha in classes before but stopped sending her because a neighbor told her she was wasting her money, as there’s no future for a black dancer. But seeing Jessi doing so well has told Martha’s mother that that’s not true.

In the B plot, Shannon starts hanging out with the BSC girls more, and Kristy feels like she’s being replaced. It’s kind of ridiculous, and I kind of think the plot was only written because the ghostwriter realized Shannon never appears in the series.

Thoughts: Parts of the anorexia storyline border on preachy, but it’s an important topic, and it makes sense that Jessi would encounter it. Though I find it hard to believe that she wouldn’t know what anorexia is after taking ballet for so long. And I really liked the A- plot, with Martha’s mother admiring Jessi, and with Jessi trying to get scholarships for the kids. That was really sweet of her.

I also liked Jessi and Mary’s teacher, Mme Noelle, in this book. Mary says that she’s worried she’ll get too big to dance, and Mme Noelle asks her what would happen if she got too thin to dance. She adds that dancing isn’t just about talent, it’s also about passion, which includes loving yourself. If Mme Noelle ever needs a break from teaching ballet, she should be a counselor.

As sweet as Jessi was toward the end of the book, she was kind of annoying in other places. For instance, why does she always trash dancers who aren’t as good as her? We get it! You’re awesome! We believe you!

Jessi also feels bad for poor people. Good to know.

Linny Papadakis doesn’t want to play Let’s All Come In because he doesn’t want to pretend to hold fake suitcases: “I don’t want to stand around and carry air.” Ha!

Shannon and Claudia build a crooked snow condo, and Claudia says only crooked people can go there, like “thieves and con artists.” So she knows more than one meaning of “crooked,” but she can’t spell “deep”?

Claudia eats a whole bag of chips during a meeting. Maybe the girls should read up on some other eating disorders… (By the way, I finished this book while watching What’s Eating You on E!, which is an awesome show. I guess I have a theme going tonight. Now I’m going to go eat a whole box of cereal.)

September 4, 2010

BSC #55, Jessi’s Gold Medal: On This Episode of “Made”…

Posted in books tagged , , , at 11:46 pm by Jenn

How is that synchronized? Sloppy babies!

Summary: Jessi takes synchronized swimming, competes in SMS’s Sports Festival, and wins a gold medal. Trust me, the details are too boring to go into.

There are three B plots, two boring, one not. In the first boring one, the BSC girls put on a mini-Olympics for their sitting charges, though it’s more like a fun fair. In the second boring one, Mallory panics about possibly having to participate in the Sports Festival (even though it’s completely voluntary) and decides to fake an injury so she’ll have an excuse to skip it. But she actually does hurt herself and makes a big deal about it. Shut up, Mallory.

In the not-boring B plot, Kristy challenges Alan to an obstacle-course race at the Sports Festival. The loser will have to be the winner’s personal servant for a week. Kristy wins and totally milks Alan’s loss for all it’s worth, which is exactly what we would expect from her.

Thoughts: I feel like this whole thing is just Olympic propaganda. Now all I want to do is watch gymnastics and eat Wheaties.

Claudia wears floral-print suspenders with electric pink track shorts. Did anyone examine her for a head injury?

You know what I just realized? Alan and Kristy were the original Ron and Hermione. Which I guess means they’ll end up married in 10 or 15 years.

July 4, 2010

BSC #48, Jessi’s Wish: Were You Having a Happy Day? Not Anymore

Posted in books tagged , , , at 7:22 pm by Jenn

That cat is way too calm

Summary: The BSC girls put babysitting aside for a few weeks to do some volunteer work. Jessi starts helping out with a club her sister Becca belongs to that does nice things for people in Stoneybrook. One of the members is a girl named Danielle who has recently finished treatments for leukemia. Jessi finds Danielle so inspirational that she decides to help fulfill one of her dreams, to go to Disney World. By the end of the book, Danielle is back in the hospital for tests but considers the Disney World trip the best thing to ever happen to her.

Thoughts: Yeah, I can’t really snark on a book about a girl with cancer.

I always forget that the Ramseys live in the McGills’ old house. It must be weird to go to a friend’s house and remember that you used to live there.

A nine-year-old who says “yo” all the time doesn’t know how to spell it? Stuff it, ghostwriter.

Sorry for the short post and lack of snark. Like I said, there’s not much to snark on here. The book is actually pretty touching. I’ll try better next time, I promise.

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