December 24, 2013

BSC #129, Kristy at Bat: Never Meet Your Heroes

Posted in books tagged , , , at 7:37 pm by Jenn

Kristy bats lefty. Who knew?

Kristy bats lefty. Who knew?

Summary: Kristy and Watson are off to spend spring break at Dream Camp, where they get to play baseball with other fathers and daughters. Dream Camp is the brainchild of former pro ball player Bill Bain, one of Watson’s heroes. Kristy’s been thinking a lot about her biological father lately, because she got her love of baseball from him, but she’s excited to spend some one-on-one time with Watson.

Unfortunately, just before she goes to camp, Kristy gets bumped down to second string on the school softball team. She was pretty confident (read: egotistical) in her skills before the tryouts, which led to her not giving it her all, and she suffered as a consequence. Now she’s worried about going to camp with a bunch of truly committed, truly talented players.

Camp turns out to be pretty awesome, though. The coaches are former pro players, with a couple of All-American Girls Professional Baseball League players thrown in. They’re really helpful and encouraging. Kristy just wishes they were more organized. And since Kristy can’t help but be over-organized and take charge, she jumps in to help. The coaches are a little surprised but don’t discourage her from taking a leadership role. Still, Kristy’s a little down because she feels bad about being second string back at home.

As the week goes on, it becomes clear that Bill Bain is connected to the camp in name only. He pops up a couple times but doesn’t do any coaching (which was supposed to be one of the perks of the week), and he even blows Watson off when Watson tries to get some stuff signed. Basically, the guy’s a jerk. Kristy winds up telling him off, which just makes Watson mad, since she’s being rude to one of his childhood heroes. Really, though, he’s mad that this guy he worships isn’t worth being seen as a hero.

Kristy keeps thinking about her dad all week, wishing he could see her play. She also feels a little guilty that she wants to be with him so much when Watson, who’s been an actual father to her, is right there. She eventually decides that there’s nothing to feel guilty about, and that Watson is a great guy who she’s glad to have spent more time with. He’s proud of her for being a leader and speaking her mind. Kristy also helps a fellow player admit to her father that she doesn’t want to play baseball, because Kristy is truly a hero for our time.

Bill Bain totally gets that, and realizes that he’s a jerk. He starts to participate in camp stuff, crediting Kristy with turning things around for him because she told him what he needed to hear. At the end of camp, Kristy gets an award for coaching, since she was so helpful all week. She comes to terms with not being first string, deciding that it’s enough that she’ll get to play softball every day. Plus, she got to meet a bunch of famous people, so that’s pretty cool.

The B-plot is super-boring. David Michael starts collecting baseball cards and trading them with other kids in Stoneybrook. One of the kids is a little con man who takes advantage of the other kids’ lack of knowledge about the cards’ worth to trade for more valuable ones. Abby schools everyone by telling them that the cards her father gave her are more valuable to her than the actual valuable cards because they have sentimental value. David Michael decides to keep his “lesser” cards because he likes those players.

Thoughts: I would have no use for baseball camp, but I would go just to talk to the female players. One of them was a Rockford Peach, just like in A League of Their Own.

“I hadn’t even considered the possibility that I might make a friend at camp.” Because Kristy didn’t come here to make friends.

“How could I stay at Dream Camp when David Michael needed me?” 1) You’re only gone for a week. 2) You’re not his mother. 3) He doesn’t need you. 4) Calm the frick down.

Of course Kristy hits a home run in the last game at camp. I’m just surprised it’s not the game-winning play.

Just two more BSC books left! Don’t worry, I have another series all lined up as soon as I’m done with this one.

November 28, 2012

BSC Super Special #14, BSC in the USA: Are We There Yet?

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , at 8:35 pm by Jenn

Mallory, stop being a dork

Summary: The premise for this book is incredibly dumb. Dawn’s father has a friend who’s moving across the country, and Mr. Schafer offers to drive his RV from Connecticut to California for him. He somehow convinces Dawn and Jeff to come along, even though they were supposed to spend the summer in Stoneybrook. Watson hears about this and decides he wants to cancel the Brewer/Thomases’ vacation so they can also drive across the country in an RV. And of course, Kristy can bring friends (but no one else can). So all of the BSC girls get permission to go along, and a trip that started out with three people balloons to include 15:

RV 1: Mr. Schafer, Dawn, Jeff, Kristy (her travel route didn’t match the rest of her family’s), Claudia, Stacey, Mary Anne

RV 2: Watson, Mrs. Brewer, Abby, Jessi, Mallory, David Michael, Karen, Andrew

Sam and Charlie are at camp, and the family is smart enough to leave Emily Michelle behind with Nannie. (Can you imagine two weeks in an RV with a two-year-old?) The idea is that everyone gets to pick a special place to visit, and there will be other touristy stops along the way. RV 1 goes north, RV 2 goes south, and everyone meets up in California.

Highlights/lowlights from RV 1:

  • Kristy wants to visit as many baseball stadiums as possible and buy hats from them (plus go to some games, obviously). It’s something she once discussed doing with her father. At a Giants game, she sees him on a Jumbotron and manages to track him down. They talk briefly but he promises to write. Notably, he doesn’t ask about any of the rest of the family.
  • Dawn wants to go to a ghost town, but the one she picks is corny. The group ends up having fun there anyway.
  • Claudia goes to the Art Institute of Chicago, but nothing interesting happens. Later she stops at a flea market and buys a sketch that reminds her of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work. When she gets to California, she looks at the back and discovers that it is an early O’Keeffe. Mr. Schafer’s friend, an art appraiser, offers her $500 for it, but she decides to keep it.
  • Stacey has a not-that-funny comedy of errors in Seattle when she tries to meet up with Ethan at a coffee shop. Also, she thinks Claudia read her diary and spends most of the book mad at her.
  • Mary Anne has no imagination and only wants to go to Maynard, Iowa, to spend time with her grandmother. (They end up meeting at the Mall of America instead.) She spends most of the book on edge because Mr. Schafer keeps making snarky comments about her and her father. She finally confronts him and he apologizes.
  • Jeff wants to go rock climbing in Yellowstone, and also get away from all the girls. I kind of feel bad that he has to spend his vacation with drama queens.
  • I don’t remember what Mr. Schafer wants to do, and I don’t care since he’s annoying in this book. He also runs out of gas in the Badlands and leaves the girls and Jeff alone in the RV so he can get help.

Highlights/lowlights from RV 2:

  • Abby is apparently obsessed with Elvis, which I don’t remember hearing about before, so she wants to go to Graceland. There’s some uninteresting stuff with an Elvis impersonator.
  • Jessi first takes everyone to her grandparents’ home in New Jersey and briefly suspects that Mallory is racist. (Um, what?) Her grandmother points out that Mallory is just uncomfortable because she’s with a bunch of people she doesn’t know, and she wants to make a good impression. Jessi’s other destination is Dalton, Mississippi, where some of her relatives were slaves. She sees firsthand how horrible that point in history was for black people.
  • Mallory wants to go to Chincoteague, because she’s still obsessed with horses. She does nothing interesting the rest of the book.
  • Watson has a college friend in Oklahoma, so the group stops at his house for lunch before going to a rodeo, David Michael’s pick. A tornado hits and everyone has to hide out in the bathroom. It might have been interesting if there was any possibility that someone could die.
  • Karen wants to go to Four Corners, the spot where four states touch. Karen is boring.
  • Andrew is obsessed with the pandas at the San Diego Zoo and has a full-on meltdown when he hears that one that’s supposed to give birth has been sent back to China. Then it turns out she wasn’t. I don’t know.
  • Mrs. Brewer wants to see the Grand Canyon, and Abby is secretly freaking out about it. It turns out that her father loved the Grand Canyon, and her family was planning a vacation there just before he died. When they arrive, Abby is sad at first but manages to enjoy the experience, feeling like her dad’s spirit is with her. She later writes in her journal that her dad once gave her a pep talk based on that “teach a man to fish” saying, and she sees the Grand Canyon as a huge fishing pond. She plans to fish a lot and bring her mom and sister back there one day. It’s really sweet and a little sad and I totally did not get a little misty-eyed, someone was chopping onions, shut up.

They also keep running into this annoying girl, Liz, who’s traveling with her grandparents. It’s dumb. There’s also a brief stop in New Mexico, where they meet some of the Stoneybrook kids’ pen pals. It’s actually too bad Dawn didn’t get to make that trip, since she was the force behind that whole thing.

Thoughts: I know I’m definitely, for real an adult because I can’t help wondering how expensive this trip was. Gas, food, baseball tickets, admission fees to the rodeo and things like that, souvenirs…that’s a big chunk of change.

Also, how do they all get home? Does Watson have to drive the rented RV back?

Also also, if I had to spend two weeks in an RV with anyone, I would probably never want to see them again.

Andrew whines a lot in this book. I don’t remember him being so annoying before. Maybe he’s just in a super-bad mood the whole two-week trip.

Watson’s college roommate’s last name is Romney. Um…

Who would you least want to be stuck in an RV with for two weeks, Karen or Dawn? Death is not an option.

December 31, 2011

BSC Super Mystery #2, Baby-sitters Beware: Ice Ice Baby-sitters

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 1:05 pm by Jenn

This never happened, but whatever

Summary: Spooky stuff is happening to the BSC girls. First, Kristy and Abby see someone apparently breaking into the house next to the Rodowskys’. The police (including Sgt. Johnson) are called in, but the house’s owner doesn’t think anything was stolen. Then some of the girls get notes and phone calls saying, “You’re next.” Mary Anne sees a possible stalker outside her house, Kristy gets a rock through her window, someone starts a fire in the trash cans outside Claudia’s house, and Stacey almost gets run down by a car.

The girls are pretty sure this isn’t just some prank Cokie’s playing, but telling an adult or calling the police again would be foolish, so of course they don’t do that. At the library, Abby finds a copy of the article about the girls thwarting the pet-napping ring in the trash, and the girls see that the photo that ran with the article is of Claudia, Stacey, Kristy, Mary Anne, and Dawn. With the exception of Dawn, these are the only girls who have gotten threats.

There’s really only one lead: Stacey remembers seeing a sticker on the bumper of the car that almost ran her down. The girls figure out that it’s from the Stoneybrook Business Bureau, but from the previous year, not the current one. They get a list of members of the bureau for both years but don’t get a chance to do much with it. They decide to keep an eye on the house where the possible break-in took place.

Meanwhile, Kristy’s family is taking a weekend ski trip at Shadow Lake, and she brings Claudia, Stacey, and Abby along. They think they’re leaving all the madness behind in Stoneybrook, but they’re wrong. Claudia accidentally winds up on a closed trail (the sign stating it’s closed is hidden), and she and Abby almost get stranded there. Stacey gets stuck on a ski lift. Kristy is almost flattened by a snowblower. All possible accidents, but the girls are suspicious.

Mary Anne is sitting for the Rodowskys when she sees a second break-in at the house next door, this one for real. She calls the police (and Logan), and the story comes out that the son of the house’s owner was stealing stuff to sell. The guy has no connection to the BSC girls’ troubles and even says he wouldn’t mess with kids. So it’s a red herring, but Mary Anne still solves a mystery.

The BSC members still in Stoneybrook gather for a weekend meeting and finally get around to looking at the list of Business Bureau members. Jessi realizes that one of the people who was a member the previous year but not currently is Karl Tate, the head of the dog-napping ring. A call to Sgt. Johnson lets the girls know that Tate is now out of jail. Mary Anne calls the girls at Shadow Lake and tells Stacey that Karl Tate is free, but there’s a blizzard coming, and the phone goes out before Stacey can hear more than his name.

Watson, Mrs. Brewer, and the little kids head into town for supplies while Kristy, Stacey, Claudia, Abby, Sam, and Charlie stay back to ride out the blizzard. A neighbor, Woodie, encourages them to go to the main lodge, but the teens decide to stay put. That is, until their chimney gets blocked and the cabin fills with smoke, forcing them out. They’re already on edge, what with the weirdness going on, and the fact that Stacey has spotted a woman they’ve seen before, Kris, lurking around with a gun. They decide to tell Sam and Charlie what’s going on once they all get to the main lodge with Woodie.

Back in Stoneybrook, Mary Anne, Logan, and Shannon take Shannon’s dog Astrid for a walk. Astrid chases a cat into Tate’s house, so the teens follow her inside to get her. They end up accidentally locking themselves in Tate’s study, where they find the photo from the article, this time with a big X through it. Then Mrs. Tate comes home and tells the teens that he needs to be stopped.

As the girls, Sam, Charlie, and Woodie head to the main lodge, Karl Tate appears and Abby knocks him out with a big chunk of ice. (Nice.) Next, Kris arrives, and the girls learn that she’s an FBI agent tailing him for violating the terms of his parole. (Just go with it.) Kris takes Tate away, and the others continue their trek to the main lodge. Suddenly, Woodie grabs Stacey and threatens to throw her in the freezing lake. He’s Tate’s son, and he’s basically been driven crazy by what a bunch of teenagers did to his father. Kristy thinks fast, throwing a flare at him, and he falls into the lake.

In the post-madness wrap-up, the girls learn that Tate came to stop Woodie, not to hurt them. And Kristy actually gets in some trouble for not telling her parents what was going on. But I doubt anyone will learn a lesson there.

The subplots, both boring and not (mostly boring):

  • Claudia thinks Abby is full of herself, since she keeps talking about what a good skier she is. Everyone else knows that Abby’s just a jokester and doesn’t really think she’s better than anyone. Claudia’s cold to Abby until their experience on the closed trail, and after that, they’re fine.
  • Mallory’s parents are putting in insulation at home, so she and Jessi have to skip the ski trip to watch her siblings. Mal is really ticked about this and doesn’t hide it well. She mopes around until Jessi tells her to cut it out. Mallory does occupy herself by putting together the club’s mystery notebook.
  • Mary Anne is mad at Logan because she’s been getting notes in his handwriting telling her not to cry. Logan’s also acting weird, which she thinks is evidence of his guilt. It turns out he’s also getting notes, seemingly in her handwriting, accusing him of lying. They work things out but never figure out who sent the notes. They figure it was probably Cokie.
  • Kristy is worried about Watson, thinking he’s doing too much since his heart attack. She keeps trying to do things for him so he’ll take it easy, finally telling him straight out that she’s worried. He assures her that his doctor said he’s doing really well and can even start exercising regularly. Kristy admits that she doesn’t want Watson to leave like her father did. It’s actually very sweet.
  • Kristy tells Stacey that Sam and his girlfriend have broken up, so Stacey’s worried that he’ll pursue her even though she’s dating Robert. Sam tells her that he thinks of her as a close friend now, though he doesn’t mind keeping his flirting skills sharp with her.

Thoughts: With the way she eats, I can’t believe Claudia still has Halloween candy in December.

When Claudia, Stacey, and Mary Anne smell smoke in Claudia’s house, Mary Anne opens the pantry. In case the canned goods have committed arson?

Abby coming up with Agatha Kristy made me giggle.

Jessi cracks the case on Karl Tate, so good for her. Junior officers are good for something after all.

Shannon’s presence in this book, however, is almost completely pointless. She’s only useful because of her dog. Ironic, though, that a pet-napper’s son was partly undone by a dog.

It’s a little funny that Dawn was really the person who sent Tate to jail, but she wasn’t one of Woodie’s targets.

July 4, 2011

BSC #81, Kristy and Mr. Mom: Serious as a Heart Attack

Posted in books tagged , , , at 12:45 pm by Jenn

It was then that David Michael realized no one had noticed he was turning into a rooster

Summary: Watson has a heart attack and is told to stop working so hard. He decides to become a stay-at-home dad and let his vice presidents take care of his company. This works out well – too well, in fact, because Nannie decides that Watson’s doing such a good job at her job that the family doesn’t need her anymore. She announces that she’s moving into her own place.

Everything continues to go all right until Karen and Andrew show up for a month. (Of course it’s Karen’s fault everything falls apart.) Then suddenly no one in a  position of responsibility can keep it together anymore. Kristy tells Nannie how things are going and asks for help hiring a housekeeper. Nannie tells her that the family doesn’t need a housekeeper, they need her back. In the end, Watson decides to work a few hours from home each day and split the household responsibilities with Nannie. Yay, happy ending!

While this is going on, Mrs. Marshall (mother of Nina and Eleanor) keeps hiring sitters and not telling them there will be three extra kids in the house while they’re sitting. Mallory even has to call Jessi to come over and help when one of the kids gets hurt. The next time Mrs. Marshall calls, two sitters go over, and when she refuses to pay both of them, they leave. Then they realize that no one ever told their clients that there’s a club rule about sending two sitters for more than four kids. So the BSC girls realize that they made a mistake, and Mrs. Marshall realizes that she shouldn’t have sprung the three extra kids on them, but I still think she’s kind of a jerk.

Thoughts: I hate the phrase “Mr. Mom.” It implies that there are different jobs for mothers and fathers. There’s no such thing as a Mr. Mom. A Mr. Mom is a dad.

I’m not sure we’ve ever heard before what Watson does, but he’s the CEO of an insurance company.

I’m impressed with how well Watson’s ex and her husband get along with the Thomases. They even hire sitters from the BSC.

Five adults and teenagers can’t handle four kids without Nannie? Watson and the Thomases (which sounds like a Thomas Edison tribute band) are truly incompetent. Remember, just a couple years ago, Mrs. Thomas was caring for four kids on her own.

April 11, 2010

BSC, The Summer Before: Growing Up is Awfuller Than All the Awful Things That Ever Were

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 4:51 pm by Jenn

Should Kristy be offended that her bracelet has a dog bone?

Summary: In the months before the series begins, Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, and Stacey struggle through the summer, dealing with tons of issues that all pretty much come down to one thing – growing up is really, really tough.

Kristy is about to turn 12, and all she wants for her birthday is some sort of contact from her estranged father. She also really doesn’t want her mom’s boyfriend Watson around, partly because she likes her family the way it is and partly because she doesn’t want Watson to replace her father. Kristy gets her hopes up way too much, and when her father doesn’t show, she beats herself up for putting so much faith in him. Mary Anne creates Kristy Day to cheer her up.

Claudia has fallen in looooove with an older boy named Frankie, effectively stealing him right out from under Janine. She’s spending so much time with her new boyfriend that she has less and less time for Kristy and Mary Anne, but she feels like they’re growing apart anyway, since Kristy and Mary Anne haven’t quite matured to Claudia’s level yet. Frankie winds up dumping Claudia when the age difference proves to be too much, and as Claudia realizes that she doesn’t have many friends to turn to (a point she brings up early in the series, when she says Stacey’s her first real best friend), she discovers that even though she, Mary Anne, and Kristy are different now, they still have a friendship.

Stacey is preparing to move from New York to Stoneybrook and leave behind the only life she’s ever known. She’s more excited than nervous, as her friends have become total witches and she wants a new start. She finds Stoneybrook much more comfortable than she expected, and as the book ends, she’s starting to form a friendship with Claudia.

Mary Anne is stuck between childhood and adolescence, but mostly because her father has stuck her there. She wants to babysit like Claudia and Kristy, but her father only lets her sit with another person. Meek, mousy little Mary Anne takes her first stand in this book, letting her father know that she’s growing up and, though she still respects his rules, they’re going to have to start changing.

Thoughts: This book has quite a different tone than the others in the series – it’s very bittersweet. But even in my 20s, I find it relatable. Things are changing for all four of the girls, and they don’t know how to handle the new things they’re dealing with. They’re all growing up, in their different ways, and some faster than others. And that’s what adolescence is like. Some people mature faster than others, some people fit in more than others, and some people handle change better than others. But everyone has to deal with new experiences and feeling out of control. It’s all part of growing up.

I find it hard to snark on most of this book. There are a lot of moments that feel very real – like Stacey realizing that her relationships with her old friends are never going to be the same, or Claudia realizing that she doesn’t have anyone she can really talk to, or Mary Anne being frustrated over her the way her father treats her, or Kristy feeling devastated over the fact that her own father hasn’t taken the time to acknowledge her birthday. I think every woman can relate to this book. We were all teenagers once, and it wasn’t easy. No one has a perfect life. These girls just find a way to make it work.

Okay, so there is some snark here. Why does Stacey’s mom tell her to “have fun and be careful” in Connecticut but not in New York? Because Connecticut is such a dangerous place?

Janine wears jeans. Does that seem out of character to anyone else?

Possibly the best line ever in a BSC book, from Stacey, re: Laine, who has seemingly turned everyone against Stacey so that Laine won’t turn on them: “Her Royal Meanness had evil superpowers.” Laine is a complete bitca in this book, and I’m kind of surprised Stacey agrees to be friends with her again in The Truth About Stacey.

Should I be concerned that Stacey asks her parents for a dog after seeing a sign for a taxidermist?

Yeah, I bet there’s a synagogue in Stoneybrook.

October 10, 2009

BSC #1, Kristy’s Great Idea: “Sheep are IN”

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , at 11:37 pm by Jenn

As if Kristy would wear a jumper.

Summary: Kristy’s mom has trouble finding a baby-sitter one night, which inspires Kristy to come up with the idea of a club where parents can call one phone number and reach a number of possible sitters. She invites her best friend, Mary Anne, and their across-the-street neighbor Claudia to join. Claudia brings in the new girl at school, Stacey, who’s supposedly sophisticated because she moved from New York City, but who acts weird about food and is clearly keeping a secret. (It’s diabetes. You’ll hear a lot about that in future books.) Kristy is also dealing with her mother’s relationship with the rich Watson, who has two young children Kristy wants nothing to do with.

Thoughts: The Baby-sitters Club books were one of my biggest obsessions when I was younger (the other biggest obsession being Saved By the Bell). I read them all numerous times. I dressed up as Stacey for Halloween when I was about nine. (Yeah, no one got it.) I bought every book as soon as it came out and read it immediately.

Revisiting the BSC books a few years ago was a great trip down memory lane. They’re extremely G-rated and inoffensive, unlike a lot of YA literature out there now. (No vampires in Stoneybrook.) They’re outdated in many ways, but for the most part, they can still apply. There’s a lot in the series about accepting people who are different, working to make friendships last, and being yourself. (Also, grammar! I still remember some of Janine’s grammar lessons, like when it’s appropriate to use the work “hopefully.”) Even though the girls are only 12 at the beginning of the series, they demonstrate a lot of responsibility, and I can actually see people hiring them to baby-sit. Though I started baby-sitting around that age, so maybe I’m biased.

The early books always amaze me with how much they fit into so few pages. There really aren’t wasted scenes (well, for the most part), and they also do a good job of establishing characters and relationships. In addition, because the characters are still underdeveloped, they’re not as annoying as they become later. Kristy isn’t bossy at all, and Karen is only slightly irritating. Just wait for the later books when you want to pinch her every time she shows up, whether she opens her mouth or not.

Oh, but there’s also a lot of snark. Any loyal BSC fan knows that some of the more interesting parts of the books come from Claudia’s outfits. Here are her outfits in Kristy’s Great Idea, as well as a couple of Stacey’s:

  • Claudia wears “short, very baggy lavender plaid overalls, a white lacy blouse, a black fedora, and red high-top sneakers without socks.”
  • She later wears “a baggy yellow- and black-checked shirt, black pants, red jazz shoes, and a bracelet that looked like it was made from a telephone cord.” Along with this she wears earrings shaped like skeletons.
  • Stacey wears “a pink sweat shirt with sequins and a large purple parrot on the front.” Sounds ultra-sophisticated to me.
  • When she first meets Sam, Kristy’s older brother, Stacey is wearing “a matching top and skirt made of gray sweat shirt material with big yellow number tens all over it. Her hair was pinned back with clips shaped like rainbows. Little silver whistles were dangling from her ears.”

This is also the book where, during a fight about fashion with Kristy, Claudia utters the instantly classic line, “Sheep are in.” Indeed, Claudia. Indeed.