Sunday, September 16, 2018

BSC #59: Mallory Hates Boys (and Gym)

Tagline: Boys and gym. What a disgusting combination!

Mallory has never been a sports person. in fact, you could say gym is her least favourite subject. But now Mal's worst subject has turned into an absolute nightmare. Gym class has gone co-ed!

Mal feels totally gross in her ugly, oversized gym suit. And once they boys find out she can't play volleyball, they decide to make her life miserable.

Mal's always hated gym. But she's beginning to hate boys even more!

Right away, we're thrown into the busy pandemonium that is the Pike household. Mrs Pike tries to kick everyone outside, which is good because Mallory invited Ben Hobart over for a study session, but the quiet ends up being short-lived when the boys all come back in the house to bother Mallory and tease her about her ~*~boyfriend~*~. This leads to Mallory and Ben relocating to the Hobart residence, where Mallory was treated to a nice quiet household, younger brothers who do their own thing away from her and Ben, and homemade chocolate cake. Ben assures Mallory that it's not always like this, but Mallory sees the Hobart residence as heaven.

Things kick off though when Mallory goes back to school, and it's time to start a new unit in gym class. To Mallory's horror, not only is it volley-ball, but it's being done co-ed with the boys' gym class. At first, Mallory tries to stay home from school, but the rest of her siblings want to jump on the bandwagon, so that ends things quickly. Next, Mallory decides she's going to pretend to faint in the changeroom, just before class, so she won't even have to change. But then she gets nervous, waits too long, and "faints" with no witnesses. The phys. ed. teacher just tells her to haul her butt out into the gym.

The good news is that the teams are picked at random, so Mallory doesn't have to worry about one of her classmates deliberately picking her last. Unfortunately, once the game gets started, things go very very bad. The athletic boys on the opposing team purposefully target the ball right at her, and she keeps ducking or running away. A boy on her team tries to get the ball in her stead, but ends up plowing into Mallory when she doesn't get out of the way fast enough. Her gym teacher keeps yelling out advice to Mallory, but Mallory just feels even more singled out and targeted. All in all, it's an absolutely miserable experience for her.

Mallory's day doesn't get any better when she shows up at the Newtons for a baby-sitting job. Mrs Newton warns Mallory that Jamie's been acting up lately, but Mallory assures her that everything is going to be okay. Unfortunately, it isn't, and Jamie spends the whole time being a brat. He breaks all his crayons and throws them at Lucy's bedroom door while she's napping, claiming he's making "rockets". Then he screams that he wants to call and hang out with his friend, which wakes up Lucy. Then while Lucy's getting changed, Jamie runs off and hides, frightening Mallory. Eventually Mallory finds him, and they get into a juvenile insult match, before Jamie starts running around the house again. He eventually knocks over a vase, and then cuts himself on one of the glass shards. As Mallory tries to clean him up, Jamie fights and screams, acting more like Mallory's trying to amputate his finger than put a band-aid on it.!

Meanwhile, Jessi has her own baby-sitting woes with her siblings, in particular Squirt, who's being a handful. This leads Mallory to the come to the conclusion that all boys are awful! This is further reinforced during her next gym class, where things aren't any better. She gets clobbered in the face by the ball, and while the boy who served it apologizes, Mallory's had enough. She snaps at him, she snaps at her gym teacher, and gets sent off the court for the rest of class. Mallory goes home where her mom leaves her in charge of her siblings, because she has to pick up Margo from school. The boys annoy Mallory, and she runs to her room to wallow in despair.

Mallory eventually comes to the conclusion that if she benches herself, she won't have to play volley-ball. At first, she has an internal conflict, warring over her need to be good and have an unblemished school record, but eventually she decides to go through with it. It leads to her getting detention. Mallory muses that this might be the start of her descent into a life of mischief and crime, but ultimately decides that detention isn't so bad when she realizes that she can do her homework in peace and quiet, completely undisturbed. No volley-ball and time to do homework? This seems like a win to Mallory, until she's told that her parents will receive a written notification about her detention. This leads Mallory deciding that she'll just have to commit mail fraud and intercept the mail every day for the next few weeks, until the volley-ball unit and all her detentions are over.

At the next Club meeting, Mallory declares in front of everyone (including Logan, who was attending the meeting) that boys are pains and that they are no good. She mentions that Logan and Ben may be the exceptions (Ben waited after school for Mallory, even though her detention), but that overall, boys sucked. Later, Jessi tries talking to Mallory, saying that she's just equating boys with her hatred for volley-ball. Mallory insists that they're one and the same: boys love volley-ball, so volley-ball is horrible just like boys. When Jessi tries to tell Mallory that she likes volley-ball, Mallory stubbornly ignores her.

Eventually, Mallory sits for the Hobart boys, and realizes that they're perfectly fine. She then comes to the conclusion that it's because they're foreign, and that there must be something about the way Stoneybrook raises children that's adversely affecting the boys. Mallory eventually decides it's because of phys. ed., and how much importance is placed on boys and sports and winning. Mallory keeps contemplating all this while the Hobart boys calmly watch a martial arts film. Eventually Ben returns home, and is surprised at how good his brothers are being. Mallory cannot believe him, and keeps telling him how she'd trade brothers with him any day.

It comes to Mallory's attention that by constantly sitting out phys. ed., she runs the risk of failing, so she decides to try volley-ball again. Her teammates don't greet her warmly, and eventually Mallory gives up again. Instead of barking out encouragement, her teacher tries to actually talk to Mallory about what's going on. However, she ends up just further creating resentment in Mallory by equating quitting volley-ball in gym class to being a failure in life, and Mallory just doubles down on her detentions. Since clearly detention isn't a deterrent for Mallory, she instead gets assigned to wash all the pinnies from the phys. ed. classes using the washing machines in the home ec. room. This humiliates Mallory, as she has to keep the classroom door open, and everyone in her class stops by to tease her.

So things continue, with the Club members having trouble with the boys they sit for, and Mallory having trouble with phys. ed. class and the boys in her class. Then Mallory forgets to get the mail, and her parents finally find out about the detention. Her mom sits down and talks to Mallory, and Mallory breaks down crying, explaining everything. Her mom talks her through things, and Mallory realizes how good it feels to cry and get it all out and to stop trying to act so tough. She promises her mother to talk to her teacher and actually try volley-ball.

So Mallory talks to her teacher, and although her teacher isn't willing to make someone sit out and give Mallory pointers, she does offer to talk to the boys' gym teacher and have them lay off Mallory a bit. She points out that in terms of game strategy, they're playing exactly right, but that she can see how it's getting on Mallory's nerves and making her life miserable. Mallory survives the last 4 sessions of volley-ball, but is ultimately happy when it's over. Unfortunately for her, she now has to worry about getting impaled by arrows, as they're doing archery next and it's still with the boys. However, unlike volley-ball, there's a sense of order and precision to archery. Because of the high risk factor, everything has to be done on command: everyone shoots together, everyone retrieves together. Also: everyone was on even ground, because it was everyone's first time doing archery. Because of how few people could shoot at a time, Mallory gets lots of time to watch people and absorb the instructions and think about it. When she goes to shoot, she finds she can't even draw back the string, but her teacher then gives her a smaller bow. With a lighter bow, Mallory is actually able to shoot, and is actually pretty good at it! By the end of class, Mallory has a bull's-eye, and her teacher asks her to try out for the school's archery team!

Mallory then spends time agonizing over whether she should even bother trying out. Eventually, she does and predictably makes the team. When she gets home, she finds that her brothers had baked a cake for her and written "Congratulations Mallory" on it (well, as best they could haha). This proves to Mallory that maybe boys and gym aren't all bad all  the time.

The "subplot" in this one is all of Mallory's wanting to switch brothers with Ben coming to fruition. They switch brothers for one night. Mallory's expecting a night of peace, but what she gets is terror. First, the boys are really excited about bunk beds and sharing one room for all of them. They've always wanted bunk beds, and sharing one room made it seem even more like a sleepover party. Then Mallory introduces them to the rec room, which they interpret as the "wreck" room, and get excited about a place they're allowed to make a mess in (they have a living room and a den at their place). The girls get really excited about their guests, and teach the boys all about jumping up and down on furniture, which is something they apparently don't do at their home. The Pike household also had all sorts of games and things that the Hobarts weren't used to, and they weren't used to sitting at such an unusual dining space for dinner. (The Hobarts have a dining table that seats 6: their parents at either end, with two boys on each side on their own chair; the Pikes have a long table with bench-like seating, almost like a giant indoor picnic table.) Then with so many "siblings" to distract them, the boys couldn't settle for bed, and the girls were excited for new guests, and they tried telling scary stories and having one giant slumber party in the boys' room. Mallory cannot believe it, and can't wait to swap back with Ben. The night-time doesn't get any better, as the boys can't sleep all in the same room and bunk beds prove to be too distracting for them. Eventually Ben calls Mallory and asks if she wants to swap back. Mallory is expecting Ben to tell her how terrible her brothers were, but he says they were perfect guests and tells her about all the special things they did together. It makes Mallory realize that boys are boys, and to appreciate her own siblings a bit more.

Random Thoughts:
  • I don't remember liking this one. At all. I also get this one and Mallory on Strike mixed up. 
  • I like how right on the first page, Mallory goes into her rec room, declares that it's pandemonium, and proceeds to repeat herself because "no one had paid any attention to me the first time". It's such a childish thing to do!
  • I always like when the ghost writers take time to single Byron out as being quieter, more sensitive, not as athletic as the other two triplets.
  • This book always makes me glad I only had one sibling, and that we were far enough apart in  age that I never saw him! It also makes me very very very glad I live alone now!
  • Also: thanks to Mallory gushing over Mrs Hobart's homemade chocolate cake, now I want chocolate cake! The problem is: I'm not generally a fan of chocolate cake, so there's no point in my buying or baking an entire cake just for myself! haha
  • In my middle school, we were allowed to wear our own clothes for phys. ed. class. In high school, we were given school t-shirts that we were expected to wear (the t-shirts came in 4 colours, and were evenly distributed, so it was a quick and easy way to always establish teams) but we could wear whatever we wanted on the bottom. I can't imagine having a standardized gym uniform. I felt ugly and awkward enough doing phys. ed., and I got to wear whatever I wanted!
    • That being said, unlike Mallory, I always loved volley-ball. It was the sport I was best at (which really isn't saying much haha)! In middle school, our phys. ed. classes were segregated, but volleyball was one of the units we did together due to the limited amount of nets you could set up in the half-gym (in the half-gym, you only got 2 nets [one in each half, so each gym class would only have one court to play on]... in the full gym, you could get 3!)
  • As annoying as Mallory's whining and moaning is, I have to admit, it's probably fairly realistic. I was fairly over-dramatic as a preteen/teen (I still am!) and I definitely was not the biggest fan of phys. ed.
    • Her pretending to faint reminds me of how she pretended (and then actually did!) sprain her ankle to get out of the Sports Festival thing.
  • Mallory notices that Jamie is acting up, deduces that he's probably feeling jealousy or resentment towards Lucy... but she still then goes on to gush about Lucy and talk about Lucy and be like, "OMG JAMIE, LUCY HAS CHANGED SO MUCH SINCE I LAST SAW HER, THIS IS GREAT!" Like, wow, baby-sitter of the year here haha
    • Again, this just served to remind me how much I'm glad I don't have children and that I live alone! haha
  • As juvenile and stubborn as Mallory is being, she actually does somewhat have a point about the way boys are taught in phys. ed. and how girls are taught in phys. ed. It's part of this toxic masculinity that makes boys feel like they have to be the strongest and the winningest at everything.
  • I hate however how when Jessi says she doesn't mind volley-ball, Mallory is a jerk to her and just insists that Jessi is being crazy and has taken one too many balls to the head.
  • I think part of what makes the Hobarts act up at the Pike household and the Pikes behave in the Hobart household is how the households are. It's hard to see yourself as a guest when it's a house full of children and the Pikes are clearly lackadaisical about child-rearing, whereas the in the Hobart household, everything is quiet and calm, so the Pike boys are able to better see themselves as guests and behave accordingly. Furthermore, Mrs Hobart made them a special dinner and they ate in a dining room, further reinforcing their status as guests. This is even lampshaded by Matthew telling Ben, "We had a great time. They have bunk beds and you can do whatever you want here."
  • I have always wanted to do archery. I think I might do it this year! I'm sure I'll be terrible haha
  • I can sympathize with Mallory not wanting to try out for the archery team. I spent my childhood and adolescence believing that I was terrible at sports (and while I generally wasn't great, I wasn't terrible either; I mostly lacked confidence. There were a few sports I enjoyed that if I had had more self-confidence and put more effort into, I probably would've been pretty good at!), and so that meant I could never do anything even remotely athletic. At all. It's taken a few years, but I now actually enjoy physical activity! I'm still not great at it, and I would definitely never call myself an athlete, but it's something I can do and feel proud of myself for.
  • We of course, never hear about Mallory doing archery ever again. Never.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

BSC #58: Stacey's Choice

Tagline: This is one choice Stacey's going to have to make by herself.

Since Staacey's parents got divorced it hasn't been easy. Stacey hates being put in the middle of them. And even though she gets to see her dad often, Stacey misses him. Sometimes she wishes she were just a regular kid with a regular family.

But now both of her parents are depending on Stacey. They each need her - badly. And she can't be in Stoneybrook and New York at the same time.

How will Stacey ever choose between her mom and her dad... again?

Things start off with Stacey walking home from school with Mallory, musing about how nice the seasons are in Stoneybrook. We then get a whole lot of introduction from Stacey about her life, living in New York, and subsequently how things are in Stoneybrook. Stacey goes home briefly to drop things off and check in with her mom before heading back to Mallory's to baby-sit. Mrs McGill has been looking for a job, since her father's money has to go to both an apartment in New York, their house in Stoneybrook, alimony and child support, and there just isn't enough to go around. Stacey notes that her mother looks exhausted, and assumes that it's because she's had so many interviews and things to prepare. Mrs McGill says she's fine, and just before Stacey leaves for her sitting job, she gets a phone call from her father: he's just been promoted to vice president of his company. There's going to be a big dinner party to honour him, and he wants Stacey to be his date. Stacey is thrilled, and can't wait to spend the weekend with her father.

The girls help Stacey find an outfit for Stacey. They go downtown, and stop at all the hot spots: Bellairs, Zingy's, Merry Go Round. Eventually Stacey finds an outfit in the least likely of places: Zingy's. Coming home, Stacey is very thrilled and can't wait to show her mom. She finds her mom resting on the couch however. Her mom brushes it off, saying that she's just tired, and encourages Stacey's outfit. Mrs McGill then mentions that she has an interview at Bellairs, which pleases Stacey to no end. Stacey is happy for both of her parents, and can't wait for the following weekend to go to dinner with her dad.

It's Monday, and Stacey is in the middle of an algebra test when she gets called down to the office. There, she finds out that her mother collapsed during a job interview, that her mother is in the hospital, and that Mrs Pike will be there shortly to pick her up. Stacey is all anxious, and when she gets to the hospital, she finds her mom lying on a gurney, waiting for medical treatment. They don't know what's wrong; Stacey assumes it's the flu, but Mrs McGill is pretty sure it's something more. Sure enough, they soon find out that Mrs. McGill has pneumonia. The good news is that she can recover at home, but the bad news is that she'll be pretty tired and out of it for awhile.

Stacey, wracked with worry and guilt, takes it upon herself to take care of her mother. She stays home from school on Tuesday to play nurse. Despite her mother's reassurances though, Stacey is worried about going to New York that weekend to be with her dad. Her father tells her that everything will be okay, that he can even arrange for a visiting nurse if Stacey wants. He then unintentionally guilt trips her, by telling her how much her going to New York and being his guest at the dinner in his honour means to him. This leaves Stacey torn, as she wants to be a good daughter, and be there for both parents. It's just added stress on top of what Stacey's already feeling regarding her mother's illness.

To make herself feel better, Stacey starts organizing a schedule of friends and neighbours, so that her mom will never be alone, and Stacey can still attend school. It works pretty well, and Stacey feels some sense of relief. However, she still can't decide what to do about her dad and his dinner. Eventually, she decides that she can't go. She calls him to let her know, and he's incredibly sad and disappointed. Stacey, stressed and guilt-ridden, snaps at him and says that he'd have other date options than her if he wasn't such a workaholic. They end the phone call on a pretty bad note.

The next day, Stacey decides that she can do a compromise: she can go to dinner Friday night with her dad, but then go back to be with her mom immediately Saturday morning, instead of being away for the whole weekend. She calls her dad with the news, and they're in the process of making arrangements for Friday night (he wants to hire a nurse, she wants to schedule more friends), when they're interrupted by a call from Mrs. McGill's doctor with the bloodwork. The good news is that Mrs McGill really does just simply have pneumonia. Stacey is in a rush, trying to pack, plan her mom's sitters, and take care of the house, when Mrs Pike comes over and helps out.

Friday, Stacey goes to New York to be with her dad. Of course, the train's delayed and there's traffic, so Stacey's already stressed mind is further compounded. The dinner is very extravagant, even more so than Stacey expected. There are a million courses, and speeches, and Stacey's introduced to all sorts of important people from her dad's company. By the time all the formal things are over, it's 10:30. Throughout the evening, Stacey keeps calling home to check in on her mom, and finally, Stacey can't take it anymore, and just wants to go to sleep so she can catch her train in the morning. Mr McGill is disappointed, as now that the formal things are over, the dancing and fun were to begin. However, Stacey is adamant about leaving, since she's catching such an early train in the morning.

In the morning, Mr McGill is less than thrilled about how everything went, and chastizes Stacey for being a terrible dinner date and being the first to leave a party in his honour. Stacey gets home, and finds Mrs Pike in a bad mood, as well as numerous neighbours and a visiting nurse. Turns out there was some scheduling issues. For the rest of Saturday, Stacey is stuck fielding people left and right. Finally, everything gets sorted out, everyone gets sent home, and Stacey has a chat with her mom, where she learns that she can't do everything herself and do be everything for everyone.

The subplot in this one is that the Pikes (and subsequently all their friends) discover the joys of mail-in rebates and other forms of mail orders. So they start buying all this really random stuff from the back of magazines and newspapers and other publications. Stuff like, a bust developer and a miracle needle-threader. Basically, they're just enamoured by the idea that they can get stuff for under 2$, so they get it all. When the stuff starts slowly arriving, the kids are even more excited to have their own mail, which spurs them to buy even more stuff. Eventually, the stuff starts arriving on masse. The kids soon discover that they each ordered "moondust", supposedly only 20 samples exist. The older kids realize that it's a scam, and slowly, they all realize that they've ordered a bunch of useless stuff that no one can use. They decide to put together a travelling show and sell everything to their neighbours.

Random Thoughts:
  • This one is one of my favourites. I've actually already re-read it recently (well, last year)!
  • I feel like Mrs McGill has been looking for a job for ever now. Didn't she look for a job before?
  • Stacey's outfit does not sound appropriate. Not particularly for a 13 year old, but especially not for a business dinner party: knee-length hot pink (fake) silk jacket, black leggings, pink and black socks, black bodysuit, black flats, and then some accessories.
  • This is the first time we hear about the Rosebud Cafe, the hot spot for all dates from this point forward.  It didn't even occur to me that we hadn't heard it mentioned at all until now. It's just so ubiquitous to me! But apparently it just opened.
  • I never did any mail-in things as a kid. Either they just weren't as mainstream in the mid-90s, or my family just didn't get enough magazines. But if I had known about them, you better believe I would have signed up for so many stupid dumb offers like the Pikes and their friends do!
    • Getting mail is REALLY exciting! I mean, when it's not bills or junk, which is what 99% of my mail is. It's one of the reasons why I love online shopping and monthly subscriptions and what not!
  • I love that Buddy wants to be like Arnold Schwarzenegger. I love these '90s references!
  • I find it weird that the office would call for Stacey over the classroom PA system, but I guess that makes sense. I'm pretty sure that's how they did it when I was in elementary school. I think by the time I got to high school though, they had switched to the in-house phone system, so they'd call the classroom, and there'd be some sense of privacy. It's definitely how they do it now.
  • Like Stacey, I love algebra and solving for X. It really is like a mystery!! I love logic puzzles and that kind of thing.
  • Man, poor Stacey. It's pretty scary when your parent gets sick, let alone when it's your only parent (in the immediate area) and you're an only child.
  • Ed is pretty good guy with regards to his ex-wife's health. However, he does lose some cool points for not being more understanding that his only teenage daughter might be more concerned and fearful about her only parent she's with 95% of the time.
  • There's a mistake in this one that says "Mary Anne's mother". They probably meant to write Dawn, or refer to Sharon her MA's stepmom.
  • There's some stuff that happens at the end of the book that really has no direct bearing on the plot:
    • Stacey had been worried about Sam losing interest in her when she was busy with her mom, but they end up planning a date in the end.
    • Stacey's mom gets the job at Bellairs.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

BSC #57: Dawn Saves the Planet

 Tagline: She baby-sits, she recycles - she's Super Dawn!

Dawn thinks studying ecology is so cool. For a science project, she and Stacey are even teaching an ecology class to some of their baby-sitting charges. It's fun to get kids excited about cleaning up the earth.

But Dawn isn't through yet. She wants to start a recycling center at SMS. The Baby-sitters and most of the students are all for it, but Dawn needs a lot of help. And lately she's been so busy lecturing people about being environmentally responsible that no one can stand being around her!

Poor Dawn. She's trying to do a good thing - but she's driving everyone crazy!

So we're in Dawn's science class, and her teacher, Mrs Gonzalez, asks if the students think they can save the planet. Dawn, of course, thinks that yes, they can.Their teacher agrees, and assigns them to do an independent study project, where they tackle some sort of global/environmental issue, and try to figure out ways to solve it. Dawn can't wait. She's got all sorts of ideas, and can't get settled on one topic/issue. Stacey, who's in a different science class with Mrs Gonzalez, unfortunately can't think of any. Dawn isn't too worried, saying that they have plenty of time to think of something.

The next day though, Dawn gets some inspiration while sitting for the Barretts. She had checked out some books about ecology and marine life from the library, and starts telling them about how they can save dolphins and other sea creatures. Seeing their enthusiasm, Dawn decides that maybe she could start an after-school ecology club/class for their sitting charges, and use that for her project. Dawn, realizing how big this might be, recruits Stacey, and they get permission from Mrs. Gonzalez to do their project together.

Things get off to a great start. Dawn and Stacey get together and start organizing and planning their curriculum. It's decided that they'll do 6 weeks of classes, and call a number of clients to get them involved. They even agree on a final task, which will be a Green Fair, where their clients will present their own ideas for saving the planet. All in all, Dawn and Stacey are pretty stoked.

Their first class is a success. They do a general overview of recycling and how the Earth isn't as shiny and as clean as it may seem. They teach the children that if they don't take care of the Earth, the Earth might not be around for much longer. They then conclude with an experiment, where they bury an apple core, a piece of lettuce, some Styrofoam and plastic packaging in Stacey's backyard. The girls tell the kids that they'll dig it all up in a few weeks to see what's "good garbage" and what's "bad garbage". They then take the kids home and consider everything to be a success.

Dawn really gets into things, and does all sorts of extra reading. With her mind full of ideas and facts and figures, she ends up going to the next Club meeting with only one thing on her mind: recycling. Turns out that Stoneybrook only has one giant central recycling bin, and it's next to the courthouse. She wants to make the middle school another drop-off location. Everywhere Dawn looks, she sees how wasteful things are and how many more things can be recycled. The Club members laugh it off and mock her a bit for being so dramatic. Dawn gets frustrated, and doubles down on her efforts to raise awareness.

We're then treated to a chapter of Jessi and Mallory baby-sitting for the Pikes. Despite only Vanessa and Nicky being enrolled in Dawn and Stacey's class, the rest of household (including the triplets!) really take the words to heart, and start a "Green Patrol", trying to enforce all sorts of good and ecologically friendly habits. Unfortunately, Jessi and Mallory don't learn fast enough, and are forced to go to "Green School", where they have to recite the rules for saving the planet over and over. This definitely sours them on Dawn and all things ecological.

Meanwhile, Dawn has come up with a complete and comprehensive plan on how to turn SMS into a neighbourhood recycling hub, that will then bring things down to the courthouse for everyone. She runs it by Mrs. Gonzalez, who is 100% supportive of Dawn. Dawn then has to run it by Mr. Kingbridge, the vice-principal. He's definitely interested in what Dawn has to say, and is very impressed by all her planning and foresight, but he's not ready to run with something until she has more support. He gives her a week and a half to get the support of the student body, before he'll agree to move forward with her project.

Dawn gets Mary Anne to help her make a sign and recruit students the next day. Things seem like they're going well. Dawn starts by talking to Erica Blumberg, who's a good student and heavily involved in extra-curriculars. Erica is open to the idea... until Dawn shouts at her for not recyling her soda can. The problem is, there's no place to recycle it! Dawn soon starts lecturing everyone over everything, and as MA points out, alienates people and turns them off from her cause. MA finally gets fed up, and leaves Dawn, citing homework to do. Dawn's all confused though. She doesn't understand how being passionate about something that's so important is a bad thing.

Dawn starts getting progressively more and more bossy. At one of the later eco-classes, Claudia attends with Charlotte, and Claudia sees first-hand how over-the-top Dawn is. Dawn barely lets Stacey get a word in, and kills the children's enthusiasm by chastising them for not spreading the word about recycling. Stacey and Dawn had originally planned on getting the kids to make the flyers, but since she's there, Dawn asks if Claudia can do it, citing that it's more important for the posters to look good. Later on, Stacey calls Claudia to complain. Claudia doesn't think it can be that bad; afterall, Dawn is passionate about such a good cause! However Stacey tells Claudia that if it weren't for the kids, she'd have quit the project a long time ago and have done something on her own. She worries that this project is killing her friendship with Dawn.

Meanwhile, Dawn continues her efforts to get the SMS recyling program going. She spends her week and a half grilling the entire student body, and finally it comes down to them filling out an anonymous survey about their interest. Not only will the survey greenlight the project, but it also asks them to name a person to run it all, with Dawn and Mrs Gonzalez listed (and then an "other" open for suggestions). At the end of the day, all the votes are tallied, and it turns out that yes, the students are definitely interested in recycling! However, to Dawn's dismay, they also voted Mrs Gonzalez, not her, to be head of it all. At first Dawn rationalizes that it's because they'd rather have an adult in charge, but eventually she overhears some of the students talking about how obnoxious she's been lately and how they can't stand her. This really hurts Dawn's feelings, and she breaks down in the bathroom and cries.

Dawn then completely retreats from the SMS recycling program. The day for the grand opening comes, and she hasn't helped at all, nor was she interviewed for the paper or given much credit. All in all, Dawn feels pretty crummy about everything. However, she doesn't fully learn her lesson, as she still bosses Stacey around about their ecology class and is completely overbearing with the Club, trying to get them involved in the Green Fair. Finally, the girls have had enough, and tell Dawn exactly what's going on. Dawn gets sad again, but the girls point out that she had good intentions and that they love that she's passionate: she just needs to tone it down a bit and stop making everyone feel like a criminal. Dawn agrees, and they all make up.

The final event of the story is the Green Fair. After a few hiccups (which really, when you involve that many kids, something's bound to go wrong; overall nothing disastrous), things start really picking up. All the parents are impressed by how enthusiastic the kids are, and how much they've learned. Mrs Gonzalez shows up to support Dawn and Stacey. The kids raise a lot of money and a lot of awareness. Dawn and Stacey decide to donate all the money raised to the new SMS recycling program.

Lastly, Dawn and Stacey turn in their final reports for their projects. To show their own individual work, they each wrote separate personal essays for their own reports, detailing what they learned from the project. Stacey writes about becoming more aware, and wanting to continue studying ecology in the future. Dawn writes about how while recycling is important, she learned even more about herself and how to deal with her passions and others. Mrs. Gonzalez is impressed, and tells Dawn that she knows that Dawn is disappointed by how the SMS recycling program all went down. She offers to let Dawn be co-leader, provided that the students agree with a vote. Dawn doesn't think they will, but Mrs Gonzalez says that Dawn's learned a lot over the past two months, and that she has no doubt that Dawn will be a better leader for it. Dawn walks away from the whole experience with an A, and a new outlook on life.

Random Thoughts:
  • I have never read this one before! But I know that it generally involves Dawn starting with a good idea/intentions, but making a giant nuisance of herself haha
    • Dawn looks sooooo snooty on the cover! Her nose is literally in the air!
    • Huh. On the re-print editions (the ones with their faces going down the left-hand side of the book, the way all the later ones were published by default), they kept everything the same, EXCEPT Dawn. They put in a completely different Dawn. She's in front of the exact same kids, pointing to the exact same chart (looks like they kept her hands!) but they changed her. Now she's looking at the kids, and she's smiling, and she's in an outfit that I more associate with Dawn (still jeans, but now a sleeveless button-up tank in blue).
    • Also: I never read the book synopsis on the back before I start reading these. I'm very glad I didn't this time! It really gives everything away!
  • This one has TWO ghost writers!
  • I love how even in the early '90s, climate change and how much we're fucking up the Earth was already a thing. It's been nearly 3 decades later, and we're still having these discussions and debates and assigning these projects to our kids. WHY HAVEN'T WE LEARNED FROM DAWN AND THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB???
  • They write Dawn to be sooooooooooo smug even right from the get-go. I'm already not looking forward to reading this one.
  • Whoa. Dawn describes Kristy as having chin-length hair in this one. Most of the books just mention the hair colour and that it's always in a ponytail. I was always under the impression that it was at least shoulder-length. Chin length seems super short!
  • Dawn also describes Stacey as very thin, citing her diabetes as the reason for her thinness. Now, I'm not an expert, and I realize that there have been great medical advances in the past 20 years... but every teen I know who has diabetes (and who is treating it properly with diet and injections and/or whatever else their doctor prescribes) is pretty average. Some of them are heavier than others, some are thin, but they're generally no different than the other kids, other than that they seem unusually pale at times or tired. No one is ever "Omg you're sooooo skinny! Diabetes man!"
  • Definitely a sign of the times: I'm not surprised that Stoneybrook only has one recycling facility, but I am surprised that people need to bring their recyclables there themselves. I was part of an ecology club in my elementary school when I was in grade 1, and I think that's when there was a big push for public recycling, which was 1995. I don't think I'd recycle, nor my parents would, if our recycling wasn't just automatically picked up by the city with the garbage. I'm all for sorting my own shit and separating the garbage from the green bin from the black bin from the blue bin. But if I had to drive to dispose of all of it? Yeahhhhh... that wouldn't be happening. 
  • I feel a bit bad for Dawn, in that she's really passionate about this thing, and no one seems to care. Furthermore, it's not like she's being passionate over a boy band or a fad: taking care of the planet is important! For everyone! But at the same time, she goes about it the wrong way. However, she's 13, so this is fairly realistic.
  • I can't believe the Pikes regularly and normally use paper cups and plates! Wtf!
  • I have to admit, I'm really impressed with Dawn's plan. I don't think I could come up with something like that to implement in my school NOW, and I'm a TEACHER.
  • Whoa. They just mentioned Amelia Freeman! I haven't read the book yet, but I know she's the student who dies in #93 from being hit by a drunk driver. I didn't realize she pops up this early! Damn!
    • I just checked, and it's the same two ghostwriters. I wonder if they based Amelia on someone they knew? Or if they just thought, "Hey, for continuity, we should try to mention these 5 random students in the background at least once in our books!" and then when it came time to kill someone, they were like, "Ooooh! It can be one of the characters we mentioned, so it's not a complete rand-o!"?
  • I think it's realistic, but completely crazy, that Dawn would think that the students would vote for her to be in charge of the SMS recyling initiative, instead of Mrs Gonzalez. 1) Mrs Gonzalez is a teacher, and therefore more likely to be able to keep up with doing stuff and the responsibilities and have some pull and sway with admin, and 2) Mrs Gonzalez hasn't been shouting at and lecturing students day and night about it!
  • Wtf would Dawn and Stacey have to do to get an A+??? They taught a class, spread awareness, organized an educational fair with little kids, raised money, and then donated it to a good cause! That is going above and beyond. Furthermore, Mrs Gonzalez should have taken into account Dawn's extra planning and side project of the SMS recycling program, and at the very least boosted her mark to an A+ because of that. Like, omg!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

BSC Mystery #5: Mary Anne and the Secret in the Attic

Tagline: She can't turn back now.

Mary Anne's mother died when Mary Anne was just a baby. And since it makes Mr. Spier too sad to talk about her, Mary Anne hardly knows a thing about her mother. Mary Anne respects her father's feelings. But lately, she wants to know more. She has to find out about her mother.

So Mary Anne does something she knows is wrong. She goes up into the creepy, ghostly attic in her and Dawn's house to look for evidence.

And there Mary Anne finds something she wishes she never had...

The book starts off with Mary Anne waking up from an incredibly vivid dream. In it, there's a very very young girl, holding a kitten, crying out for her mother, while two older people stand nearby. Mary Anne kinda flip-flops on whether or not she thinks the girl is her, but she definitely doesn't recognize the old people nor her surroundings. She says she's been having the dream a couple of times now recently, and goes to tell Dawn while they get ready for school.

Mary Anne spends all day dwelling on her dream, and is even distracted through the Club meeting that evening. Mallory introduces the impetus for the main plot: Heritage Day. The elementary school is making a big deal of it, encouraging all the students (and thus, many of the clients of the Club) to create some sort of research project on their families, Stoneybrook, or how their families arrived in Stoneybrook. There will be a big celebration, where the students are going to present their findings and other community groups will have booths and everyone will celebrate! However, Mary Anne just cannot stop thinking about her dream...

Later, Mary Anne is baby-sitting for Charlotte, who is working on her family history for Heritage Day. Charlotte has all sorts of great things from her great-grandma, including old letters, photographs and a diary. It makes Mary Anne slightly envious, since as far as she knows, her family doesn't have any keepsakes like that. However, Charlotte's enthusiasm is warming, and Mary Anne listens as Charlotte prattles on about all the things she's learned. When Charlotte mentions her mother taking her to the Heritage Day picnic, Mary Anne again remembers how she's never done anything with her mother, and it makes her sad. Mary Anne realizes how little she knows about her mother and family history. She decides to go looking around her attic to see if maybe they do have pictures of her and her mother as a child. There, she discovers an old album. At first, there are pictures that she recognizes: wedding pictures of her mom and dad, pictures of her as a baby. But then she sees a series of photographs she doesn't know: her and an older couple, her on a farm. MA realizes that they're awfully similar to the ones from her dream, and that given how many wardrobe changes she has, she must have stayed with the couple for quite some time. Richard comes home, and instead of confronting him, MA hides in her room, confused as ever.

MA later decides to check out the Stoneybrook Cemetery, inspired by Stacey's baby-sitting adventures (more on that later), hoping to find her mother's gravestone and some of her mother's ancestor's. It takes her a week to work up the courage, but she finally goes. As MA wanders down the endless aisles, she sees many graves, but not her mother's. Frustrated, MA is about to give up when she finds Mimi's grave.

Overwrought with emotion, MA decides to go home and try searching the attic again. Upon searching, she finds a bundle of letters sent to her father from a Bill and Verna. Reading a bunch of them, MA discovers that they're her maternal grandparents. She had apparently stayed with them on their farm as a baby. MA is angered to realize that Richard had never mentioned them or this time to her, that these people who were so very important to her life were now complete strangers to her. Just before leaving the attic, she reads one last letter, in which her grandparents thank Richard for giving MA up to them. MA leaves the attic in a state of shock, thinking that her father never wanted her, and that her childhood was a lie.

That evening, MA is all full of emotion and turmoil. She can't figure out what to say to her family, so she suffers in silence. After waking up at 2am from her dream/childhood memory, she finally decides to go to the attic and read some more. There, she discovers that Richard did eventually want her back, but that her grandparents were reluctant to give her up. This gets MA thinking that maybe her grandparents did and still have some legal control over her. She gets worried about what might happen to her in the future. She's also upset, because if she was gone for so long (her dad missed her first birthday!), then the people she grew up with must have known. Feeling betrayed, MA ends up spending the night in the attic.

MA spends the whole day stewing and dodging questions from her friends. Just as she decides to finally open up to Logan about everything, her father gets a phone call. Coincidentally, it's Verna Baker, MA's grandmother, calling to tell Richard that Bill has died. MA continues to eavesdrop on the phone conversation, where she hears that Verna wants MA to go stay with her in Iowa. MA, upset, gets off the phone, and finally confesses to Dawn what's been going on. Dawn is shocked, but is adamant that no one will be sending MA anywhere.

Dawn eventually suggests that MA ask her father what's going on, but MA stubbornly refuses to talk to him about it. Eventually Dawn convinces MA to talk to someone, which leads to her asking Claudia and Kristy if they'd ever heard of anything, but they hadn't, so MA is back to square one.

MA continues to be paranoid and miserable. When the Club comes over to work on their own Heritage Day project (more on that later), things get out of control and lead to a paint fight and Logan takes his shirt off, and the girls decide to bake cookies, and it's just pandemonium. Of course, at that moment, MA gets a visitor. This lady with a clipboard asks if she's at the right residence (she is) and wants to ask some questions. MA assumes she's a social worker, checking in on her and her father. MA panics and breaks down, telling the whole Club what's going on. They all urge her to talk to her father.

Finally MA gets the courage to speak to her father. She explains what she's overheard and the conclusions that she's come to. At first, Richard is angry that she'd been snooping and eavesdropping, but when he realizes just how worked up she's gotten, he quickly forgives her and explains everything: when her mother died, Richard was just completely distraught and in no shape to take care of a newborn daughter. So he sent MA to live with her grandparents. They really enjoyed having her, but ultimately Richard wanted MA back and was ready to be a father. There were some words exchanged, but eventually Richard got MA back, and it was decided that it'd be best for everyone involved if the Bakers never saw MA again. However, now that Bill is dead, Verna regrets that they never reconnected with MA and wants MA back for a visit. MA isn't too sure how she feels about it, but agrees to consider it.

Eventually the actual Heritage Day happens, and MA and Richard talk again. Richard gives MA a letter that her mother that was intended for her 16th birthday. MA reads it and gets all choked up, and desires to be closer to her mom. She decides that she will visit her grandmother after all.

The last chapter is a series of letters written back and forth while MA is visiting her grandma. Everything is going well, and MA learns that she's essentially exactly like her mother. She also baby-sits for the neighbour's kids and goes out on a date with the grandson of her grandmother's friend, a boy named Bob. Bob apparently is super boring, so Logan doesn't have anything to worry about! Anyways, MA has a great time, and Richard eventually reaches out and apologizes for everything all these years. He invites Verna to join them at Christmas, and it looks like everything has worked out in the end!

The whole subplot in this one is just the Heritage Day fair. In addition to seeing Charlotte prepare for it, we're treated to all the Pikes preparing for it too. Stacey takes the Pike triplets to the library so they can do some research for their newspaper project. There, they find out that Old Hickory was actually a man called James Hickman, who is haunting his grave because his nephew commissioned it against his wishes. This spurs the triplets to go visit the grave with Stacey. Dawn ends up taking the Rodowskys to town hall so that Shea can look up things for his own project (because it's Jackie, it ends up a total disaster).

Eventually, it comes up that the Heritage Day fair is to help raise money for the Historical Society, and the Club decides that they want to help. After throwing some ideas around, they decide to do a photo booth with "famous" historical cut-outs that people can pose with. MA ends up escorting Charlotte to the fair, because an emergency has come up with Dr Johanssen, and Mr Johanssen was never able to take Charlotte. Both Charlotte and MA are a bit sad at not being able to do a mother-daughter thing, but in the end they have a good time.

At this point, I realized that the Heritage Day fair at the elementary school that the kids are all preparing for, and the actual Heritage Day thing that the Club was preparing for was separate things! Oops! Anyways, their booth is a hit, and everything goes well. So well in fact that the Club ended up making the most money of all the booths! (Of course haha)

Random Thoughts:
  • I have always loved the way Mary Anne looked on this cover. This is my favourite Mary Anne cover. When I picture Mary Anne, this is how she looks to me. The only other cover I can think of off the top of my head that looks like the same model is Mary Anne + 2 Many Babies
  • Mallory is once again mentioned as having red hair. She's officially a ginger! 
  • When Mary Anne reflects on how little she knows about her family, she thinks about her own personal history, and references many things from the series: a ticket stub from the Remember September dance, a sand dollar from a trip to the shore, Mickey Mouse ears from Disneyland, and photos from New York.
  • I love how one of the reasons why Mary Anne decides not to ask her father about things is because she doesn't want to jeopardize his happiness by bringing up the past. That's such a 13 year old thing to think!
  • I find it weird/convenient that both Richard and Alma were both only children, giving MA very very little family in the world.
  • Good ol' Old Hickory!
  • Again, I'm reminded of how awesome Mimi was and how much I miss her!
  • I can't believe Mallory's historical foods bake sale idea got shut down! I mean, I can, because it's Mallory, but yeah! That would definitely be the thing I'd want to do. Jessi says it'd be too much research, and I know they didn't have the internet back then (or at least, not a big enough and common enough internet), but I don't think it would be THAT much work. I doubt anyone would check if their recipes were 100% accurate haha
  • I fucking hate Jackie Rodowsky. I know he's supposed to be cute and endearing but my god. You cannot take that kid anywhere.
  • I love the idea of Kristy cat-calling Logan when he takes his shirt off. This is a Kristy I can get behind!
  • We see the Crane girls with their Aunt Bud at the fair!
  • This book feels like it should end after chapter 12, when MA finally talks to her dad about everything. But then we have a chapter with Kristy and Shannon where they talk about big blended families and knowing your roots, a chapter with the Club at the Heritage Day thing and MA receiving a letter from her mother, and then a chapter where everyone is writing letters back and forth while MA travels, visits, and then comes back from the farm.
  • I still find it weird that Richard never mentioned this and that Verna never tried to write to MA or call, and that she just had zero idea that she still had grandparents who were alive. Had she never had to do a family tree assignment before?? Did Richard just lie and say everyone was dead??
  • When I read MA's mother's letter, it read as super sappy and unrealistic. Then I was reminded of the letter that Meredith wrote Peter Quill in the first Guardians of the Galaxy film. Then I was reminded of how weird and melodramatic and strange in my diction I can be in my own journal, and I'm not even dying, so yeah haha
  • It's also super weird that apparently Richard never took MA to visit her mother's grave before!
  • When does this book take place?? It sounds like it's Spring, but it also seems like MA goes on her trip to her grandmother's right away. I guess it could be for spring break, but she's gone long enough to write several letters back and forth to Dawn, leading me to believe that she's gone for almost a month instead of only 2 weeks. So I'm guessing the Heritage Day thing was late late May or early June, and then the epilogue chapter with MA's visit took place in July

Sunday, July 22, 2018

BSC #56: Keep Out, Claudia!

Tagline: Who wouldn't want Claudia for a baby-sitter?

The Baby-sitters love getting new clients. So when the Lowells contact the club everyone is thrilled. For Mary Anne, sitting for the Lowells turns out to be a snap. The kids are adorable and obedient. But when Claudia meets the family, Mrs. Lowell will barely look her in the eye. And the kids are downright rude!

The next time Mrs. Lowell calls the BSC, she requests another sitter - anyone but Claudia. Claudia has no idea what she did wrong. But the BSC won't rest until they find out!

The book starts off with Claudia sitting for the Rodowskys. Shea is practicing for a piano recital, and Jackie and Archie both express a desire to perform too. This gets Claudia thinking about how maybe the Club should put together some sort of recital or show for their charges to be in. She brings it up at their meeting that evening, and the girls all agree that it's a great idea. Since none of them are particularly musically inclined, they figure they can just organize the children, and then let the children learn for themselves (since many of their charges DO know music). So there's our subplot right there!

Shortly after introducing this idea to the Club, the main plot starts: the girls receive a phone call from a new client, Mrs Lowell, who has seen their flyers and would like to hire a baby-sitter for her 3 children. Mary Anne ends up with the job.

Right away, we follow her to the job, where she meets Caitlin (8), Mackie (6) and Celeste (3). Mrs Lowell briefly gives Mary Anne a once-over, which unsettles her, before smiling and welcoming her into her home. Upon leaving, MA is inundated with questions from the children. They want to know all about her and her family. MA has to explain what step-siblings are, and how Dawn is another baby-sitter. This leads the kids to ask about the other sitters, and make awkward talk about religion (speculating that Mallory must be Catholic because of her family size, and wanting to know what religion MA is). She eventually gets them to play outside, and then finally settled in front of the TV. The kids can't find a show they like, but eventually come across something with two Asian kids. Caitlin and Mackie laugh about their eyes, but MA just remains oblivious and innocent. Soon after, Mrs Lowell returns, and MA goes to their Club meeting, forgetting all weirdness.

Next, we see Claudia baby-sitting for the Newtons. Jamie is bored, so Claudia calls up Dawn, who's sitting for the Perkins girls. The next thing Claudia knows, Stacey and Charlotte, and Mary Anne and the Hobarts have come over too. This gets Claudia to thinking, and the girls introduce their band idea to the group. The kids get excited, and soon invite more people over. Claudia is thrilled that her idea is taking off, as Mary Anne writes down the details and helps everyone get organized. Claudia decides that since she's sitting for the Lowells next, she'll invite them to the group too.

So it's finally Claudia's turn to baby-sit for the Lowells. Thanks to the cover synopsis, we know that it doesn't exactly go well. Mrs Lowell is all vague and curt with Claudia, while the kids keep trying to eat more food and won't obey her. Claudia thinks maybe it has to do with her wild outfit, since the kids and Mary Anne were dressed so neatly. Speaking of MA, she saves the day by calling Claudia up and inviting them all to the Hobarts for band practice. Things go well, until it's time to leave. Back at their place, the kids give Claudia a hard time and sneak food again. All in all, Claudia does not have a good time.

However, Claudia doesn't think much of it until their next Club meeting. Mrs Lowell calls, and asks to speak directly to Kristy. It's then that Kristy learns that Mrs Lowell wants any baby-sitter except for Claudia! Kristy then demands to know exactly what happened from Claudia. Claudia admits that it wasn't her best job, but that it wasn't a disaster. Everyone's confused, but eventually decide that maybe it was just a combination of small things, such as Claudia's outfit, her arriving too early (3:19 instead of 3:30), her having taken the kids out without permission. Jessi, who ends up with the job, decides to be on her best and most model behaviour, with the hopes of finding out more.

In preparation for her job, Jessi decides to update her Kid-Kit. She thinks specifically of what age and gender each of the Lowell children are, and adds things that she thinks will appeal to them: more books for Celeste, art supplies and matchbox cars for Mackie, and an office kit for Caitlin. Jessi then makes sure to show up exactly 5 minutes early. Upon opening the door, Mrs Lowell is immediately shocked. After staring at Jessi for several seconds, she finally says that she doesn't need a baby-sitter and that she forgot to say something and closes the door right on Jessi's face! No apology! Jessi goes to Mallory's house all upset, and later to the Club meeting. The girls can't figure out what went wrong. Mary Anne has another sitting job with the Lowells coming up, so she resolves to get to the bottom of things.

But before that, we're treated to a chapter with Claudia baby-sitting for the Rodowskys. Jackie decides that they need a name for their band. After some brainstorming, they come up with "All the Children", which would be short for "All the Children of the World", since everyone came from such multicultural background. This serves as really really awkward foreshadowing for what we eventually find out is Mrs Lowell's problem, but in the meantime, it's just silly. They rehearse songs from Annie, before going to rehearsal. They tell the other kids their great band name idea, and of course everyone loves it!

Finally, we get back to the Lowell plot, only instead of Mary Anne sitting, it's Kristy. Kristy decides to switch because as President, she thinks it's her responsibility to find out what's wrong. Mrs Lowell agrees to the switch, although Kristy can sense that there's something more. However, when Kristy shows up (exactly 5 minutes early, wearing a skirt and blouse), Mrs Lowell is warm and welcoming. This gives Kristy the confidence to ask Mrs Lowell how she's finding the Club's service. Mrs Lowell says she's happy, and before Kristy can grill her further, the children arrive home. Upon Mrs Lowell's absence, Kristy takes it upon herself to question the kids about their sitters. They love Mary Anne, but refer to Claudia as the "funny looking one". Thinking that they mean Claudia's eclectic fashion sense, Kristy moves on, referencing how they never even got to see Jessi. Caitlin insists that Kristy describe her, and when Kristy mentions Jessi's skin colour, she's convinced that she hears Caitlin snort, "I guess that's why mommy didn't like her."

Kristy, bothered by this, goes home and eventually talks to her mom, Nannie and Watson. She tells them her suspicions, that she thinks that the Lowells are racist, and hopes that they'll tell her that she's being over-dramatic. Sadly, they tell her that it could be true, that racism is still a prevalent problem. It makes Kristy sad, and she decides to go to the Club with her thoughts.

Immediately, Claudia is hurt and angry. She doesn't understand why Jessi isn't more upset (at least Claudia got to go inside the house!), but Jessi just explains that she's used to it. But Claudia's never experienced racism before, and feels all sorts of thoughts and emotions she's never felt before. She feels ashamed, and defensive, and worries that her friends feel sorry for her. Jessi and Mary Anne explain that prejudice isn't logical, and that it's the Lowells that Claudia should be angry at. Claudia knows this, but still can't help but lash out at her friends, since they're the ones present. Dawn points out that the Lowells probably don't like a whole lot of people for various reasons, which doesn't exactly make Claudia feel better, and they get into a discussion about how there is still lots of racism and hate groups around like the KKK. In the midst of this history lesson, Mrs Lowell calls, wanting to request the "blonde haired, blue-eyed sitter". After some deliberation, the girls decide that none of them want to sit for the Lowells anymore. Kristy eventually comes to the conclusion that none of them would fit Mrs Lowell's narrow-minded bigoted standards because of their divorced families and non-traditional ways. The girls end their meeting on a good note, but Claudia still feels unsettled by everything.

At the next band rehearsal, Jackie manages to convince everyone to change their entire repertoire to Fiddler on the Roof. Apparently there was a production in Stamford, so most of the kids had already seen it. Everyone's excited and get right down to rehearsal. That's when Mrs Lowell shows up with her kids. At first, she simply remarks on how "assorted" the rest of the children are, but upon hearing the choice of program, she grabs her kids and whisks them away. The girls momentarily panic, but realize that this is on Mrs Lowell, and that none of the other parents will object to their musical choices.

Claudia's still bummed about Mrs Lowell though! Eventually, the girls come to the conclusion that there's nothing to be done with Mrs Lowell. It's not their place and they're just kids themselves. Mrs Lowell will keep on hating, and all they can really do is set a good example for the kids they sit for.

The rest of the novel is dedicated to the band subplot, which also helps Claudia to escape her funk. The children decide that their band needs matching t-shirts, so they decide to set up donation baskets the day of their concert. As the concert grows nearer, Claudia starts panicking and worrying, but the day goes off without a hitch. At the end of the concert, Claudia and the girls notice Caitlin and Mackie Lowell seemed to have snuck out to watch them. It strikes Claudia that perhaps they were just repeating things they'd learned, and that maybe one day, they'd outgrow their racism. The rest of the girls hope so too.

Random Thoughts:
  • This was definitely one of my favourite ones as a child. Like I've said before, I always greatly enjoyed the books where the girls had to deal with more serious issues in a realistic manner. I've read this one a million times, but not recently.
  • I know I definitely have not read this in the past 15 years at least, because right away on the first page, Jackie Rodowsky makes a mistake that I never understood until now. Shea is practicing piano, and Claudia asks Jackie what he's playing, and Jackie replies, "A doggie-o". Now, after 15 years of studying music, I know that Jackie most likely meant "Adagio"!
  • It just occurred to me that none of the girls take music lessons! Out of 7 girls, not a single one of them did piano?? Even for a couple of years? That seems crazy to me. More of my friends took piano as children than who didn't.
  • I like the idea of this book being Claudia's book, since she apparently hasn't faced much racism or discrimination, but we barely hear from her! There's a lot of chapters dedicated to other sitters' encounters with the Lowells, and then the stupid subplot of the band.
  • I find it weird that American-born Asians don't seem to be discriminated against nearly as often as American-born Africans or East Indians. I mean, maybe that's not true, but based on personal experiences and anecdotal evidence from my friends, that seems to be the case. None of us have accents, but most of us are second-generation immigrants, with our parents all having heavy accents. But the darker the skin, the more discrimination and racism my friends have felt. The worst the Asians have gotten is being stereotyped as geniuses. Oddly enough, one of my best friends is a first-generation immigrant (she only became an official citizen a couple of years ago!), but despite her prominent accent, she's never faced any hardships or racism or discrimination. Then again: she's white, blonde, blue-eyed and Australian. The worse she gets is being asked if she's related to Thor.
  • Even as a child, I remember thinking that "All the Children" was the worst name for a band ever. It sounded to me like a soap opera or a charity cash-grab.
  • I really liked the conversations Kristy and Claudia have with their families. I wished we got more of those in the series!
    • I especially loved Janine's little bit about the American Japanese concentration camps. I can't believe I don't remember this being mentioned here! I remember learning about them in history, but it wasn't until I was in university, and super into George Takei that they really made an impact on me and were permanently etched into my brain.
  • I've always wondered about Mr. Lowell, since we never see him in this book. Is he just as bad as Mrs Lowell? Worse??
  • I can't believe that the kids know and like Fiddler on the Roof! I first heard of it by reading this book as a child, and to this day, I still haven't seen a production of it. The only songs I know off the top of my head are "If I Were a Rich Man" and "Sunrise, Sunset". I still hear the kids singing "Tradition" the same way as I imagined it as a child!
  • At one point, Claudia is sitting for Kristy's family, and among the activities the older crew are doing, it's mentioned that Sam was at a dress rehearsal for the drama club's latest play, which he helped to write. Uh, what?? What the fuck? Where's my story about this?? Why don't we know more about Sam??
    • I feel like they've always depicted Charlie as the responsible, academic one, and Sam, while still doing well in school, as more of the goofball and extrovert. I know they mention that Sam is particularly good in math, to better pair him with Stacey, but other than that, I never pictured him as particularly academic. A solid A-/B+ kid. Good grades, but nothing spectacular. But now we find out that he writes and does drama club???

Sunday, July 8, 2018

BSC Super Special #8: Baby-Sitters at Shadow Lake

Tagline: Campfires, ghost stories - summer vacations are the best!

Wish you were here!

Kristy's rich stepfather has invited all the Baby-sitters to his family's cabin on beautiful Shadow Lake.

What a way to start off the summer! At the lake there's water skiing, cute guys, plenty of kids to baby-sit for - and even a mystery.

The Baby-sitters don't know where to begin. The just hope the fun never ends!

Super Special Gimmick: Kristy wants to make sure that Watson decides to keep the cabin, so she keeps a diary (and of course, makes her friends join in) to show him how awesome the place is and all the great times they can have as a family.

Watson gets a letter from his aunt, saying that she and her husband are re-configuring their wills. Despite not having seen Watson in a bajillion years, they remember that he used to always have fun at their cabin on Shadow Lake every summer as a child, and want to know if he wants the cabin when they die. They invite Watson to come up to the cabin this summer with his family, so he can check out the property and make a better informed decision, and so they can have a chance to reconnect with him and meet his new extended family. Watson takes them up on their offer, and even extends the invitation to the friends of his kids. Sam and Charlie decide they're too old to invite friends over (they probably just didn't want to subject their friends to Kristy and all the little kids for 2 whole weeks!), and will instead "scope out the chicks at the lake" and make friends there, Andrew's and Emily Michelle's friends are all too young to be away from parents for 2 whole weeks, leaving Kristy to invite the whole Club, Karen to invite her two best friends, (Nancy Dawes and Hannie Papadakis) and David Michael to invite two of his friends (Linny Papadakis and Nicky Pike).

Kristy discovers a small motor boat under their dock and learns how to operate it. She gets really excited and decides to invite all her friends to come with her on an overnight trip to the tiny island on the other shore. Thanks to Dawn (more below), the girls are sufficiently freaked out, but ultimately decide to go. On the island, the girls girls make s'mores and tell stories and gossip and have a great time, however, in the middle of the night, they all get freaked out and try to convince Kristy to take them home. Kristy tells them how silly they're being, and they all stay until morning.

Dawn being obsessed with mysteries and ghost stories, of course decides that she must figure out the secret behind Shadow Lake's name. She soon finds out that not only is its name a mystery, but there's also a monster à la Loch Ness Monster. Dawn starts interviewing and questioning people at Shadow Lake, and she discovers that on the small island just off the shore, there used to be a family that lived there. They were very isolated, and never left the island, sending all their servants out instead. On the night when one of the townsfolk was going to marry the eldest daughter, the whole family disappeared without a trace! A year later, family home burned down! No one knows what really happened to them. On the island, the girls find the old burned down foundation of the house, where Dawn finds a locket with the daughter's initials in it. She takes the locket and returns it to the girl's fiancé. Dawn feels better, knowing that she helped put the girl's spirit at rest, but still wants to return to solve the mystery of Shadow Lake.

Claudia finds out about this boat show that's taking place on the shore. She then decides that she wants to submit Kristy's boat as an entry. After thinking about it all week, Claudia finally comes up with the idea of decorating the boat and turning it into the Lake Monster. Because she's working with limited time and resources, the results aren't great, but Claudia is fairly proud. The day of the boat show arrives though, and Claudia realizes that their little motor boat is up against all these yachts and houseboats and essentially REAL boats. She wants to back out, but goes through with it anyways. Of course, she wins a prize. They give out 1st place to 3rd place, and then Claudia wins a ribbon for "Most Spirit".

Jessi meets a cute African-American boy (because of course) and feels guilty because of her "relationship"with Quint Walker. She spends the first half of the book ogling him from a distance, before he finally notices her. Turns out his name is Daniel, and this is his family's first time up at the Lake. He sees her practicing ballet at the lodge's studio barre, and asks for lessons. It's here that Jessi discovers that as cute as he is, as nice as flirting with him is, they have nothing in common. Daniel loves sports and hates reading. While Jessi doesn't hate sports, she definitely doesn't have too much experience with them, and of course, she loves reading. However, she does enjoy the flirting and companionship, so she agrees to go with him to the dance at the end of their vacation. Jessi is then worried about how she's going to let Daniel down at the end of the two weeks, and is really awkward and nervous at the dance. Daniel surprises her, saying that he just wants to be friends and that he has a girlfriend back home! So Jessi feels better and immediately writes to Quint upon returning home.

Stacey spends the whole time being teased and pestered by Sam Thomas. He keeps complimenting her in an exaggerated British accent (calling her "dahhhhling!!") and poking at her perm. At first, she totally doesn't get it and is just annoyed with him, but eventually he tells her how he feels. Stacey's all confused, because while she did have a huge crush on him in grade 7, she hasn't really thought much about him lately, plus he's just been super annoying. Sam accepts that, and leaves her alone. At the big dance though, he asks her to dance, and she says yes. She realizes that she really does like him, and they end the vacation off together, holding hands and being really cute.

Sam gets a single chapter, where we see his side of things. He's all insecure about being 15 with no facial hair, looking up to Charlie and what not. He doesn't understand why Stacey is so annoyed with him, despite him paying so much attention to her. Charlie finally tells him to cut the crap and just TELL STACEY EXACTLY HOW HE FEELS. Which he does. Sam's disappointed to see that Stacey once liked him, but currently isn't on the same page. Of course, we see that eventually everything works out.

Mallory is devoured by mosquitoes and other bugs, and is just generally miserable the whole time. She starts covering up TO THE EXTREME, wearing all sorts of long-sleeved loose clothing, draping towels around her, big jungle hats, mosquito netting, and practically bathing in bug spray. It really annoys the other girls, while she's all hurt that they don't understand and that no one wants to hang around her like that. She doesn't have much of a plot other than just being miserable outside.

Mary Anne spends most of the time worrying and freaking people out about stuff (or just annoying them), much like she did in New York. She doesn't really get much of a plot in this book. She mostly baby-sits and just kinda hangs out in other people's plots.

Karen and her friends find a small shack behind their cabin and a garden. They decide they're going to clean it up themselves and make it their secret hiding place. The problem is, in keeping secret, they don't tell anyone where they're going (not even like, "Hey, we're gonna explore the woods behind the cabin!") so people keep panicking over losing them (well, mostly Mary Anne; everyone else is just annoyed but figures they couldn't have gone far). Mary Anne eventually finds them, and convinces them to just keep the place a secret from David Michael and his friends, but to tell all the adults about it. Eventually the boys do discover it, but the girls claim it as their own, and challenge the boys to make a fort that's better than theirs. Loser has to do all the chores. The girls obviously win, but decide to be nice and make the boys only shine their shoes for the big dance.

David Michael is frustrated because Nicky and Linny aren't getting along, and he doesn't understand why not. Obviously it's because they don't know each other and are competing for his affections, but he can't see that. Anyways, they eventually discover the girls' playhouse and decide to build their own fort. It goes disastrously, since the boys can't work together and agree on anything, plus they have zero architectural skills. What eventually brings them together is when Shannon (the dog, because yes, the family brought the dog AND the cat with them) disappears, and they all have to rally to find her. She's missing for all of like, 30 seconds, before they call out enough and find her again, but the experience bring Nicky and Linny together.

Random Thoughts:
  • I am so super excited to read this one! I actually have never read it!! And I've managed to avoid reading most of the recaps and reviews of it over the years, so I really have no idea what it's about. All I know is that Sam and Stacey's romance really ramps up here. I'm excited to read this one because:
    1. I'm obsessed with Sam and Stacey
    2. My all-time favourite BSC book, Super Mystery #2 Baby-sitters Beware!, takes place here
    3. I think a few others take place here? I seem to remember a lot about it, despite not having read this particular one?
  • Yes! This one has the illustrations in it!! I guess starting from SS #7, they start having the illustrations that I always thought was super synonymous with the Super Specials. I always read #7, #10 and #11 the most, and have very strong memories of #9, so that's probably why I associate the illustrations so much with the books.
  • I like how Watson's aunt and uncle apparently have not seen him in a long, long time, almost 20 years, and the last summer he spent at the cabin was at age 12, but they are like, "OMG LET'S GIVE WATSON THE CABIN."
    • They haven't even met Karen and Andrew! Nor Elizabeth and the Thomas clan. Were they not invited to the wedding? Couldn't come? Didn't care??
  • Damn. I do not remember any particular descriptions of the cabin. I knew it was huge, because they always take Watson's entire family, plus the Club, but apparently it can house 25 people?? And two of the rooms are dorm-style, with wall-to-wall bunk beds!
    • Actually, now I'm just imagining the place having only 4 bedrooms: a master bedroom (2 people), a boys' dorm room (5 sets of bunk beds/10 boys), a girls' dorm room (5 sets of bunk beds/10 girls) and then two extra rooms that hold either 1 or 2 people. You could have a mini-camp there!
      • Oooooh. Jessi included a floor plan. I was right! Only 4 bedrooms!
  • Ooooooh. I think this is the first time they actually describe Mallory as having reddish hair!!
  • This time around, it makes sense as to why they would give Karen and David Michael chapters: they're part of the family, and of course Kristy would want them to bolster her argument for keeping Shadow Lake. Charlie and Sam are too old to do a diary project (if they like the cabin, they're just going to beg and plead with Watson in person) and Andrew and Emily Michelle are too young. I may not like it when chapters are given to random people (especially Karen), but at least they didn't give chapters to like, Nicky or Nancy or something really random! haha
  • Yep. AMM definitely hates Mallory haha
  • There's some continuity, mentioning that Claudia sometimes tutors Emily Michelle! Yay!!
  • I can't believe that Watson and Elizabeth would let Kristy take the boat out on her own. I love how their rule is that only people 12 and older can drive the boat, when there's no one there who is 12. Anyways, I'm not opposed to Kristy taking lessons to learn how to drive the boat. I'm just shocked that they'd immediately agree to let her take it out on her own and pretty much have free reign. You'd think it'd be like, "Sam and Charlie can have free reign, you can only drive if you stay by our dock for practicing purposes, or if you have someone older with you. Next time we come, we can see about you having free reign."
    • Then again, considering the parents in these books, maybe I'm not that surprised haha
  • Kristy spends an entire paragraph digressing about bikinis, saying that she'll never wear one, and that no one over thirty should wear one, but her mom looks pretty good all things considered, and how Kristy doesn't see the point in wearing a bikini when you don't have a chest to go with it, so at her rate, she probably won't wear one until she's 28 haha It's all very random and "out-of-character", except that AMM wrote this one, so it's perfectly in her character.
    • Also: Kristy is convinced by the girls to get dressed up for dinner, so she borrows a dress from Mary Anne. I love AMM!Kristy.
  • I can't believe that Watson and Elizabeth would allow Kristy and the girls to spend the night alone on the island. They don't know for sure it's uninhabited!! Or what if some other neighbour saw/heard them go over, and decided to go kill them??
  • I think it's really sweet that at the end of the novel, when Watson is writing back to his aunt about keeping the cabin, he refers to Kristy as his daughter. I also really like that Kristy notices this and is thrilled. I wish we got to see more of Kristy and her relationship with Watson.
  • I totally don't remember anything about Shadow Lake being haunted. Does this ever come up again? I know Dawn's not with them in SM #2. Do they return to Shadow Lake any other time??

Sunday, June 24, 2018

BSC Reader's Request: Logan's Story

Tagline: Nobody's going to call Logan a girl and get away with it!

It isn't easy being a boy baby-sitter.

Like lots of guys, Logan enjoys baby-sitting. And being an associate memeber of the BSC means he can sit when he wants to, and still have time for Mary Anne and sports.

But now the Baby-sitters really need Logan. Logan wouldn't mind taking on the extra baby-sitting jobs, but he's busy trying out for the track team. And the jocks are giving Logan a hard time about hanging out with girls and babies.

Logan doesn't want to let the Baby-sitters down. But he's tired of being picked on!

So we have our first Readers Request! This one is narrated by Logan, where we learn it's not easy to be a boy baby-sitter.

Logan's at football practice. The guys are being dude-broey, but it's not too bad. Logan reflects that he's not like other guys, in that while he enjoys sports, he also enjoys baby-sitting. He likes kids, and he's used to taking care of his younger brother and sister. He mentions that he's an associate member of the Baby-Sitters Club, which means that he gets to have jobs that work around his sports schedule and doesn't interfere with his life. The guys like to rib him gently about it, but for the most part it's not too big of an issue

All that changes though when Logan gets home from practice. He's about to help his parents prepare BBQ for dinner when he's summoned by Kristy to an emergency meeting of the BSC. Rushing over to Claudia's, he discovers everyone looking very tense and Mary Anne in tears. Turns out that Dawn just received bad news: her brother has a ruptured appendix and will have to have emergency surgery, followed by an extended stay in the hospital. She and her mother are rushing to California right away to be with him. The reason why the Club looks so tense is because business has been better than usual, and with Dawn gone, they'll be even more strapped and short-staffed than usual. The Club then decides to invite Logan to take Dawn's spot

Further complicating matters, Logan's got track tryouts soon. Not only is he on the football team with all their practices, but Logan has track to contend with. Between it all, Logan's pretty spread thin. But Logan's determined not to let anyone down!

Immediately though, he ends up with a job baby-sitting for the Hobarts, which results in him missing his first football practice ever. He's pretty salty about it, but Logan ends up bonding with the Hobart boys, who enjoy having a male baby-sitter. They're playing in the Hobarts' yard when a bunch of boys from school (Clarence King, Pete Black, and then two rand-o's we've never heard of: Irv Hirsch and Jim Poirier) see him. They tease him and make him feel really stupid, which of course upsets Logan. He tries to brush it off though, and continues playing with the Hobarts.

He ends up taking on more jobs with the Hobarts, and ends up having to miss his second football practice in a row. This also cuts into his time practicing for track tryouts. At a Club meeting, they call Dawn, who tells them that she'll be in California longer than expected. This means that Logan will have to continue doing more jobs. More than that, he'll have to go to the Health Fair (more on that later) with the Hobarts and help represent the Club. Logan worries about how public the event will be, and thinks of all the people from school he might run into.

On the weekend, Logan decides to go to school and get some track practice in. Mary Anne is baby-sitting for Jenny and Andrea Prezzioso, and decides to go visit him to cheer him on. Logan's practicing with a bunch of guys (different ones from the footballers, but still rand-o's), and they immediately spot MA and the girls and start teasing him about it. Logan, already feeling kind of embarrassed and flustered due to his lack of exercise recently, smiles at them, but quickly tries to get back into focus. The guys decide to practice mile paces, and Jenny decides she wants to join. While the guys are running, she cuts across the track, and they manage to avoid her, but are all thoroughly annoyed. Logan feels bad, because he knows it wasn't MA's fault, but at the same time, he can't wait to get rid of the girls, so they all leave. The boys continue to tease Logan though.

Later that week, while baby-sitting for the Hobarts again, Logan tells them about trying out for track, and the boys immediately want to try it too. Knowing that the track should be empty (no football practice that day, so no one to avoid!), Logan takes them to SMS to play. The boys love it, and Logan admits that he's having fun, however it all comes to a crashing halt when some guys show up to practice on the track. They take their teasing up a notch, and start calling Logan "Lois". Logan takes the Hobarts home, and they all commiserate over how stupid people are and how teasing people is bad.

Logan finally gets his ass to a football practice, but it's pretty brutal. The guys all tease him (except for Austin Bentley, who unlike Pete Black, is maintaining his good guy persona this time around) and it's evident that Logan is very out of practice. The coach tells Logan that it'll be okay, just show up to Saturday's practice. Unfortunately, Saturday is when the Health Fair is. Logan doesn't tell his coach this though, and suffers through the rest of practice. Mary Anne shows up to walk Logan home, and he just stews and broods. His family is worried, but all Logan can think is how his double-life isn't working.

Things eventually come to a head at the Health Fair. Logan brings the Hobarts there, and quickly runs into the guys who've been teasing them. They see him with the Hobarts and at the Club booth and give him a hard time. Logan is fed-up and frustrated, but tries not to let it get to him and not to let it ruin the Hobarts' fun. Eventually Johnny asks to go to the bathroom, and King and the guys overhear, telling Logan he better take him to the potty. This upsets Johnny, and Logan, not wanting to get in the way of Johnny's independence, agrees to let Matthew and Johnny go to the bathroom without him. Matthew ends up getting distracted by the candy vending machine though, and Johnny ends up going through a different exit and getting all turned around. Logan and the Club frantically search for Johnny, before finding him back at the Club booth. King found him wandering, recognized him, and in a moment of decency, returned him to the Club.

Despite the girls all reassuring Logan that everything was fine, Logan realizes that he can't keep doing all these responsibilities. He quits the Club and re-dedicates himself to football and track. After a week or so, things start to settle with him and the guys, with only Irv and King continually razzing him. However, as happy as Logan is with sports, he's sad that things ended so badly with the Club. He misses baby-sitting and being able to sit with the girls every now and then.

Finally, the day of the track try-outs come. Irv and King are still harassing Logan, but he decides to just kill them with kindness. This catches them off-guard. As Logan prepares for his first event, he finds out that the Club, the Hobarts, and his siblings have come to cheer him on. At first, he gets given a hard time, but Logan doesn't even care. Bolstered by their support, Logan has a great try-out and makes the track team. Afterwards, some of the guys congratulate Logan, and even ask him about the girls, eying them and checking them out.

As things start to settle, Logan realizes how much he really misses the Club. He realizes that he needs balance in his life, and that includes baby-sitting. He goes to a meeting to apologize to the girls, asking if he could be an associate member again. They're happy to have him back, and as they leave, he and Mary Anne run into the Hobarts. Logan goes over to play with them, and of course King and the football guys show up. However, this time they don't tease him. Everything is back the way it should be in Logan's life.

There isn't really much of a subplot in this one. I think if this had been any other book, the subplot probably would have been the Health Fair and trying to get the charges involved and excited and all sorts of shenanigans haha as it is, it's just kind of mentioned in passing, and then it's where Logan takes the Hobarts and has his big showdown with Clarence King. The girls decide to have a booth at the Health Fair, and Logan suggests that it be about safe baby-sitting tips and tricks.

Random Thoughts:
  • Sorry I've been gone for so long! I started a new full-time job last year, and then got completely swamped! I'm hoping I can get back to updating this blog on a regular basis (although it might not be super frequent). I actually started this recap last year, but then never got around to finishing it until now. I had to re-read the book!
  • I have never read this one either! In fact, I have never even seen this one in person, until I acquired it! SO MUCH EXCITEMENT!
    • Okay, this wasn't nearly as exciting as I thought it'd be. In fact, I think I almost would have enjoyed this book more if it had been from a different sitter's perspective. Particularly Dawn haha
  • I definitely would have liked to know more about Dawn's story in this one!
  • Logan describes Claudia as sexy, which is weird. I don't think we've ever seen the word "sexy" in these books???
  • I don't see why the dudes heckle Logan so much. I mean, sure, baby-sitting is traditionally mostly girls, but if I were Logan, I'd have been like, "Whatevs, I have a steady girlfriend and I have money to take her out!"
  • I feel like it was incredibly out of character for Pete Black to be teasing Logan. Pete's pretty friendly with the girls!