Sunday, April 27, 2008

Yes, I invited six friends to come on the trip……..BSC Super Special #8: Baby-sitters at Shadow Lake

Memory Reaction

This is weird, because I remember reading this book, and I remember really liking it, but I don’t really remember what happens. I know it is a book where they all go away with Kristy’s family and it is at a lake, but the details are a total blur. The only thing that stands out to me is how Karen gets a chapter in this book, and in some Little Sister book, she also talks about going to the lake. I was so impressed with the crossover stuff.

Revisited Reaction

This is actually a pretty mild plot. Some of the Super Specials were about major events (like a snowstorm, getting stuck on a freaking desert island, being in a play, etc.) In this one....they just they go to a lake. The set up is that Watson’s aunt and uncle are thinking of leaving him their vacation house at a lake in Massachusetts, and they are letting him stay there with his family for a couple weeks to decide if he wants it. They let the kids invite friends (because Watson and Elizabeth are psycho), so the BSC comes, plus some annoying friends of David Michael and Karen. So, of course, all the girls get some sort of subplot in the overall story.

Kristy: Um….she learns to drive a boat? That is really all she does. Plus, she really wants Watson to accept the cabin so she makes everyone right a journal talking about how great it is. When she gives it to him, Watson is touched and decides to let his aunt and uncle leave it to him. He also calls Kristy his daughter, which totally touches her.

Claudia: She decides to enter this little speedboat that comes with the cabin in a boat show. All the other boats are huge yachts, so everyone makes fun of her, but in the end it goes well because people think it shows guts. I guess if you don’t see her spelling, you could confuse “stupidity” with “guts.” She does win a prize for “best spirit,” which sounds like one of those prizes you give to the worst athlete in little kids sports competitions, but Claud is happy about it.

Stacey: Gets really annoyed because Sam keeps pestering her and flinging food at her during meals. Sam finally tells her it is because he wants her, and she gets all confused. But at a dance they end up dancing all night, and by the end she says it is true love.

Mary Anne: Gets stuck baby-sitting for Karen and her friends a lot.

Dawn: Thinks there is a monster in the lake. Actually, she keeps calling it the Loch Ness Monster, which is even stupider, because they are not in Scotland, let alone at Loch Ness. She also finds a “mystery,” but it is sorta lame. There is an island in the middle of the lake where a rich family lived years ago. Then one day they disappeared and no one ever found out what happened. Dawn thinks they are haunting the lake, because everywhere Dawn goes has ghosts. Nothing else happens with that.

Jessi: Meets a guy and thinks he is hot. Then feels bad because she has a sort of boyfriend in New York (Quint, the dancer, remember?). So, she tells the guy she just wants to be friends, and he is all, “that’s all I ever wanted. I have a girlfriend.” Then Jessi is all embarrassed.

Mallory: Gets bit by a lot of bugs. She wears a bunch of hideous clothes to stop this, but it doesn’t work.

We also get random chapters from Karen and David Michael, who waste our time fighting over a playhouse/fort they find in the woods. It takes up WAY to much time though, they should have taken those chapters out and given Kristy or Mary Anne an actual plot.


  • In the letter Watson gets from his aunt and uncle, they totally diss Emily Michelle. They say how much they want to meet Karen and Andrew, his new wife, and her children. But they do not mention Emily at all.
  • Watson agrees that the kids can invite friends. But why does that translate to the entire BSC? I don’t buy the, “Oh, my friends are going to help watch the kids so we were all allowed to go.” No one needs childcare that badly.
  • When they find the boat, Kristy’s mom says anyone twelve or older can drive it. That seems like an unnecessary slam on Jessi and Mal.
  • On the first page Karen asks Watson why Shadow Lake has its name, and he says he doesn’t know. Like, two pages later Dawn asks Kristy the same thing, and she doesn’t remember if Watson told her.
  • “On that particular day, Claud was wearing a pink tank top and a pair of neon pink-and-black bicycle shorts. Also, she was wearing three pairs of flop socks, arranged so that her ankles looked like multicolored ice cream cones. Her sneakers were Day-Glo yellow.” That actually sounds like something I would have tried to copy as a 10-year-old.
  • “Stacey was wearing a simple (for her) outfit – black leggings, a long black T-shirt with brilliant starfish swooping across the front, black flop socks, and high-tops.” I guess starfish and sophisticated?
  • It is pretty disrespectful that the rest of the BSC calls Watson, “Watson.” I know that is what Kristy calls him, but Kristy calls her mother, “mom” and they don’t do that.
  • Sam totally hates Karen. In his chapter, he wakes up hearing someone singing nonsense words, and thinks it is Karen, but realizes it is Andrew. He totally freaks at the idea of there being “two of them.”
  • Mallory thinks it sucks that there are 11 girls sleeping in a room (that sleeps 12) and five boys (in a room that sleeps 12). Well, that is what you get for tagging along on someone else’s vacation.
  • Stacey changes her clothes because Sam calls her outfit (shorts and a Hard-Rock CafĂ© shirt) ugly. Then claims she doesn’t know he is bugging her because he likes her.
  • Kristy thinks that even though her mom still looks good in a bikini, she should not wear one because she is over thirty. Honestly, if a woman who gave birth to four kids can still look decent in a bikini, let her show off.
  • A Kristy outfit: “Blue shorts that fastened with a drawstring, and a T-shirt with a picture of Gumby on the front and a picture of Pokey on the back.” For hanging out at a lake, that seems more appropriate than most of Claudia’s outfits.
  • Idiotic Karen pretends that she is in The Secret Garden and that she has all these flowers growing in the middle of the woods. David Michael laughs at her for weeding the forest.
  • Mallory’s bug defense idea is to wear a towel on her head, a jungle safari hat over the towel, and a piece of mosquito netting over the hat. She also wears gardening gloves and a kerchief around her neck. Everyone refuses to walk next to her, but I bet they would call it awesome-looking if Claudia ever wore that.
  • I can not imagine a four-year-old saying, “ You are frowning….What are you thinking about?” Actually, I can’t imagine anyone actually using the word “frowning.”
  • I don’t think it is hard to believe that Claudia could tutor Emily Michelle. Peer tutoring is supposed to work well, and Claud is certainly on the level of a two-year-old.
  • Dawn meets some old guy in a store and gets him to tell her the “mystery” of the lake. I swear, when I was reading this I was convinced it ended with him sending a letter at the end of the book saying he made it up since she wanted a mystery. For the record, he doesn’t, so I must either be thinking of another book or am totally crazy.
  • In the picture of the boat show, Claudia, Dawn, and Kristy are shown in the boat. But Claudia and Kristy were the only ones who rode in the show. Someone screwed that one up.
  • How do you mix up the theme songs for Gilligan’s Island and Beverelly Hillbillies?
  • Karen is such a bitch. She and her friends have a bet with David Michael and his friends that the boys can’t build a decent fort. Since these boys are eight, they only really manage to tie a couple “walls” together and make a lean-to. Karen laughs at it, leans against a wall until it falls down, and then declares herself winner of the bet.
  • Oh, wow, I totally remember this scene. Karen and her friends dose themselves with perfume for a dance and stink up the whole cabin. That is why you don’t give a seven-year-old perfume.
  • Jessi outfit? Why not: “A jean skirt, a yellow tank top, flop socks, and a high-top sneakers.” Man, I remember when “flop socks” were acceptable.
  • It seems a little tacky that Kristy is so eager to have Watson’s aunt and uncle leave him the cabin in their will. I realize she wouldn’t have known said relatives, but it still seems rude go to be excited about getting something when they die.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I have been known to be pretty outspoken when it comes to environmental issues....BSC # 57: Dawn Saves the Planet

I was about to read another BSC book last weekend when I realized that today was Earth Day and I had Dawn Saves the Planet just sitting on my shelf, waiting to be mocked. It seemed to make much more sense to post today.

Memory Reaction

I remember reading this book, and not getting why everyone thought recycling was some new/weird thing. My town had curbside recycling for as long as I can remember. I know this because it was my job to talk the recycle cans/papers to the street on Sunday nights, and I was always forgetting. So, anyway, I didn’t believe the set up of the book, which is that everyone is ignorant about recycling and our planet.

Revisited Reaction

Dawn is a bitch. Really. They should rename this book, “Dawn is a Bitch.” The set-up is, she is learning about the environment in science, and as part of a class project, she and Stacey (also in the class) teach a class to kids about saving the earth. Cause if it is possible to involve kids, these girls will. Unfortunately, Dawn takes everything WAY to seriously, and starts lecturing people every time they use a paper napkin, throw out an aluminum can, etc.

She also gets a “brilliant” idea to start a recycle center at school for Stoneybrook. The kids in school vote to set it up, but because she has been so obnoxious about the environment, they don't pick Dawn to be in charge. She, of course, acts like a bitch about it, and refuses to volunteer at the center. Then she is upset about not getting recognition at the ceremony about it. She also starts bossing around the rest of the BSC and just assumes they will help her with this stupid “green fair” the kids are putting on as part of their class. Finally, the other girls call her out on being a bitch and she promises to lighten up. Of course, I have read later books and know this doesn’t really happen. But we need to have those happy endings, right?


  • Dawn is a total dork in the science class, raising her hand for every question and practically shouting out answers, and just being overly excited about everything. Then she is surprised when Alan Gray makes fun of her.

  • In this book, Kristy is described as having chin length hair. I always pictured her with long hair that she pulled into ponytails.

  • Stacey outfit: “Today she was wearing floral leggings, a pink shirt with big sleeves, and a long vest covered in antique pins. A black fedora with a red cloth rose was perched on the top of her head.”

  • Heh, I totally still cut up six-pack rings before I throw them out. I don’t think it is from this book, I think it was from elementary school science.

  • According to this book, Styrofoam=the devil. That cracks me up because yesterday my company sent out a memo that they are going to stop stocking the kitchen with Styrofoam cups. Maybe Dawn got to an executive where I work.

  • The Rodowsky’s dog can bark along with “Home on the Range.” We don’t get to see it, though. Too bad. It would have been the highlight of the book.

  • Dawn bitches at Mary Anne for only writing on one side of the club record book, and Mary Anne almost cries. Nice way to treat your sister/best friend.

  • All the kids in Dawn and Stacey’s class turn into environment-nazis like Dawn. I bet the parents love that.

  • I don’t know, is it really better for a family with eight kids to use cloth napkins? Cause, that is at least ten extra napkins, three times a day, which adds up to a lot of extra laundry. And extra laundry uses more energy, which is also bad for the environment.

  • Dawn yells at everyone while trying to promote her recycle center idea, because they dare to throw out a can or use Styrofoam. Then she gets upset that Mary Anne finds her annoying, because it means Mary Anne doesn’t care about the planet.

  • Ha, ha, ha. Dawn tries yelling at Shawna Riverson about using Styrofoam, and Shawna just rolls her eyes. Dawn follows her down the hall lecturing her like a maniac, but Shawna still just rolls her eyes, and other kids laugh. I think I love Shawna. Even if she is a cheater….

  • Two 8th grade guys bring brie, pate, and sparkling cider into lunch at school. Then they spread out a tablecloth and drink from wine glasses. The idea was to piss off the teachers, but I can’t picture two guys pretending to have a romantic meal without getting picked on.

  • Stacey relates some gossip to Claudia that Claud missed because she was eating lunch at another table. Um….since when does the BSC eat at other tables without getting yelled at by the other girls?

  • Nicky Pike writes a letter to the president telling him how important it is to protect the environment. Don’t worry Nicky. I am sure anyone smart enough to be elected president, would totally understand the issues affecting the environment and would want to stop global warming and recycle.

  • Wow, Dawn gets an A on her project. Shocking.

  • Hey, Dawn you know what is probably bad for the environment? Flying on large jet planes across the country every other month.

  • At the end, Dawn gets to be co-chair of the recycling committee. You know, the one that is a huge deal in this book and is never mention again?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

This will be hard to top in terms of rotten vacations…..BSC #43: Stacey’s Emergency

Memory Reaction

Thanks to the Internet, I know that almost everyone thought they were diabetic when they read a Stacey book. However, my mom is diabetic. So, when I read a Stacey book, I reacted by complaining how the BSC did an awful job portraying diabetes. Granted, Stacey was 13 and my mother is an adult (obviously), so some of those differences probably are to be expected. But as a kid, I didn’t think about it like that.

Revisited Reaction

Stacey’s Emergency is all about poor Stacey and how awful it is to have a disease and divorced parents. I think all the Stacey books were either along those lines or were about her “luv” life. Sometimes both. But anyway, she is not feeling well and doesn’t tell her parents because she is too stupid to say anything about her life-threatening illness acting up. Or as she says, she doesn’t want to worry them. But I think stupid is a better description. Stacey is also feeling really stressed because both her parents always pump her for information on the other. Which, kind of sucks of them. Oh, and she keeps sneaking chocolate, even though she is not supposed to eat it.

Then, while Stacey is visiting her dad in New York, she keeps feeling awful, they can’t reach her doctor, and head to the hospital. She stays for a couple weeks, fights with her parents, makes up with them, has the BSC visit her, then goes home. It is kind of anti-climactic, really. She just feels sick, goes to the hospital, is sort of treated, but not cured, and comes home. Oh, and Charlotte Johansson freaks out about it, and turns into some kind of hypochondriac. Dr. and Mr. Johansson deal with this issue like any good parent of Stoneybrook would: they go out even more than usual so that various members of the BSC can come by and take care of it.


  • Stacey doesn’t tell her mom anything about her blood tests being off because her mom has had a hard few months with her divorce and needing a job and all. I’m sure her sick daughter ending up in the hospital because she didn’t go to a doctor earlier helps out a ton.
  • Oh, come on, Stacey. She goes on and on about how much it sucks to be a child of divorce because traveling to see her dad is so hard. It is what, an hour train ride to Manhattan? Some people have longer commutes than that to work every day. Besides, what happened to loving NYC and having an excuse to visit?
  • Stacey says that when she and Claudia met, they literally ran into each other. I must have remembered this description, because for the longest time I actually thought there was a scene in Kristy’s Great Idea where we see it happen. But I just reread that book, and it isn’t there. I wonder if I just imagined it off this description.
  • Kristy’s life isn’t really any more complicated than any one else in the BSC. Her father left when she was a kid, and her mom got married when she was 12. That’s not too different from Mary Anne, Dawn, or Stacey, who all went through various degrees of death/divorce/remarriage/moving.
  • When I was a kid, I never realized what a short stick Mal and Jessi had. But in every book, the descriptions of them are so…. condescending. “Well, even though they only sit in the day, they are still valuable. Really!” Or, “even though they are younger, we still like hanging out with Mal and Jessi. Honest!”
  • Jessi and Mal are playing with these fortuneteller things, that they call “Cootie Catchers,” and chant “eenie, meanie, minie moe” to pick a “fortune”. If these are what I think, I always just called them fortune tellers and picked “fortunes” like this: I don’t get calling them cootie catchers.
  • Stacey’s father books up every minute of her weekend when she visits. He picks all these nice restaurants, takes her to museums and Broadway shows, etc. Considering how Stacey would be happier shopping, he should save his money for that.
  • I never understood how, when the girls were baby-sitting, the kids would sometimes decide they want to bake, and just go and do it. Charlotte decides she wants to make fudge, and since the Johanssons have all the ingredients, they do it. Maybe I was a deprived child, but we never had chocolate or other baking stuff in the house. We would buy it special if we were going to bake for a holiday or something.
  • Plus, who lets their kid use the oven with just a teenager around to watch them?
  • Stacey’s father takes her to the Sign of the Dove and the Russian Tea Room, two fancy restaurants in NYC. I can’t picture a 13-year-old wanting to eat there, even one as “sophisticated” as Stacey.
  • When Mary Anne finds out where Stacey is eating in NY, she asks her to look for celebs and to bring back leftover food from their plates. She is totally the girl who would bid for Britney Spear’s chewed gum on e-bay.
  • I remember this scene so vividly: Stacey being thirsty on the train, not having access to a snack bar, and drinking water from her hands in the bathroom.
  • Ha. Ann Martin tries to get away with saying Claudia has a good memory. Really? Wouldn’t she be….I don’t know, smarter, if she had a good memory?
  • Claud is baby-sitting Charlotte when she finds out about Stacey being in the hospital. And she just….tells Charlotte. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to wait and talk to Charlotte’s parents first?
  • Stacey has a stuffed pig collection. And does an imitation of Porky Pig. Like all the sophisticated gals of the eighties.
  • While she is in the hospital, Stacey expects her mom to stay at her dad’s apartment. Because she doesn’t remember how much her parents fight, I guess.
  • Speaking of her parents, it is pretty immature of them to not even come to the hospital at the same time.
  • I really don’t need to hear about Stacey using a bed pan. Boundaries, ghostwriters. Boundaries.
  • Laine is awesome. She gives Stacey all these funky, random gifts, like plastic neon flowers, a wind-up spider, light up sunglasses, and a mirror that screams when someone looks into it. I totally want one of those.
  • Hot topic at SMS: Cokie gets a nose job. Who lets a 13-year-old get plastic surgery?
  • After she is in the hospital for over two weeks, Stacey has to stay home from school for another week. How much school can she miss and still be allowed to complete 8th grade? Not that she’ll ever finish 8th grade, but still.
  • Charlotte is a little freak. Over the course of the book she thinks she has: strep throat, an ulcer, a pinched nerve, anemia, diabetes, Lyme disease, arthritis, and a kidney infection. Imagine if they had the Internet back then? She would diagnose herself with everything imaginable.
  • Serious lack of outfits in this book. All we get is what Stacey’s mom buys her while she is in the hospital: “a beautiful emerald-green sweater and a matching beret.”
  • Stacey has a talk with her parents about how they put her between their own crap. But clearly, nothing is resolved since there are several more books in the series about Stacey’s crappy divorced parents making her life miserable.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Yes, this is the real title....BSC # 89: Kristy and the Dirty Diapers

Memory Reaction

Okay, this book is one of the last ones I read – it was published in 1995, which means I was fourteen, and obviously WAY too old to still be reading. I mean, I thought THEN it was one of the dumbest books I had read and seriously predictable. I guess that is part of the reason I stopped reading soon after. The whole plot is that Kristy’s Krushers get a sponsorship from a diaper company and the team hates it. So, of course by the end they go back to just being the Krushers. I can tell you all this based on my memory from years ago, but even if I couldn’t I could probably have told you the end based on the back of the book summary.

It is also when Abby first shows up, and I remember how there was this cool stupid contest to name her and her twin. Which I entered. With multiple entries. I was sort of relieved when I didn’t win though. I think the prize was going with ten friends to have lunch with Ann M. Martin, and there was no way I would have admitted to any of my friends I still read BSC books. I just wanted to name them.

Revisited Reaction

The plot has every baseball clichĂ© you could imagine. The gist of it is that Kristy gets the sponsorship for the team and the kids flip out because they have to wear uniforms that say “Diapers.” Then the guy who gave them the sponsorships shows up and tells them they suck, so they play worse then usual. Then after they go back to being Krushers, they win against the Bashers. Woo-hoo! Or whatever.

This book also introduces Abby. Dawn just moved back to California (again, some more) and the BSC is super busy. Coincidently, twin girls move in two doors down from Kristy. Only it is really dumb, because Kristy hates Abby at first, for no other reason then she is jealous of her being athletic and always being the center of attention. The ghostwriter tries to make it seem like Anna is going to join the BSC instead. But since they had announced the name of the new BSCer before the book came out, you knew what was going to happen. They actually do ask both girls to join, but Anna shocks them and turns them down. Because, who would turn DOWN the BSC? It is the best club ever!!! But, it all works out because they have a new member and are not too busy to go on long vacations to exotic locations in the near future.

The sub-subplot involves Morbidda Destiny’s granddaughter Drucsilla, who is staying with her, while her parents work out their divorce. Dru is sad because divorce sucks, so the BSC tries to cheer her up. Interestingly, they pretty much fail. Dru decides on her own to start a band and makes a few new friends, but the BSC had nothing to do with that. It is really….pointless.


  • It is kind of wrong the way Kristy always describes Emily Michelle as her “adopted sister.” I had a friend who was adopted and she never went around saying “my adopted” in front of all her relatives names. Actually, I know several people who are adopted/have adopted and none of them do it. Kristy actually refers to Karen as her sister (which is fine), but she should really pay the same courtesy to Emily or the girl will get an inferiority complex.
  • I can’t stand the way these books have people with allergies talk. Haven’t they ever heard of Claritin or something? I know a lot of people with allergies who don’t always sound sick
  • Did you ever think about how many new kids showed up throughout the series? Stacey, Dawn, Logan, Jessi, Abby, Stacey again, Dawn again…..and those are just the new people who joined the BSC. There were other new people that they just had minor interaction with like Ashley Wyeth and Corey Retlin. There was like, one new person in my entire middle school career. Of course, it only took me one year to finish 8th grade.
  • I don’t know how things like this work, but if a business sponsors a baseball team, buys equipment and uniforms, can the team really just give it back? You would think there would be some type of contract for something like that. Not that a teenager could sign a contract, but still. It is not like the guy can return used uniforms he had ordered.
  • Two-and-a-half is really, really, young to be playing on a softball team. Seriously young. So is four, for that matter. But Gabbie Perkins and Jamie Newton both play on the Krushers. And their parents don’t attend the practices. They just leave them in the hands of a thirteen-year-old who is watching twenty other kids at the same time.
  • Morbidda Destiny’s (sorry, I can’t call her anything else), granddaughter is named Druscilla. No offense to anyone with that name, but what a mean thing to do to a kid.
  • Kristy totally believes Linny when he tells her his dog crapped on his uniform.
  • So this book takes place after Stacey quits to be a “bad girl” and then rejoins. Kristy makes her be on probation, and keeps reminding her about it. I can’t believe sophisticated Stacey would take it. Actually, I can’t believe anyone would take it. After a fight you either make up or you don’t, but you don’t put people on “probation.”
  • Twin outfits: “The one with allergies wore glasses and had long, thick hair, so curly it was almost in ringlets. She was wearing baggy plaid shorts and a U4Me T-shirt…the other twin had no glasses, her hair was shorter, and she had bangs. She wore long khaki pants, sandals, and a short-sleeve button-down shirt.” They both sound so normal. I hope they run from the BSC fast.
  • More twin outfits: “Abby entered the kitchen wearing a striped shirt and a paisley skirt. She looked shell-shocked. ‘What was I thinking when I packed these last night?’” I don’t know Abby, probably that you wanted to impress Claudia?
  • Every time I type “shirt” I accidentally type “shit” first. Do you think that is some type of Freudian slip?
  • Anna says how Abby likes sports but won’t join a team. But, in later books she talks non-stop about being on the soccer team. I HATE continuity errors like that because they are so easily avoidable.
  • Wow, this is bitchy. Kristy realizes that Abby already became friendly with Trevor Sandbourne and Austin Bentley, so she thinks, “I guess baseball wasn’t Abby’s only skill.” Is she…saying what I think she is saying? I can’t even think of a way to read that sentence that doesn’t mean Kristy calling her a slut. I am surprised they would put it in a kid’s book.
  • There is this weird exchange where Mary Anne asks Anna if she listens to some EZ Lite radio station that her dad likes (because Anna likes classical music). Anna has this really weird reaction to it, but it is never really explained. I just…totally don’t get it. I mean, Long Island probably would get the same radio stations as Connecticut, so it is not that weird to ask. Unless EZ Lite is just a lame station or something.
  • Mal and Jessi have nothing to do in this book. I think it was around now they were sorta phased out and didn’t get as many of their own books as the older girls.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

How could anyone accuse Claudia of cheating....BSC #40: Claudia and the Middle School Mystery

Memory Reaction

This is the book with the Ms. Frizzle outfit – when Claudia dresses like Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus books. It was so incredibly hideous that I can’t believe she didn’t get beat up. It is so sad that her outfits are so clear in my mind when I can’t remember what I wore to work last week.

I think this is also the book (or one of the books) where Claudia and Janine suddenly started being close. In the early books, it was always about how different they were and how much Claud hated having her for a sister. But later, they suddenly started being friendly with no explanation for the change. I am pretty sure this is the first one where it happened.

Revisted Reaction

At the beginning of this book, Claudia is studying really hard for a math test coming up. Janine is helping her, and being really nice about it. The day of the test, Claud thinks she aces it – which she pretty much does, with an A minus. Unfortunately, she is accused of cheating because Shawna Riverson got the exact same grade, and the exact same problems wrong. The teacher is a logical guy, so he assumes Claudia cheated. Because really, who the hell would cheat off of Claudia? Even if they know Janine is helping her study, it is a gamble. Janine was always helping Claud study, and she almost never did well. So I don’t quite understand why this time Janine was magically able to get Claudia to do well.

Claud doesn’t want her parents to get involved, and since they apparently don’t care about their daughter at all, they agree to sit back and let her be accused of cheating. The BSC tries to help Claud prove her innocence so that she doesn’t fail math and be forced to leave the club. After all, where the hell would they have meetings if Claudia was out of the club? In the end, Janine convinces the teacher to give Claud a retest, she aces it, and Shawna confesses. Then they all celebrate.

There is also a subplot where the Pike triplets break a window, but won’t tell which one of them it was. So, they all get grounded until they tell, and end up really annoying everyone. Eventually, Mallory gets them to reveal that it was just an accident with no one at fault, and so they are ungrounded. Happy endings all around.

  • If Janine is such a genius why is she still in high school? I mean, she takes courses at Stoneybrook University, but I have a feeling that college is not really comparable to Harvard. Just think about it: Doogie Howser was a doctor at 16 and all Ms. 196 IQ can claim is that she takes some local college courses? Plus, several kids in Stoneybrook have skipped a grade (Karen Brewer and Charlotte Johanson) and they are just described as smart. So you would think a genius would be at least done with high school by 16.
  • When Janine helps her study, Claudia keeps drifting into space because she can’t pay attention that long. Well, no wonder she has problems in school, the girl needs Ritalin or something. And think what a great PSA that would have been. “So, Stacey has to take something called insulin for diabetes and Claudia has to take something called Ritalin, because she has a problem called ADD. But both are really cool girls despite their health problems.” It would fit perfectly into the background chapter.
  • Claudia wanted to wear a lucky outfit for the test: “Lucky earrings – the ones that look like Princess Di’s. They’re huge (pretend) emeralds, surrounded by thousands of tine (phony) diamonds. Then I thought I would work downward from there, wearing my new green-and-blue-tie-dyed T-shirt dress (the casualness of the dress would be an interesting contrast to those fancy earrings) over green leggings.” She can’t decide between high-tops and ballet flats, but ends up going with the flats.
  • Kristy’s ONLY fault is her big mouth? What about her bossiness? Or her thing about grossing people out in the school cafeteria?
  • I would really never call Dawn mellow. If anything, she is the opposite.
  • Claud’s teacher is kind of a dick. I know it makes sense to think Claud cheated, but teachers really are supposed to be fair. He doesn’t even give her a chance to defend herself. He just lets the other girl go and tells Claudia the principal will call her parents. You’d think he would consider that Shawna is in Drama Club, and the lead in all the plays (except in Super Special #9, when she isn’t mentioned and the BSC has all the leads).
  • Is a 94 really an A minus? I would call that a straight A.
  • Claire makes Stacey redraw a hopscotch line because it is not complete straight. You would think the youngest of eight children would be used to things not being exactly her way.
  • Claud’s parents assume she cheated too (nice), but when Janine says she believes her, the parents come around. That is an interesting dynamic.
  • Heh, Mary Anne thinks Claudia could have cheated too. But the rest of the BSC tells her she is crazy and she cries. Of course.
  • Awe, Mary Anne doesn’t like to gossip. I was totally that girl in fifth or sixth grade. I got really upset when people were gossiping. Then, I became a teenager and got as bitchy as every other girl at that age.
  • So, Dawn just happens to know Shawna’s locker combination and wants to break into the locker to look for clues. First of all, no way would she know the combo. The explanation is that she and Shawna were assigned the wrong lockers at the beginning of the year, and then switched. BUT, if that really happened, why wouldn’t they just leave the girls in the lockers they had? Does it matter where they are? And if they did switch, wouldn’t the school jumble the combinations? In my middle school, they jumbled the lockers every summer so you couldn’t go to whoever had your old locker and get in.
  • Let’s say it did happen, what kind of evidence is there going to be that someone cheated? I mean, legitimate evidence.
  • Okay, so they do find a note in Shawna’s locker mentioning getting away with cheating. But, honestly, what good does that do? Anyone could have written it at any time. Claud realizes this and puts the note back, rendering several whole chapters pointless.
  • Oh, my God. Vanessa answers the phone: “This is the Pikes, whom would you like?” I am so glad she wasn’t my sister.
  • The triplets are surprised omeone-say else-hay ows-knay ig-Pay Atin-Lay. I mean, where did THEY learn it?
  • Jessi teaches the triplets "Op-Talk" after they realize everyone in the world knows Pig Latin. It sounds really annoying. You have to spell out the words, adding an “op” after every consonant. Like Hop-e-lop-lop-o, for hello. I guess, Claudia could never speak it, since she would spell everything wrong. Hell, I could barely speak it.
  • Okay, if I know that Magic Johnson is/was a basketball player and not baseball, than I would think Byron Pike would.
  • Claudia overhears Shawna in the bathroom, bragging about getting away with cheating. Too bad it didn’t take place today, or she could whip out her cell phone and record the whole thing.
  • In this book, Shawna and her friends are the most popular girls in school. But, later aren’t the cheerleaders Stacey makes friends with the coolest kids in school? Think how much more dramatic those books would have been if Stacey was hanging out with the girl who once cheated off Claudia. What a wasted opportunity for a catfight.
  • Kristy: “Is that all she ever does, shop and get perms?” Nope, she is not talking about Stacey. It is one of Shawna’s friends/clones. But it totally could be Stacey.
  • Claud is nervous about retaking the test, and Janine is all “there is no logical reason to be nervous.” Okay, I think usually people are nervous when there is no logical reason to be.
  • When she is asked to retake the test, Shawna breaks down and confesses like a villain in a bad crime movie.
  • Here we go:

“I decided to do a Ms. Frizzle . . . I decided my theme for the day would be The Sea. I put on a blue skirt with brightly colored tropical fish all over it. Then I put on my green blouse . . . I pulled my hair into a ponytail, over to one side, and I pinned it with a sand-dollar barrette I made last summer. . . I ran to my closet and pulled out a pair of shoes. They’re the plastic kid called “jellies” that I had decorated with stickers of seahorses and shells.”

  • You kind of have to admire that Claudia was able to pull all that together. A skirt with fish on it? Jellies with stickers on them? She must have a ton of clothes.
  • Claudia gets embarrassed because she is wearing the Ms. Frizzle outfit when the principal tells her she can retake the test. I think that is the only time in the history of these books she mentions being embarrassed about her clothes.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

How would you like to learn a Secret Language……BSC #16: Jessi's Secret Language

Memory Reaction

I don’t really remember a lot of this book. I know it is one of those “very special episode” type books, all about Matt Braddock, who is deaf, and the various issues he deals with. Jessi turns her ballet show into this special performance for the deaf, and I am pretty sure it made me cringe at the sappiness then. Of course, maybe I liked it then, and just blocked out the fact that I liked something so sappy. But I am thinking I really found it awkward back then.

Revisited Reaction

So the basic plot is that Jessi gets a regular sitting job for the Braddocks, including Matt, who is deaf, and his sister Haley. The Braddocks are new in town, and the kids are worried about whether they will make friends and whether kids will accept Matt. Jessi solves this problem when she introduces Matt and Haley to the kids in the neighborhood, and tells them sign language is “a secret language,” so they all want to learn it. Matt is accepted, Haley makes friends, and everyone is happy.

Meanwhile, Jessi has the lead in Coppelia at her ballet school, and the other kids in her class are jealous. Actually, they were jealous before that because she is the youngest kid in her class. But in the end, she does a great job and gets accepted at the dance school. It also helps that, by sheer coincidence, her rival at the dance school, Katie Beth, has a deaf sister. This girl’s family sounds pretty awful, because they don’t bother to try communicating with this deaf child. They just ship her off to boarding school (a decision that is basically glossed over in the book). Not that I am judging how any one should react to having a handicapped child. But, Jessi inspires the rival to learn sign language too (of course).

She also invites Matt and his classmates at his school for the deaf to her Coppelia performance, which is actually really sweet. But the cringe-worthy part is how she gives a little speech about it at the beginning of the performance telling everyone the kids are there, how they add narration (spoken and in sign language) to the production to accommodate them, and most of all, how, when Matt gives her flowers at the end, she talks to him in sign language and then translates to the audience. Who, of course, is “touched.” Like I said, it is all very “special episodey.”


  • Some of these early books really have the narrator talking to the reader. This book starts with Jessi telling us how “If I weren’t so good at languages, this story might never have happened.” Later, she actually says, “I know you met some of the Pikes in the last chapter.” I don’t think they were like that in the later books, so it is very odd to come across it here.
  • I don’t understand how the BSC supposed wrote those joint notebook entries. Did they just sit side-by-side taking turns writing? Because that seems like a really awkward way to do it. But, judging by what they write, they must.
  • So, this is the first Jessi book and she first mentions her race on page…3.
  • I have never heard this one: According to Dawn, if you can touch your nose with your tongue, you will eventually need a very big bra. The only BSC member is Kristy, but in my experience if you don’t need a bra by 8th grade, you’ll never be that big.
  • Props to the continuity people- I totally remember the names of the students in Jessi’s ballet class from all her other dance school books. Katie Beth was the one who became her friend, Mary Bramstedt was the one who was anorexic, and Carrie Steinfeld was featured in that book where someone is sabotaging Jessi. I can’t remember if she is the guilty one, but she was definitely a suspect. I guess this is one of those rare things that was actually consistent.
  • Jessi doesn’t understand why Haley would sometimes be annoyed at Matt. Um, because he is her little brother? Who gets a lot of attention? But that is just a guess.
  • Even if you didn’t learn sign language to talk to your deaf sister, wouldn’t you at least learn some of the basics? Like, say, “bathroom?” When Jessi finds out that her rival’s sister is deaf, it is because she sees the poor girl desperately signing to ask where the bathroom is.
  • It is kind of weird that Jessi takes a regular sitting job. Normally, doesn’t Kristy try not to assign them because then sitters won’t be available?
  • I guess it is just lucky that whenever Jessi needs to be in a ballet performance or whenever the BSC is going on a huge trip somewhere, the Braddocks end up not needing her.
  • Okay, now there is no excuse for THIS typo. Matt is playing baseball with the Pikes and the scene is supposed to be about how at first the other kids forgot to sign and were leaving Matt out. And in the middle of this conversation, we are told what Matt added to the argument. As in, what he spoke in response to other spoken words. The whole book is about how Matt is deaf and they have him talking. How the hell does a mistake like that get missed?
  • Ha, I totally remember how dorky Mal and Jessi used to raise hands when they wanted to talk at BSC meetings.

  • Jessi gets TEN tickets to opening night at the ballet? That seems like a lot. If they gave everyone in the show that many, there would hardly be any to sell. But it works out, because she gets to invite the whole BSC.
  • Jessi visits Matt’s school and observes that the teacher puts a lot of colorful signs up, which she thinks is to counter the fact that the students can’t hear. I would agree except for the fact that it is a second grade classroom. I think most of them are full of posters and colorful crap.
  • I don’t think it is really fair to compare being the only black person in your school to being the only person wearing jeans at a fancy party (which Kristy does). Or to compare being black to being deaf (which Jessi does).
  • Wow, they actually acknowledge who sits for Squirt while everyone else is at Jessi’s show. It is Logan if you are interested.
  • Do people really walk on stage to give flowers to the performers? I’ve never seen that happen. In fact, when I was a kid and took ballet, they would ask people not to do that. But I also haven’t seen it done at any professional shows I have attended.
  • All the stuff with Matt at the performance is sweet, but awkward. I don’t want to sound insensitive to the deaf, but it just seems like there is something off about making a big deal about deaf children at the performance. Like they are putting them on display or something. I’m trying not to offend here, but I don’t think it really helps a deaf person to make such a big deal about their deafness.