Tuesday, December 30, 2008

“How could I not explore my own personal secret passage?”……BSC #9: The Ghost at Dawn’s house

Memory Reaction

I remember almost nothing about this book. I remember Dawn had a secret passage that she finds in this house, but I don’t think that is based off my memory of this specific book. I just know about it because it is mentioned in every Dawn book, and probably most of the non-Dawn books. The only thing I really can place being in this book is that Nicky Pike finds the passage first. But again, I think they mention that info in a lot of later books.

Revisited Reaction

Okay, this is an early book, and Dawn hasn’t lived in Stoneybrook that long, so she hasn’t searched the house fully for her precious secret passage. That is what she spends this book doing, including a search with the rest of the BSC. At first she only succeeds in scaring herself. Then one day she is sitting in the barn, and she falls through the floor into the passage.

Once she finds it, Dawn still keeps scaring herself. She keeps finding “weird” things in the passage, and they are different every time. Like, on day there is a key on the ground and the next day there is a pile of peanut shells, etc. She becomes convinced it is a ghost leaving/taking all these objects. Because, you know, she is an idiot who still believes in ghosts at the age of 13. (And even if she believes in ghosts I would think she should wonder why a ghost would be eating so much junk food…I think most ghost stories say spirits don’t need to eat, or can’t eat).

Then Dawn reads this book on the history of Stoneybrook, and she finds a story about some dude disappearing between his house and his barn. Dawn decides this MUST be her house, and the guy that vanished MUST be haunting the passage. When Dawn talks about this in later books, I always thought the book Dawn she read that story in actually referenced her house. But it doesn’t, it just says a house in Stoneybrook with a barn.

Meanwhile, whenever anyone sits for the Pikes, Nicky runs off and doesn’t come back for hours. He is sort of allowed to do this, but it still makes Dawn worried. She realizes that he might be in the passage (I don’t know how she figures this out, but she does). She checks it out, and of course, Nicky is in the passage. He admits that the stuff Dawn kept finding was his. But she still thinks the passage is haunted, because she hears noises at night. I can’t image any other reason a 200-year-old house would be making noises….but that’s Dawn for you.


  • Dawn talks about how on her recent flight to California, Jeff saved all the little packets of salt and pepper, etc. in a barf bag. I just thought it was cool because in the first Super Special, Dawn tells Karen and Andrew to use the barf bag for the same purpose.
  • Claudia gets a hollow book to hide her junk food…I remember her using that all the time in later books.
  • It has got to be really weird to sit for the people who moved into your old house…especially if it is only a couple weeks after you moved. Anyway, Kristy has to do that when she sits for the Perkins.
  • It is kind of weird how sometimes Jeff is old enough to stay home alone, and other times he gets a baby-sitter. I guess that is more normal though…I was allowed to stay home alone in the afternoons before being allowed to at night.
  • Ha. Kristy calls Karen out on how she always changes what part of the house Ben Brewer haunts.
  • Bratty Dawn doesn’t tell anyone she found a secret passage because she wants to keep it to herself.
  • Dawn talks about how her mom dates a lot of people…I know some people try to get right back out there after a divorce, but in the BSC world, her mom remarries in about a year. There doesn’t seem to be enough time to play the field and still get serious enough about someone to get married.
  • I totally remember this part. Dawn’s mom goes out with a guy name “Trip” so she calls him the Trip Man. I think she talks about him in other books or something.
  • Dawn and Jeff are both idiots. Or deprived or something. They find an ice cream cone in the secret passage. It is a sugar cone, which is what you get at most ice cream parlors (At least ones that I have been to). But Jeff thinks all ice cream cones are “flat and airy looking.” Meaning wafer cones, I guess. Dawn decides it must be an “old-fashioned cone.” But seriously, I worked for two summers at Baskin Robbins, and never heard anyone think a sugar cone was old fashioned.
  • Of course, later Nicky says he bought an “old-fashioned” cone from an ice cream truck, so maybe Ann M Martin is the idiot. But either way, it annoyed me.
  • This has what I think is the first mention of Cam Geary, that actor Mary Anne is obsessed with.
  • Since when do the Pikes pay extra for the BSC to do chores?
  • Dawn tries to move her furniture in front of the secret passage to keep the ghost from coming in. Her mom laughs at her, because, if you believe in ghosts you usually assume they can get through walls.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

“I felt like talking to Dawn made me an official member of the BSC”………BSC # 90: Welcome to the BSC, Abby

Memory Reaction

I liked Abby when she first joined. I think it was nice to have a fresh perspective on everything. He books were the only ones that felt “different” and like I was actually not reading the same thing over and over. If I actually read more than one or two of her books, I probably would have ended up hating her though, I can see how she would be grating.

This was also around the time I gave up the books, so I was probably getting bored because they were too easy for me, and not necessarily because of the repetition.

Revisited Reaction

Okay, this is Abby’s first book. She was introduced in the one before it, so is already in the club. She is just getting used to it. I guess in a way it is like Dawn’s first book, because Abby also has to deal with Kristy having issues with her.

The problem starts when Abby has a bad asthma attack while baby-sitting. She has to go to the hospital to get oxygen, but she recovers quickly, and Kristy covered the end of her sitting job. Unfortunately, this totally freaks Kristy out because if it happens again, it could be…bad for the kids? Bad for the club? I mean God forbid, someone isn’t 100% perfect. Abby is all, it is not a big deal, it rarely happens, but Kristy still is worried. It’s dumb cause really, anything can happen and the important thing is that Abby could deal with an emergency. But, whatever. Kristy pretty much gets over it by the end, but they don’t really explain why.

The subplot is kind of tied in with all this – there is a fundraiser going on in Stoneybrook to raise money for the schools’ arts program. Of course, the BSC has a booth. And of course, all their clients have booths. So, on their sitting jobs, they all help the kids set the booths up. Abby also tries to get her mom and sister to start a booth as well. They agree, but are not as enthusiastic about it as Abby. She basically does all the work herself (baking to sell cakes and cupcakes).

Meanwhile, Anna and Abby are slowly unpacking their stuff. They come across a box of stuff that belonged to their dad (who died), and get all emotional. They don’t want to make their mom sad, so they hide the box. Then on the day of the fundraiser, Abby’s mom gets stuck on a train because of an accident, and Abby think she might have been hurt. But, she wasn’t, and when she gets home the family bonds. You know the drill. Then the twins pull out the “dad box” and they all have a happy/sad conversation about how it is important to remember their dad.


  • Kristy is helping her siblings make “pasta jewelry,” and Abby asks if it is rigatoni. Kristy can’t believe Abby knows the names of the different pastas. I can…I think most people at least know the standard ones. But maybe I just eat too much Italian food.
  • Abby tells us how she doesn’t think Stacey is really sophisticated because of when she quit the club. I….don’t think that is the reason. But I admire her ability to think for herself.
  • Abby doesn’t think Shannon (the person) should be flattered that the Thomas’s dog is named after her. I pretty much feel the same way about that.
  • The Papaddakis kids have pets named: Pat the Cat, Myrtle the Turtle, and Noodle the Poodle. They actually say the full names like that too. “Did you see the trick Pat the Cat did? Did you feed Noodle the Poodle?” That has to get annoying.
  • Abby is surprised that everyone in the club called her to see if she was okay after the asthma attack, cause she doesn’t know them that well yet. I wonder if that says more about Abby or about the BSC.
  • Is asthma really that big a deal? I knew people who had it as a kid and never thought anything of it. Kids in school who had it, just carried around inhalers and sometimes got to skip gym.
  • Watson rents carnival rides and hires people to run them for the fundraiser. Nice that he is putting his money to good use, but if he wanted to give that much, wouldn’t it have been easier to just donate money?
  • Wow, Abby and Anna talk about how they are writing letters to their friends from Long Island. Actually letters, not e-mails. That alone makes this book seem so outdated.
  • When did a farm start to exist in Stoneybrook? The Arnold twins get an idea to borrow this goat from a neighbor with a farm so people can take pictures with it. And they just walk to this farm and ask the woman who lives there if they can borrow the goat. She agrees, and comes to help out, but it still seems rude.
  • Why are none of these parents helping out with booths? It is all these little kids and their baby-sitters doing everything. Do they even care?
  • Everything at the fundraiser is priced really cheap. Like, thirty-give cents for a cookie, $1, for a photo, etc. How can they make enough money to fund an arts program in multiple Stoneybrook schools at those prices?
  • I can’t believe Abby’s family moved to Connecticut when Abby’s mom works in NYC. According to this book, that is a two-hour train ride. Which means her door-to-door commute must be longer than that. Why do that to yourself – especially as a single mom? It is not like there are no nice areas closer to the city.
  • See, I can get some continuity errors – some ghostwriters probably didn’t read the other books and clearly, no one did any editing. But this book just has a plain error. Abby hears someone talking about the 11:45 train derailing. Then she immediately says, “What happened to the 12:45 train, my mom was on it.” They are like one line apart. How can you even write a page with a mistake like that?
  • They talk about her mom having a cellular phone, and wondering why she didn’t use it to call. They don’t try to call her, and it turns out she didn’t even have it with her. Wow, a time when it was rare to have a cell, that people didn’t carry them around 24/7? Again, something that totally dates the books.
By the way, do people like Abby books? I have done less of them then the others, just because there are not as many of them. I can try and hunt some down if people want to read about them.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

“You know…I have never been hit in the face with a pie.”…….BSC # 19: Claudia and the Bad Joke

Memory Reaction

Whenever I think of this book, I think of my friend who got hurt falling off her swing set when we were in third grade. She didn’t break her leg like Claudia does in this book, she got a concussion and was out of school for ages. But I always associate the two in my mind.

I also remember that in later books, they claimed that Claudia’s leg hurt when it was going to rain because of this injury. Every once in a while they would have her lying down with her foot propped up at a meeting, and saying that it was a weather prediction.

Revisited Reaction

The BSC has a new client, Betsy Sobak, and Claudia is the first one that gets to sit for her. Claud is a little wary, because it turns out that the BSC wasn’t like the mafia yet -- they knew other kids baby-sat for Betsy and don’t get upset. But these other sitters refuse to watch Betsy anymore because she is an annoying brat who likes to play practical jokes.

So, of course, Claud shows up and Betsy instantly starts making jokes. It ends when she tricks Claudia into sitting on a broken swing, which leads to Claud breaking her leg. Betsy didn’t mean for her to get seriously hurt – she is not portrayed as a psychopath, just annoying. But, Claudia has to be in the hospital for awhile (to have the leg in traction), then stay home from school for a couple more weeks. This sucks, cause Claud needs all the school she can get. It also makes Claud worry that she might get injured again while baby-sitting and then not be able to be an artist…so we are supposed to think she is seriously considering quitting the club. But obviously she won’t because if Claud left the club, they wouldn’t have a place for meetings.

Meanwhile Mrs. Sobak has a lot of nerve, because she keeps calling the BSC for jobs. And they keep going, because they have decided to “declare a practical joke war” on Betsy. Cause getting revenge on little kids is such mature, good baby-sitting. At first this is a complete failure, because their attempts at pranks are lame, and Betsy has seen them all before. Then, Kristy gets help from Sam, and makes a fool out of Betsy in a movie theater. So, Betsy apologizes and Claud decides to stay in the club.


  • In this book they are still claiming Jessi doesn’t want to dance professionally.
  • At the beginning the girls are at this slapstick film festival, and Kristy talks about how much she wants to wear food. It’s a little weird.
  • They end up at the film festival because Logan called Mary Anne and told her about it. Then she called the rest of the BSC. I bet Logan was thrilled about that.
  • I still can’t believe Claudia can tell Kristy that she knows other kids who baby-sit without Kristy hiring a hit man.
  • This is a weird little bit. Claudia tells us how Dawn often stays at her house for dinner after BSC meetings because her mom is working late and Jeff is back in CA. I wonder if that was supposed to be real drama or character development or something that got lost as the ghostwriters took over.
  • Betsy’s outfit sounds like something Claudia would wear. “A very snazzy pair of red pants that were held up by red suspenders. Under the suspenders was a blue-and-white striped T-shirt. The legs of her pants ended in cuffs, and on her feet were running shoes tied with purple laces.” Seriously, a total Claud outfit.
  • However, Claud’s actual outfit includes: “the shirt was one I’d made myself. I’d taken a shirt of my dad’s, painted it, and sewn sequins all over it.”
  • The BSC still have meetings in Claud’s room while she is in the hospital. The Kishis are WAY to nice.
  • Claudia is a total mean girl in this book. Her roommate in the hospital has a broken elbow and had surgery on it. Then Claud makes fun or her for crying, and she keeps calling her a baby (not to her face, just in the narration), and thinking it is not a surprise that a girl that cries doesn’t have as many visitors as her.
  • The Pikes get on board the “playing practical jokes” band wagon, which is really annoying. Jessi and Dawn get them back by….pretending they see an elephant on the loose in the yard. Yes, it is as lame as it sounds.
  • When Claudia gets home from the hospital, her homeroom teacher arranges a phone call so everyone in the class can say hello. That…seems awkward. But maybe I am just thinking that cause I hated everyone I went to school with in 8th grade.
  • These bitches make Claud pay dues for the meetings she missed while in the hospital.
  • Claud gets tons of flowers and visits from BSC clients. I can’t really imagine that happening in real life. I mean, I can see the flowers, but not the visits.
  • According to Mallory, Mrs. Sobak doesn’t think her daughter does anything wrong when she plays jokes that lead to people breaking limbs. Stoneybrook is the capital of bad parenting.
  • Dawn is obnoxious. The Pike triplets want to make sundaes for everyone (as an excuse to play a joke on Nicky). Dawn is all annoyed because she has to put sugar and unnatural ingredients in her body. God, the horror of someone making you eat ice cream. If it is that bad, don’t eat it.
  • So, the girls are talking about how great the BSC is to try and get Claud to stay in. They bring up the trip to Disney World, then add a note that Mallory and Jessi look left out because they weren’t in the club then. But, um, Mallory was still on the trip. Hell, her family was the reason for it.
  • Kristy tells Betsy she shouldn’t play jokes because they embarrass people. I think…that is not the most important reason.
  • Do kids really have such screwed up sense of time when they are 8? Claud goes back to school three weeks after the accident. When Kristy tells Betsy about this, Betsy and all, “but she broke it months ago!”

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

“This was nothing like my first ballet class”….BSC # 55: Jessi’s Gold Medal

Memory Reaction

I totally wanted to be a synchronized swimmer after I read this book. At least, I think this book is what led to it, since it was around the same time. I tried to sign up for classes at the YMCA, but I didn’t rank high enough after their swimming test and had to take lessons first. Then, by the time I reached the appropriate level, I had sort of lost interest in getting up early on Saturday to go swimming.

Revisited Reaction

This book takes place during the summer Olympics – the 1992 ones going by the date it was published. Anyway, SMS is also having its annual Sports Festival. Interesting that it is called annual, but it never showed up in other books.

Jessi’s gym class is doing a swimming unit and when she takes her test for placement in the classes, this synchronized swimming coach sees her and is so awed by how graceful she is, she invited Jessi to join her team. Jessi is paired with another girl Elsie, who is a great swimmer but not so graceful. They figure they are a good match because Jessi is graceful, but sucks at swimming. The pair is competing in the sports festival, and they are really nervous because they are the worst in the class.

Everyone keeps telling Jessi how they know she will win the competition, because she has done so well with dancing before. But Jessi and Elsie are actually horrified at how much they suck because they are used to doing so well at dance and swimming respectively. So, they spend hours of extra time practicing, and at the festival, they win first place. They both decide to quit the team anyway, because they don’t want to work that hard at being good. Because you shouldn’t do things if you aren’t naturally good at them, I guess.

Meanwhile, there are a couple subplots going on.

1) Jessi decides that since everyone is Olympic crazy, the BSC should throw a mini-Olympics for the kids they watch. It is pretty dull, Charlotte Johanssen and Becca refuse to participate but have fun watching. Andrew Brewer can’t win anything, because he is four, but he gets a prize for trying hard. Etc.

2) Kristy challenges Alan Grey to some obstacle-course/race at the festival. They bet a week as a personal slave. Kristy wins, so Alan has to do all the grunt work at the mini-olympics. I would really like to see what would have happened if Alan won. Remember…he has the hots for Kristy.

3) Mallory acts super-lame. She doesn’t want to compete in the festival, because as we all know she hates sports. For some reason her friends are all: “You don’t want to be in the festival? Why not? It is all in fun.” They do this to Mary Anne too, who ignores them. But Mal tries to pretend she sprains her ankle to get out of doing anything. Only, she really sprained her ankle while doing so.


  • I totally remember this part: Mme Noelle’s saying that hoses sweat, gentlemen perspire, and ladies “glow.”
  • Would an eleven-year-old really be guest in the lead of actual ballets? Like Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty? When I was eleven, my ballet class had a recital every year, but it wasn’t an actual show. I’m sure Jessi’s class is supposed to be more intense, but I can’t see the youngest kid in class getting that many lead roles.
  • Becca’s bathing suit was plain white, so she colored it with markers. What kind of kid gets a plain white bathing suit?
  • Jessi wants her parents to get a pool and when they say it is too expensive, she offers them her baby-sitting money. Right, Jessi.
  • Claud outfit: “Pastel-green, cuffed shorts; a wild Hawaiian shirt tied at the waist, with vibrant colors that picked up the green; and sandals with crisscrossing ankle straps to her knees.”
  • I can’t believe a middle school class would have a swimming unit. Especially if there is no pool at the school. Mal and Jessi had to walk a good five minutes to get to the community pool. Then they still have to change. How long is their class that they have time to do this?
  • Also, I doubt the school would be allowed to leave campus to go use a pool – my high school was right next to our town pool, but we were never allowed to go there because of various liability issues that exist if a teacher takes kids off school property.
  • Mallory is so embarrassed by her bathing suit, that she hides behind Jessi the whole time. Why would she bring a bathing suit she thought looked babyish? She claims she wouldn’t have done it if she knew the boys were going to be able to see her, but wouldn’t she have worried about the girls too? They are the ones more likely to insult her taste in fashion.
  • Would a swim test really make people do the dog paddle? I always thought that was a “bad” way to swim, and while it would keep you afloat, you should be taught “real” strokes. I mean, you didn’t see Michael Phelps winning a medal for his awesome dog-paddle, did you?
  • In the sports festival, Dawn enters the javelin throw. Her reasoning is that no one knows how to do it, so she won’t be the worst in the class. Again, would middle school have something like that?
  • What is wrong with these girls? Charlotte Johanssen does want to be in the mini-Olympics. So, Stacey tricks her and Becca into having their own races, then says, “so isn’t this fun? Are you sure you don’t want to do the Olympics? Then Charlotte feels bad because she thinks Stacey is mad at her.
  • When Kristy hears Charlotte doesn’t want to enter, she can’t believe it. Has she met Charlotte?
  • Mary Anne calls Charlotte to tell her she isn’t being in the sports festival, so Charlotte shouldn’t feel bad about not being in the mini-olympics. Charlotte actually convinces Mary Anne to sell refreshments at the festival. Meanwhile, poor Mal still can’t admit she doesn’t want to do it.
  • Of course Jessi gets to choreograph the swimming routines.
  • Claudia enters a “backwards race,” and I am pretty sure she only did it to show off her outfit: “Electric pink track shorts with a turquoise racing stripe, a matching top with cut off sleeves, brand new high-top track shoes with no socks, and floral print suspenders.”
  • I can sort of see Jessi not wanting to keep swimming, because she wanted to save her energy for ballet. But I really think she just didn’t like being naturally good at something.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

“If I become the sister of Little Miss Stoneybrook, I will absolutely die”…..BSC # 15: Little Miss Stoneybrook…and Dawn

Memory Reaction

I remember reading this, and not fully understanding why Mal and Jessi called beauty pageants sexist. I watched Miss America as a little kid, but never really thought about the sexism angle. I do now, so maybe I have the BSC to thank for being a feminist. But probably not.

Revisited Reaction

Stoneybrook is having some lame little girl beauty pageant, and Claire and Margo Pike want to enter. Dawn gets a job helping them prepare, because, God forbid Mrs. Pike help her kids with something. Dawn is jealous of Mal and Jessi, because Kristy makes a big deal out of formally inducting them to the club, and everyone gets jealous because Charlotte Johnassen requests Claudia sit for her (so that she can feel close to Stacey, who just moved). Because of all this jealousy, Dawn wants to make sure one of the girls wins, so she can prove what a great person she is.

Claire and Margo are not exactly beauty pageant material – Claire sings a Popeye song as her talent, and Margo peels a banana with her feet (which is just gross). But, they seem to be having fun. Meanwhile, other kids sign-up and the rest of the BSC coaches them – Kristy helps Karen, Mary Anne helps Mariah Perkins, and Claudia helps Charlotte Johanssen. Mal and Jessi refuse to have anything to do with it. The rest of the sitters, all get a little competitive about who will win.

On pageant day, the BSC decides the pageant is kind of silly, and the kids (except Mariah) all kinda suck, so they just naturally shrug off the competitiveness. They also realize Mariah is the only one with a chance of winning and root for her. She ends up coming in second, and the winner is this chick named Sabrina Bouvier who encompasses everything wrong with little kid-beauty pagents. She also somehow ends up in eighth-grade by book 60. I’m thinking Ann M. Martin knew somebody with that name. If you haven’t already seen it, this did inspire an awesome fan fic.

Subplot: Jeff Schafer hates Stoneybrook and wants to go back to California. This is in the intro chapter of every book, but this is the one where it actually happens.


  • When Charlotte requests that Claudia sits for her, Kristy gets mad at Claud for taking the job. Jessi and Mal don’t get why…shouldn’t someone have explained the club rules before they joined?
  • Jeff is surprisingly self aware of the fact that he acts out because he misses California.
  • Dawn tells us how even though she misses California, she could never leave her mom. Sure, Dawn.
  • Dawn doesn’t really help Claire and Margo very much. She knows their talents are lame and just lets them go ahead with them. I guess it is good she is letting them be themselves, but she should prepare them for not winning.
  • How is Mariah Perkins so talented? She is five and has taken ballet, tap dancing, theater, and gymnastics. Plus, she can sing a ridiculous number of songs. I was in some kind of tumbling when I was that age, but I couldn’t really do much.
  • Mrs. Perkins is the only sane parents, because she tells Mariah she can be in the pageant, but she should know some people will take it really seriously, and to only do it if you can have fun without winning.
  • I like Charlotte and all, but reciting something from a book isn’t really a talent. Also, Claudia thinks this is unique, but really it is the same as Margo’s talent (She recites a poem while she eats the banana she peeled with her feet).
  • Mal and Jessi are sitting for the Pikes and they get really annoyed with Claire and Margo rehearsing for the pageant. I kind of like that they actually show these girls getting annoyed by the little kids they are around.
  • The girls also train the kids to answer the questions right. Mallory thinks it is awful that they are not letting the girls be themselves or creative. I can’t help but kinda love Mal in this book.
  • When Jeff leaves for California, Dawn and her mom get to go right up to the gate and wait for him to board. Remember when that was possible?
  • There are only fifteen girls in the pageant, which means a third of them were coached by the BSC.
  • Margo picks out who Sabrina Bouvier is just by looking at her. She thinks only someone with a name like that would wear makeup at age six.
  • Backstage, most kids have their pushy stage moms with them, but do the Pikes (or the other BSC parents)? Nope, that is what they pay someone for.
  • I don’t care where you are, putting makeup on a six-year-old is wrong.
  • Karen Brewer sings the Wheels on the Bus as her talent, and Dawn thinks she is making up verses as she goes along. The judges can’t stand her though, and they keep looking at their watches.
  • Charlotte freaks out, forgets her speech, and runs off the stage crying. That’s what happens when you force a kid to do something they don’t want, Claudia.
  • After Charlotte runs off the stage in tears, Claudia has to go find her parents. If you were watching a beauty pageant and saw your daughter run off stage crying, wouldn’t you go look for her?
  • Dawn, Claire, and Margo think it is funny that the pageant coordinator thinks Dawn is their sister. Well, maybe she assumes most families want to do things together.
  • Karen gets asked what three things she would rescue in a fire, and Karen can’t pick between her brother and a pen that writes in three colors for her last item. I guess it is at least realistic.
  • Margo is asked what she hopes will happen by the year 2010. It is freaky to be reading that now, when we are actually close to that.
  • When Jeff gets back to California, he talks about how his dad helps him with his math homework, and Dawn points out she and her mom never did that with Jeff. Way to ruin the book’s feminist message with a message that girls can’t do math.