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.
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.