Thinking about this book kind of makes me cringe, because it’s one of those books that portrayed an “issue,” and I don’t remember it doing so very well. The plot involves Dawn sitting for a girl with Down’s Syndrome. Now, I don’t think the book does anything OFFENSIVE in its portrayal of Down’s Syndrome. I just remember it seeming kind of awkward because they try so hard to make it politically correct and lectur-y, that it was almost offensive anyway.
This was also when I started realizing how screwed up time was in BSC land. I mean, I always knew they had multiple summer vacations in one year, but that I could accept. However, this book takes place during Dawn’s “six-month” stay in California. Only she left for that in the fall, and this one takes place in the summer. So, clearly it’s been more than six months. I can take some flexibility, but don’t give timelines if you’re going to blatantly break them. Just say “a few months.”
Dawn gets a "sitting job" for Whitney Carter, who’s twelve, but has Down's Syndrome. Whitney's parents want to lie to her and say that Dawn’s just a "friend." To give her some credit, Dawn questions this, but ends up going along with the Carters. Which makes sense, since they are the ones paying her. Whitney thinks they really are friends and seems to like Dawn a lot. But, one day, Dawn slips and refers to herself as Whitney's baby-sitter. This causes all sorts of issues – Whitney’s not only mad at Dawn, she’s hurt that her parents thought she needed a sitter. She ends up trying to prove herself by taking Dawn’s sitting charges, Clover and Daffodil, to a carnival. So, this is yet another time that Dawn lost children she’s sitting for. Of course, they find Whitney with the girls and it’s all okay. And Dawn makes Whitney an honorary member of We Love Kids.
Now, this book takes place soon after Dawn acted like a selfish brat and broke her father and Carol (his then fiancé) up. So, Dawn's father is dating a bunch of women, and keeps making Dawn and Jeff go on "family" dates, to meet them. And they all pretty much suck. In fact, they suck so much I'm surprised Mr. Schafer even deemed them worthy of meeting his kids. Were they really THAT much different on the earlier dates? One was condescending to Dawn and Jeff, one was super uptight and treated a waitress like crap (which says a lot about a person), one was a bitch to Whitney, and one had a daughter Dawn goes to school with (and the two girls hate each other). So, at this point, her dad starts to limit the dating. Meanwhile, Jeff and Dawn start to think Carol may not have been so bad. So, when Dawn runs into Carol, she actually feels good about it, and tells her dad to call her. And he and Carol end up engaged.
Back in Stoneybrook, Mrs. Barrett announces her engagement to Franklin DeWitt, this guy with four kids of his own. Their kids, who had finally started getting along, start to fight, because the Barretts feel like the DeWitt kids will be taking over their house. However, Mrs. Barrett and Franklin decide to get a new house together, and they take the kids house hunting with them (with a BSC member, of course). The kids bond over picking out which house has the best tree house potential and end up happy about the new family. And this, along with Mr. Schafer and Carol’s engagement, set up a future Super Special.
- No, it’s not always sunny in California, Dawn.
- One night Dawn and Sunny are hanging out at Dawn’s, and are outside playing soccer with Jeff. They come inside when it gets dark, and then soon after Jeff goes to bed. At this point, Dawn says it’s still early enough to call Mary Anne in CT. Now…I would say early enough for a thirteen-year-old (in the summer) is before 10? Maybe 11, since it’s her mother’s house. So, are we supposed to think a ten-year-old went to bed at 7 or 8 o’clock? I don’t even think it would be dark by then.
- Dawn’s friend Maggie has purple raccoon streaks in her hair. I think I would have thought that was cool when I was thirteen.
- Here’s a pop-culture reference for you. When We Love Kids finds out about Whitney having Down's Syndrome, they ask, “like, Corky? On that TV Show."
- How is three-cheese macaroni considered health food?
- Whitney likes Keanu Reaves. Going by the copyright year, this book takes place around the same time Speed came out, so I guess it’s appropriate. But it makes me feel a little old.
- If your friend moved to California, would you waste time writing letters to her about your baby-sitting jobs?
- One of the women Mr. Schafer dates calls him "Richard." Which, is a bit awkward considering his name is Jack.
- When Claudia and Stacey are sitting for the Barretts and their soon to be step-siblings, they pack up all this food for dinner and walk to the park to have a picnic. That seems really, really, ambitious. Most of those kids are 6 and under, and they are packing so much stuff that they need a wagon to carry it all. Why not just eat in the backyard? Or go to the park after dinner?
- At the carnival, Jeff wants to ride the scrambler, and Dawn says it’s too wild for her. Now, this is coming from a girl who thought Space Mountain at Disney World was no big deal. Granted, in that book she did almost get sick, but that was described as an outlier – she’s been shown as a roller-coaster fan at several other points. So not going on a relatively tame ride seems a bit out of character.
- The date-of-the-evening DOES go on the scrambler, and promptly throws up. I really don’t buy that. The scrambler’s really not THAT wild a ride. And if someone is that sensitive to rides, they would know it by adulthood and try to avoid them.
- Franklin proposes to Mrs. Barrett at a “business” cocktail party. Who proposes at a work event? Or are we supposed to think it wasn’t really business, and the adults just said that to have a romantic evening?
- Mrs. Barrett doesn’t tell the BSC she’s engaged until a few days after the party. But shouldn't Mrs. Barrett have had the ring on when she got home that night? I guess maybe she wanted to tell the kids in her own way, but would Buddy and Suzi have known what a ring meant?
- Mary Anne volunteers the BSC to help with the wedding, because the girls get WAY too involved with their clients.
- Dawn’s really a pretty terrible sitter. The Carters tell her that Whitney is prone to ear infections, and she has to wear earplugs when swimming or going in water. But when Whitney’s getting ready to play in the sprinklers, Whitney’s the one to bring her earplugs, and Dawn has to ask her what they are.
- Shouldn't the Carters have given Dawn some leeway as a sitter if they didn't want Whitney to know she being sat for? I mean, how’s Dawn supposed to control what Whitney eats and still pretend to just be her friend?
- One of the dates is with the mother of a girl Dawn goes to school with. They don’t get along and according to Dawn have nothing in common. Then she calls the other girl and her friends part of the "brain trust" group. So is she saying she isn’t smart?
- Dawn describes her and her friends’ own motto as "study hard, work hard (and be great baby-sitters), play hard, and don't forget to surf.”
- Dawn finds it weird when the woman’s daughter calls her father “Jack,” as if it is too casual for her to not use “Mr. Schafer.” But, Dawn has been calling all these women by their first name, so it’s really a bit hypocritical.
- One of the family dates the Schafers go on is to an outdoor concert, where they bring a picnic dinner. They bring, like, three kinds of sandwiches plus side dishes and desserts…for four people. I know they have a housekeeper to help out, and Mr. Schafer’s probably going all out since it’s an early date, but it still seems over the top.
- One of the women Dawn’s father dates criticizes her bra. In front of her dad and Jeff. The first time they met. That’s a bit awkward. I remember being so embarrassed about that stuff in middle school.
- Of course, when Dawn loses the girls she’s sitting for she can’t reach the mother, because she’s at some crafts fair. All the times where they can't reach someone like that totally dates the story, because now, everyone would just pull out a cell phone. It’s like watching Seinfeld reruns…it’s amazing how many episodes wouldn’t have happened with cell phones).