I don’t think this was one of my favorites. In fact, I’m sure of it. I remember thinking that it seemed out of character for Mary Anne to be so out of sorts because her dad’s out of town. Although, maybe “out of character” is the wrong word. But it certainly felt like it wasn’t a big enough part of her character to center a book around. I mean, I should be ashamed to admit this, but I sort of wanted to be any and all of the BSCers. And that was because I thought it would be cool to wear crazy outfits, have boyfriends, and go on awesome vacations. Not because I wanted to be sad about missing family members. And I don’t mean that it’s bad for a girl to miss her parents, it just wasn’t something I wanted to read about it.
Other than that, I actually have no recollection of the plot details. Which, must mean I hardly ever reread it, or else I just really didn’t like it.
There isn’t really a whole lot of plot in this one, but here goes. It’s the end of the school year and in BSC-land, summer camps don’t start until a couple weeks into July. This means there will be a lot of kids with nothing to do, and a lot of parents who need childcare. Of course, the BSC comes to the rescue by running a day camp in Mary Anne and Dawn’s backyard. They give it a circus theme, because planning activities for children is much more fun with a theme. They plan on having all the kids practice circus-type acts for a performance to their parents at the end of camp (such as dancing and pretending to be circus animals).
Unfortunately, the campers include Karen and a bunch of her friends – who previously attended a “real” circus camp. These kids also go to private school with Karen, so there’s a bit of a divide between them and the rest of the campers (the BSC’s regular clients, who go to public school). The “real” circus campers act like total brats and are constantly putting down the BSC’s attempt at doing circus activities. And the brats spend so much time doing this, that when the dress rehearsal for the performance comes around, they don’t know what they’re doing. But, the BSC gets them to apologize for their behavior and they manage to rework the show so that they don’t look like idiots.
Meanwhile, Mary Anne’s father’s away on a two-week business trip. Sharon gets excited about getting to be “bachelor girls” and plans to spend the time ordering a lot of take out, renting lots of movies, and not doing housework (as opposed to when she normally takes such pains to put her shoes in the refrigerator, cans of soup on the bookshelf, and mail in the medicine cabinet). However, Mary Anne’s surprised to find that she really misses her dad, and she realizes the two of them have gotten pretty close. Because of this, she doesn’t really feel like going along with Sharon and Dawn’s plans, and even gets annoyed at the dishes piling up. So, she sort of sulks around, until she sprains her ankle by falling off her bike. Then, she mopes and sulks around some more. Mary Anne eventually realizes she’s making herself miserable, and decides to try and have fun. Although by this point, her dad’s on his way home. Once he’s back, she talks to him about how she missed him and he says he’ll attempt to make future trips shorter. And Mary Anne resolves to not act so sulky when he’s away.
- These girls are so formal at their meetings. Mary Anne and Mallory realize that the kids will have free time at the start of summer and say they’ll “make it club business” for their next meeting. Why not just say, “let’s talk about it at a meeting”?
- Three-cheese macaroni sounds good, but not exactly something that would be classified as a “health food.” So, why does Dawn want to make it?
- They keep referring to Karen and her friends going to circus camp, so you know that means it was a Little Sister book. I probably would have liked that, since I was a fan of crossovers, but it was WAY after I outgrew Little Sister books.
- Karen’s such a brat. She keeps saying how the BSC camp isn’t “real” circus camp. Which, is true. And part of me likes the fact that some kids actually dislike something done by the BSC. But it’s Karen, so I have a hard time enjoying the scenes. Also, it’s just supposed to be fun.
- You know, as a kid I don’t think I hated Karen as much as some people did. But reading them now? I understand the hate, and this book’s a great example….Karen makes sure none of her friends enjoy themselves with the circus activities. Because it’s not enough to simply dislike something, she has to take the fun away from everyone else.
- One of the other subplots’s about a little girl named Alicia at the camp (her older brother goes to school with Karen). Alicia’s afraid to leave Mary Anne and Dawn’s yard to walk to the park, because she thinks her mom won’t be able to find her. So, Mary Anne stays at the house with her every day. By the end of camp, Alicia’s fine, so I guess it’s supposed to be some kind of parallel with Mary Anne missing her dad.
- When the “bachelor girls” decide to rent bad movies, Mary Anne picks Buffy the Vampire Slayer. From her description, I’m guessing this was before the TV series started, which makes me feel so old (since that seems like a long time ago).
- Dawn gets all excited about ordering pizza twice in one week. But isn’t she normally not a big pizza person? Even when they just get it with vegetables, it doesn’t seem like one of her top picks.
- Mary Anne uses the name “Gossip” to describe a game where a person whispers into the ear of the person next to them, who then whispers to the next person, etc., until you have the last person say (what is normally) a mixed up version of that sentence out loud. But, I always heard that called “telephone.” And I’m fairly sure the BSC refers to it that way in an earlier book. I think it’s Mary Anne Saves the Day, when she and Kristy are sitting for the Pikes and make them play telephone so they don’t have to talk directly to each other. Does that sound familiar?
- Everybody’s shocked (but impressed) that when telling ghost stories to the kids, Mallory tells a scary story with a lot of references to blood and an ending where everyone dies. But, they’re always saying she’s a great writer, so why the shock?
- Mr. Braddock’s driving by when Mary Anne falls off her bike, and he ends up driving her to the hospital. It’s only when they get there, that Dawn (who was with them) calls Sharon at home. Shouldn’t Mr. Braddock have swung by the house on the way to the hospital? I mean, it isn’t like she was bleeding to death and needed to be rushed anywhere.
- It’s kind of funny that Mary Anne makes a point of noticing how close Dawn and her mom are…when it’s only a couple books later that Dawn takes off for California permanently.
- Karen makes up a circus act where she pretends to saw her friend Nancy in half. And she actually takes a real saw from the barn and tries to use it in the dress rehearsal. These girls do a great job supervising large groups of children, huh?
- At one point, Mary Anne refers to the division between the SES (Stoneybrook Elementary School) kids and the SMS kids. But Karen’s school’s called Stoneybrook Academy. SMS would be the middle school, right?
- Alicia dresses up like a camel for the circus performance, because it’s her favorite circus animal. But are camel’s really in circuses? I’ve never been to one, so I really have no idea.
- While Karen’s performing her act, one of the plastic legs she’s using (to give the look of her friend being sawed in half) falls on the ground (calling attention to the fact that it’s a trick). So, she’s pissed, but then realizes the audience is laughing and hams it up. Because there couldn’t possibly be something that doesn’t work out well for Karen, could there?