Tuesday, December 14, 2010

“My IQ is just fine, thank you very much.”…….BSC # 101: Claudia Kishi, Middle School Dropout

Memory Reaction

I didn’t read this as a kid, but I wish I did. I would have loved finding inconsistencies.

Revisited Reaction

So, this book’s all about Claudia being an idiot. It’s October, close to the beginning of the school year, but Claud’s already behind in all her subjects. She’s frustrated because she truly doesn’t understand a lot of things she’s learning. Her parents get her a tutor and she promises to work really hard, but she still struggles. So, the school decides she should go back to seventh grade. The hope is that if she has time to re-learn everything from last year, she may actually be able to remember it and then succeed in eighth grade next year.

Claudia’s understandably upset about this. But she does notice that when she’s back in seventh-grade classes, she does understand what she’s learning. She also notices that a lot of the seventh-graders look up to her, watch her in the hallways, imitate her clothes, etc. I guess because they think she’s cool for being a year older? Regardless, she starts to feel a little better about the situation. She’s also taking an art class at the community college, taught be a semi-famous artist. She had to apply to get in, and is the youngest student, so it’s a bit of an ego boost for her.

Then she finds out that she isn’t allowed to go to the school’s Halloween dace – it’s for eighth grader only. She’s depressed about it for a while, and doesn’t even bother to tell her family that her work’s in an art show. Then, she finds out she won first prize in the show. She’s still upset about the school thing, however, she talks to the art teacher, who tells her she had to repeat two grades when she was in school. So, Claudia starts to feel better, and she tells her family/friends about the art show.

Meanwhile, Jackie Rodowsky gets out of the hospital after his accident in the previous book. We get a lesson in charity, cause all the kids decide to give half their Halloween candy to kids in the hospital, and they throw a party for them. Then probably forget all about them.


We start with an outfit, but we only get to hear part of the description (Stacey interrupts it). This is unfortunate, cause it sounds like it would have been a doozy – “Tie-dye leggings, black overall shorts, red high-tops and…” Any guesses? I’m thinking something plaid, stripped, or some other pattern that looks horrible with tie-dyed.

Claudia complains that no one told her she was going to need to know what she learned last year to learn new material. My question is, how did she not know that? Especially in math, where everything is built on basic skills you have learned in the past?

I can’t totally blame Claudia for not remembering though. I mean, she hasn’t been in seventh-grade for about 95 books. That’s gotta be about ten-years, right?

The BSC keeps talking about how school’s so much different “this year” and that the teachers are expecting more from them, but also letting them be more independent. It wouldn’t bother me, except they have been in eighth grade forever. So, it rings a bit false to hear about things being different, when they weren’t different the other twelve times that started eighth grade.

The BSC organizes a “hospital buddies” thing to be nice to kids stuck in the hospital. But I feel like they already did this at one point. Maybe the one where Danielle was first introduced? If so, does that mean that they just stopped their previous charity work?

At Claud’s first art class, she wears “a black sweatshirt with the neck cut out of it, black jeans…and [her] purple high-tops with orange laces.” It’s the orange shoelaces that kill the outfit for me.

We have no reached a point where only one sitter’s required at the Pikes. Apparently the triplets are mature enough to be a “second sitter.”

So, Claudia even tells us the outfit Stacey was wearing in her dream. She wore “a short plaid kilt, a white baby-T, black tights, and black, chunky-heeled shoes.” That actually sounds okay, and definitely in style for when the book first came out.

Claud’s tutor is actually a friend of Janine, but apparently she’s not just a “brainy nerd” because she knows how to dress.

I have a hard time believing that the 7th graders would be so into following Claudia around. Even if they think she’s “cool,” I think there would still be some kind of stigma about her being left back.

Claudia says Rosa, her tutor, taught her the trick of skipping the questions she didn’t know and coming back to them at the end. But, Janine taught her this back when she was accused of cheating. I guess it’s just another thing Claudia forgot.

Claudia’s teacher has the kids switch papers to grade each others’ quizzes. Then he records the grades in his gradebook, based on what the students show him walking out of class. But wouldn’t he also want to keep the quizzes (to make sure the kids were honest when grading)?

Okay, so the whole eighth-grade dance thing annoys me. Has there ever been a dance that Mal and Jessi weren’t also able to attend? And didn’t the girls go to dances in the first few books when they were in seventh grade? There was never any mention of the lower grades having an “afternoon party” complete with bobbing for apples and other “kid” games. It was a dance for the whole school.

I’m not sure why Claudia keeps saying she’s so mature. Her wardrobe? Because dressing cool doesn’t make a person mature. And neither does dressing like a crazy person. But I can’t really think of anything that makes her especially mature, and I don’t think the year between 12 and 13 makes a huge difference in terms of maturity.

I guess this book came out when the movie Pocahontas did, cause that’s what Margo and Claire are fighting about dressing up as for Halloween.

Cokie Mason dresses up as a Barbie on Halloween. This sounds like she’s asking to be mocked. When I was in middle school Barbie was considered very babyish not cool or pretty.

Claudia says that Mal and Jessi collected a few treats while the three of them took a bunch of kids trick-or-treating. Which sounds realistic for eleven-year-olds, but completely inconsistent with what we’ve seen Mal and Jessi do in all the past Halloween books.

Claudia says Halloween’s a holiday for “kids,” then immediately follows by saying, “Who over the age of ten gets excited about it?” Cause once you pass ten you’re an adult?

To go to her art show, Claudia wears, “a long black jumper with red embroidery around the neckline…over a white turtleneck…[and] a pair of red dangly earrings.” I kind of think it sounds like something Mallory would wear, which makes sense, since Claudia said it was the first time she didn’t care how she looked.

Is Claudia really SO talented as an artist, that her teacher can’t stop praising her work, and that an adult in the class tells Claudia she’s been trying to reach her level for 15 years? Can’t they just make her a good artist, without having her be some kind of prodigy?

One thing I like about the Halloween books is hearing the costumes everyone wears. Claudia picks a scarecrow (for the kid’s party, she would have gone to the dance as a “punk”). Meanwhile, Stacey goes as a flapper, Mary Anne and Kristy go as Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, and Abby goes as a soccer player, which is boring since she already is a soccer player. Mallory goes as Emily Dickinson, and Jessi goes as the Sugar Plum Fairy, which is almost as boring as Abby’s, but not quite.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

“Was I ever wrong about not having a mystery on board!”…..BSC Mystery # 30: Kristy and the Mystery Train

Memory Reaction

Yet another one I missed as a kid. But if I had read it, I’m sure I would have found the plot unbelievable, no matter how old I was.

Revisited Reaction

Derek Masters has a new movie coming out, so it’s only logical that he needs a baby-sitter. The movie’s about a murder that takes place on a train, and to promote it, the studio has organized a replica of the train to travel from Boston to Charleston, SC for the premiere. There are stops planned in different cities for reporters to ask questions and watch reenactments of key movie scenes. Derek gets to invite friends with him, because who wouldn’t want a bunch of eight-year-olds hanging around at a media event like this? Meanwhile, Mrs. Masters can’t go and Mr. Masters is an Executive Producer (who will therefore be busy), so they want three BSC members to go along. Kristy, Abby, and Stacey are the lucky ones, and they’ll be watching Derek, his CA friend Greg, Nicky Pike, Buddy Barrett, David Michael, James Hobart, Linny Papdakis, and Derek’s little brother Todd plus his friend Daniel.

Anyway, the first day on the train everyone finds a threatening-type note in their programs saying “the truth will come out.” Later, a smoke bomb goes off in Derek and the BSC’s compartment. Everyone’s fine, but the “mysterious” events don’t end there. Kristy and Stacey are at the back of the train and witness two men fighting in the dark. It ends with what looks like a guy being thrown overboard. They tell the conductor, and a search of the train’s done, but no one’s missing and everyone thinks that Stacey and Kristy made it up. Of course, the girls decide to “investigate” and they eventually realize that Mr. Pierce (Daniel’s father and the film’s writer) had lied about where he was during the man overboard scene. They think he’s behind everything, but that’s not quite it.

It turns out that Mr. Pierce is a teacher, and he based the film’s script on a script an one an old student had submitted to him. So, the student went crazy and tried to make him look like a murderer. There’s this whole ridiculous show-down scene where Kristy saves Daniel by locking him into a bathroom. It’s ridiculous. But the real villain gets caught, the crazy guy gets half credit for the script, and the idea-stealer’s supposedly still going to teach, but not write any more.

Subplot: The rest of the BSC is spending the weekend helping at the summer-opening weekend at Greenbook Country Club. There are lots of kids there having fun in the pool, but Stephen (The owner’s son) keeps trying to avoid going in. Eventually, he admits to Jessi that he can’t swim, and she gives him lessons. By the time they have an evening pool party, Stephen’s fine in the water, and everyone has a blast.


  • I was pleased to see Kristy refer to Emily Michelle as her sister (and not her “adopted sister” like she usually does). But then later in the paragraph she adds “she was adopted” in parentheses. I feel like saying that every time makes Emily seem like she’s second-class or something.
  • Kristy says that if people have something important to do (like baby-sitting) they can skip meetings….but that seems inconsistent with everything we know about Kristy and BSC meetings.
  • Claudia: “She was in bright mode: red shorts, a purple crop top over a longer red-and-white-striped muscle shirt, purple socks, and red high-tops laced with red-and-white striped shoelaces. Her hair was pulled up to one side with a know of red and purple scrunchies, and her earrings were shiny red apples.”
  • Kristy looks hideous on the cover.
  • When the girls go to Boston for the start of the train ride, they talk about how Mallory would have liked to see Louisa May Alcott’s house. Which I guess is true, but isn’t Mary Anne the big Little Women fan?
  • When talking about past dealings with Derek Masters, Mallory’s all, yup, all the details on “Kristy and the Vampires Mystery” are right here in the mystery notebook. I guess that’s supposed to imply that the book we all read was almost entirely an entry?
  • Stacey calls Boston a “nice little town.” Because according to Stacey, nowhere but NYC is a real city.
  • There’s all this talk that the two leads in the movie are together in real life, but they are sleeping in separate rooms on the train, and in the morning are up at completely different times. I know that doesn’t mean anything, it just seems weird to have them talk about dating, have the woman acknowledge it’s true, then not show them acting as a couple at all. In fact, they barely talk.
  • The idea of a train ride as publicity seems pretty dumb to me. That’s really the best way they could come up with to promote a movie like that?
  • Why didn’t the crazy-guy just sue Mr. Pierce for stealing his idea? It would have been easier than faking his murder. Crazy-guy was also going to wait until the press figured out about the idea-stealing and then come back to bask in the glory by pretending he had amnesia after the “murder.” Cause that makes sense.
  • “Claudia was wearing a huge tie-dyed T-shirt knotted at the waist, and her sandals sported flowers that matched the flower barrette holding back her hair. Her gear was in a funky, bright yellow, plastic mesh tote that was the same shade as the rims of her big, round sunglasses.”
  • There’s this whole subplot about Stacey looking just like the reporter. It ends up being important because when crazy-guy jumped off the train, he saw that she was watching and thought it was the reporter. He somehow thought this would get her to investigate, and find out Mr. Pierce stole the script. But I’m not sure how one thing leads to another.
  • “Mary Anne was wearing a faded green Izod shirt and a baseball cap that read “Ted’s Tools.” Which makes me ask two questions – first, should I know what Izod is, and second, is it sad that I recognize the name Ted’s Tools as the name of the hardware store in downtown Stoneybrook?
  • Jessi “was wearing blue bicycle shorts with a red cutoff T-shirt over a blue sports top and reef-runners.” Reef runners? Again, I have no idea what they are…water shoes maybe?
  • At the country club, Mallory’s wearing all sorts of hats and with extra sun lotion. They all make fun of her and laugh about how it reminds them of Shadow Lake. But that was because of a problem with bug bites…Mary Anne’s the one with the sunburn issues. Mallory was always at the beach in Sea City and never had sunburn issues.
  • At the country club, Jessi, Mal, Mary Anne, and Claudia are acting as counselors to the kids whose families are there. This includes Ben Hobart, who’s Mal’s age, but seems to be lumped in with the kids in this book. I wouldn’t have a problem if he was just hanging out with his siblings and the BSC, but they have him taking part in the kid’s cannon ball contest and making fake barfing noises to gross out some of the girls. It seems really weird, especially since Mallory’s around.
  • The kids at the country club play “Old Bachelor” instead of Old Maid. Is that a known version of the game, or just a splash of feminism the ghostwriters inserted?
  • Jessi can tell that Stephen has had swim lessons before, but he still seemed to struggle. Apparently, he just needed BSC magic to solve the problem.
  • Ann Martin and/or the ghostwriters don’t have a great view of movie stars, do they? This is the second one where she has the “heartthrob” being a pompous jerk.
  • So, the end of this book’s the most ridiculous thing ever. Kristy’s trying to protect Daniel while Mr. Pierce knocks crazy-guy down in the hallway. Then Kristy says she sees (or thinks she sees) Abby and Stacey “piling on.” So are we supposed to think that Stacey and Abby were actually physically fighting crazy-guy? Or that Kristy was seeing things? Cause the former’s just to silly to even respond to.