Monday, March 29, 2010

“Stop this instant. This is un-American!”….BSC #91: Claudia and the First Thanksgiving

Memory Reaction

I really don’t have a strong memory of this book. I remember that there’s some “big scandal” about a play that the BSC’s putting on with little kids, but not any of the details. The really sad thing is that when I think about Thanksgiving, or at least the story of the first Thanksgiving, I think about how most stories about it aren’t totally accurate…and that I read that in a BSC book. I also know that just from learning actual history, but I still think of the book. Although, weirdly enough, I don’t remember a specific thing they mention in the book.

Revisited Reaction

Claudia’s in a new drama class at SMS. It’s one of those “short takes” classes that the BSC has every once in a while – basically an excuse to let them have cool school projects like working at a mall or a zoo, having egg babies, etc. In this case, Claudia, Stacey, and Abby are writing/directing third-graders in a play. Since it’s November, they decide to write one about Thanksgiving and make it about the “real” first Thanksgiving, as opposed to all the stories that exist now. The story focuses on a girl who travels back in time and compares stories with some pilgrim kids. Betsy Sobak is the lead and other BSC clients fill out the cast (of course).

The play mentions “controversial” subjects like how Europeans stole land from the Native Americans, and how women couldn’t vote and have never been given equal rights (it least in law). Some parents and teachers freak out about this, calling in “un-American.” Parents come to rehearsals, teachers are split on the issue, and the kids can’t even practice without protesters interrupting. The elementary school principal says that Claud’s class needs to change the play or they can’t do it at all. The class is tempted to not do it at all, but they don’t want to disappoint the kids. So, they put together a “traditional” play, but stick up censored signs all over to protest. Then, they get another drama class at SMS to perform the original one. At the SMS performance, there are also tons of people complaining, but the principal gets them to calm down and watch the performance. There’s no real resolution though, which is nice. It’s just over and people stop fighting, but don’t necessarily “see the light” about the other side of the issue.

The subplot is that all girls in the BSC have some interesting family plans for the holiday (relatives coming, visiting people out of town), but they ALL get cancelled for various reasons. What a coincidence! Kristy gets the idea that they should get all their families together for the holiday. They somehow talk their parents into this and end up having a big dinner for everyone at Watson’s mansion, eat a lot of food, have a lot of fun, etc.

  • Do most people sit around the table for breakfast with their families every morning before school/work/etc? I didn’t as a kid, and I don’t now. But apparently the Kishis do. Or at least they do in this book. I’m fairly certain there are other books where it’s portrayed differently.
  • This outfit description’ s extremely long, but I’m going to quote it all anyway…it’s just so amazing I can’t leave anything out.
    “I was wearing autumn colors: red, orange, yellow…I’d put on a pair of baggy pants, not blue, not black, but yellow. With these, I was wearing my red Doc Martens, laced with orange and yellow laces, and this great, funky, enormous shirt I found in a vintage clothes ship. It has a leaf pattern on it. The leaves are in a Hawaiian print design, and the colors are fabulous. Underneath I was wearing my red-and-yellow tie-dyed long underwear shirt. To complete the ensemble, I had an earrings that I’d made myself, and a fringed yellow and white scarf tied around my hair.”
  • Stacey’s outfit’s pretty tame in comparison: “An oversized midnight blue turtleneck under a cropped black wool jacket with square gold buttons. She had on black suede ankle boots, the kind that wrinkle around you ankles. Her fitted black jeans were tucked into the tops of the boots. She had looped a light blue muffler around her neck, and wore matching gloves.”
  • There’s a scene at the beginning where Logan’s at a meeting and answers a phone call from Betsy Sobak, who’s all, “boys can baby-sit?” And it’s clearly just there to remind us who Betsy is, since she ends up with the lead role in the play.
  • Mallory’s Thanksgiving plans were to go to New York with her family, and see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from bleacher seats some relatives scored for them. This is exactly the same thing she was supposed to do in Get Well Soon, Mallory. I guess the Pikes are just not meant to see the parade.
  • Has anyone ever heard the term “First American?” Supposedly it’s another way to refer to Native Americans.
  • All of Mallory’s siblings went trick-or-treating dressed as Groucho Marx. Seriously, all seven of them. I have a hard time believing that…don’t kids normally try to dress differently on Halloween?
  • This cracked me up – Mary Anne’s eyes looked red, and Claudia thought she was crying because her grandmother couldn’t come visit on Thanksgiving. But Mary Anne’s all, “Oh, it was just from watching The Incredible Journey.”
  • Kristy asks how many people there would be if you count the seven regular BSC members, plus their entire families, and Stacey says 36. But this only makes sense if you don’t count Karen and Andrew. Now, Karen and Andrew don’t attend the Thanksgiving dinner, but Stacey didn’t even know why Kristy was asking at the time. She just said, “what’s the count of EVERYONE.”
  • The girls all act like 36 is a HUGE number for dinner. Now, maybe this is because my extended family’s pretty big, but this doesn’t sound like a huge number. Granted it is a big number, but not unheard of. As a kid, most Thanksgivings and Christmases in my family had more than 40 people (although not at one table, obviously). Now, the most I have ever cooked for as an adult is 15, but 36 still doesn’t seem like a shocking number.
  • It kind of sucks for Claudia’s class that all the work involved with their class project has to be done after school – not just homework, but they have to go to the elementary school and work with the kids every day. Some of the other classes just read plays in class or watch videos of plays that were made into movies.
  • I guess it’s not surprising that Betsy’s a good actress, since she’s a practical joker and all.
  • The kids are rehearsing the play at the SES auditorium. Do most elementary schools have auditoriums? We just had a stage in our gymnasium/cafeteria, that they filled with chairs when needed. We didn’t get an auditorium until middle school.
  • How many third-grade-teachers are there supposed to be at Stoneybrook Elementary? There are three present at one of the first play meetings, but later, we hear that the “majority” of the third grade teachers are against the play. To me, that suggests more than two out of three. But isn’t Stoneybrook supposed to be a small town?
  • This book feels like it should have been a Dawn book (the whole protesting the establishment thing). Seriously, there’s nothing about it that personally connects to Claudia. They could have used any girl to narrate and it would have been the same story.
  • I don’t want to get political here, but I find the outrage about the play to be a little over the top. I remembering thinking that the play was SOO controversial, but really, they aren’t saying anything too radical. Haven’t most people acknowledged that the European settlers took land from the Native Americans?
  • I was going to complain about how I’d expect people in CT to be more liberal minded about issues like this. But, then I remembered that these are the same people who were racist assholes to the Ramseys, and decided it fits.
  • Abby can get very confrontational. When parents are complaining about the play, she’s yelling right back at them. I can’t tell if she’s meant to be annoying/overbearing or look like she’s heroically standing up for what she believes in.
  • Claud comments that without cute third-graders putting on the play, it kind of sucks. I guess that realization’s sort of like one you have when reading BSC books as an adult.
  • The drama teacher’s pretty cool…when the class says they want to make it clear they are doing a traditional play under protest, she lets them write “censored” over all the play programs.
  • I can’t decide if the big Thanksgiving dinner’s realistic or not. I guess the families are connected in ways other than the BSC (the younger kids are friends, some of them are neighbors). So, if they all had their plans canceled, I can see how they’d be up for it. But if I was Sam, Charlie, or Janine I’d be pissed.
  • If third grade teachers/parents complained, wouldn’t the 8th grade ones complains as well? I mean, people are upset at the eighth grade performance, but they were still allowed to give it. Why the difference?
  • The plan for cooking Thanksgiving dinner for so many people is that each family makes a couple of dishes. Which makes sense. But they over complicate it, by having the adults go to Watson’s house to cook, while the BSC and their older siblings watch the little kids. Why not just cook at home and bring it the day of?
  • I remember this happening so well, although I wasn’t sure if it was in this book until I read it. The BSC’s group baby-sitting for their siblings, when Dawn walks in. This is after she moved to California permanently, and no one was expecting her. But at first Claud casually hands her one of the little kids, before realizing that it means something for Dawn to be there. Then she starts screaming (in happiness, I guess).

Monday, March 22, 2010

“My father. I think he’s having a heart attack”……BSC # 81: Kristy and Mr. Mom

Memory Reaction

I remember thinking it was sweet that Kristy calls Watson her father when she calls 911. I also remember thinking it was totally ridiculous that Watson was able to rearrange his job so easily. He’s some big-deal business person and after his heart attack, he just decides he’s going to only work part-time from his house (or something to that affect). It seemed so unrealistic…especially considering that we’re always reminded of how Watson’s a millionaire (and a change in job would likely affect his income).

Now, looking back on it as an adult, this makes a little more sense. His money is probably not all from his salary….I saw someone comment on another site that if the ghost of Ben Brewer (supposedly) haunts the attic of Watson’s house, then maybe the house used to belong to him? And either way, I’m sure Watson would have a lot of money invested. As for the work situation, I have learned that people who are high up in companies probably have a better chance of having flexible schedules. So, maybe not as crazy as I once thought.

Revisited Reaction

Watson collapses while shoveling snow, and it turns out he had a heart attack. Kristy calls 911 and they rush him to the hospital. They find out pretty quickly that he’s going to be okay, but will need to change his lifestyle a bit. So, he goes on a healthy diet, looks into exercise, takes time off work, etc. Meanwhile, when he comes home from the hospital he shows little interest in work and gets a bit sappy (for lack of a better word) about spending time with his family. Eventually, he announces that he’s going to stop working….he’ll turn over the day to day issues of running the office to his VP, and he’ll just be available for “executive decisions.”

So, the first few days of this go well, except that Nannie’s pissed she’s no longer needed. Of course, she doesn’t say anything. She just decides to move out, claiming it’s just something she wanted to do. Apparently Watson and Kristy’s mom are too distracted to realize WHY she’s doing so, and they just let her go. Soon after, Karen and Andrew move in for their month with their father, and everything falls apart. So, they decide they need a housekeeper. Only when Kristy mentions that to Nannie, Nannie’s all, “I’ll move back in!” So, she does. And Watson decides to go back to work part-time because he’s needed at the office, but he doesn’t want to overdo it either.

Meanwhile, there are some issues sitting for the Marshalls, who have two kids. However, Mrs. Marshall has been taking an exercise class with a friend, and told the friend to bring her three kids to her house, and that the BSC would watch them too. But she doesn’t tell the girls this ahead of time. And they’re all, “OMG, we need to have a second sitter with five kids and why doesn’t Mrs. M. know this?” Dawn gets the first job, and it was a bit hectic, but not disastrous. However, Mallory gets the second job, and a kid gets injured (minorly), the other kids start flooding the bathroom, and it’s just all-around difficult. Mal ends up calling Jessi to come and help her. But when Mrs. Marshall comes home, she doesn’t pay Jessi. The next time Mrs. Marshall calls the BSC decides to send two sitters (Claudia and Stacey). And when Mrs. Marshall says she won’t pay both of them, Claud and Stacey walk out. Mrs. Marshall’s pissed, and eventually the girls realize they probably should have told Mrs. Marshall about the rule before hand. So, Kristy calls and apologizes/explains and it all works out.


  • Have we ever been told Watson’s job before? He’s CEO of “Unity Insurance.” He describes it as a multi-national corporation with six-hundred employees.
  • Kristy makes a point of telling us that Andrew isn’t as athletic as her. That makes sense considering he’s only 4!
  • David Michael is in some play at the community center, so he keeps popping up in scenes practicing his lines. Which consist of “cock-a-doodle-doo! I’m a musician too” and “Arr-er-arr-er-rooo!” (He plays a rooster – it’s a kids play). It’s just so random, it made me laugh. Until the second chapter.
  • I always thought it was just the Pike’s rule that two sitters had to be there if there were more than four kids. I know there have been other situations where it was a double job, but I thought the parent was always asking for a second sitter, not the BSC sending one. Only in this book the girls keep acting shocked that Mrs. Marshall doesn’t know about this rule.
  • I find it amusing that Watson, the supposed CEO, of his company says he’s going to hand over, the “day to day running of the company” to his V.P. I’ve worked at companies of all different sizes, and in my experience CEOs aren’t involved in day-to-day operations; they work at a higher level.
  • There are all these references to making lunches for school, including for Kristy. But, in almost every book, we get a scene at the school cafeteria with Kristy eating the hot lunch and talking about how gross it is. In fact, in Logan Likes Mary Anne, there’s a whole description about how Mary Anne and Kristy decided to stop bringing their lunch.
  • Mrs. Marshall says she can’t (and won’t) pay for two baby-sitters. But if it’s her friend’s kids, why not ask the friend to chip in?
  • Karen wants to go stay at the “Big House” after Watson has his heart attack, which one could understand. But it’s the month she’s supposed to stay at her mom’s. And Kristy tells her that they can’t switch because it will affect later months, and the families have already planned vacations, etc. But you would think they’d be a little flexible about something like that when someone has a near-death experience. Especially since they keep talking about how Watson being emotional/sappy about family.
  • Karen must really be acting like a brat about the whole thing, because her mom and step-father tell Kristy (who is baby-sitting) that she’s being annoying.
  • After the first job where Dawn has to sit for five kids, why don’t they ASK Mrs. Marshall how many kids are going to be there? Or tell her that they have a club rule about it?
  • When Mal is sitting for the Marshalls (and friends), one of the kids falls on the stairs and cuts his lip. Mal gives him a Popsicle to make it feel better. Of course, all the kids want one, but there aren’t enough left. So, she calls Jessi and asks her to come over with more Popsicles. Why couldn’t she have just said, no, so-and-so only gets one because of the injury?
  • Apparently, "Popsicle" is a brand name. Should I have known that?
  • At one of the sitting jobs for the Marshalls and the other kids, Mallory totally forgets to give the kids dinner. I think I like that part just because it’s a rare occasion where a BSC member makes a mistake.
  • I find it hard to believe that no one could guess why Nannie moved out. It didn’t even occur to them that she was feeling threatened by Watson becoming Mr. Mom?
  • I was thinking about this….When Kristy’s dad walked out, she and her brothers were all little. But Mrs. Thomas managed to work, get childcare, and take care of a house on her own….I’m sure Nannie helped, but she certainly didn’t move in. But the way her character is portrayed here, it seems like she would have been around more.
  • Nannie and Watson have an argument because he picked up pizza for the kids, when she was home making pasta. And Nannie said you can’t freeze pasta, so she might as well throw it out (if they weren’t eating it that night). But why can’t you? In fact, why would you even have to freeze it? I always put leftover pasta in the refrigerator and stick it in the microwave a couple days later. It tastes fine.
  • Of course, Mrs. Marshall ended up “understanding” where the girls were coming from with the five kids thing. They never need to address the issue of her not wanting two sitters because Mrs. Marshall drops out of her exercise class. So, there’s no need for the girls to actually resolve conflict or anything.
  • The timing in this book is so screwed up. After Watson’s heart attack, Nannie moves out in less than a month (we know because it was before Karen and Andrew came to Watson’s). That is an insanely short time to find and move into a place. But that’s not as unbelievable as her moving out of that apartment in less than a month….do they not have leases in Stoneybrook?
  • Kristy and Nannie both pick up Karen’s terminology of “Big House” and “Little House” to refer to her parents’ homes. I guess it’s supposed to be cute for Karen to call them that, but it seems a little insulting to Karen’s mother and step-father.
  • Kristy left the phone off the hook to try and find Watson (the call was for him). She gets distracted by the kids doing something and forgets to tell him. When she remembers she picks up a different extension, hears dial tone, and figures the person hung up. Then later, she says the phone downstairs was still off the hook. Now, I don’t use my land line very much anymore, so I may be misremembering. But if one extension is off the hook, can’t you NOT get dial tone on any of them?
  • At the end of the book, Watson announces his plan to go back to work part-time at dinner. And after hearing part of the announcement, Kristy’s mom’s all, “what, you can’t, your heart!” But then Watson finishes and everyone’s happy. But shouldn’t he have talked to his wife before making a major decision like that?

Monday, March 15, 2010

“I didn’t realize there were that many jobs for babies”……BSC # 73: Mary Anne and Miss Priss”

Memory Reaction

I do remember the plot of this book, because I keep picturing a scene where Jenny and Andrea Prezzioso are involved in a modeling photo shoot. However, thinking about it, I’m sure this is the book where Mallory officially rejoins the BSC after having Mono. And that is what is standing out to me as the real “plot.” It’s actually a little surprising, because this book’s only four after the one where she got sick. For some reason, my memory was that she was an “honorary member” for ages, and was so excited when she was FINALLY back to being a regular member. But four books isn’t really that long. I guess time does really move slower when you’re a kid.

Revisited Reaction

Mrs. Prezzioso calls the BSC needing a daily sitter, indefinitely. The job’s only for Jenny, not Andrea (the baby). Mrs. P doesn’t give a reason, and no one thinks to ask (at least at first). The BSC doesn’t usually like regular jobs, but they decide to do this one anyway. Mary Anne takes the job three days a week, with other girls filling in on the other two days. As Mary Anne’s walking there on her first day, she thinks about how nice it is that Jenny isn’t as bratty is she used to be. Which, of course, means Jenny’s regressed. When Mary Anne gets there, Jenny’s all dressed up and obsessing about looking “good.” She won’t play outside because she’s worried about getting her dress dirty, she insists on changing her entire outfit when she spills a tiny drop of juice, etc. And she’s not exactly nice about sharing this attitude with others.

After a while, Mary Anne finds out WHY Mrs. Prezzioso needs a sitter for Jenny every day – Mrs. P’s turning Andrea into a baby model. Apparently, Andrea’s an adorable, wonderful baby who hardly ever cries and isn’t bothered by strangers. Mary Anne figures our pretty quickly that Jenny’s acting like “Miss Priss” because she’s jealous. Then, Jenny asks to go along on an audition with Andrea, and Mrs. P says yes (but only if Mary Anne can chaperone). On the audition, Mary Anne and Jenny see how much attention Andrea’s getting first hand, which makes Jenny even more jealous.

Watching the audition makes Jenny want to be a model too. So then, Mary Anne gets to watch Jenny get head shots taken, go on an audition, etc. Because how could Mrs. Prezzioso handle all that without a BSC member? Unfortunately, Jenny’s not a perfect child, so she doesn’t have as much success modeling as Andrea. This makes her more frustrated, and she starts acting like a total slob. Mary Anne’s all, “I have to talk to Mrs. P about this!” But when she tries, Mrs. Prezzioso basically says she already knows Jenny’s acting out to get attention, but she and Mr. Prezzioso don’t know what to do about it. Luckily, they don’t have to do anything, because the situation works out all on its own. Don’t you love when that happens? Jenny finally does get a job, and goes, does okay, then comes home and decides she doesn’t want to do model anymore, she’d rather play on the kickball team the Pike triplets started.

Speaking of the Pikes, there are two things going on at their house. Mallory’s pissed, because she’s STILL recovering from Mono. Her parents won’t let her do anything except sit at her own house…which she’s doing all the time. In fact, she’s sitting at her own house more than when she was active in the BSC. On the BSC’s suggestion, Mallory finally confronts her parents and they let her rejoin officially. It's actually a much smaller part of the plot than I had remembered. The triplets, however, have decided they are too old to need a sitter. The kickball team they start is their way of declaring independence. At first, the team is a mess because the triplets can’t make up their mind about rules…sometimes they can’t make any and the game’s totally unorganized. Other times, they piss people off because they make rules people don’t like. The BSC decides not to interfere….but finally Mal gives them “advice.” This helps the triplets figure out how to get the team to work. And then it’s never mentioned again.

  • Mary Anne actually mentions that she recently stopped an "arsonist" from burning down the library (sort of). I always loved when they mentioned the plot of other books.
  • So, this isn’t the only book where the triplets talk about being too old for sitters. I actually agree with them, at least in part. When I was ten, I wouldn’t have a sitter unless it was at night. Granted, I was the youngest in my family, but still.
  • Mary Anne thinks that Jenny’s acting strange, so she looks through some psychology books her father has. She decides Jenny has an “obsessive” personality. At a high level, this actually does fit the descriptions we get of Jenny, but consulting books seems like overkill when you’re dealing with a four-year-old.
  • The BSC’s all surprised that Mrs. Prezzioso is pimping out her baby…or as they call it, being a stage mother. But really, wouldn’t the Prezziosos be your first guess if you heard a BSC client was trying to be a child model?
  • Mary Anne describes Shannon as having a “ski jump nose,” – something we’re pretty much always told. It always made me picture a super-pointy nose, which didn’t seem as pretty as Shannon was supposed to be.
  • I guess it was done for suspense, but I don’t understand how we go so long without knowing where Mrs. Prezzioso and Andrea are going. Mrs. P does leave a number, but isn’t one of the first rules of “good sitting” that you always find out where the parents are going?
  • When Mary Anne takes Jenny out to play, they stumble on the kickball team. And Jenny starts pointing out the kids by full name. Would a four-year-old really know everyone’s name like that? I’m trying to think of how many full names I knew as a little kid…I think I knew my immediate neighbors and people I was in nursery school with.
  • At this point in the series, Pow, the Barretts dog is living with the Pikes...something about Marnie having allergies. I have a really vague memory of the book were this took place. But for some reason, I feel like the Pikes were anti-pets in earlier books (or at least anti-dogs…they did have a hamster).
  • How many modeling agencies could there be in Stoneybrook? Or even in Stamford? They’re pretty close to New York, so I’d think most modeling work would be done there…with only smaller jobs happening in Connecticut. But Mrs. Prezzioso seems to have jobs or auditions every day, and she doesn’t mention going into the city.
  • When Jenny gets her head shots taken, the best picture is the last one the photographer took, and it was of her yelling out “the end!” She was smiling, because she was tired of taking pictures and glad it was ending...You’d think that would be a sign that she wasn’t cut out for this line of work.
  • The kickball team has all their practices on the grass…I’m not sure if it’s a baseball field-type grass or someone’s yard. But whenever I’ve played kickball (and the last time was in middle school gym class), we played on the blacktop.
  • Mary Anne calls Dawn in California, and Dawn answers the phone, “Schafer residence.” Now these girls were ALWAYS doing that, and I always thought it was weird. I could kind of see it when they’re sitting…because they’re trying to be super-professional. But in their own homes?
  • The BSC gets kind of annoying in the plot with the triplets. They decide that since the triplets declared their independence, they shouldn’t step in to solve any problems/fights. Instead, we have to hear them sit around talking about how hard it is to not step in and help….since being SO much older, they obviously have enough added knowledge and experience to do everything right.
  • Mal’s parents are really kind of awful. They don’t let her do anything besides go to school and baby-sit for her siblings. And they apparently really take advantage of this…I hope they pay her well.
  • The triplets come home after one of their kickball practices and are upset that no one showed up. They complain that not even their own “brothers and sisters” came. But, all three of the triplets were there (since it’s “their” team), and they only have one other brother.
  • I love that the Prezziosos had a total read on the situation with Jenny before Mary Anne said anything. Mary Anne is sitting there, trying to start the conversation, and Mrs. P just starts talking about how they know Jenny’s acting out cause she’s jealous. Usually, the parents are so clueless, and the BSC saves the day. Here, the BSC really doesn’t do anything besides baby-sit.

Monday, March 8, 2010

“We’ll videotape your old-fashioned Christmas preparations”…..BSC # 92: Mallory's Christmas Wish

Memory Reaction

I think I only read this once, since it’s definitely from the later end of the series. But I do have a pretty vivid memory of it. Specifically, I remember thinking it didn’t make sense. As I’ve said before, that’s a reaction that is directly related to how late a BSC book was published. Anyway, the deal in this book is that the Pikes get on some reality-like show, and I remember thinking how the Pikes kind of screwed the production company/tv station. Mr. Pike supposedly had it in the contract that they could just give back the money and call the whole show off…..but it seemed unbelievable that that would be the case. .

I also remember the gift that Vanessa gives Mallory in some kind of secret Santa exchange. Mallory says she wants the greatest Christmas book of all time, and Vanessa gives her a blank notebook, with a note, “It hasn’t been written yet, get to work.” Which just seems really sweet, I think that’s why I still remember it.

Revisited Reaction

Mallory has the idea that her family should have an “old-fashioned Christmas,” meaning making a lot of gifts and decorations, having a lot of holiday themed meals, etc. Her family likes the idea, so they plan on doing it. Then Vanessa enters a contest a local TV is having, about a “special way” of celebrating the holidays. The winner gets to have their own little reality show – they’ll be filmed throughout the month of December, for a special that will air NEXT Christmas. They also get $10,000 for their trouble. Clearly, the Pikes win, and they agree to do this. But after awhile, they all start to get a little annoyed with it. The director of the TV program, Mr. Henry, keeps making them reenact scenes that the cameras missed or read lines he has written. Then they cause chaos while visiting Santa at the mall, because Mr. Henry tries to get the Pikes to the front of the line. On Christmas Eve, the Pikes finally reach their breaking point. They end up giving back the $10,000, kicking out the camera crew, and having Christmas on their own.

There’s also a minor sub-plot involving Stoneybrook Manor, the senior citizen home Mallory’s Uncle Joe lives at. The Manor’s having some craft sale/fundraiser and of course the BSC volunteers to help out, so we get to see all sorts of preparation scenes. Meanwhile, Uncle Joe, who was supposed to go to the Pikes on Christmas, cancels when he finds out about the camera crew (but shows up after they’re kicked out).

  • I’m not sure kids would be so into the idea of an “old-fashioned Christmas.” I would think they’d still be worried about not getting enough gifts with a rule like that. But maybe I was just a shallow child.
  • Speaking of being a child, when I was 7-ish I visited Santa at the mall and told him I wanted all the BSC books that I didn’t already own…And he asked me what the BSC was. I remember being very confused about how he couldn’t know such a thing.
  • The Pikes version of the Twelve Days of Christmas: “Twelve velociraptor eggs, eleven socks-a-sticking, ten bags of Snickers, nine leaping wombats, eight soggy tacos, seven bologna-and-peanut butter sandwiches, six silly-billy-goo-goos, five hornet stings, four crawling nerds, three stooges, two curdled gloves, and some garbage in a bare tree.”
  • Mallory says when her dad was out of a job her family used up ALL their savings. But at the end of that book, weren’t Mr. and Mrs. Pike all, “thanks for trying to raise money kids, but didn’t you know your dad was getting severance?” Also, there’s a thing called unemployment payments. I’m sure it’s expensive to raise eight kids, but if they really went through all their savings then, they couldn’t have very much to begin with.
  • Of course when they call the senior citizens’ home to volunteer at their fundraiser, they get asked to run the “day care.” Because there can’t be an event in Stoneybrook with out a BSC-run day care.
  • There’s actually a spelling mistake in Jessi’s notebook entry. She writes, “I NOW that I will never again….” Unless I am reading her horrible cursive wrong, that’s definitely an error. Has that ever happened in a non-Claudia chapter.
  • The whole contest seems so random and badly timed. Mallory gets the idea about the “old-fashioned Christmas” the day after Thanksgiving, (which means Vanessa entered the contest after Thanksgiving). So, the station has time to run this whole contest, select a winner, and get in several weeks of filming before Christmas. But after all that, won’t be airing any footage for a year?
  • There’s this weird scene where Jessi’s in a store with Aunt Cecilia (that seems like a craft store or thrift shop), and she’s digging through a box of old frames. Aunt Cecelia’s all, “Do you think your parents are made of money?” Which is weird cause it isn’t an expensive thing. And because Jessi’s spending her own money.
  • The BSC gets some of kids they sit for to make crafts to sell at the fundraiser/sale. How many people are really going to buy crafts that seven-year-olds made? I know it’s for a good cause, but still. People would probably prefer to just give money.
  • Claire’s the only Pike who believes in Santa….and apparently, even she is starting to doubt. Isn’t that surprisingly cynical of the Pikes? I would think Margo, and maybe Nicky would still buy into that whole story.
  • The department store the Pikes visit is named “Lears.” Hmmmm, I wonder what it’s supposed to be modeled after.
  • Kristy’s height is apparently 5’0. Which doesn’t really seem that short. I was shorter than that in eighth grade, and I wasn’t the shortest person in my class. Granted, I was about the fourth shortest. But they usually make it seem like Kristy’s sooo much shorter than everyone else. Mallory herself is 5’1, which actually seems tall for an eleven-year-old.
  • Mr. Henry makes the Pikes attach a video camera to the roof of their car when driving home from getting a Christmas tree, in order to get a point-of-view shot. As in, the point-of-view of the TREE. WTF?
  • I think this may be the first time Mal says that she and Jessi don’t like being called Junior members. I kind of see their point. They really do just as much as everyone else.
  • Kristy’s desperate to get the BSC on film in the special. She ends up offering the director three nights of baby-sitting for five minutes of filming. At least that girl’s consistent.
  • The Pikes might want to tell their kids that a) there’s something in the world called taxes, and b) even if there weren’t, $10,000 isn’t enough to buy a Ferrari.
  • Is my family just abnormally late, or are the Pikes abnormally early? Uncle Joe comes over on Christmas, and after eating, opening gifts, and playing games he leaves….at 2:30 pm.
  • Like they did on one Thanksgiving, the BSC just shows up at the Pikes house in the afternoon. Do none of these girls have families of their own that require them to stay home on holidays?
  • This was written in 1995, way before the reality TV craze. So, I guess the Pikes thought being filmed would be like a documentary and are disappointed. Mr. Pike ends up accusing Mr. Henry of “filming a lie,” by staging/recreating scenes, instead of really objectively filming a “traditional wholesome Christmas.”
  • As I was re-reading this, the deal with the TV station makes even less sense then I remembered. I would think that the station would make the Pikes pay a fee for backing out…the station hasn’t just lost money filming, it’s gotten screwed out of a show for next year.
  • According to Nicky, the secret recipe for chocolate chip cookies is to use twice as much brown sugar as white sugar. Is it weird that I’m tempted to try that?
  • Mallory says that on Christmas, after the BSC left, she fell asleep and her dad had to carry her to bed – something that hasn’t happened in years. Now, I guess this book may have been written years after the one where she got Mono, but she was definitely carried to bed once in that one.

Monday, March 1, 2010

“Who on earth would want to burn down a library?”…..BSC Mystery # 13: Mary Anne and the Library Mystery

Memory Reaction

The first time I read this book, I had no recollection of who the kid that starts the fires was. I knew that we had seen him before, but I didn’t really remember him specifically. However, since I’ve started this blog, I’ve reread enough books to recall who his family is – the Addisons. I think we only saw them when they were having problems, but I guess that makes sense. They couldn’t make a regular client the firebug without having to deal with it in future books.

I also remember liking this book, just because it had so many references to real life books that I liked. However, I did think it was ridiculous that 13-year-olds were investigating arson.

Revisited Reaction

Mary Anne has been bored and is missing Dawn (in CA), Logan (busy with Volleyball practice), and Mallory (has Mono), so she ends up volunteering to help at a kids read-a-thon that the library is sponsoring.

Fairly quickly, Kristy gets a job helping Rosie Wilder participate in the read-a-thon (taking her to the library, going with her to get sponsors, etc), so she and Mary Anne are both hanging out at the library. Things are good, until a small fire breaks out. Mrs. Kishi (the librarian) puts it out quickly, but the fire department suspects arson. A week later, the same thing happens. Of course, the BSC wants to solve the case. First, because they like mysteries, and second because they (specifically Mary Anne), like the library.

One of the first clues they find is a pack of matches….in Nicky Pike’s jacket pocket. He denies starting the fires, and the girls believe him (mostly), but he wants to help solve the case. Since Rosie has been at the library a lot as well, she volunteers to help too. So, now there are junior “junior detectives” involved. And when there’s yet another fire, they double up their efforts.

Mary Anne finds out that the fires were started with a book burning in a trashcan. This horrifies her, because Ann M. Martin thinks burning books sucks. However, it does give the BSC their main suspects – a group of protestors that want to ban books. The second suspect is a library employee, whose family may get the land the library’s on if it’s ever destroyed. Both these suspects lead to dead ends. Eventually, Mary Anne notices a pattern to the fires, and figures out when the next one’s happening. So, the BSC has a stakeout and catches Sean Addison in the act. He was doing it because he resented his parents for not paying attention to him and for making him participate in the read-a-thon. And they tell Mrs. Kishi, who talks to his parents, etc, etc.


  • Mary Anne’s reading the paper and wonders why someone would write a letter to “Dear Abby” about bad breath in coworkers – she says, “what’s the big deal?” While I agree it seems silly to write to an advice column about it, I can tell her that working with someone who has any kind of odor issue can get really, annoying.
  • Mary Anne’s bored after school, and watches the movie Roman Holiday. She had time to watch it and then read the paper before arriving EARLY and for a BSC meeting. According to Netflix, that movie is 118 minutes long. How early do these kids get out of school that she’s got that much time in the afternoon?
  • When Mary Anne describes Rosie, she says that she dances and is in commercials and stuff. But the entire plot of her original book was about how she actually hated all that stuff, and she got her parents to stop forcing her into it. So, WTF?
  • Rosie laughs because Kristy didn’t know stage directions should be in parenthesis, and Kristy comments that she should know that from reading plays in English class. But shouldn’t Kristy REALLY know that from being in the lead character in a play?
  • We find out that the matches ended up in Nicky’s jacket because Sean needed to hide them somewhere at the last minute, and he just shoved them in. I’m almost positive that was a plot on the Brady Bunch.
  • The whole issue with the library employee suspect makes no sense. It’s kind of convoluted, but basically, a rich guy (Mr. Ellway) donated some land to the town with the stipulation that a library be built on it. But if anything ever happened to the library, the land would go back to the town. And in the years since then, the family lost money. So the girls think that Miss Ellway (the current employee) is working at the library to get access, and is starting fires because she wants the land back. Because libraries have such great security that you need to pass yourself off as an employee to get into one. It’s all so ridiculous, it feels stupid to even describe it. Couldn’t they have come up with a better red herring? It was so obvious she wasn’t the culprit that it felt like a waste of time.
  • Someone needs to tell Mary Anne, you don’t actually need to be polite to everyone you meet…like say, protestors that want books banned.
  • The girls keep saying Nicky’s “off the suspect list,” but he clearly isn’t, since they say the same thing after each new clue. If he was really off the suspect list when you found clue X, then clue Y isn’t also needed to clear him.
  • I think a lot of this book is used as a public service announcement on why banning books is wrong. I don’t totally mind here, because I agree with it, and it isn’t TOO heavy handed. If they made the protestors the firebugs it would have been more annoying.
  • Nicky Pike wins the prize for reading the most books in his grade. He did most of the reading at home so that he could surprise Mary Anne, since she inspired him to read. Which is sort of sweet.
  • Mallory has to beg her parents for a week to go to the read-a-thon awards ceremony (due to the mono thing). Of all the things she could be asking her parents for…
  • One of the fires was started in the bathroom, so Claudia, Kristy, and Mary Anne investigate to try and figure out which one it was (mens, womens, staff). However, after the first fire, the library’s keeping the bathrooms locked, so they need to get keys from the librarian. Claudia gets the staff key by telling the children’s librarian she can’t wait until Mary Anne and Kristy are finished in the regular ladies room. But couldn’t Mary Anne have just asked for the staff key since she’s basically working there?
  • The BSC decides not to tell the Pikes about finding the matches in Nicky’s jacket. Of course, they do tell Mallory, who’s practically an adult. But it seems like they are breaking the BSC by-laws or something.
  • Claudia actually trashes outfits the book banners wearing by saying that what they wore clashes and/or doesn’t match. I feel like I’ve stepped through the looking glass or something. I mean, I remember Claudia wearing checkered pants with a stripped shirt and all sorts of weird color combinations. How can she judge anyone’s fashion sense?
  • There’s an (unrelated) fire at the middle school, so the school closes early for the day. After they leave the building, the students all walk to the high school, and then just call their parents from a pay phone and go home (well, to Claud’s home). But wouldn’t the school insist on parents picking kids up?
  • Outfit time. “Claudia was wearing a big white shirt over a bright pink jumpsuit. Her earrings, which were also bright pink, were in the shape of flamingoes. On her feet were pink high-tops.” Don’t you normally wear shirts under jumpsuits? Otherwise, how can you see it’s a jumpsuit? Not that you'd want to see a jumpsuit...
  • “Stacey was wearing a red miniskirt, a red-and-white striped shirt, red heart shaped earrings, and short black boots.” That sounds like something a little kid would wear on Valentines Day.
  • The book doesn’t really resolve what happens to Sean. They talk about how the police are involved, and that he’ll probably get counseling, but they also say that Sean’s just a little kid, so who knows what will happen to him (in terms of a penalty). But, the kid’s ten, and that’s old enough to know not to start fires.
  • The BSC talks about how surprised they are that Sean felt ignored. But, wasn’t the sub-plot of Claudia and the Sad Good-Bye about how the Addisons ignored his sister Corrie?