I didn’t read this one until now.
Okay, so, this is a “very special episode” book. The BSC has these new clients, the Nicholls, who have two little boys (5 and 7). Claudia becomes their regular sitter, because apparently, sometime after I stopped reading, the BSC changed their policy about that being an issue or causing fights.
Anyway, the boys, Nate and Joey, are really sweet. But Claudia notices that they’re nervous all the time, like they think they’re going to get into trouble about the smallest thing. They’re even scared to go play in their next-door neighbor’s yard because their dad didn’t give specific permission. At first, Claudia thinks they had a bad experience with a past baby-sitter. Cause baby-sitters have such a huge impact on kids lives, I guess.Then Claudia notices that Mr. Nicholls is super strict. He yells loudly at the boys because a jar of peanut butter was left on the counter. Claudia explains she left it there because she was in the middle of making a snack for the boys when he rang the doorbell (he forgot his key). When he hears that, he puts on a fake smile and apologizes for yelling. But Claud realizes that he’s the one Nate and Joey are scared of.
At one job, Claudia goes back to get her jacket after Mr. Nicholls pays her, and she overhears a loud slapping sound. When she moves on to leave, she sees the boys crying, and notices that Joey’s cheek is red. Mr. Nicholls acts like everything’s normal and offers her a ride home, but Claudia just leaves. She calls an emergency BSC meeting and tells everyone what happened. The girls have no idea what to do. They aren’t even sure if there’s really a problem, because Claudia didn’t see anything. And they note that some parents do spank their kids. But Claud’s instincts tell her it’s something serious. So, they make the rare decision to talk to an adult. They tell Mrs. Kishi, who actually works with Mrs. Nicholls. Mrs. Kishi decides she will talk to Mrs. Nicholls first, but also calls a social worker she knows for advice. At first, Mrs. Nicholls denies everything, but Mrs. Kishi decides to call the Department of Children’s Services. Before we find out what happens with that, Mrs. Nicholls basically fires the BSC.
Erica Blumberg gets hired as the replacement. One day, she calls Claudia to say she’s sitting and that Mr. Nicholls told her the boys needed to stay in their rooms all day because they “misbehaved.” But Erica heard them crying so she went up to see them and noticed they were both bruised, and she didn’t buy their story about a softball accident. Claudia calls her mom, and I guess the news of actual bruising gets to Mrs. Nicholls because she and Mrs. Kishi head over to get the boys. Claudia also bikes over there because she can’t stand not knowing what’s happening. Of course, Mr. Nicholls has gotten home by this point and is pissed off, but Mrs. Kishi and Mrs. Nicholls get the boys in the car. They temporarily take them and Claudia to Mr. Kishi’s office to regroup (they drop Erica off at home). Mrs. Nicholls agrees to go to the police, and takes the boys up to stay with her sister in New York. And they obviously don’t live happily ever after, but the BSC and Erica talk with Mrs. Kishi to try and get some closure on the whole thing.
There’s this subplot about how the BSC’s entering a bunch of their clients in the town’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. The kids all make Irish-themed cardboard cutouts to wear as sandwich boards/costumes and walk behind some of the floats. The only entertaining part’s that Claudia couldn’t go to the costume making session (because she was dealing with the Nicholls), so all the costumes look horrible, and they end up putting signs on everyone saying what they’re supposed to be.
- I know they liked to tackle some real issues in these books, but child abuse seems a bit over-the-top. Because they obviously were trying not to make the situation to be as terrible as it could be, but still get a message across. But it just seems weird to insert this story into what’s normally a very happy/fantasy town.
- Claud’s Aunt Peaches and her husband are away, so babyLynn’s staying at the Kishi’s. We get all sorts of scenes of Claudia cooing over the baby. It’s actually a bit annoying in print, because we can’t see her. I could handle it somewhat on TV, if they actually show a cute baby to go along with it. Here, not so much.
- Also, there aren’t any outfits in this book, and I’m thinking it’s because they gave the page space to baby descriptions.
- Here’s some BSC timeline stuff: Mary Anne’s dad was remarried “not long ago.” And Abby moved to Stoneybrook “recently.” But Lynn’s six months old. I guess I could see “recently” being used to describe something less than a year ago, but WAY too much has happened since Mr. Spier got married to call it “not long ago.”
- Claudia’s surprised that Mr. Nicholls remembers her name, because they only met once before. But she says thinks this when she shows up to sit. Wouldn’t he know the name of the person coming to watch his kids, even if he didn’t remember meeting her? They always tell the parents who’s going to sit.
- The Nicholls live next to the Stanton-Cha’s who are from that book with the secret society/country club. Yay, for continuity.
- They also mention Lou McNally, who’s from way back. She’s apparently just moved back to town. I’m guessing that’s continuity from this book, which I haven’t read yet. But I just got a copy, so I will soon.
- If you’re wondering about Mr. Nicholls job and why he’s the one greeting Claudia all the time, Joey and Nate mention he’s going on interviews when Claudia’s sitting, so the assumption is he’s unemployed.
- Claudia thinks it’s weird that the boys say they got in trouble for touching a briefcase. Which, I agree with. But that’s based on the word of a five-year-old. Wouldn’t she consider that he lied about what happened? I know he didn’t here, but she doesn’t know them that well. Kids sometimes lie.
- During the scene where Claud and her mom take Mrs. Nicholls, Nate, and Joey to Mr. Kishi’s office, all I can think about is who’s watching Lynn? Which then made me wonder who was taking care of her all day when the Kishis were at school/work that week?
- At the costume making session that Claud can’t attend, one of the kids wants to make a leprechaun. So, Kristy asks who can draw one, and Mallory says she knows how to, but is too busy setting up the paint. Wouldn’t it make sense for someone who can’t draw to switch jobs with Mal?
- When talking about telling adults, Kristy says her mom’s good in emergencies, and Mary Anne says her dad can give good legal advice. The way she phrased that seemed weird to me, Claudia doesn’t exactly need legal advice. But it’s nice to see them going to their parents about stuff they can’t handle.
- So, Mrs. Nicholls actually calls Kristy to cancel the sitting jobs. Kristy figures she got her name/number off their posters. But 1) why is Kristy’s number on fliers when they only want people to call Claud’s? And, 2) do these girls put their full names on posters that they just hang out in public? Their parents are okay with that?
- At the parade, the BSC entry walks behind a float with Miss Teenage Stoneybrook, Little Miss Connecticut, and a bunch of other pageant winners. I guess Little Miss Connecticut’s the next step after Little Miss Stoneybrook? Charlotte calls it a boring float, but it would have been nice if she also referenced her own pageant experience.
- They invite Erica to a meeting to a BSC meeting where they talk about the whole Nicholls thing to get closure. I like that Mrs. Kishi made a point of telling Erica to talk to her mother, and to get all the BSC members to talk about what happened. Even though no one was as involved as Claudia was. It’s like…actual parenting.
- Of course, we hear on the last two pages that Mr. Nicholls admits everything he did and agrees to counseling. Which takes away from what I thought was going to be an optimistic, but ambiguous ending.