Sunday, December 29, 2013

“He hasn’t worn underwear on his head in school since second grade”…….BSC FF # 12: Claudia and the Disaster Date

After going to a dance with Alan Gray in her last book, Claudia has decided to go out on an actual date with him.  But she’s too embarrassed to tell her friends about it, so she’s nervous about being seen with him the whole time.  Also, when Kristy and Alan run into each other they argue and make Claudia more uncomfortable about things.  But she finally tells the BSC about it.  Alan also realizes that Claudia’s awkward because of her friends, and suggests they go on a group date…the BSC (including Dawn who’s in town) along with Pete Black and Cary Retlin.  But Alan spends the whole time on his best behavior and even lets Kristy win at miniature golf.  Claudia finally tells him she wants him to be himself, and says they will figure out what will happen together.   And the book ends with the two of them hanging out with the BSC and Alan’s friends.

Since it’s summer, Claudia and her friend Erica are working in the children’s room at the library.  Claudia says they got the job fair and square and it has nothing to do with her mom.  I’m sure.  Anyway, Claudia had told her mom she wanted to update the mural in the children’s room, but her mom said she wanted Claudia to just do the job she was hired for.  Claudia’s really excited about it though, and tells Ms. Feld (the children’s librarian/her boss) the idea.  Ms. Feld gets really excited too, and tells Mrs. Kishi she wants Claudia to do it.  So, Mrs. Kishi’s annoyed that Claudia went to Ms. Feld behind her back and Claudia doesn’t understand why her mom’s mad.  It gets worse when Ms. Feld tries to get the kids at the library to help with the mural and they make a huge mess of it. 

Meanwhile, Erica’s also dealing with stuff, because she really wants to find her birth parents.  Her parents want to wait a few years before they tell her about them.  So Erica gets Claudia’s help to open the safe in her parents’ office and find her birth certificate.  But Erica can’t really handle the information and starts to cry.  Claudia tells her she needs to tell her parents she found their names, which Erica does.  This inspires Claudia to apologize to her mom.  They make up, and Claudia figures out a way to update the mural and let the kids be part of it (without making a mess).

  • I totally don’t get the thing where Alan puts yellow M&M’s in his eyes and pretends to be Little Orphan Annie.  He doesn’t do it in this book, Claudia just references him doing it back at Mary Anne’s surprise birthday party
  • BTW, why is there an apostrophe in “M&M’s”?  It’s not possessive, like that’s the name of the people who make it, is it?  Because each individual candy is called an “M.” It’s not a typo in the book though, it’s that way on the candy packaging and appears to be part of the trademark.
  • Alan and Claudia go to see The Tsunami Monster’s Revenge.  That sounds like a fun bad movie.
  • I find it weird that Claudia’s only just now going on a date with Alan, when the dance was 4 books ago. 
  • Claudia describes the children’s room at the library, but honestly, whenever I picture it I’m really picturing the children’s room in the library in my town as a kid.  I do the same thing with picturing my middle school for SMS.
  • Claudia tells Alan that she thinks Janine just uses big words just to mess with other people.  She used to think Janine couldn’t help it.  I like the new theory, it makes Janine seem more fun.  I would totally do the same thing if I was a genius.
  • I kind of like how they portray Dawn in this book.  She’s actually pretty laid back (as opposed to only being called laid back in other books).  She keeps laughing and making sarcastic comments about how Kristy’s handling the Claudia/Alan thing.
  • Claudia tells Erica to read the book, Find a Stranger, SayGoodbye.  Which I sort of think I read, but can’t actually remember anything about it.  Maybe I just remember them talking about it in the BSC?  I read a ton of Lois Lowry’s other books though.
  • When Kristy’s ranting about Claudia going out with Alan, Claudia reminds her that she went to a dance with Alan. Kristy claims she only did that once and learned never to go out with him again.  But that first dance was in the phantom phonecaller book, and I think she also went to a dance with him later on.  It was briefly mentioned in either in the book with her mom’s wedding or the one where Logan first shows up.   And she definitely invited him as her date to Mary Anne’s surprise party in book 10.  That’s why he was there and putting M&M’s in his eyes.
  • Claudia’s kind of in an awkward spot with the mural.  Her mom’s mad about the kids all being involved, but that was really Ms. Feld’s doing.  And I can see why she wouldn’t want to badmouth her boss to her boss’s boss. 
  • One of the things Claudia wants to change about the library mural is make the kids look more diverse.  These girls were always so politically correct. 
  • Claudia outfit: “Beige linen shorts, an enormous red, blue, and purple tie-dyed T-shirt that [she] had made earlier in the summer, a pair of earrings [she’d] made from bottle caps and glitter, and purple high-tops with blue socks folder over the top.” 
  • Alan’s dad jokes about how they are driving in a minivan to go to miniature golf and Alan rolls his eyes.  It surprised Claudia since that seems like Alan’s type of humor.  But it actually makes sense.  That could be where Alan got his sense of humor, but it also doesn’t mean he’s not embarrassed by his parents.
  • When Claudia’s talking to her mom about being an artist, she says she likes art because she can just create what she sees.  And Mrs. Kishi says how she always wanted to be a writer for similar reasons, but wasn’t good at it.  So, she likes to find books that are saying things she’d like to say herself.  That’s kind of sad.
  • Claudia’s all impressed that Erica thought to look in her parents’ safe to find her birth certificate/parents’ names.  She claims she wouldn’t have thought of something like that.  Except she DID think of something like that back when she thought she was adopted.  She wanted to get into her parents’ lockbox to find her adoption papers.  She just didn’t have a key, whereas Erica knew the combination.  Claudia may be dumb in school, but she was always pretty smart with mystery stuff.  She needs to give herself more credit.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

“It was as if I’d finally found the ruby slippers and clicked my heels”…..BSC FF # 11: Welcome Home, Mary Anne

Mary Anne’s family’s all set to move into their new house, which is really their old barn.  When I heard they were renovating the barn, I thought they were using it as a base and adding sections to it.  I always pictured the barn to be the size of a 2-4 car garage.  But apparently, the barn was always big enough to just be turned into a 4-bedroom house.  The downstairs is an open-space floor plan, with bedrooms added upstairs (in what used to be the hayloft I guess).  It actually sounds like a pretty decent place, if we accept that it was always supposed to be that big.  Their property must be pretty big too, if it fit their original house and a barn as big as a house..  They kept the old barn door that slides off the wall as a sliding door, so basically the whole kitchen wall can just be opened up.  It sounds like it could get drafty in the winter, but there are only two more books in these series, so I guess we’ll never see winter.  That’s kind of sad.

Anyway, they move into the house and Mary Anne feels kind of weird about it and isn’t sure if it feels like home.   But luckily, Dawn and Jeff are coming home for the summer to distract her.  Sunny’s coming with them for a month, since her mom just died and she’s having trouble adjusting.  Sunny’s method of dealing is basically to avoid talking about the whole thing, and she doesn’t stop moving/doing things so she doesn’t have to think about her mom.  This includes trying to hook Mary Anne up with a high school guy (but abandoning the plan when the friends he brings for Sunny and Dawn are dorks), going overboard trying to decorate Dawn, Jeff, and Mary Anne’s bedrooms, and making Mary Anne and Dawn take her to NYC (alone, without parental approval) to walk around the Village all day. On this trip to New York, Sunny decides she wants to go to some club, but Dawn and Mary Anne say they have to get home to avoid getting killed by their parents.  Dawn tells her she’s been getting her way since her mom died and it has to stop.  Sunny doesn’t take this well, but she listens.  So, they go home and don’t get caught or in any trouble for the little adventure. But Sunny and Dawn aren’t talking to each other.

Mary Anne and Sunny talk about what it’s like to lose a parent (even though Mary Anne admits she doesn’t remember the losing part) and Sunny seems to make a break through with things.  She also decides she misses her dad and should go back to LA.  She and Dawn talk and make up for their argument in New York.  Then they have a housewarming/going away party and we briefly get to see the rest of the BSC members….even the ones no longer in the club.  By the end, Mary Anne’s feeling more at home in the new house.

There’s a subplot that involves Jeff being miserable because the one thing he liked about Connecticut was the old house.  He also thinks his friends have moved on without him, but of course the triplets and Nicky are still happy to see Jeff.  With their help, Mary Anne gets Jeff excited about redecorating his new room, and doing wild things like painting it to look like a race track or hanging a basketball hoop inside. When Sunny gets onboard the ideas get even wilder, like making it into a haunted house or a jungle with vines to climb on.  Ultimately, they make it into a superhero themed room, so Jeff’s fairly happy by the end.  Considering he’s in lowly Connecticut and all.

  • Mary Anne claims she broke up with Logan “not long ago.”  Well, it’s summer and she broke up with him back in early fall….that’s almost the full school year.  Practically a lifetime for teenagers.  Although, admittedly not a lifetime for someone who was 13 for a decade.  But still.  Stop whining about it.  I mean, she said she wanted her own identity, but she’s still basically describing herself as “Logan’s ex.”
  • Mary Anne mentions how she didn’t have many clothes to fill her new closet.  But shouldn’t she have gathered some in the year since the fire?  She’s gone through all 4 seasons since the fire. What has she been wearing all this time?
  • When they get their luggage at the airport, we hear that Sunny has a large duffel and Dawn has a backback.  That’s supposed to get them through an entire month/ summer?  It’s not like Dawn could claim to have left stuff in Connecticut.
  • Awkward moment….Sunny tells Mary Anne to take off the hat when they’re in the sun, and Mary Anne says, “Haven’t you ever heard of skin cancer?”  And of course, Sunny’s mom just died of cancer.  Oops.
  • To try and stay busy, Sunny decides to do all these chores, vacuuming/dusting/etc.  I’m not sure how dirty the house could have been after a few days of anyone living there.  But I guess it doesn’t matter if she’s just trying to stay busy.
  • Since when is Nicky Pike friends with Jeff?  The triplets were always his friends, but not Nicky.  The triplets tried to avoid talking to him, why would they let him hang out with their friends?
  • The girls ride their bikes to the pool.  Sunny rides Jeff’s.  I guess the bikes were in the barn during the fire, huh?  We never heard about whether they had a garage or anything, so I guess the barn actually made sense for that stuff.
  • Mallory’s conveniently at a two-week writing camp so we can have Kristy and Mary Anne take a joint sitting job at the Pikes, but still be able to make an appearance at the party at the end.  Too bad, I kind of miss Mallory.
  • Another suggestion Sunny makes for Jeff’s room….make it look like a surf shop.  Because we can’t not mention surfing in a book that features Dawn and Sunny.
  • Dawn calls Stacey to tell them about their sneaking to NYC so someone will know what happened if they get kidnapped or something.  That’s actually a good idea.  And Stacey tells them she’s jealous.  Ha.
  • Hey, what happened to Dawn being scared of the city?  She relaxed a bit by the end of that SuperSpecial, but she still didn’t seem super eager to spend much time there.
  • Also, what happened to Mary Anne being a tour guide for everyplace she went?  She keeps asking all these questions about how they’ll get around in NYC.   Then Sunny keeps talking about this article she read about the Village and Soho, and Mary Anne doesn’t seem to know any of it.
  • In New York, the girls see a stall selling mini-backpacks. Those were super popular back when I was in middle school. I wonder if I still have mine somewhere.  I take forever to get rid of stuff, there’s boxes of it at my mother’s house.
  • Mary Anne mentions that the DJ on the local radio station’s annoying, but he plays decent music.  She also says there’s no real alternative.  But aren’t they only an hour or so away from NYC?  Why wouldn’t they get New York radio stations?
  • I feel like I’m reading spoilers for the California Diaries books (which I’m going to TRY and recap), because we hear all about how Dawn and Sunny were fighting in California, but made up before her mom died.
  • There’s this whole thing where Mary Anne tells us how lucky they were to get away with the NYC trip and that nothing bad happened.   It’s like a disclaimer or something….telling kids not to “try this at home.”
  • Abby makes some really nice comments to Sunny about what she must be dealing with. She also says she wishes they’d gotten a chance to hang out, which makes sense cause she knows what Sunny’s going through more than anyone.  It’s just too bad it happens at her going away party.  I’m surprised that Sunny wouldn’t have spent any time with the BSC while she was in town.  Wouldn’t Dawn want to see them too?
  • Also, it kind of sucks that in one of the last books of the series we don’t get a lot of the actual BSC members hanging out together.  Even the 4 who are still in the club.  I like the girls interacting.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

“Trust me. My mother would not want to date him”…… BSC FF # 10: Stacey’s Problem

Stacey visits her dad in New York and they spend a lot of time with his girlfriend Samantha.  Towards the end of the weekend, her dad tells her that he and Samantha are getting married.  Stacey likes her, so she’s really happy about this news.  The one thing that she feels a bit awkward about is telling her mom.  Her dad actually agrees to call and tell her so that Stacey doesn’t have to.  Only when Stacey gets home, her mom can tell there’s something she’s not saying, so Stacey ends up telling her.   Mrs. McGill’s kind of upset about the news and actually cries after Stacey tells her.  She tells Stacey she doesn’t know why she’s upset since she certainly didn’t expect to get back together.  But it’s definitely a weird position to be in.   Anyway, Mrs. McGill takes the high road and calls Mr. McGill and Samantha to congratulate them.

Afterwards, Stacey’s worried about her mom and offers to stay home from the welcome home party the BSC’s having for Mallory.  But her mom insists she’s fine and that Stacey should go and have fun. Later Stacey and Claudia decide to try and find a guy for Mrs. McGill to date.  Claudia gets some video dating tapes from the company that runs a service by pretending she’s writing an article for a student newspaper (a college paper, since this happens over the phone).  Stacey, Claudia, Kristy, Mary Anne, and Mallory watch all the tapes, but can’t agree on any guy as a suitable match for Mrs. McGill.  Fortunately for them, this doesn’t matter because Mrs. McGill managed to find a guy on her own who invites her to a country club party.   Stacey wants to stay home from her weekend in NYC to help her mom get ready, but Mrs. McGill insists she go and says that she’s capable to getting herself ready.  However, the date doesn’t go that well and Mrs. McGill says she won’t be seeing the guy again. 

Of course, Stacey’s still worried about how her mom seems distracted.  But then her mom makes two announcements.  First, that she’s going back to her maiden name (Spencer) and second, that she’s opening her own clothing store in downtown Stoneybrook.  Stacey thinks this is great and offers to help as much as she can.

Meanwhile, Mallory’s back in Stoneybrook for the summer, even though the rest of the BSC isn’t out of school yet.  She feels kind of weird because she sees her siblings going to Byron for help with things and referring to him as the oldest siblings.  Plus, since Jessi and all her other friends are still busy with school and various activities, she feels left out.  But she manages to still help out the BSC with some new computer skills she picked up, and she shows them how they can use websites to plan activities for their charges.  As if the BSC hasn’t managed to plan tons of activities without the internet?  I mean, I love seeing how technology can make life easier, but I’m not sure what it can add to the BSC, unless they are making a digital calendar or something.

  • Claudia’s having dinner at the McGills’ and they decide to play a game while they wait for the food to be ready. Stacey suggests Monopoly, but Claudia and Mrs. McGill tell Stacey they don’t want to play with her because she’s too good at math.  But are math skills really necessary for playing monopoly?  I know it involves money, but you don’t need to know calculus or anything.
  • When Claudia’s there for dinner, they’re making homemade pizza.  Mrs. McGill starts on the dough while the girls are at a BSC meeting, then they come  and join her.   Stacey says they spend two hours making the pizza.  So, are we supposed to think that Stacey, who needs to eat at regular intervals, has dinner at almost 8 pm?
  • Mr. McGill tries to get out of telling Mrs. McGill he’s getting married by saying he thinks it should come from Stacey.  But Samantha tells him, no, it should come from him.  I agree, just because it’s an awkward position to put Stacey in.   If there was no child involved it might be different.
  • Mallory’s the president of the Internet club at her boarding school.  The point of the club is to teach people how to “get on websites” and do research.  Which sounds more like an additional class than a club. But whatever.
  • Hearing the girls talk about the video dating tapes was rather amusing.  They have this whole conversation about how bald men aren’t appealing, but that older people may not mind.   It’s more entertaining when you read it than my description.
  • We also hear that while Kristy’s mom doesn’t seem to mind that Watson’s bald, Kristy thinks Watson does mind because she sees him checking his baldness in the mirror a lot.   I’m kind of surprised Kristy would notice that.
  • Also, is it really surprising that 13-year-olds aren’t going to find any middle aged appealing?
  • Stacey owns a cell phone.  That seems weird.  Even weirder than hearing Mallory talk about the internet.
  • Samantha offers to drive Stacey home from the city so she doesn’t have to take the train.  This seems super nice of her, but I guess she wants to bond with Stacey.  Anyway, on the drive we find out that Samantha’s a fashion photographer.  Obviously Stacey finds this cool, but I’m surprised she wouldn’t have already known this.  Her dad’s been dating Samantha since that book where they went to Fire Island and it’s never come up?  I mean, I would think it’s something Mr. McGill would tell Stacey early on, to give her and Samantha something to talk about.  Or to give Stacey a reason to like her.
  • Also, does this mean that Mr. McGill’s marrying a second person with ties to the fashion industry?  Interesting.
  • In terms of Stacey’s love life, she meets up with Ethan each time we see her visit NYC, but she claims they’re just friends.
  • When Mallory’s whining about how she’s bored because her friends don’t have time for her, she mentions she’s been watching soap operas and knows the plot lines of every show on every channel.  Now, I know soaps aren’t the most intelligent things on the air, but I would think it would take more than a week (which is how long she’s been home) to be up to speed on shows on multiple channels.
  • Regarding Mallory’s siblings considering Byron the new “oldest” – they go to him because he’s nicer than the other triplets.
  • Stacey doesn’t think very highly of her mom, does she?  First she thinks she wants to stay home from a party to comfort her, then she needs to find a guy for her, then she keeps calling her from New York to make sure she isn’t having trouble with hair/clothes getting ready.
  • Kristy suggests naming the new store “Serious Clothing,” and Claudia says she’d never go in a store called that.  I kind of like it though, not in a “these are clothes for serious occasions,” way but in a “we’re not messing around” way.  And really, I wouldn’t go in stores that Claudia thought sold stylish clothes, so maybe her disliking a name’s a good thing.
  • In NY, Stacey runs into Laine, who acts like nothing ever happened between them.  But then when Stacey mentions having a fight with Claudia, Laine’s all, “yeah, well she was always a loser.”  Stacey decides it was for the best that they went their separate ways.  She also thinks it’s a little sad since they used to be such good friends. She realizes this must be how her mom felt about hearing Mr. McGill was getting remarried.
  • Claudia offers to work at Mrs. McGill’s new store, only to be told that she can’t because of child labor laws.  Which is interesting because Stacey worked at Bellairs.  And Logan worked at that restaurant in town.
  • Mrs. McGill does offer to sell some of Claudia’s handmade jewelry or her painted shirts in the store.  The jewelry idea I understand.  But I hope Mrs. McGill has better fashion sense than to think the majority of Claudia’s clothes are good.  Otherwise her store will not go well.
  • I love that Stacey thinks her mom is distracted because of her dad getting remarried, but it turns out to be because she’s planning a huge career move.
  • There’s an ad in the back of this book for a dating handbook called “The Rules for Teens.”  At first I was horrified such a book exists/existed, but then I realized the sample rules we see are things like not eating like a bird on a date and to expecting a guy to pay for everything.  So, maybe it’s not so bad.