Sunday, June 29, 2008

“And it looks like the work of the Phantom Caller”…. BSC # 2: Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls

Memory Reaction

This was one of a few books I didn’t own, so didn’t reread it six-thousand times. I do have a vivid memory of it though. Not of reading it, but of how in fourth grade this book was on a shelf in the back of my classroom at school that we could read whenever we finished all our other work early. That happened to me a lot, and there were no other BSC books there, so I picked it out a lot (well, whenever the other girls in my class didn’t beat me to it). However, I don’t think I ever read it after that year. So, I remember it sitting on the shelf more than the actual plot.

Revisited Reaction

The girls hear about some “Phantom Phone Caller” who calls houses to find out if anyone is home and then breaks in. He is hitting some houses in a town a few miles away from Stoneybrook. Since it is a really early book, they haven’t become master detectives yet and act like the little girls they really are, and just get scared. At one point, Mary Anne’s father even tells her she can’t baby sit until the guy is caught. So, they come up with all sorts of dumb plans to protect themselves – inventing a code in case they need to call the police, making burglar alarms out of pots and pans, and coming up with a system where they bring the club record book to school so they can memorize where everyone is sitting.

Claudia starts to get some creepy phone calls while she is baby-sitting. This basically consists of the phone ringing and then no one being there when she answers. The same thing happens to Kristy. This IS the Phantom Callers M.O., so the calls actually could be classified as creepy – although the caller’s whole point in making the calls is that he only robs houses where no one is home. So, as long as they answer and prove someone as home they should not have to worry too much. Stacey and Mary Anne (before she stops being able to sit) don’t get phone calls, but still creep themselves out while sitting.

It all comes to a head when Kristy and Claudia are at a joint job for the Newtons. They hear someone outside and Claudia calls the police. It turns out it is Alan Gray. He had been stealing the club notebook and calling her/spying on her because he wanted to ask her to the Halloween dance at school. Surprisingly, Kristy says yes, despite complaining about Alan being annoying for the whole book. Mostly because she is so surprised he likes her. And I guess I do remember her and Alan going to some dances early on before Bart showed up.

No one thinks to ask about the phone calls Claudia had been getting, but a couple days later, Trevor, the boy of the moment that Claud likes, calls and tells her that he had been doing the same thing as Alan. Then he asks her to the dance and she is thrilled. Meanwhile, the real phantom caller is caught a few days later.


  • “Today, for instance, I’m wearing purple pants that stop just below the knees and are held up with suspenders, white tights with clocks on them, a purple plaid shirt with a matching hat, my high-top sneakers, and lobster earrings. Clothes like that are my trademark.” I wouldn’t brag about that being your trademark, sweetie.
  • This early, Claudia says that clients still call them all individually. Wow, later on, that would be cause for a Kristy to put a hit on someone.
  • Kristy and Mary Anne wear kilts and plain blouses? Okay….
  • Would the end of fifth grade be that long ago, if they are at the beginning of seventh grade now?
  • The girls are worried that if the Phantom Caller broke in to a house they were sitting at, he would be listening on an extension when they called the police, so they come up with a code where they call another BSCer and ask about hair ribbons, and then THAT girl calls the cops. But none of them can remember it. It is hysterical, because it is not that hard. The entire code is:“Have you seen my red ribbon?”
  • Why would anyone give Karen a book called “The Witch Next Door”? That is just encouraging her to be annoying.
  • Stacey is baby-sitting Charlotte (who is seven at this point) and suggests watching MTV. MTV? With a seven-year-old? She also says they’ll be able to hear music on it. Remember when that was true?
  • I guess I don’t need to worry about Stacey corrupting Charlotte. The Johanssen’s don’t have a cable box yet, so they can’t watch MTV.
  • Mary Anne comes up with a bunch of crazy burglar alarms that you would see on Home Alone when she is sitting for David Michael. Then the dog sets them off. The Kristy and her family come home and set one off and laugh at her. Even Kristy laughs at her, when you know Kristy has been just as scared as Mary Anne about the Phantom Caller. Nice friend.
  • Janine admits she hides candy all over her room too. That seems….out of character.
  • Claudia is so scared when she is sitting that she tries to convince Nina Marshall to stay up late to keep her company. This poor three-year-old is like, “no, it is my bedtime.” Great baby-sitter.
  • I feel like this is opposite land. Stacey and Claud wear jeans and sweaters to a Halloween dance and Kristy wears a plaid jumper and red turtleneck. They couldn’t talk her into anything else. Seriously, I feel like I got a joke copy or something.
  • Kristy is always talking about how annoying Alan is (in this book and in later ones). Well, they basically reveal Alan teases her because he likes her (as though that is not obvious). Kristy seems to forget that in later books, but doesn’t she wonder if he annoys her so much because she essentially dumps him when she meets Bart?
  • They talk about how successful the BSC is becoming because they have each earned about fifteen dollars in the past couple weeks. How much do they charge that they earn that little money?


SJSiff said...

A couple of weeks ago my best friend called me to tell me about a dream she'd had. Her house was being robbed and she was tied up, but she was able to convince the robbers to let her answer the phone when I called. She asked whether I'd found her red ribbon! And I knew the code not only in the dream, but when she was telling me about it. And we haven't read this book in YEARS.

Anonymous said...

great post! i clearly remember janine telling claud she hides candy in her room and that it was one of her vices -- and claudia not knowing what a vice was. now i know which book this happened in!

Mary Ann said...

"How much do they charge that they earn that little money?"

That has always been the big mystery to me! How much do they charge AND exactly how much are their club dues that they pay every week? I don't remember them ever actually specifying either of those figures.

Also, the "have you seen my ribbon" code is my main memory from this book. I remembered it and used a similar code a few summers ago when my friends would hang out (and get drunk) in the woods... when we'd see flash lights coming down the trail late at night and we couldn't see the person, we'd scream something about a ribbon, but it pretty much wound up the way it did for the BSC, we'd all forget what we were supposed to say and die laughing. We were kind of dumb back then, LOL.

BSC Snarker, aka Kristen said...

Didn't they pay a dollar a week for dues? I have this vivid memory from some book where Kristy raised the dues from 50 cents to a dollar because they were going to have to start paying Charlie to drive her around. I think it was the one where her mom gets married.

Anonymous said...

I think they also have varying rates based on what each specific client pays. That seems kind of weird to me, but in re-reading all these books, I'm actually reading the Chapter 2's I'd always skip as a kid, and lots of times when they describe Mary Anne's role, they say that she "keeps track of what each client pays." Not all the books say that though so I have no idea if it's true or if it's just a ghostwriter inconsistency. :)

The ribbon code is my main memory of this book too. Also, Susan, that is an awesome story about your friend's dream. None of my friends would know what I was talking about if I'd had that dream since they didn't read the BSC books. I'd end up getting robbed. :P

BadKat said...

I always liked this one, ribbon and all. I liked the early ones best.
And every time we got a hang-up at home, I dreamed it was what ever his name was I had a crush on at the time. Pre-teen romanticism is lame.

Anonymous said...

I'm seriously sad I never read this book! I guess it's kind of a pity that they never developed the Alan/Kristy thing (although I think I remember her going to a couple of dances with him?) - it would have been kinda cool if both Kristy and Mary Anne had had steady boyfriends, while the girls that thought themselves as more mature didn't :D

Anonymous said...

I remember when I read this book at the age of nine, I could never understand why the response to "Have you found my red ribbon?" would be "No, the blue one." What does that mean? Why wouldn't it just be "No, I haven't."?

And I still remember that over 20 years later, but the girls couldn't even remember the code after five minutes. I must be a nerd.

Anonymous said...

your 12th bullet point cracked me up

Dana said...

My copy of this book was messed up. It was half the right book and half the first book. I never read the actual version.

Picardigan said...

Susan: you are an AWESOME friend.