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).


coulrophobic agnostic said...

I hated this book - it just seemed so ridiculous. But I guess it shouldn't surprise me that everyone in Stoneybrook is mentally living in the 50s.

I mainly got annoyed because, dude, seriously, even in Stoneybrook surely these people have better things to do than bitch about a third grade play.

And while I know it's YA lit so things are exaggerated, I always find it annoying how everyone in BSCland is so fucking rabid about everything. Everyone has an extreme opinion about every possible issue, even something as asinine as this. NOT EVERYONE CARES ABOUT EVERYTHING.

Fran said...

I hated this book too. It was so ridiculous to think all these parents would be so up in arms about history.

I actually had a pretty big auditorium in my elementary school so I guess it just depends.

bonclyde149150 said...

"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."

Do you mean if your family's plans fell through, you'd rather have the day be a private one with your family instead of you and your family spending it with a mess of other families?

Caroline said...

But in the BSC, you're never allowed to have any outside friends, and you're never allowed to have any time to yourself! And that goes for the families, too!

I like to think that Charlie and Janine found their own way to pass the day...

Anonymous said...

Charlie and Janine having sex lol

Anonymous said...

I've never heard of First American, but First Nation is a way to refer to Canadian Native Americans. So there could be confusion from that?

charmecia said...

But in the BSC, you're never allowed to have any outside friends, and you're never allowed to have any time to yourself! And that goes for the families, too!

so agree with you right there Caroline. no wonder why stacey quit the group, followed by dawn leaving the bsc permanently.

i agree coulrophobic agnostic that stoneybrook is living in the 50's with the whole racism thing, liberal and other ideas, etc.

i have a feeling that ann based stoneybrook based on her childhood
growing up.
i mean wasnt ann born in 1955 or something? that could explain why the bsc lives around the 50's era

Nixxi6 said...

Actually I don't think they really went THAT overboard....

When I was in High School I helped out at the local Grade School and they put on a play of "The First Thanksgiving" with the 4th graders (telling the TRUE story) and let me tell you -Picket Lines were the LEAST of our concerns!

People vandalized our posters and the costumes and one of my guy friends actually ended up in the hospital from a group of College Guys attacking him because he was helping out with the play!

But since only a few kids were taken out of the play (By their disapproving parents) we went on with the show (Mainly because the principal had asked us to) For the most part it turned out well -A lot of people really enjoyed it....

But it's really amazing how small minded and cruel people can be when they don't want to face the truth....

By the way: I -LOVE- your reviews! You Rock! :)

Britt said...

I actually didn't read this book until this year (I'm 23), as I'd long-outgrown the series by the time we'd gotten to this point originally (now, I own about 130 of them I've purchased in the last year and a half haha :(), and I actually enjoyed it! As much as I agree that it was ridiculous to see the parents so up in arms, I'm liberal enough, not to mention enough of a stickler for history, that even faux-children's-book-censorship made me rage quite a bit. Not to mention there's still enough of that ridiculousness in this day and age. I'm Canadian, so it isn't too bad, but I had a lot of American friends on Facebook during the election (not to mention an internet connection, so coverage was evvvvvverywhere), and I saw how ass-backwards some people still are in the 2000s. Totally disheartening. But yeah, count me as one of the few who really enjoyed this one - as an adult!

Liz said...

I can't figure out if I remember this book extremely well, or if I am confusing my memories with those I have of the South Park Christmas episode where everyone in the town gets offended at the elementary school Christmas play. I do seem to remember Abby yelling back at the protesting parents, though (haha).

36 sounds like a HUGE Thanksgiving party to me--but then, I don't have a big family, and I doubt if I have ever had a Thanksgiving with more than a dozen people.

Dana said...

Straight up propaganda