Monday, August 30, 2010

“It’s the BSC Across America”…..BSC Super Special # 14: BSC in the USA

Memory Reaction

This is another book I never read as a kid. I feel bad that this keeps messing up my format, but since I’ve covered most of the books I DID read as a kid, it’s going to start happening more and more.

Revisited Reaction

Dawn’s father volunteers to drive a friend’s RV from the east cost to California. His thinking is that since Dawn and Jeff need to get home from a summer visit to Stoneybrook, they should make a family trip out of it. Watson must be drunk when he hears about this, because he decides that putting his (big, and usually loud) family in one RV and driving it across the country is a great idea. He also invites any BSC members “who can fit” to come along, because we all know how much extra room RVs have.

Mr. Schafer gets competitive and decides that any BSC members who don’t fit in Watson’s RV should come along in his, and all the BSCers get permission to go. Each RV will be taking its own route – the Schafers take the northern route and the Thomas/Brewers take southern route. Each person gets to pick one place to stop for a visit. There is not a whole lot else in terms of plot.

The Thomas/Brewer RV’s supposed to have Watson, Mrs. Thomas, David Michael, Karen, Andrew, Kristy, Abby, Jessi, and Mal. However, this creates an uneven split and overcrowds Watson’s RV. Since Kristy’s destination choice is “as many baseball stadiums as possible,” she’s the only one who can switch to the northern route. Her family lets her get away with this, and the Schafer RV becomes Mr. Schafer, Dawn, Jeff, Claudia, Stacey, Mary Anne, and Kristy.

The northern route’s early stops include Cleveland (a baseball stadium and the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame), Chicago (Wrigley Field for Kristy and the Art Institute of Chicago for Claudia), and the Mall of America in MN (where they meet up with Mary Anne’s grandmother). Then they have an unscheduled stop in South Dakota, because Mr. Schafer ran out of gas in the middle of the Badlands. Jeff’s pick was Yellowstone National Park because he wanted to try rock climbing, but since you can’t actually rock climb there, they also stop in the Grand Tetons. Then they stop at a theme park in Idaho that Dawn thought was a real ghost town, in Seattle (so Stacey could hook up with her latest love interest), and in San Francisco (Mr. Schafer’s pick).

The southern RV visits Jessi’s family in NJ, Chincoteague Island (the location of some horse books Mal likes), Graceland (because Abby’s obsessed with Elvis), and a slave plantation in Mississippi where Jessi’s ancestors were slaves. After this, they visit Watson’s old college roommate in Oklahoma and get there just in time to see a tornado. But, they all make it out alive and go on to a rodeo in Texas (David Michael’s pick), Four Corners (Karen’s pick), the Grand Canyon (Mrs. Thomas’s pick), and the San Diego Zoo (Andrew’s pick). They also make an unscheduled stop in Zuni, NM, where they meet some of the pen pals that no one’s thought of for 60 books.

Anyway, at the end everyone meets up again at Dawn’s house in CA.

  • Claudia refers to touchdowns when talking about baseball. Doesn’t even the most sports-ignorant person know that touchdowns are part of football?
  • Sam and Charlie get out of the trip because they are at camp, and Nannie stays at home with Emily Michelle because she’s smarter than the rest of the family.
  • When they stop at Jessi’s grandparents’ house, Jessi noticed that Mallory’s sort of hanging back and is a bit quiet, and she thinks it’s Mallory’s hidden racism coming into play. She mentions this to her grandmother, who says, “she’s just nervous about meeting your family. Don’t think such bad things about your best friend.”
  • I can’t imagine what it’s like to be in an RV with 7-8 people. My family went on a trip in a motor home a couple times, and it felt crowded and small. And there were four of us.
  • It hardly seems fair that they go to so many baseball games. I mean, Mary Anne has one afternoon with her grandmother, Claudia has one afternoon at the Art Institute, but Kristy gets to have multiple stops. And while Jeff and Mr. Schafer like baseball, none of the other girls really do.
  • Dawn says her mother was pissed at Mr. Schafer for wanting to take the trip, because it meant Dawn and Jeff had to leave Stoneybrook two weeks earlier. I have to say, I see her point, and I’m surprised she agreed to it. Unless Dawn was just pissing her off.
  • Claudia packs two down jackets for a trip in the middle of summer. Seriously, WTF?
  • Jeff mentions how Old Faithful only goes off every seventy minutes, instead of every hour, and that Dawn says it’s because of what people have done to the environment. Then he says, “but Dawn says that about everything.”
  • At Yellowstone, Jeff claims that a bear wanders into their picnic spot. But they just stay quiet and he walks away, so they are able to hike out in the opposite direction. For a bear encounter, it’s surprisingly boring.
  • At a stop in South Dakota, Claudia spends a dollar on a sketch that she thinks is by a random artist. But later Mr. Schafer’s friend (an art dealer) looks at it and they realize it’s a Georgia O’Keeffe. He offers to buy it for $500, but Claud decides to keep it.
  • One of the few continuing stories is that Mr. Schafer teases Mary Anne a little, and makes a few cracks about her father (his work habits, his diet, etc). Mary Anne’s tense about it the whole trip, but finally says something to him, and all is well.
  • Abby tries to convince everyone that Elvis is still alive, and of course Karen gets all into her stories. By the time they get to Graceland, Watson and Mrs. Thomas drop everyone off and make Abby, Jessi, and Mal, take care of the little kids while they go off and do their own thing.
  • Karen picks Four Corners, and David Michael keeps making fun of her because he thinks they won’t be able to tell where the borders actually are. When they get there they see it’s actually a major tourist stop, and the border’s marked. Which makes me laugh because when I went there as a kid, I thought it was going to just be dirt as well.
  • Stacey’s pick for a stop seems sort of lame. The guy, Ethan, is someone she met in New York and has been writing to. He’s in Seattle on vacation with his family, and she wants to visit. But….he lives in NYC. Stacey visits her dad there all the time. Why not use the trip to go somewhere you normally wouldn’t get to go to, and see the guy next time you’re in NY?
  • I guess this book’s recent enough that We Love Kids have meetings around a pool with a cell phone and Mr. Schafer wants to shake Bill Gates’s hand.
  • However, the book’s old enough that Stacey has Mr. Schafer driving all over the city because she thinks she got the meeting spot wrong, and can’t contact Ethan. With cell phone, a problem like that would be pretty rare.
  • Claudia mentions how the girls and Jeff play cards to kill time during the ride, but that everyone kept beating her.
  • The southern group keeps running into this girl who is traveling on a similar roadtrip with her grandparents. Everyone’s annoyed by her, but then they get offended when they hear the girl complaining about them.
  • Like most Super Specials, the book’s structured as journal entries that the girls are keeping. But in this one, there’s no real explanation for it – like, they are making a journal/photo album as a gift, or for a school project, or the school paper, etc. They’re just automatically doing a trip journal.
  • When Jessi, Mallory, and Abby meet Watson’s old roommate, the first thing they ask is if they can hold the guy’s baby. I get that they like little kids, but it seems rude to just ask right away.
  • Claudia and Stacey have this really random fight….Claudia accidentally picks up Stacey’s journal, and Stacey thinks she’s snooping. So, she snaps at Claud and they don’t speak for days. After Stacey has her visit with Ethan, she’s so excited (because he kissed her) that she just starts babbling to her, and all’s forgiven.
  • Abby has a lot of issues with the Grand Canyon visit because her father loved the place, and she and her family were supposed to vacation there before he died. She describes his death, and her description’s pretty much identical to her autobiography. So, good for the continuity person.
  • Another point for continuity – they mention several of the pen pals from that Sleepover book by name.
  • Kristy spots her dad in the stands at a baseball game in San Francisco (via the video screen). Her friends are all, “let’s find him,” and when Kristy says no, they ask why. Really? They can’t think of a reason Kristy wouldn’t want to see the man that abandoned her twice?
  • Of course, Kristy DOES agree to talk to her father, and they somehow manage to find where he’s sitting. She basically says she has to go, right after saying hello. Then her dad says he wishes he could see her brothers, and Kristy’s all, “You could. Just come to Stoneybrook.” Then she leaves.
  • At the rodeo, some guy in the stands starts telling David Michael about what actually happens when you rope a calf. He gets freaked out, and everyone ends up leaving and spending the day at some rodeo-inspired carnival thing in the parking lot.
  • One of Dawn’s California friends tells her that Stephie Roberts’s mom wants her to baby-sit “next Wednesday.” So, I guess Mrs. Roberts thinks Stephie and Dawn will both be in heaven by then? Or else Dawn’s friend has the ability to talk to the dead, and is wasting it lining up baby-sitting jobs.
  • When they get to California, Dawn makes a few comments about how her friend Jill’s acting babyish. I never read the California Diaries books, but I know this is a nod to events in them.
  • Dawn’s step-mother and housekeeper have a surprise party to welcome the two RVs. Watson didn’t know about this, so he picked up food at a deli (including cold cuts) to treat everyone to lunch. When Dawn sees them, she’s all, “ew, processed dead pig slabs!” Way to be grateful.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

“Here’s the most exciting thing of all – Anna and I were invited to become members of the Baby-sitters club!”….BSC Portrait Collection: Abby’s Book

Memory Reaction

Once again, this is a book I never read as a kid, so I don’t have a memory of it and don’t have a lot to write in this section. Of course, it also means I’m looking forward to reading it. I don’t know Abby as well as all the other girls, so there may actually be new information in this book. With the rest of the BSC, there was pretty much no new knowledge gained from the autobiographies.

Revisited Reaction

Abby’s early years chapter is centered around being a twin. We hear all the stereotypical things that are usually in twin stories…she felt pain if Anna was hurt, they spoke in their own secret language, etc. Abby also thought it was normal to have a twin. On her first day of preschool she saw all the other kids without a twin, and thought Anna was going to be taken away from her. She also tells us how she and Anna used to pick out identical clothes, toys, etc. The first time they didn’t was when they were picking out backpacks for the start of first grade. They both ended up changing their minds, because they felt too weird otherwise.

When Abby and Anna started first grade, their teacher and classmates had trouble telling them apart. Most of the kids just started calling them both Abby-Anna, which they hated (understandably). It’s a lot like what happened to Marilyn and Carolyn Arnold, but that was almost a hundred books ago, so I won’t complain too much about a recycled storyline. Abby’s teacher sends a note home, telling the Stevensons to always dress one of the girls in blue and one in red, to help tell them apart. I can’t believe six-year-olds have enough clothing of any color to wear it every day, but Abby and Anna do, so they go along with it. This led to some kids calling them “red” and “blue,” which Abby and Anna also hate (again, understandably).

The twins switch colors for a day, to see if anyone notices. Their father sees them when he drops something off at the school, and refers to them by the wrong name. So, Abby and Anna are devastated for the afternoon, thinking their father can’t tell them apart. But, it turns out he was just kidding and playing along with their trick. Abby’s happy to hear this, but she and Anna tell their parents they’re sick of only wearing one color. Anna agrees to cut her hair shorter so that it would be easy to tell them apart. After this, the other kids started getting to know them, and they start developing their own hobbies. By their birthday, the kids all give them different gifts that actually fit their personalities. Abby and Anna still think of that as their favorite birthday. Which again, is just like the Arnold twins, and how their favorite birthday presents were the ones Mallory gave them (just because they were different).

When Abby was nine, her father was killed in a car accident. It’s all very sad, and I’m not saying that to be sarcastic, it really is….there’s not a lot to snark on. Unlike Mary Anne, who never knew her mom, Abby was close to her dad, and he seemed like a really good father. In the weeks after his death, Abby’s mom started working crazy long hours, gave up cooking (which she used to love), and let the housework go. At this point, Anna and Abby stop going to their respective after-school activities. Eventually, their mother realized this, and she gets it together enough to start grocery shopping again and make Abby and Anna rejoin their activities.

The next anecdote’s from a year later, when Mrs. Stevenson’s still spending most of her time at work. Abby and Anna are also spending a lot of time with friends and sports/music, but wish they spent more time together as a family. Mrs. Stevenson overhears them talking about this, and decides to take them on a vacation to Florida over the holidays. Abby’s excited, but once they get there, the three of them spend all their time apart…her mom works and plays golf, Anna hangs out with another girl staying near them, and Abby hangs out on the beach and plays various sports with other kids at the resort). But Abby does get them both to go with her to sign up for some family New Year’s Eve party the resort’s hosting. A person who works there sees them together, and expresses surprise that Mrs. Stevenson has kids, and that Abby and Anna are twins (he thought they were one person). Mrs. Stevenson realizes she’s still not really spending a lot of time with the girls, and they have a family talk about it. They agree to do their own thing for New Year’s Eve and start their own traditions.

When Abby’s twelve, the Stevensons are spending more time together, but her mother’s still depressed about Mr. Stevenson’s death. She makes a New Year’s Resolution to make a change in her life. Since we already know that the Stevensons move to Stoneybrook within the next year, it’s pretty obvious what the change is going to be. But we get to read a whole chapter building up to it, because the book has to have fifteen chapters to be a BSC book. Abby and Anna don’t want to move, but they deal with it (and really, what choice do they have?). Once they arrive in Stoneybrook, we get to see Abby's perspective of the end of the Kristy book that introduced the twins. Abby knew Kristy didn’t like her at first, but says she won her over, and was happy to join the BSC.


  • Claudia barely gets mentioned in this book, but we still get an outfit. “She wore leopard-skin tights with a black velvet minidress to school. Here earrings were made of fake-fur buttons.”
  • Abby says her parents knew they were having twins, but didn’t know they would be born early. Aren’t most twins born early? If I know that without ever being pregnant, someone who IS pregnant and preparing to give birth would probably have heard of it.
  • Abby’s first grade teacher seems surprised to have identical twins in her class. But shouldn’t she have been somewhat prepared? Teachers usually have lists of their students before the first day of school. And two girls with the same name’s probably a big hint that they’re twins.
  • Abby and Anna’s birthday is October 15th. I find it pretty unbelievable that between the start of school (usually early September in the northeast) and mid October, they could have went to school dressed alike, spent a few weeks with red and blue color coding, cut Anna’s hair, and then developed unique friendships enough to get separate gifts.
  • One of Anna’s birthday presents (at age six) is a tape of classical music for her walkman. Do most six-year-olds have walkmans (or DID they, back when people still used walkmans)? And would someone that young listen to classical music?
  • Abby’s dad tells her to be careful crossing the street because there are crazy drivers out there, and a couple hours later he’s killed in a car accident. That seems almost creepy. Or it would, if it happened in real life.
  • We never really hear the details of what happened to her dad, just that it was a car accident (which isn’t really specific). I guess they didn’t think it was necessary in a kids’ book, but it feels like something is missing.
  • Abby refers to her family life after her dad’s death as a “new kind of family.” Which feels sort of weird, because that’s what ABC Family uses in all those promotional spots. Not that I watch ABC Family.
  • From the Abby books I did read, I thought I remembered that her mom only got a job at a publishing company after her dad died. But in her autobiography, that’s definitely not the case. I guess I like that….otherwise it’s too much like Kristy’s mom getting a job after Mr. Thomas left. And I kind of like showing a female workaholic, just in the interest of feminism.
  • Abby’s mom decides to get rid of all her furniture and buy all new stuff when they move to the Stoneybrook. The girls convince her to keep some things, but she still gets a lot new. That actually seems like so much fun, although I guess I would save some things (like my collection of childhood books).
  • Abby asks for (and gets) a convertible couch for her bedroom (so her friends from Long Island can visit). How big is her room that she can fit a couch and a bed?
  • Also, Abby says her house is as big as all the other houses on the street. So, how come we always hear about Kristy living in a mansion, but nothing about Abby (or Shannon, for that matter) living in one?
  • Abby says that if the BSC were around when she was leaving Long Island, she would have figured out from all the “clues” that her mom wanted to move. I guess because the BSC are such good “detectives?” But considering the clues included a real estate agent from Stoneybrook calling her mom, I don’t know how great a detective would be needed.
  • And how come the Pike triplets never run into trouble with people mixing them up, but all the female twins we meet do?
  • Anna already has her graded and returned to her before Abby turns hers in. But from reading all the other autobiographies, I had the sense that they were due at the same time.
  • Also, Anna only turned it in a week earlier, and I can’t believe a teacher would grade a full class of autobiographies in less than a week. That is a hell of a lot of reading.
  • Lastly, for anyone who cares, Abby got an A- on her autobiography.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


I just wanted to let everyone know I'm leaving for vacation today, so the next update will be in about two weeks.

I was hoping I'd get a chance to update again before I left, but I just didn't get to it (sorry about that). I'll make the next one really good to make up for it.