Tuesday, December 13, 2011

“Heaven help the little kids of Stoneybrook”……BSC # 98: Dawn and Too Many Sitters

Memory Reaction

When I found a copy of this book, I realized this was the one where the girls spend a lot of time raising money for their trip to Hawaii….I was trying to remember where it happened when I read the actual Super Special. I have to say, I’m surprised I never read the Super Special itself…the last one I read as a kid was book #99, where Stacey and Robert break up. Aloha, Baby-sitters happened before that, so it’s weird that I missed it. But, whatever.

At the time, I thought it was a big deal that they had Jeff and the triplets be “baby-sitters in training” because it seemed like a forward step. Even though the boys quit in the end, I remember that the Pikes decided to stop requiring two sitters. I feel like every ten books we got some type of movement that impacted all future books, and this was one of them. They were always my favorites.

Revisited Reaction

Dawn’s visiting for the summer, and as soon as she gets there, two things happen. The first is that the BSC finds out about a school-sponsored trip to Hawaii and the second’s that Jeff and the Pike triplets decide they’d like to start baby-sitting.

With regards to Hawaii: After some begging, the parents agree to let all the BSC members go, except for Kristy (who’s going in August with her family), Mallory (who’s running some day camp with Mrs. Stone that week), and Shannon (who will be at summer camp). Dawn even gets to go when she’s no longer a student at SMS…this is because not enough SMS kids signed up. The wrinkle’s that the girls need to pay for half the trip, which means they each need to raise $250 dollars by the middle of July. If you’re counting, that means, yes, a supposed 10-day trip to Hawaii’s costing them $500. They had a bigger budget when they went to California and stayed at Dawn’s house. Anyway, they baby-sit like crazy, wash cars, mow lawns, and finally arrange a bunch of games/food stands at the local Fourth of July fireworks display and make the money they need.

Meanwhile: Jeff and the triplets have been asking about baby-sitting, but admit they aren’t ready to start their own club. The BSC decides to make them BITs (baby-sitters-in-training). One boy tags along on each sitting job to get in practice (for 25% of the pay, despite the girls needing to make money). This is not as successful as they hoped….Jeff gets grossed out at changing a diaper, Byron bails on a job for little league (but does come back), Adam gets into a fight with Haley Braddock, Jordon turns Jamie Newton’s art work into paper airplanes, etc. They also eat all of Claudia’s junk food up, then stop showing up for meetings. The girls finally decide that they need to “fire” them, but the boys quit first….saying they aren’t ready. But, later Mal reports that her brothers were helpful when she was sitting for the rest of her family, and it sounds like the 2-sitter rule will no longer be needed at the Pikes.


  • Dawn tells us how she’s gotten used to going away parties, which I think is her way of saying she likes the attention. But really, why do people feel the need to give her going away parties every time she goes between CT and CA?
  • They also give her welcome back parties….all the BSC members give Dawn gifts when she returns (lotions, a jumpsuit, snacks, etc). The two worst gifts are Logan’s (he gave a pack of gum that he happened to have in his pocket) and Jessi’s (who gave a biography of some famous ballet dancer that she wants Dawn to lend her after reading).
  • The trip to Hawaii's supposed to be the start of many trips where SMS students get to travel for reduced prices. It would have been better if they introduced this deal earlier in the series to explain all the other BSC vacations.
  • I would think a high school would be the one to arrange a travel program, not middle school.
  • I have to say this again….$500? For a ten-day trip to Hawaii that includes airfare, hotels, and three meals a day? Even for 1996 that seems low.
  • When the girls are trying to earn money, Kristy has to point out that they’ll actually need to make more than $250, since they’ll probably want to buy souvenirs and stuff. It’s a bit of a duh moment.
  • It’s a bit contrived that the one other BSC member who had agreed to help out Mallory with the day camp was Kristy, who was already going to Hawaii herself.
  • Stacey “jokingly” asks whether Kristy can bring her on her family vacation, but I actually think it should be taken as a serious question. When was the last time Kristy took a family vacation where she didn’t get to bring friends?
  • The girls also complain about how the boys eat/drink a lot of the client’s food. But they are ten-year-old boys, so that shouldn’t really be a surprise.
  • Jeff comments that “nine’s little, ten’s not.” I think this is supposed to sound silly, like only a little kid would say it….but the BSC does the same thing, when they talk about Mallory and Jessi vs. Jeff and “JAB” (Jeff’s nickname for the triplets).
  • Haley’s mad that Adam might sit for her since he’s only a year older than her, and that’s “like the same age.” Again, I’m sure if this is intentionally ironic, or what.
  • The BSC parents all call each other, and then Sharon calls other parents, th school vice principal, the tour group, etc. to find out more about the trip. It makes me laugh because I feel like these kids have been allowed to go on so many other trips…..I’m surprised Sharon would need to put so much thought into another.
  • One way Dawn and Mary Anne try to make money is by selling healthy food that Dawn made. I’d think even a thirteen-year-old would know that’s a limited market. Dawn used to recognize that.
  • Speaking of selling food, did they buy the ingredients themselves? Because if they were just selling food their parents bought, they are probably costing them as much money as they are making.
  • On one of his sitting jobs, Byron drinks up a bunch of baby formula. That seems disturbing….who would think to try some?
  • So, the parents all give the girls $250 for the deposit when they first sign up. And supposedly, if the girls don’t each make the additional $250 by the date the final amount’s due, they can’t go on the trip and the deposit’s lost. Would their parents would really just let them lose the deposit? It seems wasteful. I get trying to teach the kids responsibility, but just make them pay back the cash at a later date.
  • When sitting for her siblings, Mallory walks into the living room and sees Claire playing with carrots, peppers, and lettuce like they’re dolls, and Mal’s reaction is not to tell her to stop playing with food, but that she should be doing it in the kitchen.
  • One of the reason’s the girls are nervous about letting the boys join the club, is that they think they’re too young to be responsible with money. I guess when people turn 11, they somehow have financial responsibility zapped into their heads or something.
  • They make the bulk of their money running “games” for kids at the Fourth of July fireworks in town. But wouldn’t they need a permit for something like that? It’s a bit different than having a show in Mary Anne’s backyard.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"With a newborn in the house and absolutely no one to guide them? Puh-leeze"......BSC # 97: Claudia and the World's Cutest Baby

Memory Reaction

I honestly have almost no recollection about what I thought of this book. Just that Claudia devotes every spare minute to visiting her new niece or getting her presents. I hope I realized how annoying she was being. I think I probably did like the book when I was younger, just because it had a lot of references to an earlier book with Peaches, and I loved when past storylines were referred to. It felt like some kind of reward for reading the whole series.

Revisited Reaction

Claudia’s Aunt Peaches is pregnant again, and she gives her birth to a baby girl. She and her husband name the baby Lynn (after Claudia’s middle name) and ask Claud to be the godmother. Of course, Claudia’s thrilled and thinks Lynn’s the cutest baby ever (as indicated by the title). She keeps going over to her Aunt and Uncle’s house to “help” with the baby. And be help, I mean she breaks the coffee maker, wakes the sleeping baby, invites herself to dinner, etc. Her mother keeps trying to get Claud to leave them alone, but Claud ignores her. Plus, she gives Peaches all sorts of tips about taking care of a baby…..after all, she’s an experienced baby-sitter and knows more than an adult, new mother would.

After a while, Peaches finally snaps and tells Claud to back off a little, which makes Claudia mad. Then Claudia goes to Philadelphia on a weekend class trip, where this girl Melissa (from her class) keeps following her around and asking questions every two seconds. She convinces Claud to sneak off to see an art museum, but they get lost and the rest of the class has to sit around waiting for them. Their teacher yells at them a bit, but lets them off fairly easy in the end. Later, Claudia snaps at Melissa, but then realizes that she has been acting just like Melissa with Peaches. It’s lucky that she was having such a parallel experience to teach herself a lesson. Amazing coincidence. Anyway, she apologizes to Peaches and makes up with her.

The subplot’s about how the Arnold Twins are getting a preview of some premium channel and have gotten into the habit of watching scary movies. This makes them terrified monsters are out to get them. The BSC doesn’t really stop them from watching the movies, but end up accidently letting them see a “making of….” special about one of the movies. This gets them over their fears, and they end up making their own horror movie with Kristy.


  • Claudia’s social studies teacher asks what the city of brotherly love is, and Claudia guesses “Hermosa Beach.” The teacher cracks up, which I find slightly inappropriate, but hysterical.
  • The teacher describes this weekend trip to Philadelphia as an “all-expense paid” class trip. Really? When I was in school, we had to pay for class trips even if it was just to a local museum. How does SMS get away with stuff like this?
  • Stacey talks about eating pretzels with mustard when they are in Philly, so Claudia runs and grabs some mustard from the kitchen, puts it on a regular pretzel, and doesn’t think it’s so great. Only then does Stacey tell her she meant hot pretzels.
  • Russ calls and tells Claudia he’s taking Peaches to the hospital, and Claudia gets super excited. She waits outside for her parents and Janine to get home and as soon as they do, she insists they leave for the hospital. Only later does Janine tell her they probably didn’t need to rush over. This is just the first sign that Claudia has no boundaries.
  • Did you ever notice that every baby born during the series was a girl? You have Lucy Newton, Laura Perkins, Andrea Pezziosso, and now Lynn. Did I miss anyone?
  • Isn’t Claudia a little young to be a godmother?
  • When Logan sits for the Arnolds, Mrs. Arnold specifically tells him not to let the twins watch horror movies. Then he starts doing his homework and eating in the kitchen, not paying attention to what the girls are watching upstairs. Despite them watching in their parent’s bedroom with the door closed. I don’t think he has to keep his eyes on them every second, but he could have done a little bit more.
  • When she sits for the Arnold’s, Mary Anne puts the girls to bed, then lets them get up a half hour later to watch TV. It seems weird that she would let them get away with that if their parents wanted them in bed at a certain time. I guess this is the month for the BSC to be lax sitters or something.
  • People have to stop letting Claudia make signs because even when she checks her spelling she makes mistakes. The banner she makes to welcome Peaches and Lynn home says, “Welcome, Home Lynn.”
  • The BSC all comes by Peaches’s house to see Lynn, and Russ ends up serving lunch. This is the day she gets home from the hospital. How can girls supposedly so good at baby-sitting not understand that this might not be appreciated by new parents?
  • Claudia’s really dumb sometimes. When Peaches is telling Russ she feels like she’s running a hotel, Claudia overhears and can’t understand why her aunt would think this. Despite coming to their house every chance she gets, and the fact that her mother has been telling her to stop spending so much time there.
  • Also, when Claudia hears her class is going to the U.S. Mint, she thinks, “Oh, I love mints.”
  • To try and protect themselves from monsters, the twins set up traps around their room. The traps are remarkably similar to what the BSC has used in various other books. I wonder if that’s on purpose.
  • Claudia’s really, really, annoying with the baby “tips” she keeps giving Peaches. I would have kicked her out after about a day.
  • The reason they get lost in Philly, is because this other girl says that the other museum they want to go to is four blocks away, and if the blocks are anything like NYC, it should take four minutes to walk there. That seems to be pretty weak logic, but she’s talking to Claudia so it’s enough.
  • After she gets in trouble for wandering away, Claudia convinces Stacey and Abby to sneak out of their hotel to go to a diner. They don’t get lost/caught this time, but it’s nice to see these girls do normal teenager-y things, instead of acting like perfect adults who happen to be 13.
  • The rest of the BSC meets the bus when it brings Claudia, Stacey, and Abby back from Philadelphia to welcome them home. It seems a bit excessive…..they were away for two days!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

“I cried. I think everyone did”…….. BSC # 93: Mary Anne and the Memory Garden

Memory Reaction

I remember having two reactions to this book, aside from the plot itself. The first is about Mary Anne going back to the therapist that was first mentioned back when Claudia did her radio show. I had been confused about why it was suddenly introduced as backstory in that book, so I liked getting a bit more background on the issue.

The second’s that I thought it was slightly out-of-character that Mary Anne was so friendly with Amelia, and other kids she was studying with. Not that Mary Anne’s unfriendly, but we’d never heard of Amelia before and Mary Anne’s famously shy.

Revisited Reaction

Mary Anne gets assigned to a group project in English, and actually likes her group this time. It includes a girl named Amelia, her BFF Barbara, and a guy named Gordon. After a planning session at Mary Anne’s house, Amelia leaves to have dinner out with her family. The next morning at school, everyone finds out that there was a car accident the previous night, and Amelia was killed (a drunk driver slammed into her family’s car). Mary Anne, along with pretty much everyone else, is devastated.

After the funeral, Mary Anne’s worried about Kristy, who’s still pretty torn up, despite not knowing Amelia that well. But she organizes a chapter of Students Against Drunk Driving (S.A.D.D.), which channels Kristy’s anger/sadness. However, Mary Anne’s still feeling depressed, even as other people seem to get back to normal. She makes an appointment with this therapist she’d previously seen. Dr. Reese tells Mary Anne it’s okay to grieve and encourages her to do something to memorialize Amelia. Mary Anne gets the idea to have a garden set up at school that will be dedicated to Amelia. People in school help out and they have a dedication ceremony. Mary Anne still misses Amelia, but this helps her have closure.

The subplot’s about Dawn in California, which kind of takes you out of things. But I guess they thought the lighthearted stuff was needed to balance things out, and the other girls were supposed to be grieving, so they had to go to California for it. Anyway, Dawn and her friends decide this vacant lot in town’s a danger zone for kids because it’s full of garbage. They think they should clean it up, and with the help of the neighborhood kids, turn it into a garden. Dawn writes to the owner of the lot, but never hears back, so she and Sunny decide get started anyway. This is when the owner shows up, finally shows up. He’s a bit annoyed with the little annoyed with them, but he’s okay with the garden by the end.


  • Claudia outfit: “A black derby hat with a red-and-white polka dot ribbon, which matched her “ruby slippers” (high-top sneakers with red sequins). Black-and-white striped trousers with red suspenders, and a black long-sleeved T-shirt completed the outfit.”

  • Dawn’s sitting for those brats we met in the California super special, and one of them falls and cuts his hand. She cleans it, but thinks he needs to go to a doctor to get a tetanus shot, and asks a neighbor to drive them. Now, maybe I’m clueless because I don’t have kids, but I would think something like that could wait an hour or so until the parents got home. But I guess these girls have to be super-good sitters.

  • Here’s a question: If a kid’s parent gives him a toy gun, is it really up to Dawn to tell them to play with them? Because while I don’t disagree with her in theory, isn’t she supposed to be following the parents instructions?

  • Mary Anne refers to how the We Love Kids club doesn’t have rules or regular meetings like the BSC, but didn’t they start having regular meetings after they got news coverage? It was kind of a big deal at the time.

  • Everyone in this series loves the Secret Garden. That isn’t a bad thing, I liked that book as a kid too, but it would be nice to mention other books sometimes. In this one Stephie’s the one who brings it up, with regards to the lot.

  • Mary Anne says when she was little her father used to put their Christmas tree away before New Year’s, but now that Sharon’s loosened him up they keep it up longer. Now…do other people put away their X-mas decorations that early? We always left ours up until after, so that they were there for any New Year’s parties we had. But I don’t know if that’s normal.

  • Dawn’s baby-sitting for Stephie, while Sunny’s sitting for Clover and Daffodil Austin, and based on this book they’re next-door to each other. But we were previously told that the Austin’s live next to Dawn, and Stephie lived further away. Maybe Stephie was supposed to be at Dawn’s, but it’s weird that they wouldn’t mention that.

  • It’s hard to make fun of a book where a child dies, especially since the letter from Ann Martin in the back is about how she did it because she got letters from readers who had lost a classmate. I think she does a nice job showing different reactions to grief.
  • Dawn, on the other hand, is always easy to make fun of.

  • Dawn writes a letter to Mary Anne that starts with the sentence: “Great News! (Finally, after the sad news about Amelia)….” Followed by a recap of her adventures with the garden project. It’s nice to see that she’s being sensitive to her “sister” losing a friend.

  • Dawn writes 3 letters in 3 weeks to the owner of the lot, gets no response, and assumes the guy doesn’t care. It must be her age, because 3 weeks seems like no time at all. I wouldn’t even write a second letter until then. But time did seem to go slower as a kid.

  • Some good news does come from Stoneybrook…Peaches is pregnant, and they waited until she was almost six months along to tell people this time. Good for her, I guess.

  • I remembering liking that when these books were coming out, they were more continuous/sequential….this book took place in early January, the one before it was Christmas-themed, the one before that was Thanksgiving-themed, etc. They were like that at the beginning of the series, but then they fell into an ambiguous time loop.

  • Dawn writes letters to the owner of the lot in Tucson, where he lives. When the guy finally shows up, he tells her that he’d been out of town and came by as soon as he got the letters (that morning). But if he got “home” that day, he would have been in Arizona and anywhere near Dawn’s neighborhood.

  • So, Dawn let all the neighborhood kids and parents think that she’d gotten the okay from the owner to turn his lot into a garden, and they all help out and donate supplies. When the owner shows up he tells her that he now owns everything they put into it, and points out he could sell it or bulldoze the lot, and Dawn has no control over that….but of course he doesn’t do either of those things.

  • I don’t have an issue with them cleaning up the garbage without permission, but planting a garden and talking about a gazebo so seems over the top.

  • The California plot does serve some purpose, because it’s what gives Mary Anne the idea to use a garden to memorialize Amelia. She wasn’t sure how to do it originally.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

“Had they all bought the bogus study guides too?”…..BSC # 96: Abby’s Lucky Thirteen

Memory Reaction

I remember a scene in this one where Abby’s mom catches her eating at a pizza place during school hours, by seeing her through the window. Only, her mom’s not catching her cutting school, she’s finding out that Abby was suspended. I think it stuck in my head so much because these girls were usually pretty “good,” and Abby getting suspended seemed like a big deal. That may also be because I was a total goody-goody as a kid…..I was always fascinated to hear exactly what happened to people who were tough enough to break the rules.

Revisited Reaction

Abby’s Bat Mitzvah’s coming up, so she’s busy studying to get ready for it. Or, she should be studying for it, but has been procrastinating. She also somehow forgot about a math test that will be 25% of her grade, until the day before. She’s freaking out about it, then is relieved when some guy offers to sell her a “study guide.” She’s a bit desperate, so she buys it without thinking that this guide may not be on the up-and-up.

Anyway, the next day Abby comes in prepared to take the test and is shocked to see that the test has the exact same questions as her study guide. Imagine that! But she isn’t sure what to do about it, so she takes the test and gets a 98. The two points off were something that was wrong on the study guide, and when five students make this same mistake (and only that mistake), the teacher realizes something’s up. She suspends all of them for three days. Abby tries to explain what happened, but when Abby says she doesn’t know the name of the guy who sold her the test, the teacher doesn’t buy it.

Abby manages to keep this from her mother by deleting the voicemail and taking the letter out of the mail. It’s especially hard though, because her mom took off from work to get ready for the Bat Mitvah party. She ends up hanging out in the town library all day, trying to catch up on school and study the Torah passage she needs to read at the Bat Mitzvah. But on the last day, she decides to go shopping and her mother sees her through the window of the pizza place. The whole story comes out and her mom’s pissed, but lets her off relatively easy.

When she’s back in school, Abby sees the same guy selling a study guide to Mary Anne….Abby goes over and tells Mary Anne what happened. Then they go to talk to the teacher, who believes them this time because Mary Anne can give the guys name. I’m sure the fact that Mary Anne’s a good student played a role as well. The teacher offers to give Abby a re-take of the test, so the whole thing’s settled before Mrs. Stevenson can talk to the teacher herself. And the whole thing inspires Abby for the speech she needs to give for her Bat Mitzvah.

The subplot’s that the parents in Stoneybrook have decided that their kids are watching too much TV, so they institute a ban. The kids are all complaining when the girls go to sit for them. But, when the kids are venting to each other, they start putting on a show that’s their version of some TV show they like. Kind of like a pre-internet fan fiction. They’re having so much fun that when the parents tell them they can watch more TV, the kids don’t watch as much as before.


  • Claudia outfit: “Leopard-print tights, black ankle boots with fuzzy yellow slouch socks, black bicycle shorts, a yellow leotard, and this teeny, tiny fuzzy sweater with cap sleeves that was black with big yellow buttons. Her earrings were leopards: on one side a leopard looked as if it was coming through her earlobe toward you. On the other side, you could see only the back of the leopard, disappearing into her earlobe, as if her earlobes were these weird leopard cat doors. She’d crinkle-braided strands of her black hair, and tied the crinkled parts at the top with knots of yellow ribbon.” Is it weird that after that whole description, all I can think about is what earring she wore in her third hole?
  • Abby tells us that in the BSC record book Mary Anne had blocked out the entire day of her Bat Mitzvah, so everyone could attend. It’s weird….it seems like Kristy usually freaks out if one person isn’t going to be available to sit, but they never bring the issue up when they all go on vacation together.
  • It’s a pretty big deal to forget a test that counts as 25% of your grade. When I was in middle school, our teachers would remind us about something like that constantly. Are we supposed to believe Abby was spacing out THAT much in class?
  • Abby thinks that Leave it to Beaver was one of the weirdest TV shows there is, which I think is supposed to be showing Ann Martin’s feminism.
  • The guy sells his study guides for $3. That seems crazy low.
  • Also, we’re supposed to believe that neither Abby nor Mary Anne realized what they were buying? This isn’t Claudia we’re talking about.
  • At least the other kids in Abby’s class who bought the study guide seemed to know they were actually buying the test.
  • It may seem like the teacher is a bit of a bitch to not believe Abby, or to not even consider giving her a yearbook and telling her to point to the guy who sold the study guide. Because, really, why would Abby make that up after she was “caught.” But there’s backstory about Mrs. Stevenson yelling at the teacher for not giving Abby an extension on a quiz when she was sick (based on what Abby says), but Abby also tells us she wasn’t being completely honest with her mom. So, I don’t totally blame the teacher for being annoyed.
  • I can’t believe that the school doesn’t insist on talking to a parent about a suspension. Abby just deleted the voicemail and took the letter from the mailbox (which is the same thing Mallory did in the book about hating volleyball). I would think a suspension would warrant confirmation.
  • One afternoon, a bunch of the sitters get together with their charges. We’re told that Kristy and Shannon are there with Karen and others, because they’d come to that side of town to play. No reason’s actually given.
  • Abby hides out at the library during her suspension, and talks about seeing college students. Wouldn’t they have their own library on campus? Because doesn’t Janine sometimes talk about going to the college library?
  • Abby gets grounded for lying, but is still allowed to baby-sit and go to all after-school activities. That seems…lenient.
  • Stacey’s surprised on a sitting job to see that kids have put togethera show, and Kristy’s all, “didn’t you read the notebook?” So, I liked them showing that these girls sometimes slacked off about annoying stuff like that.
  • Another Claudia outfit: “A long skirt, lace socks peeking out above her black Doc Martens, and a tunic top with a belt she’d made herself out of twists of lace and a silver buckle.”
  • So at the Bat Mitzvah, the twins are supposed to give a speech. Anna plays her violin, because she’s better at playing music than words, but it seems a bit unfair. Especially since she and Abby each had their own topic to speak about.
  • Because we need to cram in as much baby-sitting as possible, Claudia, Mary Anne, and Kristy take a job sitting for some of Abby’s relatives that are in town for the Bat Mitzvah.
  • The “show” the kids put on, is like five minutes long. At first it seems like they’re making the story up as they go along, and are just doing it for each other. But when they invite parents to come see it, they only do a little bit, and say it’s continued. If you’re going to the trouble of inviting people to watch, I’d think you’d do more than a few minutes.

Monday, October 3, 2011

“I know you love to solve mysteries, but this time you’re going to have to keep working”……. BSC Mystery 33: Stacey and the Stolen Hearts

Memory Reaction

I missed this one as a kid, but I’m kind of sad I did.

Revisited Reaction

This is one mystery that I actually believe could happen to a bunch of 8th grade girls. Pete Black gets Stacey to agree to help him with a Valentine’s Day fundraiser. They’re selling “valentine-grams” where kids write messages that will be delivered with candy on Valentine’s Day. The kids at SMS are all into it, and write all sorts of messages. But one day after school the bag that holds all the cards is stolen. Whoever took them starts making the more embarrassing cards public, by doing things like posting that Cokie wrote 12 cards to her current boyfriend and he sent her none, that one of the girls from Stacey and the Bad Girls sent one to Robert and he’s not into her, and putting photo copies of cards all over the hall, etc.

Of course, the BSC helps Stacey investigate. Their suspects are the people who were in the hall at the time the cards were stolen, including Cary Retlin, Pete, Robert (who Stacey is no longer dating), and a couple Claudia got together when she ran her personals column. They finally get a break when one of the copied valentines also shows the sleeve of the person copying it….someone wearing stripes. They look all over school and finally see that Cary’s wearing a striped shirt. Claudia also remembers that Cary told them he had an alibi for “after school” before he even knew when the bag was taken. When Stacey confronts him, he reminds her he has an alibi (he was at the dentist), but admits that he helped the person who did it, after the fact. He tells her it’s a guy who heard girls talking about sending him “prank” valentines, including a girl he had sent a real one to. The people who were in on these pranks are the ones who were getting embarrassed.

Stacey figures out that this is Alan Gray, and tells him if he returns the cards “anonymously” she won’t turn him in. He does, and they get all the cards delivered to the right people. Then Stacey heads to NY to see her current boyfriend for V-Day.

Meanwhile, the BSC’s working with the local library to plan a Valentine’s Day party for kids. At a bunch of sitting jobs they hear how kids don’t like the holiday because they have to worry about getting cards/not getting cards etc. But they have a “focus group” to find out what the kids do like about it, and plan the party accordingly. It’s kind of ridiculous. Like they need a focus group to tell them that kids like getting cards and having sweets, but don’t like not getting cards from people.


  • This girl named Andi, who Stacey was friends with when she left the BSC, and who apparently hooked up with Robert before he Stacey broke up, approaches Stacey to talk about Robert. They’ve both noticed how he’s acting a little off and disinterested. It seems really out-of-place, but I think it’s a set up for a later book.
  • I feel like the books are really inconsistent about which of the girls bring lunch and which of them buy it. Sometimes Kristy’s always getting the hot lunch, talking about how gross it is, but saying she likes to buy it to be able to talk about it being gross. But then sometimes (like here), she brings it from home.
  • Apparently, Stacey recently cut her hair to shoulder length, and seems to have gotten rid of the perm. I wonder if it led to a fight with her friends.
  • Pete’s president of the 8th grade, which is why he’s running the fundraiser. The other class officers are going to help actually deliver the cards, but he and Stacey are the only ones selling them. I guess this makes the mystery a bit simpler, but I think it’s weird for them not to have more helpers.
  • Stacey and Pete get permission to miss a couple classes so they can sell them during the 6th and 7th grade lunch periods. This makes it even weirder that they wouldn’t get more people to help. I can see letting kids miss one or two classes, but with the system in place here, Pete and Stacey would be missing at least one class a day (or two classes every other day).
  • Alan comes up to Stacey and asks if he can get back a valentine that he had bought, and she tells him no. But, I think that’s a bit harsh…it isn’t the postal service, it’s a school fundraiser. Alan probably should have tried Pete first though.
  • They also don’t really explain why Stacey’s the one person Pete wants help from. He tries to say it’s because she helped plan a Halloween dance, and was on the Pep Squad (which I guess is different than Cheerleading?). But that seems like more of a justification for Stacey playing this role than a reason to ask her.
  • Girls sending Alan fake valentines is kind of mean, but totally a realistic thing for 13-year-olds to do. Plus, Alan probably deserved it.
  • Robert teases Stacey for not knowing the difference between a robin and a sparrow, and says how her being a “city-girl” was always hard on him. Which is consistent with another Stacey book, but honestly, I couldn’t tell the difference between the two kinds of birds, and I’ve always lived in the suburbs.
  • Pete’s on the suspect list because he made a comment about it not being bad to have the cards all gone. Later Mary Anne overhears him tell his friend that he was worried about a poem he’d sent to Emily Bernstein. But why would Pete have to steal all the cards to take back one he sent? He’s running the fundraiser and could have gotten his back whenever he wanted.
  • Stacey calls Cary’s dentist to check out his alibi, and the receptionist tells her that he had an appointment the day the cards were taken. But don’t dentists have the same confidentiality rules as doctors?
  • I have a hard time believing that Cary would be dumb enough to let his sleeve show in the photocopy of a valentine he was posting all over school. Also, why would his hand even have to be there? Why not just close the lid?
  • Awe…Mathew Hobart has a crush on Mary Anne and asks if she’ll be his valentine. She says yes, but that Logan’s her valentine too. Mathew’s still happy about it.
  • James Hobart likes Margo Pike, but just as friends (since, you know, they’re kids). And guess what? Margo likes him! Amazing coincidence. It’s kind of annoying to have this whole subplot about what can be bad about Valentine’s Day (kids feeling rejected), but still make all the kids who like someone be liked in return.
  • I’m not sure why the party they have for kids is the day before Valentines Day. Except for the fact that they couldn’t have the subplot end after the main plot.

Monday, September 5, 2011

“It was the Spaghetti Incident that ended the Sister War”…….BSC # 112: Kristy and the Sister War

Memory Reaction

This was the first time I read this book, so no memory to write about.

Revisited Reaction

Kristy gets a semi-regular job sitting for Shannon’s little sisters, Tiffany and Maria. It seems Mr. and Mrs. Kilbourne and Shannon are all even busier than usual and need the extra help. On her first day on the job, the girls tell Kristy they’re mad at Shannon for never being around. They come up with a plan to try and make her life easier so that she’ll have more time to spend with them. However, their version of “making life easier” is baking cookies and leaving the kitchen a mess that Shannon has to clean up, walking the dog and letting her run off so that Shannon has to help find her, changing all the X’s to numbers on her algebra homework, and making her room a mess in an attempt to clean it.

Anyway, after Shannon blows up at all their attempts to help, Tiffany and Maria switch tactics and declare war on her. They mess up her planner/calendar, throw out her phone messages, and do all sorts of stuff that siblings do to annoy each other. Kristy tries to stop them, but she can only do so much since she’s only there a few days each week. After the first couple days, Shannon tries to ignore them. But, when Tiffany and Maria dump cooked spaghetti into Shannon’s backpack, she’s ready to lose it. At this point, Kristy finally gets the bright idea to tell Shannon why her sisters are doing all this to her.

Meanwhile, there are a couple of subplots going on. The first is that there’s an “all-school dance,” being planned at the town community center, for all the middle school students in town (except Tiffany, who somehow hasn’t reached Stoneybrook “adulthood,” despite being 11). Claudia tries to set Kristy up with a friend of her seventh-grade boyfriend Mark, and ends up taking Kristy on a shopping trip to give her a makeover. Kristy insists on meeting the guy first, and decides he’s a jerk. She also decides she isn’t a big fan of Claudia’s boyfriend, which I guess is foreshadowing to a book when they break up, since Claud’s with a different guy later on. But anyway, Kristy ends up going to the dance with Shannon and still having a good time.

Secondly, since Maria and Tiffany are feeling left out because Shannon’s helping plan the all-school dance, and Mrs. Kilbourne’s on the parents’ committee, Kristy gets the idea to have an “All Kids” dance. Because elementary kids just love dances, right? Anyway, the first few planning meetings are a bit stressful and the kids are arguing. The BSC decides it’s because they’re nervous about having to find dates, so they make a rule that the kids aren’t allowed to bring dates. After that all the planning goes swimmingly. But they do all dance with each other at the dance and have a good time.

By the end, Kristy has convinced Maria and Tiffany to write letters to Shannon and their parents about how they feel about them being so busy. As a result, Shannon decides to quit the school play (for other reasons as well) to have more free time, and Mr. and Mrs. Kilbourne decide to adjust their schedules to allow for more family time.


  • Apparently these days Abby has soccer practice every day after school. And I guess Kristy’s okay with that, although in the earlier books she would have hated one of the BSC members being that busy.
  • When Kristy’s sitting at the Kilbournes,’ she helps Maria and Tiffany make cookies, and the kitchen ends up being a mess. Then Mrs. Kilbourne comes home and tells the girls they’re both late for evening plans, so Shannon will have to clean up. Kristy tells us how she knows she should do it, but she’s supposed to help her mother make dinner. But isn’t it out of character for Kristy to not make sure things are clean before Mrs. Kilbourne comes home?
  • Outfit: “Claudia’s jumper was made out of an old pair of overalls, and it was decorated with embroidered birds, animals, suns, moons, and stars.” It doesn’t sound so bad, but I feel the need to point out that birds are actually animals.
  • The whole thing with dumping spaghetti in Shannon’s backpack seems like it shouldn’t have been such a bad thing, unless there was actually sauce on the spaghetti…but that isn’t really specified.
  • The outfit Claud picks out for Kristy’s pre-dance date is, “a flowered skirt, a soft fleecy vest, and a silky cream-colored blouse.”
  • Another Claudia outfit: “A pink corduroy miniskirt with a lime green sweater…it sounds yucky, but on her it looked terrific.” I have a hard time believing that.
  • Claudia does criticize the dance committee for picking a purple and orange color scheme. So, I guess she has some sense.
  • Do you think Shannon’s supposed to read the club notebook like the other club members? Cause if so, she should know what’s up with her sisters. If not, you’d think her friend Kristy would warn her that her sisters are trying to drive her crazy.
  • The planning for the middle school dance is a bit disorganized. There was a committee with representatives from all schools voting on what the decorations, food, music, etc. would be. That all sounds good. But, a few days before the dance itself, anyone who wants can come and actually put up decorations and finalize the plans…which means they get into all sorts of arguments about decisions that had previously been made. There has to have been a better way to do that.
  • In a move that seems completely out-of-character, at this planning meeting, Kristy puts on some music, grabs Alan Gray, and starts to dance, in a successful attempt to get everyone to stop fighting. Then (again, out-of-character) at the actual dance Kristy and Shannon are the first two to start dancing, since everyone else is slow to get started.
  • I do think it’s a little weird that the middle school kids are reluctant to start dancing. I mean, it’s realistic, but in all the other dances we hear about the kids are totally comfortable with it.
  • A couple days after the decorating, but a day before the middle school dance, the kids’ dance is held in the same room of the community center. So, that seems like it would have ruined some of the decorating the middle school kids already did, but whatever.
  • Kristy’s date’s described as liking sports, but it turns out he only likes to collect sports memorabilia that’s worth a lot of money, which she finds a bit of a turn off. It actually feels a bit like a cliché to me.
  • Tiffany and Maria are both upset when they think Shannon and their parents can’t come to the kids’ dance they helped plan. I can imagine an 8-year-old feeling that way, but not an 11-year-old.
  • Tiffany and Maria both end up with a crush on Jordon Pike. But then at the dance Maria realizes she actually likes Adam, and spends the evening dancing with him, while Tiffany does the same thing with Byron. I have no idea if this is realistic, but I feel like we’ve seen a similar plot before.
  • In case you were worried, Jordon danced with Becca Ramsey the whole night, so all the triplets got some love.
  • Here’s the part that drives me crazy….Tiffany Kilbourne’s eleven. So why does she need a sitter and have to be part of the kids dance, when Mal and Jessi get to be sitters and attend the middle school dance?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

“I suppose you might say I’m a movie maniac”…….BSC # 130: Stacey’s Movie

Memory Reaction

After I stopped reading the books, I would occasionally walk by the kids’ section of a bookstore where they were on display, just to get a quick sense of any interesting plot developments. So, my memory of this book is of doing that, and not actually reading it. I remember skimming through it and seeing a scene where Jessi’s being interviewed and talks about how it’s hard to be the only black girl in her group of friends, and that it’s hard to be the youngest person in the BSC, especially with Mallory gone. Then she starts talking about how she has friends in NYC that are Latino and African American, and she’s more relaxed with them. I just remember wondering what book she met them in, since it was definitely after I stopped reading. I think it is the one where she takes a special ballet class in the city.

Also, I few years ago I read a bunch of BSC fan fiction, and one of the better stories actually referenced this book. It was about Stacey and Emily Bernstein being friends in high school, and Stacey remembering how well Emily interviewed people in this book.

Revisited Reaction

It’s time for another book about SMS’s cool Short Takes classes. And I’m being serious…I really think they’re cool. This time there are a variety of classes being taught by teachers from the “real world.” Stacey takes the movie class, because she apparently loves movies. I don’t remember hearing her talk about that before, but I’ll go with it.

She ends up in a group with Emily, Pete Black, and Erica Blumberg, who have all been mentioned occasionally in the books. At first they try to do a horror-type movie that involves zombie-students coming out of lockers and chasing the main character. But, after they film their first scene, they decide that that’s harder than it sounds, and that what they’ve shot's horrible. So, they move to a documentary about what kids at SMS think. They interview most of the BSC members and a bunch of other kids. Emily, who’s on the school paper, ends up being a pretty good interviewer…she gets everyone to open up and reveal something they probably wouldn’t ordinarily admit.

When Mary Anne’s interviewed, she’s in a bit of a bad mood because (we find out later) she got in an argument with Sharon that morning (about Sharon forgetting to pick up some dry-cleaning). And Mary Anne ends up saying that she hates her mother for dying. She also makes it seem like she doesn’t think of Sharon as her mother. Afterwards, Mary Anne regrets what she said and asks Stacey to remove her part from the film. Stacey tries to convince her group, but they all think it’s too good an interview to leave out. Then, when it’s Stacey’s turn to be interviewed, she ends up talking about how she sometimes cried in bed, holding her hands over her ears because of her parents fighting. She wants that part cut as well, but her group thinks this is also a good interview to include. Anyway, she ends up recording a second interview with Mary Anne, and a second one of herself, trying to explain what they each meant. Those do end up in the final documentary, so I guess it’s a relatively happy ending.

Kristy’s also in the class and is in a group with Logan, Anna, and Alan Gray. She’s having a hard time because Alan’s the director, and Kristy doesn’t do well when other people are in charge. The fact that it’s Alan probably exasperates the problem. Their movie’s about funny kids, so of course they film the BSC clients. But it actually sounds kind of boring. Stacey claims the final product is funny, but based on what we see of their shooting, that’s kind of hard to believe.

  • At the beginning, Stacey’s so excited about the idea of a movie class that she launches into a faux announcer style introduction of herself as the hot and gorgeous new director. And apparently everyone around her heard her….they react much nicer than people I went to school with would have.
  • Since when has Stacey been so into movies? I remember that her favorite movie was Mary Poppins, but not about being “fascinated” by them. If she was so into them, shouldn’t it get mentioned in her bio given in every book?
  • Stacey does mention that she’s loved movies ever since her parents took her to see Cinderella when she was 5, which actually matches a story from her autobiography. Although if I’m remembering that correctly, it was an obsession with Cinderella herself, not movies.
  • Claudia outfit: “She was wearing a tie-dyed T-Shirt (that she’d dyed herself) under a pair of white overall shorts. But these weren’t ordinary overalls. She’d painted a rain forest scene over the entire fabric. It made her look like a walking mural. The forest canopy was up by the straps, and mushrooms, rocks, and little lizards sat at the hems.” Is it weird that I don’t think this is SO bad? Depending on the color of the tie-dyed T-shirt, that is.
  • Claudia takes architecture, and even claims she doesn’t care math is involved, cause she’ll get Stacey to help her.
  • In case you care, Mary Anne takes Egyptology and Abby and Jessi take Athletic Physiology.
  • The movie teacher asks the kids to pick which jobs they want (director, producer, writer, etc), then makes them all change to get out of their comfort zone. Which actually seems like a smart way to teach a class like that.
  • Kristy becomes a bit of a bitch in this one. When filming at the Rodowsky’s, she keeps the camera trained on Jackie, since he’s such a klutz and all. But Jackie is apparently smarter than he normally gets credit for, and tells Stacey that he knows Kristy’s just waiting for him to do something stupid, and that he doesn’t want to be in the film. Then Kristy tries to keep taping him anyway….Stacey has to physically stop her.
  • When they’re trying to shoot the zombie scene, Erika and Emily convince a bunch of students to leave their lockers open, then have other students get in them before starting the scene. Now, I’m having a hard time believing that so many kids could fit into lockers. I was one of the smallest people in my class and I don’t think I would have fit in mine.
  • It’s kind of annoying that they have Stacey feel upset when Jessi interviews that it’s hard being the only black girl in the club, but then have absolutely no follow up about it.
  • The classes are all taught by real professionals who work in the field the classes are about. But what kind of person guest teaches at a middle school? I can buy that for a high school class, but not middle school.
  • Maybe they just weren’t showing all the people they interviewed, but it seems like it is all Stacey’s friends (BSC members), plus Alan Gray and Cokie Mason. I get why that’s what we see, but I would think that they’d need to interview more people than that to make a decent documentary. They could have at least mentioned talking to other people.
  • When they interview Cokie, she tells Stacey how she has the “right look” to hang out with her group of friends. And she claims that the BSC thinking they’re better than Cokie’s no different than Cokie thinking she’s better than the BSC. Except the BSC never initiated letters/bad luckcharms threatening Cokie, never tried to steal anyone’s boyfriend, and never made the rest of the group do all the work in a school project.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

“Have you ever experienced True Boredom?”….BSC Mystery # 35: Abby and the Notorious Neighbor

Memory Reaction

This was the second to last mystery in the series, so it was quite a while after I stopped reading. Therefore, no memory.

Revisited Reaction

Abby gets sick with bronchitis and has to miss a bunch of school. She’s a pretty active person, so she gets bored with this quickly. While watching some America’s Most Wanted-type show, she becomes convinced she recognizes one of the fugatives. Everyone tells her she’s imagining things, but she tracks down a tape of the episode and decides the person she recognizes as an embezzler is her neighbor. Again, people tell her she’s imagining things, but she convinces Kristy to snoop around the guy’s house to find out more information. Abby finally convinces that cop that the BSC has a totally inappropriate relationship with to look into the neighbor. He does, and because we want to encourage kids to spy on their neighbors, it turns out that this man’s the criminal in question.

He also appears to be a rather incompetent criminal, because despite being on the run, he gets mail at his home from his home town (in Iowa) and keeps pictures his kids drew on the refrigerator with their names visibly signed. And by visibly signed, I mean Kristy can look in one of his windows and see the names. We don’t see all the behind the scenes stuff, but apparently the cops found enough evidence that the neighbor was really the embezzler in question. Abby and the rest of the BSC get to watch, because they just happen to be in Abby’s room at the time of the arrest. The whole thing’s filmed by the TV show that first featured him, and Abby gets a reward from the show.

We also get an incredibly boring subplot about how kids in town are entering this go-cart race. The Pike triplets are making one, and Vanessa’s making one with Charlotte and Becca Ramsey. Nicky feels all left out, but manages to worm his way onto the triplets’ team by giving them some decals or something boring like that. The Rodowsky boys are also making a go-cart, but aren’t sure how. The end up spying on the girls’ team because they don’t want to admit they need help. I think it’s supposed to be cute, but it isn’t. There’s also drama with the Rodowskys because Jackie wants to be the driver, and Shea thinks that’s a recipe for disaster. But somehow Jackie convinces him and actually does pretty well. But they all lose to Bill and Melody Kormon, a last minute entry.


  • Supposed the neighbor embezzled from his company, “driving it into bankruptcy,” then abandoned his family after stealing his wife’s life savings. But then they tell us he disappeared with more than $20,000 of stolen money. Now, I’ll assume that Abby’s interpretation may be exaggerated because she was sick when she first saw the show, but how’s $20,000 enough to warrant a spot on any kind of show like this? Or enough to hide out in the rich section of a Connecticut suburb? How much more do they mean?
  • Just for the record, this book totally acknowledges that the plot’s straight out of Rear Window and other similar movies.
  • Abby says she and Mary Anne are both old movie buffs, which isn’t usually mentioned, but I think is consistent with their characters/other books.
  • Mal asks if he does anything suspicious like go out at odd hours or “wear disguises.” Does she mean leave his house in weird hats or sunglasses? I mean, really. What does she expect to see? I would think someone putting on an actual disguise wouldn’t do it before they left their house, since otherwise it would be obvious who they really were.
  • It seems kind of out of character that the girls just laugh about the idea that the Rodowskys are spying on Charlotte, Becca, and Vanessa because they don’t want to ask girls for help. I would think they’d try and convince the boys it’s okay to go to the girls.
  • Abby’s sister, Anna, plays the violin and likes classical music. I get that. But why does everything about her need to be connected to that? She tells Abby how if she was home sick and had time to do nothing she would read a biography on Beethoven, catalog her CD collection, and prepare for her Advanced Music Theory class. She can’t play the violin, but also watch soap operas or read romance novels?
  • As I was reading this, I started thinking how if these books took place today, these girls (who are always going to the library to research during mysteries) could just Google the neighbor. So, imagine my surprise when Claudia and Stacey actually use the Internet (on Janine’s computer). I guess these books got “modern” after I stopped reading.
  • I always wanted to build a go-cart when I was a kid. In TV-shows and books kids were always having chances to do this, but I never heard of one happening in the real world.
  • During their Internet hunt, Claudia and Stacey find a couple pictures of the embezzler that Abby can use to compare to the neighbor. And in only “ten minutes” they have two blurry pictured printed out. Isn’t technology amazing?
  • While Abby’s home sick she doesn’t just spy on the embezzler, she spies on everyone on her street, with binoculars. Kristy’s torn between being interested by what Abby’s learned and worried (because Kristy herself is a neighbor).
  • Kristy and Abby have this ridiculous conversation about how the pictures on the neighbor’s refrigerator (they can see them through the window) are evidence that the guy has kids who are around 6 and 8. Apparently, they know that all six-year-olds draw houses with smoke coming out of the chimney and eight-year-olds draw horses or rocket ships (depending on gender).
  • Throughout this book I kept thinking how Karen is always getting in trouble in the Little Sister books for spying on her neighbors, and here we have Kristy helping Abby to spy on the neighbors.
  • So, the show Abby watched was actually called “Mystery Trackers,” so I’ll buy that a white-collar criminal would show up on one (when they wouldn’t on America’s Most Wanted). But stealing $20,000 does not seem worthy of that much attention. Not that it isn’t a bad thing to do, there are just worse criminals.
  • One of the things Abby tells Kristy’s that the Kormons are building a go-cart that she thinks will be very fast, even though the rest of the BSC and the other kids entering the race don’t know about this. I guess Kristy offers to help the Kormons, because the day of the race she shows up with them, and has to convince the judge to let them enter (since they got there late). Kristy’s all thrilled and pleased with herself after they win, like she had some stake in the competition, but I’m not sure why.
  • What annoys me about this book’s that everyone keeps telling Abby that she’s imagining things and that she shouldn’t be spying on her neighbors. But, having her be right basically invalidates all those comments and encourage kids to “snoop.” I hope this reaction doesn’t mean I’m old.