Sunday, December 16, 2012

“I’m sure some people think I’m strange because of the way I dress”…..BSC # 111: Stacey’s Secret Friend

Memory Reaction

Revisited Reaction
There’s a new girl in school named Tess Swinhart.  Stacey meets her when Tess accidentally ruins a paper-mache jaguar that the School Pep Squad was making (and Stacey is apparently on the squad now).  Anyway, Tess is a bit awkward, wears dark rimmed glasses and tons of pink clothes.  Stacey thinks she totally lacks style.  Tess is apparently a bit of a klutz too, because she also spills some of the paper-mache on Alan Gray.  He decides to get revenge by calling her “swine-heart” behind her back.  In addition to her name and the all-pink thing, Tess’s nose is slightly upturned, so the whole thing picks up steam. Alan gets the whole school to start calling her a pig, makes “oink” noises around her, and starts a comic strip about a character that looks like Tess and is called “Swine-Heart the Destroyer.”  Lots of kids pass this around and add to it in various classes.  But Tess, seems to be oblivious to all of it.
Meanwhile, Stacey’s spending a lot of time with Tess because she’s helping the Pep Squad rebuild the jaguar and the two are working together on a school project.  Stacey decides to “help” Tess stop being made fun of.  She “casually” tries to drop hints about places to buy contacts, different clothes, etc.  She even offers to give Tess a makeover.  It’s pretty obvious what she’s doing, but since Tess doesn’t take any advice, Stacey thinks that she’s totally clueless.
At a football game, the Pep Squad is running a vote on whether they should switch to a new mascot.  This involves holding up signs with various suggested mascots, and seeing which one people cheer for the most.  Someone switched out a sign that Stacey holds up for a pig with a picture of Tess and the label “Swine-Heart the Destroyer.”  Tess sees it, hears everyone laughing, and finally realizes she’s been a joke.  While trying to leave, she falls off the bleachers and breaks her ankle and sprains her wrist.  When the ambulance comes, Stacey tries to talk to Tess, but Tess tells her she isn’t her friend and asks her to leave.  Stacey’s too nervous to call Tess herself for couple days, even after another girl on the Pep Squad told Stacey that Tess knows she wasn’t involved in the stunt. 
Eventually, Stacey does go to Tess’s house so they can talk about their school project.  She finds out that Tess is from Paris, which explains the way she dresses and talks, and why she misses a lot of pop culture references.  Stacey also sees pictures of Tess’s friends also wearing a lot of pink, and sees similar outfits in a French style magazine.  She expresses surprise, and Tess is all…..”you would have known I was French if you actually bothered to talk to me.”  Afterwards Stacey feels bad about the whole situation…as she should, because she was a bit of a bitch to Tess.
Other kids in school are still making fun of Tess, and Clarence King and Alan Gray are planning to play a prank on her.  The plan’s for Clarence to ask her out, take to her to a restaurant called “Hog Heaven,” then put pictures of her with mean captions into the school newspaper.  They think they can get these past Emily Bernstein (the editor), but she finds out about it and tells Stacey.  Stacey tells Tess, and she and the BSC help make Clarence and Alan look like idiots (they dump food on them and take pictures, but don’t publish them anywhere). And Tess becomes friends with another girl, so even though she and Stacey aren’t really friends, the fence is a bit mended and she’s happy.

  • Has the SMS mascot always been a jaguar?
  • My main question from this one is, when the hell did Stacey join the Pep Squad?  And how’s that different than the cheerleading squad, which we know she wouldn’t be on?
  • Claudia tries to defend Tess’s clothing, by saying some people say she dresses strange (if by some she means everyone in the world).  But then Abby says she looks like she knows what she’s doing.  That’s gotta be one of her weird jokes, right?
  • Apparently, Mallory has said that when she’s a famous writer she won’t put her picture on the books, because she doesn’t like how she looks.  That’s….really sad, actually.
  • But we do get to hear Stacey talk about how great Mal will look once she gets contacts and her braces off.  Then Barbara calls Mallory cute.  So, I think we’re supposed to be seeing Mal as someone who really has very little self-esteem in regards to her looks, not actually someone who’s ugly.
  • People also call Tess, “Petunia,” which is apparently Porkey Pig’s girlfriend.  That’s a reference I would not have gotten, I didn’t even know Porky had a girlfriend.  The things you learn in these books are endless.
  • That reminds me……didn’t Stacey have a stuffed pig collection at one point?
  • At a sitting job for the Pikes, Jessi and Mallory are sitting for Claire, Margo, Nicky, and Vanessa.  They say the rule’s 2 sitters for 4 kids or more, but the way I remember it is 2 sitters when it’s OVER 4 kids.  I know there’s a book where Claudia sits for the triplets and Claire.  And jobs for Kristy’s 4 younger siblings never have more than one sitter.  I’m sure there are other examples too.  I think they just wanted to give both girls some screen time, since they had nothing else to do in this book.
  • Emily tells Stacey about the prank when Stacey arrives in the cafeteria for lunch.  Stacey says she told all her friends about it…at the club meeting that evening.  Wouldn’t the natural thing to do be go right to their lunch table and tell them right away?  So what if not everyone in the club is there?
  • In order to play their prank, Alan and Clarence would have had to switch out the copy of the paper that Emily approved with their own.  Which, Emily says wouldn’t have worked, and I’m sure she’s right.  It sure was tough to be an asshole before Facebook.
  • Stacey also tries to get Tess to join the Pep Squad, even after Tess says it’s not her think.  She’s really pushy about it, actually.
  • The thing that’s bothering me after reading this book is that we never find out if the students picked a new mascot or not.
  • The girl Tess does becomes friends with is this girl Barbara, whose previous BFF was the girl who got killed in a car accident.  So, this was a bit of closure on that storyline, which is nice.
  • Tess does try wearing makeup once after the makeover Stacey gave her, but says she doesn’t like how mascara feels.  Stacey thinks this is weird because she doesn’t think it’s possible to feel mascara.  I would have to disagree with her.  But I rarely wear mascara.
  • So, Clarence King keeps talking to Tess and calling her “Babe.”  Tess doesn’t get the pig reference and thinks that Clarence likes her.  Stacey tries to tell her not to get involved, and Tess thinks that Stacey’s the one that likes him.  Stacey’s horrified, but the more she denies it, the more Tess is convinced.  It really made me laugh for some reason.  And if Stacey really wanted to help Tess she’d tell her the truth.
  • There’s a subplot where Jackie Rodowsky and Nicky Pike are hanging out a lot acting secretive.  The BSC doesn’t know what’s going on, but we find out that some kid was bullying Jackie, so he asked Nicky to be his bodyguard.  But Abby convinces Jackie to talk out the problem.  And of course, that totally solves the problem.  I’d say mor.e, but writing about it would put me to sleep
  • There’s a reference to the BSC notebook, because Abby figures out Jackie is hiding in the same place as when another sitter was there.  It’s minor, but I do like that they pointed out that can help.
  • Stacey’s definitely bitchy in this one, but Tess does say things like, “I adore the middle ages.”  So, it’s realistic that 13-year-olds would find her strange.
  • So, I love the color pink.  But I wouldn’t wear it every day.  Even if it is THE color of the year in the fashion world, wearing the same color every day seems a bit much.
  • Maybe the all-pink thing is supposed to be like Stephanie Green wearing red, white, and black?
  • Stacey kind of annoys me at the end.  Because after she finds out Tess lived in Paris, she thinks how some of what Tess wore may end up stylish soon.  Except, if Stacey didn’t like her outfits, she should really not like her outfits.  The fact that people in Paris wear pink doesn’t mean Stacey has to like that color too. 
  • Here’s all of Tess’s “horrible” outfits….I’d bet anything that if Claudia wore one of these everyone would say she looked amazing:
  • “She wore a short, pale pink cardigan buttoned up to the top.  It covered a white blouse with a lace-trimmed Peter Pan collar, which peaked over the cardigan. Her pants were loose-fitting brown corduroys.  And…she was wearing black boots.”
  • “She was wearing a hot pink sweat outfit with frilly lace around the collar and sleeves.”
  • “Her outfit that day might have been the worst one yet. She wore baggy pink overalls and a long-sleeved, satin shirt with a bright (and I mean bright) pattern of pink and green daisies all over it.”  She had also clipped a small (but bright) pink plastic barrette in her hair.”
  • “Nice jeans and a dusty-blue sweater” but, she’d “spiked her hair and even put on pale, icy pink lipstick.”  I can’t really tell is the spikes are good or bad (according to Stacey), but this is what she wore after trying Stacey’s suggestion.
  • “The outfit was the brightest pink yet, and the worst. Bright pink corduroy pants with a boxy, nubby, bright pink sweater. The pink plastic barrette was in her hair and she wasn’t wearing any makeup.”  I like how Stacey keeps calling them the worst one yet.
  • “She was wearing a bright pink blouse with big puffed sleeves over a short black skirt.  The skirt was okay.  But the blouse!”
  • What do you think would happen if I tried to send in the form for joining the BSC Fan Club that’s in the back of this book?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

“Isn’t she supposed to pass it now?”……BSC # 110: Abby the Bad Sport

Memory Reaction

This is another one I first read as an adult, before doing this review.  And I thought it was the worst BSC book I’d ever read.  Abby drove me crazy though the whole thing.  But, I set out to do every book, so I am making a sacrifice for it.

Revisited Reaction

The copy of this book that I have goes from page 1 - 26, then repeats pages 1 – 26, then jumps to page 59.  And I no longer have access to the library I got the full book from the other time I read it. So, I missed a couple chapters, but since BSC books don’t exactly have a Lost-level of complexity, I think I got most of the plot.  But if the details seem light, that’s why.

Abby’s taking part in a Special Olympics soccer program, where kids with intellectual disabilities (“athletes”) play on a team alongside kids who don’t (“partners”).  Abby assumes she’ll be the star of the team, because she apparently has a super-high opinion of herself.  Or maybe she’s picked up on the rule about BSC members always being fabulous with their hobbies.  So, she’s surprised to find out that one of the athletes, Erin, is a really good player.  She’s also annoyed that her coach wants her to play a different position than she usually does.  This all makes Abby a bit competitive and she spends more time trying to make herself look good than helping the team win.  Erin ends up doing the same thing, and the team loses their first game.  Their coach benches them for the next two games. 

Meanwhile, the BSC and some of the kids they sit for start a booster club to support Abby and the team.  This means that not only do we see Abby acting like a total brat, we also have to hear the BSC sitting in the stands talking about how Abby’s hogging the ball and wondering why she isn’t passing.  Maybe this was to make it really obvious what Abby’s doing was wrong?   In case someone couldn’t tell from Abby’s inner monolouge?  They also have a car wash to raise money to surprise the team with uniforms or jerseys or something.  I don’t really get why the kids all care so much, but whatever.  There are worse ways to incorporate the kids into the book.

At the end of the second game where Abby’s benched, the coach puts her and Erin in the game for a few minutes.  Since she’s so happy to be playing, Abby manages to be a team player and the game ends in a tie. Afterwards, the rest of the team goes out for pizza, but Abby skips it to go for a run.  Because she’s a brat and doesn’t want to be around people when they have no reason to congratulate her.  Erin shows up to run as well, and after they sort of race, they talk and pretty much make up.  Abby also apologizes for acting like a “stupid jerk.”  In the next game, they both manage to work together and help the team win.  Thankfully, they don’t end up best friends or anything cliché like that.

The subplot’s that Abby’s mother’s planning to take her and Anna to Long Island to visit their grandparents and her father’s grave.  In the chapters I missed, we apparently hear about why this upsets Abby so much.  I’m going to assume it’s just her still dealing with grief over his death.  She convinces her mom to let her stay at Kristy’s, claiming she made a commitment to be on this team and needs to go to the game.  But when her mom and Anna come home, she’s upset about not being with them on the trip.  It makes her seem even more bratty, but I’ll give her some leeway here because a dead parent’s a bigger deal than not being a star soccer player.  But eventually, she tells her mom about how she’s feeling and they talk, blah, blah, blah.

  • So, the book’s called “Abby the Bad Sport,” but I think “brat” is a better way to describe her.  In case you couldn’t tell from my recap.
  • It seems weird for Abby to be giving us the club backstory, when she was hardly around for any of it.  How does she know the details of Dawn and Mary Anne’s parents getting married?  Or how hard it was for Claudia when her grandmother died?  Yeah, she’d hear about some of that stuff, but it comes off like too much of a checklist to be natural.  Unless all that stuff was in the wonderful club notebook.
  • Abby makes an aside about how people who won’t be pushed around or bullied are always called “pushy” themselves.  She’s talking about Kristy at the time.  I think her point’s really that it’s okay for a person to be assertive, but it doesn’t really work, because sometimes Kristy’s beyond that and actually pushy herself.
  • Claudia outfit:  “She was in a little crop-top muscle shirt that she had batikked green and blue.  She’d sewed a bunch of buttons up the front as if it were a vest. She also had on skinny black shorts, one blue sock and one green sock, and black Doc Martens with one blue shoelace (on the foot with the green sock) and one green shoelace (on the foot with the blue sock). Her long black hair had been gathered into a single braid.  A blue ribbon with more buttons attached to it was woven into the braid.  Her earrings? Buttons, naturally.” 
  • Is it sad that I knew Claudia was going to do the reverse sock/shoelace color thing before I finished reading that description?
  • Abby tells us that Karen’s a “stickler for the rules.”  Which is only sort of true.  Karen’s a stickler for everyone ELSE following the rules.  She likes to do whatever she wants.
  • Even the kids notice that Abby’s being an annoying brat.  While they’re watching the game some of them say, “I’m never going to act like a bad sport like that.”  Which is actually really annoying as well.  But maybe it’s realistic that kids would say something like that, even if it isn’t really true.
  • After seeing the soccer games, all the kids in town suddenly want to be soccer players too.  Kristy even jokes that they’ll need to make a soccer-version of the Krushers.  It just seems odd to me.  Have they never seen it played and now think it’s exciting? Or had they heard of it before but not realized how it could be fun? 
  • I have to say, I don’t see how watching a soccer game could make it seem exciting.  But I hate sports and spent my childhood reading the same books over and over, so I guess I shouldn’t judge. 
  • This must have been somewhere between pages 27 and 58, because I remember from the last time I read it and didn’t see it this time:  There’s an argument where Erin asks Abby if she doesn’t like her because she’s “retarded.”  (I use the quotes, cause I don’t really think that’s the politically correct term anymore, which made it seem jarring every time someone in this book used its.  The Special Olympics website uses “intellectual disabilities”).
  • Sadly, I can’t remember Abby’s answer, which means it probably wasn’t very interesting, in either a good or bad way.
  • This book seems like a PSA or something, but not about the existence of the Special Olympics, or intellectual disabilities in general.  It’s more about the importance of good sportsmanship behavior.  It made it really annoying to read as an adult.
  • There are at least three times in this book where Abby (or someone) uses the word stupid to describe someone, then we have to hear someone (including Karen) say how you should never call anyone stupid.  It gets more obnoxious each time.  Not because I disagree, it’s just annoying to be preached at.
  • For the trip to Long Island, Mrs. Stevenson drives home for her office (in NYC), picks up Anna, then drives out to Long Island.  That seems a bit crazy to me.  Why not have Anna take the train in to meet her mom there? 
  • Not taking the train could be a safety issue, if it was one of the other BSC members.  But, Stacey takes the train alone in all the time, and HER mother can be over protective.  Mrs. Stevenson seems more relaxed, so I don’t think she’d have a problem with it.  It’s also summer, so Anna could have gone to work with her mom or something.
  • I think I’m harping on this so much, because in the past couple of weeks I’ve had to deal with ridiculous traffic getting into NYC.
  • Abby doesn’t tell anyone she was benched, but at half time of the game, Karen comes over to tell Abby she’s sure she’ll play later on.  Abby just nods and smiles, but then Karen walks over to tell Erin the same thing, who tells her about the benching. Karen of course tells Kristy.
  • Kristy tells Abby she would probably have lied about being benched too….but then she proceeds to get into a fight with Abby for being such a “bad sport.”
  • The game that Abby says she has to stay home for is the game where she’s benched.  Again, I’ll cut her some slack here because of the whole dead father issue.  But still.  Abby’s annoying.
  • More proof that Abby’s a brat: Her team wins when she sits out….and all she thinks about is how they would have done even better if she’d been playing.
  • The jerseys the team gets are all colored purple. If they explain why, I didn’t see it.  It was probably just the color randomly assigned to them, but it made me curious about something – In the town I grew up in, most of the little kid teams wore blue, which was the same color of the high school teams.  So, I was wondering what colors SMS uses.  There were a couple spirit week type things, where each grade dressed in a different color but I can’t remember a team color.  And sadly, this is the type of think I actually wonder about sometimes.
  • So, maybe this did get an explanation and I missed it….but I really don’t get why anyone cares about Abby’s team enough to create a booster club supporting it.
  • I’m guessing that one of the BSCers mentioned the team on a sitting job (for the Pikes maybe), and the kids got excited about the idea of it? It sounds typical for the BSC, but still a little unrealistic for so many of the kids to show up at all the games.  Maybe they heard about the Special Olympics tie-in and thought supporting it was important? And Abby did mention early on that they didn’t have a sponsor.  But still.  It seems weird.
  • What’s really silly is that they seem to only get the uniforms in time for their last game.  Which seems like a bit of a waste.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

“Where does she get her talent”………BSC # 115: Jessi’s Big Break

Memory Reaction 
I didn’t read this one before.

Revisited Reaction
Jessi gets accepted into a special dance program at Dance New York, which is some famous (fictional?) ballet company and school.  There’s a youth program where kids spend a few weeks at the school with guidance from famous instructors.  Since the school doesn’t have dorms, Jessi ends up staying with her cousin Michael (Aunt Cecilia’s son) and his wife in Brooklyn.  On the first day, she runs into Quint, who she’d apparently lost touch with after they decided to just be friends.  He’s over his embarrassment about being a male dancer, and is excited to be in the program.  He introduces Jessi to his friend Maritza, and they become fast friends.
Jessi loves the program and being in New York.  At first she thinks she’s doing horribly, because she gets a lot of corrections from the instructor.  But, of course, everyone does and she just didn’t realize it.  After a few days, the instructor tells her she’s totally the most awesome dancer ever, even though she’s one of the youngest in the program (it’s ages 11-13).  This makes sense since Jessi’s in the BSC, which means she has to be the best at whatever her hobby is, and win every contest/audition she enters. Outside of dancing, she hangs out a lot with Maritza and her friends (non-ballet ones) and has a lot of fun.  She ends up staying in NY on all her weekends because she’s got so much going on.
One minor complication is Quint.  At first Jessi thinks he and Maritza are a couple, but Maritza tells her they’re not, and that Quint still likes her.  Then Jessi’s worried that Quint wants them to be a couple again, but she’s still not ready for a boyfriend, even if it’s no longer long-distance.  She obsesses about how to tell him, but finally does and he’s cool with being friends and waiting for her. 
After three weeks, most of the other students have been asked to stay for another 3 weeks, but not Jessi.  She’s obviously disappointed about this.  Then after their final performance for their families, the main teacher tells Jessi’s parents that he wants her to audition for the school’s full-time dance program.  And by audition, he means she’s basically already in, but has to perform for other teachers to make it official.  She does and gets the invitation.  But, she decides she’s still young, and that she’s not really ready to leave home and lose her current friends.  But she’s told the invitation will still be there down the line.  Because that’s realistic.
The subplot’s about Becca and how she’s upset that Jessi left for so long.  So, she acts like a total brat when Mallory sits for her.  The day Jessi’s originally supposed to come home, Becca stays at the Pike’s while the Ramsey’s go to New York for the performance.  They decide to plan a welcome home party for Jessi.  Only Jessi doesn’t come home that night, because she’s staying an extra day for the audition, and the party is a bit of a bust. Aunt Cecelia had called the Pike’s to say they were arriving back in Stoneybrook late and without Jessi, but unfortunately she talked to Claire.  Who didn’t repeat this to anyone because she didn’t think it was news… everyone knew they were arriving in the evening, and that’s late.  This is why Aunt Cecelia should have asked to talk to someone over the age of 5.

  • Usually, Jessi’s ballet plots make me think of when I took ballet as a kid.  But this one reminded me of Center Stage. 
  • When they first get to Michael’s apartment in the city, they have to park 3 blocks away.  Which, is typical.  But this means they have to walk all the way back with 2 suitcases. Why not double park for 30 seconds or something, then have someone get out and wait with suitcases while Mr. Ramsey parks?
  • Claudia outfit: “She was wearing a leopard-skin jumpsuit with a black silk shirt tied at the waist with leather stripes; black, steel tipped combat boots; and rhinestone-studded cat’s eye-glasses perched on her head.”  Somehow on Claudia this looks, “right.”  Of course it did.
  • Fun fact: Aunt Cecelia’s last name is Parker.
  • Jessi invites Mallory to visit one weekend.  Except, she then invites all their new friends along.  Which, seems kind of annoying.  But, she and Mal do get some alone time to catch up later on.
  • Jessi’s a little obnoxious when Mal visits as well.  When Michael orders food in, Mallory seems surprised at the selection that they have.  Jessi’s all “In New York, everyone delivers not just pizza places.”  Then when Mallory realizes she forgot her toothbrush (late at night), Jessi says how Michael will go to the store, because some “places are open 24 hours in NYC.”
  • Becca’s miserable for 3 weeks while Jessi’s away.  So, why do her parents leave her at home when they go to the final performance?  I don’t think it would have been a big deal to take her out of school a little earlier if that was the issue.
  • If you’re wondering how Jessi can skip school for 3 weeks, the program includes time with tutors to keep the kids up to date with school stuff.
  • I’m trying to figure out how the BSC had time to plan their welcome home party.  They get the idea late in the afternoon, and talk about it at the club meeting.  After the meeting ends, they have time to go to the store, make a banner, make 2 batches of cookies, and get pizza delivered, and have it all done by 7:00.  That seems like it would take more than an hour, but I guess if they had enough people helping it’s possible.
  • Other than the BSC and the Pikes (since it’s at their house) the girls invite Charlotte, Haley, and Natalie Springer to the party.  I get the first two cause they’re friends with Vanessa and Becca.  But Natalie?  Isn’t she from the Little Sister books?  How did she get into the mix?
  • At a meeting, someone asks Jessi if she’s come home to visit on weekends, and Claudia’s all, “No, why would she? She’ll be going to clubs, parties, etc.”  And Jessi’s just thinking, WTF?  Although not in those words, cause this is the BSC.
  • Jessi mentions how she likes Maritza’s friends, because it’s the first time in a while that she’s been in a room with all African American friends.  And that it’s “refreshing.”
  • So, Cecelia and Michael don’t really get along.  The reason’s a bit surprising.  He used to be into art, but ended up getting a job in some financial-related field.  And Cecelia’s upset that he didn’t follow his dream.  Which is kind of sweet, because I would expect Cecilia to be all about having a backup career in mind to be practical.  But not sweet because she lets that ruin their relationship.
  • Jessi somehow inspired Michael to start painting again, so maybe the riff will be cleared up.
  • Cecelia’s also really supportive of Jessi’s dancing in this book (even though, she thinks Jessi’s too young to be going to NYC alone).
  • Michael says that if Jessi did join the full time program, she could stay with him and his wife (who are in their late 20s).  Which is really, really nice of him.  Especially since he barely knew Jessi before and doesn’t seem to get along well with his mother.
  • When Mallory arrives, Jessi realized she hadn’t even mentioned the BSC to any of her new dancer friends.  That’s a sign of her priorities.
  • Maritza tells Jessi that she was “chewing the scenery” with her friends (she means this in a nice way though), and that she’s a born leader because she got the other kids to make a video of themselves performing various skits/jokes/whatever.   It reminds me of the Jessi we saw in that practical joke book. 
  • This is the last Jessi book, even though there are a good 15 books written after it in the series.
  • It kinds of sucks for Jessi, because after she chooses to stay in Stoneybrook because of her family and friends, her best friend leaves for boarding school. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

“I guess we all have our own ways of dealing with emergencies”….BSC # 109: Mary Anne to the Rescue

Memory Reaction
I didn’t read this as a kid, but I did read it a few years ago…after I was inspired to re-read the series, but before I starting blogging about it.  That doesn’t totally count as a memory, but I miss writing this section, so I’m counting it.  I just remember thinking it was really obvious Mary Anne was going to save someone at the end.  Even more obvious than what’s typical with these books.

Revisited Reaction
This book starts with the BSC, Sharon, and Richard at the airport, waiting for Dawn and Jeff to fly in from California for the summer.  The plan’s delayed, so they go to the cafeteria to kill some time.  Some guy there starts choking and Sharon runs over, gives him the Heimlich, and saves his life.  Mary Anne feels bad because when the guy starting choking she was frozen and thinks she’d be useless in a crisis.   This is when you know that there will be a crisis by the end of the book, where Mary Anne saves the day.  If you didn’t already know that based on the title.   The incident leads to the whole club taking a first aid course for teens.  But, Mary Anne still thinks she’d fall apart in an emergency.
After a few sessions, Mary Anne and Dawn are sitting for the Hsus and the Kormans, at the Kormans’ pool.  Linnie and Hannie Papadakis show up at one point too.  Their (adult) next-store neighbor is around as well, because the Kormans only let the kids swim when an adult’s around.  But the neighbor, Mr. Sinclair, goes inside to get a drink, which gives Timmy Hsu time to wander into the deep end of the pool, despite not being able to swim.  Mary Anne gets to be all awesome…she jumps into the pool fully dressed, pulls Timmy out, and gives him CPR.  The other kids do help her pull Timmy out of the pool, after she has dragged him up from the bottom of the pool, but it’s still a cool moment for her. By this point, Dawn has called 911 and the neighbor has come back outside.  But, they say Mary Anne saved her life and everyone congratulates her.  And she gets over her fear.  At least somewhat.
Meanwhile, Logan tells Mary Anne that his father’s sending him to boarding school in New Hampshire.  Mr. Bruno went there as a kid and claims it “changed his life.”  He’s also sending Logan to a month-long survival camp for a month at the end of summer.  He doesn’t want to go, but says there’s nothing he can do about it.  Mary Anne’s upset (obviously) and keeps telling Logan to talk to his parents.  Logan says his dad won’t listen and his mother will just go along with whatever his dad says.  They keep arguing and Mary Anne keeps crying about it.  Eventually, after getting courage from her rescue, she convinces him to talk to his parents.  Logan tells them how he doesn’t want to go and that his life is already great in Stoneybrook.   He manages to convince his mother, who convinces his dad to let him stay.

  • Claudia outfit: “She was wearing an old-fashioned felt hat, a billowy button-down white shirt, a super-wide tie hand-painted with a sunset, cuffed khaki shorts, and brown-and-white bucks with knee-high white socks.”
  • I’m not a big fan of the implication that Mr. Bruno can decide to send Logan to boarding school, and his mother just has to go along with what he wants.  Granted, she ends up changing Mr. Bruno’s mind at the end, so I guess I can’t complain too much.
  • When Logan’s dad says he already put a deposit down on the boarding school, his mom says, “we’ll I’ll pay for that with MY earnings.”  It comes off as a bit sexist too me, even if I don’t have an issue with married couples having separate bank accounts.
  • The first-aid instructor’s named Shelley Golden.  So after her introduction, we get to hear the male students introduce themselves....Alan Gray, Pete Black…then Irv something who calls himself Little Boy Blue.  The BSC finds this really obnoxious, but I thought it was slightly amusing.  I guess I’m immature.
  • Fun fact: Logan’s dad is named Lyman.
  • During this book, the BSC goes to Stoneybrook’s Firefighters Fair, yet another annual event we haven’t heard of before.  I’m not 100% sure what the point of it is…normally I’d think something like that would be a fundraiser, but it seems to just be a carnival type event with a demonstration of putting a fire out.
  • In addition to the Firefighters Fair, Stoneybrook has its first ever Safety Day in this book.  The kids taking the first aid class gets to be involved as victims in the staged first aid demonstration.  Dawn volunteers Mary Anne to play victim, after she said she didn’t want to do it multiple times.  Than later, when Mary Anne says she didn’t have a good time, Dawn’s all, “If you didn’t want to do it, why’d you volunteer?”  Then later Mary Anne apologizes for snapping at Dawn. 
  • Okay, so Dawn says she’s sorry too, so it’s not quite as bad as it could be.  But Mary Anne apologizing unnecessarily is a definite trend with Mary Anne and Dawn fights.
  • When Mary Anne voices her concern to Dawn about not being good in a crisis, Dawn reminds her how she “saved the day” with Jenny Prezzioso way back when.  I like that staying cool in a crisis seems to be something they’ve kept consistent for Mary Anne, even if it’s not how most people describe her.
  • After the safety demo, Mary Anne’s takes a shower to wash all the fake blood off, then finds Dawn waiting in her room to see why she’s upset.  Mary Anne asks for privacy so she can change, and Dawn’s all, “I’m your sister.”  That seems a bit too comfortable for them.
  • Jamie Newton cried at the Safety Festival because he saw Mary Anne lying in a pool of blood (as part of the demo) and thought she died.  And I guess afterwards they didn’t let him see that Mary Anne was okay?  Then Claudia sits for him the next day, and Mrs. Newton says that she’ll trust Claudia’s judgment about whether he should go to the Firefighters Fair as well?  I think it was pretty obvious he shouldn't have gone….Claudia had to take him home early because he couldn't stop crying.
  • Do they always have to point out in the narrative text that Claudia can’t spell?  I think we all know that by now, just have her notebook pages have errors and don’t comment on it.
  • On a baby-sitting job, Abby ends up having a bike-safety session.  When the kids tell her using hand signals is dorky, she asks them if wearing a helmet’s dorky.  When they say no, she tells them how people used to not want to wear helmets because they were worried about it.  This is when I feel old, because when I was a kid people hated when they suddenly starting making people wear helmets.
  • At the Firefighters Fair, some woman criticizes Claud for having the Newton kids there.  Which, was a valid point, even if she was rude about it. And even if it was more Mrs. Newton’s fault that Claud’s.  But anyway, wouldn't a “fair” logically imply that it is a kid-friendly event?  So, why have a demo that isn’t something kids should see?
  • Mary Anne says that Wuthering Heights is her favorite book.  I could have sworn it was Little Women in earlier books.
  • Dawn criticizes Mr. Sinclair for drinking soda, and when he switches to lemonade, she tells Mary Anne that’s probably still a mix and has too much sugar.  At least he’s trying, Dawn.  Relax a little.
  • When Logan tells his parents he and Mary Anne have to talk to him, Mr. Bruno goes “you’re not getting married, are you?”  I would think his first guess would be a pregnancy, but they probably didn’t want to even suggest sex existed in these books. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

“You don’t know how many ways I’ve been thinking about this”……BSC # 113: Claudia Makes Up Her Mind

Memory Reaction

Didn’t get to this one before.

Revisited Reaction

Claudia’s guidance counselor calls her into her office and tells her the school thinks she should be moved back to 8th grade. This is based on the fact that she’s doing well in 7th, and they think her cognitive skills are stronger that the other students in her (current) grade.  Apparently, all her teachers think this makes sense, even though she’ll have to have extra tutoring to catch up with what she missed in the 8th grade courses while being back in 7th.  This is where logic starts to go crazy, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Anyway, they decide to let Claudia make the decision herself, because otherwise the story would end in chapter 3.  Claud talks to all her friends about what they think and keeps debating with herself.  Obviously her friends from 7th grade want her to stay with them, while the BSC wants her to come back to 8th.

At the same time, the school is having a “Color War” where the three grades compete in random events like 3-legged races, a drawing contest, a limerick writing contest, and a math contest.  The winning grade gets to pick a charity that the Stoneybrook Chamber of Commerce will donate money to.  Claudia signs herself and her boyfriend, Mark, up to be 7th grade coordinators, which means they get to help pick out events and decorate.  He doesn’t really want to, but goes along with it for Claudia, which is consistent with how they first met.

Mark, by the way, says he doesn’t care which grade Claudia goes with since either way they’d be in the same school.  There are ways one could say this and seem really nice and supportive, but he doesn’t accomplish that.  This is only one sign Claud sees that Mark can be a bit of a jerk.  He also keeps canceling plans with her and forgetting when he was supposed to meet her.  Meanwhile, her friend Josh is totally in love with her and she’s too much of an idiot to see it.  But, one of their other friends finally clues her in.   Claudia didn’t think she had feelings for him, but after she hears about his, she questions herself.  She and Mark end up breaking up, but are pretty amicable and mature about it.   It’s not totally about Josh, it’s just that it’s not working for them anymore.

At the end, Claudia chooses to go back to 8th grade, but vows she will stay friends with her new 7th grade friends.  I still haven’t learned their names.  It still doesn’t matter.  She also kisses Josh.  And before she switches back she helps lead the 7th grade to victory in the stupid color war.

Subplot:  So, when the kids in town hear about the SMS color war, they decide they want to have one of their own, where different families compete on teams.  The BSC agrees to help organize one.  But, before they make any real plans, the kids just announce that they’ve already decide when to start it.  When the girls arrive at sitting jobs, their charges go, “time to go to the park to start the war.”  It’s kind of funny seeing the sitters thrown off like that.  But the war goes on for a couple weeks, so they get a better of a handle on things.


  • Here’s the problem with this whole premise.  Claudia started 8th grade and was doing poorly because she didn’t have a good enough grasp on the base knowledge/skills she needed to learn the content.  She went back to 7th grade, and since it was her second time around, was actually able to pick up the concepts she had struggled with before.  But moving her back to 8th grade in November means that she only gained SOME of those base skills.  On top of that, she’s now missed a couple months of 8th grade, so won’t she now struggle even more than when it was the beginning of the school year?  The guidance counselor says there will be tutoring, but if that’s all it takes, why didn’t they just do that before? 
  • This book takes place in November.  When she was originally moved back it was Octoberish.  So, in some ways she wasn’t back for long.  But there was a Christmas and also a summer vacation between this one and when she was first sent back.  I would complain about this more, but there’s no point, since the premise wouldn’t make sense even IF the timeline was logical.
  • Claudia tells us that teachers call her “right-brained overdeveloped.”  That’s an…interesting term for it.
  • Claudia outfit: “I was wearing a dark plaid skirt…purple leggings; high, lace-up boots; a long-sleeved, white linen shirt with a solid black tie; and an oversized man’s vest.”
  • The kids actually team up with other families to create even teams: One team combines the Kuhn kids and the Papadakis kids, and this seems to be at their choosing.  Which seems a bit weird, because how do they even know each other?  I guess from the Krushers?  But they go to different schools, live in different neighborhoods, and it’s November, so not softball season.  It just seems off.
  • I actually think it’s a little insensitive of the BSC to encourage Claudia to come back to 8th grade.  I can certainly see why they’d want her to, but when Claud worries that she might have a hard time, the other girls are like, “we’ll help you, you’ll do fine.”  But the truth is that Claudia might really need to be back in 7th grade and the BSC won’t provide the help she needs.  They don’t really consider that just because they can do something doesn’t mean Claud can.
  • There’s a reference to Kristy not liking Mark, which I like because it’s a reference to a previous book.  I know I’ve mentioned things like this before, but I always like it.
  • The reason Claudia’s inspired to sign up as the 7th Grade Color War Coordinator’s because she hears that the class had picked orange as their color, and thinks it will look horrible on everyone.  I hate that color as well, but I don’t wear clothes as crazy as Claudia’s.  I’m sure she’s worn orange before.
  • The colors were selected by vote, so it does seem weird that the majority of them would pick orange.  It’s not your typical favorite color.  The other grades picked blue and white, which are a bit more normal.
  • Claudia had voted for black as the 7th grade’s color. If you care (cause I kinda did).
  • When Stacey hears about Claud’s dilemma, she has to point out that a one-year difference will continue throughout school….that they’d be starting high school, graduating, going to college, etc. at different times.  Maybe not realizing this is a sign that Claud should be staying in 7th grade?
  • I love that over 100 books into this series we are still hearing about school traditions/events that have never been mentioned before.  
  • Claudia’s aunt and uncle drop by for a visit, and we find out the Kishis set up a crib, rocking chair, and other baby stuff.  Would people really do that?  Keep a crib just for visiting relatives?
  • The slogans each grade came up with for their team are: “Fight for White,” “Blue Rules, and “Orange You Glad You’re in 7th Grade.”  I only mention these, because Josh is the one who came up with the seventh grade one, and it makes me like him a bit more.  Not that it’s a great slogan, but because it’s at least SOMETHING cute to do with a word that rhymes with almost nothing.
  • As prizes for the little kids color war, Abby’s mother donates children’s books from the publishing company she works for.   The day of the last event, she drives home and goes straight to the park to give them out as prizes.  When she does, she points out (good naturedly) how much of a pain it was to drive back from the city.  But why did she have to do this?  Couldn't she have just brought them home with her on a previous day, so it wouldn't be any extra trouble?  
  • And doesn't she usually take the train?  She did in that book where Abby and Anna thought she was in that train accident or something.  Maybe they’re claiming that she drove that day to get the books since there were too many to carry on the train?  But why not split them up? 
  • The BSC claims that all the kids’ teams tied in their Color War. I can see wanting everyone to get a prize, but to have it be a tie overall?  Would the kids even buy that?
  • Claudia said she used to think “stoic” meant old, because she heard people refer to Mimi that way.  That made me laugh, did Claud really think that people were always talking about how old Mimi was? 

Monday, October 8, 2012

“We shouldn’t let things like this get in the way of our club – or our friendships – ever again”…….BSC # 120: Mary Anne and the Playground Fight

Memory Reaction
This was way after I stopped reading…

Revisited Reaction
We’re told on the cover that the “fight” is between the BSC members, not the kids, which I thought sounded good.  But the fight’s nowhere close to how bitchy other fight books have been. And I find it interesting that the biggest fights I can think of are all Mary Anne books.

Anyway, it’s the end of the school year and two announcements are made.  The first is that there’s going to be a trip to Europe at ridiculously discounted prices, just like the one to Hawaii “last year.”  This is all a set up for the next Super Special. The other announcement is that there’s going to be a “playground camp” at the elementary school over the summer, and they’re looking to hire six middle school students to work there.  All the regular BSC members apply, plus Logan and Dawn (who’s visiting for the summer).  There are also a lot of other applicants from non-BSCers, but they’re clearly irrelevant. This means the girls are competing with each other and things get a little tense as they work on their applications.

When Dawn gets to Stoneybrook, Mary Anne tells her about the Europe trip.  But Dawn surprises her by saying she doesn’t want to go since she’s not in Stoneybrook that much and wants to spend her time there.   Logan also decides not to go on the trip.  Then the extremely independent thinking Mary Anne decides she doesn’t want to go either. 

The girls realize that the trip is happening in the right in the middle of the camp session, and while they’re told they still have a shot, they’re not totally sure if they can do both.  Claudia decides she won’t go on the trip if she gets the camp job. Mallory and Jessi are cut from the application process because their books apparently don’t sell as well as the others, and they stopped getting screen time in the later books.  Or maybe it’s because of their age.  It’s not really important.  Anyway, Stacey, Kristy, and Abby are the only ones applying with a conflict.  The three of them try and downplay this in their interviews, but are apparently not very successful.  After the interview, the girls snap at each other a little bit, Kristy calls Claudia insecure and Claudia calls Kristy a bully. 

Meanwhile, Victoria, that princess from awhile back, is apparently still in town, but about to go back to London.  She’s not happy about that and we get a couple chapters of her “saying goodbye” to the town/her friends.  But the BSC makes plans to visit her when they’re in Europe.  At Victoria’s official going away party, the BSCers aren’t really talking to each other and argue once in front of Charlotte Johanssan.  But nothing too exciting, I think it was over who was scooping ice cream better. After that, they find out that Mary Anne, Dawn, Claudia, and Logan got jobs at the camp, and the others did not.  They decide it must have been because of the trip, and they all make up.

  • Dawn’s stepmother just had a baby named Grace.  Mary Anne tells us they call her “Gracie” for short.  I know it’s an expression, but it made me laugh because Gracie’s actually longer than Grace.
  • Mary Anne mentions hanging out near the beautiful lighthouse in Stoneybrook.  I guess that’s a reference to this? 
  • Claudia outfit: “On this day she was wearing an oversized black jumpsuit over a white T-shirt with the sleeves rolled up, plus white socks and black high-top sneakers with silver laces. The laces matched her silver nail polish, silver earrings, and the rings she wore on ever finger, even her thumb.”  I don’t have a real problem with the outfit, but who the hell says “on this day?”
  • The trip to Europe (London and Paris) costs $400 a person.  It’s apparently less than the trip to Hawaii because the airfare’s lower.  Now, when I’ve gone to Europe my plane tickets were a lot more than when I went to Hawaii.  But, this book was written in 1998 and flying rates jump around a lot, so I’ll let that go.  But $400 for 9-10 days in Europe?  That’s crazy cheap, even back in the 90s. 
  • Since Mary Anne was originally a regular sitter for Victoria, they’re close.  So, it’s not surprising that Victoria requests her on a sitting job.  But what is surprising is that this isn’t a big deal to any of the other girls.  That usually led to good fights.
  • I actually think it’s mature of Dawn to not run off to Europe when she’s supposed to be visiting her mother.  However, Mary Anne not going because of that?  Is ridiculous.  Especially considering how excited she was when she first heard about the trip.  She can’t miss a week or so of time with Dawn?  It’s not like Dawn ever changes her travel plans to spend time with Mary Anne.
  • One of the girls’ teachers (the school’s running the camp) calls the BSC at a meeting and tells them they should apply for the camp jobs.  But I don’t see why they bothered, considering how many people applied regardless.  Do they really think the BSC’s that much better with kids?
  • The girls who are going to Europe need to raise the money to pay for half, the same deal as when they went to Hawaii.  They decide to have a “junk sale” to try and make money and sell a whole bunch of old stuffed animals/books/toys/etc.  It includes both their old stuff and things they get from others.  Which is a good idea, but I think it seems weird to make money off someone else’s stuff….they should give them a cut or something.
  • They raise a total of $500 at their junk sale including refreshments and “donations” from parents.  But why would they be getting donations?  It’s not a charity or anything.
  • It’s kind of confusing, because they talk about the whole trip being $400, but then they only refer to paying for half their airfare.  And they say this is the same as Hawaii, but in Super Special #13, they had to pay half the total price.
  • This book has a very misleading title. The girls are competitive about the job, but it’s not like they stop speaking for weeks or anything like that.  
  • I actually like that they have the girls planning for the Europe trip in this book.  It used to be that we’d just have these random stand-alone Super Specials and you couldn’t tell where in the lineup they fell.  Especially with the first one, where it basically established an additional summer between the 7th grade books and the first 8th grade book.  Having a lead in feels more natural.
  • I’m actually glad that Kristy didn’t get the job.  Her whole attitude about it was a bit entitled, as though she thought she was automatically getting it and that no one would care if she needed to take a week off.  When Kristy heard Claudia say that she wouldn’t go on the trip if she got the job, she considered saying the same thing…even though in her case it would be a lie.  She figured she could just say she changed her mind later. Mary Anne talks her out of doing this.
  • At the job Interviews, everyone who made the first cut gets called in at once, then they sit there while candidates are called into small rooms one-by-one.  That doesn’t seem like the best way to do things.  I can see how having multiple people come in at once would save time, especially if several people are doing the interviewing.  But it least split them into half hour groups or something.  Why have more teenagers than necessary hanging out making noise?
  • Now that I think about it, Kristy considering lying on her application (about not going to Europe) seems a bit out of character.
  • Victoria mentions that Toy Story is one of her favorite American movies.  Wow, these books lasted longer than I thought.  Or, I’m just getting old and Toy Story’s just that old of a movie.
  • This is going to sound weird, but I noticed that this book had several references to people using the bathroom.  When Mary Anne arrives at a meeting, Claudia is out of the room in the bathroom, once Dawn leaves the meeting to use it, etc.  I just don’t remember them mentioning that in any other books.
  • I don’t know if Victoria showed up in any books between her first appearance and here, but the whole thing is a set up for the BSC visiting her in London on their trip.  They do point out that Victoria stayed longer than originally planned, which makes sense, since it was supposed to be a few months, and this is the second summer vacation since her original book.
  • They also make a point of saying Abby and Victoria started to bond at the going away party…I guess because Mary Anne isn’t going to London, and the ghostwriters wanted to set up another relationship for the Super Special.  But I always hated when they just changed who had “special relationships” with who.
  • It seems like a cop out to have the decisions about who to hire come down to who’s going on vacation.