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.