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.