Friday, February 15, 2013

“I mean so little to this club that you don’t even have to replace me?”….BSC # 125: Mary Anne in the Middle

Memory Reaction

So, I didn’t read this as a kid, but I do remember when I read the following book as an adult and was a little annoyed/surprised that we didn’t get the full story on Mal moving in that book.

Revisited Reaction

At the start of this book, Mallory’s waiting to hear back from the boarding school she applied to.  Mary Anne refers to Mal visiting the school, so I guess that happened in yet another previous book. They really let this storyline play out for a while, didn’t they?  Anyway, Mal keeps saying she’s not sure if she’ll go, but Mary Anne can tell she’s pretty much made up her mind.  Mallory keeps talking to Mary Anne about it because Jessi doesn’t have an open mind about Mal leaving, and she gets mad whenever Mal brings it up.  Also, Mary Anne’s narrating the book, so she has to know what’s going on.

Anyway, Mallory obviously gets in, and gets a full scholarship.  When Jessi hears this, she gets mad at Mallory for wanting to leave.  She keeps saying Mal’s running away from her problems. So, when Mallory decides to go, she tells Mary Anne first.  At a BSC meeting, Jessi demands Mallory tell the club her decision.  When Mal does, Jessi gets mad because she can tell Mary Anne already knew.  They bicker back and forth and both keep venting to Mary Anne.  This goes on for a while – Mary Anne tries to send them on a joint sitting job so they’ll have to talk, but that ends up making things worse.  Then, at a slumber party Jessi has, Mary Anne insists Mallory still come, but that doesn’t end well either.  Eventually, Mary Anne invites them both over and forces them to talk things out.  They do, and Mal tries to explain why she feels the need to go.  They basically make up, but we don’t really get to hear the bulk of the conversation, because it’s apparently not important enough to show.

Meanwhile, Mal’s siblings have decided they don’t want her to leave and are mad at her as well.  They act like annoying brats for a while, but Mary Anne convinces them that they should want Mallory to be happy and that she’ll still be part of the family.  And the BSC and Mal’s family put together some “We Love Mallory Day” to show her how much she means to them.  These girls are no where near as bitchy as people I went to middle school with.

The subplot is that Kristy wanted to put together a special holiday project (this takes place in December).  They decide they’re going to make holiday decorations that they’ll donate to the senior citizen home in town.  Apparently, the place has really old crappy decorations.  They end up having a bit of a party for the people there too.  These girls are WAY to goody-goody to be believable.  My high school had a community service club that did less volunteer work.

  • Mrs. Pike has a temporary job working at Bellair’s for the holidays.  Mary Anne and Mal are sitting for the rest of the Pikes a lot, which is the explanation for Mary Anne ending up in the middle of the whole Jessi/Mal stuff. 
  • Mary Anne says you can tell Claudia isn't a “student” by looking at her spelling.  But I have to say, I was always a good student and can’t spell very well either. I’m nowhere near as bad as Claud, but seriously, if not fore spel cheeck I’d bee screwed.
  • Mary Anne and Mal are almost late for a BSC meeting, because Mrs. Pike got stuck in traffic on her way home from work.  But isn’t Belliar’s in downtown Stoneybrook?  The girls bike to it sometimes.  How much traffic can there be?
  • Claire asks why Mrs. Pike needed to get a job, and she wonders why they need money when Santa’s the one who brings all the presents.  Mal just says they need money for other things.  Mary Anne’s thinking how Mallory must be thinking about the cost of her school, but I think Mallory was probably just saying what you say to kids who still believe in Santa Claus. If they had actually given us a Mallory book when she’s making a life altering decision, I would know for sure.  But whatever.  I’m not upset about that or anything.
  • Claudia’s on a kick where she makes clay beads and incorporates them into her clothes.  For instance: “The shirt she was wearing that day was one she had tie-dyed and then cut into fringe around the bottom.  At the end of each fringe was a polymer clay bead she’d made.”  I think I had a shirt with beaded fringe when I was little, but it wasn’t something I made. I want to say it had pictures of Cabbage Patch Kids on it.   But that sounds like a really weird shirt, so maybe I’m mixing up my memories.
  • Maybe I missed something, but why are 2 people needed for the Pikes again?  What happened to that whole thing about the Pikes not needing two sitters?  Did they undo that in another book?  Or are they just hoping we forget for plot purposes?
  • So, Jessi’s having a party because her friends from Dance NY are visiting.  Kristy’s all worried about sitting jobs that night, and the others are like, “we’ll make sure Logan and Shannon are free that night.”  But isn’t it kind of mean to call them and say, “Hey, can you cover for us while we all have a party without you.”  I know Logan wouldn’t go to a slumber party, but it still seems rude.
  • When they first mentioned the sleepover, I was thinking, how it’s so convenient that there are never baby-sitting jobs when big events/celebrations occur.  But then Kristy brought it up, so I guess I can’t really complain about that.
  • Nicky gets Ranger Rick magazine in the mail.  I remember my aunt used to give me and all my cousins subscriptions to this for Christmas.  My brother and I got one we were supposed to share, but I didn’t read it that much.   Then she finally asked if people cared about it and stopped giving it out.
  • Claire gets something called Ladybug Magazine, does anyone know if that’s a real one too?  I got a couple kid magazines when I was younger, but don’t remember one called Lady Bug.  But the Ranger Rick reference was real, so maybe this one was too.
  • There’s an awkward moment when Jessi overhears one of her dance friends telling Mal that Jessi will get over her moving.
  • Mallory seems surprised that her siblings are upset with the idea of her leaving home.  Which is kind of sad if you think about it.
  • When Jessi and Mal are fighting, I wanted Jessi to tell Mallory how she turned down a chance to leave home with the Dance NY thing.  I’m not saying Mallory should have based her decision on what Jessi did, but it would have been interesting to see it come out.
  • Mary Anne and Mallory keep leaving school and walking to the elementary school to pick up the younger Pikes and walk home with them.  But I don’t get this….don’t the kids normally walk home on their own?
  • When they make holiday decorations, of course they are all politically correct and make decorations for Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, and the Winter Solstice.  I was expecting the first three, but the Winter Solstice?  Seriously?
  • I get diversity, but it seems kind of weird to show up for a sitting job at someone’s house, and tell the kids they have to make decorations for a holiday they don’t celebrate.  There’s got to be a better way to do it.
  • When Mal and Jessi went on their joint job, who did they think they were going to be sitting with? I know Mary Anne could easily just have said it was going to be her, but I wish they had just told us the lie that was used.  Especially since Mary Anne’s such a crappy liar.
  • If you care, Mallory’s reasons for wanting to go to school are partially because of the Spaz Girl thing, but also because it’s a chance to be herself and not just “one of the Pike kids.”  She thinks she’ll find out who she is. It’s also a good writing school.
  • One part of We Love Mallory Day’s a stop to see Henrietta Hayes, that writer Mal sort of worked for.  Henrietta gives Ma some kind of young author award, but I think it’s something she just made up. But I don’t get why they brought her back.  It’s not like we’ve seen Henrietta’s the past 40+ books.
  • Ben Hobart does pop up in this one.  I guess he and Mallory hadn't talked a lot recently, but they do see each other in this one, and he gets to be a supportive friend. Which is nice, because he's a character that was around for a while and deserves some closure.  Unlike the random writer person.
  • When talking about who to replace Mallory with, someone suggests Erica Blumberg, but the other girls shoot this down.  Claudia says she acts like she knows everything.  But isn’t Erica the one who called Claudia when she realized something was happening with the child abuse guy?  You think Claud would give her some credit.
  • For the record, the BSC decides they just won’t replace Mallory at all, which has to kind of sting for her.
  • This is kind of random, but after a BSC meeting, Mary Anne mentions that Mallory leaves Claud’s room, then stops to get her coat out of the front hall closet.  So do these girls really hang their coats up there for every meeting?  I always pictured them piled in a corner of Claudia’s room. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

“I also knew this wasn’t exactly a happy ending”…….BSC # 117: Claudia and the Terrible Truth

Memory Reaction
I didn’t read this one until now.

Revisited Reaction
Okay, so, this is a “very special episode” book.  The BSC has these new clients, the Nicholls, who have two little boys (5 and 7).  Claudia becomes their regular sitter, because apparently, sometime after I stopped reading, the BSC changed their policy about that being an issue or causing fights.
Anyway, the boys, Nate and Joey, are really sweet.  But Claudia notices that they’re nervous all the time, like they think they’re going to get into trouble about the smallest thing.  They’re even scared to go play in their next-door neighbor’s yard because their dad didn’t give specific permission.  At first, Claudia thinks they had a bad experience with a past baby-sitter. Cause baby-sitters have such a huge impact on kids lives, I guess.Then Claudia notices that Mr. Nicholls is super strict.  He yells loudly at the boys because a jar of peanut butter was left on the counter.  Claudia explains she left it there because she was in the middle of making a snack for the boys when he rang the doorbell (he forgot his key).  When he hears that, he puts on a fake smile and apologizes for yelling.  But Claud realizes that he’s the one Nate and Joey are scared of.
At one job, Claudia goes back to get her jacket after Mr. Nicholls pays her, and she overhears a loud slapping sound.  When she moves on to leave, she sees the boys crying, and notices that Joey’s cheek is red.  Mr. Nicholls acts like everything’s normal and offers her a ride home, but Claudia just leaves.  She calls an emergency BSC meeting and tells everyone what happened.  The girls have no idea what to do.  They aren’t even sure if there’s really a problem, because Claudia didn’t see anything.  And they note that some parents do spank their kids.  But Claud’s instincts tell her it’s something serious. So, they make the rare decision to talk to an adult.  They tell Mrs. Kishi, who actually works with Mrs. Nicholls.  Mrs. Kishi decides she will talk to Mrs. Nicholls first, but also calls a social worker she knows for advice.  At first, Mrs. Nicholls denies everything, but Mrs. Kishi decides to call the Department of Children’s Services.  Before we find out what happens with that, Mrs. Nicholls basically fires the BSC. 
Erica Blumberg gets hired as the replacement.  One day, she calls Claudia to say she’s sitting and that Mr. Nicholls told her the boys needed to stay in their rooms all day because they “misbehaved.”  But Erica heard them crying so she went up to see them and noticed they were both bruised, and she didn’t buy their story about a softball accident.  Claudia calls her mom, and I guess the news of actual bruising gets to Mrs. Nicholls because she and Mrs. Kishi head over to get the boys.  Claudia also bikes over there because she can’t stand not knowing what’s happening.  Of course, Mr. Nicholls has gotten home by this point and is pissed off, but Mrs. Kishi and Mrs. Nicholls get the boys in the car.  They temporarily take them and Claudia to Mr. Kishi’s office to regroup (they drop Erica off at home). Mrs. Nicholls agrees to go to the police, and takes the boys up to stay with her sister in New York.  And they obviously don’t live happily ever after, but the BSC and Erica talk with Mrs. Kishi to try and get some closure on the whole thing.
There’s this subplot about how the BSC’s entering a bunch of their clients in the town’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.  The kids all make Irish-themed cardboard cutouts to wear as sandwich boards/costumes and walk behind some of the floats.  The only entertaining part’s that Claudia couldn’t go to the costume making session (because she was dealing with the Nicholls), so all the costumes look horrible, and they end up putting signs on everyone saying what they’re supposed to be.

  • I know they liked to tackle some real issues in these books, but child abuse seems a bit over-the-top.  Because they obviously were trying not to make the situation to be as terrible as it could be, but still get a message across.  But it just seems weird to insert this story into what’s normally a very happy/fantasy town.
  • Claud’s Aunt Peaches and her husband are away, so babyLynn’s staying at the Kishi’s.  We get all sorts of scenes of Claudia cooing over the baby.  It’s actually a bit annoying in print, because we can’t see her.  I could handle it somewhat on TV, if they actually show a cute baby to go along with it.  Here, not so much.
  • Also, there aren’t any outfits in this book, and I’m thinking it’s because they gave the page space to baby descriptions.
  • Here’s some BSC timeline stuff:  Mary Anne’s dad was remarried “not long ago.”  And Abby moved to Stoneybrook “recently.”  But Lynn’s six months old.  I guess I could see “recently” being used to describe something less than a year ago, but WAY too much has happened since Mr. Spier got married to call it “not long ago.”
  • Claudia’s surprised that Mr. Nicholls remembers her name, because they only met once before.  But she says thinks this when she shows up to sit.  Wouldn’t he know the name of the person coming to watch his kids, even if he didn’t remember meeting her?  They always tell the parents who’s going to sit.
  • The Nicholls live next to the Stanton-Cha’s who are from that book with the secret society/country club.  Yay, for continuity.
  • They also mention Lou McNally, who’s from way back.  She’s apparently just moved back to town.  I’m guessing that’s continuity from this book, which I haven’t read yet.  But I just got a copy, so I will soon.  
  • If you’re wondering about Mr. Nicholls job and why he’s the one greeting Claudia all the time, Joey and Nate mention he’s going on interviews when Claudia’s sitting, so the assumption is he’s unemployed.
  • Claudia thinks it’s weird that the boys say they got in trouble for touching a briefcase.  Which, I agree with.  But that’s based on the word of a five-year-old.  Wouldn’t she consider that he lied about what happened?  I know he didn’t here, but she doesn’t know them that well.  Kids sometimes lie.
  • During the scene where Claud and her mom take Mrs. Nicholls, Nate, and Joey to Mr. Kishi’s office, all I can think about is who’s watching Lynn?  Which then made me wonder who was taking care of her all day when the Kishis were at school/work that week?
  • At the costume making session that Claud can’t attend, one of the kids wants to make a leprechaun.  So, Kristy asks who can draw one, and Mallory says she knows how to, but is too busy setting up the paint.  Wouldn’t it make sense for someone who can’t draw to switch jobs with Mal?
  • When talking about telling adults, Kristy says her mom’s good in emergencies, and Mary Anne says her dad can give good legal advice.  The way she phrased that seemed weird to me, Claudia doesn’t exactly need legal advice.  But it’s nice to see them going to their parents about stuff they can’t handle.
  • So, Mrs. Nicholls actually calls Kristy to cancel the sitting jobs.  Kristy figures she got her name/number off their posters.  But 1) why is Kristy’s number on fliers when they only want people to call Claud’s? And, 2) do these girls put their full names on posters that they just hang out in public?  Their parents are okay with that?
  • At the parade, the BSC entry walks behind a float with Miss Teenage Stoneybrook, Little Miss Connecticut, and a bunch of other pageant winners.  I guess Little Miss Connecticut’s the next step after Little Miss Stoneybrook?  Charlotte calls it a boring float, but it would have been nice if she also referenced her own pageant experience.
  • They invite Erica to a meeting to a BSC meeting where they talk about the whole Nicholls thing to get closure.  I like that Mrs. Kishi made a point of telling Erica to talk to her mother, and to get all the BSC members to talk about what happened.  Even though no one was as involved as Claudia was.  It’s like…actual parenting.
  • Of course, we hear on the last two pages that Mr. Nicholls admits everything he did and agrees to counseling. Which takes away from what I thought was going to be an optimistic, but ambiguous ending.