Saturday, June 22, 2013

“I don’t tell you who to date! Don’t tell me!":…………….BSC # 124: Stacey McGill…Matchmaker?

Memory Reaction
I didn’t read this as a kid.  I did read it a few years back, before I started this blog, but then I moved and lost access to the library that had BSC books.  I finally re-found it on ebay a few weeks ago. However, I really don’t remember what I thought of it then…just that Stacey seemed a bit too happy about seeing her mom date a client’s father.  My parents split up when I was about Stacey’s age, and while I was never upset about it and wanted them to both be happy, I didn’t really want to think about either of them dating. 

Revisited Reaction
The BSC has a new client, the Brookes.  Stacey has the first job for them and thinks the kids (Joni and Ewan) are adorable.  Her mom comes to pick her up at the end of the job, and meets the recently divorced father, John.  They kind of hit it off, and end up going out. 
Stacey's thrilled because she thinks the guy’s nice, cute, etc, and that her mom deserves to meet someone like that.  The problem's that Joni (age 9) and Ewan (age 5) are younger and are not thrilled with the idea, especially Joni.  They both want their mother to return - apparently she moved to Georgia to be a news anchor person because she thought her kids were holding her back career-wise.  But the kids don't know that part, so they think Mrs. McGill’s trying to replace her or something.
Anyway, Joni acts like a bratty 9-year-old and tries to wreck the relationship.  John's a writer who works from home, but uses a sitter so the kids don't bug him while he's writing.  She plays loud music, hides her father's computer mouse, and locks him outside so he can't meet his deadline, hoping that will get him to cancel his date.  It doesn't really work very well, and John just grounds her instead of talking to her about why she's upset (at least not that we see), and that makes her act out more.  Eventually, Claudia sits for the kids and manages to get Joni feeling better about the whole thing.  The Brookes spend Thanksgiving with Stacey and her mom, and it gets a bit rocky, but Stacey talks to Joni and makes her feel a little better about the whole situation.  And then Mrs. McGill dumps the guy.  Seriously.
Subplot:  Mallory hates school because kids ages 11-13 are assholes.  She wants to go to Stoneybrook Day, but it's too expensive, so she does some research and finds a boarding school where she thinks she can get a scholarship.  We know how all this turns out.

  • Stacey and her mom are having a book club and are reading Pride and Prejudice.  They end up talking about women marrying rich guys, and Stacey’s amazed when her mom tells her that there are women who think like that today.  Which….seriously? I'm glad the idea never occurred to Stacey, but I'm surprised that she was so surprised by it.  Isn't she the sophisticated worldly one.
  • When Stacey and her mom are talking about the book, they get into a discussion about the McGill's divorce.  Mrs. McGill admits that she started to resent Mr. McGill's long hours after he quit being a public defender and became a corporate lawyer.  The work “didn't seem as important.”  And Stacey's all, "wasn't that judgmental of you?" which seems a bit harsh to me.  She probably said it nicer than how I'm envisioning it though.
  • Do people (who aren't on TV shows) easily switch from criminal to corporate law like that?
  • Also, (and this is kind of a low blow), Mrs. McGill never seemed to have a problem spending the money her husband made at that “less important” job.
  • Claudia outfit: “A pair of long shinny earrings dotted with small clay beads…a long beaded necklace…which had fallen beneath the bib of her tie-dyed overalls. (She’d dyed them herself)?”  Well, of course she dyed them herself.  Who the hell sells tie-dyed overalls?
  • I’m trying to remember…have we ever seen Mrs. McGill, or any other BSC parent picking their daughter up after a sitting job?  And actually coming to the house and ringing the doorbell?  There have been some times where the parent of the kids drives them home because it’s nighttime, but I don’t remember the sitters’ parents picking them up. It’s probably realistic, but it just seemed a bit contrived.
  • The Brookes want to watch a movie of Indian in the Cupboard, and Stacey tells us how it's a great book, but she hasn't seen the movie yet. This makes me feel old, because I read that book as a kid, and when the movie came out I couldn't remember the book because I'd read it so long ago.  And that was apparently forever ago too.
  • Just once, I'd like to see someone in the BSC reference a book that totally sucked.  And to tell us that.  Saying the Kishis don't like Nancy Drew doesn't count. Something like, "Vanessa was reading Twilight again. If you've never read it, you're lucky, it's really ridiculous and poorly written."  I get that Ann M. Martin was trying to encourage reading, but it gets a little annoying.  And I was a total book worm as a kid.
  • Although, it would be funny if one of the books with a positive reference was another one by Ann M. Martin.
  • At one of the first jobs, Stacey hears John using a typewriter, and is all shocked that he's using such an old fashioned device. She thought everyone used much more modern devices like electric typewriters and word processors.  For the record, he uses the typewriter when fleshing out ideas, he does the actual writing part on a computer. Which seems weird to me, but whatever.
  • Kristy gets upset that John calls for sitter outside of meeting hours.  He calls at 5:27 and 6:10.  Such a non-conformist.  The reason he has to do this is because his lateness is one of the things Mrs. McGill gets annoyed at later on.
  • Interestingly, when he calls at 6:10 everyone’is still there hanging out.  Convenient for the story, since I don't think they ever talk about staying at the meeting past 6:00.  Especially Kristy, who gets a ride. 
  • I appreciate the fact that they went to the trouble of setting up Mal's boarding school good-bye for a full three books.  She was around before even Dawn showed up, so her character deserved that.  I just feel bad that they had to make things so miserable for her.  She always hated her looks and a lot of the boys in her school, but she seemed pretty happy generally.
  • On Thanksgiving, Joni doesn't like the classical music that’s playing.  Mrs. McGill asks what she likes, and Joni asks for Hansen.  Wow, I'd forgotten about that band.  Stacey doesn't have any, if you care.  I guess she has some taste.
  • So, here are some of Mrs. McGill's reasons for ending things with John: She reread some of his books and thinks she disagrees with some of his world views, he's too hard on his kids, he's always either late or early, and he didn’t offer to help with the dishes after Thanksgiving dinner.  She also thinks he’s self-centered and is annoyed that the day before Thanksgiving (when she's cooking), he shows up with a draft of his manuscript and asks her to read it (she says she doesn't need another thing to do).
  • I think it’s kind of weak that they had to paint Mrs. Brookes as a bad mother, who left her kids to further her career.
  • Stacey tries to convince her mom not to break up with the guy right away (this is the day after Thanksgiving, but Mrs. McGill says she's supposed to go out with him the next day and can't do that knowing she's going to dump the guy.  They get into a bit of a fight about it.
  • After the break up, Stacey goes to visit the Brookes, because she had gotten them gifts when visiting her dad in the city.  John’s all surprised to see her, but lets her in.  The kids are upset because they feel like Mrs. McGill dumped him because they were acting up.  Stacey convinces them this isn't the case and says she's still be there for him.  She adds that they can be "honorary siblings."  Which is nice, I guess, but it seems a bit disloyal to her "almost-sister" Charlotte Johanssen.
  • So, do you think the Brookes kept the BSC as their sitter?

Final note:  So, the only book from the original series I have left to recap is the final book in the series, The Fire at Mary Anne's house.  That will be posted next.  But I have decided to also write up the Friends Forever books, and even managed to order all of them from Amazon.  So, expect to see that shortly.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

“Sometimes Christmas wishes take awhile to come true”…….BSC Secret Santa

I didn't read this one as a kid, but it’s pretty much the same idea as that chain letter book. In this one, it’s Christmastime and the BSC’s doing a Secret Santa instead of regularly exchanging gifts.  They each wrote down their Christmas wish and then picked them out of a hat to see who’d grant each one.   We find out who wished for what and who grants it (and how) through a series of letters between the girls (and Logan).
The club also decided they don’t do enough volunteer work, and arranged to work with an organization where they respond to a kids’ letters to Santa, and give a gift to a child who’s family’s having trouble.
  • Mallory wishes to be remembered forever and Logan grants it by planting a tree in her name by the middle school, with a plaque in her name.  I think it’s a pretty appropriate gift for such a wish. 
  • Jessi wishes to dance in the NYC Ballet and Shannon has a fake program printed with her picture on it.  And she says Jessi probably really will do it someday.  Again, a nice way to respond to a wish she can’t really do anything about.
  • Logan wishes for three more wishes (smart ass), and Stacey gives him a 4 leaf clover, a penny, and a wishbone.  That’s probably the best way to grant that wish if you’re not actually some kind of genie.  But this one made me laugh because when I was six I wished for three more wishes when I blew out the candles on my birthday cake.  Then I forgot about them for months.  I can’t remember if I actually made other wishes when I did remember though.
  • Mary Anne wishes that Cam Geary would write her a “real” note, not a form letter.  Dawn writes to him a couple of times with a blank card and pre-addressed envelope and he actually signs it and sends it back. Along with a personal note. I assume I don’t have to say how ridiculous this is.  Cam’s supposed to be super-famous right? You’d have to write a lot more than two letters to get a handwritten response like that.  And it would probably require a lot more lead time than what’s implied in this book.  Or else end with a restraining order.
  • Shannon wishes for a better sense of humor and Jessi gives her a joke book and some tricks/prank stuff. 
  • Stacey wishes she could be in NYC at Christmas time, so Claud arranges to paint a mural of it in her bedroom.  I hope she’s painting this on paper and not actually on the wall, because seeing a Christmas-y NYC in July would probably get annoying.
  • Dawn wishes her CA friends and her CT friends could be better friends (this is during her first stay in CA), so Kristy makes her a scrapbook that includes stuff from Sunny (she and Kristy worked together).  What would actually work better would be if her CA friends made a book for the BSC and vice versa.  That way they would get to know each other.  But it’s still a nice gesture.
  • Kristy wishes she didn't have such a big mouth.  Mary Anne thinks she can’t really do anything about this, so she decides to do something else.  She writes a letter to Kristy’s father telling him how much it would mean to Kristy to get a card from him. Kristy apparently sends one to him every year.  And her dad does, and includes a note that he loves her.  It probably wouldn’t mean as much to Kristy if she knew he had to be prompted to do it.  But whatever.
  • Claudia wishes she could do something meaningful for someone, and Mallory writes her a letter saying Claud granted it for herself, because of the whole charity subplot.  Which brings me to……

The letter from Eliza, the girl who’s letter they’re answering, says she wants a book and a doll, but also says how she wishes she could see her sister who ran away last year.  The BSC write to the girl’s parents because they want to return a friendship necklace Eliza included in the note, and get a reply that says the sister is actually living with a relative.
Claudia tracks them down and the family ends up reuniting for Christmas.  Just for Christmas dinner, the sister doesn't move back home.  It’s pretty sweet I think, but definitely pretty tame.  In most cases a story about a teenage runaway would be darker story with a less happy ending.  Also, we never find out why she ran away, which is really annoying.

Other Occurrences
  • Mary Anne seems to kind of miss the point of the whole wish granting thing.  Everyone else managed to find some way of symbolically granting wishes if they couldn't literally be done.  But she just totally ignored it.  At least be funny and buy her a muzzle or something.
  • We get to see Karen’s Christmas list.  Because you can’t have a book without a reference to Karen. We hear about her inviting her friend Nancy (who’s Jewish) over for Xmas dinner.  I know there was one Little Sister book where this happened, but I couldn't figure out if it came out the same year as this one.  At least not easily.
  • Jessi thinks Stacey’s awesome.  Seriously, she sends her a letter/Christmas card where we hear that Becca’s on the verge of not believing in Santa Claus.  It’s kind of boring.  But at the end she adds this whole paragraph about how she thinks Stacey’s smart and terrific, and that she’s proud of how responsible Stacey is about her diabetes. It’s really random.
  • Claire writes to Santa asking if he stops at McDonalds during his Christmas Eve run and to ask where the reindeer go to the bathroom.  I guess this was supposed to be comic relief?
  • In the Chain Letter book, it made sense that the girls wrote letters to each other because they were all out-of-town.  But in this one everyone except Dawn is in Stoneybrook.  So it seems weird that they’re communicating via letters.  I guess some of them are Christmas cards with long notes, but it still seems odd.
  • I want to say Mallory was sort of lame for not doing anything except telling Claudia she made her wish come true on her own, but she’s kind of right.
  • One of the cards had all this green and red confetti in it, and now it’s all over my couch.
  • When I was a teenager, my friends and I did Secret Santa gifts as well, but we didn't write down wishes or anything. We just gave gifts we thought the person would like.  The wish thing’s a lot more challenging, especially considering the type of wishes they all made.  I mean, wishing to dance in the NY Ballet and personal letters from Cam Geary?  It makes a more interesting story though.