Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Logan Bruno, Boy Baby-sitter


Logan is still being made fun of by some of his track teammates for being a sitter, so when members of the kiddie gang the Badd Boyz start to pay attention to him, he's kind of excited. These guys couldn't be more stereotypical if they tried: they're not the smartest cookies in the jar, they wear leather jackets, they keep cigarette packs in their rolled up sleeves, and they like to work on cars. Clarence King and some of the other track guys are scared of them, and tend to leave Logan alone if the Boyz are around.

First, one of the boys (he calls himself "T-Jam") compliments Logan on his understanding of Julius Caesar, and hints that he needs tutoring. What does Logan do? He gives T-Jam his homework and says that they can discuss it later. If Logan doesn't honestly think that his homework is going to be copied, he needs help. Next, the Boyz invite Logan to have lunch with them. He's amazed when they go outside to the parking lot for lunch (this isn't allowed at SMS), and even more amazed when some of the older gang members drive up with pizza for them. Oh, excuse me; "za." Logan gets a thrill out of being bad (Badd?) enough to eat lunch in the parking lot with a bunch of kids who smoke and think nothing of it.

That weekend, Logan meets up with his new friends at a strip mall downtown. He's supposed to buy a copy of the new Nicky Cash CD for Mary Anne at Sound Ideas, and the Boyz go with him. Logan knows the owner, and while they're talking, T-Jam manages to get an awful lot of information out of him about exactly when the next shipment of Nicky Cash CDs will be coming in. As they leave the store and meet up with the other Boyz, Logan starts to notice some odd behavior in his new friends: they run out of stores, hiding stuff they supposedly bought, and distracting sales clerks by pretending to be interested in stuff that Logan is fairly sure they don't care about. Then, he sees T-Jam open an unlocked car and steal some sunglasses. Logan calls him on it, and T-Jam actually returns the glasses. Things just get worse from there, though; Logan witnesses one of the Boyz stealing something from someone else's locker, and threatens to tell on them. They point out that if they go down, so will Logan; after all, he was in the main part of the school after hours, and there aren't any witnesses to prove that he wasn't breaking and entering, too.

That Saturday, the Boyz arrive during breakfast time at the Brunos' to get Logan. They head to Sound Ideas, to "watch" the shipment of Nicky Cash CDs arrive. While they're being unloaded, there's a commotion inside the store. Someone tried to steal a woman's purse, and even though they weren't successful, the culprit got away. As Logan and his friends leave to meet up with some of the older members of the Boyz, Logan notices something very interesting on the floor of their car: a box of Nicky Cash CD. The attempted purse-snatching had just been a ruse to distract everyone while the CDs were taken. Logan demands to be let out of the car, even though it's a long walk back to his house. He doesn't particularly want to spend another minute in the car with those guys, who he now knows were just using him. They warn him to keep quiet, and Logan is kind of in a panic. He wants to Boyz to pay for what they did, but he's afraid of getting in major trouble himself, since he was with them the whole time. The Boyz try to buy his silence with a leather jacket like theirs, and a pair of Nicky Cash tickets, but Logan wants none of it. Unfortunately, Mary Anne sees the tickets before Logan can give them back, and he doesn't think he can disappoint her.

When Logan and Mary Anne are eating dinner at Renwick's before the show, they get to talking about all the things that have gone missing from lockers at school. Mary Anne mentions that one of the items happens to be pair of Nicky Cash tickets, and that they went missing right when Logan found his pair in his locker. He comes clean to Mary Anne, and she's mad. It's not about missing the concert, though; it's the fact that Logan let himself be so taken in by the Badd Boyz. When Mr. Bruno comes to get them to take them into Stamford, they go back to the Brunos' house instead (they'd called the owner of the tickets and she came and picked them up). Logan tells his parents everything, and they call the police. The Boyz had another CD heist planned for that weekend, and when they try their old tricks, most of them end up arrested.

Rating: 2.5

Thoughts and Things
  • Lerangis described Mary Anne's concert outfit as "sexy." Gross.
  • The whole "bad kids using good kid for cover" plot is nicely reused during Stacey's "bad girls" phase. There's even a concert involved there, too.
  • I'm glad Logan only got two books of his own during the series; he's not that fascinating to read about.
  • Who in the world are those kids on the cover supposed to be? That scene doesn't happen in the book.
  • Nicky Cash is some sort of boy band offshoot. Remember back when the whole boy band phenomenon was ending and so many of the old members of those groups tried to solo? I think Justin Timberlake is really the only one who made it big. Well, Ronan Keating from Boyzone did, too, but that was mostly in Europe.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

SS #10 Sea City, Here We Come!


It's time for another trip to Sea City, and the whole club (minus Shannon) ends up there for one reason or another this time around. Here's the rundown:

Kristy has another big game with the Bashers planned before she takes off for the beach. The problem? A good chunk of her team is on vacation, so she's forced to recruit a bunch of new (and awful) players at the last minute to avoid forfeiting. It's no surprise that the Krushers lose spectacularly (34-1), but Kristy is actually kind of proud of her team for not giving up.

Claudia is taking a summer school math class. Am I the only one who's a little surprised that this is apparently the first time that she's had to go to summer school? Anyway, she ends up doing pretty well in the class. So well, in fact, that her new friends (that we never hear from again)start calling her "the smart one."

Jessi has been hired by the Pikes to be the second mother's helper (along with Mallory). She's determined to be Super Sitter, and she does a decent job of it. Too bad that being a Super Sitter leaves her so exhausted by the end of the trip that she's ready for another vacation!

Dawn runs a Mini Camp at her house with Mary Anne. they finish up camp with a sleepover in the barn, where Dawn tells a pretty decent ghost story about Jared Mullray's supposed fiancee. Then, she sits for Franklin DeWitt/Harris's kids when they come down to Sea City for the weekend to spend time with the Barretts, and stays on as a guest of the Pikes. She also puts up with a lot of crap from Stacey.

Mary Anne is also a guest of the Pikes. She's excited to spend time with Logan, who comes down with Franklin and the kids for the weekend. Logan is pretty aware of what went on between Mary Anne and Alex the last time they were in Sea City, and he's kind of nervous that they'll rekindle what little romance they had back then. As it turns out, Logan has nothing to worry about. So, in honor of Mary Anne's homecoming, he borrows a horse and carriage from a friend of his and drives Mary Anne back to her house from the Pikes'.

Mallory....oh, lord. Toby (as in, Stacey's 15-year-old ex boyfriend, Toby) starts paying attention to her, and even asks her out. She's flattered at first, but after calling Ben Hobart, she decides that he's the only one she wants to date for the time being.

Stacey is crabby and jealous that Toby likes Mal after dumping her during their last visit to Sea City, and she pretty much spends the whole trip being a little twit to everyone. She also feels a little strange being there as a mother's helper for the Barretts, not the Pikes, and has to deal with a stressed-out Mrs. Barrett, who's nervous about her first vacation as a single parent.

Bill is the hurricane that hits the east coast, causing damage in both Stoneybrook and Sea City. In fact, Sea City is evacuated, and since none of the Pikes, Barretts, or BSC members make it out before the causeway is under water, they hole up in the Sea City Elementary School gym for a night.

Rating: 3.5

Thoughts and Things
  • The Karen chapter was so totally unnecessary. Why, Lerangis, why???

  • I used to get irritated at Stacey's behavior in this book, but I'm a little more understanding than I used to be. After all, if an ex of mine starting trying to get with someone like Mallory, I'd be mad, too. Don't get me wrong, I normally like Mal, but let's face it; she's only 11, and she's not exactly a supermodel.

  • I don't think I need to dwell too much on the age difference between Mallory and Toby. What I'm REALLY surprised about is the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Pike were apparently totally fine with their 11 year old going out with a 15 year old! There's just something wrong with the whole situation, and if I were a parent, there's no way that would happen.

  • This book needed more Sea City and less random stuff (see first bullet point). 9 of the chapters didn't even take place in Sea City!

  • I wanted this Claudia outfit when I was younger: "...she was wearing ripped cut-off jeans held up by a frayed rope belt, a t-shirt with the collar torn off, huge white socks all bunched up around the ankle, and old-fashioned black lace-up shoes." Does Claudia only have one ankle?

  • Mallory was a really crummy sitter in this book. She was constantly leaving the kids alone or ignoring them to flirt with Toby, go off with her friends to complain about Stacey, and leaving them with other sitters (who were supposed to be on vacation) so she could go shopping for stuff for her big date. Once, near the end of the vacation, she even told Margo and Claire to go outside and play by themselves so she could sleep longer. Geez.

  • Someday, I'm going to have a Heath/Skor taste test.

Finally, I'd like to thank both Ali at Travel Rambling and Jannie at Fitzie's Soda Shoppe for giving me the Beautiful Blogger Award! I guess I'm supposed to pay it forward and give the award to some of my favorite blogs, but most of you have already been given this one. :) So, I guess I'll skip right to the 7 interesting facts about me:

  1. I have a sweet tooth that would rival Claudia's.
  2. I never learned to ride a bike.

  3. Until I went to London last March, I had never been off the west coast of North America.

  4. The first BSC book I ever read WAS the first BSC book: Kristy's Great Idea. For some reason, my grandmother had a copy of it and Phantom Phone Calls. I borrowed them and was hooked.

  5. When I was really little, I was scared of Jesus. No kidding. It was the idea that you had to die to meet Him that bothered me. He and I are on better terms now. ;)

  6. I can clearly remember things that happened when I was two.

  7. I never cook Pop Tarts.

Monday, December 28, 2009

M#9 Kristy and the Haunted Mansion


Kristy, Bart, and their combined Krashers softball team are on the way home from a game when a big storm hits. Charlie's driving them, and visibility isn't exactly ideal. He misses the turn to head back to Stoneybrook, and the crew finds themselves trapped on an unfamiliar road, between two washed-out bridges. There's a large, spooky, old house nearby, and Kristy and Charlie knock on the door to the caretaker's cottage to ask to use the phone. The old man that answers the door gives Kristy the creeps, and informs them that he doesn't have a telephone, and that the power's out. He agrees, though, to let them stay up at the house overnight, and gives them blankets, flashlights, and a little food.

The house turns out to be pretty cool. There's a lot of old-fashioned furniture, pictures, and even bells on the wall that were used to signal servants in the olden days. Kristy, Charlie, Bart, and the younger kids have a great time exploring the house, but they're a little creeped out by one thing: in spite of the fact that the house hasn't been lived in for a long time, there's no dust or mustiness anywhere. Everything is well kept up, as if people had been living there all along. Jackie Rodowsky, who heard a story about that particular house from Shea, is convinced tht it's haunted.

When Kristy takes Karen and Patty (a Basher) up to one of the bedrooms that had caught their attention earlier, they find a diary. It belonged to Dorothy Sawyer, who lived in the house until she was 18. The diary ends the day before she had planned to run away and marry a man that her father didn't approve of. Later, they find some newspaper articles that indicate that Dorothy never met up with her fiancee as she was supposed to, and was presumed drowned in a storm that blew up that same day. They also find pictures of Will Blackburn, the guy she was supposed to marry, and the kids think he looks awfully familiar....

The next day is clear and sunny. As the kids are preparing to go home, Buddy Barrett figures out who Will Blackburn reminds him of: the caretaker. Kristy approaches him and calls him Mr. Blackburn....yep, they're one and the same. He never really got over Dorothy's death, and it's comforting to him to keep the house (which he now owns) the way it was when she lived there. Kristy decides that he's not creepy after all; just kind of sad and lonely.

To celebrate Kristy's safe return, the BSC holds a slumber party at the Brewer mansion. Karen wanders in late that evening, and tells them she can't stop thinking about Dorothy. She'd nicked a picture of her from one of the photo albums they looked at, and Karen is convinced that Dorothy reminds her of someone she knows. The girls pass the picture around, and Mary Anne recognizes her as the woman that owns the sewing shop that she frequents. The next day, the BSC members (and Karen) go to the store to confirm her identity. She is indeed Dorothy Sawyer, and she faked her own death. As much as she loved Will, she knew she'd have the same overprotected life as his wife that she'd had as her father's daughter. Instead, she spent her life traveling and doing all the things she wanted to do, but she'd been lonely. Dorothy decides to pay Will a visit.

Rating: 2.5

Thoughts and Things
  • If I were Will and I got a visit from a woman who faked her own death to avoid marrying me, I'd shut the door in her face. That's just not nice.
  • Will calls telephones "contraptions," as if they're some new-fangled device that he couldn't possibly be expected to understand. The thing is, he would have been born in the mid 1910's, and phones were getting more and more common around that time. It's weird that he wouldn't have had one growing up, or that the Sawyers wouldn't have, since they seemed to be well-off.
  • This book was kind of light on plot, but I did enjoy reading about the house. Gotta love cool old houses!
  • I can't believe that Kristy just let the kids wander around the house, looking at things and poking their nose into someone else's stuff with hardly a mention as to whether or not it was okay.
  • I think I might have made my first mistake in terms of chronology. This book and #65 were published in the same month, but everyone is still in school in this one, and in #65, the school year is just about over. Ooops....

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

#65 Stacey's Big Crush


Stacey is sad when Mr. Zorzi, her math teacher, announces that he'll be turning over the class to a student teacher for the last few weeks of the school year. Stacey is sure the new guy (Mr. Welsey Ellenburg) will be total nerd. When she walks into class on Wes's first day, though, she's proven totally wrong. He's totally hot, and Stacey is madly in LUV from that moment on. She chooses her outfits based on what she thinks Wes would like most, takes more care than usual with her homework, and even volunteers to stay after school a couple of times to help him get things organized

Wes doesn't exactly do a whole lot to discourage Stacey. Once, he even gives her a ride to a BSC meeting after she's done helping him after school. Stacey is so convinced that he's in love with her that she writes this horribly awkward poem that compares the two of them to stars...AND THEN GIVES IT TO WES. He's uncomfortable about it, but Stacey still hasn't given up hope. A week later, just in case he didn't get the point of the poem, Stacey actually goes and tells him she loves him. He doesn't respond, and poor dillusional Stacey is crushed. He doesn't actually SAY anything to her about the situation until the spring dance. Wes is a chaperone, and Stacey dances with him (not smart, Wes!). When a slow song comes on, he tries to beg off, but Stacey insists. So, Wes pulls her to the side and tells her that there isn't a chance for a relationship between them. He lets her down as easily as possible, but Stacey is still disappointed...especially since she turned down a date with Sam Thomas with the hope that Wes would ask her to the dance.

Also, Charlotte Johanssen has her very first crush, and Dawn and Mary Anne are goat-sitting for little Elvira.

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things
  • Stacey says she puts jokes into her math homework so she won't seem like a dork. Heh.
  • Wes is 22....which seems really young to me now. Scary.
  • And the prize for the best name of a character that's mentioned only once is.....Diane Dumschat! (it's all in how you pronounce it, and yes, I'm 12)
  • Peter L. really nailed the whole 13 year old, crush on a teacher thing. That's even scarier that "old" Wes being 22.
  • If hoping that Stacey and Wes meet up as adults and end up together is wrong, then I don't want to be right. :)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

#64 Dawn's Family Feud


The Schafers and Spiers are busy getting ready for a week-long visit from Jeff. Things go pretty well at first; the family enjoys dinner at Casa Grande and a movie that, according to Dawn, was so bad it was good. Then, things start to fall apart; Richard is the only one at home with Jeff during the first part of the week, since Sharon has to work and the girls have to go to school, and he really wants to spend time with Jeff. The problem is that Jeff's idea of fun isn't exactly the same as Richard's, and Jeff ends up bored. In fact, he even pretends to be sick at one point so he won't have to be around Richard anymore. This offends Mary Anne, who gets all snippy about it, which in turns offends Dawn, who accuses Richard of ruining Jeff's vacation. By the time the family leaves on their weekend vacation, hardly any one in the family is speaking to each other.

When the Schafers and Spiers were still getting along, they voted to go to Boston (rather than Washington D.C. for their vacation. At the last minute, though, Jeff decides he'd prefer Washington. Since reservations had already been made for Boston, that's where the family goes. Jeff pouts the whole way there, and an increasingly bratty Mary Anne accuses him of screwing up her car game on purpose. When they get to the hotel, Mary Anne promptly moves from the room that the three kids are supposed to share into the room that Richard and Sharon got for themselves. Dawn and Jeff are totally fine with that. The family goes out to do some sightseeing (acompanied by more complaining by Jeff), and we get our own little tour of Boston.

The next day, the Schafers go whale watching, while the Spiers go to a couple of museums. Dawn notices that Richard seems sorry to have missed the whales, and that her mother wishes she could have seen the museums. Later that day, after Jeff throws a fit and won't go to the aquarium, Dawn and her mom have to miss out on it, too. All for one and one for all, I guess...

On the family's final day in Boston, Sharon and Richard lay down the law: no more fighting, but Jeff keeps on acting like the world's biggest brat. The morning after they get back, things really come to a head. They've hired a photographer to come take a family portrait, but the session doesn't exactly go well. Richard and Sharon can't agree about where to pose the family, and the kids are still fighting. When the photographer shows them some polaroids of them fighting, though, Dawn and Mary Anne realize how silly they were. The family apologizes just in time for Jeff's return flight. Oh, and they DO get their portrait.

The Schafers and Spiers aren't the only Stoneybrook family having issues; the Barretts are, too. Mrs. Barrett is getting pretty serious about Franklin DeWitt (this books mars his first appearance in the series), and both of them are eager for their kids to get along. They try really, really hard to impress each other, but it doesn't work. After everyone relaxes, things go much better.

Rating: 2

Thoughts and Things
  • Cover time; I'll start with the good things. Mary Anne's dress is really cute; I'd wear it. Sharon is also very pretty, but she looks more like imagine Maureen McGill would. Now, the bad; Dawn looks like a middle aged man who's just had his third face lift, and I don't like the way Richard is looking at her....
  • Like many of you, I find it hard to believe that studious Mary Anne would make it all the way to age 13 without knowing what the Boston Tea Party was all about. She grew up (mostly) in New England, for Pete's sake!
  • I find it very hard to believe that they were able to make reservations at a famous hotel in Boston at the last minute like that.
  • Speaking of that famous Boston hotel, if the Parker House Hotel is the Omni Parker House that I found on Google, they must have spent a FORTUNE. I'm pretty sure it's the same place; their website mentioned the Freedom Trail.
  • I want to go to Boston; I love history, and I wouldn't have minded Richard's lectures on what everything was all about at all!

Monday, December 21, 2009

M#8 Jessi and the Jewel Thieves


Jessi's off to New York with Stacey for the weekend, and she's really excited. Quint is dancing in his first major ballet as a Julliard student, and he wants Jessi there to cheer him on. She's happy at the idea of seeing him (and the rest of his family) again, but she's come to a big decision about her relationship with Quint: doing the long-distance thing when you're only 11 is probably a bit too much for her, and she just wants to be friends. She's kind of struggling with how to break the news to him, and isn't quite sure how she'll get the words out.

On Friday evening, right after arriving in New York, Jessi heads over to Quint's for dinner and a movie (starring Fred Astaire, of course). After the movie is over, Quint confesses that he's nervous about his performance. That's when Jessi decides to give Quint the boot after it's over; no sense in creating more drama than he needs ahead of time, right? Just as she's come to that conclusion, Jessi hears voices coming from a neighboring apartment building. Angry voices. Angry, fighting, voices. Quint and Jessi overhear two men arguing about what appears to be a jewel heist that they're planning. They try to keep a low profile, but when Quint's mom calls out to them and says that Jessi needs to head back to the McGills', the two men see them. Quint and Jessi are pretty freaked out at the idea that these apparent criminals now know their names and what they look like, but they know they can't go to the police; they have no proof!

The next morning, Jessi heads back over to Quint's. They overhear the two men (Red and Frank) arguing again, and decide to follow them. They trail them through Central Park, and all the way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They lose the criminals once they get there (they don't have any money for admission), but they see a banner announcing an upcoming exhibit of jewelry from the Russian Empire. Jessi and Quint wonder if those guys could actually, really, be planning to rob the museum. I'm thinking not...

Mr. McGill takes Stacey, Jessi, and Quint out to lunch, and when Jessi and Quint are given the chance to pick the restaurant, they pick the Palm Court, in the Plaza Hotel. This is because they'd heard Red and Frank discussing it on the way to the museum, and our little detectives are hoping to run into them there. No such luck; all that happens is that Stacey gets suspicious as to why Jessi seems so spacey.

That afternoon, Stacey and Jessi take Quint's younger brother and sister to the Central Park Zoo while his parents go out with friends, and while Quint himself in rehearsing for that night's performance. Jessi tells Stacey everything, and Stacey (the sophisitcated New Yorker) totally buys it. No skepticism or anything. Wow.

That night at the ballet, Jessi tries really hard to concentrate on the performance (which is realyl good). Her efforts are slightly complicated by the fact that she spots Red and Frank there, and comes to the conclusion that they followed her and Quint there, because they know the two kids have information that they shouldn't about their upcoming crime. The next morning, Jessi once again heads back to Quint's to try and crack this case. First, they go through the garbage, hoping to find some evidence. When that doesn't turn up anything (except probably some germs), they follow Red and Frank in a cab all the way to a fancy jewelry store. Jessi and Quint are shown the door not long after getting there, and head back to Quint's. Later on, they once again hear Red and Frank arguing next door. There's something funny about the fight this time; it's exactly the same one that Jessi and Quint heard the first time. Well, mostly the same. One of the guys switches a few words around, and then apologizes to the other for messing up his lines. The two guys are actors, not thieves. Jessi and Quint were completely fooled.

Jessi finally manages to have that talk with Quint just before she gets in a cab to go back to the McGills.' He's okay with just being friends. As a matter of fact, he'd also been trying to figure out a way to tell her that friendship would probably be better for them at that point. All's well that ends well.

Back in Stoneybrook, Becca Ramsey is having a rough time of it. Not only is Jessi out of town, but her parents and Aunt Cecelia are attending a wedding in Massachusetts. Even though children aren't invited, they're brining Squirt with them and leaving him with a baby-sitter at their hotel. Since the Johanssens are away as well, Becca is staying with the Pikes. She has a pretty hard time at first; she cries constantly, complains that no one loves her, and won't eat or play with the other kids. She ends up having such a good time by the end of the weekend, though, that she doesn't want to go home.

Rating: 2.5

Thoughts and Things

  • Becca's constant whining was really annoying, but she had a reason to complain. If her parents could bring Squirt and leave him at the hotel, why couldn't they just do the same for Becca? That way, she wouldn't have felt so left out and abandoned. It wasn't fair that she got left behind.

  • I don't hate this mystery as much as other people seem to. It's not so farfetched to imagine that the people around you are criminals when you're that young. My best friend and I were once convinced that her next door neighbor was a violent murderer. We even used to dare each other to run into his garage, touch the back wall, and run out again without being seen.

  • I wonder if Red and Frank are a couple? They apparently live together, spend all their time together going to the museum and the ballet, and like jewelry stores. Hmmm.....

  • Speaking Red and Frank at the ballet, they were there because Red's niece is in Quint's class, not because they were following anybody.

  • I wonder how Mr. McGill felt about paying for lunch at the Palm Court? I'm guessing that's not a particularly cheap restaurant...

Friday, December 18, 2009

#63 Claudia's Freind Friend

Shea Rodowsky has just been diagnosed with dyslexia, and he's having a hard time of it. He feels stupid, and the adults in his life aren't having much luck getting through to him. He never wants to do his homework, and he gets discouraged so easily, so Mrs. Rodowsky decides that he needs some extra help. Who does she turn to? The BSC...of course. At least she has good reason: she thinks Shea might respond better when someone closer to his age is helping him than when an adult is.

Mary Anne is the first one chosen to give Shea a tutoring session. He's reluctant to even start his homework, even with Mary Anne there, and he gets discouraged right off the bat when she points out some mistakes he's made in one of his assignments. Shea doesn't even seem to believe Mary Anne when she tells him that he did good work. Not a happy kid, that's for sure. Jackie and Archie aren't exactly their normal selves, either. Mary Anne catches them watching as she and Shea try to work, but they don't seem to have any particular reason for doing so. Mary Anne just chalks it up to them being jealous of all the attention that their brother is getting, and doesn't think much of it since they're staying out of trouble.

Claudia took herself out of the running as a possible tutor because she herself is barely passing English, but she does end up sitting for the Rodowskys several times. The first time, things go even worse, Shea-wise, than they did for Mary Anne. Claud doesn't technically need to help Shea with his homework, since she's sitting and not tutoring, but she tries anyway. She makes all the same comments and platitudes about his situation that everyone else has made, and which haven't helped, because she's too chicken to say what she really feels. That changes at her next sitting job; Shea is feeling dumb (as usual), but instead of just telling him that he's not, Claudia shares some of her own struggles with school. Shea's intrigued, and asks for Claudia's help with his spelling. She's a bit reluctant, seeing as spelling is not exactly her strong point, but she agrees. Claudia notices that Shea has made up all sorts of little tricks to help himself get by, and some of them are pretty smart. Then, Claudia turns the tables and asks Shea to help her. They end up making a pretty good team,and Shea even ends up requesting Claudia's help specifically.

One of the reasons that Claudia was the right person to help Shea was, of course, her own struggles with school and learning. As I mentioned, she's barely passing English. Her teacher has told her that is she doesn't get a good grade on an upcoming test, she'll definitely fail the class. Stacey agrees to tutor Claud, which Claud is happy about at first. That changes with their first session. Stacey is uber-serious, and treats Claudia like she's a child. Stacey even gives Claudia the assignment of keeping a journal, which she will then read and correct. Claud actually goes above and beyond that and keeps two of them: one boring one for Stacey to read, and one real one where she basically writes about how miserable she is being tutored by her. Claud gets more and more frustrated at her supposed best friend, until she finally blows up at Stacey. They stop speaking, and don't start again until Stacey accidentally reads Claudia's secret journal and realizes that she was being a complete tyrant.

The members of the BSC have also been getting mysterious notes. They're always left on Claudia's door while a club meeting is going on, they always say things like "you're the best." Each and every club member is sure (at first) that those notes are meant just for her, and are from a guy who's trying to get up the nerve to ask her to the upcoming Spring Dance at the Stoneybrook Community Center. Never mind the fact that the notes are always addressed to the ENTIRE BSC. They get one final note that's different from the others; it asks the BSC to appear at the Rosebud Cafe for a treat that weekend. By that time, the girls think that Cokie and Grace are responsible for the notes, and figure that they're in for more of a trick than a treat. The BSC members decide to fight fire with fire, and on the big day, they dress in their weirdest outfits and bring a bunch of joke stuff with them. Imagine their surprise when trhey arrive at the Road Spud to find not Cokie, Grace, and trickery, but a bunch of their sitting charges. They were the ones who had been sending the notes, and they really DID just want to give the BSC a treat. The mystery of Jackie and Archie's weird behavior is also solved: They weren't jealous of their brother. They were studying the BSC members so they could draw pictures of them. After a quick bathroom trip to try and make themselves look a little less odd, the BSC enjoys a nice afternoon with the kids.

Rating: 2

Thoughts and Things
  • So...who says the title exactly like it's written, by saying the word "friend" twice? I do!

  • This book felt like it was all subplot....

  • I can't believe that the Kishis let Claudia get away with being tutored by a friend without kicking up more of a fuss. I was a horrible math student in high school, and in danger of failing one year. I asked a friend of mine, who was EXCELLENT at math, to help me study, and my mom hit the roof. She calmed down when I ended up passing the class.

  • Man, these ghosties really can't make up their minds about exactly where Stacey and Sam are in their relationship. In this book, he's apparently reverted back to teasing her endlessly to prove he likes her. Geez.

  • This whole Shea plot was very reminiscient of the Buddy Barrett tutoring storyline from back in book #29. Nice recycling; Dawn would be proud!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

#62 Kristy and the Worst Kid Ever


The Papadakises have some news: they're going to be foster parents! Linny and Hannie are pretty excited, as are the baby-sitters. They're a little apprehensive, though, since they know that foster kids sometimes have serious issues that make them a little difficult. Kristy is watching as Lou (short for Louisa) arrives, and she can see, even from across the street, that Lou is going to be a little difficult. When Kristy and Mary Anne actually get to meet Lou, Kristy's initial impression of Lou is proven to be very, very right; she's sullen, rude, and won't play much with the other kids. Things get even worse when Mary Anne is next at the Brewer-Thomas house; she's baby sitting for the younger kids, and the Papdakises plus Lou are over as well. Lou makes it very clear that she has no use for all the rules at the Papdakis house, and that she does not intend to listen to Mary Anne any more than she has to. Lou even tries to get the other kids to leave the yard to go to the playground. Mary Anne totally loses her temper when she has to chase down Lou, and I don't blame her.

Kristy is the next lucky one that gets to experience the fury that is Lou McNally. She's sitting at the Papadakises one night, and Lou is every bit as difficult as she's been before. She only grudgingly lets Kristy check her homework (a Papadakis rule), and makes one rude comment after another when they're playing Monopoly. Then, when Kristy tries to connect with Lou at bedtime, Lou screams at the top of her lungs until Kristy leaves the room. Things really come to a head the morning after a BSC slumber party at Kristy's: she walks into the den and finds Lou holding Boo Boo in a pillowcase and trying to get Shannon to jump up at him. Next, Lou ties a blinfold around Shannon's eyes to see if she can find her toy without seeing it. Kristy (rightfully) lets Lou have it and lectures her on the proper treatment of animals, but it doesn't seem to have any effect on the little terror.

Kristy is baby-sitting at the Papadakises again one day when a call comes in from Lou's social worker. She's found an aunt and uncle, and Lou and her brother are going to live with them. When Lou gets the news, though, she goes ballistic. She trashes the Papadakis's house, trashes the playhouse that Karen, Hannie and Nancy had been working on over at Watson's, and then runs away. Kristy ends up finding her near the brook; Lou was upset about living with her aunt and uncle because she's convinced that her mother, who abandoned the family years before, will come back for her. Lou just didn't like the idea of living with anyone else.

Her aunt, uncle, and brother arrive not long afterwards. They're nice people, and Lou is thrilled to see her brother again. They also have a surprise for Lou; a new puppy! It looks like things might work out for them after all.

Subplot: SMS is having an auction to raise money for new computers. The BSC ends up donating a bunch of autographed celebrity memorabilia, including a jacket worn by Cam Geary himself. :)

Rating: 1.5

Thoughts and Things
  • I'm really surprised that Mary Anne didn't just keep that Cam Geary jacket for herself!
  • Let's take a look at the cover. This scene is supposed to be happening in the Brewer mansion, and (as EVERY SINGLE BOOK reminds up) Watson is very wealthy. Well, take a look at that tv. That's not exactly the tv of a wealthy person, is it? It looks like the old one from the 70's that was in my bedroom growing up.
  • I know I'm probably supposed to feel sorry for Lou, and that her issues stem from the rough life she's had, but I can't stand the kid, and I don't blame the BSC for feeling the same way. I mentally cheered every time one of the sitters lost her temper and really let Lou have it.
  • The girls are all excited that the Brewers/Thomases own a copy of The Wizard of Oz. That's....not that exciting. Pretty much everyone I know has a copy of that, especially families with kids.
  • Here's a Hannie quote: "This be a playhouse and a clubhouse." There must be a word missing somewhere in there, because that's pretty far off grammatically. Unless, of course, Hannie has suddenly become a pirate. :)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

M#7 Dawn and the Disappearing Dogs


When Dawn gets a last-minute weekend job at the Mancusis' place, she's...not exactly thrilled. Unlike Kristy and Mary Anne, Dawn doesn't exactly LOVE animals, and she doesn't quite get why people feel the need to talk to their pets and treat them like little people. She ends up enjoying her time at the "zoo" more than she thought, in spite of the creepy car that was following her when she walked the dogs. Then, Sunday happens. Dawn's feeding and caring for the other animals when she notices that Cheryl (the Great Dane) needs to go outside rather badly. Dawn takes the dog and clips her to the secure lead that the Mancusis keep in the front yard. She finishes up all the inside animal chores, and then gets the other two dogs ready for their walk. When she heads out to the yard...NO CHERYL. She's just gone. The chain isn't broken, so Dawn figures that someone let her off of it as a prank. She and the other members of the BSC (plus some sitting charges) look for Cheryl for the entire morning, with no luck. Dawn feels horrible, even though the Mancusis are nice about the whole thing when they get home and hear the news.

Not long after Cheryl's disappearance, the BSC is getting ready for another meeting. There's one big problem, though: Kristy's not there. When 5:30 comes and goes without any sign of Madame President, the club is all set to tease her for being late when she finally DOES show up. As soon as Kristy makes it to Claudia's, though, the rest of the club sees that she's obviously upset about something. Shannon (dog, not human) has gone missing in exactly the same way that Cheryl did: David Michael had clipped her to her lead in the yard, gone inside for a toy, and come back out to find her gone. The club decides to make "lost dog" fliers for both Shannon and Cheryl, in the hope that someone will know where they are.

That evening, Dawn is relaxing with the paper when she comes across a very interesting article. There's been a rash of missing dog cases in Stoneybrook as well as some other nearby towns, and the police think a professional dog theft ring might be at work. That's when Dawn remembers the spooky car that followed her when she was out with the Mancusis' dogs. Could the thieves have been driving? The club decides to look for the car and try and get a license number, but their first day of searching isn't successful. On day # 2, Kristy and Dawn hit the jackpot. They take the license number down the police station, but (big surprise) the officer on duty doesn't take Dawn all that seriously. She forces the plate number on him anyway, and when she hasn't heard from the police by the next evening, Dawn figures that someone in her family just missed the call. Dawn, Mary Anne, and Kristy go back to the police station the next day to ask about the license number in person, but as it turns out, the car belongs to Karl Tate. He's one of the richest businessmen in town, so the girls don't think that it's likely that he has anything to do with the dog thefts.

On the way home, Mary Anne wants to stop at this new pet store to get something for Tigger. While they're at the store, they notice Karl Tate in the back office, arguing with the store's owners. Dawn is sure then that Tate is responsible, but doesn't know how to prove it. So, the BSC decides to put him under surveillance. Just like before, day #1 doesn't yield any results, but day #2 does. Dawn, Kristy, and Mary Anne go back to the pet store, because Dawn wants to get a better idea of how they operate. She's done her research on dogs, and once she gets a good look at what the store DOES have in terms of breeds, she asks the owner for one they DON'T have in stock (a Saint Bernard, if you're curious). The salesperson, instead of reccommending a breeder or offering information about when they might be expected to have a Saint Bernard for sale, tells Dawn that they could probably get one for her if she could pay. The picture is starting to get just a little clearer to our intrepid detectives...

Meanwhile, Kristy and Bart have chosen some players for each of their respective teams to make a combined, all-star team called the Krashers. The Krashers are playing a team from New Hope, and Dawn decides to take a break from thinking about the dog thefts and just enjoy the game. That's all well and good, but then Dawn sees a woman (who is most definitely NOT Mrs. Mancusi) jog by with Cheryl. She sends Mary Anne off to tail her and stall her if possible while she calls the police. When the police show up, they question the woman. Her timeline for getting Cheryl definitely matches up with when she went missing form the Mancusis' yard, and she's more than happy to give her back. After the game, Mr. Pike takes Dawn and Mary Anne to the police station to check on the status of the case. As it turns out, Karl Tate WAS responsible for the thefts; he'd been losing a lot of money in real estate, so he came up with a bunch on money-making schemes. The pet store was his first "bite." They've tracked down most of the stolen dogs, including Shannon. Lots of happy reunions. :)

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things
  • I love dogs, but I've never been particulary fascinated by this book.
  • Kristy didn't give Dawn one single bit of trouble about taking a pet-sitting job...
  • I totally talk to pets....but I wouldn't force it on anyone else, like Mary Anne does with Tigger.
  • This is probably the last time in any of the mysteries that the police are justifiably skeptical about the crime-solving capabilities of a bunch of 13 and 11 year old girls.
  • The Krashers win their game, in case you were curious. :)

Monday, December 14, 2009

#61 Jessi and the Awful Secret


Jessi's ballet school is going to be offering a free 6 week long class for some of Stamford's underpriveleged kids. When Madame Noelle asks for volunteers to help teach, Jessi volunteers right away. To her surprise, so does Mary Bramstedt. Mary has always been a perfectionist when it comes to her dancing, and Jessi wonders why she would take time away from her own dancing to help the kids. She's looking forward to working with Mary, though, and getting to know her a little bit better.

The class is, at first, not what Jessi (or the other volunteers) expected. Madame Dupre (the teacher) doesn't make the class particularly structured, and one of the volunteers thinks it's because she doesn't care about disadvantaged/minority students. Jessi isn't so sure about that, but even she wonders why the class isn't a little bit more like ther structured lessons that she was taking at that age. Things get better (and more professional) after the first few classes. What isn't getting better is Mary's perfectionist nature, especially when it comes to her weight. Worrying about weight isn't unusual for dancers, but Jessi thinks Mary is taking it too far. One of the other girls in their class made a comment in passing about how Mary should lose a little weight to help her jump higher, and now that's all Mary seems to think about. Jessi sees her looking in the mirror far more than what's normal, and is pretty sure that Mary isn't doing it to admire herself. She also notices that Mary, who was already thin, is much thinner every time Jessi sees her. When the volunteers go out for burgers after class, Mary freaks out about the amount of calories in everything, only orders fries and a soda, and then doesn't eat or drink much of it. Then, Mary starts feeling weak and sick in class, and even collapses a few times. Jessi's more worried than ever.

At a club meeting, Jessi discusses Mary and her problem with the other members of the BSC. After consulting some of Janine's psychology books, the figure out that there's a good chance that Mary has anorexia. They encourage Jessi to talk to Mary and urge her to get help, but when Jessi tries to do so, Mary just bites her head off. Finally, Jessi goes to Madame Noelle for help. Madame had seen this sort of problem before, and had seen it coming in Mary. She and Jessi confront Mary together, and the Bramstedts get her some help. Jessi misses having Mary in class, and is especially sad that she doesn't come to the recital that the kids have at the end of their lessons. Scholarships (provided by Watson) are even awarded to two of the most promising students for their hard work, and Jessi wishes that Mary could have been there to see the progress they made.

The rest of the BSC is dealing with a little bit of a problem with Kristy. Shannon Kilbourne suddenly has a ton of time on her hands, and has been calling Kristy all the time to hang out. Kristy is pretty busy and feels bad that she has to say no all the time, and encourages Shannon to get together with the other BSC members. She does that, and Kristy feels jealous and left out. She even feels that the club is trying to "replace" her with Shannon in terms of friendship. Not so; there's only one Kristy. :)

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things

  • I like that Mary's anorexia wasn't "cured" by the end of the book. Leaving it open-ended like that was probably more true to life than having her get fixed in 140 pages.

  • So Watson and Elizabeth met at work? This is the first book that's really addressed how they got together, I think.

  • Mmmmmm....Burger King!

  • Quint writes Jessi a very intelligent letter about Mary's problem, considering the fact that he's an 11 YEAR OLD BOY!

  • The status of Sam and Stacey's relationship keeps changing. First, they're hot and heavy at Shadow Lake. Then, they're still kind of dancingt around each other and trying to figure things out. Then, they're dating fairly seriously in SS#9 and the last book I recapped. In this one, though, they're back at the "early stage" again. Make up your minds, ghosties!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

#60 Mary Anne's Makeover


Mary Anne is looking through some fashion magazines at a BSC meeting, and she spots some outfits (and a haircut) that she likes. When she mentions it to the other club members, they laugh at her and tell her that those things just aren't "her." Mary Anne is kind of upset by that; what right do her friends have to decide what good for her and what isn't? After stewing over the club member's comments for most of the evening, Mary Anne decides to go ahead and get that haircut. New year, new look. She looks through her own personal stash of fashion magazines, and finds a similar cut to the one she saw at Claudia's. With trepidation, Mary Anne takes the picture down to her dad to ask his permission to get her hair cut. To her surprise, Richard is all for it. He even suggests that they make a day of it, and head out to the mall together that weekend. Mary Anne asks him to keep their plans a secret from Sharon and Dawn, so she can surprise them.

The Big Day arrives. Mary Anne asks for Stacey's favorite stylist, who happens to be free. She has a brief bout of cold feet, but sucks it up and ges through with the cut. When it's all over, Mary Anne is thrilled with her new look, and so is her dad. They're walking through the mall when they pass a new beauty supply store that's offering free makeovers in honor of their grand opening. Mary Anne lets the makeup artists work on her, and looks about 17 years old (as she says) when they're finished. Richard actually buys her some of the makeup to go with her new haircut. Next is lunch at Casa Grande while listening to a jazz group perform (this is the famous "eh-eh" scene, where they make fun of the grunting drummer). Mary Anne is about ready to head home, but Richard suggests they visit Steven E, a VERY expensive boutique that they'd passed on the way in. There's a big sale going on, so Richard agrees to buy Mary Anne some things if she pays him back half at some point.

When Richard and Mary Anne get home, Dawn and Sharon are pretty surprised to see Mary Anne's new look. Sharon recovers pretty quickly and is completely in favor of everything, but Dawn is pretty cold and snide. She asks Mary Anne if she got her hair cut at Gloriana's (the awful place that gave Karen Brewer a mullet), and she doesn't have a single nice thing to say about the makeover. In fact, she doesn't have much to say at all, which makes Mary Anne feel like she did something wrong. She gives Logan a call, wanting to surprise him with her new look, but Dawn spills the beans when she "accidentally" picks up the extension. He ends up loving her new look, though, when he gets to see it the next day.

Mary Anne is pretty nervous for her big reveal that Monday. She didn't have to be; lots of people (Cokie Mason included!) give her compliments. The only ones who don't seem to like the way she looks are the other members of the BSC. They all say "comforting" things about how her hair will grow out, and remind her that they said the cut wasn't right for her. Claudia even scolds her for going to the salon without them. After that, Mary Anne decides she can't face that afternoon's club meeting alone, and recruits Logan to go with her. In fact, she makes him go to the next few club meetings with her, since he's still the only one of her friends who's being at all nice about her new look. Eventually, Mary Anne just decides not to go to another meeting until someone, anyone, from the club says something nice to her.

Even though her new look is causing some problems with her old friends, Mary Anne is making some new ones. A whole slew of popular girls who had previously ignored her are all of a sudden paying attention to her, causing Mary Anne to think that Maybe the BSC members were the snobby ones, for turning their noses up at those girls because of the way they look and dress. THANK YOU, Mary Anne, for actually aknowledging the BSC's tendency to shut out anyone who's not one of them!!! There are also all sorts of rumors going around about Mary Anne and some high school guy who's supposedly in love with her, none of which are true. Logan, unfortunately, believes them, and has to call Mary Anne up to ask if she still wants to go to the upcoming January Jambouree with him. She sets him straight pretty quick, and he encourages her to talk to her so-called new friends and set them straight, too.

Mary Anne finally decides that enough is enough, and tries to talk things out with Dawn. She apologizes for spending so much time with Logan and ignoring the BSC, in spite of the fact that she only did that because the BSC had been so awful to her. Dawn apologizes as well, and admits that she felt a little left out and jealous that Mary Anne had this father-daughter day without including her. At the next BSC meeting, Mary Anne makes up with the other club members as well.

Subplot: Carolyn Arnold is building a time machine which she is awfully convinced will actually work. She even goes so far as to charge kids for flights, but on the big day, she chickens out and admits that it probably won't work after all.

Rating: 4.5

Thoughts and Things

  • I used to be 100% on Team Mary Anne in this book, but she was actually kind of annoying. She kept whining about how none of her friends were saying nice things to her, and then refused to see them until they did. Don't get me wrong; I still think the BSC was horrible to her, and Mary Anne should NEVER have been the first one to apologize. I just happened to find MA a tiny bit more annoying than I did in previous readings of this book.

  • Inconsistency alert! When Jessi is discussing time travel with the Arnold girls, they each pick a time they'd like to visit. Jessi says she wants to go to Paris in the early 1900's, to see a famous ballet dancer perform. Then, when the machine is ready, it's MARILYN who's sent to 1900.

  • There's a lot of good eating in this book: the Schafers and Spiers eat Chinese, Mexican, and Thai food at different times, and it ALWAYS makes me hungry. The funny thing is, out of those three, I really only like Mexican.

  • Peter L. did a pretty good job of toning down his...Lerangisness for this book. That was probably wise, because his normal style doesn't really fit Mary Anne's personality.

  • The Richard/Mary Anne mall trip is probably my favorite in the series. I think I might have said that before about another mall trip in another book, but if I did, it's only because I forgot about this one. Love the bonding!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

SS#9 Starring the Baby-sitters Club!


SMS is going to be doing a production of Peter Pan. Oh, excuse's not a production; it's a MUSICAL EXTRAVAGANZA!!!!!! All elementary, middle, and high school students will be invited to try out, and the BSC members (well, most of them) are excited.

Jessi has just been named the 6th grade correspondent for the school newspaper. When she finds out about the auditions, she convinces Emily Berenstein (editor of the paper) to let her write an article from an insider's perspective. Jessi is not only sure that she'll get a part, but is also convinced that her dance experience makes her a shoe-in for the role of Peter Pan. She goes around telling everyone who will listen that she's going to be playing the lead, and needless to say, is not thrilled when she only gets cast as a pirate. The fact that Kristy does get cast as Peter makes it even worse. Jessi tells Mr. Cheney (he's directing the play) that she doesn't want some silly pirate role, and he asks her to stay on and help choreograph dances for the younger children. She agrees, but she keeps expecting that she'll somehow wind up playing Peter Pan anyway. She also gets sort of inflated with a sense of her own importance to the production, and thinks she should be credited as assistant producer. When Jessi checks her credit in the program before it goes to press and sees that she's only listed as the assistant choreographer, she just crosses her name off the list. Mr. Cheney catches her doing it, and she doesn't really have much to say for herself. He tries (again) to explain to her that he gave the part of Peter to a less experienced student because Jessi has already had so many chances to perform. It's also implied that her singing and acting aren't anything to write home about... Anyway, Jessi ends up feeling bad about her attitude, and apologizes to her friends. She regrets not accepting the role of a pirate, but ends up getting to be in the play anyway. Pete Black, who's supposed to be playing Nana and the crocodile, breaks his nose on opening night and can't be in the play, so Jessi takes over his roles.

Kristy had her heart set on playing Nana and the crocodile, and is kind of shocked when she gets cast as Peter Pan. She has a lot of trouble learning her lines, especially since Dawn keeps changing hers, and keeps having to deal with Cokie. Kristy manages to turn out a pretty good performance in the end, though.

Dawn auditions for the part of Tiger Lily. Apparently, she's been hiding her talent for ages, because all of her friends are surprised at how good she is. She's so good, in fact, that she gets cast as Wendy. As rehearsals progress, Dawn decides that Peter Pan is too sexist, and that she needs to change her lines to make it a little more up-to-date. She's got Peter sewing on his own shadow, and Wendy going to Neverland to give the Lost Boys cooking lessons. Good gravy. Dawn eventually gets her act together, though, (pun kind of intended), and realizes that fairy tales are fairy tales, and that kids can learn about women's rights from some other source.

Stacey auditions wanting any little part, and ends up playing Mrs. Darling opposite Sam. Sam has been getting some flak from his friends at school for dating an 8th grader, so he decides he needs to show them how much fun he and Stacey have together. He reverts back to his Shadow Lake goofy behavior, and Stacey doesn't quite know what to think about it. Eventually, she gets sick of it and kind of blows up at Sam. They talk things out, and that's that. :)

Cokie Mason gets the part of Tiger Lily, and sets up her own dressing room in a mop closet. She also continues to harass the BSC. Same old, same old.

Mary Anne wants nothing to do with the play at first, but ends up agreeing to be the "backstage baby-sitter." For the second Super Special in a row, all she really gets to do is baby-sit. She also gets mad at Mallory when Mal tries to take over.

Speaking of Mallory, she's the apprentice costume designer. She thinks her job will be glamorous, but her first task is to take measurements from the cast members. Poor Mal is traumatized, because "cast members" equals "boys." Once the costumes arrive, she thinks her job is over and gets bored. That's what leads to her trying to take over as the backstage baby-sitter. It takes a wake-up call from Cokie Mason to get Mallory's head back in the game; costume pieces are getting lost and mixed up, and it's really up to Mal to make sure that doesn't happen.

Claudia is the set designer. She's intimidated at first; all she wanted to do was paint scenery. She also gets scared (mostly thanks to Cokie) that one of her backdrops is going to break loose and kill someone. That doesn't happen. :)

Jackie Rodowsky gets the part of Michael Darling. He's having a great time, except for two things: his costume is a nightgown, and he's terrified of the crocodile. Seriously; he screams whenever he sees it, and even throws foam rocks at it (and says "crocabunga") during their dress rehearsal. He kind of has to suck it up and deal with the whole nightgown thing, but he doesn't get over being afraid of the croc until Jessi takes on the role.

Logan is cast as a pirate....named Noodler. That fact embarrasses him to no end; he's afraid some of his sports teammates will find out and tease him about it. He also gets temporarily thrown out of the play for goofing around with his pirate cronies.

Rating: 5

Thoughts and Things

  • Jackie is 7...isn't that a little old to be so scared of a crocodile costume?

  • It wasn't that many books ago that Kristy said she'd die if she ever had to try out for anything. Funny how things change, isn't it? :)

  • I love that Stacey is the mature one in the Stacey/Sam relationship.

  • As ridiculous as Jessi was in this one, she had a point when she lit into the other club members for complaining about their roles in the play. After all, most of them WERE given better parts than they expected.

  • This just might be my most read Super Special. I was a wanna be drama geek when I was a kid, so something like this book happening to me was my fantasy. Sadly, all my school plays were musicals, and I can't sing worth beans. Being in a play is STILL on my bucket list, though. :)

  • So...if Peter Pan is wonderful and worthy of participation by the entire club, why is Mary Poppins "disgusting," as per #53? Both take place in England but involve trips to fantasy worlds, both involve a set of siblings and parents who are a little clueless, and both involve flying. Yep...they're SO different.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

M#6 The Mystery at Claudia's House


Claudia gets home from a sitting job one day notices something funny about her bedroom. It's messy, which isn't unusual, but it's a different mess than the one Claudia left earlier. Her closet is open, her makeup is rearranged, and the papers on her desk have been moved. Of course, Claudia jumps to the obvious conclusion that she's been robbed...even though the rest of the house looks normal. Nothing's missing, though, so she's stuck wondering: who's been in her room?

The situation with Claudia's room isn't the only strange thing that's going on in the Kishi house; one morning, Janine comes down for breakfast late because she was busy putting on makeup, and she comes home late for dinner a few times. She also wants to borrow Claudia's favorite red sweater, in spite of the fact that Janine isn't exactly a red sweater kind of person. Claud even catches Janine coming out of her (Claud's) room, and goes in to find things rearranged. That solves the mystery of who's been in Claudia's bedroom, but there's still no rhyme or reason as to why Janine is suddenly so interested in clothes and makeup. When Claud tells the club members about her sister's weird behavior, Mallory is the only one who comes up with a reasonable suggestion: maybe Janine hasa boyfriend. Instead of recognizing that this is more likely than Janine being in trouble with the law or something, the BSC laughs at Mal. That poor girl can't win, even in books narrated by other people....

Derek Masters is back in Stoneybrook for awhile, and is really into playing detective, so Claudia recruits him to help her figure out what's going on with Janine. They tail her over to SHS one day, and watch as she meets up with a (very cute) guy. Claud tells the BSC about him, and NO ONE considers the possibility that he and Janine are dating. Even Mallory, who made the suggestion before, is now sure that he's some kind of spy, and Janine is passing him the results of the chemistry experiments she's been working on in the lab. Sheesh. Anyway, Janine keeps lying about where she's going and showing up late for dinner, so Claudia and the Masters boys come up with another plan to get her to confess: they pretend that Derek has to set up a fake courtroom for school, and they need her help with the legal stuff. They talk on and on about how important telling the truth is, but DEREK is the one who ends up confessing: he's supposed to kiss a girl on his tv show, and he's nervous. He's never done that before, but he lied to all his friends and told them he had.

Claudia tails Janine again one afternoon, and sees her get into a car with the cute guy from before. Claud is actually getting pretty concerned, especially when she hears Janine lie to their parents about where she'd been that afternoon. Claudia thinks Janine might be in some sort of trouble, so she tells Mr. and Mrs. Kishi everything. They call a family meeting, and Janine makes her big confession: that guy IS her boyfriend. She'd been lying because she wanted to keep him to herself for awhile. She's pretty mad at Claudia, but they make up after Jerry (the boyfriend) comes over for dinner.

Rating: 2

Thoughts and Things
  • I can't believe that Derek and his friends (8 to 10 years old) are so obssessed with kissing. When I was that age, I still thought most boys were icky. At least they admitted in the end that they felt that way, too. 8 is too young for that sort of stuff....
  • Why in the world wouldn't Claudia assume that soemone in her family had searched her room right off the bat? Parents search their teenagers' rooms all the time, if they suspect drugs or rampant sexual activity.
  • This is the first mystery to have a cover that isn't blue. I like the purple!
  • Before reading this one, I kept thinking that this was the book where someone lights a fire in the Kishi's yard, but I guess that's a different one.
  • I don't really have that much to say about this one; it was really kind of boring.

Monday, December 7, 2009

#59 Mallory Hates Boys (and Gym)


Mallory's gym class is just about to start a volleyball unit. She's well aware of her lack of talent in all things sports, which makes the idea of volleyball pretty distasteful. To make matters even worse, Mal's class is going to be combining with a boys' gym class. Mallory is sure she'll end up humiliated, and...that's kind of what happens. She gets stepped on, yelled at, made fun of, and when the other team realizes that she's the weak link, they serve the ball to her every single time (and that's just the first class...). The next time that Mallory has gym, things are even worse. The teacher, Ms. Walden, keeps picking on her and correcting her game in front of the whole class, and she gets hit in the face with a volleyball. That's when Mal kind of loses it; she calls the guy who hit her an idiot, and yells at Ms. Walden for scolding her. Ms. Walden benches Mal for the rest of the class. Not the worst punishment for someone who hates volleyball, but whatever.

Mal gets to thinking, and she realizes that if she keeps getting herself benched, she'll never again have to embarrass herself by playing volleyball. So, the next time gym class rolls around, Mal benches herself. It gets her detention, but she doesn't care. The same thing happens again during the next class, and Mal kind of has to scramble to get the detention notices out of the mailbox. She's even forced to wash the nasty, sweaty pinnies that they have to wear during class, but that doesn't "inspire" her to go back to playing. Eventually, Mal doesn't make it to the mailbox in time to get one of her detention notices, and her mom finds it. There's no yelling or anything, but Mrs. Pike does make it clear that she doesn't want to see another one of the letters, ever again. When Mal goes to her next gym class, Ms. Walden offers her a deal. If Mallory tries her hardest to play, she'll ask the boys' gym teacher to talk to them about going a little easier on her. Mallory survives the rest of the volleyball unit, but is pretty happy when it's all over. They move on to archery, and Mal ends up being a natural at it. Ms. Walden encourages her to try out for the school team, and Mallory is one of the ten students who make it.

That takes care of the gym part of things: let's move onto boys, shall we? The BSC has been having a lot of trouble with some of their male charges. The girls are behaving well, but not the boys. Mallory is the first to notice it, and at first, the other members think she's crazy. Then, they realize that she might be onto something. Mallory even gets Ben to agree to switch brothers with her for the night, since she thinks the Hobarts are wonderful compared to the Pikes. She gets a big surprise when James, Mathew, and Johnny ends up being kind of difficult, but her own brothers give the Hobarts no trouble at all.

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things
  • Volleyball seems to be the universally traumatizing P.E. sport. My experiences with it were just as bad as Mal's, if not worse, and I know I'm not the only one. It's probably a good thing that I hadn't read this book back then; I would totally have pulled a Mallory and benched myself.
  • Ms. Walden was being a little dramatic when she told Mallory that quitting at volleyball would make her a quitter for life. Seriously....I highly doubt that would happen.
  • Normally, I can figure out who ghostwrote a book within the first few pages, but I never would have pegged this one as a Suzanne Weyn book. She tends to write in a more introspective, feminine style, and her plots involve more thinking and feeling than acting and doing. She tends to write Mary Anne very well. This book, though, has a lot more attitude than I'd expect from her, and a lot more boldness.
  • I got two bulls' eyes in archery at summer camp once. :)
  • Is it really common to have separate boys' and girls' gym classes? Mine were always mixed, from elementary school up through high school.

Friday, December 4, 2009

#58 Stacey's Choice


Stacey's dad has good news; he's being promoted to vice president at the company where he works, and they're throwing him a big dinner party to celebrate. He wants Stacey to be there with him, as his "date," and spend the rest of the weekend in New York. When she tells the club about it, they decide to schedule a shopping trip for that weekend to help her find the perfect outfit for the occasion. They find it at the ever popular Zingy's (which has, apparently, relocated from Washington Mall to downtown Stoneybrook), and celebrate with a trip to the Rosebud Cafe for ice cream and diet soda. When Stacey gets home, she notices that her mom seems awfully tired. She's actually seemed tired for awhile, but Stacey has just chalked it up to the pressures of being a single parent who's also looking for a job while doing temp work.

Two days later, Stacey is pulled out of class and told to collect all her stuff on the way to the office. When she gets there, the school secretary tells her that her mother collapsed during a job interview and was taken to the hospital. As soon as Mrs. Pike arrives to get Stacey, they're off to Stoneybrook General. Maureen is still in the emergency room, conscious but clearly not well. The doctors run some tests, and it turns out to be pneumonia. Luckily, Maureen doesn't need to be admitted, so Stacey and Mrs. Pike take her home.

The next day, Stacey stays home from school to take care of her mother. Since she realizes that staying home every day until Maureen is better won't be possible, Stacey recruits her neighbors to come in shifts to sit with her. She creates a chart, so Maureen won't be alone at any time. Stacey also begins to doubt that she should go to New York to be with her dad that weekend, and eventually decides to back out and stay in Stoneybrook. After all, her mom wouldn't go out of town if Stacey got sick, and Stacey feels obligated to return the favor, so to speak. Needless to say, Mr. McGill is pretty disappointed. Finally, though, Stacey decides on a compromise; she'll go to New York on Friday for the dinner, and come home Saturday morning rather than stay the whole weekend.

Friday arrives, and things don't exactly work out the way Stacey (or her dad) would have liked. Her train is late, and her cab gets stuck in traffic on the way to her dad's apartment. When they get there, she discovers that her outfit is wrinkled, and needs to be ironed. They're late for the dinner, and Stacey keeps ducking out to call her mom. Then, since she wants to catch a VERY early train the next morning, she makes her dad take her home before the dinner is over. Mrs. Pike picks Stacey up at the station, and it's pretty clear that she's not happy. When they get back to the McGills' Stacey sees why. There were some slight problems with scheduling people to sit with Maureen; double bookings, NO bookings, etc. Mr. McGill had even hired a nurse to care for her while Stacey was gone, which no one new about. A definite breakdown in communication. Stacey realizes that she shouldn't have tried to do everything, and shouldn't have tried to BE everything to both of her parents that weekend, because she ended up disapointing and/or inconveniencing everyone.

In the subplot, all the neighborhood kids are into ordering free (or very cheap) stuff from the backs of magazines and comic books. They love getting so much mail, but they realize pretty quickly that they wasted their money on a bunch of stuff they can't use. They decide to become traveling salespeople to try and unload some of their stuff, but no one wants to buy. Lots of adults are so impressed with the show they create as a sales pitch, though, that they give the kids money just for performing.

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things
  • This has to be one of my favorite subplots of all time. When I was a kid, I would have loved ordering random stuff and waiting for it to come in the mail. :)
  • Maureen should have just stood up to Stacey and told her to go to New York for the weekend. She tried, and maybe she was too weak to really force the issue, but it really wasn't Stacey's job to stay behind and play nurse.
  • I'm surprised that Stacey and Sam hadn't really been on more dates as of this book. They could barely stand to be apart from each other at the end of Baby-sitters at Shadow Lake.
  • This is the last regular series book that AMM wrote, but it isn't the last one she wrote in the series (until Friends Forever), like I thought. Starring the Baby-sitters Club! was published a few months after this one, and I don't see any ghostwriter listed...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

#57 Dawn Saves the Planet


Dawn is super excited when her science class starts studying ecology. She's always had a passion for the environment, and now is her big chance to show it. Each student is going to do a project on how they can help save the planet, and Dawn is chomping at the bit to get started. After a sitting job at the Barretts and seeing how into all things ecology they are, Dawn gets an idea. If the Barretts are so enthusiastic about the environment, other kids probably will be, too. Why not teach a class on things kids can do to help the earth? She realizes pretty quickly that she'll need help, so she recruits Stacey. Stacey has the same teacher as Dawn (she's in a different class, though) and likes Dawn's idea. They get approval from their teacher to work together, and get to work right away.

Their first step is to call potential students and see if they'll be interested. Good thing their first call is to Kristy, because Kristy's able to point out the fact that they'd settled practically NO details regarding when/where/how. They take a little time and figure those things out before making any more calls. When all that's done, they have thirteen students for their class. Things go well at first; both Stacey and Dawn are good teachers, and the kids are into it. Soon, though, things take an ugly, ugly turn. Dawn becomes a total Environment Nazi. She scolds Claudia for eating candy that comes individually wrapped and for throwing away an aluminum can. She points her finger at Mary Anne for only using one side of the paper in the club record book, and is annoyed when the rest of the club members don't seem to be quite as...ummm...enthusiastic as she is. Dawn doesn't just limit her her crusading to the BSC; oh, no. She complains about the Styrofoam used in school lunches (as containers, not food), and yells at poor Erica Blumberg for daring to throw away a can. Bascially, she manages to piss off all of SMS.

While all this is going on, Dawn gets another brilliant idea. The only recycling center is in downtown Stoneybrook, and it's not always convenient for kids to get there by themselves. So, she decides that SMS should be the town's new recycling center, and comes up with a proposal to make that happen. Mrs. Gonzalez (her science teacher) likes the idea, as does Mr. Kingbridge. They put the idea, and the nomination of chairperson for the project, to a schoolwide vote. The students overwhelmingly approve the idea of SMS hosting a recycling center, but when the chairperson is announced, Dawn is really surprised to hear that it's Mrs. Gonzalez, not her. What went wrong?

After school that day, Dawn overhears Cokie and Grace talking about her. Apparently, hardly anyone voted for her to be chairperson because they're all sick of her pushy attitude when it comes to recycling issues. That's kind of eye-opening for Dawn; she honestly had no idea people were so irritated by her behavior. When Opening Day for the new recycling center comes, Dawn doesn't even want to go. She does, though, but is pretty dismayed when all the credit for the idea goes to Mrs. Gonzalez. Even Mary Anne, who's been just as annoyed with Dawn as everyone else, is surprised that Dawn gets no acknowledgement at all. After all, the whole thing was Dawn's idea.

Even after Dawn's comeuppance at the hands of Cokie and Grace, and even after getting ignored at the opening of the recycling center, she's still acting like Little Miss Bossy. She and Stacey are capping off their class by holding a Green Fair, so their students can demonstrate what they've learned and sell things like bird feeders and buttons to raise money for an organization to be named later. Dawn tells (not asks, but TELLS) the other members of the BSC that she expects them to help promote the event, and to help run it when it happens. Too bad Dawn didn't think to check in advance, because not everyone is available to do her bidding. The other girls kind of blow up at her; Stacey has been frustrated for weeks because Dawn has totally taken over the class, and has had the nerve to accuse Stacey of not doing her share of the work. Kristy calls Dawn's behavior "obnoxious," and Claudia points out how bossy she's been. Dawn had no idea that her friends were so upset with her (in spite of the fact that all of SMS feels the same way), and she apologizes. Mrs. Gonzales even offers her the chance to co-chair the recycling program...after the students vote on it. Dawn figures she's sunk, since no one wanted her before. but Mrs. Gonzalez points out that she's changed, and things will probably be different this time. Oh, she also gives Dawn and Stacey and A on their project.

Rating: 0 (I really hate this book)

Thoughts and Things
  • I finally understand why this one is so universally was tough to get through, and I kind of wish I had that hour of my life back!
  • I kind of agree with Dawn that writing on only one side of the paper is wasteful. I don't agree with the way she scolded Mary Anne about it, though. If Dawn had pointed her finger at me and my club record book the way she did to Mary Anne, I would have pointed a different finger right back at her...
  • The Dawn/Stacey pairing was nice.
  • Having Styrofoam figure so prominently in this book was weird...I hardly ever see it anymore.
  • I totally remember the days before everyone had recycling pick-up at I really that old???
  • If there's anyone out there who actually LIKES this book, leave me a comment; I'd like to hear from you. I promise that no one will make fun of you; all opinions are welcome. :) I'm just curious since I've yet to meet any fan (or former fan) who has anything good to say about this one.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

M#5 Mary Anne and the Secret in the Attic


The kids at SES are busy working on projects for Heritage Day. Some deal with the history of Stoneybrook and settlement, but some deal with personal and/or family history. This gets Mary Anne thinking; she really doesn't know much about her own history, and would like to. She considers asking her dad, but decides against it. Asking about the past has always made Richard sad, and since he's been so happy with Sharon lately, she doesn't want to screw that up by dredging up potentially painful memories. After a sitting job, Mary Anne decides to go looking for information on her own by looking through boxes of old stuff in the attic. She finds an old photo album with pictures of her parents' wedding, followed by her own baby pictures. That's when she gets confused; the first few pages are what she'd expect to see (being held by her dad, etc), but the following pages are a mystery. Mary Anne sees herself with an old couple that she doesn't recognize, and it appears that she spent quite a bit of time with them. Richard and Sharon get home before she can do any further investigating, and Mary Anne is left with more questions than answers.

Next, Mary Anne decides to visit her mother's grave. When she gets to the cemetary, she realizes that she has no idea where exactly her mother is buried. She wanders around for awhile, and eventually stumbles upon Mimi's grave. She has a good cry, mostly about the knowledge that she could have asked Mimi for information, if she were still alive. When she gets home, Mary Anne heads right back up into the attic to search for more information. She's pretty shocked by what she finds: a bunch of letters from Verna Baker, HER GRANDMOTHER, to Richard. Apparently, he'd sent her to live with her mother's parents in Iowa (whom she didn't even know were living) after her mother died. He did eventually insist on her return, but only one fact really sticks in Mary Anne's head: her father hadn't wanted her.

Over the next few days, Mary Anne finds it hard to act normally around her friends and family. They all assume she's had a fight with Logan or something, except Logan himself (she's basically been avoiding him). She decides call Logan and tell him what's been going on, but he isn't home. Mary Anne waits by the phone for him to call back, and when it rings a few minutes later, she picks up, assuming it's him. Before she can say anything, she hears her dad on the extension, and the caller is definitely NOT Logan; it's Verna Baker. She's calling to let Richard know that her husband, Bill, died not long ago. She's pretty upset that he never had a chance to see Mary Anne again, and she wants to make sure that the same thing doesn't happen to her. Verna wants Mary Anne to come to Iowa, and she's not going to take no for an answer. Mary Anne is terrified; she thinks she's going to be sent away again. When Dawn gets home from her sitting job that night, Mary Anne finally lets her in on everything that she's discovered. Dawn tells her that she should be able to go to her dad for answers, but Mary Anne is still hesitant to do so. Now, though, her fears aren't so much about making her dad sad; they're about hearing even more things that she'd really rather not know. Mary Anne does decide to call Kristy and Claudia, though. Since their families were friends with hers back in those days, they might be able to shed some light on things. Not so much: Kristy and Claudia had no idea that Mary Anne had been sent away.

Not long after that, the club gets together at the Schafer-Spier house to work on their own Heritage Day contribution. There's going to be a fair to raise money for the Stoneybrook Historical Society, and the BSC is running a photo booth. They're going to be making cardboard cutouts of people from Stoneybrook's past (Old Hickory, Sophie from the painting in Stacey's house, George and Martha Washington) so people can get their pictures taken with "celebrities." In the middle of everything, the doorbell rings. When Mary Anne answers it, she finds a very official looking woman on the porch, who says she has some questions. Mary Anne panics; she's sure the woman is a social worker, checking up on her father's parenting abilities, and her timing couldn't be worse. The house is noisy and chaotic, everyone is covered in paint, and Logan is running around without a shirt on. Mary Anne babbles on and on about how her father doesn't usually let things get out of hand, and how they're actually working on an education project. The poor "social worker" is very confused, and says she'll call to make an appointment with Richard. Mary Anne starts to cry as soon as she leaves, and the whole story eventually comes out. Just like Dawn, the rest of the club thinks that Mary Anne should talk to her dad.

After the Heritage Day picnic, Mary Anne finally decides to take everyone's advice. She tells Richard everything she's found out about her past and her grandparents, and even admits to listening in on his phone conversation with Verna. Mary Anne also shares her fears that Verna will be given custody, especially after the disasterous visit from the social worker. Richard puts those fears to rest; Verna only wants Mary Anne to come for a visit, and the social worker was actually a census taker. He also tells her the whole story of why she was sent to her grandparents in the first place: Richard was so devastated after his wife died that he couldn't take proper care of her, so he sent her to the Bakers for awhile. They wanted it to be permanent, however, and Richard had a bit of a fight to get her back. When he did, he and the Bakers decided that it would be too painful for them to stay in contact with Mary Anne, so they cut off all contact. A few days later, Richard gives Mary Anne a letter that her mother wrote to her before she died. He was supposed to give it to her when she turned 16, but decided that now might be a better time after all. Mary Anne reads it and cries, of course, but I don't blame her this time. Then, she decides that she'd like to go to Iowa and meet her grandmother.

Rating: 4

Thoughts and Things
  • This is far and away my favorite mystery!
  • It's a little odd that they don't ever mention what Alma died of in this book; Mary Anne says she doesn't even know. I think I remember reading in another book that it was cancer, which would make sense. It sounds like she'd been sick for at least a little while, and her death (though sudden) wasn't totally unexpected. After all, Alma had time to write that letter, and she definitely knew when she was writing it that she wasn't going to make it.
  • It used to seem weird to me that no one ever thought to mention this big secret in front of Mary Anne, but it doesn't anymore. I actually uncovered a family secret of my own a few years ago, but I didn't find it in an attic; I found it on the internet. :) It was something that was fairly well known by one side of my family, but it was never discussed.
  • I can't believe that the BSC actually encouraged one of their own to talk things over with a parent. Wow!
  • I always picture Mary Anne the way she looks on this cover. At least, until she gets her hair cut.