Wednesday, September 30, 2009

#34 Mary Anne and Too Many Boys

Why are Toby's shorts
Pulled up so high? He's not Steve
Urkel, for Pete's sake!
It's summer, and Mary Anne and Stacey are headed back to Sea City with the Pikes. Not long after arriving, they run into Toby and Alex, the boys they met last time they were there. Stacey and Toby bascially pick up where they left off, while Stacey desperately tries to hide the bottle of Sun-Lite she's using to lighten her hair. I had friends who used a similar product back in the day, and let's just say the results were never particularly cute. Anyway, Mary Anne is pretty happy to see Alex, too, which kind of complicates things. After all, she's got Logan waiting for her back home. Even so, Mary Anne agrees to go out with Alex later that week. The problem? Stacey has a date with Toby the same night, and the girls are supposed to take their nights off separately. In true Stacey-in-Sea-City fashion, Stacey orders Mary Anne to cancel her date. Which she does. She even tries the same thing again the next night, but Mary Anne actually stands up for herself and gets to go out with Alex. It's kind of awkward at first, but they warm up to each other and end up having a nice dinner. They go to the boarwalk, too, where Alex wins her a purple hippo in a ring toss game. The date only leaves Mary Anne more confused than ever; does she want Alex or Logan?

In other news, Vanessa Pike is dealing with a boy situation of her own. She's got a crush on Chris, the boy who works at the Ice Cream Palace, and she's even left him some secret admirer poems. Unfortunately, Chris thinks they're from Mallory. He even sends a message to Mal via Vanessa, asking her out. Luckily, the Pikes will be leaving Sea City before the time Chris wants to take her out. Vanessa ends up deciding not to tell Chris (or Mallory) the truth about what happened, and leaves Chris one last note telling him that his secret admirer won't be able to go out with him. Poor kid; that must have been rough.

Right before the end of the vacation, Toby ends up dumping Stacey. He wants to date other girls back home, and doesn't want to be tied down to his little vacation fling. Mary Anne and Alex have one last date before she goes home, at the same restaurant the went to before. This dinner is even more awkward than the first one, until the very end. At that point, both Mary Anne and Alex admit that they have significant others back home, and that they're better off as friends.

Rating: 4

Thoughts and Things
  • Okay, so Mary Anne essentially cheats on Logan. Yes, she decided in the end that Alex was only a friend, but for most of the vacation, she wasn't sure. She spent a ton of time with Alex in order to find out. As far as I can remember, Logan never finds out about this. I guess he had good reason to be jealous of Alex in SS #10...

  • Stacey throws a fit about towels in his book and in another one of the Sea City books. Was that intentional on the part of the ghostwriters?

  • When I was a kid, I thought that Mary Anne's purple hippo sounded awesome. Now, not so much. Most of those carnival toys are really ugly and cheap-looking, and that's kind of how I picture that hippo.

  • Vanessa really handled her situation well, and I love the way she and Mary Anne bonded over it. I wish we'd seen more of their friendship develop later in the series.

  • This is definitely my favorite of the three Sea City books. :) It's also the fastest selling BSC book of all time, according to the facts in the back of Graduation Day.

  • There's so much good eating in this book: Claudia's candy, the ice cream, pizza, and hot dogs in Sea City, the burgers, fries, and giant chocolate chip cookie that Kristy and the Rodowskys eat during their day at the pool....I always end up hungry after reading this book!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

#33 Claudia and the Great Search

Why are Claud's left hand
And right foot so deformed on
The cover? So strange!

(*This book brings me into my own personal BSC "Promised Land." :) #33 through #47, plus some Super Specials, Mysteries, and a few of the later books (I'm looking at you, Mary Anne's Makeover and Dawn's Big Date!) are among the first books I owned, and were the ones that were being published when I was at the height of my BSC reading and collecting. I'm pretty excited to have gotten to this point in my recapping!*)

Janine has just recieved another award, and is getting a ton of attention for it. Claud is feeling overlooked and left out, and after suffering through a celebratory dinner for her sister, she escapes into the den to be alone for awhile. She picks up one of the family's photo albums, and notices how many baby pictures there are of Janine. Claudia isn't thrilled, seeing as she wanted to get away from all things Janine for awhile, but she figures that there are probably just as many pictures of her in another album. There aren't. Most Claudia pictures include Janine, too. She even goes through her parents' desk for pictures that might not have been put into albums, but all she finds is a locked box, and no key to open it with. Claudia then puts two and two together: she guesses that the lack of pictures (and the fact that she's so different from her family) means she was adopted, and that the locked box contains her adoption papers.

Claudia doesn't tell anyone her secret for about a week. She finally confides in Stacey, who's (understandably) pretty skeptical. Claud convinces her that it's true, and Stacey encourages her to look for her birth parents. She starts by calling the adoption agency that placed Emily Michelle, but that's a dead end. The organization has only been in operation for five years, and they only place Vietnamese children. Claudia then decides to take a look at her birth certificate, which is in a safe deposit box at the bank. That's a dead end, too; she doesn't have a key. Her next stop is good old Dr. Dellenkamp's office (does Stoneybrook even have another pediatrician? Lord knows they have enough lawyers. You think they'd have more than one kid doctor, too). Claudia cooks up some story about needing to see her birth records for a school project, but the receptionist tells her that she and her sister weren't seeing Dr. Dellenkamp back then (oh, I guess Stoneybrook does have another pediatrician). Dead end #3.

About a week later, Claudia heads to the library to look up birth announcements. She times the visit to coincide with her mother's library staff meeting; heaven forbid a BSC parent actually know what their children are up to. She looks at all the birth announcements for the week she was born, plus the month before and the month after. Claud finds nothing under her own name, so she decides that it was probably changed when the Kishis adopted her. She copies down the names of three girls who were born during the same week she thinks she was, and decides to track them down. Claud confirms that all but one of them actually do exist, and becomes convinced that she's that actually Resa Ho from Cuchara, Wyoming. She calls Stacey with the news, and Stacey is again skeptical. She convinces Claudia to talk to her parents, and after dinner that night, Claudia actually does it. The Kishis tell her that she's definitely not adopted, and they help her to see that she's really not so different from everyone else in her family. She and Peaches are a lot alike, and Claud looks so much like Mimi when Mimi was young that she says they could have been twins. As for the lack of a birth announcement, the Kishis didn't put one in the Stoneybrook News. It appeared in another paper that went out of business. The mysterious locked box? It's full of cash, in case of emergency.

Subplot: Emily Michelle is having some problems. She's extremely delayed compared to other two year olds, and even got turned away from a preschool program because of it. When Claudia is sitting for her one day, she comes up with some simple games to teach Emily her colors, shapes, and matching. Kristy's mom ends up asking Claud to work with Emily several days a week, and those lessons help Emily progress enough that she'll be ready for preschool in the fall. Too bad that she'll never actually get there because of the BSC time warp. :)

Rating: 3.5

Thoughts and Things
  • If the Kishis keep things like birth certificates in their safe deposit box, why would Claudia think that her adoption papers are kept at home? Wouldn't they be in the safe deposit box, too?

  • I enjoy the Kishi parents! They're painted as being kind of strict, but when push comes to shove, they're very loving and supportive. Even though we always hear how they don't value Claudia's creativity as much as Janine's academic success, they tell Claudia multiple times throughout the series how proud they are of her art.

  • When I first read this book, I thought that it would end with Claudia finding out that she really was adopted, and that Emily Michelle was her sister.

  • Stacey hasn't been feeling well for the last few books. That's some serious foreshadowing for #43, and it's still 10 books away!

  • One of the stories Claudia concocts when she's calling the families that had baby girls the week she was born is that she's studying their last name, and wants to make a family tree. She asks for names and birthdates of their children, and I can't believe people actually gave her that information. I'd be pretty suspicious if someone called me up asking questions like that!

  • In this book, Mr. Kishi and Claudia have to drive all the way across town from SMS to get to Janine's award ceremony at the high school. When Dawn in stalking Travis in Dawn and the Older Boy, though, the schools are right next to each other.

  • The Perkins girls make chocolate chip cookies from scratch without a recipe. I still need a recipe to make chocolate chip cookies and I've made them lots of times. Should I feel bad that a 5 year old and 2.5 year old have me beat? ;)

Monday, September 28, 2009

#32 Kristy and the Secret of Susan

I can't really write
A snarky haiku about
The autism book.

(*I decided to start doing something new with this entry. I'll be giving each book a rating from 0, meaning crappy, to 5, meaning awesome. It's strictly based on how much I liked the book, not on its literary merit. Look for that after the summary!*)

The Felders call the BSC looking for a regular sitter for their daughter, Susan, and Kristy gets the job. The club has never sat for Susan before, in spite of the fact that the Felders live just around the corner from Claudia. Susan is autistic, and has been away at a special school for years. She's back home for a month, until her new school starts, and Mrs. Felder needs someone to look after Susan for three afternoons a week, so she can have a break.

Kristy is a little apprehensive when she goes to the Felders for the first time. It's just an introductory afternoon, to make sure that Kristy really wants to deal with everything that goes into taking care of someone like Susan. Kristy is fascinated when Mrs. Felder introduces her to Susan. On one hand, Susan doesn't talk or communicate with people, and in a lot of ways, she acts like a much younger child (she's 8). On the other hand, Susan can play anything on the piano after hearing it only once, and can sing along as well. She's also got a perpetual calendar in her head; give her any date, and she'll give the day of the week that it fell on. Kristy leaves the Felders more excited than ever to take the job. She also leaves determined to "fix" Susan enough so that she won't have to be sent away to school.

Meanwhile, the Hobart family has just moved into Mary Anne's old house. The four boys are having a little trouble adjusting to life in the states; other kids keep teasing them about their accents, and the Aussie slang they use. Kristy decides to introduce Susan to the boys, since she thinks Susan also needs help adjusting to Stoneybrook. No miracles happen or anything, but the Hobart boys do a pretty good job of accepting Susan and her limitations. The other kids in the nieghborhood (the same ones who've been teasing the Hobarts) have a field day when they first meet Susan. Kristy kind of puts them in their place when she shows them Susan's calendar trick. In fact, kids keep showing up at the Felder's house the next couple of times that Kristy's there sitting. All they really want is to see her either play the piano or do her memory trick, but Kristy is thrilled that Susan is suddenly so popular. Then, one of the kids lets something slip: Mel Tucker, one of the teasers and also the psycho that sends scary notes to Dawn in the second mystery, has been charging kids a dollar to see Susan. Kristy puts a stop to that, and takes Susan over to the Hobarts, where Claudia is sitting. They talk about what happened, and watch James bond with one of his former teasers, Zach. It's then that Kristy realizes that Susan probably doesn't fit in with regular kids, and that maybe going away to school is the best thing for her. Kristy feels like she failed in her mission to integrate Susan, but she knows that school is probably the best place for Susan to be. Also...the Felders are expecting another baby, and Kristy is excited to sit for her someday. Too bad we never hear about the Felders again, other than a brief reappearance by Susan later in the series.

Rating: 3.5

Thoughts and Things
  • I have to hand it to Ann for writing this book. Autism wasn't talked about quite as publicly in 1990 as it is now (heck, I learned what autism was from reading this book!), and she did a pretty good job of putting the issue out there.

  • More kudos to Ann for not making Mrs. Felder look like a horrible person for hiring a sitter because she wants a break from her child. I think a lot of parents just want a break sometimes, whether or not their children have special needs, but many probably feel like they can't admit it.

  • This one actually depressed me a little in some places, especially when Kristy or whoever would talk about how Susan will never be much of anything, and how all her parents' hopes for her were dashed. At least it ended on a rather positive note, with Mr. Felder's optimism about Susan's new school, and the new baby.

  • Mallory and Ben, sitting in a tree.... ;)

  • Go look up the lyrics to "Sheik of Araby," one of the songs Susan sings in the book. They're not exactly child-appropriate....

  • For anyone who's familiar with early 1990's Australian slang: what exactly is a rev head???

Saturday, September 26, 2009

#31 Dawn's Wicked Stepsister

The cover tagline
Would be a haiku with one
Less syllable. Darn!
Mary Anne has just caught Sharon's bouquet, and Dawn is none too happy about it. In fact, she says she'd have willingly killed for it. Nice, Dawn. She manages to control her homicidal tendencies long enough to celebrate with the rest of the BSC at the Spier house (after the wedding dinner at Chez Maurice) and to keep Mary Anne company overnight without shedding any blood. The new Mr. and Mrs. Spier return the next day from their night at the Strathmoore Inn (which, I might add, is where Kristy's dad stayed in the BSC movie...yay for continuity!). It's moving day, and Mary Anne becomes a basket case. She cries as she watches the movers take things out of her soon-to-be-ex house, and then gets grumpy about the stuff they had to get rid of. Things get pretty tense between Mary Anne and Dawn, and they even end up fighting over BSC jobs. Dawn in particular wants as much work as she can because she wants to give Mary Anne a "now we're sisters" present to match the one that Mary Anne gave her on the day of the wedding. Ding ding ding! I do believe we have a winner for the most glaring inconsistency in the entire series. In the previous book, Dawn gave Mary Anne a silver barette, and Mary Anne gave Dawn nothing. I might excuse it if a ghostwriter was responsible for one of the books, but Ann wrote both.

Back to the book. Adjusting to living together is proving to be difficult for the Schafers and Spiers. Both families have different ideas about food, cleaning, organization, and how to spend their free time. Mary Anne and Dawn are also trying to share a room, but it's not working out so well. There just isn't enough room for two people's stuff, which makes it look really cluttered and messy. Things kind of come to a head for Dawn when she and Mary Anne fight over whether or not to have music on when they study (Dawn wants it, MA doesn't). Dawn decides that she doesn't want to share a room with Mary Anne anymore, and comes up with a plan to scare her out. She makes Mary Anne think the secret passage is haunted and that the ghost of Jared Mullray is after her, and Mary Anne completely falls for it. She decides to move into the guest room, and both girls are relieved to have their own spaces (even though they don't say so). Also, the whole family is trying harder to get along, rather than agreeing to things that they don't want or agree with just to make the others happy. Sharon the Cat Hater even learns to like Tigger. :)
Not much of a subplot; the Pikes are all either sick or hurt. We've got colds, chicken pox (only Mallory), broken bones, pneumonia, a sprained ankle and a burnt hand.

Thoughts and Things
  • Shouldn't the Schafers and Spiers have sat down before the wedding and discussed some ways to compromise when it came to food, etc?
  • I definitely think the Arnold twins subplot from the last book should have been included in this one instead. The Pike stuff felt random.
  • Speaking of the Pike subplot, there's another one at some point in the series that involved the majority of the kids getting the chicken pox and being laid up at the same time. I can remember that Nicky and Vanessa were the last ones to get it (or was it Nicky and Margo? Vanessa and Margo?), and one of the sitters found whichever two it was down in the rec room, counting their spots. It's driving me crazy that I can't remember which book it was. If anyone out there knows, leave me a comment, please!
  • Mary Anne wasn't really that wicked. She was just kind of annoying, and I think that most of it was her acting out in reaction to all the changes in her life. It's kind of understandable.
  • They keep referring to chicken pox as "the pox." Hee hee hee. That makes it sound like the plague or something.
  • I actually read through each and every book before I recap it, no matter how many times I've read it in the past. That includes the famous Chapter Two descriptions. Normally, that's not such a big deal, but it was kind of tedious with these last two books. They were awfully similar...
  • Dawn actually mentions Will Yamakawa at one point. I didn't think we heard anything about him after SS #3, until the book where Claudia lists every guy she's ever "fallen in love with" on vacation.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

#30 Mary Anne and the Great Romance

Mary Anne looks kind
Of FLDS on the
Cover. It's the hair!


Richard, Dawn, and Mary Anne surprise Sharon with a birthday dinner at Chez Maurice. When cake time comes, though, Dawn and Mary Anne are the ones who are in for a surprise. Richard proposes to Sharon, and she accepts! Dawn and Mary Anne are pretty excited that they get to be stepsisters, but not so excited that their parents want only a civil ceremony with a justice of the peace. Seriously...the girls practically had an entire fancy church wedding planned out before Richard and Sharon could even let them know what their plans were! Richard and Sharon end up compromising, and agree to a small chapel wedding with only Sharon's parents, a few work friends, and (of course) the BSC as guests, followed by a dinner at Chez Maurice.

All is well, until Dawn tells Mary Anne that she thinks they should share Dawn's room when the Spiers move in with the Schafers. The problem? Mary Anne didn't know she'd be moving, and she doesn't want to. She eventually calms down, though, once she finds out that Tigger won't be kicked to the curb, and that the Spiers won't have to get rid of all their stuff.

The wedding goes smoothly, other than the fact that the Pike triplets think a mostly naked angel in the chapel's stained glass window is the funniest thing they've ever seen. Dawn gives Mary Anne a silver barette as a "now we're sisters" present; remember this, because that bit of information will come in handy during my next recap. Anyone who's been reading the BSC much as an adult will know what I'm talking about. Anyway, it's time for Sharon to throw the bouquet, and....the book ends with a cliffhanger, so we don't know who catches it. (Spoiler: it's Mary Anne.)

Meanwhile, the Arnold twins are having issues. Carolyn is now Ms. Popular at school, and Marilyn feels left out. They're fighting and arguing all the time, until Mary Anne plants the idea of separate rooms in their heads. Mrs. Arnold agrees, and the girls are much better friends when they're not sharing a bedroom.

Thoughts and Things

  • Why is it that Mrs. Arnold can't seem to see what needs to be done for her daughters unless a member of the BSC points it out to her? First Mallory, now Mary Anne.
  • I think this subplot would have made more sense as a part of the next book, when Mary Anne and Dawn are dealing with their own room issues. Better yet, this book and the next one should have been combined into one book somehow. Maybe they originally were one book, but it ended up too long and Ann had to split it up.
  • I can't believe that Richard and Sharon agreed to a wedding that wasn't what they originally wanted, and that they didn't seem that excited about, just to please their teenage daughters. It's nice of them to want to include Mary Anne and Dawn in their decisions, but still. It's their wedding. Also, I'm assuming that the newly married Spiers footed the bill for the dinner at Chez Maurice. They must have loved paying for dinner at the nicest restaurant in town for the entire BSC, plus the Pike triplets.
  • No one ever mentions what Jeff thought of the news that his mother was getting remarried. He just shows up before the wedding and acts really formal around Richard. I would have liked to see Jeff's reaction.

Monday, September 21, 2009

SS #3 Baby-sitters' Winter Vacation

The BSC sits
During their vacation. Try
Having fun instead!
Apparently, SMS takes a week long trip to a Vermont ski lodge every year...yet this is the first and last time we actually see them go. During their time at the lodge, the school holds their annual Winter Carnival. It includes events like snow sculpture and a snowball fight, but the highlights are always the sports competitions. This year, things get a little interesting when a busload of elementary school kids are in an accident on the way to the lodge, and left without any supervision while their teachers are in the hospital. Enter the BSC. Let's see what else they get up to during the week:

Mary Anne has volunteered to be the trip historian. That means she's in charge of researching the lodge and town, and writing a paper about them when she gets back home. She manages to uncover a possible lodge ghost story during her studies, but the consensus seems to be that people have active imaginations when it comes to stuff like that. When she's not working on her project and avoiding the sports competitions like the plague, she's busy mooning over Logan. He's not at the lodge because his family is in Aruba, and Mary Anne is convinced that he's going to fall in love with some hot island girl. She writes a whole bunch of sappy letters that rival, if not surpass, the one from SS #2 in terms of embarrassment factor. At least Mary Anne realizes that they're stupid and doesn't send them. She does, however, continue to worry until she gets a phone call from Logan. He will apparently die if SMS is snowed in at the lodge and he can't see Mary Anne when he comes back from Aruba, which makes her feel a whole heck of a lot more secure in their relationship.

Stacey falls in LUV on the ski slopes with Pierre, from upstate Vermont. She's hot for the fact the his voice is changing, and lets us know that meeting Pierre basically negates every single other crush she's ever had. Stacey then kind of disappears until the end of the trip, when she and Pierre say a romantic good-bye at the dance that the lodge throws for all the students who are staying there.

Dawn has a pretty tough time of it during this trip. She klutzes out during the ice skating competition, incurring the wrath of her team. She then joins a practice snowball fight, but leaves when Alan Grey stuffs a snowball down her back and laughs at her. To clear her head, Dawn plans to take a few runs on the ski slopes. She only gets as a far as the lift; when she falls getting on, she gives up and goes back to the lodge. She tries to talk things out with Mary Anne, but Mary Anne is too wrapped up in herself and her Logan issues to care. They fight, but it doesn't last long.

Kristy is the captain of her Winter War team, and the organizer of all the competitions and contests. She spends most of the book being really, really competitive, especially where Claudia is concerned. They're both apparently expert skiers, with Claudia having a slight edge over Kristy. Kristy doesn't seem to like that much, so she's determined to beat Claudia (and her team). No luck there, though; after Kristy pushes a bunch of kids who don't ski into the cross-country skiing competition and one of them breaks his ankle, her team ends up losing the war. Kristy is also the one who volunteers the BSC to rescue the elementary school kids after their bus accident, and she's also the one who offers their supervisory services during the week, while the kids' injured teachers are recovering. To her credit, she makes that second offer after Claudia suggests it. So, she's not totally responsible for the sitters working on their vacation.

Claudia basically just skis a lot. She develops a massive crush on her French ski instructor, and actually starts to think he might be interested in her. The trouble with that? He's at least 25, married, and the father of two. She eventually realizes that it would never have worked out between them (duh), and that's she's still got Will Yamakawa from Camp Mohawk waiting for her.

Jessi is in charge of the SMS talent show. It's the first time the role has ever been given to a 6th grader, and she's eager to prove herself to the other kids at school. She still feels that some don't accept her because of her race, and she wants to show them that she's more than that. She ends up performing something from Swan Lake during the show, and when it goes over well with the audience, Jessi finally feels like she's made a name for herself at SMS. She also has her very first "OMG racism!!!) moment in this book: one of the elementary school kids, Pinky, is awful. She's rude and nasty and bossy, and Jessi is sure it's because she's black. What Mallory tries to point out, and what Jessi doesn't see until the trip is almost over, is that Pinky is nasty to everyone. Pinky is homesick, and is trying to cover it up with attitude. No racism there.

Mallory goes all Harriet the Spy again, and it works out about as well as it did when she spied during the Bahamas trip. Mal says she's determined to make observations that are totally true, and not read anything into what she sees that's not really there. So, of course, she spends the whole week reading things into her observations that aren't really there. Mal decides that Ms. Halliday (gym teacher extraordinaire and one of the chaperones) is secretly in love with the vice principal after she sees her crying in the bathroom, and that the cook is trying to kill everyone after she sees him sprinkle something into a vat of soup. She also spies on Stacey and Pierre because she really wants to know what goes on when a boy and girl kiss. Has she never seen a movie? Do her parents never kiss in front of her? Do kids at school never kiss in the hallways? Anyway, Stacey and Pierre actually catch her watching them. If it were me, I'd be creeped out. Mal is also scared about the dance at the end of their week at the lodge, but it all goes okay in the end.

Thoughts and Things

  • Okay, let's play a game of who's who on the cover: Mal and Jessi are obvious, and the girl standing behind them is (I think) Kristy. Claudia is also obvious, Mary Anne is in the yellow coat and grey hat, Dawn in in the green coat and red beret, and Stacey is in the brown coat and blue beret. It took me forever to decide who was Kristy and who was Mary Anne, and I'm still not sure about my choice. I'm a little more confident about Dawn/Stacey, but they're kind of interchangeable, too.
  • Jessi really only had a couple of days to pull together the talent show. It might have been smarter to hold auditions before the trip; waiting until they were already at the lodge meant that some people who weren't chosen hauled all their props and costumes up there for nothing.
  • I can't believe that the Brunos let Logan call Mary Anne from Aruba. That must have been freakishly expensive. I also found it a little freaky that he said he'd die if she got snowed in and he couldn't see her when he got back. If it were me, that would be grounds for ending the relationship.
  • Why did Guy (Claudia's ski instructor) have to be French? That's so cliche. I'm sure there are hot ski instructors from other countries, too. :)
  • Speaking of Guy, I always think of that ski lodge episode of Frasier when I read this book. It's one of the best in the series, and it too involves a French ski intructor named Guy.
  • Pierre writes Stacey an "I love you" postcard after they get home, but the only time we hear about him for the rest of the series is when Mary Anne observes how easily Stacey forgets about him when she sees Toby again in Sea City. I guess that's actually pretty realistic, though. How often do 13-year-old vacation romances really last for more than a couple of postcards/letters/phone calls/emails?
  • Mary Anne was ridiculous for blaming her fight with Dawn on Dawn. The poor girl had a rotten day and needed a listening ear, but Mary Anne couldn't put her own issues aside long enough to be of any help. You think she would have learned not to be so self-centered after everything that happened with Logan in #25, but I guess not.
  • This book gets a lot of hate when Super Specials are discussed, but I like it. The lodge sounds awesome, and we don't see too many wintery vacations in the BSC. It's just this one, SS #7, and one of the Super Mysteries, I think.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

#29 Mallory and the Mystery Diary

Why does Mal want to
Be thirteen so badly? That's
The REAL mystery...
Stacey and her mom are busy settling into their new home. Mallory and Claudia are helping them one day when the girls find an old trunk in the McGills' attic. Mrs. McGill lets Mal take it home, but she can't find out what's inside; it's locked, and there's no sign of a key. At first, she won't wreck it by breaking the locks, but her curiosity finally gets the better of her, and she recruits the triplets to do the dirty work. Inside, she finds a bunch of old clothes and (at the very bottom of the trunk) a diary. It was written in 1890, by a 12 year old girl named Sophie. Sophie's family lived in Stacey's house back then, and the diary is for the most part filled with the trials and tribulations of being 12. When Mal reads further, though, things get interesting. Sophie's mother gives birth to a baby boy and dies soon afterward. Not long after her burial, a portrait of Sophie's mother disappears from Sophie's grandfather's house across town. Mr. Hickman (the grandfather, and also the resident of "Old Hickory's" grave in the Stoneybrook cemetary...see #17)) blames the disappearance on Sophie's father, Jared, whose reputation is pretty much ruined after that. Sophie vows to clear her father's name, and writes in the very last entry in her journal that her spirit, along with her father's, will stay in their house until the mystery is solved. Have Stacey and her mother moved into a haunted house?

Meanwhile, Mallory is tutoring Buddy Barrett with his reading. He's having some trouble in school, and Mal comes up with some fun ways to get him interested in reading again. They read comics, and then make their own. They also read some Encyclopedia Brown mysteries. Buddy enjoys those so much that Mal ends up telling him about the diary mystery that she and the rest of the BSC are working on. Buddy is interested, so Mal takes him over to her house to look over the diary and the trunk. Buddy finds a pocket in the trunk that no one had noticed before, which contains a confession from James Hickman. Sophie's father hadn't stolen the painting; no one had. Mr. Hickman was so distraught over his daughter's death that he hired someone to paint over her portrait, which was rehung in a different room in his mansion. He didn't want to admit what he'd done, so he lied and told people it had been stolen. Everyone else suspected Mr. Hickman's son-in-law, and the old guy just let them think that.

The confession is all well and good, but the painting is still missing. Since Old Hickory owned both the large house he lived in and what's now Stacey's house, Mal and Buddy theorize that some of what's still up in the McGill's attic might be stuff that Old Hickory's nephew moved up there when he inherited his uncle's estate. As it turns out, they were right. The painting is there, and once Stacey's mother gets it properly restored (an ugly picture of ships had been painted over it), they hang it over their fireplace.

Thoughts and Things
  • The book opens with this famous Mallory line: "If only I were thirteen instead of eleven, life would be a picnic." Seriously? I don't know about you guys, but being 11 rocked for me, and 13 was awful. Don't be in such a hurry, Mal!
  • I wish we'd heard more about what the clothes in the trunk looked like. Finding those would have been just as interesting to me as finding the diary, if I'd been in that situation.
  • An 11 year old tutor for a kid who's having serious trouble with reading in school? I know Mal is smart, and she did come up with some creative ways to help Buddy, but really.
  • This book makes me think of Afton, a very active member of the online BSC fandom who passed away not too long ago. I think I remember reading somewhere that this was the first BSC book she read,and the one that got her hooked on the series. Miss you, Afton!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

#28 Welcome Back, Stacey!

Stoneybrook over
New York City? Stacey is
Full of surprises.


Stacey's mom and dad have been having a ton of marital issues lately, and they've decided to divorce. Stacey is surprised and angry at this news, although I'm not sure why, considering all the foreshadowing that's been done over the last few books. :) Once Stacey calms down enough to actually discuss the situation with her parents, they tell her that her dad will be staying in New York, and her mom will be moving somewhere quieter. What town happens to be at the top of Maureen's list? Stoneybrook, of course, and it'll be up to Stacey to decide where she lives, and who she wants to live with.

The decision proves to be a tough one. Stacey thinks that all her problems would be solved if she simply didn't have to make a choice in the first place. She goes all Parent Trap on her mom and dad, trying to get them together over romantic meals and carriage rides, to no avail. Both of her parents find new places to live, and Stacey finally realizes that she's going to join the ranks of divorced kids, like it or not. To help her choose where to live, Stacey uses the good old pros and cons list method. When she sees it all laid out on paper, the decision is clear: it's back to Stoneybrook for the Mc Gill women.

Thoughts and Things

  • The plot of this book and Dawn on the Coast are awfully similar, minus the whole divorce aspect. Dawn identifies her self as a CA girl, and Stacey identifies herself as a New Yorker. Both feel connected to their native turfs, and both feel they belong in those places. Both make pros and cons lists, and both end up choosing Stoneybrook over their hometowns in the end. I can't believe they were recycling plots this early in the series...
  • I was actually pretty bored with this book; I don't remember being bored by it in the past.
  • The outfit that Claudia is wearing on the cover actually matches the one described in the book. Kudos, Hodges!
  • Speaking of outfits, Mallory wears a sequined sweatshirt to a club meeting! Her sparkly clothing dreams came true. I don't know about the pink leggings that she's wearing with it, though. Pink clothes and red hair aren't exactly the cutest combination.
  • I love the idea of living in an old house in New England. If I ever did get to do that, you better believe that I'm going to be looking for hidden diaries and secret passages and stuff!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

#27 Jessi and the Superbrat

Karen Brewer is
A bigger Superbrat than
Derek Masters is.
Jessi is excited to discover that Stoneybrook is home (at least part-time) to a child star. Derek Masters went to Stoneybrook Elementary School until getting a role on P.S. 162, which took his family out to L.A. for a good chunk of the year. The Masters family is back in town for awhile, though, and who do they call to sit for Derek and his younger brother, Todd? Well, if the answer wasn't the BSC, this wouldn't be much of a book, would it? :) Jessi is pretty excited to get the first job at the Masters house. She actually approaches Mallory-like levels of dorkiness (love you, Mal!) by calling him by his character's name (Waldo) in her thoughts and getting starstruck at the idea of meeting a REAL TV CELEBRITY. She manages to reign it in once she actually meets Derek, and she finds out that he's just a typical 8 year old kid.

Derek is worried about readjusting to life in Stoneybrook, with good reason. The other kids won't stop treating him differently; the girls go all gooey, and the boys just make fun of him. One in particular (Derek calls him John) is especially bad. He does all sorts of awful stuff, like throwing Derek's lunch out the window and tying his sneakers together. The funny thing is that none of the other sitters know him, and neither do any of the other kids....

Jessi and the other sitters do their best to try and help Derek adjust, mostly by arranging playdates with fairly non-threatening kids like the Pikes. Things do get better for Derek eventually; he makes friends and, for the most part, people stop treating him so differently because he's on tv. When it comes time for the Masters family to go back to L.A., the sitters decide to throw them a good-bye party. That's when they find out the truth about "John;" Derek made him up, and it was Derek himself that did all those mean things, to try and get attention from the other kids. Not the best tactic for proving that you're not a typical celebrity, Derek!

While all this is going on, Jessi is busy auditioning for a semi-professional production of Swan Lake. She wants in badly, but can't admit it to herself. So, at Derek's suggestion, she throws herself into pursuing modeling and (possibly) acting by calling agents and gathering information. Jessi ends up getting a role as a swan maiden, and she realizes that her true love was ballet all along.

Thoughts and Things
  • Eeesh....the cover. Jessi is clearly 35, which is silly. She's only supposed to be ONE YEAR OLDER than the triplets, who are also on the cover. Maybe not even a full year, depending on when their birthdays are. I guess that's all part of 11 being the magical age of adulthood in the BSC; you instantly look decades older than other kids.
  • I kind of like Derek and Todd Masters. I wish the BSC had gotten to sit for them a little more.
  • Jessi mentions the Swan Lake auditions a couple of books ago, which would make for a nice bit of continuity...if she had even acknowledged that fact in this book. Instead, she's hearing about them for the first time.
  • Unlike my recent experience with Mary Anne and the Search for Tigger, this one ended up being much better than I remember.
  • I find it a little hard to believe that Stoneybrook's civic center would be that professional.
  • Claudia is wearing a pink and red outfit at the beginning; pink and red is even worse than red and purple!

Friday, September 11, 2009

#26 Claudia and the Sad Good-bye

Sad days in the 'Brook.
Mimi is dead; how can Claud
Say good-bye for good?


It's been about a year since Mimi's stroke (I think....the timeline starts to get a little off around this time), and she's doing okay. Physically, she's still a little shaky, but her real problems seem to be in her mind. Mimi is doing and saying more crazy things than ever, and all the Kishis can really do is appreciate the good days, when they come. One night during dinner, Mimi faints and has to be taken to the hospital. No one can figure out what's wrong with her, although the doctors think it's blood-related. After some pints of fresh blood, Mimi improves and is allowed to go home. During the hospital stay and afterwards, Claudia once again feels like she's expected to give up her own activities and time to care for Mimi. I guess she didn't learn her lesson in book #7, because the Kishis didn't expect that of her then, and I don't think they did in this book, either (the issue isn't dealt with as much here).

Things seem to be par for the course, Mimi-wise, until one Saturday morning. Claudia is teaching an art class for some of the BSC's charges in her basement when Mimi comes down for a visit. She isn't even supposed to be out of bed, let alone taking on the stairs by herself, but Claudia decides to ler her stay. As she's sorting out a chair for Mimi to use, Mimi faints again. Claudia runs to get her father while Mary Anne (the class's co-teacher) stays with Mimi and eventually gets the children out and takes them home.

In the hospital, Mimi gets new blood right away, since that worked so well the last time. Her moods are kind of all over the place, though; one minute, she's making jokes about being a vampire, and the next, she's cranky and throwing her pudding at the wall. She's also started giving some of her things away; Claudia gets her plants, and Janine gets her diamond earrings. I always wondered why Claudia didn't get the earrings and Janine the plants, since Claudia's so into fashion and all. Anyway, Mimi improves enough again that the doctors are ready to release her. She even calls Claudia the night before sh'es due to come home, and they have a nice conversation about the painting Claudia is working on. Mimi's last words before they hang up? "Good-bye, My Claudia." (*sniff* *tear*)

The next morning, Claudia wakes up to the sound of her parents' voices. It's far too early for any of them to be up for work or school, so she goes to their bedroom to find out what's up. That's when she gets the bad news; Mimi died during the night. Claudia's in a state of disbelief; after all, wasn't Mimi well enough to come home? Her father explains that she wasn't okay, and that she just wore out. The Kishi parents head to the hospital to make arrangements, while Janine and Claudia stay home to start calling friends and relatives.

The funeral is three days later. Claudia feels really detached from the whole event; she even calls the burial "surreal," and can't believe that Mimi is really there, in the coffin. The club members (including Stacey, who came down with her mom for the day) get together afterwards and try to have a normal conversation in spite of everything that's happened.

Claudia's emotions and reactions to what's happened are kind of all over the place. She's sad, and angry, and numb, and tired. Her grades slip, no one at school seems to know how to react when they see her. She goes from wanting to talk about and remember Mimi to not wanting to talk about and remember Mimi. When she sees Janine in Mimi's room, going through her things, Claudia kind of explodes. That's when she really begins to heal; she even comes up with a tribute collage to hang in Mimi's room, once it becomes the guest room.

One of the students in Claudia's art class is Corrie Addison. Claudia really bonds with her during the whole Mimi situation; Corrie's parents tend to shuffle Corrie and her brother, Sean, from class and activity to class and activity so they can have time to themselves. Claudia, in true BSC fashion, eventually makes the Addison parents see the error of their ways, and she credits Mimi with giving her the love and strength to speak up on Corrie's behalf.

Thoughts and Things

  • I really, really like the way that Claudia's emotions and reactions to Mimi's death are presented. Good one, AMM.
  • Whenever I think about this book, I always think about Mimi throwing that pudding at the wall in the hospital. Sometimes, you just have to throw the pudding. :)
  • Mr. Kishi's reaction to Mimi's death is pretty touching. You always hear/read about evil mother-in-laws, so it's nice that he was genuinely upset over what happened. I also liked seeing him show some emotion; I don't know why, but I always picture him as a little stern, and not given to emotional displays.
  • There really isn't a whole lot I can pick at with this one. I think it's actually one of the best written in the series, mostly because of how Claudia's grief is dealt with.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

SS #2 Baby-sitters' Summer Vacation

Want to get lost in
The woods or fall in LUV? Just
Go to Camp Mohawk!


The girls (and Logan) decide to go to camp for two weeks as CITs. Here's a rundown of who did what:

The sitters have to do some convincing to get Stacey to agree to go. She does (obviously, since she's the "main" narrator for this Super Special). She's assigned to a cabin of 6 year olds, including Karen Brewer, and she notices that they seem to be sick a lot. Stacey hates sickness, so it's only fitting that she's the one who ends up spending a good chunk of the camp session in the infirmary. Her laundry list of ailments include a cold, poison ivy, impetigo, pinkeye, and herpes. Just kidding about the last one. :)

Claudia falls in luv at first sight with a boy CIT. Her campers (9 year olds including Haley Braddock and Vanessa Pike) do some investigating, and find out that Drean Boy's name is Will Yamakawa. They don't officially meet until CIT Movie Night, where they actually have a pretty deep discussion about grandparents, heaven, and hell. They see each other again at the CIT Dance the next night, and decide that they need to end their relationship (which, I might add, is two days long at this point) since they live in different states and wouldn't be able to see each other. They don't even exchange addresses or phone numbers, but, once again, Claudia's campers come through. They get Will's address for her and give it to her after camp ends. I swear, those kids are future identity thieves; they sure seem to have a knack for getting information that they shouldn't have. Anyway, the lovebirds end up keeping in touch for awhile; Will is mentioned in the next Super Special.

Mary Anne's assigned to a cabin on 7 year olds, including Margo Pike. The other three CIT's in her cabin are, as she puts it, "into being totally cool." She tries to sound more awesome by telling them that she only came to camp to be near Logan, but it backfires; the other girls don't even believe that someone as lame as Mary Anne could actually have a boyfriend. Mary Anne is determined to prove her coolness (and Logan's existence) to her fellow CITs, so she writes what must be the most awful love letter in the history of love letters and leaves it on her bunk for them to find. They do, but once again, the idea backfires. The other CITs suggest she get the note to Logan by walking around the lake to him at night. To save face, Mary Anne agrees. One of her campers tattles, though, and Mary Anne only makes it about halfway around before being caught by her own counselor, Old Meanie (camp director), and two counselors from the boys' side. One of them takes the note from Mary Anne and assures her that Logan will, indeed, see it. The problem? Mary Anne never intended for Logan to see the note, and it's not the kind of thing she would ever send him. Back at the cabin, Mary Anne's earned a little more respect from her fellow CITs. Hardly anyone has tried to sneak around the lake, and Mary Anne made it further (farther?) than most. Even though things are a little friendlier now, the other girls still try to test M.A. They keep asking her for beauty advice, and she just makes stuff up and hopes it's what they want to hear. When one of the other CITs wants to pierce Mary Anne's ears for the CIT dance, she agrees. Both of them chicken out at the last minute, though.

Logan pretty much just gets made fun of for the whole Mary Anne debacle. The note is delivered at lunchtime, and one of his buddies entertains everyone with a dramatic reading. Logan then starts a food fight, which is actually pretty awesome.

Kristy's not loving the group living situation. She gets pretty tired of having so many people breathing down her neck, and never having any privacy. She doesn't get much of that at home, either, but whatever. Like Mary Anne, Kristy feels inferior to her co-CITs. The difference is that Kristy's "mean girls" are actually nice, they just want to change her entire appearance. After days of mentally and verbally trying to "fix" Kristy, they end up giving her a makeover for the CIT dance. Kristy isn't thrilled about that, but she lives to tell the tale. When she's not dodging the efforts of the Stacey London wannabes, Kristy is also dealing with a homesick Charlotte Johannssen. I don't envy Kristy; Charlotte basically spends the whole two weeks crying, which was pretty freaking annoying to read about. I can't even imagine what it would be like to actually deal with something like that.

Jessi and Mallory beg to be allowed to be CITs even though the minimum age is 13, but no dice. To make them feel better, Old Meanie names them Junior CITs. The title is basically meaningless, although they are asked to put together a dance performance for one of the cabins of 8 year olds (including Becca and Charlotte) for the Parent's Day program. It's a good thing they have that to keep the occupied, because cabin life is less than ideal. Talk about mean girls; from day one, the others in Jessi and Mal's cabin are awful to them. Nothing the girls say and do is right, and it isn't until their dance performance (which is about racism and friendship, and casts Becca and Charlotte as twins) that their cabinmates apologize.

Dawn is a CIT in the other cabin of 11 year olds. Their counselor has a family emergency and has to leave right before they're scheduled to go on an overnight hiking trip. The replacement counselor is only 15 and kind of a idiot, and they end up lost in the woods. They finally return two days later, thanks to the efforts of one of the campers. Heather is the quiet type, and only came to Camp Mohawk because her parents made her. She'd spent most of the sessing reading and not participating in camp stuff, and her bunkies weren't exactly fond of her. They change their tune, though, when she's the one who "rescues" them.

Thoughts and Things

  • This book was published in July of 1989. That means that it's been a little over twenty years since the BSC first went to Camp Mohawk. Lord, I'm old.....
  • If Will Yamakawa was from New York, did he ride the same bus as Stacey? If so, wouldn't she have given him Claudia's address? She was pretty quick to give out Claud's number to Terry, the guy in California Girls.
  • I was a total Mary Anne about camp when I was younger. She watched camp movies and thought it would be the most awesome place in the world, and I read this book and thought that camp would be the most awesome place in the world. Lucky for me that it actually was pretty awesome. :)
  • I love that Stacey ended up settling into a patch of poison ivy immediately after a lecture on avoiding it. Someone wasn't paying attention to Old Meanie.
  • Speaking of the Meanies, do they live separately during camp sessions? Logan mentions people sneaking over to Mr. Meanie's cabin to spy on them when Mrs. Meanie comes to visit. That doesn't seem like an ideal arrangement...
  • Lots of Mimi foreshadowing.....

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Holy cow!!!!

I'm an adult...I shouldn't be so freaking excited about this:

That is totally going on my birthday list. Do you have any idea how long it's been since I asked for a freaking BABY SITTERS CLUB book for my birthday?!?! Guess I'll have something new to tack on to the end of my recap list. :)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

#25 Mary Anne and the Search for Tigger

Tigger's "kidnapping"
Is not a Federal case.
Okay, Mary Anne?


Mary Anne leaves Tigger outside to play when she's at a BSC meeting, but when she gets home, she discovers he's missing. She doesn't worry too much, until he's gone without a trace for almost 24 hours. She calls Kristy, figuring that her penchant for ideas and love of animals would make her the best person to talk to. Kristy immediately calls an emergency meeting of the BSC, and the girls create a plan of action for finding Tigger. They pool their money for a reward, and make a flier. After the meeting, Mary Anne calls Logan and breaks the news to him, but to her dismay, he doesn't seem all that interested.

The next day, the BSC papers the neighborhood with as many fliers as they can. Some of the sitting charges even get involved in the hunt for Tigger, but to no avail; he's still missing. Mary Anne does get what she thinks is a clue when she checks the mail after passing out the fliers: a ransom note (cue scary music). The writer claims to have Tigger, and tells Mary Anne that she needs to leave $100 on the big rock in Brenner Field the next afternoon if she wants to see him alive again. At the BSC meeting that afternoon, Mary Anne tells the others what's going on. She even manages to talk Logan into being there, in spite of how little he seems to care about the whole situation. In fact, Logan is actually the one who comes up with the plan to hide in and around the park and wait for the "kidnapper." He figures that the note was sent by a kid, and that the seven of them can probably overpower him (or her, as Dawn reminds us).

As it turns out, Logan was right. The note was sent by a kid. He's awfully surprised when he shows up at Brenner Field and is not only surrounded by seven baby-sitters, but that his envelope full of cash contains only Monopoly money. kidnapper, which is good, but Tigger is still missing, which is bad.

Later that week, Mary Anne is sitting for the Brunos. Little Hunter's allergies have been especially bad lately, and no one in the family can figure out why. Hunter knows; his sister Kerry is keeping a secret hidden in her closet, and when he takes Mary Anne in there to show her what it is, she gets a big surprise. Tigger is in there! When the Brunos get home, she tells them about the situation. Mary Anne thinks that Logan knew about Tigger all along, but didn't bother to tell her, so she runs off mad at him. They make up soon, and Logan blames his recent crankiness on some problems he's having on the baseball field.

Thoughts and Things

  • Man...I can't believe how much this book annoyed me. I don't remember it being so ridiculous before! I mean, everyone is Stoneybrook pratically drops everything to find Tigger. Kristy's mom goes into her office...IN STAMFORD... ON A SATURDAY copy the stupid fliers. Several BSC meetings are devoted to nothing but Tigger. Mary Anne makes everything all about her; she's mad that her dad isn't free to take a call from her in the middle of his work day, and even AFTER Dawn tells her about Logan's baseball problems, all she still thinks about is how his distance and bad attitude are affecting her. Good Lord, Mary Anne. You're supposed to be sensitive.
  • I always thought Mary Anne looked good on this cover. The little girl in the pink sweatshirt, on the other hand....look at her eyes! They're crazy. You might have to get out your own copy and take a REALLY close look to get the full effect.
  • Even though it was ridiculous for Mary Anne to expect her dad to drop everything to take a call about Tigger while he was in the middle of work, I have to hand it to her for actually trying to involve a parent. Logan, on the other hand, didn't want to call the police or tell any parents when they decided to ambush the kidnapper at Brenner Field. I think it would have served the kid right to have a police officer show up!
  • Kerry doesn't really get in trouble for stealing Tigger. Instead, she gets some sort of light punishment (we don't really find out what) and is rewarded by getting a hair-free pet of her own, since she's proved that she's so responsible. Lesson NOT learned!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

#24 Kristy and the Mother's Day Surprise

It's carnival time,
And for once, the BSC
Isn't running it!


In honor of Mother's Day, Kristy decides to give the moms of some of their charges a day off. They're going to take the kids to a local carnival, feed them lunch, let them run around at the park, and then take them back to Claudia's house for crafts and stories. They even recruit Stacey's help for the weekend, since they're expecting 21 children total.

The outing goes pretty well. Margo Pike does manage to work in her requisite barfing episode on the merry-go-round, and Karen Brewer the Spook Lover gets so scared in the Haunted House that she has to be taken out. To make Karen feel better, one of the workers shares some of the tricks of the haunted house trade with her, and makes her promise not to tell. So (of course), Karen tells the other kids everything at the park later. I'm starting to see why so many people aren't Karen fans...

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Thomas-Brewer-whatever has been hinting about wanting another baby, and Kristy thinks that her mom and Watson want to get pregnant. Nope; they're adopting a little Vietnamese girl, and she's arriving on Mother's Day. Enter Emily Michelle Thomas Brewer, and (of course) the majority of the other Thomases and Brewers are thrilled, since all teenagers and children love having babies around the house. Heh. Kristy also invites the whole club over to welcome Emily Michelle home, since that kind of an occasion should no way be for family only.

Thoughts and Things

  • Watson and Elizabeth pick Emily Michelle up at the airport. Don't prospective adoptive parents usually have to go to the child's home country to get them? I know she was adopted through an agency (at least, she was according to #33), but I wouldn't think that would make a difference, unless the agency was essentially buying children and bringing them over before placing them with families. So many issues with this adoption....
  • I always picture Sudsy's Carnival as being sort of unsafe and temporary-looking. I mean, it's set up in a parking lot near a park in a small town; how high-quality could it really be?
  • Mallory leads the kids in songs at one point during their outing. Isn't she supposed to be a terrible singer?
  • Books that involve fairs and carnivals always make me want fair food: peanuts, popcorn, etc. Speaking of, I'm hungry. :)
  • Claudia wears an outfit that involves blue, purple, and red. I hate purple and red together.
  • This is the book where Dawn sings, "the girl with colitis goes by" instead of "the girl with kaleidescope eyes." :D Interesting that the CA hippie is the one singing the song about drugs...