Tuesday, October 27, 2009

#46 Mary Anne Misses Logan


Mary Anne and Logan have been broken up for awhile, and she's really starting to miss him (obviously, if you've read the title of the book). Luckily (or not?), the entire 8th grade at SMS has a big English project coming up, which will help take Mary Anne's mind off of Lover Boy for awhile. Everyone in the 8th grade will be put into groups of about 4 people, and each group will be assigned an author to study. Mary Anne stresses out about who she might end up working with (the groups are being assigned randomly), but she never considers that it might be Logan himself. She's nervous on the day when the project groups are posted, but relieved when she sees that she'll get to study Megan Rinehart, one of her favorite authors. As for her group members? Pete Black and Miranda Shillaber (Mary Anne is okay with them), as well as Logan. Yep, Logan.

Most of the work on the project is going to take place outside of school, but everyone is given a chance to meet with their groups for the first time during study hall. Mary Anne is dreading her first encounter with Logan, but it's basically just awkward; no crying or bloodshed or anything. :) Before the group really has a chance to discuss what they want to do, though, one of the English teachers approaches them with Cokie Mason in tow. Even though students aren't supposed to switch groups, he wants to make an exception for Cokie. According to her, Megan Rinehart's books are the only ones that truly interest her. Ha....LOGAN is the only thing that truly interests Cokie, and Mary Anne knows it. The teacher then asks for a volunteer to switch into Cokie's old group, and Miranda Shillaber jumps at the chance (she hates Pete Black).

The next group meeting is at Cokie's house. She's all over Logan, and barely acknowledges Pete and Mary Anne. She also can't remember the name of the author they're supposed to be studying from one moment to the next, or the titles of the books they've decided to read for the project. As the meeting ends, Mary Anne overhears Cokie ask Logan out; she doesn't stick around to hear his answer.

By the time the next group meeting rolls around (about two weeks later), Cokie and Logan have gone out multiple times. They've been so busy that they haven't finished the reading, and it becomes abundantly clear that Cokie is planning on riding everyone else's coattails to a good grade without doing any of the work herself. Right before the project is due, Pete and Mary Anne decide to just finish it up themselves, without counting on any help from Cokie or Logan. Then, Mr. Kingbridge makes a big announcement: on the day the project is due, three of the authors that were studied will be coming to SMS for an assembly, and the groups that studied those authors will be presenting their projects orally. One of the authors is Megan Rinehart, which makes Mary Anne excited and terrified all at the same time. Pete, though, sees the presentation as a way to prove who did their share of the project and who didn't.

That afternoon, Mary Anne gets a surprise call from Logan. He wants to touch base with her about the project, to make sure they're ready for Author Day. As it turns out, he HAD gotten his portion of the project done, and even though it took a little work, he and Mary Anne (with a little help from Pete) combine Logan's section with the the ones that were already done. Cokie;s the real wild card, though; no one, not even Logan, knows how prepared she is or isn't. "Isn't" is probably more accurate. At the assembly, after the other three had read their portions of the report and done well, Cokie gets up and reads the book jacket summary from one of Megan Rinehart's books. She's not exactly a hit with the audience.

The next night, Mary Anne and Logan meet for dinner. He wants to thank her for her help getting the project together at the last minute, and also to let her know that he misses her. Cokie was fun for awhile, but doesn't really mean much to him. The SMS supercouple decides to give it another go. :)

Ugh...the subplot. The Kormans have just moved into the Delaney mansion, and they're basically scared of the own shadows after the move and change in schools. In fact, they're firmly convinced that the Toilet Monster lives in their bathroom.

Rating: 3.5

Thoughts and Things

  • So...in the span of 5 books, Logan went from being a pushy, controlling jerk to a guy who let Cokie control him, even though he knew she wasn't right for him? Also, I'm not a Cokie fan or anything, but I don't like the way Logan led her on. He admitted that she was basically just a Mary Anne subsitute. No one deserves that.

  • I hate the Korman subplot. Also, I don't know that giving into Skylar's fears like they did is necessarily the healthiest thing to do (keeping the fish fountain turned off, not ever saying the word "cat"). Wouldn't it be better for them to just act as if those things are no big deal, rather than shielding her like that? I'm not a parent, so I could be totally off base here.

  • Mary Anne aches for Logan. Gross.

  • This book always brings back awful memories of working on group projects in school. I hated group work just as much as Mary Anne does, and forcing kids to work in groups doesn't really impact their future lives as much as teachers would like to think it does. For instance, I STILL would rather work alone than in a group, and I think I'm about as good at collaboration as I would be if I'd never done a group project.

  • This isn't a bad cover (even though nothing like this happened in the book), but where are Dawn, Mallory, and Jessi? Weren't they invited to the skating party?

  • I like to think that Pete Black and Mary Anne reunite as adults and end up together. They'd make a cute couple.

Monday, October 26, 2009

#45 Kristy and the Baby Parade


Stoneybrook is going to be holding their biannual baby parade, and Kristy thinks that it would be fun for the club to make a float and enter. They've all got babies on the brain anyway; the girls just took an infant care class, and Kristy is helping prepare Andrea Prezzioso for the stroller division of the parade as part of her long-term sitting job. The club's float project is a disaster from the start, though. The girls argue over what the theme of the float will be, and have no problem making fun of each others' ideas (some of them are pretty stupid...). They eventually decide on "The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe;" lots of characters are involved in that one, which means lots of babies can be a part of the float.

When the girls meet to start working on the float itself, things get even worse. Everyone has their own ideas about what the float should look like, but no one is sharing those ideas with the others. Stacey mixes up an orangey-red paint that she loves, but it clashes horribly with the bright pink fabric that Mallory bought for the babies' costumes. Claudia is in charge of actually constructing the giant shoe, and since she's trying to use everyone's advice, it looks like a lump of nothing. It's pretty clear that this is not going to be the club's most successful project....

By the day of the parade, things have gone from bad to worse. The pink costumes clash just as much as you might imagine with the orange paint on the float, which looks even worse than it did during construction, if that's possible. Poor Charlie Thomas, who had agreed to pull the float behind the junk bucket, is completely embarrassed to be seen with it. All of the club members are mad about how everything turned out, and none of them are speaking to each other. They survive the parade, thought, and Kristy quickly sends Charlie to the dump with the float.

After the parade, Kristy calls the other club members to make up. None of them were really mad at each other; just mad at how things turned out. At least they learned an important lesson about communication and working together (Ellen Miles really lays it on with a shovel at the end of the book). Also, Andrea Prezzioso won first prize in her divison, so the day wasn't a total loss. :)

Rating: 2

Thoughts and Things

  • This book is a really rough read when it comes on the heels of the awesomeness that is New York, New York!
  • Those babies on the cover look like dolls....
  • I'm actually kind of surprised that the BSC had never taken an infant care class before this. That sounds like something that Kristy would insist they do to drum up business!
  • Heh...Squirt's favorite Sesame Street character is Elmo, who "isn't on very often, so he has to watch carefully to catch him." What a difference a few years makes! This book was written in 1991, and (I think) Tickle Me Elmo first came out in 1996.
  • One good thing about the BSC never leaving 8th grade is that we never have to deal with the stupid baby parade again.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

SS #6 New York, New York!


The BSC members have yet another convenient two week vacation from school, so they head to New York City with Stacey. Here are everyone's plots:

Claudia and Mallory take art lessons at some fancy art school. Claud is pretty confident that she'll ace it, since the assignments are pretty basic. She's especially sure her work is better than Mallory's amateurish, sloppy drawings. Imagine Claudia's surprise when Mac (their teacher) praises Mal's work, but constantly tells Claudia to work slower or start over. Claud kind of turns into a witch towards Mallory (presumably out of jealousy), and begins to think that she's not as good at art as she thought. On the last day of classes, Mac pulls Claudia aside and apologizes for being so hard on her. He explains that he only did it because she has potential and talent, but is lacking discipline, which he thinks she can develop. Mallory, meanwhile, hasn't been enjoying the classes all that much. She'd rather learn to draw cute, cartoony animals than study serious art techniques, like Claudia. Also, after Claud tells Mal about her conversation with Mac (and apologizes for her behavior), Mal asks him if she's as good as Claudia. He tells her no; Mal has the discipline that Claudia needs, but not her talent.

Stacey and Mary Anne get a job sitting for two of the most stereotypically British children in YA literature. Seriously; their names are Alistaire and Rowena Harrington, they dress in sailor suits, and they're always saying things like "hullo" and "brilliant." At least they didn't spend the whole book asking for tea and crunpets or something. The girls show the kids the city, but quickly realize they're being followed by a mysterious man in sunglasses and a rain hat. They're convinced that he wants to kidnap the children; their parents are very wealthy, and also involved in international politics. On their last day of sitting, Stacey finally tells Mr. and Mrs. Harrington about the man. It turns out that the Harringtons knew about him all along; he's the childrens' bodyguard. They didn't want Alistaire and Rowena to know he was following them, so they could feel like regular kids during their vacation.

Kristy finds a stray dog in Central Park. She sneaks him back to Laine's apartment at the Dakota (where she, Jessi, Mary Anne, and Mallory are staying) and plans to take him home at the end of the trip. Watson says no to keeping Sonny, and when Mrs. Cummings finds him one day when the girls are all out, Kristy realizes that she'll need to find a new home for him. She puts up fliers, and one of the only calls she gets is from a 9 year old boy who loves Sonny at first sight.

Jessi meets Quint, a boy dancer, while attending a performance of Swan Lake at Lincoln Center (they're sitting next to each other). He's good enough to get into Julliard, but isn't sure he wants to audition. The other guys in his neighborhood tease him for taking ballet, and he doesn't want to deal with how much worse it would get if he went to classes every day. Jessi encourages him to audition anyway, and he gets in. He also gives Jessi her first real, chin-tipping kiss before she goes back home. Ahh, young love. :)

Dawn is terrified of the city. For the first few days, she won't even leave the Mc Gills' apartment. Then, she meets Richie, who lives in the same building, and he shows her a different side of the city. Dawn sees that New York is more than just the murders, danger, and crime that she's been hearing about, and actually manages to have a good time.

Rating: 5

Thoughts and Things

  • I'd forgotten how much I like this Super Special; it might actually be my favorite!
  • I sympathize with Claudia a lot more than I used to. Being mean to Mal wasn't right, of course, but I understand why she was acting out. Art is really the only thing she was good at, and to face the possibility of losing that was probably pretty rough.
  • When Stacey and Mary Anne take Alistaire and Rowena to the petting zoo in Central Park, Stacey says that the admission is ten cents and always will be. Can any New Yorkers out there (or someone who's been recently) confirm or deny that? Also, is the Metropolitain Museum of Art really on a "pay what you can" admission plan?
  • I used to think that "Rowena" was pronounced as if it rhymed with "Brenna." I was grown up before I realized that it's actually pronounced "Roweena."
  • The Cloisters sound awesome. If I ever make it to New York, you better believe I'm going there!
  • Dawn and Richie's friendship is really cute. I wish he'd made another appearance in the series...minus the mullet.
  • If Jessi and Quint weren't 11, I'd really like them together. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I think 11 is too young to date.
  • Kristy's mother actually cries before putting her on the train to NYC. Elizabeth doesn't seem like the type to lose it like that.

Friday, October 23, 2009

#44 Dawn and the Big Sleepover


The 2nd through 5th graders at SES are involved in a program called "Pens Across America." Each student who's participating has been writing to another student at a corresponding school in New Mexico. Those students are a part of the Zuni nation, and they've been sharing information about their culture with their Stoneybrook counterparts (gotta love the educational value). Dawn is a little sad when she sees how much fun the kids are having with the program; she wishes she could have a pen pal, too (I don't blame her). She considers writing to the elementary school to see about getting her own pen pal at their middle school, which makes her feel a little better.

Over the next few days, Dawn kind of forgets about the Zunis and wanting a pen pal. That is, she forgets until Mallory arrives late at a club meeting with some bad news: there was an explosion at a gas station on the Zuni reservation, and the elementary school (plus some houses)burned down. Dawn wants to help, especially knowing how upset the Stoneybrook kids are about what happened to their friends. Later that evening, she comes up with a very Kristy-like idea: Stoneybrook will hold a food and clothing drive, plus some sort of fundraiser. Mary Anne suggests she get some teachers involved, so Dawn musters up the nerve and calls her brother's old teacher (the only SES teacher she has any remote connection with) at home the next day. Ms. Besser is thrilled with the idea, and promises to bring it up to her fellow teachers on Monday. They love the idea, and all systems are go!

Later that same Monday, the BSC meets early to discuss Dawn's idea. They love it, of course, and they all want to be involved. They decide to let the kids raise money on their own, rather than having one big fundraiser, and they also plan to throw a big sleepover party for anyone who contributes something. Later that week, the girls head to SES for an assembly to let the kids in on what they're planning.

The Schafer/Spier barn is the drop off point for the donated food and clothing. There's a pretty enthusiastic response from the kids; in some cases, it's a little too enthusiastic. Dawn and Mary Anne realize pretty quickly that some of the items that the kids are bringing aren't exactly the items that parents wanted to part with. The same think happens at a garage sale the Rodowskys hold to raise money. Watson, for instance, finds a set of rare books of his, and Mrs. Delaney finds her lamp (which she ends up letting them sell). Other fundraising efforts go a little bit better: Jessi and Mal hold a carnival (we'll just ignore the fact that Chewy gets scared of the kids' peformer and rampages through everything), and Haley Braddock dresses up as a gypsy and tells fortunes.

Sleepover day finally arrives. There are a few problems, like homesick children and issues with the pizza being delivered late, but it goes smoothly for the most part. The girls hand out prizes to the kids (donated by a local toy company), play games, and read stories. No one gets a lot of sleep that night (would you if you were stuck in a gym with 100 kids?) but it's a pretty fun end to their efforts to help the Zunis. They pack everything up and ship it off to New Mexico right after the sleepover ends, and a week later, they get a very nice letter back from the Zuni school's principal, thanking them for all their hard work.

Rating: 3.5

Thoughts and Things
  • Welcome to the BSC, Peter Lerangis! This is the first book he ghostwrote in the series. I'd never know if it hadn't looked; it's definitely lacking the "flavor" that his later books developed.
  • They must have raised a LOT of money to be able to not only mail three minivans full of donated items to New Mexico, but to also send a large enough check to help the Zunis get financing to rebuild. I really wish they'd told us the amount!
  • I always sympathized with Dawn wanting a pen pal; I had pen pals growing up, and I loved it. I'm actually still in touch with one that I started writing to more than 10 years ago.
  • There is ZERO mention of Stacey having been so sick recently. You think Dawn could at least comment on the fact that one of her good friends had been in the hospital for two weeks!
  • I love that the Zunis make a reappearance later in the series; too many one-book issues/projects/etc. were just dropped, so it's nice to have at least one that wasn't.
  • Okay, I was totally determined NOT to comment on the food in this one. I've been doing that way too often lately, but I can't help it. The pizza with whole wheat crust? The different kinds of pancakes and juice? The vegetarian Mexican food that the Schafers and Spiers have for dinner? YUM!!! Maybe I need to stop blogging right before lunch. :D

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

#43 Stacey's Emergency


As the last 10 or 15 books have told us, Stacey hasn't been feeling well for quite awhile. She's been way too hungry, thirsty, and tired, and she's stressed out by the way her parents keep putting her in the middle of their arguments. Stacey has even been going off her diet; she's bought candy from vending machines at school, had some of the fudge that Becca and Charlotte made during a sitting job, and even stolen some Ring Dings from Claudia. Stacey is definitely not feeling up to the action-packed weekend her dad has planned for her in New York (she'd rather wait until she's caught up with her school work and not feeling so awful), but she heads into the city anyway.

Stacey's dad is concerned about her health from the start, and the day after she arrives in New York, he takes her to the hospital. Her blood sugar level is insanely high, and no one can figure out why (she hasn't confessed to her dietary indiscretions yet). Her mom has come into the city to stay until Stacey's better, but Stacey is upset to learn that her mother isn't staying in her room at her dad's place. She doesn't seem to understand why her parents wouldn't want to sleep under the same roof, even though she seemed relatively okay with the divorce and what it meant before this book. Stacey even (disasterously) tries to get them to visit her at the same time, and ends up throwing them out of her hospital room out of frustration.

Stacey's blood sugar goes up and down over the next two weeks. It's a rough road, but she has plenty of visitors to cheer her up. Laine comes bearing (weird) gifts several times, and the BSC (minus Jessi and Mal) gets to come up to see her two days in a row. Finally, though, she's healthy enough to go home. Stacey and her mom arrive back home to find a welcoming committe waiting for them, but the party breaks up soon so Stacey can rest. Later that evening, Stacey finally confesses that she'd gone off her diet, and she talks to her mom about how she's not willing to be stuck in the middle of any parental arguments anymore.

Charlotte Johanssen is pretty upset when she finds out that Stacey is sick. She turns into a total hypochondriac, thinking she has every illness under the sun. That pretty much disappears once Char finds out that Stacey is fine and coming home. In fact, the welcome home party was Charlotte's idea.

Rating: 4

Thoughts and Things

  • Why didn't Stacey tell someone when she first started feeling so bad??? I don't get it. I know she probably doesn't like doctors, and she doesn't want to worry anyone, but I'm assuming that she also doesn't want to die. Also...why didn't Dr. Johanssen make sure that Stacey made a doctor's appointment instead of just suggesting it? Heck, if I were Dr. J., I'd probably have called Mrs. McGill.

  • That emerald green sweater that Stacey's mom gets her at Benetton sounds like something I would wear. I love green! Stacey can keep the beret, though.

  • Every time I'm in a nasty public bathroom, I think of Stacey's experience with trying to get a drink of water in one on the train to NYC.

  • Funny story about this book: my best friend growing up stole a copy of it from our school's book fair, and I helped her rough it up so it wouldn't look new anymore. That way, her mom wouldn't get suspicious about where it came from. We were such awful little thieves. :)

  • I don't think Stacey ever confessed to Claudia that she stole some of her junk food stash!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

#42 Jessi and the Dance School Phantom


Jessi's just won the role of Princess Aurora in her dance school's production of The Sleeping Beauty. From the first rehearsal, though, things start to go wrong. Jessi's toe shoes go missing from her dance bag (even though she knows she packed them), her spare dance clothes go missing (and eventually turn up torn to shreds), and she slips and falls on a puddle of water, injuring her ankle and putting her out of commission for a few days. She also gets a bunch of threatening notes, warning her of even more impending danger. Does she tell her parents and/or Madame Noelle that someone is out to get her? Of course not. This is the BSC, after all.

After the club finds out what's been going on, they decide to attend one of Jessi's rehearsals and try and "finger the suspect" (which just sounds dirty) based on their observations. Afterwards, they narrow it down to three of the girls: Katie Beth, who Jessi has had problems with in the past and who got to dance the role when Jessi was hurt; Carrie Steinfeld, who is the oldest student in the class and really needed a lead role to help her get into a more advanced school; and Hilary Morgan, who was shooting Jessi some pretty nasty looks during the rehearsal and is under a lot of pressure from her former-dancer stage mother.

Over the next few rehearsals, Jessi watches all three suspects as closely as she can. Carrie is the first to be ruled out; she's absent on a day that Jessi gets another note. Katie Beth is ruled out next; she pushes Jessi out of the way when a heavy piece of scenery is about to fall on her. That leaves Hilary, and Jessi knows she needs to trap her into confessing what she's done. The club notices that the writing used in the notes is very distinctive, so Claudia suggests that Jessi convince Hilary to write something, and then compare the notes with that sample. It actually works, and Hilary confesses; she thought she could scare Jessi out of the role, which would give her a chance to audition for it again, and might get her pushy mother off her back. Jessi agrees not to tell anyone, but only if Hilary stops her tricks. She agrees, and the rest of the rehearsals (and the performance) go off without a hitch. Hilary even decides to quit dance after The Sleeping Beauty; she just doesn't love it like Jessi does, and realizes that she has to start living her own life rather than trying to please her mother.

Meanwhile, the BSC is holding a pet show for their charges. There are all kinds of fights and arguments between siblings over who's going to enter the family pet, and arguments between friends over who has the best pet. At first, Becca Ramsey is excited to enter Misty the hamster, but then develops a sort of inferiority complex when she thinks about all the bigger and better pets that are entering. She's even on the verge of not entering at all, but decides to after all. All the entrants get prizes, and Misty ends up winning "Best All-Around Pet."

Rating: 4

Thoughts and Things

  • Jessi says that Mary Anne and Logan have stayed good friends since their break-up. Really? I always got the impression that they kind of stopped talking. Why else would Mary Anne freak out over having to work in the same group as Logan in #46?

  • I would far rather read about Jessi's dance adventures than Kristy's softball stuff.

  • If this book had happened later in the series, how much do you want to bet that Jessi would have assumed that race played a part in why someone would want her out of the role?

  • Boo Boo wins "Best Personality" at the pet show. I love it. :)

  • I don't think that pushing Jessi out of the way of that scenery really proved Katie Beth's innocence. There's a big difference between wanting someone to give up a lead role and wanting them to come to serious bodily harm. In fact, saving Jessi like that would have been the perfect way for Katie Beth to deflect suspicion, had she been guilty.

Monday, October 19, 2009

#41 Mary Anne vs. Logan

Mary Anne is having problems with Logan; he's completely taking over her life. He decides when they go out, what they do, and doesn't even ask her if she's okay with the plans. He even orders for her in restaurants, which I HATE. Mary Anne finally decides to let their relationship cool off for awhile, but Logan doesn't take it well at all. He seems to interpret "cooling off" to mean "breaking up," so he barely acknowledges Mary Anne's presence. Right before Valentine's Day, though, the club gets a call from Logan. He and his parents are all going out for the holiday, and they need a sitter for Kerry and Hunter. Logan tells Mary Anne that the kids miss her, and that they requested that she be their sitter. Mary Anne agrees, even though she hates the idea of seeing Logan leave on a date with someone else.

By the time the big day rolls around, Mary Anne has bascially invented a whole new girlfriend for Logan, complete with name and backstory (Olivia, an aspiring singer). When she gets to the Brunos, she finds the house dark and quiet (no new girlfriends in sight), and Logan waiting for her with a nice dinner and a bunch of presents. He'd planned the evening as a surprise, to help them get their relationship going again. Mary Anne is sort of horrified, and doesn't know what to say; Logan may have decided he was ready to pick things back up, but Mary Anne hasn't. She makes it through dinner alive, but comes to an inmportant decision: she needs to break up with Logan. He isn't nice or understanding anymore, and only thinks about his own needs and wants rather than considering hers, too. They meet in the park, and that's that; no more MAS + LB= LUV 4-EVR.

While Mary Anne is busy sorting out her love life, Jenny Prezzioso is having a tough time dealing with the impending birth of baby sister Andrea. Her parents have been buying her all sorts of new things as bribes so she'll like her new sibling, and Jenny knows full well what's going on. She's also upset about the fact that she won't have her parents to herself ever again. Once Andrea's at home, though, it looks like things will be okay. Jenny loves her new sister from the start.

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things
  • Jessi is the one called to stay with Jenny when her parents go to the hospital to have Andrea. When she gets to their house, Mr. P tells her that her friends were all busy or not at home. Does that mean that Jessi was their last resort? If so, ouch!

  • Mrs. P has been teaching Jenny all sorts of baby tasks, like giving bottles and changing diapers. That seems like a lot to expect from a 4 year old.

  • Logan was such a jerk in this book; he and Mary Anne had some fights before this, but his personality really did a 180. I don't blame her for breaking up with him!

  • I like Mary Anne so much better when she's showing some backbone than when she's either oblivious and wrapped up in herself or super sensitive and crying about everything.

  • If I were Mary Anne, I totally would have stayed at home to read in front of the fire rather than going to the park with Logan.

  • This is another book with lots of good eating: Mary Anne and Logan's Valentine's evening lasagna, the hot chocolate they have at the park, the cheeseburgers and Cokes they have in a restaurant, and the vanilla milkshake and grilled cheese sandwich that Mary Anne actually wanted that night....yum!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

#40 Claudia and the Middle School Mystery

It's math test time for Claudia, and for once, she's really prepared. She knows the material, and even though she's nervous on test day, she feels good about how she did once it's over. The next day, Claud is thrilled to find out that she got an 94% on the test, but her excitement doesn't last long. At the end of class, Mr. Zorzi calls both Claudia and Shawna Riverson up to his desk and asks them to compare tests. They do, and they see that they each got the same score. Claud doesn't understand what Mr. Zorzi is getting at, until he points out that they didn't just get the same score; they also got the exact same problems wrong in the exact same way. Since the chance of that happening randomly is pretty slim, Mr. Zorzi suspects cheating. Right away, Shawna speaks up and defends herself, and Mr. Zorzi lets her go. Claud knows she's in hot water, even though she didn't actually cheat. She's well-known for her less than stellar grades, and Mr. Zorzi isn't buying the fact that she earned her 94%. He assumes that she's guilty (Claud doesn't exactly do much to convince him otherwise), and tells Claudia that the principal and her parents would be informed.

When the Kishi parents get the call from the principal, they're a little suspicious. They give Claudia a chance to explain, but it isn't until Janine speaks up and defends her sister that they're fully on Claudia's side (go, Janine!). The Kishis want to go to the principal, but Claudia doesn't want them involved; she's determined to take care of the problem herself. It means she might have to take an F on that test in place of the A- she earned, but she's bound and determined to fly solo on this one.

Later that week, Claudia follows Shawna and two of her friends into the bathroom at school, hoping to hear something incriminating. Does she ever! Shawna admits to cheating, since she has so much else to do that she didn't have time to study for the test. Claudia tells the rest of the BSC members what she overheard, and they decide to check Shawna's locker after school that day for written evidence. They find a note, but Claudia ends up putting it back in the locker. After all, she couldn't exactly take it to the principal and tell him where she found it, could she? Poor Claud is feeling pretty defeated at that point, and decides that she just doesn't care. In honor of her newfound attitude, she wears an ocean-themed outfit to school the next day, mimicking Miss Frizzle from the Magic School Bus books. I guess sand dollar barrettes and jelly shoes are the traditional 13 year old way of indicating apathy or something. :) After school, Claud is surprised to see Janine walking into the building; she's there to talk to Claudia's principal about the situation. Claud waits nervously outside the office, until she's called in to join the meeting (Mr. Zorzi is there, too). Janine has convinced them that Claudia at least deserves a fair shot at proving her innocence, but they haven't decided what that will be yet.

The next day, Mr. Zorzi tells Claudia that she'll be taking another test that covers the same material that the first test did. Claud does even better on that test than she did on the first one, and Mr. Zorzi apologizes for accusing her of cheating. He calls Shawna up to his desk, and tells her that she will also be given the chance to take another test. That's when Shawna confesses to cheating, and Claudia is completely in the clear.

Meanwhile, the Pike triplets are grounded. They were playing baseball and broke a window, but because they have this new Three Musketeers thing going on, they won't tell which one of them is responsible. They end up reenacting the crime at Mallory's suggestion (kind of like Claud reenacting her test), and it becomes pretty clear that they were all at fault. No more grounding!

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things

  • If I were Claudia, there's no way I would have rolled over and accepted a fate that I didn't deserve. You better believe I would have had my parents at school, talking to the principal. That is, if they actually believed my innocence. I kind of think that my mom would have assumed I was a cheater....

  • Isn't a 94% an A rather than an A-?

  • Mr. Zorzi should have retested both girls after school on the day of the first test. Claudia had more than enough time to study (even though she didn't know for most of that time that she'd be taking a second test), so doing so well the second time around didn't prove much of anything.
  • The Pike triplets didn't really get punished for breaking that window, in spite of the fact that it wasn't the first window they'd broken in the recent past. Heck, once their grounding was over, their parents took them out to celebrate, and gave them their allowances back even though the window wasn't paid for. They should have stuck with that plan, no matter how small the Pikes' allowances are and no matter how long it took them to pay it off. Just working off the cost of the window wouldn't have been enough for me if I were their mother.

  • They must have used one of the Stacey models to pose for Shawna on this cover....

  • I always thought there was way too much math in this one when I was growing up, but I like it better now. It's the nostalgia factor, I think; this was one of the first BSC books I ever owned. :)

Friday, October 16, 2009

SS #5 California Girls!

My copy of this
Book is missing its cover.
Have I read too much?

Claudia had, apparently, been buying Lottery tickets for ages. When the jackpot goes up to $23 million, the other girls in the BSC decide to get tickets of their own and split the money if any of them are winners. Dawn's ticket just so happens to contain 5 out of 6 winning numbers, and they win $10,000. The girls have yet another convenient 2 week vacation from school, as do Jeff and Dawn's California friends, so they decide to use the money to go to California and visit the west coast branch of the Schafer family. Here's a rundown on what everyone did there:

Dawn freaks out a lot over the presence of Carol, her dad's girlfriend. She doesn't like the way Carol tries so hard to be one of the gang, and she doesn't like the advice that Carol keeps giving her friends (namely, Claudia and Mal). When Stacey gets into a little trouble with some new friends of hers, Dawn fully expects Carol to keep in between them. When she insists on telling Dawn's dad, Dawn it pretty mad at first. Then, she realizes that she actually respects Carol more when she acts like a parent than a teenager, and they bond a little by the end of the trip. dawn even gives her dad permission to marry Carol...because Jack Schafer totally needs his daughter's permission for that sort of thing.

Stacey falls in love with surfing. Dawn introduces her to some older kids that she used to go to school with, and Stacey goes to the beach with them almost every day. They're a little wild, and could probably use a refresher course in proper driving ettiquette, but Stacey finds hanging out with them to be pretty exciting. Then, on the way home from the beach one day, they cause a bad car accident. No one is hurt, but the driver tries to get everyone else who was in their car to lie so it won't look like his fault. When the cops arrive, though, Stacey tells them the truth. The older kids look daggers at her until she's taken to the hospital to get checked out. After she's given a clean bill of health, she calls the Schafers for a ride home. She's pretty relieved when Carol answers the phone; since Carol had seemed like just another kid for most of the vacation, Stacey figures she's in the clear. She's awfully surprised when Carol tells her that Mr. Schafer will need to know about what happened. Mr. Schafer forbids her to see the older kids again, and they call Stacey's parents to tell them what happened.

Jessi meets up with Derek Masters, Stoneybrook's very own child star. He invites her to the set of his sitcom, and while she's there, she gets picked to be in a crowd scene. Jessi has a good time, and when Derek suggests she look into getting an agent or getting on a show while she's in CA, she likes the idea. She eventually realizes that ballet is her true love, and that she's just not meant for the world of acting.

Claudia has the most boring Super Special romance in the entire series. She meets Terry on the beach one day, and even though she's attracted to him, she thinks they're too different for a relationship to work out. He's super smart, loves school and reading, and Claudia figures she's no match for a guy like that. She doesn't plan on seeing him again after the beach, but Stacey runs into him and gives him the Schafers' number so he can call her. Claud is kind of afraid to be herself around him (she doesn't want him to think she's stupid), so she ends up sitting through boring foreign movies she doesn't understand, eating escargots, and trying to hold down her end of conversations about things she knows nothing about. She ends up calling Janine for advice, and Janine (in keeping with her usual awesomeness) tells Claud to just be herself. Claudia takes her advice, and by the end of the vacation she's in LUV with Terry.

Kristy is mortally offended by the casual way that Dawn's friends run the We Love Kids Club. When she's offered a job with two of their most difficult clients, she figures that it's her chance to prove what a great sitter she is. She ignores the advice of the WLKC, which turns out to be a bad move on her part. Erik and Ryan Dewitt aren't bad kids, but they're wild. They cause all sorts of chaos on a trip to Universal Studios, and Kristy is forced to admit that she's not the only one in the world who knows a lot about kids, baby-sitting, and clubs.

Mary Anne sits for a little girl named Stephie Robertson. Stephie is a lot like Mary Anne was as a kid; she's quiet and shy, is being raised by her father, and even looks like Mary Anne. One big difference is that Stephie has asthma. This freaks Mary Anne out; she's super paranoid about letting Stephie do anything active, and is convinced that Stephie is always on the verge of an attack. She loosens up after Stephie makes it through the Universal Studios trip with no problems, but Stephie ends up having an attack during Mary Anne's very last sitting job. Stephie's attacks are usually brought on by emotional stress, not physical activity, and she's sad about saying good-bye to Mary Anne. Stephie's okay, though, and she and Mary Anne keep in touch after Mary Anne goes back home. At least, they keep in touch until later in the series when Dawn suddenly becomes the one who helped Stephie break out of her shell and there's no more mention of Mary Anne's involvement.

Mallory....oh, Lord, where do I start? Mal becomes obsessed with all things cosmetic (she even makes Carol take her and Jessi to the Max Factor Museum of Beauty), and decides to transform herself into a "California Girl." During a mall trip, she blows all her money on make up and hair dye. Yep, hair dye. Mallory thinks that part of being a California girl is having blond hair, so she dyes hers. She drives everyone crazy for the rest of the trip with her talk about her looks, and is totally oblivious as to why they seem so irritated with her. She also has to borrow money from Jessi for admission to places they go to as a group. Things come to a head for Mal when she's invited to the P.S. 162 set. The director calls for volunteers for another crowd scene, but Mal isn't chosen because her looks aren't quite right. She mopes for a few days, but her friends help her to see that she was much better off as she was before. There's just one problem, though: the wash-out blond dye she used isn't washing out. So, the BSC goes to a drug store and buys a bottle of red dye, and Mal is back to her natural state. Since she won't be able to use the make up once she gets back home, she sells it to Claudia and Stacey, and then turns the money over to Jessi to pay her back for what she's borrowed.

Rating: 3.5

Thoughts and Things
  • Don't even get me started on the legal issues surrounding a bunch of 13 year olds winning the Lottery....

  • I find it hard to believe that all the BSC parents were fine with the girls spending that kind of money on a vacation. You'd think that at least one of them (Richard Spier???) would want their daughter to start a college fund or something with the money.

  • I also find it hard to believe that Dawn never, just for a second, wanted to keep all the money for herself since it was her ticket that was a winner.

  • Note to Ann: you don't dye red hair blond, especially with wash out dye. You have to bleach it, and I'm pretty sure that's not something that can be done at home by an 11 year old. I'm pretty sure that the only way you can dye hair blond rather than bleach is if it's already pretty light.

  • Claudia and Terry really weren't a very good match, even after Claud started being herself around him. They were just so boring together!

  • About the cover: in what world to 11 year olds have bodies like Mallory? Also, that bikini that Stacey's wearing? It makes me wonder what Hodges was thinking when he drew this picture. Actually, never mind. I don't want to know.....

  • I really like Jessi's friendship with Derek Masters, and I wish we'd seen more of it.

  • Janine rocks. :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

#39 Poor Mallory!

The Pikes have no cash
For things like Persian cats that
Cost 400 bucks.
The company that Mr. Pike works for is in financial trouble, and he loses his job. The Pike family is all set to tighten its belt by foregoing allowances, only buying necessities, and having Mallory baby-sit for free, and Mrs. Pike is going to be registering with a temp agency. Mal is glad to pitch in, but she's scared about what's going to happen to the family, and scared of her dad (getting laid off has made him cranky). She figures her siblings are probably scared, too, so she forms the Pike Club. They come up with even more ways to save money, like not leaving the lights on, and (per Claire's suggestion) only using one Kleenex to blow their noses. :) Banding together and coming up with ways to contribute helps the Pike kids feel a little better about things.

Not long before Mr. Pike lost his job, the Delaneys called the BSC for a regular, 3-day-a-week sitter for a month. Kristy originally took the job, but agrees to give it to Mal instead. The big news in the Delaney house is their new in-ground swimming pool. Max and Amanda like swimming, and they like having their friends swim with them, but it becomes pretty clear that some kids are only pretending to like them in order to use the pool. To figure out who their real friends are, the Delaneys pretend that there's a new pool rule in effect: no swimming when there's a sitter in charge. The kids that come over anyway are real friends, and the ones that don't, aren't.

Mallory can't help but contrast her situation (the Pike only getting what they really need) with the Delaneys (they have everything they want and more). She does feel a little bit connected to them, though: the Delaneys and the Pike kids are in the process of finding out who their real friends are. Mal and her siblings have been teased and excluded at school because their dad is out of work, and are learning to appreciate those who've actually stuck by them during their tough times.

Mr. Pike eventually finds another job. Over a celebratory dinner, Pike kids mention how relieved they are that they're not going to lose the house. Mr. Pike reassures them that they wouldn't have, even if he hadn't found a job; he'd been getting severance pay from his old company. The Pike kids are a little exasperated when they find that out; they'd put an awful lot of work into earning and saving money. Also, Mal hosts her very first BSC sleepover, at which they prank call some of the girls who'd been meanest to her. Sweet revenge. :)

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things
  • If Mr. Pike was getting severance pay, why did they Pike parents take all the money that their children earned? From they way they discussed things over their celebration dinner, it sounds like they did just that. That seems kind of wrong....

  • Mal mentions that she's only allowed to wear gold hoops or dots in her ears, yet one of Mrs. Pike's conditions for letting Mal get her ears pierced in #21 was that she not stick to boring stuff.

  • Here's another mystery: it was Halloween in the previous book, yet in this one, it's pool weather. That much time doesn't usually pass between BSC books.

  • Is having an unemployed parent really something that would cause kids to tease each other?

  • If Mr. Pike's company was having such trouble, maybe they shouldn't be paying for families of 10 people to go on cruises to the Bahamas and Disney World. ;) Heck, maybe that's WHY they ended up in dire straits!

Monday, October 12, 2009

#38 Kristy's Mystery Admirer

Kristy's getting love
Notes! Too bad they're from Bart;
She dumps him later on.


Kristy gets home from a BSC meeting one day to find multiple phone messages from Shannon Kilbourne waiting for her. A note for Kristy was delivered to the Kilbourne's mailbox, and since the envelope is decorated with hearts and flowers, Shannon is convinced that it's a love note. She brings the note to Kristy after dinner that night, and what do you know? It is a love note. Shannon suspects Bart Taylor right away, but Kristy thinks it's her brother, Sam, playing one of his jokes. Several more notes arrive over the next few days, and Kristy even brings them to school to share with the BSC members. They aren't the only ones who are interested, though; Cokie, Grace, and their two cronies who we never hear about again are also paying very close attention to what's going on...

That afternoon, another note arrives. This one's a little different, and the warning message it contains is far creepier than the sappy stuff that made up the first few. More disturbing notes follow that one, including one that goes like this:

Violets are blue,
Blood is red,
I'll remember you when you are dead.

Pretty creepy! Kristy is now convinced that Bart might just be the one sending the notes, because he's a psycho masquerading as a normal teenage boy. Either that or it some random psycho who's out to kidnap her for ransom money. Shannon isn't buying that theory; she thinks that Bart is sending the notes to psych Kristy out so she won't be able to coach the Krushers to a win in he upcoming World Series game with the Bashers. Both of them give Bart the silent treatment for days, until he finally shows up at Kristy's house wanting to know what's up. She confronts him, and while he admits he did write the first notes (the sappy ones), he denies kowing anything about the second set. He's also (understandably) mad that Kristy would think he'd sabotage her or her team just to win a baseball game.

The mystery of who sent the scary notes isn't solved until the day of the Krushers/Bashers World Series. Cokie and her friends show up at the game, making Kristy suspicious (they hate baseball...they hate the BSC...why would they come?). She's even more suspicious when Cokie tries to start a conversation with her. Then, Cokie uses a phrase from one of the notes, giving herself away. The Krushers win the World Series, Kristy and Bart are (kind of) together, and they even go to the Halloween Hop...as lobsters. :)

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things

  • Is it me, or are some of Bart's love notes just as creepy as the scary ones that Cokie sent???

  • So, once again, Cokie gave herself away by using a phrase from one of her threatening notes. She did the same thing in #17 when she called Mary Anne's mustard seed necklace a "bad luck charm." This must be why the whole book felt really repetitive.

  • This book is the most we've seen of Shannon since #11. I thought she played a bigger role in the series than that. Maybe I'm just thinking of the later books when she becomes the alternate officer for awhile.

  • Kristy hides her notes in a copy of The Cat Ate my Gymsuit; a definite shout out to AMM's friend, Paula Danziger.

  • The lobster costumes are pretty freaking awesome, but how did they drink punch with the claw mittens over their hands? Did they take them off?

  • Speaking of costumes, I kind of miss dressing up for Halloween. I haven't had a reason to in years....

  • Shannon's uniform on the cover is ugly.

  • I've never been one to jump on the "Kristy is a lesbian bandwagon," but in this book, Shannon tells her to come out of the closet and Kristy refuses. Yes, Shannon meant it literally (Kristy was trying to have private phone conversation from inside a closet), but it still made me giggle. That, and Kristy thinking the notes were sent by a girl. :)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

#37 Dawn and the Older Boy

Travis - judging by
This picture, I'd say you aren't
Sixteen; you're thirty!


The morning after a BSC sleepover at Kristy's, Dawn wakes up to find "the cutest guy in the whole world" (as she puts it) in the Thomas/Brewer kitchen. Charlie introduces him as Travis, and Dawn is smitten. None of the girls are particularly thrilled to have a hot guy see them first thing in the morning, especially since they went to sleep the night before with their makeup on (I could never do that...). They hightail it back upstairs for some quick primping, and when they come back down later, Dawn is happy to see that Travis is still there. She sits herself next to him, and they bond over California (Travis is from there, too). He also tells her that she should always wear blue, since it brings out her eyes. The making over of Dawn has officially begun...

Later that day, Dawn asks Mary Anne if she believes in love at first sight. Mary Anne does (she uses her father and Dawn's mother as an example), but once she figures out that Dawn is talking about herself and Travis, she tries to talk Dawn out of falling for him. Needless to say, Dawn doesn't take her advice, and spends the next week or so obsessing over Travis. That Saturday, Wonder Boy actually shows up at her house. They sit on the porch to talk (no boys in the house when the parents aren't home) and it becomes abundantly clear that Travis is an ass. All he can do is talk about himself; he interrupts Dawn, brags incessantly, and won't shut up about his stupid car. Does Dawn pick up on any of this? Of course not. According to her, he brags because he's talented and interesting, and he wants her to change because he likes her. Plus, he brought her a necklace and some hair combs. Yep, must be love.

The following week, Travis shows up at SMS just as school lets out. He asks Dawn to go shopping downtown with him (he needs to get his dad a birthday present), and she jumps at the chance. After shopping, he takes her to Burger Bite for a snack. Dawn is a little apprehensive about going to a place like that, especially when Travis ORDERS FOR HER. Luckily, he gets them both grilled cheese. Once again, Travis talks incessantly about himself and all of his ever-so-amazing accomplishments, and Dawn still doesn't get what a jerk he is. After eating, they walk around downtown and end up at the Merry-Go-Round. Travis buys Dawn a pair of butterfly earrings, and tries to convince her to get another hole punched in each ear so she can wear them. Dawn finally grows a backbone, though, and says no.

When Dawn gets home, she finds her mom and Richard waiting for her. Mary Anne spilled the beans about where Dawn had been all afternoon, and they're not happy. They don't like the fact that Travis is so much older than her, and that he's buying her all these presents even though he barely knows her. Dawn manages to escape the conversation once the adults start arguing about whether or not she should be allowed to see him again, and nothing is really settled that day.

Later that week, Kristy mentions that Travis has been seeing the captain of the SHS swim team. Dawn is devastated, and decides she has to know the truth. She waits for Travis outside SMS a few days later. Sure enough, he leaves school with a pretty redhead and they head downtown. Dawn then ends up witnessing a carbon copy of her own date with Travis: first, he orders for the redhead at Burger Bite and then takes her to the Merry-Go-Round, although they don't buy anything. Dawn even sees them kissing, much to her dismay. She's still upset when the next BSC meeting rolls around, and when the conversation turns to Travis, she threatens to leave. The other BSC members are completely kerflummoxed; they have no idea what's been going on with Dawn and Travis, so she confesses. Dawn wants Travis to know that she's onto him, so she follows him and his girlfriend (Sara) after school one day. When Dawn confronts them, Sara seems to be totally aware of what had happened between Dawn and Travis. After telling them that she was already a beauty before Travis got ahold of her, she goes home. Later, she calls Travis and bascially lets him have it, and the BSC members are proud of her for standing up for herself.
In subplot news, James Hobart has written a play that his brothers, the Perkins girls, and Chewy are all starring in. His neighborhood friend, Zach (remember him from #32?) tries to convince James that he needs to stop hanging out with girls, doing "baby stuff," and turn himself into Zach's idea of what an American boy should be. In the end, though, James sticks with the play and it's a big hit. Also, Lewis (Logan's cousin) and Dawn start writing to each other, setting up book #50.

Rating: 2

Thoughts and Things

  • Ugh...where do I start on Travis? He's just awful, and Dawn doesn't seem like the type to overlook stuff like that. Her individuality always seems to take a backseat when a boy is involved, though.

  • I'm not a feminist or anything, but I hate how Dawn lets Travis control her. The ordering for her at Burger Bite especially bugs me. I hate it when Logan orders for Mary Anne later in the series, too.

  • I just hate the whole message of this book; that's why it got a 2. I used to really like this book when I was younger, though, mostly because it involved boyfriend stuff. :D

  • I always want a grilled cheese sandwich after reading about the Burger Bite trip!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

#36 Jessi's Baby-sitter

Only in the 'Brook
Do eleven year olds not
Need baby-sitters...


Mama Ramsey is going back to work, so good old Aunt Cecelia (aka the Voice of Reason from SS #4) is moving in with the family. Jessi and Becca are pretty unhappy about this news, and right away, they start plotting all sorts of awful things they can do to drive her away. At first, it looks like they'll have good reason to want to "get" their aunt; from the second she steps out of her car, she's picking on the girls, and it just gets worse from there. Aunt Cecelia completely takes over the household; she decides what the girls eat for snacks, orders them to bed far earlier than they normally go, doesn't trust them with Squirt, and even restyles their hair for them. Once, Aunt Cecelia even grounds Jessi from a BSC meeting for being 10 minutes late getting home from a sitting job. The obvious solution here would be for Jessi and Becca to talk to their parents about what's going on, but they don't. This is the BSC, after all. Parental contact must be kept to a minimum. :)

Jessi and Becca have checked off plenty of the things on their "List of Mean Things to Do to Aunt Cecelia," including shortsheeting her bed and putting shaving cream in her slippers. They're puzzled (and nervous) by the fact that their aunt hasn't said a word about the tricks. Hmmmm...

Meanwhile, it's science fair time for the SES students. Jackie Rodowsky is entering (with some help from Jessi), Margo Pike is entering (with some help from Mal), Charlotte Johanssen is entering (with a little help from Stacey), and David Michael is entering (with some help from Kristy). Jessi is afraid that the club will get all competitive with each other, and the science fair will turn into another Little Miss Stoneybrook situation. As it turns out, Jessi herself is the only one who gets all crazy. She practically does his project for him (he makes an erupting volcano because he say the Brady kids do it), and when the judges at the fair ask him questions about volcanic activity, he can't answer any of them. Jessi feels pretty bad; she just wanted Jackie to feel like a winner for once in his life, so she took over to show that she cares. Jessi also decides to talk to her parents about what's been going on at home (finally). The Ramseys talk things over, and Aunt Cecelia agrees to trust Jessi and Becca a little more. Just like Jessi, she was only taking over and being bossy to show that she cared. Also, Aunt Cecelia was afraid she wouldn't be as good a sitter as Jessi. Heh. She also lets the cat out of the bag about the tricks that the girls have been playing, but before the Ramsey parents can throw down any punishments, Aunt Cecelia asks to speak to them privately. Jessi and Becca don't hear another word about the matter....until they find shaving cream in their slippers and rubber vermin in their beds. :) Score one for Aunt Cecelia!

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things
  • I totally copied Charlotte's playing music to plants project for one of my high school science classes. I guess elementary science fair projects don't carry over well to 9th grade physical science, because I only got a C. ;)

  • My main frustration with this book is the same as my main frustration with Dawn's Wicked Stepsister. NO ONE COMMUNICATES!!! Seriously; if a family is going through a major change, like having another person (or people) move in, they should sit down together and talk about house rules, expectations, etc.

  • The Ramsey parents seemed totally out of character in this book. They really aren't the type to be so clueless as to what's going on with their kids.

  • Speaking of acting OOC, Jessi did, too, when she took over Jackie's project. I know it had to be that way for plot/subplot connection purposes, but that's so much more a Kristy thing to do.

  • I don't like how Jessi and Becca plot Aunt Cecelia's destruction from the second they find out she's moving in. They don't even give her a chance before they decide that living with her will be awful!

  • I would have loved owning Jessi's cover outfit when I was 11!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

SS #4 Baby-sitters' Island Adventure

This book gets the prize
For ugliest cover of
All Super Specials.

Claudia and Dawn have been taking sailing lessons at the Stoneybrook Community Center. They have a race, but when it ends in a tie, they decide to have a rematch. Race #2 becomes quite the outing; Dawn recruits her brother, Jeff, and Haley Braddock as crew members, while Claudia agrees to take Becca Ramsey and Jamie Newton(!!!). The girls decide to race out to a nearby island, have a picnic and some playtime with the kids, and then sail home later. On their way to the island, though, a storm blows in. Dawn's boat sinks, so she, Jeff, and Haley all have to bail out, swim to Claudia's boat, and hold onto the edge (it's too small to actually hold all of them). They make it to land pretty quickly, but realize that it isn't the island they were shooting for. They're in pretty decent shape, though; they find shelter, and managed to rescue most of the food from the boats. Things are okay until the following day, when Jamie Newton gets sick. Claud and Dawn do the best they can to care for him, but luckily, they don't have to worry for long. That's because Jamie dies....no, I'm kidding. :) Claudia finds a piece of mirror in the woods and uses it to signal a passing plane. The pilots get a Coast Guard boat out to them, complete with a doctor for Jamie.

During their time on the island, Dawn kind of falls apart. Claudia is the one who takes charge, figures out how to collect rain water for them to drink, and finds the mirror that gets them home. Dawn feels bad about that, but realizes that by taking a back seat (whether intentionally or not), she helped Claudia to see how capable she can actually be.

Prior to the sailing accident, Mary Anne and Dawn have a fight. Dawn forgot to give Mary Anne a message from Logan, leading Mary Anne to think that Logan stood her up. Logan gets mad at her for thinking that, which in turn makes Mary Anne furious with Dawn. She tells Dawn that she wishes she'd get out of her life forever, and when Dawn goes missing, Mary Anne is a basket case. She thinks that it's her fault that the accident happened (because she just can't help but make everything all about HER...), and she's so distraught that she doesn't even help search.

Stacey is in New York when she finds out about what happened, and she wants to come home right away to help with the search. Her dad won't let her, though, because it would interfere with the weekend full of restaurants and shows that he has planned. Jerk...Stacey does finally get to leave a few hours earlier than planned, but her dad still manages to pout about it.

Kristy cancels a Krusher's practice and game to help search, which doesn't make Bart particularly happy. He basically turns into a junior version of Ed McGill; all Bart does when Kristy breaks the news to him is talk about how irresponsible she is and how she's going to be disappointing a lot of kids. He even goes so far as to accuse her of cancelling because her team isn't ready. Could he be any more insensitive? He apologizes eventually, and uses the excuse that he didn't know how serious the missing boaters situation was. Was he living in a cave? Supposedly, it was all over the news. I find it hard to believe that he wouldn't have seen any newscast at all. It would have been much more insensitive to just go ahead with the game as if one of the Krushers' players and one of their cheerleaders weren't missing.

Jessi's parents are away for the three day weekend, and they've left her in charge of Becca and Squirt. When Becca goes missing, Jessi calls her Aunt Cecelia for help. She's not fond of her aunt, and becomes even less so when Cecelia walks in the door and right away starts criticizing the Ramsey's decision to leave Jessi in charge. I call that "stating the obvious," but whatever.

Mallory is kind of a non-entity in this one; she and her family go out searching on boats a lot, and she cries a few times. That's about it.
Rating: 2.5

Thoughts and Things
  • I'm pretty sure that this is my least favorite Super Special, but I'll withhold final judgement until I've made it through all of them again.

  • Okay, the cover. Like I said in my haiku, it's ugly. Let's break it down further, shall we? Mallory couldn't look any dorkier if she tried. Actually, I think she looks a little bit..."special." Kristy has no neck, and Claudia's hair is kind of frizzy. Jessi (miracle of miracles, considering some of her covers) actually looks kinds of pretty, and Becca's not bad, either. Dawn is okay, but her hair isn't long enough or light enough. I guess I can forgive that, though, because it almost never is. :) Jeff looks a little cross-eyed, and Haley looks like an ugly man. Mary Anne is okay, too, but her shoes are hideous. I think she and Haley must have bought theirs at the same place. Last but not least, Stacey closely resembles Miss Bell, my preschool teacher circa 1985. It's actually kind of creepy....

  • The illustrations on pages 216 and 217 were screwed up in some copies of this book. Page 216 is supposed to show the Jeff, Dawn, Claudia, Becca, and Haley crouched down, waiting for Jamie to run to them from page 217. Instead, the messed up copies show the group on page 217, facing to the right while Jamie runs up behind them. It's funny. :)

  • Speaking of illustrations, let's discuss the one on 208. Who is the short girl shaking the mayor's hand??? I always thought it was Claudia (it would make sense if it was), but she really looks more like Kristy. If it is Claud, she must have shrunk or something during her time on the island; if you take a look at page 17, she and Dawn appear to be the same height.

  • Last illustration comment; I promise! On pages 104-105, Mary Anne totally looks like Blossom, and Kristy looks like Jasmine Guy from A Different World.

  • It's weird to think that the majority of this book takes place over 48 hours rather than a week or two, like most Super Specials.

  • Do we ever hear about the girls sailing again? I don't think so....

Friday, October 2, 2009

#35 Stacey and the Mystery of Stoneybrook

I love haunted house
Mysteries, but this one was
Not haunted...was it???
The BSC is all abuzz about an old house that's being torn down. Stacey's a little mystified by everyone's fascination with the place, especially compared to her own news about some celebrity sighting she had in NYC. That, of course, is far more interesting to our sophisticated New Yorker that some old landmark. I think I'd be more interested in the house, but that's just me.

Later that week, Charlotte Johanssen comes to stay with the McGills for awhile while her parents are out of town (Charlotte's grandpa is having surgery). She predictably homesick and nervous about her grandpa's surgery, so Stacey takes her to see the old house to get her mind off of things. That's when the weird things begin to happen: Stacey sees a face in one of the windows, even though all the workmen had already left for the day, and she and Charlotte both hear clanking and moaning coming from inside. At the BSC meeting later, Stacey and Charlotte tell the others what they saw and heard, but no one takes them all that seriously. That changes when Kristy makes an important discovery in some old books of Watson's: Stoneybrook was built over an ancient burial ground, and the old house was built on a particularly sacred spot!

Meanwhile, Charlotte is sick. She'd been complaining of symptoms since arriving at the McGills', but Stacey and her mother had just assumed it was homesickness. Not quite: Charlotte has tonsillitis (again...apparently she gets that a lot?). When she's feeling a little better, Kristy brings over the old books so she, Stacey, and Charlotte can do some more research into the old house. They don't uncover any more clues, though. Claudia, however, does. She's at the library with the Perkins girls (yes, Claud voluntarily went to the library and voluntarily did research!), and finds out that the former owner of the house, Ronald Hennessey, is still alive and living in a nursing home in Stoneybrook.

That same day, Charlotte and Stacey make another visit to the house. Just as they're starting to think that maybe they imagined all the weird stuff, flames start shooting out of one of the windows. By the time that Stacey finds a wheelbarrow full of water to use to try and put the fire out, it's gone. There's no smoke smell, no burn marks, no sign that there was ever any fire at all. That night, both Stacey and Charlotte have nightmares about the old house, and Stacey really begins to think that it has some sort of mysterious power over them. The next day, she tells the other members of the BSC about the dreams, and Kristy decides that enough is enough; she calls an emergency meeting for that afternoon to discuss the mystery. As it turns out, Stacey and Charlotte aren't the only ones who've had odd house-related experiences. Just before the meeting, Claudia went to look at the old house. While she was standing there, she felt a hand on her arm...and no one was there. Also, Mallory and Vanessa once picked some flowers for their mother in the house's overgrown flower beds, and that night, Mal had a dream that the house (or whatever spirits lived there) wanted the flowers back. The girls decide they need to visit Mr. Ronald Hennessey to get the truth about the house, and Claudia, Stacey, Charlotte, and Kristy are the lucky ones who get to go.

Mr. Hennessey is awfully interested in what the girls have to say about the old house. He even has a few scary stories of his own about things that he and his family had supposedly seen and heard there. Stacey and the others are skeptical, but decide to heed Mr. Hennessey's warning about staying away from the house as it's being torn down (that's when the truth is supposed to come out). In the end, Stacey and Charlotte can't stay away. They, along with about half of Stoneybrook, turn up to watch whatever happens. At first, it looks like nothing much until what's left of the house goes up in flames. The only problem? Stacey seems to be the only one who can see the fire, and the old man inside calling for help. She's distracted for minute by Charlotte, and when she looks back at the house, the flames (and the old man) are gone. Stacey's left feeling that she needs to go see Mr. Hennessey, so she pawns Charlotte off on Claudia and heads to the nursing home. When she gets there, though, she gets some bad news: Mr. Hennessey died the night before. One of the workers notices Stacey and remembers her from her previous visit. As it turns out, Mr. Hennessey left Stacey a letter in which he admits that his stories weren't in any way true. Stacey's relieved but disappointed, and is glad when Kristy and Charlie arrive to pick her up. Stacey still seems to want to hold onto at least some of the mystery, so she asks Kristy how they can just explain away all the weird things they saw and heard. There are plenty of explanations, courtesy of Kristy and Charlie. The fire that Stacey and Charlotte saw was a torch being used by a workman who'd stayed behind, and I'm assuming the face Stacey saw during their first visit was a workman, too. All the clanking and moaning happened courtesy of the ancient plumbing, which the workers had to try and get out intact. So...there really wasn't much of a "Mystery of Stoneybrook," but we still don't know exactly why Stacey saw the house catch fire while it was being torn down when no one else could, and why she saw Mr. Hennessey in the flames. We also don't know why Claudia felt a hand on her arm when she was near the house. Imagination? Maybe, but I'd rather think there really was a ghost or two. :)

Rating: 4.5 (I can't believe I rated this one higher than Mary Anne and Too Many Boys. I always used to like Too Many Boys better!

Thoughts and Things
  • It really isn't all that shocking that Stacey and Charlotte had dreams about the house on the same night. People tend to dream about what's been occupying their minds, and both Stacey and Charlotte had definitely been thinking about that old house.

  • There's actually a reference to Kristy promising not to ask the club members if they've read the notebook (that happened in #22). Good going, Ellen Miles! Love the continuity.

  • I'm not really sure about Stacey's total involvement of Charlotte in this mystery. Some pretty scary stuff happened, and Charlotte is only 8.

  • What is with the Pike boys' obssession with bologna? In this book, Byron eats a bologna and jelly sandwich for dinner, and Nicky has peanut butter and bologna. In the past, they've eaten their bologna fried. I don't get it; bologna is almost as disgusting as Spam!

  • During that same sitting job, the Pikes and Dawn put on a play of The Wizard of Oz. I totally used to do that with my best friend and siblings growing up. Either my best friend or I would be Dorothy, and whoever wasn't Dorothy would play both witches. My sibs would fill in the other roles as needed. Good times. :)

  • When Charlotte is sick, she and Stacey play Clue quite a bit. Too bad you actually need at least three people for the game to work right.....