Monday, November 30, 2009

SS#8 Baby-sitters at Shadow Lake


Watson's aunt and uncle want to leave him the cabin they own at Shadow Lake, MA, in their will. Watson spent some happy summers there as a kid, but he isn't sure he wants the responsibility of a second home. In order to better help him make his decision, Watson takes the Thomas/Brewer clan to the lake for two weeks. He also, of course, takes half of Stoneybrook along with them.

Kristy decides that everyone needs to keep a diary of their trip, so they can show Watson how much fun Shadow Lake is. She also comes up with a system so that all the little kids are looked after, and gets the brilliant idea to camp out on the (possibly haunted) island in the middle of Shadow Lake.

Dawn uncovers two mysteries. The first would be the Lake Monster, a Nessie-like creature that supposedly inhabits the waters of Shadow Lake. Dawn spends most of the trip convinced that she keeps seeing it, but no one else ever seems to have any sightings. The second mystery is a little more legitimate, and a little less ridiculous; the Bayard family, who used to live out on "Shadow Island," disappeared years and years ago, along with their servants. There was no sign of violence, and no clues as to what might have happened to them. Needless to say, Dawn isn't thrilled about the idea of spending the night on a potentially haunted island when Kristy makes the suggestion, but she toughs it out. She even gets brave enough to explore the ruins of the Bayard's old house by herself, and finds a gold locket there.

Claudia baby-sits a lot, and enters the little speedboat that comes with the cabin in the Shadow Lake boat parade. She decorates it as the Lake Monster, but almost chickens out at the last minute when she realizes that they'll be up against yachts and other fancy boats that are dressed to the nines. Kristy makes her go through with it, and they even win a prize for having the "Most Spirit."

Mary Anne also baby-sits a lot. That's pretty much it....

Sam teases Stacey endlessly, because he likes her and doesn't know how to tell her. When he finally gets up the nerve, she doesn't quite know what to think. All's well that ends well, though; they end up getting together at the lodge dance on their last night at Shadow Lake, and Stacey realizes that she's liked Sam all along. Finally...a Super Special romance that actually lasts!

Mallory gets eaten alive by bugs, and embarrasses all her friends by wearing bizzare protective gear to try and keep the insects away. She also suggests that the Bayard family disappeared because they were abducted by aliens. Good gravy, Mal....

Jessi meets Daniel, a boy about her age who she's hot for at first. She realizes, though, that Quint is her "true love," and that nothing can happen with Daniel. She's scared that Daniel wants to date her, and doesn't quite know how to let him down easily. Jessi gives him this speech at the dance about how she just wants to be friends, but as it turns out, that's all Daniel wanted, too. Awkward!

Karen, Hannie, and Nancy find an old shack in the woods, and they decide to turn it into a secret playhouse, complete with secret garden. When David Michael and his friends discover them, the boys want to use it, too. The girls don't want to relinquish their house so easily, so the boys decide to build their own fort. They make a bet with the girls that it will turn out better than the girls' house; losers do chores for the winners. The girls end up winning the bet, seeing as the boys' fort falls apart, but they only make them do chores for one night. They also lend the boys their playhouse.

Linny and Nicky didn't know each other all that well before David Michael invited them to Shadow Lake. David Michael is surprised when they don't get along, since they're both good friends of his. They spend most of their time arguing, until they bond when Shannon goes missing.

Watson decides to keep the cabin. :)

Rating: 4.5

Thoughts and Things
  • I don't get why Dawn is so freaked out by ghosts all of a sudden. She's gone looking for them in other books; you think she'd be thrilled to spend a night on a potentially haunted island!
  • I definitely think the middle Super Specials (6-9 or 10) are the best in the series.
  • When I was younger, my best friend and I used to make fun of the cheesy way that Stacey and Sam get together at the dance. I secretly thought it was romantic, though. :)
  • How convenient that this cabin has two HUGE dorm rooms in it and can sleep so many people. Are lake cabins usually that big?
  • The original terms of Karen's bet were that the girls would get both big dorm rooms if they won, leaving the boys to sleep on couches and stuff. David Michael and the others were all set to agree with this; I wonder what Sam and Charlie would have thought about it if the terms had stayed the same?
  • Poor Mallory; she really gets dumped on in this book, and she seems dorkier than ever (i.e. the whole alien theory). Plus, why can't Hodges and whoever does the inside illustrations draw some decent glasses on the girl? Glasses can be cute; huge old-fashioned granny glasses aren't necessary!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Logan's Story


Dawn has a family emergency and has to go out of town, so the BSC members ask Logan to take her place as a regular member for a few weeks. He agrees, but has his doubts. After all, Logan's on the football team, and is getting ready to try out for the track team. He needs as much time as possible to practice!

Logan's first sitting job as a regular member (with the Hobarts) causes him to miss a football practice. Some of the other guys from the team ride by on their bikes just as Logan and the boys are in the middle of a game of "camping," and they make fun of him. Logan tries to play it off as if he just took the job to help his friends in the BSC, but that doesn't stop the teasing. Things get even worse from there. When Logan is at the school track one day, practicing for tryouts, Mary Anne brings the Prezzioso girls by to watch. Jenny makes noise and distracts the guys as they're running, and even tries to join them on the track, causing them to fall over. Mary Anne takes the girls home after that, and once again, Logan is not a happy camper.

The next time that Logan sits for the Hobarts, he takes them to the track to run off some steam. He's pretty sure the track will be empty, and it first. It isn't too long before some of the guys who are going to be trying out for the team with Logan show up to practice, and tease him again for hanging out with little kids. Logan's next football practice features even more teasing, and he's definitely not at the top of his game. That's when he realizes that he needs to make a choice: sports or the Baby Sitters Club. Losing one of the Hobart boys (temporarily) at the Stoneybrook Health Fair, and having little Johnny found by Clarence King (Logan's main tormentor) finalizes his decision: Logan is done with the BSC. At least, he's done for a couple of chapters; he ends up rejoining as and associate member near the end of the book. He's also one of the few that makes the track team.

Rating: 2

Thoughts and Things
  • Why is it that Logan, King, and the two Hobart boys all have the same color hair on the cover? Logan isn't supposed to be a redhead. Also, will someone please give the older Hobart a shirt that isn't a pink turtleneck?
  • I'm really confused as to when this book is supposed to take place. Logan's still playing football, which is usually a fall sport, but he's trying out for track, which usually happens in the spring. After tryouts, before the coach announces who made the team, he encourages everyone who didn't make it to try out again in the spring. The way it's written makes it sound like it isn't spring at that point, but this book comes in between a late spring book and a summer book. I'm thinking about this too much....
  • Lerangis did a decent job of writing as a boy, but I think he almost does a better job of writing as a girl. Should I be disturbed by that?
  • The Health Fair sounds really, really boring.
  • Logan describes Claudia's way of dressing as "hip" and "sexy." Really???

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

#55 Jessi's Gold Medal


The SMS gym classes are starting swimming lessons, and Jessi's pretty excited about that. Her family just decided to get a membership to the community pool, and Jessi wants a chance to practice before summer really gets going. Mallory, on the other hand, isn't so excited; she embarrassed about her ugly swimsuit, and the fact that the BOYS will be sharing the pool with the girls during class. From Mal's (very negative) perspective, the only good thing about swimming during class is that they'll take up class time walking to and from the pool.

During the first swim class, Ms. Walden gives each girl a test to gauge her skills. Jessi is a little nervous, since she's not exactly an expert. She gets through the test okay, but when she sees Ms. Walden and anoter woman talking as they watch her swim, Jessi is sure she's going to be stuck in some remedial class. Ms. Walden asks her to stay after class, and introduces her to Ms. Cox. Ms. Cox runs a team of synchronized swimmers, and thought that Jessi might be a good fit. At her first lesson, she's paired up with Elise Coates. Elise shows her all the basics of synchro, and it becomes clear why Ms. Cox teamed them up: Jessi has a lot of style and grace, thanks to her dance training, but no strength. Elise is a very strong swimmer (she's on the SMS swim team), but she has no presentation. At the end of the class, Ms. Cox drops a bomb on the girls: they'll be competing in the upcoming SMS Sports Festival! There will be a group routine, but each pair will also need to come up with an individual routine as well. Jessi isn't sure that she and Elise will be ready in time, but over the next month and a half, they practice constantly. Jessi was asked to choreograph their pairs routine, since she's got dance experience, but it's proving to be a challenge. Even as late as the day before the competition, they still don't feel as if they have it down.

The day of the SMS Sports Festival arrives, and Jessi is nervous. In fact, she has the majority of the day to be nervous, since the swimming events are held last. At least she has other BSC members to cheer for to take her mind off things: Claudia enters a backwards race, Dawn throws the javelin, Kristy runs in the 100 meter race, and she goes head-to-head with Alan Gray in an obstacle course race. They'd placed a bet on the outcome: whoever lost had to be the winner's personal slave for a week. Kristy wins. :)

Finally, finally,'s swimming time. The group routine goes well, and it seems to impress the audience. When it's Jessi and Elise's turn to perform, they do their best. To Jessi, it doesn't seem quite real that it's over, after all the work they put into it. Then, it's time for the medals to be announced. I know this is going to come as a big surprise, but guess who wins the gold in synchronized swimming? Yep...Jessi and Elise. They're thrilled, but both decide in the end to quit synchro. They each felt they were putting too much work into it, and not getting enough fun out of it. Jessi wasn't up to par in her ballet class, and Elise wasn't doing as well as normal with her regular swimming stuff.

The Summer Olympics are also going on at this point, which is interesting, considering the fact that it's only supposed to be late spring. Jessi gets the idea to hold a Mini Olympics for the kids they sit for. They end up being pretty fun, and (of course) every kid wins some kind of prize.

Rating: 3.5

Thoughts and Things
  • I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book this time around! I had it stuck in my head that I DIDN'T like it much, which is usually true with the sports oriented books.
  • So...Janet Gates is in the backwards race with Claudia. She was one of the 8th graders that the BSC recruited for the club in #3, when they were in 7th grade. Guess she was held back....
  • Mal actually sprains her ankle to get out of participating in the SMS Sports Festival. She hadn't intended to actually injure herself; she only planned on faking it. Still, she took a risk. What if she'd broken the ankle instead? Besides...participation in the Festival was voluntary. I don't get why Mal was so afraid to just speak up and say she didn't want to do it, even though all her friends were. She certainly didn't have trouble speaking up about the Little Miss Stoneybrook pageant.
  • Speaking of Mal, she's awfully negative about gym class in this one; more so than we've ever seen before. Foreshadowing to #59, maybe?
  • I really like Elise and her chemistry with Jessi. I wish they'd maintained a friendship outside of this book.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey's main reason for not wanting Jessi to take riding lessons was the amount of time she'd have to spend on them. Ummmm, she spent FAR more time swimming in this book, and they didn't care.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

M#4 Kristy and the Missing Child

It's the end of another Krushers practice, and Kristy is getting ready to walk home with David Michael and loverboy Bart. She's surprised when Jake Kuhn tells her that he has permission to walk home by himself that day (his mom is at the dentist with Patsy and Laurel), but doesn't think much of it. She doesn't think much of it, that is, until Mrs. Kuhn calls her that evening and lets her know that Jake never got home. No one's worried at first; Mrs. Kuhn just assumes that Jake went to a friend's house. Both Mrs. Kuhn and Kristy make some phone calls, but no one's seen Jake. Mrs. Kuhn still isn't all that worried; instead, she's angry. She thinks that her ex husband probably took him. The divorce is fairly recent, and the kids have been missing their dad a lot.

Even though Mrs. Kuhn is convinced that her ex is responsible, no one else is quite as sure. Mr. Kuhn was very well-liked, the divorce was relatively friendly, and it seems kind of farfetched to think that he'd kidnap his own son. Kristy knows that they need to consider the possibility that Jake might be hurt somewhere, so she mobilizes a huge search effort. She also feels a little responsible for what happened, since she was the last one to see Jake before he went missing. She just wants to find him, safe and sound.

Day #1 of Kristy's search doesn't turn up anything. She has Matt Braddock in her search group, and he knows all sorts of secret places that Jake might be. Too bad he isn't actually in any of them. Kristy starts to feel a little hopeless; the police are still pursuing the Mr. Kuhn theory, and they think he might be in Mexico. It just doesn't seem like all the searching and looking is worth it if Jake might be thousands of miles away. The next day, though, Kristy wakes up with renewed determination to NOT give up on Jake, wherever he is. She goes out searching with the Braddocks again, and just as they're about to head home, Matt remembers one more place that might be worth checking. There's a contruction site where Jake liked to go and get scrap lumber, and where some houses are being built. Kristy doesn't want to go there; it's not on the way home from the softball field, and she thinks it would be a waste of time. Matt insists, and they go. Kristy calls for Jake, like she's done everywhere they've searched, and to her surprise, she hears him calling back! He'd come to the contruction site after the softball game to check out the action, and had fallen through a hole in the floor of one of the houses. Bart runs for help, and Jake is happily reunited with his family.

The subplot (if you can call it that) involved Mary Anne's difficulties with her home ec class. Whatever.

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things
  • This book didn't need a subplot at all, and Mary Anne's struggles with sewing and Jello seemed really out of place, considering what was going on in the rest of the book. If Ellen Miles/AMM felt like they needed a subplot, they could have just focused a little more on the fears of some of the other kids re: kidnappers.
  • It should be very obvious to anyone who's read this blog with any regularity that I always associate the books with food. In this one, it's Peanut Butter Cups. I don't even like those all that much, but I always want one after reading about that store owner giving Kristy and her search party free ones.
  • One of Mary Anne's home ec mistakes was sewing the skirt she was making to the one was she was wearing. Believe it or not, my mom totally did that in high school.
  • Jello Jigglers...those sound kind of gross now, but I loved them when I was younger.
  • Bart wears bleached out jeans to the SMS awards ceremony at the end of the book. I'm sure that looked....interesting.

Monday, November 23, 2009

#54 Mallory and the Dream Horse


Mallory gets a brochure in the mail advertising riding lessons at nearby stable. She decides she has to be allowed to take them, and when she shows the brochure to Jessi, Jessi decides the same thing. Mallory asks her parents for the lessons, and after offering to pay for half of the 8-week beginner's course herself, Mr. and Mrs. Pike agree that she can ride. Mallory is all excited and calls Jessi with her news. She's sure Jessi will be allowed to take lessons too. No dice; Jessi's parents feel she's too busy with school, baby-sitting, and ballet to add anything else to her schedule. Bummer for Jessi.

Mal's first lesson goes pretty well, even though she's the only student NOT wearing a fancy English riding habit. She learns to walk and trot, mount and dismount, and care for her horse after the lesson is over. She also spots her very own dream horse: a white an grey Arabian named Pax. Mallory's even more excited to learn that he belongs to the riding school, which means that she herself might get to ride him at her next lesson! Later that day, Mal can't wait to get home and tell Jessi all about how fabulous that first lesson was. She goes on and on about her teacher, the horses, and everything else, and is surprised that Jessi doesn't seem as thrilled for her as she would like. She just chalks it up to Jessi being busy or something.

Lesson number two is even better than the first one. Mallory gets to ride Pax, and she's decided to make more of an effort to get to know the other kids in her class. She introduces herself to a few of them, rambling on and on about herself and her life. She even gives out her phone number a few times, fully expecting each and every one of her classmates to call. Big surprise when no one does. To make matters worse, Jessi continues to be cold and distant whenever Mal calls her to brag about her fantastic riding experiences, only now, Mallory is mad at her supposed best friend's attitude. She figures that it doesn't really matter, though; she has all her new riding class friends to depend on., she doesn't.

Things take a turn for the worse at Mal's third lesson. She's assigned to a rather difficult horse named Gremlin, and she takes a bad fall. Mallory isn't actually hurt, but the fall shakes her up. From that point forward, she's terrified to ride. Just getting on her horse during the rest of her lessons takes everything she has; Pax is the only horse she feels remotely comfortable with. Things don't improve between Mal and her classmates, either. No one gets any friendlier, and even though she's invited to a birthday party thrown by one of them, she ends up having a terrible time. To make it all even worse, a horse show is scheduled for the end of the 8 week course. Mallory can't come up with a way to get out of it that doesn't involve serious bodily harm, so (to her dismay) she's stuck. At least she gets to ride Pax.

At a BSC meeting just before the show, Mal finally confesses to her friends how much she's been hating her lessons. She hadn't told anyone about being afraid, and her friends are pretty sympathetic. Mallory even makes things right with Jessi, who had been a little jealous that Mal got lessons and she didn't, and annoyed that Mal seemed to be bragging about how well they were going. She even encourages Mal to talk to her parents about how she's been feeling, but Mallory is reluctant to do that. After all, she begged her parents for those lessons, which they couldn't really afford to pay for, and she doesn't particularly want to admit that she had an awful time. It isn't until the day of the show itself that Mallory finds the courage to speak up. She does pretty well, placing 6th out of a class of 12, and her parents are so impressed that they agree to cover the full cost of her next 8 lessons. Mallory tells them everything, and they're pretty understanding.

Meanwhile, Nina Marshall has just started preschool. The problem? She's hauling her huge blankie to school with her every single day, and it's getting in the way of her making any friends at all. In fact, the blankie is sort of taking over Nina's life (why did we never hear about it before? This doesn't seem like a new obsession...). One day, Dawn arrives at the Marshall's to baby sit and finds Nina in front of the dryer, waiting for Blankie to be done. When the timer goes off and Dawn tries to get Blankie out, disaster strikes: Blankie comes out of the dryer in pieces, and Nina screams so loudly that the neighbors think someone's being murdered or something. Dawn thinks fast, and shows Nina how the little pieces of Blankie can be hidden in her pockets, in her shoes, etc. That way, she can have him with her all the time, and no one will ever know. Yet another crisis averted by the BSC. Also, the Pike kids hold a talent show.

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things
  • I know Mal gets a lot of flack for how dorky she is when she's trying to make friends with her riding classmates, but I sympathize with her. I've been in situations where I've really wanted to fit in, for whatever reason, and it can feel pretty awful to realize that that's not going to happen.
  • I also sympathize with Nina. I still have my own baby blanket, and even though I don't take it places with me or sleep with it every night (I don't even know where it is most of the time), I would still be upset if something happened to it.
  • Mal mentions at one point what awful experiences that Charlotte and Becca had with the Little Miss Stoneybrook pageant. Becca wasn't in any way involved in the pageant, though; it was just Charlotte.
  • This book might as well have been called "The BSC is Clueless." Mal is clueless that her riding classmates think she's weird, she's clueless that Jessi is jealous and annoyed at her bragging about her lessons, the whole BSC takes 6 chapters to figure out that Nina's problems at school are because of the huge blanket she's dragging with her, and they STILL decide to wait longer before saying anything to Nina's parents, because they're not totally sure. Geez.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

#53 Kristy for President


It's time for school elections at SMS, and it's no secret that some changes need to be made. The school lunches are barely edible, and (at least in the opinion of the BSC) the school play is a joke. When Stacey suggests that Kristy should run for 8th grade president, she agrees to give it some thought. I know this will come as a huge shock, considering the title of the book, but Kristy does decide to run, and asks Claudia to manage her campaign. What's more, Kristy feels like it's her duty to win, considering the other candidates: Alan Gray, Grace Blume, and Pete Black (who you'd think is evil incarnate in this book, from the way Kristy talks about him).

Pretty soon, the campaigning is going full force. SMS is plastered with posters, everyone is wearing buttons. The candidates themselves are kept pretty busy with meetings and events, and Kristy starts to feel a little overwhelmed. She's late to a candidates' meeting because she was already scheduled to talk to one of her teachers, and she's falling behind in school. Since Kristy is, well, Kristy, she manages to hold things together, more or less by finishing homework whenever she has time, and taking care of campaign stuff with whatever minutes are left over. That little plan works out okay, until....Kristy fails a science test. Her teacher gives her the chance to take it again the following day during lunch, which Kristy happily agrees to do. She plans to study (and write her first campaign speech, to be given the next day as well) all afternoon and evening. Too bad she forgot about the Krushers practice she rescheduled....

The next day is both good and bad for Kristy. Her speech goes well, but the science test doesn't. In fact, she gets and even worse grade than before. Her teacher ends up calling her mom and Watson, who decide to monitor her assignments to make sure she's doing her homework. Kristy realizes that she's trying to do too much, and she's letting a lot of important things slide. She doesn't want to be so busy that she doesn't have time to have fun, and she decides to drop out of the race. Kristy announces that fact at the campaign debate. Pete Black ends up winning, and none other than Mallory Pike wins 6th grade secretary!

Also, Jamie Newton is trying to learn to ride a bike. Practicing is all he wants to do, but he's scared of falling

Rating: 2

Thoughts and Things
  • This book was written by Nola Thacker, who's the queen of references to past books. Seriously; within the first couple of chapters of this one, she manages to mention Dawn almost staying in CA in #23, the pranks that Cokie played on both Mary Anne and Kristy, and Claudia's Honorable Mention award for the unfinished sculpture of Jackie's head.
  • I HATE this stupid subplot. I normally like Jamie Newton, but I really didn't so many sitting chapters about him and his stupid bike.
  • I'm surprised that Kristy didn't instantly jump at the chance to run for president, considering how much she likes to run everything.
  • Is Mallory really popular enough to win a school election? When I was that age, it was all about who was "cool."
  • The play that the BSC thinks is so lame is Mary Poppins. Kristy calls it "disgusting," and Dawn calls it "babyish." Mary Anne is the only one who spoke up in defense of the hated play, saying that she used to love it. Where was Stacey during this discussion? Mary Poppins is her favorite movie. Besides, Peter Pan isn't all that much more adult, and it won't be too long before they're all excited about being in that one.
  • Dawn's suggestion for a replacement play is A Raisin in the Sun. That's a great play, but it's all about the experiences of an African-American family. Since there are only a handful of black students at SMS, they would inevitably have to do the play with a predominantly white cast. That seems like it would be a little...awkward to me.

Friday, November 20, 2009

#52 Mary Anne + 2 Many Babies


All the 8th graders at SMS are being required to take a "Modern Living" class. It's supposed to teach them more about adult life, and one of their first assignments is to pair up with another student and "get married." Mary Anne and Logan are, of course, paired together. They discover pretty quickly that there is no way they could afford to be a financially independent couple at their age (big surprise), and that they'd have to live in Mary Anne's bedroom if they were married. Logan is understandably upset by this; he feels they should live at his house since he's the husband. Plus, he doesn't want Richard looking at him all the time. Yeah, that would be a bit awkward...

The next big assigment in Modern Living class is parenthood. Each couple is given an egg to take care of for a few weeks as if it were a real baby. Boy, do these students ever take the project seriously. Logan and Mary Anne keep arguing over who should or shouldn't take care of Sammie (their "daughter"), and they freak out when they almost lose her at a movie theater. Mary Anne is also having trouble balancing care of her egg with care of her actual, human sitting charges. She's been sitting for Ricky and Rose Salem a lot (remember them from the infant class in #45?), and she realizes that caring for three babies alone is darn near impossible. Heck, even caring for just Ricky and Rose is too much for her sometimes; she even calls Dawn for help at one point.

The moral of the Modern Living class seems to be that life is hard, and Mary Anne and Logan aren't the only ones who discover that. One couple actually cries in class because they lost their egg baby in the park, and one couple gets a "divorce" because they just can't work out their issues. When it comes time to give the eggs back (why did the teacher even need them to return a bunch of stinky eggs???), everyone is a little sad to see them go. In case you're wondering, little Sammie grew up and moved to New York to be an editorial assistant, and Logan wasn't sure it was wise to let his daughter move to the big, bad city....

Dawn and Mary Anne actually start off the book by hoping that their parents will have a baby of their own. They actually seem to think that it's their decision to make, and if they want a kid in the house, Richard and Sharon should be made to see things from their 13 year old daughters' points of view. Whatever. In the end, Dawn and Mary Anne decide that babies are too much work after all.

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things
  • I LOVED this book when I was younger. I was so fascinated by the whole egg/flour sack baby project, and I couldn't wait to do it myself. By the time I got to middle school and high school, all the child care/adult living classes were using "Baby Think It Over" and it was always optional. There's no way my mom would have let me keep a screaming doll in the house, especially since I shared a room with my sister at the time.
  • What 13 year old boy would ever take the parenting of an egg as seriously as Logan and Alan Gray did? Also, why didn't anyone just keep their egg in the refrigerator? Real parents would keep their real babies in an environment that was well-suited to its needs.
  • The souvenir Mary Anne bookmark is still intact, even though I bought this book in a lot off of Ebay. Yay!
  • Mary Anne and Dawn are super excited to look at baby stuff in some fictional catalog. What 13 year old girl WOULDN'T be looking at the juniors' clothes first??? Oh yeah...a 13 year old that was invented by AMM.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

M#3 Mallory and the Ghost Cat


Mallory has a steady sitting job with the Craine family, and she's really enjoying it. The three little girls are a lot of fun, and the parents are nice. Mal even gets to meet the girls regular sitter, Aunt Bud. Bud is out of commission for awhile due to a broken leg, hence the Craines needing to hire Mallory. Bud rides a motorcycle, but does NOT have a tattoo or offer Mallory a beer. Just thought that was woth mentioning. ;)

One day, when Mal is at the Craines, she hears an odd noise. She realizes that it's a cat, but she can't find one anywhere in the house. Mal asks Margaret, the oldest of the three Craine girls, where their cat usually hides, but Margaret tells her that they don't have a cat. Mrs. Craine tells her the same thing. Mal's next job proves she's not just hearing things, though; the girls hear the cat noises as well. They go on a hunt, and find a white cat up in the attic. The girls put him in the laundry room with something to eat, and decide to call him Ghost Cat.

Mr. and Mrs. Craine allow the girls to keep Ghost Cat, and they're awfully excited to show him off to Mallory during her next visit. Unfortunately, he's developed a habit of escaping from the laundry room and hiding whenever the door is opened, which is exactly what he does. Mallory and the Craines go on another cat hunt, and end up back in the attic. They don't find Ghost Cat, but they do find a bunch of letters written by a former owner of the house. His name was Kennedy Graham, and, as Mal and the girls discover after reading some of the letters, his only companion in his old age was his cat, Tinker. His WHITE cat. It practically undid Mr. Graham when the cat died. This gets the girls thinking: could Ghost Cat really be a ghost??? Not so much; Mallory has Dawn come over and run a whole bunch of tests on the cat, and they prove he's flesh and blood. Even so...Mal still hears something meowing from the upper part of the house, even when Ghost Cat is sitting right in front of her.

During Dawn's visit, Mal gets a call from a man claiming to be the cat's owner. Even though the Craine parents are fine with the girls keeping him, they had put an ad in the paper anyway. The man describes Ghost Cat (who is actually Rasputin) to a T, and he arranges to come get him in two days. Mallory happens to be there when he does, and she gets the surprise of her life. The man looks EXACTLY like the picture of Kennedy Graham that was found with the letters. Could Ghost Cat be a ghost after all?

Being able to escape to the Craines a few days a week has been a huge relief for Mal. Her dad's Uncle Joe has been staying with them, and the Pike house has not been a happy place. Uncle Joe is cranky, doesn't engage with the rest of the family, says and does a lot of weird stuff, and makes life stressful for Mallory and her brothers and sisters. Near the end of the visit, Mr. and Mrs. Pike break the truth to the kids: Uncle Joe is in the early stages of Alzheimer's. He moves to Stoneybrook Manor earlier than planned, where he can get the care he needs

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things
  • When the Pikes are on their way to Stoneybrook Manor to visit Uncle Joe, Mallory says that the last time she was there was to visit Ronald Hennessey during "The Mystery of Stoneybrook." Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Mal went with Stacey and the others on that occasion. Silly, since I'm fairly certain that Ellen Miles wrote both this book and that one.
  • The Uncle Joe subplot is probably the most depressing one in the series. Yes, there have been plenty of sad books, but there was always some sort of resolution. Louie dies, but the Thomases grieve for him and then get Shannon. Mimi dies, but Claudia grieves for her and finds ways to keep her memory alive. There really isn't a resolution for Uncle Joe. He may have good days, as the book says, but he isn't going to get better.
  • Inviting Dawn over to do ghost tests seems like kind of a scary thing to subject a 6 year old, 4 year old, and and 2.5 year old to.
  • Let's compare Katie Craine to Gabbie Pike. They're the same age, but while Gabbie can practically recite Shakespeare, all Katie can do is name her dolls and mispronounce "ghost" and "cat."
  • I really like the Craine family. It would have been nice to see them more often!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

#51 Stacey's Ex-Best Friend


Stacey gets a phone call from Laine Cummings one day, and learns that Laine is excited about her upcoming one week vacation from school. She has a lot of fabulous, very "New York" things to choose from to occupy her time, but Stacey has an even better idea: Laine should spend the week in Stoneybrook. She doesn't really give Laine (who isn't too thrilled with the idea) much of a chance to refuse, and the trip is planned.

When Laine arrives, it's obvious that she's very different than she used to be. She turns her nose up at Stoneybrook itself, and she manages to offend each and every member of the BSC at the slumber party Stacey throws in her honor. Laine thinks the rules at SMS, baby-sitting, 13 year old boys, and home shopping shows are all lame. Stacey isn't sure what to think....

Valentine's Day is fast approaching, and SMS is having a dance. Laine (of course) thinks she's too cool for it, but agrees to go with Pete Black anyway. Let's just say that things don't go well at the dance; Laine treats Pete like he's a total loser, makes rude comments about the music, decorations, food, band, and the entire 6th grade. The last straw for Stacey is when Laine refuses to dance with Pete, then agrees to dance with another (cuter) guy right in front of him. She pulls Laine aside and calls her out on her bad behavior, and Laine informs Stacey that she wants to go home. Not home to the Mc Gills; home to New York.

Stacey calls her mom, and while she's waiting for Maureen to arrive, she tries apologizing to everyone that Laine may have offended. Laine ends up on a late train to New York, and Stacey is fairly sure their friendship is over. She still feels like she needs some closure, though, so she writes Laine one last letter, expressing her feelings about what happened and saying goodbye.

Also, the club holds a Valentine's Masquerade for some of their sitting charges. Nicky Pike and Marilyn Arnold make a love connection, as do James Hobart and Carolyn Arnold.

Rating: 2.5

Thoughts and Things
  • Laine, with all her maturity and her older boyfriend, is probably a closer example of what 13 year olds are like today than Stacey is.
  • Dawn mentions not wanting to go out with Price Irving (her date to the Winter Wonderland dance) again because he's so boring. Shouldn't she not want to go out with him again because of Lewis? She met him AFTER the dance happened.
  • Is a masquerade really a masquerade if there are no masks or costumes?
  • I like Stacey's letter to Laine at the end. I know some people in fandom think it was silly, immature, and/or passive aggressive, but I've gotta disagree on that one. Mostly, because it was what I would have done in her situation!
  • I cry foul on Laine getting a real job in retail at her age, especially in New York. Wouldn't there plenty of older, better qualified people who actually are of legal age to hold a job?
  • Even though she was a total brat for most of the book, I still sympathise with Laine a little. Stacey really steamrolled her into spending her vacation in Stoneybrook, and Stacey herself was in school most of the time! Poor Laine was pretty much on her own for the week.

Monday, November 16, 2009

#50 Dawn's Big Date


Dawn has been writing to Lewis Bruno (Logan's cousin) since the end of book #37. He's finally scheduled to come for a visit in mid-January, and Dawn is pretty nervous.
She made a New Year's resolution to "get a boyfriend," and she decides that Lewis would be the perfect test case. If Dawn can get him to like her, maybe she'll be able to find a local guy as well. Since Dawn has never been particularly popular with boys, she decides she needs a new image in order for that to change.

Mary Anne finds Dawn as she's thumbing through some fashion magazines that she borrowed from Stacey. Mary Anne is into the idea of doing a makeover, so she helps Dawn fix up her hair and makeup, and then takes a couple of pictures of the new Dawn. Next, Dawn revamps her wardrobe so it looks a little more cool. She cuts, sews tie-dyes, you name it. Finally, it's all about the attitude; she talks back to one of her teachers in class (igneous rock!!!) and even angers Queen Kristy by popping her bubble gum during a club meeting. The other BSC members aren't exactly thrilled with the new Dawn. They don't think her new look is right for her, but it's the changes in her personality that they dislike the most. Dawn figures that they're just jealous. After all, if it's okay for Claudia and Stacey to be cute and cool and have unique senses of style, why not her?

Finally, the big day arrives. Dawn and Mary Anne head to the airport with the Brunos to get Lewis, and Dawn is more nervous than ever. She's decked out in a brand-new outift from Zingy's, and even though she feels a little overdone (that should have been her first clue that this new image wasn't exactly working), Dawn is sure she's going to make a good first impression. Ummm....not exactly. When Dawn first sees Lewis, she's convinced she's in love. Lewis, however, isn't as taken with her. The car ride home is really awkward, and Mary Anne is not exactly thrilled with Dawn's sudden lack of conversational ability. She gives Dawn some ridiculous magazine article about you-directed conversation, telling Dawn to read and learn before the two of them go out with the Bruno boys the next night.

The date is a disaster, to say the least. Dawn is so worried about taking all the dating advice articles she's read to heart that she ends up looking and sounding like an idiot. Plus, she cries during the movie (Gone With the Wind), causing her massive amounts of eye makeup to run. Mary Anne doesn't make the night any easier; she keeps trying to "save" the date by pinching Dawn every time she does something that Mary Anne doesn't like, and trying to get the conversation going in more amusing directions. Dawn is pretty frustrated by her stepsister by the end of the night; not only does she blame Mary Anne for the date being a failure, but she's also frustrated with her for trying so hard to get her to change. Dawn is beginning to feel that nothing about her is okay as it is.

Dawn decides she needs to see Lewis again, without Mary Anne around. She calls him one afternoon and asks him to meet her at a nearby cafe,w hich he agrees to do (not very enthusiastically). When they get there, Dawn happens to get a look at herself in a mirror, and realizes how ridiculous she's been. She doesn't like the way she looks, she doesn't like the way she's been acting, and she's done. Dawn apologizes to Lewis for everything, and they agree to start over. Dawn runs home, showers, and puts on one of the few outfits she owns that she didn't cut to pieces, and throws together a bunch of health food. By the time Lewis arrives, she's ready. Since no boys are allowed in the house when her parents are gone, Dawn takes Lewis for a walk around the property, and shows him the barn. Once Richard gets home, Dawn takes Lewis inside and has him try the health food she made earlier. To his surprise, he likes it! They agree to get together for another date in couple of days.

Later that evening, Dawn has a talk with Mary Anne. She tells her how frustrated she's been that Mary Anne seemed so determined to change her, and Mary Anne apologizes. They hug, cry, and agree to make the date on Thursday another double. This one goes much better than the first: they go bowling (unathletic Mary Anne actually gets the highest score), have dinner at Cabbages and Kings, and then do a little window shopping. Mary Anne makes some excure for dragging Logan away so Dawn and Lewis can have some time alone, and (ta da!) Lewis kisses Dawn. This is when Dawn realizes that she doesn't want a local boyfriend; she just wants Lewis. Ah, young love!

Meanwhile, the club has been sitting for Sarah and Norman Hill. Norman is seven and considerably overweight, and his family isn't exactly doing a great job of dealing with the issue. They make him feel awful, like he's unlovable the way that he is. Once again, though, the BSC comes to the rescue by suggesting that Norman talk to his parents about how he's feeling. He decides to try losing weight by pretending he's Stacey, and will get really sick is he eats anything sweet.

Rating: 5 (this is my favorite book in the series!)

Thoughts and Things
  • Oh, man...that creepy postcard Dawn sends to Lewis! If I were him, I probably would have cancelled my trip after reading it.
  • As a kid, I totally tried cutting up my clothes after reading this book. Let's just say that the results were not attractive.
  • I think I'm in the minority here, but I've always liked Norman Hill and this subplot. Even back in the day, when I'd sometimes skip reading all the sitting chapters, I never skipped these.
  • Food alert: lots of good stuff at Mary Anne and Dawn's New Year's Eve party at the beginning of the book.
  • The BSC definitely has a habit of freaking out whenever any of the members changes, or makes a new non-club friend, but I think they were justified in calling Dawn out this time. She really wasn't being herself. Still...I would think that Dawn would remember how she felt in this book when Mary Anne gets her own makeover later one, and maybe not be so awful to her.
  • Lewis is supposed to be 5' 10". That seems awfully tall for a 14 year old boy (pretty sure he's 14 and not 13...).

Friday, November 13, 2009

SS #7 Snowbound


The Stoneybrook weather reports have been full of snow predictions for days. Since no snow has actually fallen, the sitters are pretty skeptical when yet another storm is predicted. To their surprise, the Big One hits.

Mary Anne and Mallory are sitting for the Pike kids. Mr. and Mrs. Pike are heading to New York for a very long day to visit friends, so they'll be on their own for almost 24 hours. When the snow hits, the Pike parents aren't able to get home. The problem? There's no food in the house. Mrs. Pike had left them enough money for school lunches, and enough food for the meals they'll need to eat while the parents are away, but when the kids end up alone over night, Mary Anne and Mal quickly realize that they could be in trouble. Luckily, Logan comes over once the snow has stopped falling with a backpack full of food.

Kristy invites Bart over to watch some movies and have dinner with her family. Once the snow starts to pile up, Elizabeth and Watson decide that Bart should just spend the night. Kristy is pretty horrified by this; she doesn't want Bart to see her in (gasp!) her pajamas with (horrors!) messy morning hair, so she sleeps with her door locked for part of the night, and sets her alarm for 5:30 the next morning. She gets up early, showers, shaves her legs for the first time, curls her hair, and puts on makeup. It takes her an hour and a half to do all this, but the effort is worth it in the end, since Bart tells her she looks beautiful.

Stacey heads out to Washington Mall to get her hair permed for the big Winter Wonderland dance that's coming up. By the time she's done, the snow has really started to fall. She and her mom start for home on the highway, but Maureen eventually decides that the side streets would be better. Before too long, their car is stuck in the snow. The heater even stops working! Then, out of nowhere, a man drives up and offers to take the Mc Gills back to his place for the night. Stacey is freaked out; she's convinced the man is going to murder them. In the end, she and her mom do go with him, and her turns out to be a legitimately nice guy. His name is Ken Schiavone, and he and his wife and baby are more then welcoming to the stranded Mc Gills. In fact, they get along so well that they almost don't want to leave the next day.

Jessi is in Stamford, rehearsing for her dance school's production of The Nutcracker when the storm hits. Before long, she and the rest of the students find out that none of their parents will be able to get to the school to pick them up, so they'll be spending the night there. Jessi is worried, though; Quint is supposed to be arriving in Stoneybrook that day to visit with the Ramseys and attend the Winter Wonderland dance. She has no idea where he is or what happened to him...until he shows up at the school in one piece. When Mr. Ramsey didn't show up to get him at the train station, he walked to the dance school.

Claudia is sitting for the Perkins girls, and ends up in a situation that's similar to the one that Mal and Mary Anne found themselves in. The Perkins parents are out visiting friends and can't get home, so Claud gets to baby-sit overnight. It's pretty uneventful, other than thinking Chewy was lost for a little while (he was in the basement).

Dawn and her mother end up spending the night at the airport. Jeff was supposed to fly in the day the storm hit, but he ended up getting rerouted through Washington D.C. He makes it to Stoneybrook safely the next day.

Rating: 4

Thoughts and Things
  • If Quint (who had probably never been to Stamford before) could walk all the way from the train station to the dance studio, and Mr. Spier could walk all the way over to the Pikes to check on Mary Anne and Mallory, why couldn't Bart walk the few blocks home? Oh...wait...I know. Kristy wouldn't have had a plot in this book if he'd done that.
  • Speaking of Bart, he didn't seem all that enthusiastic about going over to the Thomas-Brewer house in the first place. He seemed perfectly happy to spend the night, but Kristy kind of had to push him into the whole idea of movies and dinner.
  • It seems a little odd to me that the Ramseys would be okay with their 11 year old daughter's "boyfriend" staying in their house. I can't see them being okay with Jessi even HAVING a boyfriend at her age!
  • I love the Schiavones, and I wish we could have seen more of them!
  • Dawn's freaking out over Jeff's flight issues got really annoying. I never noticed all the panicking before.
  • Mallory says she hopes the Winter Wonderland dance isn't postponed, because she and Ben can't wait that long. Ummm....what exactly do they have planned???

Monday, November 9, 2009

M#2 Beware, Dawn!


Some of the kids at SES have decided to hold a "Sitter of the Month" contest. Of course, every single member of the BSC wants to win, even though they agree not to get too competitive (yeah, that'll last long). Even so, they all kind of kick it into high gear on their sitting jobs. Dawn is no exception, and she thinks she has a pretty good shot of being the very first sitter of the month. At least, she thinks so until Mr. X starts wreaking his havoc on everything.

Dawn's first encounter with Mr. X happens during a sitting job at the Prezziosos. First, the phone rings and nobody's there. Then, the doorbell rings, but there's no one on the other side. Dawn does find a note, though, and it's pretty threatening. She decides that she won't tell anyone about the note; she thinks it'll hurt her chances of being named "Sitter of the Month" if anyone were to find out that things weren't going smoothly for her. The same things happens the next time Dawn sits at the Rodowskys (phone calls, the note). At first, Dawn suspects Alan Gray, remembering his role in the whole Phantom Phone Caller mystery. She even calls his house, but he's out with his dad. It's definitely not Alan...

Dawn isn't the only one getting visits from Mr. X. Jessi gets a lovely bouquet of dead flowers (with a note) while she's sitting at home, and Mary Anne and Mallory get a note threating the Pikes' freaking HAMSTER while they're sitting together at Mal's. As it turns out, everyone in the club has been getting notes from Mr. X. Everyone, that is, except Kristy. Dawns gets (understandably) suspicious. Kristy is awfully competitive, and Dawn is afraid that she's doing the whole Mr. X thing to try and ruin everyone else's chances at being the first "Sitter of the Month."

The BSC decide to put their "Sitter of the Month" competitiveness aside and work together to figure out the identity of Mr. X. The trouble is, they have no clues or suspects. Things fall into place one day while Dawn is sitting for Jamie and Lucy Newton. Dawn suggests that they take a walk, but Jamie tells her that they have to stay home, since Mel Tucker will be coming by to do a secret baby-sitting check. Dawn fills the rest of the club in on what she found out, and they decide that they'll set a trap for Mr. X, whether it's Mel or not. Dawn lets everyone know that she'll be sitting for a (fictional) cousin of hers at her house one night. The rest of the BSC sneaks over, and as soon as they hear suspicious noises in the secret passage, Dawn opens the entrance. Bingo: it's Mel Tucker. He takes off running, hoping to escape through the other end of the passage, but half the BSC is waiting in the barn for him.

Kristy and Dawn walk Mel home, and he confesses to everything. He got mad at the BSC after Dawn let Mrs. Hobart know that Mel and his friend Zach were still calling the Hobart boys "Croc." Mrs. Hobart called Mel's parents, and Mel got grounded. He found out where everyone would be sitting by letting other SES kids think that it would help with the sitter of the month contest. Kristy wasn't targeted because she'd been sitting in her own neighborhood lately; it would pretty tough for Mel to sneak out of the house and get all the way over there. Kristy and Dawn have a talk with Mel's parents, and they decide to send him to a child psychologist for some help.

As for the "Sitter of the Month" contest? A 7-way tie. :)

Rating: 2

Thoughts and Things
  • This book was so effing boring; I can't believe the Mysteries lasted for another 34 books after this !
  • I can't believe the BSC fooled themselves into thinking they could avoid getting competitive. Haven't they read the rest of the series? ;)
  • Man, the SES kids were sure little manipulators. They totally held their "Sitter of the Month" votes over the heads of the BSC members in order to get them to do stuff, and the BSC fell for it! Seriously...did Dawn really think that the Thomas/Brewer kids would vote for her over Kristy, and did Claudia think that Charlotte would pick her over Stacey?
  • Mrs. Newton was apparently helping the kids out with the contest. That seems strange, since it was run by SES kids and neither of hers are old enough to go to school there.
  • I wonder why we never heard about another sitter of the month contest?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

#49 Claudia and the Genius of Elm Street


Claudia gets a (somewhat) long-term job sitting for Rosie Wilder. Rosie is...difficult, to say the least. She's incredibly talented, both academically and performance-wise, and she has a busy career as a child actor. She's also sort of cold and unfriendly, and manages to make Claud feel like the stupidest person in the world. Claudia doesn't even want to go back to the Wilder's a second time, but she sucks it up and goes. When Rosie needs help with her homework, though, Claudia calls in Janine to work with her.

On the few days that Claudia can't be with Rosie, other BSC members take her place. Stacey goes, and ends up having to read a soap opera scene with Rosie while she auditions for a tv show. Jessi tries to get Rosie to talk about dance (something they have in common), but Rosie has to practice for a crossword puzzle competition that she's going to be in at school. Jessi ends up calling in Janine as well, and (just like Claud, Stacey, and Jessi), Janine ends up getting frusrated with Rosie's attitude. Before Jessi leaves, Rosie makes a surprising request: she only wants Claudia to sit with her from then on, because she likes Claudia the best. That's a pretty surprising statement from a kid who doesn't seem to like much of anyone or anything.

Claudia finally realizes that Rosie acts the way she does because she's unhappy. She's doing too much (the girl is only 7), and she doesn't really like all of her activities. Claud encourages Rosie to talk to her parents, and they agree to let her pare down her list of activities to the ones she enjoys most. One of those activities is going to be art; that's why Rosie was so adamant about wanting only Claudia to sit for her. Rosie liked watching Claudia work!

Subplot: Claudia is getting ready for an art show (in her garage) of some Andy Warhol-inspired paintings of junk food.

Rating: 3
Thoughts and Things
  • Is it just me, or were the BSC members too hard on Rosie? She had a bit of an attitude, but she wasn't that bad. The Delaneys were a heck of a lot worse when they first appeared in the series, but no one really dreaded sitting for them like Claud did for Rosie.
  • Another Ironic Quote: "I don't want to be part of any audition," said Kristy. "I'd die." Well, she's about three Super Specials away from proving herself very, very wrong. ;)
  • The junk food paintings project is probably my favorite project of Claud's from the entire series. I wonder why she didn't think of it sooner! I also wonder what her parents thought of it, seeing as they don't want her eating that stuff. They had to know that she was using real subjects.
  • I had fun trying to come up with the crossword clues as Rosie was working on her puzzles. I got most of them right, too! :)
  • Man...I never realized how boring most of the books in the late 40's through early 50's are! The one notiable exception would be #50, which is one of my personal favorites in the whole series. Other than that...I think I'm in for a rough few weeks. Thank goodness for the Super Specials!

Friday, November 6, 2009

#48 Jessi's Wish


Becca Ramsey is bummed out. Not only is there a distinct chance that her Kids Club (sort of an after school community service group for older SES kids) will have to shut down while one of the faculty advisors is out of town, but one of the former members of the club is in the hospital with leukemia. This scares Becca; Danielle is only a year older than her, and she's scared that something like that might happen to her, too. Jessi makes her feel a little bit better about the whole leukemia thing, but Jessi herself feels bad about the Kids Club having to disband. Then, she gets an idea: Jessi herself will take the place of the missing teacher for as long as the teacher is out of town!

Jessi brings up her desire to volunteer at the next BSC meeting. The other members love the idea, and decide to come up with their own volunteer projects for the next month or so. Even Kristy's into it, in spite of the fact that they'll have to run the BSC meetings with a skeleton crew of who ever can make it on any given day.

Jessi meets Becca at SES after the next meeting of the Kids Club. She offers her services to Mr. Katz, who agrees to give her a trial run of four meetings. The very first project Jessi helps the kids with is answering some letters written by kids in the hospital. They're mostly thank you letters for some toys that the club donated, and one happens to be from their former club member, Danielle. Danielle herself shows up several meetings later, and the kids are full of questions (once they get over being afraid of her). Jessi introduces herself to Danielle, and they chat. This when Jessi finds out about Danielle's wishes: she wants to graduate from SES, and she wants to go to Disney World. That weekend, the BSC is having a casual meeting in the Schafer barn to talk over their volunteer projects. Jessi tells the others about Danielle and her wishes, and Mary Anne tells her about Your Wish Is My Command. It's a "Make A Wish Foundation" type of group that grants wishes to sick children. Jessi gives them a call, and they encourage her to have the Roberts family submit their Disney World wish. Later on, the wish is granted; Danielle and her family are off to Orlando! They have a great time, and Danielle is full of stories when she gets back.

On Jessi's last day with the Kids Club, Danielle is absent. As it turns out, she's back in the hospital. The kids are pretty upset; Becca and Charlotte end up in tears, and Jessi has to hide her own emotions in order to comfort them. Danielle's just in the hospital for tests, since she hadn't been feeling well, but Jessi knows that there's a lot of uncertainty still. So, Jessi makes her very own wish: for a safe and healthy recovery for Danielle.

Rating: 2

Thoughts and Things
  • I feel so, so bad for giving the "kid with cancer" book such a low rating, but I did so for two reasons. First, the sheer number of grammatical errors and awkward sentences, particularly during the first half of the book. Second, Ann really laid on the sentiment with a shovel. It was irritating rather than touching. That being said, I like how they handled all of the other kids' questions for and about Danielle, and I like Danielle herself.
  • Quote time: "You guys are so lucky," I said to Dawn and Mary Anne. "How come you don't live in the barn?" Well, their house hasn't burned down yet, for one.....
  • Why do I feel like the whole "BSC volunteers" subplot is used again, later in the series?
  • I can't freaking believe that Kristy was so in favor of the BSC essentially taking a month off from sitting to volunteer, and that she was so okay with people not coming to meetings during that time if they couldn't make it. I know Kristy was a little more anal about things later in the series, but this felt out of character even for early Kristy!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

#47 Mallory On Strike


Mallory is pretty excited when her creative writing teacher, Mr. Dougherty, tells her class about the school's upcoming Young Authors Day. She's planning to enter a story into the "Best Overall Fiction for the Sixth Grade" category, and has big plans to devote herself completely to the project for the four weeks prior to the big day. From day one, though, things don't exactly work out the way Mal would like them to. As soon as she walks in the door after school on the day that Young Authors Day is announced, she has to solve one family crisis after another. She can't even get to her homework, let alone start on her story, before rushing off to a BSC meeting.

The next day, Saturday, Mal gets up really early to finish her homework so she'll have the rest of the day to work on her story. Once again, her plans are foiled. Mal pays Vanessa to stay out of their bedroom so she'll have privacy, but it's her parents who keep interrupting her with requests. By the end of the day, she's no further along in her writing than she was when she first sat down at her desk after breakfast. When Mr. D. asks to see what she's written so far in class later that week, she doesn't have much to show and feels awful for disappointing her teacher. So it doesn't happen again, Mallory makes a schedule for herself from that day up until Y.A.D.

Sticking to the schedule proves to be tough. That Friday, though, she manages to write five whole pages without being interrupted...until she looks at the clock and sees that it's 5:30 on the nose. Mal resents having to stop writing in order to go to the meeting; she doesn't even apologize when Kristy scolds her for being late. She even turns down two jobs in order to have more time to write, and gets another scolding from Kristy about not being available to sit 100% of the time. After a disasterous sitting job at the Barretts (one that was scheduled before Mal knew about Y.A.D.), Mallory decides she needs to be demoted. She doesn't feel like she's qualified to be a full club member anymore , and wants to be made an associate member...or she'll quit. Kristy is a heck of a lot more understanding than she was when Mal turned down the jobs before; she suggests that Mal take a leave of absence until Y.A.D. is over, and Mal agrees. She's sad, but she knows it's the right thing to do.

That weekend, Mallory decides that enough is enough; she's not going to put up with another whole day of interruptions, requests, and family stuff. She makes herself a sandwich board, and announces to her entire family at breakfast that she's going on strike. Miraculously, the rest of the Pike crew actually leave her alone. In fact, when her parents have to leave for a little while, they call Dawn and Mary Anne to come over rather than bother Mal. Mary Anne suggests that Mallory have a talk with her parents once they get home and tell them how she's been feeling. Mal does just that, and her parents apologize for taking advantage of her. They even offer to give her a day for herself, to do whatever she wants. She chooses the next day, and decides that she wants to spend her special day at the mall with Jessi. They have fun, but Mal actually misses having her brothers and sisters around. She decides to come up with a special surprise for them, to make up for being so cranky lately.

It's finally Young Authors Day, and Mal is nervous. She sits through a talk by a famous author, a puppet performance, and the rest of the awards before finally learning that she's the big winner. For days, people come up to her at school and congratulate her on her award, making it one of the best weeks in Mal's life. She's also back in the BSC, and some things have changed at home. Her parents have decided that she can work at the desk in their bedroom if she needs private time, and that she can put a "do not disturb" sign on the doorway. Mallory and Jessi also take the Pike kids out for their surprise adventure: a day of fun that finishes up with a scavenger hunt in the park.

Rating: 3.5

Thoughts and Things
  • Mal's creative writing class doesn't make sense. She mentions that there are ten people in it, but one page later, when Mr. D. asks everyone who's writing something for Y.A.D. to raise their hands, Mal says that "ten of us" did so. Then, Mr. D. writes everyone's name down. The way that Mal states how many people raised their hands, and the fact that Mr. D. had to write everyone's name down, makes me think that Ann forgot how many people were supposed to be in the class. :) Otherwise, Mr. D. could have just handed over the class list rather than writing everyone's names down. Also, the class meets only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. What does Mal do on the other three days? Does the class meet after school or something?
  • Young Authors Day was also a little confusing. Were there "Best Overall Fiction" categories for 7th and 8th grades, too?
  • I actually participated in my very own Young Authors Day when I was younger. It wasn't a contest like Mal's was; we basically got to go to a bunch of workshops, and then we broke into groups and each of us read the story we'd brought. Mine was about unicorns getting lost in a shopping mall. I'm totally, completely serious about that....
  • This book makes me want to go write something in the same way that Claudia and the New Girl makes me want to go do something aritistic.
  • I don't blame Mal at all for being resentful about the way her parents relied on her. Doing chores and helping out at home is fine; expecting your 11 year old to help you run the house is not.
  • When she's older, I can totally see Mal writing books like Ann's earlier ones. Think Ten Kids, No Pets, Me and Katie (the Pest), etc.

Monday, November 2, 2009

M#1 Stacey and the Missing Ring

(Quick note: As of this book, I'm officially one quarter of the way through the series!)


So...Princess Stacey has decided that she wants a diamond birthstone ring. When her mom says no, Stacey actually gets mad, and doesn't seem to understand why Maureen won't shell out a bucketload of money for a piece of jewelry for her 13 year old daughter. Sheesh. She escapes to the mall with the rest of the BSC, where she sees an even more expensive birthstone ring in another jewelry store. She tells the club how much she wants a ring like that, and how her mom won't buy it for her. To Stacey's surprise, no one jumps in and agrees with her that her mom is mean not to rush out and get it for her. Sheesh again.

At the next BSC meeting, the club gets a call from some new clients, the Gardellas. Stacey ends up with the job sitting for their baby, Tara, and although she thinks Mr. and Mrs. Gardella are a bit weird for fussing more over their cat and dog than their baby, everything seems to go well during the job itself. That's why Stacey is so surprised to get a phone call from Mrs. Gardella bright and early the next day. She'd woken up to discover that her diamond ring, which she had meant to wear the evening before, was missing. She accuses Stacey of taking it, and then says that she'll be calling other BSC clients to let them know what happened. Stacey calls Kristy right away, and Kristy schedules and emergency BSC meeting for that afternoon.

When Stacey fills them in on what's happened, the rest of the club believes her innocence right away. It soon becomes apparent, though, that some of the BSC clients don't. At the next meeting, they only get one job call. The next few meetings after than aren't much better, and they even have a cancellation. The Prezziosos end up leaving a dinner party early after meeting up with the Gardellas there, costing Claud an evening of sitting money. At least they didn't come home early because they believed the Gardellas; they came home because they believe in the BSC, and were upset at what the Gardellas were saying about them.

After her sitting experience that wasn't, Claud heads over to Stacey's. Right away, though, Stacey notices that something is off with her best friend. Claudia is distant and distracted, and she seems to be awfully curious as to the contents of Stacey's jewelry box. It doesn't take Stacey long to figure out what Claud is doing; she's searching for the missing ring. I guess not everyone in the club believes that Stacey is innocent. The girls fight, and Claudia leaves.

At the next club meeting, Stacey decides to take some action. She wants to clear her name, so she decides to offer to sit for the Gardellas for free until the ring is paid off. The club doesn't think Stacey should have to repay Mrs. Gardella for a ring she didn't steal, but Stace doesn't know what else to do. She calls Mrs. Gardella, who agrees to the plan as long as she brings another sitter along with her. Kristy is the lucky winner, and their first job is set for that Friday. While they're sitting, they notice the family cat taking all of his toys out of the room, one by one, and returning without them. Stacey follows him, and discovers a couple of his hiding places. She finds toys, paper clips, and Mrs. Gardella's ring! Stacey shows Kristy, and they leave the ring where it is to show the Gardellas when they get home. Mrs. Gardella apologizes, and says she'll call the Prezziosos to clear things up as soon as she can. When Stacey asks her to call the other clients, too, Mrs. Gardella is puzzled. As it turns out, the Prezziosos were the only ones she got around to telling; the club's slow period was completely unrelated, and things are soon back to normal.

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things
  • I have never, in all the many times I've read this book, understood why Mrs. Gardella would let Stacey baby sit again if she really believed that Stacey had stolen from her.
  • In a way, I can understand Stacey's frustration with wanting something her parents won't buy for her. The same thing happened to me when I was a kid. The difference between the two of us, though, was that I wanted a Cabbage Patch doll, not an expensive piece of jewelry.
  • You know the Gardellas dress their pets up and have their pictures taken for the family Christmas card. I bet baby Tara isn't even in the photo!
  • The BSC and all their mall trips were the reason I thought the mall was the most awesome place in the world when I was younger.
  • My birthday is in April, so my birthstone is a diamond, too. I've always been a little disappointed by that; diamonds aren't as pretty as amethysts, emeralds, garnets, or other colorful stones.
  • At the beginning of the book, Stacey lets us in on her deepest, darkest secret: she actually likes to clean house sometimes. I agree with her on that; the actual cleaning process isn't that fun, but finishing and seeing your room/house/apartment/car/whatever looking all nice and pretty is awfully satisfying. :)