Monday, August 23, 2010

Just a Summer Romance

Remember what I said about not having any more Ann books to recap? I lied. :) I found a copy of this one on not too long ago and finally got around to reading it!


14 year old Melanie Braderman and her family have spent summers on Fire Island for as long as she can remember. She loves it there, especially since her summertime best friend, Lacey Reeder, stays in the house next door with her family. One day, the Bradermans and Reeders are all on the beach together when Mel's little brother hits a boy about Mel's age in the face. He's okay, luckily, and he's also super cute. Mel makes Lacey stay on the beach with her until late in the afternoon, hoping to see him again, but no luck. Over the next few days, though, Mel has a few sightings, but doesn't get to talk to Mr. Dreamboat again. Then, she and Lacey get up early one morning to watch the sun rise and discover that they're not alone on the beach; Mel's dream boy is there, too. She decides that she needs to follow him and find out where he lives. Lacey's not really into the whole spying thing, but she goes with Mel until they see the boy enter a house down the beach. Mel wants to stay and watch the place, but Lacey doesn't. Mel asks her to bring back some binoculars, to make her stalking a bit easier. Lacey shows up with the binoculars a bit later, and Mel watches both the boy and his house for awhile. Then, the boy comes down to the beach and tells Mel that while she was watching him, he was watching her. Rather than being freaked out by his stalker, though, the boy is actually pretty friendly. They walk and talk until Mel's little brother comes to get her for the picnic the family is having. Mel hates to leave her new friend, especially when she remembers that she never even got his name.

Later that evening, Mel runs into the boy again, and they introduce themselves properly. His name is Justin Hart, and he asks Mel out on a real date....a fact which she immediately goes home and announces to her whole family. The date goes well; they hold hands, and it's pretty clear to Mel that Justin is actually into her. There's a bit of bad news, though: Justin has to go back to New York for a week to "finish up his work," as he says. He won't tell Mel exactly what that work is, though....very mysterious. Then, when Mel gets home from the date and wants to tell Lacey all about it, Lacey gets angry. She feels like Mel's just pushing her aside in favor of Justin, and she feels left out. They end up talking out their differences a few days later.

When Justin gets back from NYC, he and Mel continue to see each other regularly. Things are going swimmingly, until they have a conversation about the future of their relationship. The summer is almost over, and Justin doesn't think they should see each other anymore once they've left Fire Island. After all, he lives right in NYC, while Mel only visits a few times a year. They're supposed to be together until Labor Day Weekend, but unfortunately, the weather has other ideas. Everyone ends up having to leave early thanks to a big storm, and Mel and Justin are separated. :(

Part two of the book takes place back in New York. Mel is doing her best to try and get her mind off of Justin (she even makes a date with another guy), but it's not working. In fact, she keeps imagining that she sees him on the cover of magazines. Then, she discovers that it's NOT her imagination; Justin really is on the cover of all those magazines. He's an actor who's just landed a role in a new tv series, and is the new It Boy in the entertainment world. Me' can't believe it, and neither can anyone else once word gets out. Mel hates to admit that she knew nothing about Justin's career; she thinks it makes her look stupid. She wants to talk to him one more time to find out why he kept so many secrets from her during their time together, but doesn't know how to make it happen. Then during a weekend visit with Lacey in NYC, she sees an article in the paper about a benefit at Lincoln Center. It turns out that LOTS of stars will be appearing there...including Justin. Mel gets in the autograph line like she was any other fan, and when it's her turn to see Justin, she doesn't really acknowledge that she knows him. When she gets her autograph back, though, she sees that it's not an autograph at all: it's Justin's phone number. She calls him, and they talk. Justin never told her about his career because he wanted to make sure she liked him for himself, not for all the celebrity stuff. They both admit that they don't want the relationship to end, even though it'll be hard to keep it going with Justin dividing his time between CA and NYC. So...happily ever after, at least for the time being. :)

Rating: 5 (based strictly on enjoyment factor, not quality of writing or anything like that!)

Thoughts and Things
  • I really, really, really liked this book, and I wasn't expecting to. I wish I'd read it when I was younger; I would have been all over it back then!
  • The style of writing in this one is very un-AMM. You could have put another author's name on the cover and I wouldn't have thought anything of it.
  • That being said, there ARE a lot of BSC parallels. Lacey is a blond, permed, sophisticated New Yorker who wears designer clothes, and Mel loves junk food. They meet by the main information booth in the room with the painted ceilings in Grand Central Station when Mel goes into the city, and (of course) there's the whole Fire Island aspect of the story. Also, Justin's eyes are constantly being referred to as "limpid." That's the word that Pete Black used to describe Laine's eyes in Stacey's Ex-best Friend.
  • Mel is a really likeable main character. She's fun, kind of quirky, and easy to identify with. I also like that regular girl Mel was the one who was ready for boys first, not pretty, Stacey-ish Lacey.
  • Oh lord, the cover. The picture I used isn't the greatest, but trust's bad. Mel is rocking some serious Mom jeans, and Justin's face and hair are just WRONG. Gotta love the 80s!

So...the bad news is, I think this might be it for this particular blog project. Fall semester starts for me today, and I don't think I'm going to have much time for any serious blogging in the near future. The GOOD news is that I have an idea for another blog project that won't require so many long recaps, and might be easier to keep up with while school is going on. I'll keep everyone posted!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Cages by Peg Kehret

Now that all the AMM books I own have been recapped, I've decided to do some of my other favorite books from that era. First up is Cages!


This book opens in 14-year-old Kit's speech class. It's the end of the school year, and it's Kit's turn to give her final speech of the year. The topic is teenage shoplifting, and just as she's finishing up by telling the other kids not to shoplift because they WILL get caught, one of the boys in the class challenges her speech. He claims that it's easy to get away with taking stuff, and that Kit is dead wrong. Miss Fenton, the teacher, asks Kit if she wants to defend her speech. Kit hesitates; if she doesn't defend, her grades suffers. If she DOES defend, everyone in the class will know the secret she's been keeping for months....

At this point, the book flashes back in time to the day that the cast list for the school play came out. Kit had tried out for the lead role of Frankie in The Member of the Wedding, and she heads to school that morning, she's relatively sure she'll see her name on the cast list. Nope; Kit didn't get a part at all. Marcia Homer, little miss perfect, got the part instead. Kit's best friend, Tracy, got a small role, so she encourages Kit to help out backstage. Kit doesn't really want to; she's pretty disappointed about not getting the lead. She and Tracy had promised each other beforehand that if one of them got a role and the other didn't, the one who didn't would work on the crew. At the first crew meeting, Kit volunteers to make the publicity posters. She figures that she won't have to be at many rehearsals in order to do that, and won't have to watch someone else in "her" role.

Kit's still in a crummy mood when she gets home from school that afternoon. She has big plans to give herself her "Triple B Treatment:" Bath, Book, and Bag of chocolate stars. That doesn't happen, though. Her stepfather, Wayne, is on another one of his drinking binges, and Kit's mom, Dorothy, is too busy enabling him and covering his tracks to see that Kit is unhappy. Kit takes the bus to the mall, and decides to look at all the fancy clothes she can't afford in one of the department stores. Unfortunately, she runs into Marcia Homer while she's there. Marcia's dad is buying a present (a 24 karat gold present) for getting the lead in the play, and she wants Kit's help picking it out. Kit is instantly drawn to one of the bracelets, but she doesn't tell Marcia that. The last thing she needs is for Marcia to get yet another thing that Kit herself wants. Marcia ends up choosing a gold choker, and while the salesperson is busy ringing up the purchase, Kit's attention is drawn back to the bracelet. All of a sudden, her anger and frustration about losing the lead role, Wayne's drinking, and Dorothy's inability to see that there is, in fact, a problem at home, boils over. Kit decides to keep the bracelet, and she almost makes it out of the store before she's stopped by security. The woman takes Kit into her office, and Kit confesses everything. After all, she was SEEN taking the bracelet. Dorothy is called to pick Kit up, and she's definitely not happy.

The next day at school, Tracy can tell that Kit's not okay, but Kit doesn't feel she can tell her about what happened. She's afraid that Tracy won't like her anymore if she knows what happened. There IS one bright spot in the day, though: Miss Fenton pulls Kit aside and explains to her that not getting the lead doesn't mean that she's not a good actress; it just means that she wasn't chosen this particular time and that she is, in fact, talented. That evening at dinner, Wayne is actually sober, so Kit thinks that it might be a good time to try talking to him about her arrest. When she tries, though, Dorothy cuts her off. Later, she tells Kit that since Wayne was "sick" when this happened, there's no need to worry him about it.

A couple of weeks later, Tracy asks to meet Kit before school. She's excited about her upcoming birthday party, which is going to include a hot air ballon ride and a picnic, and she wants Kit to have her invitation before anyone else. Unfortunately, the party falls on the same day that Kit is supposed to appear before a committee that will decide her punshiment for stealing the bracelet. If she doesn't appear, she'll have to go to court and could possibly be arrested again. Kit tells Tracy that she can't go, but not WHY she can't go. Kit still doesn't want anyone to know about her crime. Tracy is pretty upset....

The day of Kit's hearing arrives. She and Dorothy tell Wayne that they're going to a meeting at school, and he buys it. When Kit is brought into the room where the committee meets, she gets the shock of her life. One of the members of the panel is Miss Fenton, her speech teacher. Miss Fenton asks if Kit would rather she be replaced with someone that Kit DOESN'T know, but Kit decides to go ahead with things rather than drag the process out. Since the group feels that Kit is not likely to reoffend, they offer her the chance to do some community service and pay a fine. If she does that and stays out of trouble until she's sixteen, her record will be cleared.

The next day at school, Miss Fenton approaches Kit and asks if she needs to talk about anything. Kit had left the part about Wayne's drinking out of what she told the committee, and Miss Fenton could tell that Kit was hiding something. The whole story comes pouring out, and Miss Fenton makes Kit promise that she'll tell someone if things get out of control.

Kit's first day of community service happens not long after that. She's been assigned to work at the Humane Society, and she's asked to socialize some dogs. That means talking to them, playing with them, letting them out in the excersise yard for awhile. Right off the bat, she falls in love with a little terrier mix named Lady. After a couple of visits, Kit decides to ask her parents if they can keep Lady. Dorothy seems agreeable to the idea, but Wayne steamrolls her as always. Kit decides to try and find Lady a good home, so she posts a notice at school. A few days later, who should approach Kit with permission from her parents to take Lady home? Yep, Marcia Homer. Kit isn't too thrilled with that turn of events, but she knows that Lady will be taken care of. Marcia and her parents agree to meet Kit at the Humane Society after school that day. When Kit gets there, she heads for Lady's cage...but Lady isn't there. She checks all the cages, but no Lady. Could she have already been adopted, or has something else happened? Kit rushes for the office and finds the manager. Sure enough, Kit's worst fears have come true: Lady was euthanized. She'd been at the shelter too long, and they had to let her go. Kit so upset that the manager offers to credit her with her full 20 hours of community service. Kit refuses the offer; she WANTS to finish her time.

The next day, Kit is in history class when she's called down to the office. Her mother has been admitted to the hospital, and Kit is needed there right away. The principal drivers her there, and they find Wayne in the waiting room. He's really worried about Dorothy, and he's afraid that all the tension that exists between him and Kit caused her to have some sort of heart attack. When a doctor comes out to tell them what's wrong, though, it turns out to be appendicitis. Dorothy will need emergency surgery, though. She ends up pulling through okay.

The next day, Kit gets home from her humane society work to find Wayne drunk. He tries to order her around, but Kit is having none of it. She stands up to him, and takes off to Tracy's house for the night. Kit tells her mom when she sees her next that Wayne is drunk again, and Dorothy finally sees that she needs to insist on his getting help. That becomes even more clear two days later: Wayne tries to drive drunk and ends up in the hospital with a skull fracture and a broken arm, among other things. When he comes home from the hospital, he continues to insist that he can handle his drinking, and doesn't have a problem. Dorothy, FINALLY, won't take any of his lame promises and Wayne starts going to AA.

The end of the school year is approaching, and the story returns to the place where it started. Each kid in the class drew a speech topic out of a fishbowl, and it was just dumb luck that Kit happened to get assigned the topic of shoplifting. She decides to defend her speech when her classmate challenges it, and tells her story to the class. Her honesty earns her one of the few A grades that Miss Fenton ever gives out, and things are finally okay between Kit and Tracy. When the end of the year awards ceremony rolls around, Kit is surprised when she's awarded the Ninth Grade Scholarship. The money will pay for two years of college, and when Kit is asked what she plans to study, she's more sure than she's ever been: she'll be going to vet school so she can work with animals.

Rating: 4

Thoughts and Things
  • This book is really good; I can't recommend it enough. It DOES get a little cheesy at times, particularly when Wayne is being confronted about his drinking, but overall, it's great. Things aren't wrapped up in a neat little package; bad things happen, and the characters are still going through the process of healing at the end of the book.
  • I really liked Kit. She was real, not some stereotypical bad kid who you would think would shoplift. Her reactions to things, her thoughts, and her actions made it easy to identify with her.
  • The author, Peg Kehret, lives in Washington State! :) At least, she did when this book was published. In fact, it's even dedicated in part to the Human Society of Seattle/King County.
  • Kit wasn't the only one getting weepy when Lady died....
  • Oh, lord, am I ever softhearted when it comes to pets! I couldn't get through all the grim animal shelter survival rate statistics without getting upset. Most of the shelters in the Seattle area have gone no-kill, but I know that isn't true everywhere. It still just doesn't seem FAIR that so many good animals are unwanted. :(

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Eleven Kids, One Summer

The Rossos are back, and this time they're heading out to Fire Island for the summer. Here's what happens:

Abigail and the Train Trip Disaster

Abbie spends the whole ride from New Jersey to Fire Island being embarrassed by her family. When they finally get there, she goes exploring on her own and meets Justin, Lacey, and Mel, three kids about her age. The exciting part? Justin is not only a movie star, but all three kids are also main characters in Just a Summer Romance, by the famous author Ann M. Martin. ;)

Calandra and the Mystery Next Door

Candy managed to snag a room of her own in the house that the family is renting. She becomes convinced that the house next door, which has been abandoned for quite awhile, is haunted, and decides that she's going to solve the mystery that summer no matter what.

Faustine and the Great Fish Protest

Faustine is walking along the beach one morning when she happens upon some fishermen. She witnesses them catching and killing a fish, and is horrified by how inhumane the process is. Not only does Faustine stop eating and/or using any animal products at all, but she and Dinnie start picketing the fishermen. One of them gets so mad that he goes to the Rosso parents and complains.

Hannah and the Ghosts

Just like in the last book, Hannah feels like the odd one out in her family. She wants to make the summer a little more interesting for herself, so she decides to play jokes on her family. At first, it's just little stuff, like replacing the sugar in the sugar bowl with salt, and short sheeting people's beds. Then Hannah gets serious. She does her best to make Candy think that there really IS a ghost next door, and she tells Justin that Abbie has a crush on him. This makes Mel (Justin's girlfriend) mad, which makes Lacey mad, which means that Abbie suddenly has no friends. She manages to straighten things out with them, and Hannah never confesses her role in that little situation. Finally, Hannah makes a friend her own age, and she doesn't have as much time to torment her family.

Ira and the Hospital Adventure

Ira gets Lyme Disease. That's all.

Janthina and the Beauty Treatment

The Rossos have relatives staying with them for awhile, and Jan is feeling ignored. Not only is she not the baby in her own family anymore (that would be Keegan), but everyone is fussing over her little cousins. Jan wanders over to the set of the movie that Justin is filiming on Fire Island, and gets a full-on beauty treatment from the makeup person. She hurries back home, sure that her makeover will impress her family. When Jam gives herself one last look in the mirror, though, she decides she doesn't like her hair. So, she cuts it....right up to her ears. The family definitely notices that!

Dagwood and the Million Dollar Idea

Woody needs to make some extra money, so he makes little animals out of rocks and shells, and paints designs on other shells. He actually does pretty well for himself!

Gardenia and the Movie on the Beach

All the Rosso kids are asked to be extras for Justin's movie. Dinnie has a hard time just staying in the background and not showing off for the camera, so she's given a small role as a dog-walker. Suddenly, she's sure she's going to be a famous actress someday.

Bainbridge and the Case of the Curious Kidnapping

Bainbridge is looking after baby Keegan at Fire Island's craft fair when he spots a cute girl working at one of the booths. He's so busy flirting that he doesn't notice when Keegan goes missing. After a frantic search, he's found with Hannah, who gets a nice talking-to.

Eberhard and the House of the Cursed

It's almost the end of the summer, and Candy still hasn't solved the mystery of the house next door. So, she hires Hardy to investigate. The fishermen that Faustine and Dinnie had been harrassing earlier in the summer make up some crazy story about the people who lived there, and Hardy believes it at first. Then, Hannah tells him that she'd heard the same story at the beginning of the summer, which is what gave her the idea to play jokes on Candy and make her think the house was haunted. Mystery solved....

Keegan and the End of Summer

The Rossos go home. much action did you think there'd be in a chapter that focuses on a freaking baby?

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things
  • Let's talk about the timeline of the Rosso books, shall we? At the beginning of Ten Kids, No Pets, the kids are 14, 13, 13 11,10, 9, 9, 8, 7, and 6. Since the book covers a whole year, they should all have been one year older at the end and two years older in this one. Nope; in this book, they're 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 10, 9, 8, 7, and 6 months. I guess the Rossos got stuck in the same time warp that the BSC members did. ;)
  • Abbie's friend Lacey is blond, sophisticated, and from NYC. Now where have I heard that before?
  • Speaking of, has anyone ever read Just a Summer Romance?
  • Those fishermen were awfully patient with the twins. If some kid was picketing me like that, I would have gone to the parents first thing!
  • I totally used to envy how Candy got her own room! That was all I wanted growing up. Well, that and Claudia Kishi's dibble wardrobe....

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Ten Kids, No Pets

So....this book covers roughly a year in the life of the Rosso family; that would be mom, dad, and the ten kids. Mr. Rosso is an ad executive by day and an absentminded professor type when he's home, and Mrs. Rosso reminds me a bit of Kate Gosselin. She's got all sorts of neurotic rules for how things need to be done, and systems for EVERYTHING. How she named her children is a good example of that: Abbie, the oldest, got the first name on the A page of the girls' half of the baby names book. Bainbridge, the next kid in line, got the second name on the B page of the boys' half, and so on down the line. One of the Rossos' many house rules that no pets are allowed, because ten kids is enough, much to the dismay of the younger Rossos. They're especially upset about this when they leave their crowded apartment in New York City for a farm in New Jersey. Since each chapter in this book focuses on one of the kids and is more or less its own story, I'll recap chapter by chapter.

Abigail, or Abbie, is the oldest Rosso at 14. She's the only Rosso who DOESN'T want to move out to the farm. Abbie's entering high school in the fall, and she doesn't want to leave all her friends...and the boys. ;) She also feels responsible for her younger sibs, even though her family causes her embarrassment on a daily basis (she's totally Mallory). There are no major events in her chapter, other than the actual move to New Jersey.

Calandra (Candy) is twelve, and living in such a big family is tougher on her than it is on the others. She craves privacy, but even out on the farm, there isn't much of that to be found. One day, not long after the Rossos' move, Candy is putting sheets away in the family's big cedar linen closet. Candy happens to love the smell of cedar, so she leans against the back wall to enjoy it for a minute before finishing her chores. Much to her surprise, the wall gives way and Candy finds herself in a secret room! There's a chair in the room, along with a small table. In the table drawer, Candy finds a diary written at the turn of the 20th century by another 12 year old girl. Not only did Celia (the author of the diary) want a pet as badly as the Rosso kids do, she actually hid one in the secret room for a time. Candy decides to keep both the diary and the room to herself for the time being.

It's time for school to start for year, and Ira (7) is pretty nervous about starting second grade. He's worried about being teased for his huge family, some of whom have some pretty weird names thanks to his mother's little system. Sure enough, the kids think the whole idea of the Rossos is hilarious. Ira decides that he needs to do something to take their minds off of things, so when show and tell time comes around, he makes up all sorts of stuff about the exotic animals that his family keeps on their farm. Unfortunately, the kids all want to come over and see the animals, which worries Ira. What are they going to think of him when they find out the truth? Ira eventually confesses his lies to his parents, and then to his whole class. None of them really think any less of him because of it.

Halloween is 11-year-old Dagwood's (Woody's) favorite holiday. He usually goes all out, but this year, he's feeling down about the whole day. He and his sibs won't be able to go trick or treating like they have in the past, because there just aren't enough neighbors to make it worthwhile. Then, his siblings get the idea to have a Halloween party at their house for some of the other farm kids, which their parents quickly agree to. Woody decides to be a magician, but even though he's got a decent costume, he thinks it needs something more. Inspiration strikes when he finds out that one of the kids in his class has a rabbit who keeps having babies. Woody asks if he can borrow one for the party, and his costume is complete. The party itself goes well, but when the time comes to send the baby rabbit back where it came from, the owner can't take it (mama rabbit is pregnant yet again). The Rosso kids meet up to decide what to do, and Candy reluctantly tells everyone about the secret room. The kids hide the rabbit in there, but it becomes clear pretty fast that that arrangement is NOT going to work. The rabbit stops eating and hopping around, and the kids know that he won't be around much longer before they do something. They finally confess to their parents, who order them to find a new home for the bunny. Luckily (?), one of the kids in Woody's class lost his dog earlier in the school year, and is willing to take the rabbit on as his new pet.

Gardenia, or Dinnie, is one of the 9-year-old twins. It's almost Thanksgiving, and when Mrs. Rosso announces that the family will be having an old fashioned holiday this year, Dinnie is just as excited as the rest of her siblings. All the Rossos head out to a nearby turkey farm to pick out their Thanksgiving meal, and when they do, Dinnie promptly names him Goliath. Pretty soon, she and Dinnie (the other twin) are visiting him after school, and they eventually decide that they don't want him killed for their meal. The other kids agree with the twins, so they stop at the turkey farm after school one day and tell Mr. Pritchard that they won't be needing Goliath after all. When Mr. Pritchard tells them he plans to sell Goliath to someone else for THEIR dinner, the kids change their minds again: they'll take him after all, but they'll take him alive. No one tells the Rosso parents this little fact, so when Thanksgiving arrives, the only turkey they have is a living one. Their meal that year consists of side dishes only, and Goliath eventually is given to a petting zoo.

Janthina (Jan) is the baby of the family, at 6 years old. Like most kids, she loves Christmas, and she's excited about the old fashioned Christmas that her family is going to have. They're cutting down their own tree, making their own decorations, cards, and gifts, and doing lots of baking. The house is full of secrets, and the biggest one is something called "Project X" that Mr. Rosso is working on in his workshop. No one knows what it is...until Jan overhears her parents talking about how the kids will never guess that it's a doghouse. She tells her siblings, who are all super excited that they'll finally get the pet they've been wanting. They buy supplies for the puppy, and even start talking about names. When Christmas morning arrives and all the presents have been opened, the Rosso kids are surprised that the puppy still hasn't made its appearance. Then, Mr. and Mrs. Rosso announce that there is, in fact, one more present. To Jan's surprise, "Project X" is brought into the room and set right in front of her. Is the puppy Jan's? Not quite: when she opens the present, she finds a DOLLHOUSE, not a DOGHOUSE. Oooops.

Eberhard (Hardy) is ten, and an amateur detective. Like his siblings, he loves snow, and when the weather report calls for a blizzard, he can't wait. The family ends up pretty much snowed in...AND they end up with a mystery on their hands. One evening while the whole Rosso crew is eating popcorn, they hear a noise outside. They investigate, and find that the trash cans have been knocked over. The next day, Hardy goes into full detective mode, but doesn't find any clues. That night, though, they hear more noise outside; someone or something has been into their bird feeder. The morning after THAT, hardy finds some thin, slender tracks around the feeder. Rather than come to any sort of logical conclusion, Hardy assumes that the tracks were made by an escaped criminal on stilts. Not so much; the tracks turn out to have been made by a fawn.

Hannah is 8, and often feels kind of lonely in her family. All the other kids are either too old for her to play with, or they have a sibling buddy that's their own special friend. She's also having some trouble getting along in school, since she likes to tease and pull pranks. Hannah decides that she's going to make her Valentines that year, for her family AND for her class at school. The ones for her class are pretty rude, and the ones for her family are all hints about getting a pet. On the morning of Valentine's Day, Hannah grabs one of the piles on the way out the door to school. Too bad she grabs the wrong one, and her classmates all get cards with poems about getting dogs and cats and stuff. As if that wasn't bad enough, she now has nothing to give her family later that evening when they exchange their own cards. Then, she gets the idea to give each of them an IOU note, promising things like bed-making or hair-braiding. Her notes are a big hit.

Faustine is as big an animal lover as her twin, so when the two of them find an injured bird, they bring it back home to get well. Unfortunately, the bird dies. They give the bird a funeral, which keeps getting interrupted by a nest full of noisy baby sparrows. The family watches and watches, but no mother bird comes to the nest to take care of them. They take the baby birds in and care for them until they're old enough to be released. Faustine wants to keep one of them, but (of course) the no pets rule still applies.

Bainbridge (13) is looking forward to being out of school for the year (sort of). There just isn't much to do way out on the farm, so he decides to start a football team with some of the other farm kids. Bainbridge is making some progress with getting a team together when his mother drops a bomb on the family: she's pregnant. Everyone is excited, but the whole thing gives Bainbridge an idea. The family rule had always been no pets since ten kids were enough. Since there was going to be an 11th kid, shouldn't a pet be allowed? The Rosso parents agree, and the kids decide to get a dog.

The Rossos are just about to leave for the pound to get their dog when the twins find a kitten in the ditch by the mailbox. They unanimously decide to keep the kitten instead, and they also decide to use Mrs. Rosso's baby naming system to give the kitten a name. Since they really have no way of knowing how many kids they'll end up with, they choose the last names on the Z pages as possbilities. That would make the kitten Zsa Zsa or Zuriel; we never actually find out if it's a boy or girl.

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things
  • This book doesn't hold up as well for me as some of the others I read as a kid. That being said, I LOVE the descriptions of the farm, and all the old-fashioned, holiday, crafty stuff the family does. It makes me want to go live on a farm! :)
  • I think this may be one of Ann's only books that's not written in the first person.
  • I so identified with Candy's need for privacy when I was growing up. My family wasn't nearly as big, but I shared a room in our tiny house with my sister, and there was NEVER anywhere I could go to be on my own.
  • Speaking of Candy, why didn't she shorten her name to Callie instead? Candy=stripper name!
  • Mr. Rosso was kind of a non-entity; it's pretty clear who wore the pants in that family.....
  • My mom was the SAME way about pets when I was a kid! My siblings and I all loved animals, but because she didn't want one, we didn't get to have one, either.
  • This cover picture is definitely not the one I grew up with. Did they come out with a new edition at some point?
  • Are turkeys really friendly enough to be a part of a petting zoo? I would have guessed not....

Friday, July 23, 2010


I just Googled Me and Katie (the Pest) and my last blog entry was the 6th listing it gave me. I'm Googlable! :)

That's all....Ten Kids, No Pets coming soon. :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Me and Katie (the Pest)


Wendy's little sister, Katie, is a total Ms. Perfect. She's good at everything: piano, art, writing, etc, and she knows just how to push Wendy's buttons. Katie spies on her, teases her, and even lords her accomplishments over her on occasion. Wendy vents to her best friend, Sara, about the situation, and Sara suggests that Wendy do something to win an award of her own. The idea comes to Wendy as she, Sara, and Sara's cousin Carol are working on their epic poem about Barbie and Ken (yes, really). Wendy could take horseback riding lessons! She's sure that riding is something that she can shine at; Katie isn't very coordinated, and she's scared of horses. Wendy's parents are into the idea, and they buy her a completely new riding outfit in honor of the lessons. This makes Katie jealous.

Wendy's first lesson goes really well. She's kind of nervous at first, but everyone's really nice and her instructor says that she's got potential as a rider. Wendy even bonds with Peanuts, one of the horses. At dinner that night, she can't stop talking about how great her lesson was. Then, disaster strikes: Katie wants riding lessons, too. Wendy is upset; she really wanted riding to be something that she could be good at, and since Katie succeeds at everything she tries to do, Wendy is afraid that riding will end up being no different. She asks her parents to at least try to get Katie into a different class.

After dinner, Wendy goes to Sara's house and fills her in on everything. She also tells Sara that she fully intends to get revenge on Katie, and that she expects Sara to help. Sara, who sometimes thinks that Wendy is a little too mean to Katie, reluctantly agrees.

The next day, Wendy's mom comes home from work with some bad news: the other beginner's riding class was very full, so Katie is going to be in Wendy's class after all. Wendy is not thrilled to have to drag Katie along to their next lesson. She's even less thrilled when all the other kids on the bus think Katie is just adorable. When they arrive at the stable, Wendy decides to put her plan of revenge into action. She pretends that she wants to show Katie the ropes, and suggests that she ride Sky High for her first lesson. Sky High, unfortunately, is a very difficult horse. Katie insists on riding him, though, and it's a disaster. She doesn't get very far into the lesson before the instructors make her switch with another student who's riding a tamer horse. Even after the switch, though, Katie is TERRIBLE, which makes Wendy happy. She's sure that Katie won't want to continue riding lessons after such a rotten first day. Instead, Katie's back for the next lesson and she manages to snag Peanuts, giving Wendy another reason to want to get even with her sister.

Wendy's 10th birthday happens not long after that. Katie surprises her by giving a really nice picture she drew of Peanuts, but kind of ruins the gift by asking if she can come to the sleepover that Wendy's having with Sara, Carol, and Jennifer (another friend of theirs). Wendy won't let Katie come, so Katie gets back at her by calling her to the phone when no one's actually on the other end of the line. Wendy decides to retaliate, so she and the other girls pour water onto Katie's sheets so she'll climb into a soggy bed later. Wendy and Katie both get punished after all that. Unfortunately, things go from bad to worse after that. When Wendy arrives at the stable for her next lesson, she finds that Peanuts has been injured and can no longer be ridden. They can't afford to keep a horse that can't be ridden in lessons, so the stable plans to find a good home for her. Wendy is convinced that she and her family should get Peanuts and keep her in the garage, but her parents aren't into that suggestion. Much to Wendy's surprise, though, Katie IS. She even writes up a list of reasons why they should keep Peanuts. Wendy's impressed,...but not enough to forget all the crummy stuff Katie has done. Eventually, though, the girls show their parents the list. Unfortunately, it doesn't do any good.

Riding lessons are still happening in spite of the whole Peanuts thing, and they have their ups and downs for Wendy. On one hand, the stable is going to hold a show at the end of the summer, and Wendy is sure that this is her chance to win a prize. On the other hand, Katie's riding has improved big time. Wendy does NOT want to compete against her sister and lose, whatever else happens. Then, Wendy discovers that Katie has been reading her diary. To get back at her, Wendy writes some stuff about what a pest Katie is and how she'll need braces for years. When the girls' parents want to know why Katie is walking around with her mouth closed and her teeth hidden, the truth comes out and Katie is punished. She's pretty mad about it, so Wendy has no trouble convincing her to run away. The parents are frantic when they discover that Katie's gone, but they find her pretty quickly. Unfortunately, she's not in more trouble, which was Wendy's whole intention; instead, she gets fussed over and treated like a princess.

Not long after Katie's ill-fated attempt at running away, Peanuts is sent to her new home. Wendy is sad to see her go, but Peanuts will be close enough that Wendy can visit. Wendy doesn't have much time to focus on Peanuts' move, though; the show is rapidly approaching. Wendy's planning to ride Mr. Chips, her second favorite horse, and she's pretty confident that the two of them make a good team. She decides to concentrate on that and not worry anymore about the possibility of being beaten out by Katie. On the day of the show, though, things get a bit complicated. By the time that Wendy's class shows, Mr. Chips has been ridden to much and is overheated. The only horse left available to Wendy? Sky High. Wendy decides to make the best of a bad situation, and she does the best she can with Sky High. He proves to be pretty hard to control, and Wendy is sure that she's not going to win. When the prizes are announced, though....she gets third! To make matters even better, Katie doesn't win anything at all, and announces that she's quitting riding. Wendy couldn't be more thrilled at the idea of lessons without her sister.

It's the last day of summer vaction, and Wendy is enjoying her last few hours of freedom before school starts again. All of a sudden, she feels like she's being watched. Sure enough, Katie is spying on her again. Wendy asks why, and Katie tells her that it's because Wendy never talks to her like a normal person. They both agree to try harder to get along. Also, the family gets a puppy and the Barbie and Ken poem that Wendy, Sara, and Carol were writing lands them in the Guinness Book of World Records. :)

Rating: 4

Thoughts and Things
  • This was my first Ann book...I guess it was kind of my gateway drug to the BSC. :)
  • Wendy's middle name is Matthews...same as Ann's.
  • This book was published less than a year before Kristy's Great Idea, and there's an awful lot of BSCishness to it. The guy who drives the kids to lessons is a teenager named Charlie, and Sara is a definite Mary Anne type (she's even wearing pigtails in the illustrations). The book is also dedicated to Myriah Leigh Perkins and Gabrielle Ann Perkins. :)
  • Wendy and Katie's dad didn't want to call the police when it was discovered that Katie was missing; he just wanted to let her come home on her own. She's 8, for Pete's sake!
  • It still bugs me that the parents let Katie take riding lessons. They totally should have put their foot down on that. Not only was Katie already taking every kind of lesson under the sun, but Wendy really should have gotten something that she and only she could do. When you have a sibling that's that close in age to you, people tend to lump you together. Having things that are just yours means a lot.
  • My best friend, siblings, and I used to act this book out. I was Wendy, my best friend was Katie, and my younger sister (who actually was named Katie) played all the other characters. I don't think we ever made it all the way through the book...
  • I still wish I'd gotten riding lessons as a kid!!!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Bummer Summer

I'm going to recap all the non-BSC Ann books that I own...this is the book that won the poll I posted awhile back. :)


12 year old Kammy Whitlock is having a tough time of it. Her dad has just gotten remarried (her mom died when Kammy was four), and she's just not adjusting to the new family situation particularly well. Kate (the stepmother) is not only MUCH younger than Kammy's dad, but she comes complete with a 3 year old daughter, Muffin, and a baby son who (I kid you not) hasn't been named yet. The baby is colicky, Muffin gets into Kammy's stuff, and Kammy is embarrassed to be seen in public with her new family. The idea of summer camp had been brought up a few times, but Kammy's not into that kind of thing. Finally, though, she agrees to give it a try for two weeks; if she doesn't like it, she'll be free to come back home rather than stay for the rest of the summer.

Camp Arrowhead is decent, as camps go. Kammy's counselor, Nancy, is pretty nice, and she makes friends with her bunkie (Emily) right off the bat. Kammy's also excited to start horseback riding, and spending time in the arts and crafts cabin. There are more cons than pros to Kammy's initial camp experience, though. She can't find her way to the bathroom on her first night, and has to go in the woods. The next morning, Kammy realizes that she's going to have to change in front of the other girls, which is not something she's okay with doing. Swimming is also a problem; Kammy is actually a good swimmer, but she's scared of the lake. She claims she can't swim at all in the hopes of avoiding it entirely, but her plan doesn't work; she's placed in a beginners' class with a bunch of six year olds. Mealtimes prove to be another issue. The girls aren't allowed to sit with their cabinmates, and each person is supposed to take turns serving the meal. Kammy is terrified at the thought of doing this, and just heads back to her cabin instead of to the mess hall when her first turn serving comes. Her counselor and the camp director make a frantic search for her, and when they find her, Kammy's in trouble.

While Kammy is busy dealing with all her issues, she's also dealing with Susie, one of her cabinmates. Susie is a total Miss Perfect type, and she's taken a serious dislike to Kammy. Kammy decides that she needs to "get" Susie, so she enlists Emily's help after swimming one day. When Susie is the shower, they take her clothes and run them back to the cabin. Susie is frantic, of course, and Emily volunteers to go back to the cabin to see if maybe Susie forgot that she'd changed up there. Emily finds the clothes, and it looks like she and Kammy are going to get away with their little trick. Not so much; not only did they take Susie's swimsuit up to the cabin along with the clothes, but Susie herself catches the two girls celebrating their success. Both girls are put on dish washing duty that night, and Mrs. Wright, the camp director, calls Kammy's parents. Kammy gets to talk to them too, and she tells them some of what's been going on. They're pretty understanding, and Kammy promises to try harder.

Making an effort when it comes to Susie continues to be tough. No matter how much Kammy ignores her nemesis, Susie continues to tease. Kamy decides that revenge is probably a better option than the silent treatment, so she and Emily scare Susie stiff with "Three Fingered Willie." Kammy gets more dish duty for THAT stunt. Overall, though, Camp Arrowhead is improving upon further acquaintance. Kammy's gotten involved with the camp drama group, and she's in advanced horseback riding. Mrs. Wright even calls her into her office again for a friendly chat, and when Kammy is completely honest about all the fears and issues she has, Mrs. Wright is totally willing to work with her to come up with compromises. It looks like the summer might not be so bad after all...until Kammy heads to the arts and crafts cabin one day. She'd been working on a quilt for her baby stepbrother, and when she opens the box that it's being kept in, she finds it shredded. Kammy can't even think; she runs back to her cabin in tears and spills the whole story to Nancy, who's the only one there at the time. Kammy calms down by the time the other girls in her cabin get back from their activities. They can see that she's upset, but before she can tell them what happened, Susie tells her that she's sorry to hear what happened to the quilt. This is odd, considering that Kammy had told NO ONE except Nancy about it. Kammy knows that it was Susie who ruined her project, but she doesn't let it show. As soon as she can, she pulls Emily aside and tells her what's going on. They decide that they REALLY need to get revenge on Susie, so they arrange for all the girls in the cabin to get invites to a pajama party by the lake at midnight. Susie's invitation is for 11:45pm, though. Kammy is planning to scare her silly with a reenactment of "Three Fingered Willie," so Susie will be freaking out when the other girls get there. When the big night arrives, Kammy can't go through with it. She tells Susie about the trick, and explains that she knows about the quilt. Kammy asks her why she did what she did, and Susie admits that she's been jealous of Kammy all along. Susie tries so hard to do things right and be perfect, and no one likes her. On the other hand, Kammy has gotten in trouble and had all these issues, and EVERYONE likes her. Kammy agrees to keep quiet about the quilt as long as Susie leaves her alone for the rest of camp. Susie agrees. The girls don't exactly become friends, but they're much more cordial than before.

Parents' Day arrives. Kammy is really surprised that she's excited to see her dad, Kate, Muffin, and the baby. The play that the drama group has been rehearsing goes really well, and Kammy's family likes seeing the rest of the camp. In spite of all this, Kammy is ready to go back home when she's asked what her final decision is. Then, she gets to thinking. She has a lot of unfinished business at camp: she doesn't want to desert Emily, and she wants to start on a new quilt for the baby. So, Kammy decides to stay after all. She also comes up with a name for the baby as her dad and Kate as they're leaving: he's going to be Robert, after Kammy's dad.

Rating: 3.5

Thoughts and Things
  • Ann's first book! :D
  • Camp Arrowhead is supposed to be Kammy's uncle's sister in law's camp. I'm assuming that that's Mrs. Wright, but there's NO mention of a connection between the two at any point during camp.
  • Kammy really does get a raw deal at home. Muffin is coddled and spoiled, and gets away with everything, while Kammy is blamed and punished. Not fair!
  • Why in the world are all the girls in Kammy's cabin going off in different directions all day long? Don't cabinmates usually do all their activities together?
  • I'm really surprised that Kammy got along with everyone at camp as well as she did. In my experience, the one who causes trouble and has a lot of weird issues is the one who gets excluded.
  • At the end of the book, after Kammy decides to stay at camp, she says she has to go tell her cabinmates the news. The weird part? She never told them that she might leave after two weeks.
  • They totally need summer camps for adults. I miss camp!
  • I am so writing a camp-related novel one day. Maybe multiple camp novels. :)

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Summer Before

Prequel time! Sixth grade has just ended for the four original members of the BSC, and the summer ends up being a pretty intense one for all of them. Here's what happens:

Kristy's birthday is in August, and she kind of hopes her dad will acknowledge it in some way. She writes him a letter, hoping that will help, but it comes back to her with "Adressee Unknown" written on it. Kristy's really bummed by this, but she doesn't tell anyone right away what she did. She eventually confesses to Mary Anne, though. In spite of the letter, Kristy still thinks that her dad is going to surprise her by just showing up on the big day. That's why she chooses to have a dinner at home with her family and friends instead of going out somewhere. When her brithday arrives, there's nothing for Kristy from her dad. No present, no visit, no phone call, nothing. Luckily, Mary Anne had figured that something like that would happen, so she planned a surprise for Kristy. The day after her birthday is "Kristy Day," complete with parade, to show Kristy how much she means to everyone in her life.

Claudia is growing up a lot faster than Kristy and Mary Anne. They're still into dolls, while she's into art, shopping, and boys. She definitely feels like there's this distance between them, and isn't really sure how to feel or what to do about it. When her brithday rolls around (July), she decides she wants to have a boy-girl pool party at the Goldmans' house next door. Janine was allowed to invite a few friends to the party, too, and Claudia fully expects them to be losers. She was wrong; one of them, Frankie, is awesome. It's luv at first sight for Claudia, but there's one problem: Janine clearly likes him, too, and stops speaking to Claud because of it. Things get even worse between them when Claudia and Frankie start hanging out and talking on the phone all the time. One day, they head to the community pool and run into a bunch of Frankie's friends...primarily girls. They all treat Claudia like a little kid, and it's almost a week after that day before she hears from Frankie again. Even then, he only calls to dump her. Mimi comforts her and points out that she still has her old friends, but...Claudia doesn't, really. She's been so wrapped up in Frankie all summer that she's totally ignored Kristy and Mary Anne. Claudia works things out with them, though....and with Janine.

Mary Anne is working on getting more independence from her dad. He agrees to let her start baby-sitting....but only with another sitter there. It doesn't matter how many kids will be present; Mary Anne is not allowed to sit alone. She's pretty nervous going into her first few sitting jobs, even though someone else is always with her. By the end of the summer, though, her dad feels she's ready to baby-sit by herself (lord, I wish this storyline were more interesting....).

Stacey is still in New York City, getting ready for her move to Stoneybrook. All of her friends (Laine Cummings included) have gone all Mean Girls and turned on her since her diabetes diagnosis. In fact, Stacey's baby-sitting charges are the only ones who seem to care that she's leaving the city. Then, her parents throw her a surprise going-away party and invite all of her former friends....who are just as thrilled to be there as Stacey is to see them. As horrible as they are to Stacey, though, she just wants to know why they won't be friends with her anymore. They don't know about her diabetes, of course, but she just can't understand how they can turn their backs on a friend like they have. By the time moving day arrives, Stacey is ready to leave. Living in the suburbs is a pretty big adjustment for her...until seventh grade starts and she meets the rest of the BSC.

The book ends the same way that Kristy's Great Idea begins (almost word for word), and the BSC comes full circle.

Rating: 3.5

Thoughts and Things
  • I really didn't like Frankie, and I can't believe that the Kishi parents let their (barely) twelve year old daughter spend so much time with an almost high school student.
  • I like that the book ended with the first few chapters of Kristy's Great Idea. It seemed fitting. :)
  • Poor Stacey. :(
  • I got this book for my birthday this past April. It had been at least 15 years or more since I'd gotten a BSC book for my birthday, and it was my favorite gift!
  • Mary Anne's clothes didn't seem as awful as they were described at the beginning of the series. At one point, she was wearing pedal pushers and a lavendar baby-doll shirt. That actually sounds cute for someone of that age. Where are the little-girl outfits that Richard makes her wear?
  • It seemed a little out of character for Kristy to want her dad to be a part of her birthday. She always seemed to accept that he wasn't really a part of their lives, and she didn't seem to want to change that.

So....that's the end. I've really, truly, finally finished reading through the entire BSC series, and it took me less than a year! I've had a few questions about what's next for me, blog-wise. I have some ideas, but I'm going to take a week's "vacation" to recover before I start anything new. Check back then! :)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Graduation Day

(*I swear I didn't plan it this way, but in the book, the SMS graduation is on.....JUNE 23RD. Exactly 10 years ago today!!!*)

So...the big day is (finally...after 14 years) fast approaching: the BSC members and former members are getting ready to leave SMS for good and move on to high school. They're all busy with end-of-school stuff, including writing letters to themselves that will be sent back to them in four years, when high school graduation is on the horizon. Each BSC member has different thoughts, etc, about all the big changes that are happening. Here are the details:

Kristy, who's usually so brave about everything, is scared about the whole leaving middle school and going to high school thing. She doesn't like that her family is going to change, with Charlie leaving for school and she REALLY doesn't like that the BSC is going to change. She's determined to keep the BSC as busy as possible with big projects over the summer so they won't be able to slow down once school starts again, and she starts by creating a time capsule for the neighborhood. All the BSC members and former members, plus quite a few of the kids, add stuff to it. It's buried in Mary Anne's yard, and it's supposed to be opened in seven years, when the BSC oldest charges are getting ready to head to college.

Mary Anne, who's usually NOT brave, is really excited about moving on to high school. She does feel like she has some unfinished business, though, and that business is Logan. Mary Anne knew at the time that she made the right decision to break up with him, but she doesn't like that there's so much tension between them, and that they don't even really talk anymore. She's even having second thoughts about the breakup. She decides she needs to talk to them, and they eventually DO meet and clear the air. There's no romantic reunion or anything, but they leave their meeting on better terms.

Stacey is nervous about having both of her parents, plus Samantha, at graduation. She's convinced that they're going to fight (perhaps physically), and she's anticipating major embarrassment. She gets a notice in the mail one day, though, that makes her forget those issues. It's from the SMS library, asking her to return the copy of Ribsy that she borrowed, or she won't be able to graduate. Stacey freaks out; she doesn't remember checking that book out, and thinks it must have been back in 7th grade. She doesn't think the book survived two moves, so she's sure she won't be graduating with her friends. Stacey worries about this for a few days, and then realizes that she doesn't have to return the exact same copy of Ribsy that she checked out all that time ago; she just buys a new copy and hands that in instead. Also, no one in her family dukes it out at graduation.

Claudia, as usual, is worried about her grades. She needs to pass her finals in order to move on to high school, but she's awfully worried that she won't be able to make that happen in math. Stacey tutors her, and she ends up getting a C+. Unfortunately, she fails her science final. Since she'd also gotten a bad grade on an important project earlier in the year, she's definitely failed the class. It looks like she won't be graduating after all, but once again, summer school comes to the rescue (she'll be given her diploma if she passes science over the summer).

After graduation, Claudia has a party for all of the present and former BSC members in her bedroom. They talk a lot about their futures, and they make a pact to meet up for a reunion exactly 12 years from that day....and Kristy starts to feel a little bit better about the inevitable changes that are going to happen to all of them, and their friendships.....

Rating: 4

Thoughts and Things
  • Good lord....when I finished this book last night, I felt like someone had died or something! Can't believe I'm really done, except for The Summer Before....
  • Man, I SO sympathized with Kristy in this book. I've totally been the one that wasn't read to move on or to have things change, and I've definitely had to deal with the aftermath of something that I'd put my whole life into ending. The letter she wrote to herself nearly broke my little heart!
  • Charlie's letter to himself gets its own chapter, and it's pretty good. It explains a lot about who he is, and WHY he is the way he is....
  • Stacey really redeemed herself in this one, after being a witch for most of the FF series. In her letter to herself, she recognizes that their friendships are going to change, and that Ethan probably won't still hold the same place in her life that he does at that time. She's also the only BSC member to pick up on how Kristy's feeling about the end of the 8th grade, and the likely end of the BSC. Good going, reminded me why I liked you in the first place!
  • Would any middle school hold a student back for failing ONE class? In my middle school, you could fail everything and still move on to high school.
  • Is it really that common for middle schools to have full on graduations, complete with caps, gowns, a ceremony, and a valedictorian?
  • After the last book, I think we had decided that another school year happened between that one and this one, but I'm not so sure. Mary Anne states that her house had only been finished for a few months, and that the Logan split hadn't happened that long ago, either. I think the only reason that there was some summer in the last few FF books prior to this one was that they probably didn't know the series would end so soon. Otherwise, I think FF would have happened over one school year.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

FF# 12 Claudia and the Disaster Date

Summary's been awhile since Claudia and Alan Gray went to that dance together, and apparently, they're just now getting around to hanging out again. Claudia isn't really sure what to expect from him; he seems to have changed, but Claud keeps expecting him to get up to his old tricks. That, and the fact that she would really rather not be seen with him makes it hard for Claudia to enjoy spending time with him at all.

In other news, Claudia also has a summer job (along with Erica Blumberg) in the children's room at the library. Right away, Claud notices that the mural outside the room could use a little updating. She mentions it to her mom, who makes it clear to her that her job is in the children's room, not in painting hallways. On day two of work, Alan shows up. He tries to be helpful, but he ends up creating more work for Claudia in the end. She manages to get rid of him in time to have a little talk with Ms. Feld, the children's librarian, about redoing the mural. Ms. Feld is thrilled with the idea, and agrees to look at some samples of Claudia's work. Mrs. Kishi, though, isn't as happy. She doesn't like that Claudia went to Ms. Feld about the mural after she herself said no. Things are frosty between them which doesn't make for a good start to the workday. Neither does the fact that Kristy and Alan both show up at the library at the same time. Kristy doesn't let up on the Alan insults, and Claudia finally confesses at that day's club meeting that she's been seeing him. Kristy has major issues with that; she just doesn't like Alan and can't accept that one of her friends is essentially dating him.

Things are going a little better for Claud at the library. Ms. Feld likes Claudia's ideas for the mural, and plans are in place to start working on it. Then, Alan shows up to walk Claud to her BSC meeting so they can talk. She tries to put him off, but he isn't having it. He calls her out on being embarrassed to have her friends see them together, and asks that they give him a chance. They make plans for the BSC to go out for mini golf with Alan, Cary Retlin, and Pete Black. The big day finally arrives, but first, Claudia has to get through her day of work. She gets to the library to find everything in place for work on the mural, and Ms. Feld eager to have the kids help, too. Claudia isn't so sure about that part of it, and she was right to be apprehensive. The kids make a huge mess, and the mural looks terrible. Mrs. Kishi is furious, and she has to step in and make sure everything gets cleaned up. Once again, she tells Claudia that her job is to help in the children's room, not to paint murals.

The group date that night goes okay. Everyone plays in pairs, and Cary orchestrates it so that Alan and Kristy are a team. She does her best to insult and berate him, but Alan doesn't rise to the challenge. He's polite and calm....not like the normal Alan at all. Claudia doesn't like this super well-mannered Alan any more than she liked the goofy, joke-playing Alan. She knows there's a side of him that's both, and she encourages him to let that side show. To celebrate their new understanding, Claudia has a backyard BBQ for all of her friends, and some of Alan's. That's where they officially become boyfriend and girlfriend. Awwww, isn't that cute? :)

(By the way....Claudia ends up redoing the main part of the mural on her own, and the kids get to be involved by putting a handprint border around it).

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things
  • So....explain something to me. It's July in this book, yet in the next one, we're back in June and it's graduation time. Did another 8th grade happen between the two books, or did SMS go back in time?
  • I still don't get the whole Claudia/Alan thing, but Abby and Alan might not make a bad pair....
  • I like that Claudia's friendship with Erica didn't go by the wayside when she and Stacey made up.
  • Speaking of Erica, she finds out the names of her birth parents in this one. It's actually kind of intense....
  • I really think the FF series could have lasted longer if all of the books had been as good as Kristy's Big News.

Monday, June 21, 2010

FF#11 Welcome Home, Mary Anne


At long last, the Schafers and Spiers are done renovating their barn. Mary Anne is excited to move in, even though she still misses her old house. She's also excited that Dawn and Jeff are coming for the summer, and that they're bringing along a guyes: Sunny Winslow. Mary Anne is looking forward to having Sunny stay with them, but she's a little apprehensive at the same time. Not only is Mary Anne a little jealous of how close Dawn and Sunny are now, but Sunny's mom has just died of cancer, and Mary Anne isn't sure how to act around her. Sharon encourages her to just include Sunny in everything that she and Dawn would be doing anyway.

It doesn't seem like Mary Anne has to worry much about Sunny at first. From the second she steps off the plane, Sunny is running at top speed. She's enthusiastic and energetic, and excited to be visiting Stoneybrook. Mary Anne can tell that she's not quite all right, though, so she vows to be supportive and just follow Sunny's lead. That proves to be a little tough to do; on her first full day in Stoneybrook, Sunny decides that Mary Anne needs a new boyfriend. During their day at the pool, Sunny flirts with this older high school guy on Mary Anne's behalf, and makes a date with him and two of his friends. Mary Anne really isn't comfortable with the idea of going on a date with anyone yet, but she goes along with Sunny's plan anyway. The date is kind of a flop, and Mary Anne knows she needs to tell Sunny she doesn't really want to go out with any of the guys again. Sunny beats her to the punch, though.

With all of Sunny's energy and her eagerness to do everything there is to do in Stoneybrook, she quickly gets tired of the same old routine. That's when she gets her big idea: she, Dawn, and Mary Anne should sneak off to New York City for the day. Both Dawn and Mary Anne are apprehensive about the idea, but Sunny eventually talks them into it. Mary Anne feels totally guilty at first, but she ends up relaxing enough to have a really good time. Then, while the girls are shopping, she happens to look at her watch. They had totally lost track of time, and it's late enough that they need to leave NYC in order to get home before Sharon and Richard. Sunny, though, doesn't want to leave. In fact, she wants to stay late enough to go clubbing that night. Dawn is having none of it. She calls Sunny out on her irresponsible behavior, and draws attention to the fact that she's been getting her own way ever since her mom died. This subdues Sunny, who finally agrees to go home.

None of the three girls are particularly happy with each other by the time they get home. Dawn leaves again right away to get Jeff at the Pikes', and Sunny stomps upstairs and shuts herself in the room she's sharing with Dawn. When Mary Anne heads up there later, she hears Sunny inside crying. Mary Anne knows that Sunny really needed to let go like that, so she just lets her cry. They talk a little about what Sunny's been going through, losing her mom and being away from home. In fact, Sunny's decided that she needs to be with her dad, and that she should go home.

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things

  • The big question...who's Dawn and who's Sunny on the cover? I think Dawn is the one on the left, in the yellow shirt, and Sunny's the one on the right, with the necklace.
  • The New York trip was the sole reason that this book got a rating of 3. Not only would I have LOVED to do something that daring when I was a kid, but I also love the way they travel. Walking up and down random streets and NOT sticking to the typical tourist stuff is how I like to see big cities. :)
  • Is it just me, or does Sunny give off a bit of a....promiscuous vibe? You know she'll be at all the frat parties during college....
  • The new Schafer-Spier house sounds cool, but I can't imagine them turing the barn into a house. I never pictured it being big enough, and I DID picture it as being kind of run-down.
  • Even though I don't miss the baby-sitting stuff too much in this book, I'm glad that we've seen a little more of some of the BSC's charges in the last few books.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

FF# Stacey's Problem


Stacey, her mom, and Claudia are having a girls' night at the McGills'. They have fun making their own pizza and playins board games, but Stacey notices that something's wrong with her mom. She seems distracted, and she ends up going to bed early with a headache. The next day, she still seems so out of it that Stacey almost doesn't want to go to New York for the weekend. It's a good thing she does end up going, though, because her dad and Samantha have some big news: they're getting married. Stacey is pretty happy about it; she likes Samantha, and she can tell her dad is really happy.

When Stacey gets back to Stoneybrook, she's glad to see that her mom is over the funk she was in before. That is, she's over the funk until Stacey breaks the news about her dad's engagement. Mrs. McGill doesn't say much, but after they get home, Stacey finds her in her room, crying. She explains that she isn't sad because she wanted to get back together with Ed; she definitely DOESN'T want that. She's just overwhelmed at this whole chapter of her life (her marriage) really, truly being over. Stacey really wants to help her mom feel better, so she and Claudia decide that Mrs. McGill would be happier if she were dating. They get a tape from a video dating service, and the whole BSC gathers at Stacey's to try and pick her potential new stepfather. None of the guys seem quite right, so it's back to the drawing board.

As it turns out, Mrs. McGill didn't need any help getting a date; she's got one with a guy she met through work. One again, Stacey doesn't want to go to New York, since she thinks she needs to be there to surpvise her mother's comings and goings from her date. Also once again, Stacey heads to New York anyway. She's having fun getting to know Samantha even better, but she can't get her mind off of her mother's date. She forgets about it briefly, though, when Ed and Samantha take her out for Sunday breakfast at a new place. While they're waiting in line, who should they run into but Laine Cummings! She acts like nothing ever went wrong in their friendship, and even asks if Stacey can sit with her and her friends. Stacey makes sure her dad says no, and the whole weird encounter is over.

After the meal, Stacey finally gets ahold of her mother by phone. Unfortunately, the date did not go well. There was nothing really wrong with the guy; there just wasn't any chemistry. Since Mrs. McGill seems really disappointed, Stacey asks her dad and Samantha if she can just go home. Samantha offers to drive her, to save a little time. Stacey gets home and decides that it's her mission to cheer up her mom. Mrs. McGill insists she doesn't need it, and a couple of days later, she seems like she's back to her old self. She cooks a fancy dinner for Stacey, and tells her that she has some big news: she's decided to go back to her maiden name, and she's seriously thinking of quitting her job to open her own clothing store. Looks like the times, they are a-changin' for the whole McGill family.

There's actually a subplot in this one! Mallory is home from Riverbend, and she feels totally out of place. Her family seems to be functioning just fine without her, and her friends are all still too busy with school to spend time with her. There really isn't much of a resolution to this; everyone just kind of tells Mallory to hang on and give it time.

Rating: 2.5

Thoughts and Things
  • When Stacey's mom tells the BSC members about the store, they all offer to work there. Maureen actually tells them that that's not possible because of child labor laws. I can't believe that it took them until the end of the series to make any mention of that kind of thing!!!
  • I don't get why Stacey feels like she has to micromanage her mother's life.
  • I'm glad that Maureen went back to her maiden name. I'm actually kind of surprised that none of the other divorced women in the series did that.
  • The pizza that Claudia, Stacey, and Maureen made at the beginning of the book sounded great....until they put the anchovies on it. Seriously, though....I've always wanted to try making my own pizza.

Friday, June 18, 2010

FF#9 Kristy and the Kidnapper


Kristy and Abby are part of the new SMS debate team, and they're heading to Washington D.C. for a competition. As soon as they make it to their hotel, Kristy spots someone she knows in the lobby. It's Terry Hoyt...or, at least she thinks it is. Kristy is mystified when he's introduced by one of his friends as David Hawthorne, but this David guy claims never to have HEARD of Stoneybrook, let alone lived there. Later that night, Kristy is sure he's avoiding her. He can't avoid her for long, though; they're put on the same three person debate team.

Kristy, David, and Kai (the other person assigned to their group) actually make a pretty good team. They even win their first debate. There's a dance that night for all the students participating in the debate tournament, but Kristy, Kai, and David all leave early and decide to practice some more. Kristy is just leaving her room to head down to their meeting place in the lobby when she runs into David. He'd relaxed around Kristy while they were preparing for the debate, but now, he's back to being less than friendly. Then, he whispers in her ear that he's being followed. At first, Kristy thinks it's just a kid from one of the other debate teams. Then, she looks back and sees an adult man in dark clothes behind them. When they get to the stairwell, David shoves Kristy into it and tells her to run. He's right behind her, but just as they get to the lobby, the man grabs David. Kristy rushes into the lobby and screams that David is being kidnapped. Security comes running, and the catch up to David and his kidnapper in the parking garage. As soon as the man sees the guards chasing him, he drops David and takes off. David is shaken, but okay.

Both David and Kristy are taken into an office to be questioned by police. Before the officers get there, he asks her not to mention that the kidnapper had said "Your father is going to pay" just as he caught David. Kristy is mystified as to why, so David finally has to come clean about his dad's secret agent work, and his own previous identity as Terry Hoyt. Kristy doesn't say anything about the kidnapper's comments to the cops. David's dad eventually arrives to talk to the two of them. They hadn't managed to catch the kidnapper, so both David and Kristy are going to be assigned Secret Service agents until he's caught.

Meanwhile, the debating is still going on. Kristy, Kai, and David win another round, in spite of the craziness that Kristy and David have been through. That same day, Mr. Hawthorne brings the two of them a bunch of pictures of criminals who could have been the kidnapper. They identify him; it's a guy named Lance Dibdin. David's dad had busted the ring of compuer hackers that Dibdin was a part of, but Dibdin stayed out of jail on a technicality.

Kristy, David, and Kai make it to the final round of debates. In fact, they're debating the team that Abby's on (Abby and Kristy had been super competitive the whole time, arguing over everything). The final debates are being held at the Lincoln Memorial. Just as Kristy and her team are finishing up, she spots someone in the crowd: it's Lance Dibdin. She screams and points at time (she's so scared that it's all she can do), but he continues to make his way toward David. Security (and Mr. Hawthorne), quickly take him down and arrest him. In spite of all the drama, Kristy and her team go on to win the debate finals.

Rating: 2.5

Thoughts and Things
  • This one approaches BSC Mystery levels of unrealisticness. I kept expecting Sgt. Johnson to pop out of nowhere and help with the investigation.
  • The camaraderie between Kristy, David, and Kai was really fun to read about. So was David's relationship with his dad!
  • I'm not surprised that Kristy and Abby are good at debate, but many middle schools actually HAVE debate teams? My high school didn't even have one, although they did offer a debate class. Which I took. And hated.
  • I just have to reiterate how perfect the girl they got to play Kristy on these covers is. Definitely the best match out of all the FF cover girls!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

FF#8 Mary Anne's Revenge


Mary Anne is now involved in the yearbook. The good news? She likes it. The bad news? Cokie Mason is one of the editors, and the other editor (Rick Chow) just agrees with whatever she says. Cokie seesm to have it in for Mary Anne, even more so than usual. She's always making snide comments in front of the whole group, and Mary Anne can't seem to speak up and defend herself. She's not too happy with her own lack of guts, so she starts speaking up in other ways. Mary Anne's friends and family are a little surprised, to say the least, about her new attitude.

One day, Claudia and Mary Anne arrive at school together and get some big news from Stacey. Someone has started a rumor that Mary Anne begged Logan to take her back, and when he wouldn't, she went nuts by sending him lots of crazy emails and leaving tons of phone messages. It's pretty obvious that Cokie's the one responsible, which is the last straw for Mary Anne. She's determined to get revenge on Cokie, once and for all. She spends some class time making a list of awful things to do to her, and when she shares her list with Kristy at lunch, she sees that Kristy also has a list. The BSC members (and Abby) are all eager to be in on the plan.

That same day, Logan pulls Mary Anne aside for a chat. He's heard the rumor, and since he obviously knows that it's not true, he wants to make sure Mary Anne is okay. He also wants to tell her himself that he and Dorianne Wallingford have kind of started seeing each other. It hasn't really moved past the friendshp stage yet, but Logan wants to get it out in the open anyway. Mary Anne ends up being late for her yearbook meeting because of her talk with Logan, and as soon as she walks in the room, Cokie starts to give her a bad time. Mary Anne really lets her have it, and Cokie is pretty much speechless. She leaves the room, and Mary Anne, Austin, and Abby get to work counting the ballots for the "Most" and "Best" voting (Most Likely to Succeed, Best Artist, etc). When they finish, they notice something odd: Cokie and her friends have bascially swept the voting. There are also ballots missing (Mary Anne can't find hers), and the number of ballots doesn't match the humber that the teachers collected. Mary Anne and Aby lock the ballot boxes up overnight, and they go to Mr. Fiske (faculty advisor) the next morning. He agrees to have another vote....with better security this time.

Since Cokie still hasn't given up on her rumor-spreading and nastiness, Mary Anne decides she needs to do more in the way of revenge than just telling Cokie off once. Kristy suggests enlisting the help of Cary Retlin, so Mary Anne arranges a meeting with him in the SMS library after school. When she gets there, she finds him with a stack of magazines. Step one in their revenge plan is to fill out tons of those annoying little subscription cards, but not send them right away. The cards are a backup plan, just to have around in case things don't go well. On their way out of the library, who should they run into but Cokie herself? She invites both of the them to a party she's having, and to Cokie's surprise, Mary Anne accepts.

The next day, Mary Anne goes to Kristy's for dinner after the BSC meeting. They totally lose track of time, and Mary Anne gets home way past curfew. Her dad is not happy; they argue, and Mary Anne ends up grounded for two weeks. That poses a problem, because Cokie's party is that weekend. Mary Anne knows she has to be there. If she doesn't show up, Cokie will think she lost her nerve. So, Mary Anne decides to sneak out. She gets out of the house okay, and the party itself is actually pretty decent. The food is good, and lots of Mary Anne's friends are there. Cokie's still up to her old tricks, though. She orchestrates it so the music will stop just as she happens to be making a statement about how desperate Mary Anne still is to get back with Logan, and everyone there hears it. Everyone there also hears it when Mary Anne tells off Cokie yet again, and the whole place claps and cheers. This doesn't make Cokie happy; it's HER party.

Mary Anne is feeling pretty good about herself as she heads home after the party. She stops feeling good, though, when she finds her dad waiting up for her. They fight again, and is escalates to the point that Sharon wakes up and comes downstairs to see what's the matter. She orders them to sit and listen to her, and she points out that Richard and Mary Anne are having so many problems lately because they're both still struggling with the aftermath of the fire. They have a nice family meeting, and Mary Anne's grounding is reduced. She realizes that she doesn't want to be that weak person who never stands up for herself anymore, but she also realizes that she doesn't want to be mean and sarcastic anymore. Time for a happy medium!

Rating: 2.5

Thoughts and Things
  • Cokie's house is made to seem like a mansion, but when Mary Anne was over there working on the Megan Rinehart project in #46, it was just a normal house. Also, Mary Anne makes it seem like she's never been to Cokie's before, when we know she has.
  • This is the only book where I can truly say that I enjoy Cary Retlin. It's interesting that Kristy seems to be the one who always suggests that the BSC work with him....
  • I loved that Mary Anne got a little rebellious in this one. It makes her seem like a typical teenager. :)
  • In order to get some ideas for decorating their new house, Richard and Sharon take Mary Anne on a tour of historical homes in Greenvale. Mary Anne didn't enjoy it (this is when she was in her brief grumpy and sarcastic phase), but I would have been totally into it!
  • The description of Mary Anne's nightmare at the beginning of the book was actually kind of scary....