Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #22: Jessi Ramsey, Pet-Sitter

I like dogs. I’ve always liked dogs. They’re sweet and caring and I take them as proof that if God exists, she’s a benevolent goddess and wants us to be happy because she put dogs on this earth. However, we do not deserve them. We do stupid shit, like elect leaders the same way we choose our favorite football team. It’s not who has the best ideas that will help the most people – it’s which side they are on. They would rather stick it to the liberals even though the liberals have better policies to help their families and themselves. Also, liberals are open to using they/them pronouns, and apparently, that’s a problem for some inconceivable reason.

Dogs and elections collide in The Baby-Sitters Club #22: Jessi Ramsey, Pet-Sitter. While our favorite ballerina is tackling a sitting job more akin to the National Zoo than the office daycare center, the BSC is engaging in the democratic process. Because they’re fighting. Again. Oh boy, here we go.

The Mancusis call the BSC hoping to book a sitter for a full week. The catch is that they don’t need a sitter for children – they need a sitter for a house full of animals! They reject the job because Kristy had a bad experience with animals in the first BSC book and the book is over! 

I’m kidding, of course. Jessi takes the job, just like the title says. The Braddocks, her usual baby-sitting charges, are on vacation and Jessi doesn’t have ballet practice all this week, so she’s free and needs a job. However, Kristy almost rejects the job because of her bad experience, leading the club to question if Kristy’s bossiness is a detriment to the club.

The next day, Jessi arrives at the Mancusis’ house to meet all the animals. She does not describe the smell, but I imagine it is powerful. The Mancusis have three dogs (Cheryl, Pooh Bear, and Jacques), five cats (Crosby, Powder, Ling-Ling, Tom, and Rosie), a bunch of birds that are usually allowed to just fly around the house (but they won’t for that week, much to Jessi’s relief), a parrot named Frank who repeats commercials, hamsters, two guinea pigs (Lucy and Ricky), some fish and rabbits, and the pièce de résistance – Barney the snake. No shenanigans will happen with the snake, I’m sure. Not surprisingly, Jessi takes on the challenge with aplomb and her signature grace.

The next day, as Jessi starts her new job, Claudia brings Jamie Newton and Nina Marshall over to gawk at the animals in the world’s cheapest zoo. I know the National Zoo is free, but they charge you five dollars for a map whereas the Zoo Mancusi has an eleven-year-old. This does not stop Jamie Newton from freaking out when he sees the guinea pigs, claiming they are from space. Jessi suggests they all walk the dogs together to distract Jamie from the space creatures from Quizno’s.

While walking the dogs, they encounter Chewy, the Perkinses’ dog. He had gotten loose while the Perkinses were gone, so he joins the walk and they chase squirrels. Luckily, by the time they circle around back to the Perkins residence, the Perkinses are home and relieved to see Chewy.

When they get back to the Mancusi residence, Jessi sees that one of the hamsters is curled up in the corner, refusing to move.  I’m sure this will have no effect on the plot.

During the next BSC meeting, Kristy barks orders at everyone, and everyone is arguing yet again. This time, it’s about Kristy being very Kristy and how complicated everyone’s individual job is. Kristy thinks this is a great time to roll out her new idea:

“To make sure that each of you is reading the notebook once a week, I’m going to draw up a checklist. Every Monday, in order to show me you’ve been keeping up with the notebook, you’ll initial a box on the chart.”

And then they argue about the checklist. The arguing changes a bit when Claudia complains about taking calls during non-BSC meeting hours. Mary Anne is tired of scheduling and Dawn doesn’t like collecting dues. Jessi and Mallory refuse to take sides and later they worry about the future of the club. Since there are one hundred more books in the mainline series, I don’t think you’ll have to worry, girls, but now I’m meta-reading.

During Mary Anne’s baby-sitting job at the Perkinses, they go over to Zoo Mancusi, because why not? Finally, Chekov’s gun has gone off – Barney is missing from his cage! Myriah took the top of his cage off while the others pondered the fat, immobile hamster. They figure that he went outside since he’s cold-blooded. They trap him in an extra aquarium, slip some cardboard under, and plop him back into his home. Crisis averted, metals all around.

It’s Wednesday, so it’s time for another BSC meeting! And I can finally announce the long-awaited comeback of “What’s Claudia Wearing???”

Claudia was wearing another of her great outfits. This one consisted of an oversized, short-sleeved cotton shirt with gigantic leaves painted all over it, green leggings – the same green as the leaves on her shirt  – bright yellow push-down socks, her purple high-tops, and in her hair a headband with a gigantic purple bow attached to one side.

I’m not a big fan of the green/purple color combination (mostly because of its internet meme connection), but an oversized shirt, leggings, and high-tops is still a good look. 

When Kristy arrives at the meeting, she puts her checklist over Claudia’s pictures of Stacey. Claudia snatches the checklist off, Kristy snatches it back and puts it up again. This goes on until the checklist rips in half. Kristy reminds everyone that she’s the president which prompts Claudia to call for an election.

Jessi and Mallory try to stay quiet, and after the meeting, they once again express their concerns about the stability of the club.

The next day at the Mancusi’s, Becca and Mallory come with Jessi. Becca wants to play with the animals and Mallory wants to discuss the elections. They feed the animals, walk the dogs, and Mallory says that the election makes her uncomfortable. There are no problems and we are moving on.

Meanwhile, Kristy sits for Jackie Radowsky. Since everyone in Stoneybrook is psychically linked, Jackie’s class is holding elections for various classroom duties, including “blackboard-washer, messenger, roll-taker.” The most coveted role is taking care of the class pet Snowball, which is what Jackie is running for. However, he doesn’t think he’s going to win because he’s up against Adrienne Garvey.

“Well, she never erased holes into her workbook pages, and she never gets dirty, even in art class. And she always finishes her work on time. And she never forgets her lunch or trips or spills or anything!”

Oh, Jackie, if competency was a requirement for winning an election, we wouldn’t have had a crime-family run carte blanche with our sacred institutions. What you need is a cult that will believe everything you say with some propaganda help from Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook.

Anyway, Kristy instructs him to prove his responsibility and campaign for the role. She tells him to put on a nice shirt and write speeches. Later, while he is trying to prove that responsibility, he spills some dog food and wants to clean it up, but Kristy doesn’t let him. He tells Kristy that she’s a “bossy baby-sitter.” 

“You buttoned my shirt when I wanted to do it myself, you wouldn’t let me vacuum up the mess I made, and now you’re going to plan my campaign for-”

Jackie is distracted and forgets what he was talking about, but it sticks with Kristy. She wonders if she’s really as bossy as everyone insists. Well, yeah, Kristy. It’s your whole personality. Bossy and sporty. It’s like you don’t even read the beginning.

The next meeting is grim. The club goes over the rules for the upcoming election with the level of precision usually reserved for fighter pilot safety checks. Mary Anne cries. Jessi and Mallory worry about the club again.

On the day of the elections, one of the hamsters is acting weird. Jessi calls her mom and they take it to the vet. While waiting for the vet, Jessi realizes that she won’t be able to make the elections. Luckily, this issue is no big deal because Kristy offers to move the elections to the next day. We almost had a conflict there! See, it really didn’t have any effect on the plot.

Turns out the hamster is pregnant. Jessi is quite excited about the new little hamsters. The book conveniently glosses over the fact that the hamster will probably eat most of them later in the dead of the night, so Jessi shouldn’t be quick to pick out her favorite one. Maybe give it a few days.

Before the BSC conducts elections, they talk about the hamsters. But it’s no time for frivolity – we have an election to hold! Who will be the new president? Will Claudia, the worst at math, be the treasurer in honor of Stacey? 

None of that. Nothing changes. Everyone votes for the same people to have the same position as before. The club thinks this is hilarious. I am ambivalent because I am more focused on the pregnant hamsters and problematic cat names.

Everything goes back to normal, but Becca gets to keep one of the surviving hamsters – her first pet! The Mancusis were quite pleased with Jessi’s baby-sitting performance, which is no surprise given that Jessi is one of the most competent characters in this series.

I still have a problem with the books that revolve around the BSC’s infighting – it’s a tired trope perpetuated by terrible men who want to see us women tear each other apart. That being said, I can’t hate this one. It has a lot going for it: 1) it has cute animals, 2) Jessi and Mallory don’t argue, and 3) it’s about Jessi. And let’s face it: Jessi is the most pleasant one.

For a list of every Baby-Sitters Club, Goosebumps, and Fear Street book review I have written, go to RereadingMyChildhood.com or follow RereadMyChildhd on Twitter. For more information about me, Amy A. Cowan, visit my website AmyACowan.com or follow my Twitter: amyacowan.

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