Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #12: Claudia and the New Girl

Previously On Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #11: Kristy and the Snobs

I don’t understand kids and I certainly don’t understand babysitting. There. I said it. I read these books, but I could never babysit now, so babysitting when I was twelve is especially out of the question. (I thought wearing all black on Valentine’s Day was a clear message to the Hallmark Corporation what I thought about their fake holiday. Take that, Corporate America! Clearly, I was no condition to take care of another human life.)

Even with my disdain for children, I wouldn’t belittle someone who wanted to do it, especially if it was their job. Somebody has to take care of all the Stoneybrook kids while the parents are off at their ritual sacrifices or wherever the parents go. (It’s a ritual sacrifice, or a coven, or an orgy. Or Stoneybrook has an extensive nightlife culture for forty-somethings.) In Claudia and the New Girl, the titular girl has some impressive artistic credentials . . . and not much else.

SPOILERS AFTER THE COVER!!!

The Baby-Sitters Club #12: Claudia and the New Girl
My Copy of The Baby-Sitters Club #12: Claudia and the New Girl – This girl is literally asking Claudia to abandon an accident-prone child alone so they can sculpt traffic lights. I’m not kidding.

Claudia is bored in class, but the day changes quickly when a new girl enters her classroom. She is dressed “like a hippie.

She was wearing a very pretty pink flowered skirt that was full and so long it touched the tops of her shoes – which I soon realized were not shoes, but sort of hiking boots. Her blouse, loose and lacy, was embroidered with pink flowers, and both her wrists were loaded with silver bangle bracelets. Her hair, which was almost as long as my friend Dawn’s and was dirty blonde, was pulled into a flat braid (which, I might add, was not held in place with a rubber band or anything; it just sort of trailed to an end). But the amazing thing was that because her hair was pulled back, you could see her ears. And she had three pierced earrings in each ear. They were all silver and all dangly, but none matched.

Just like a hippie. Needless to say, this girl captures Claudia’s attention immediately. Her name is Ashley Wyeth and Claudia asks the girl if she is related to famous artist Andrew Wyeth. The girl replies that she isn’t, but she wishes she was. She calls herself a “sculptress” and the two bond over art.

After the obligatory “here are all the members of the BSC” chapter, Kristy shows up first to their usual meeting and Claudia as some shitty things to say about her.

Kristy is really cute, but she never bothers to make herself look special. All fall she’s been wearing the same kind of outfit – jeans, a turtleneck, a sweater, and sneakers. And she hasn’t been doing a thing with her long (well, longish) brown hair except brushing it. Here’s an example of one of the big differences between Kristy and me. I was wearing a very short pink cotton dress, white tights, and black ballet slippers. I had swept all of my hair way over to one side, where it was held in place with a piece of pink cloth that matched the dress. Only one ear showed, and in it I had put my big palm tree earring. (Kristy was not wearing any jewelry.)

Geez, way to put your friend down, Claudia. Kristy’s outfit is timeless and certainly still an acceptable outfit today, whereas your outfit looks like a tacky neon dance club from 1984 threw up on a casino palm tree in Vegas. I want to like you, Claudia, but maybe if you didn’t spend all your time on your clothes and cracked open a book, you wouldn’t have so much trouble in school. Just a thought while we’re spilling tea and being jerks to one another.

The next day, Claudia sees Ashley at her after school art class. Ashley, who is wearing what I would call a “modified Canadian tuxedo” – “puffy white blouse, a blue-jean jacket, a long blue-jean skirt, and those hiking boots again” complete with a “strip of faded denim” tied around her head like “an Indian headband,” (cool words and outfit there, Martin and Ashley) and they discuss Ashley’s educational past, Claudia’s portfolio, and Stoneybrook’s art class.. Before she moved to Stoneybrook, Ashley attended the Keyes Art School in Chicago (which is not a real school, don’t bother Googling it, like someone I know), and she likes Claudia’s work. The art teacher, Ms. Baehr, announces an art gallery opening is featuring a sculpting contest. Ashley is instantly excited and encourages Claudia to enter as well, but Claudia wonders if she’ll have enough time.

While Claudia baby-sits the Radowsky boys, Ashley shows up while they are outside playing “Red Light, Green Light.” (And, before you ask, yes, there is a detailed description on how to play the ubiquitous childhood game.) Apparently, Ashley had just moved in next door.

“Why do you have to baby-sit?” Ashley asked me.

(The boys looked somewhat hurt.)

“I don’t have to,” I replied. “This is my job. I love sitting.” I told her about the Baby-Sitters Club and how it works and the kids we sit for.

“What do you do in your space time?”I asked Ashley.

“I paint. Or sculpt,” she replied.

“I mean, what do you and your friends to? Well, what did you guys do in Chicago?”

“Just . . . just my artwork. That’s really all that’s important to me. I had one friend, another girl from Keyes. Sometimes we painted together. The only way to develop your talent is to devote time to it, you know.”

Ashley is dedicated to getting her 10,000 hours before she turns 16 and is aged out of the art world forever. At lunch the next day, Claudia invites Ashley to sit with her friends, the BSC, but she doesn’t want to, saying she wants to discuss art with Claudia and their entries into the sculpture competition. They decide to go to a watercolor exhibit in one of Stoneybrook’s galleries, but only on the condition that they leave early enough for Claudia to be home for the BSC meeting.

Of course, Claudia is late for the meeting in her own house. Ashley just didn’t want to leave the museum. Kristy chides her for her tardiness, and Stacey expresses jealousy over the time Claudia has been spending with Ashley. Any potential jobs Claudia could have taken are given to Mary Anne and Stacey. Claudia is remorseful, especially at the way she disappointed her best friend, Stacey.

Then we get our first handwriting chapter, which belongs to Dawn at the Perkins’s house. She gets a phone call from Jeff, who admits he got in trouble in class for throwing an eraser across the room, sending the room into chaos, breaking a mosaic that cuts a kid (nothing too serious – I think I would have remembered a BSC title like Dawn and Her Brother’s Attempted Murder Trial). Dawn is forced to schlep Myriah and Gabbie “The Gabbers” Perkins in a red wagon to Jeff’s school and they have a conversation with Ms. Besser, Jeff’s teacher.

“I’m Dawn Schafer, Jeff’s sister.” Dawn explained why she had come instead of her mother.

“And I,” spoke up Myriah, “am Miss Esmerelda. I run a beauty salon. This is my assistant,” she added, climbing out of the wagon and pointing to Gabbie.

“I am Miss Gabbie,” said Gabbie.

“Would you like a makeover?” Myriah asked Ms. Besser.

“Oh . . . no today, Miss, um-”

“Esmerelda,” supplied Myriah. She turned to Jeff. “Would you like a makeover? From our traveling beauty parlor?”

“No way,” replied Jeff, turning red.

I would like a makeover,” Gabbie told her sister.

“Oh good,” said Myriah, and got to work.

I love the Perkins’s. Long live the Myriah and Gabbie “The Gabbers” Perkins.

Ms. Besser pulls Dawn away says that they have a serious problem with Jeff and she wishes she could have spoken with Dawn’s mother. Dawn sends Jeff to their home and she takes the Perkins girls back to their respective home.

We’re back to Claudia, who is, once again, neglecting the BSC to eat with Ashley, where the Keyes alum herself says the most pretentious thing a 12-year-old could say. “I am an artist and my craft is calling.” (I felt myself cringe when I read that, and I cringed, even more, when I thought about all the stupid shit I said when I was a 12-year-old.) Ashley goes on about how she wants to sculpt an inanimate object and they should go to another exhibit, on the day Claudia has a club meeting, of course. After the exhibit, Ashley freaks out over a fire hydrant in the middle of the sidewalk. Then she starts pointing out everything around them, like gum wrappers, and traffic lights. Ashley encourages Claudia to sculpt a traffic light because of “the power it holds. It controls the traffic. It can make people late. It can prevent accidents. It’s a little box doing an awfully big job.” The pretension meter went off like crazy. My partner said I wasted money on that thing. Well, guess who’s wrong? I did use it! Like a traffic light, it’s a little box doing an awfully big job.

Claudia notices that she’s late for the meeting but Ashley doesn’t want her to leave. Claudia chooses to find a pay phone, call Dawn, and tell her that she’ll miss the meeting. When she gets home, Mary Anne has left her a cold note about sitting for Nina and Eleanor Marshall. There’s also a note from Kristy that says, “Everyone at school thinks Ashley is weird. I just thought you should know.” Claudia is sad she missed the meeting, and how her friends are treating her relationship with Ashley, but she’s frustrated that she sacrificed a meeting and she still doesn’t have a subject for the sculpting contest.

Chapter eight starts like a handwriting chapter but is really just a group text in the BSC notebook. Mary Anne writes that some of them are neglecting their official duties, forcing other members to fill in. Dawn chimes in that she doesn’t mind being vice-president. Stacey says that they used to have a V.P. who was nice but then she “never shows up at meetings and she hangs around a person who wears BELL-BOTTOM BLUE JEANS to school.” Just wait a few years, Stacey. Bell-bottoms will come back and be called “flares.”

Handwriting chapters are a way to tell a story about another character without the first-person narrator actually being there, seeing the events unfold. This is usually for babysitting jobs, but this chapter is a little different. Claudia can’t make another meeting, so this one is about the meeting she missed.

Dawn talks about what happened to Jeff after her mother found out what he had done. She had a conference with Jeff’s teacher. He’s been acting up and refusing to participate in class. They exchange platitudes about “not letting him get away with a thing” and praising good behavior. Dawn is disappointed they didn’t discuss moving Jeff to California to live with Dawn and Jeff’s father.

The Papadakises call, and they don’t bother to consider Claudia for the job, they just hand it over to Kristy. Which, honestly, if Claudia isn’t at a meeting, she really shouldn’t get a job unless everyone is unavailable. It’s like if someone doesn’t show up to class and then gets mad when they miss assignments. You need to show up. The meeting ends with Mary Anne crying over their crumbling relationship with Claudia. I don’t blame her.

At school the next day, Claudia sticks up a poster of some guy named Max Morrison in her locker using gum. We are reminded that the school doesn’t allow tape in their lockers, so the kids have to be creative and they use gum instead. And I will reiterate that it’s worse to deal with gum than tape and the school policy on tape needs to be reexamined. Immediately.

Ashley shows up moments before the BSC.

“Do you suppose you’ll be able to clear time in your busy schedule to get to the next meeting?” Dawn asked me.

I looked at her in surprise. What kind of question was that from our even-tempered alternate officer?

“I plan to,” was all I replied.

“I hope you approve of that,” said Kristy to Ashley.

Ashley still looked awfully uncomfortable. “Claudia,” she began uncertainly, and then seemed to gain confidence. “Claudia is an artist-”

“Don’t remind us,” interrupted Kristy.

“She’s an artist,” Ashley went on, “and she needs to spend time on her work.”

“What are you? Her tutor or something?” asked Stacey.

“I’m her mentor,” replied Ashley, as serious as always.

Ooh, the douche chills.

“If Claudia is going to develop her talents to the fullest – and I think she can go a long way in the world of art – . . . she has to devote as much time as possible to her art,” Ashley finished.

Okay, slow down, 12-year-old mentor.

“Spending time on anything else, especially baby-sitting, is just a waste.”

“Hey,” said Kristy, turing angrily at me, “does this mean you’re quitting the club? It would be nice if you’d let us know. We’d like to hold meetings somewhere other than in your room, if you are. And of course we’ll have to give our clients our new phone number, make up new fliers, all sorts of things.”

“I’m not quitting the club!” I exclaimed.

“Could have fooled us,” said Stacey.

They storm off and Ashley says, “Who needs friends when you have art?”

Claudia misses more BSC meetings and blows off a shopping date with Stacey to go to Ashley’s house. The rest of the BSC decides to get revenge on their former best friend and vice president: they are going to systematically kill everyone around Claudia until it drives her insane. I’m just kidding. That’s more akin to Fear Street. Since the BSC meetings are held in Claudia’s room, and they’re in her room without the artist herself present, they misplace her things, like putting crackers in an old purse.

So, Kristy and Mary Anne short-sleeved my bed. Was I ever mad that night when I discovered what they’d done! I was dead tired because I’d stayed up trying to catch up on my homework and read The Twenty-One Balloons (another Newberry book). By the time I was ready to go to bed, I was so sleepy I could barely turn my comforter back. When I did, and I slid between the sheets, my legs only went halfway down. I kicked around. I couldn’t imagine what was wrong. Finally, I lifted up my comforter and looked. I couldn’t believe it! Pinned to the sheet was a note that said: Ha, ha! Sleep tight!

Got her, Kristy. Claudia was mildly inconvenienced. At the end of the meeting, Stacey posits that Ashley likes Claudia because she’s an artist, not because Claudia is Claudia.

A few days later, once again while babysitting the Radowsky kids, Ashley visits Claudia. Ashley questions why Claudia spends her time with the children and actually encourages her to just leave them and go with her and sculpt a donut or whatever the fuck Ashley wants to do.

Ashley’s ice-blue eyes turned icier. “This is the thanks I get for-”

“For what, Ashley? What did you do that you expect thanks for? What did you do that you wouldn’t have done just because you’re my friend?”

“I taught you about sculpting. I taught you how to look beyond Ms. Baehr and see what else you can do.”

“And you think you deserve to be paid back? You think I owe you something? Friendship doesn’t work that way. Friends are friends because they like each other, not because they’re in debt …But you want me to devote my life to art. And that’s not fair. You shouldn’t make up conditions for friendship. Besides, there’s more to my life than you and art. I’m not giving anything up.”

Ashley regained her cool as quickly as she’d lost it. “You mean, you’re not giving anything up just for me. Because I’m not important enough to you. That’s what you’re saying, isn’t it. Well, I’ll tell you something, Claudia Kishi. You are ungrateful. And foolish. And you don’t know a thing about being a friend.”

If I were Claudia I’d just wipe my hands and say, “Good riddance.” Then I’d go apologize to the BSC and end the book. But that’s not the end. We still have the sculpting contest to wrap up. When Claudia returns to the Radowskys, she decides to sculpt Jackie because he’s really “alive.” Like, get this kid some Ritalin alive.

The next afternoon is Mary Anne’s turn to sit for the Radowskys. Claudia visits and asks if she can sculpt Jackie and apologize to Mary Anne. Oh, and look who shows up again.

Ashley leaned over to look at the sketch I was working on. “I saw your bike outside. What are you doing here? I couldn’t believe you were baby-sitting again . . . and I see you aren’t.”

“Nope. I’m starting my sculpture for the show. That should make you happy.”

“Not if you’re going to sculpt him,” replied Ashley, pointing.

Jackie’s eager face fell.

Jesus, Ashley. You’re one of those people defending ICE putting kids in cages, aren’t you?

Him has a name,” I told her. “He’s Jackie. And he’s one of my good friends.”

Jackie’s smile returned cautiously.

“So you lost your nerve,” Ashley went on, as if she hadn’t heard me. “You’re going to sculpt a person.”

“Right.”

“Why?”

“Because I’ll sculpt what I want to sculpt. I’ll sculpt what I do best, and I do people best, even though I still have a lot to learn.”

“I’ll say. Well, you’re not going to learn it from me,” retorted Ashley, and she headed for the front door. Her parting words were, “You’re ruining your career, you know.” Then she let herself out.

All that in front of Jackie and Mary Anne. Seriously, Ashley, take it down a notch. You’re barely a teenager. No teenager has a career – only very serious hobbies.

she calls the BSC and apologizes to them. Claudia misses another meeting, but this time it’s because she’s trying to finish her homework. However, despite her efforts, Claudia won’t be able to finish her sculpture of Jackie in time for the contest, especially if she wants to finish her homework. She tells Jackie in person the disappointing news. He takes it well, but he’s still sad. Claudia returns to the club during the next meeting and they officially make amends.

At the contest, Ashley wins first place, but Claudia’s sculpture is still displayed as a “Work in Progress,” which makes Jackie ecstatic. Ashley and Claudia share a moment, and at lunch at Stoneybook Middle School, Ashley actually sits with Claudia and the BSC, but Claudia makes it clear that this isn’t a common occurrence. The BSC is back together and we never have to think about Ashley again.

Ashley is one of the most onerous characters I’ve read so far. Sure, I’m not a kid-person and I could never babysit on a regular basis, but I sure wouldn’t go out of my way to insult children right to their faces and speak about them as if they weren’t there. That’s the thing that annoyed me the most about Ashley. She had open disdain for kids who were being perfectly sweet. If we never see Ashley again, it will be too soon.

Next Time On Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #13: Good-bye Stacey, Good-bye

Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #11 – Kristy and the Snobs

Previously On Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #10: Logan Likes Mary Anne!

I wasn’t there when my childhood pet died. His name was Sammy, and he was a gorgeous Australian Shepherd. He died while my family and I were abroad, visiting my extended family in the Philippines. My father had to sit my sister and me down and explain that our dog wasn’t going to be there when we got back. I still remember the exact spot in my Grandmother’s house, the exact chair I was sitting in, a long bench next to the dining table, and the exact color of the flip-flops that I stared at as my father told me the bad news (yellow).

In The Baby-Sitters Club #11: Kristy and the Snobs, Kristy at least has the luxury of saying goodbye to her beloved Louie, and I don’t consider that a spoiler – the dog is limping before the end of chapter one. Anyone who has read a book featuring a beloved pet knows that doesn’t bode well for Spot.

The book’s title implies that there’s some kind of Kristy vs. the Snobs war, and there are a few pranks, but the crux of the novel is heartbreak and loss. Ann M. Martin writes about sadness in a stark and plain way. The pain isn’t covered up with flowery language and metaphor; there is no euphemism sufficient enough to describe the death of a beloved pet. It’s a sad book, but it’s a good one.

SPOILERS AFTER THE COVER!!!

BSC011
My copy of The Baby-Sitters Club #11: Kristy and the Snobs – “Oh dear! Jeans and a dog that sits! How plebeian. Come smaller clone with white cat – my dog that never sits and I don’t want to catch anything uncouth.”

The book starts with breakfast at the Watson/Thomas compound. They cook their own breakfast, Watson helps with the chores, and they clean their own house. They don’t have a pool, or a tennis court, or a fountain in the entryway. That’s not a compound, you say? Not like their neighbors, who actually have maids, cooks, pools, butlers, and courts tennis? This difference is made apparent by the appearance of Kristy’s neighbors, who attend a private school and are all blonde.

“Are you the one who’s been sending those fliers around? For some baby-sitting club?”

“Yeah,” I said. (Every now and then our club tries to find new people to baby-sit for, so we send around advertisements. We’d put one in every box in my new neighborhood not long ago.)

“What does your little club do?” asked another blonde.

“What do you think?” I replied testily. “We baby-sit.”

“How cute,” said the blonde with the curls.

The others giggled.

“Nice outfit,” called the one non-blonde, putting her hands on her hips.

I blushed. Too bad I’d chosen the jeans with the hole in the knee that day.

But if there’s one thing to be said about me, it’s that I have a big mouth. I always have. I’m better about controlling it then I used to be, but I’m not afraid to use it. So I put my hands on my hips and said, “Your clothes are nice, too. You look like clones. Snob clones.”

Slam, Kristy. You got ‘em. Now they’ll have to respect you. I feel like I’ve said and done this exact thing in my past life as an awkward eleven-year-old.

While this is going on, Louie is limping on page seven. The dog is not long for this world and they take him to a veterinarian named Dr. Smith, who is a woman. I only mention that because when I read the name, I thought it was a male vet. I was surprised at my own internalized misogyny when it’s revealed that Dr. Smith is a woman. Martin is progressive (most of the time, she could do better with Claudia), especially in the eighties. Dr. Smith informs them that Louie is getting older, has arthritis, and his eyesight is getting worse. She prescribes some pain medication and suggests short walks for Louie. Kristy does just that when they get home and meets one of the snobs, the one who lives across the street, and her immaculate dog, accompanied by another blonde child.

“What,” she said, pointing to Louie, “is that?”

That,” I replied, “is a dog.”

The girl made a face at me. “Really? It’s hard to tell. He’s so . . . scruffy.”

“Yeah, he’s icky!” cried the younger one.

“He’s old,” I said defensively. “And he has arthritis.”

The older girl softened just a smidge. “What’s his name?” she asked.

“Louie.”

“Oh. This is Astrid. Astrid of Grenville. A pedigreed Bernese mountain dog.”

“And this is Priscilla. She’s purebred. She cost four hundred dollars,” said the little kid.

First of all, dogs shouldn’t have titles. They’re not in Game of Thrones. They didn’t just stab the Mad King and inherited a title. Astrid of Grenville, Kingslayer, Heir to the Iron Throne, Vanquisher of the Montorian Horde, Defender of the Clahnahvan of the Western Vales, and daughter of Buddy and Miss Honey Toes. That sounds ridiculous. This is Astrid. She’s a dog. She can shake, but only if you give her a treat afterward. She also responds to friendly whistling and “Hey, dog.”

Priscilla is a fine name for a finicky cat, but one of my dogs cost about four hundred dollars, and she still shat and humped everything in sight. That doesn’t mean your animal is better bred or less trouble. However, reminding everyone how much something cost is a thing a spoiled child would do.

The older girl introduces herself as “Shannon Louisa Kilbourne” and her charge is Amanda Delaney. Any good BSC fan will spot the name. I know that at some point, Shannon and Kristy will put aside their differences and Shannon will become an associate member of the BSC. Let’s see how these two work it out, but not before some pranking shenanigans.

While Kristy is babysitting for the Papadakis clan, Shannon calls her and warns her that smoke is coming from the upstairs bedroom. It’s a ruse, of course, but Kristy doesn’t figure that out until she gets the children outside. Kristy retaliates by sending a diaper service to Shannon.

Chapter five is our first handwriting chapter in the book with Mary Anne at the Perkins’s. Mrs. Perkins is preparing for a new baby, and Myriah and Gabbie are excited. But Jamie Newton comes over and complains about his little sister, prompting Gabbie to become upset. Mary Anne and Myriah set up a tea party for the Gabbers and invite some of her favorite stuffed animals. This placates the child and then it’s back to Kristy, but this time, she’s babysitting the four-hundred-dollar cat and its humans – Amanda and Max Delaney.

They are brats. They demand Kristy get them Cokes, then ice, then no ice. She complies with their arbitrary requests – she doesn’t want to piss off new customers. Shannon calls and wants help with Sari Papadakis, but there’s nothing wrong with the kid. She just wanted to waste Kristy’s time, I guess. Not a great prank, but they’re twelve, and I’ll give them a break.

Meanwhile, Dawn is having some problems with Jeff. He’s being moody and while Dawn’s watching over him, he yells that he wants to go back to California with his father. When Dawn tells the BSC during the next meeting, she mentions that her mother called her father and he was reluctant about taking in Jeff. It seems that Jeff doesn’t have a place anywhere.

The Delaneys call again, but Kristy refuses to take the job. Instead, Stacey takes over. When she arrives at the job, Mrs. Delaney asks that they clean up their playroom while she’s away, but Amanda insists that they like their room messy. Stacey concocts has an ingenious plan.

“You know, you’re right. I like a really messy room. In fact, I don’t think this room is messy enough. Look at this. A whole set of Lincoln Logs. They’re not even on the floor.” Stacey poured the Lincoln Logs into the toy soup.

“Hey!” cried Amanda. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Yeah! What are you doing?” added Max.

“You said you like a messy room,” Stacey replied. “Well, I do, too.” She picked up a stack of construction paper and let it start floating to the floor, piece by piece.

“Quit messing up our room!” shouted Amanda. She held her arms stiffly at her sides and stamped her foot.

“Why?” demanded Stacey, pausing long enough to let the remainder of the paper settle into the toy soup. Then she began scattering puzzle pieces.

“Because,” said Max. “That’s why.”

“I thought you liked a good mess,” Stacey went on.

“We do,” Amanda began, then hesitated. “But not . . . not this good a mess. Cut it out!”

“I’m just trying to help you guys out,” Stacey told her.

“No! I mean . . . we want it clean.” Amanda scrambled around, picked up the paper.

The Delaney kids pick up their room – Stacey’s plan worked. She continues like this for the rest of the job. Max demands a drink so Stacey starts pulling out cups, saying she doesn’t know how much drink he wants so she’s just going to start pouring as many cups as she can. He ends up getting his own drink. In the end, Stacey convinces them to play some kind of advanced hopscotch involving a snail. It’s a successful babysitting job.

Kristy employs the same tactics the next time she babysits of the Delaneys, but it’s interrupted by a pizza delivery prank from you-know-who. Kristy sends it to Shannon’s, who comes over with the pizza. The girls commiserate over the round prank and Kristy pays for half the pizza.

Chapter 11 is a handwriting chapter – Claudia at the Pikes. Half of the Pike clan has chicken pox and Claudia has a hard time trying to placate everyone. It ends with two more children joining the pox party. Then it’s back to the main story.

Louie is not doing well. Horrifying dog scene warning.

Louie seemed to have lost complete control of his hind legs. He was pulling himself around the kitchen with his front legs, dragging the back ones as if they were paralyzed. And he was, as you might imagine, in a panic. He crawled into a leg of the kitchen table, and then into the stove.

I knew Louie wasn’t going to make it to the end of the book, but nothing prepared me for that in my innocent BSC book. As I’m writing this, it’s about a month after I’ve actually finished the book, so I’ve forgotten some of the specifics. (Classes have started back up and I was writing a personal narrative for this class I’m taking.) My notes just said, “Oh, Jesus” with a highlighted page number, meaning it’s something I’m thinking of excerpting. When I read this again, I felt that searing pain in the back of my throat. I have an affection for dogs and I wouldn’t be able to handle seeing a dog lose control like Louie. I worried about my pets when they had nightmares – and dreams couldn’t hurt them. Unless, of course, their parents burned a child murderer alive and he came back to exact revenge on his murderers’ children.

The family and Dr. Smith come to the decision that Louie is in immense pain and would be better served if he were to be gently lead across the Rainbow Bridge to the golden dog park in the sky. David Michael asks if his mother will, “hold him while he goes to sleep?” Kristy’s mom carries Louie as they enter the veterinarian’s office, but her arms are empty when she returns.

The Thomas and Watson clan hold a funeral and, to their collective surprise, Shannon, Tiffany, Hannie, Linny, Amanda, Max, and two random friends (previously called “the snobs”) show up to pay their respects.

After a few days, Shannon’s dog, Astrid, gives birth to a litter of puppies and she gives one of them to Kristy and David Michael. They name the dog “Shannon.” Also, Kristy extends Shannon (the human one) an invitation to join the BSC, but Shannon is too busy to attend meetings, so they make her an associate member, like Logan. Ann M. Martin leaves us with this:

I knew David Michael would never forget our Louie. None of us would, because Louie had left a sort of legacy. He’d brought Shannon and me together so we could be friends instead of enemies, and that in turn had brought a new puppy for our family, but especially for David Michael. So, I thought. Endings could sometimes be beginnings. They were sad, but sometimes they brought happiness.

That’s what Louie had shown us, and that’s just one of the things we would remember about him.

It’s important to teach children that not every ending necessarily means a definitive, capital “E” End. This book was devastating, and Martin describes Louie’s pain in detail appropriate, but not euphemistic, detail. She doesn’t patronize her young readers by shying away from the more unpleasant aspects of losing a pet. She could have had him just go to sleep one night and never wake up, but she chooses to force the reader to face the grim reality of a dying pet. This is an integral BSC book that may be harder to read (because of subject matter – the reading level itself is the same as the other books), but it’s one that I think will resonate with most people.

Next Time On Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #12: Claudia and the New Girl

Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #10: Logan Likes Mary Anne!

Previously On Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club Notebook

My first boyfriend was in first grade. His name was Michael. We went into the corner of the school and held hands and kissed. After a glorious week, we parted ways amicably. You could call it a “conscious uncoupling.” He married a friend of mine a week later in a beautiful playground ceremony. I was there, and I was happy for them.

Mary Anne’s first boyfriend isn’t as frivolous as mine, but I’m not sure how typical Mary Anne’s first boyfriend experience is to others. I’ve heard horror stories from my fellow women – their first boyfriend treated them like shit, or cheated on them, or myriad other dumb things teenage (and, let’s be honest, adult) boys do to girls. This book and Logan had me in its clutches, right up until the end, when Logan lost me with one cliche.

SPOILERS AFTER THE COVER!!!

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My copy of The Baby-Sitters Club #10: Logan Likes Mary Anne! Oh, Logan. Let’s ditch this broad and run away together! I’ll get my hand stuck in a jar. You’ll get it out. It will be our thing!

The Baby-Sitters Club #10: Logan Likes Mary Anne! starts with a recap, like on X-Men: The Animated Series when Cyclops told that Storm is missing and with the Morlocs. Previously, on The Baby-Sitters Club: Dawn has a secret passage! Kristy’s mom got married! Claudia’s grandmother, Mimi, had a stroke! (Complete with Mary Anne mentioning Mimi’s accent. It’s not that big a deal, Martin. This is coming from someone whose mother has an accent.) Stacey had a crush!

During the last BSC meeting before eighth grade, the girls gush over a Sixteen magazine (a parody of Seventeen magazine) with Cam Geary, Mary Anne’s object of affection, on the cover. Apparently, young Geary is dating a 14-year-old girl with the ridiculous name Corrie Lalique. “She too old for him,” Stacey protested. Yeah, Lalique, get out of here, ya’ old maid, make way for Stacey and the other 12-year-olds.

Mary Anne carefully takes his poster out of the magazine and does something utterly disgusting with it on the first day of eighth grade:

My lunch money was in my purse, the photo of Cam Geary was folded and ready to be displayed in my locker. (That was what the gum was for. You’re not allowed to tape things up in the lockers of Stoneybrook Middle School, so a lot of kids get around that rule by sticking them up with bits of freshly chewed gum.)

That is worse than tape! It’s just tape! I’d rather have tape and tape residue than bits of chewed gum straight from some tween’s maw. Stoneybrook Middle School should reevaluate their tape policy.

At lunch, the BSC sit together, a departure from their disparate seventh-grade arrangement. This is where Mary Anne meets her Romeo.

I saw Trevor Sandbourne, one of Claudia’s old boyfriends from last year. I saw the Shillaber twins, who used to sit with Kristy and Dawn and me. They were sitting with the only set of boy twins in school. (For a moment, I thought I had double vision.) I saw Eric and Shawna from homeroom. And then I saw Cam Geary.

I nearly spit out a mouthful of milk.

“Stacey!” I whispered after I managed to swallow. “Cam Geary goes to our school! Look!”

All my friends turned to look. “Where? Where?”

“That boy?” said Stacey, smiling. “That’s not Cam Geary. That’s Logan Bruno. He’s new this year. He’s in my homeroom and my English class. I talked to him during homeroom. He used to live in Louisville, Kentucky. He has a southern accent.”

I didn’t care what he sounded like. He was the cutest boy I’d ever seen. He looked exactly like Cam Geary. I was in love with him. And because Stacey already knew so much about him, I was jealous of her. What a way to start the year.

Mary Anne falls into infatuation at first sight (love at first sight is a farce – love comes from respect and admiration, but I’ll rant about that some other time) with the new kid at school. Even though Mary Anne is jealous of Stacey at first, the jealousy recedes quickly and there is never a moment of competition over a boy between the friends. I love that. However, I don’t love Stacey’s other ideas in the book, and I don’t love Logan Bruno.

After Kristy advertises during a PTA meeting, the BSC is inundated with too many jobs, and they can’t handle all the new business. Logan offers his services – he has experience in his hometown. During his first meeting with the BSC, one of the girls mentions a bra and the mere mention of an undergarment sends the BSC and Logan into conniptions of ridiculous proportion. It’s just a word, it’s just a bra, and it’s not that big a deal – even if you are in eighth grade. It’s broken up when the BSC sends Logan on a trial run with a new client – Muriel Radowsky and her child Jackie. Mary Anne is sent to supervise Logan’s babysitting prowess.

Jackie is an energetic kid who likes grasshoppers. While he runs to get his grasshopper, Mary Anne and Logan have a moment together.

I gazed at the walls of the Rodowskys’ living room. They were covered with the boys’ artwork, professionally framed. Logan wandered over to one of the pictures – a house formed by a red square with a black triangle sitting on top of it. A green line below indicated grass, a blue line above indicated sky. A yellow sun peeked out of the corner.

“Well, what do you know,” said Logan. “We’ve got a painting just like this at our house. Only it says Logan at the bottom, not Jackie. All these years I thought it was an original.”

Okay, Logan. That was funny. Keep this charm up and I’ll understand why you stick around for the rest of the series. (He kills it in one cliche.)

Jackie tries to do a pull up on the shower curtain rod, which goes as well as expected. Then the kid spills juice. And then he gets his hand stuck in his grasshopper jar. Logan handles all these situations as well as the rest of the BSC. He ends his evaluation by remarking to Mary Anne, “You have a pretty smile.” Logan! You’ve done this before, haven’t you? (I’m telling you, this close to full charm.)

The next chapter is a handwriting chapter starring Claudia sitting for Myriah and Gabby “Gabbers” Perkins. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Gabbers is my favorite nickname. Claudia watches Gabby for a few hours and then has to pick up Myriah at the bus stop. Claudia gets the idea to take Chewy, the Perkins’s huge dog, with them. He gets loose and we get a string of cameos from the BSC regulars. Jamie Newton joins the chase. Mimi tries to catch the dog. Charlotte Johanssen helps out. The dog ends up in the Perkins’s backyard, but not without stealing a traffic cone.

During the next BSC meeting, the group discusses Logan’s potential admission into the club. They force Mary Anne to call him. He won’t join the club, but he does invite Mary Anne to the Remember September Dance. September remembrance is a big issue, and I’m glad that Stoneybrook Middle School wants to raise awareness to September.

Stacey sits for Charlotte and after a reading of Happy Birthday to You by Dr. Seuss, Charlotte encourages Stacey to throw a surprise party for Mary Anne.

“Really, Stacey! A surprise party. You invite all of Mary Anne’s friends to come at one time, and you invite Mary Anne for half an hour later. Then everybody hides in the dark, and when Mary Anne comes over, you switch the lights on,” (Charlotte made a great flourish with her hand), “and everybody jumps out and yells, ‘surpri-ise’!”

I know how surprise parties work, Charlotte. Mary Anne hates surprises, crowds, and attention. Stacey should know that a surprise party is the worst idea – especially since the idea came from an 8-year-old.

The BSC takes Mary Anne to the mall to get a new outfit for the dance, complete with an insane skirt.

Then Claudia handed me a full white skirt with the words Paris, Rome, and London, and sketchy pink and blue pictures of the Eiffel Tower, the Tower Bridge, and other stuff scrawled all over it. She matched it up with a pink shirt and a baggy pink sweater. I would never, ever have tried on that skirt, but with the shirt and sweater it looked really cool.

Her father drops the girls off at the school at “exactly 7:25.”

I joined my friends and we walked to the gym in a noisy bunch. We were all smoothing our hair and picking lint from our clothes and fussing with our jewelry. I thought we made a pretty good-looking group.

We’ll see about that, Mary Anne.

Claudia was wearing short, tight-fitting black pants and a big white shirt that said BE-BOP all over it in between pictures of rock and roll dancers. She had fixed a floppy blue bow in her hair.

Short pants? Like, bicycle shorts?

Stacey was wearing a white T-shirt under a hot pink jumpsuit.

A JUMPSUIT!!! A HOT PINK JUMPSUIT!!!

Dawn and Kristy looked more casual. Dawn was wearing a green and white oversized sweater and stretchy green pants.

Matchy, matchy.

Kristy was wearing a white turtleneck shirt under a pink sweater with jeans. We just couldn’t seem to get her out of her blue jeans.

So she looks like a normal person. If I saw these girls, I’d think they were having a field day from the Institute of the Fashionably Insane and Kristy was their handler.

Logan meets Mary Anne at the dance, they dance, and Mary Anne’s shoe flies off her foot. She runs away, crying and embarrassed. That’s the end of the dance, I suppose.

The next chapter is about Kristy and Dawn watching Karen, Andrew, and David Michael. The other babysitters are busy for various reasons, so Kristy is forced to either hang out with Dawn or spend the night alone. She chooses the former. A fight breaks out over a game of “Memory.” “What is ‘Memory?’” asked no one. Good thing Mary Anne is here to explain it.

I guess I should explain here how Memory is played. It’s very simple. The game consists of a big stack of cards. On each is a picture – and each card has one, and only one, matching card. The cards are laid out facedown. The players take turns turning two cards over. If someone gets a pair, he or she goes again. When all the cards have been matched up, the winner is the one with the most pairs. Simple, right?

I know how Memory works, Mary Anne. I went to public school.

Then there’s some phone tag involving Mary Anne, Stacey, Logan, and Mr. Spier’s ten minutes per call rule. He’d be one of those parents who would let his daughter have a cell phone, but it had to be a feature phone and the only number programmed into it was his.

Mary Anne shows up to Stacey’s party, and our protagonist sees her classmates doing various things, including this one:

Alan Gray had put yellow M&M’s in his eyes and was going around telling the boys he was Little Orphan Annie.

That’s it. I don’t understand the reference. Was Little Orphan Annie known for having yellow eyes? Charlotte Johanssen explained surprise parties, and Mary Anne explained Memory. Why didn’t she explain what yellow eyes have to do with Little Orphan Annie? Googling “Little Orphan Annie” and “yellow eyes” does not garner any information.

Mary Anne is having a pretty okay time, but it all goes down in flames, even for the reader.

First of all, Logan says something misogynist and shitty. I was into him. I understood what Mary Anne saw in him. I thought, “Yeah, this guy deserves to be a consistent side character with his own spin-off books.” Then he ruined it.

“If you could just open up more – I mean, be the way you are right now – people would have a much easier time getting to know you. I almost didn’t ask you to the dance, you know.”

“Why did you ask me?”

“Because you’re different from other girls. More . . . something.”

“More what?” I asked, puzzled. I really wanted to know.

“More serious. Not serious like some old professor, but serious about people. You listen to them and understand them and take them seriously. People like to be taken seriously. It makes them feel worthwhile. But you have a sense of humor, too, which is nice. The only thing is, sometimes you’re too sensitive. I really wasn’t sure things would work out between us.”

“I’ve always been too sensitive,” I told him.

Fuck you, Logan. I thought you were cool. Now you’re just like every other shitty boy. These are the reasons this passage sucked:

  1. He’s trying to tell her how to be more appealing to everyone else. It’s none of his business why she won’t open up to others, and if she doesn’t want to, she doesn’t have to. You need to accept that.
  2. “You’re not like other girls” is misogynistic and pits women against each other. Girls have traits that are different and the same. Girls are human beings, just like boys, and come in a spectrum of personalities.
  3. This also implies that other could never be sensitive, which is just not true.
  4. Don’t otherize a girl, pulling her away from the sisterhood, separating her power. And don’t pull out a desirable trait and convince her that other girls don’t have that trait. What is wrong with you?
  5. Finally, he tries to change her. So what if Mary Anne is too sensitive? It’s who she is.
    He needs to accept her for who she is, good traits, and bad ones. And when did you, teenage boy, become the All-Knowing Eye of What’s Wrong With People? How do you like it when someone criticizes you? You know what’s wrong with you, Logan Bruno? You’re a judgemental, manipulative child who should just grow up. Some girls wear bras – it’s just an article of clothing. Girls are people and come with strengths and weaknesses. Deal with it. Some girls are sensitive and serious – some aren’t. Some girls are sensitive and playful. Did I just blow your mind? Boy, bye.

End of rant.

To make things worse, Stacey brings out a cake and forces everyone to sing “Happy Birthday” at Mary Anne. That preposition is a deliberate choice on my part. No one sings that song with or to someone else – they sing it at someone. Strangers sing that aural abortion at a victim. I don’t blame Mary Anne when she runs away. She has every right to do. Stacey knows that Mary Anne doesn’t like crowds, surprises, and attention, but she still went through with this disastrous plan. You’re being inconsiderate, Stacey.

Mary Anne runs home, and the next day she convinces her father to buy a cat. I’d get her a cat, too, and make Stacey pay for it as reparation for being a bad friend. Of course, Mary Anne apologizes to Stacey for being too sensitive about the party. Mary Anne has nothing to apologize for. “Happy Birthday” sucks. Strangers singing it is worse. Attending your friend’s party is fine, you can fade into the background, but when the party is suddenly about you, it’s terrible.

In the end, the BSC throws her the party they should have thrown, Logan joins the BSC as an associate member (he isn’t required to attend the meetings, but they call him when they need another sitter), and he and Mary Anne find a cat at the shelter and name it “Tigger after the tiger in Winnie-the-Pooh.” Mary Anne could be bothered to explain the reference to Tigger, but not the Little Orphan Annie reference? So kids in the early ‘90s are supposed to know what Little Orphan Annie is, but not Winnie-the-Pooh, because I was a kid in the early ‘90s and I understood one of those, but not the other.

I wanted to enjoy this book, I really did. Mary Anne is my favorite BSC member, and still is, despite this book. I wanted to like Logan, and I liked his humor at the beginning of the book. But just like most men, the second I let him in, he lets me down with some misogynistic comment meant to drive a wedge between me and the sisterhood while insisting it’s a compliment. If that was Martin’s intent, then she did a good job, but Mary Anne should have dumped his ass. However, I don’t think that’s what Martin was trying. Mary Anne doesn’t dump him and he gets two spin-off books of his own. Mary Anne is still my favorite, but I question her taste in boys. Do better Logan. Prove to me you deserve to be with the best babysitter. You have a hundred or so books to do it.

Next Time On Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #11: Kristy and the Snobs

Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club Notebook

Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #9: The Ghost at Dawn’s House

Hey! Hey you! I see you there, browsing the internet while 12-year-olds steal income through babysitting. Why would people choose a 12-year-old over a capable adult like yourself? Those 12-year-olds have something you don’t – The Baby-Sitters Club Notebook. For today only, its secrets will be revealed and you too can make a dollar an hour babysitting in your neighborhood! Don’t let this financial opportunity slip through your texting fingers!

SPOILERS AFTER THE COVER!!!

(THESE SPOILERS ARE TOO VALUABLE TO MISS OUT ON)

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My copy of The Baby-Sitters Club Notebook – I wouldn’t call this a complete guide – more like a partial pamphlet that cost too much money even by today’s standards.

The Baby-Sitters Club Notebook by Sonia Black and Pat Brigandi promises you that “everything you always wanted to know about the business of babysitting is right here in this book.” Literally everything you want to know about babysitting is in this 62-page book. It’s so short, it’s more of a pamphlet, and most of the pages require you to fill in the information yourself! You can learn everything about babysitting in about fifteen minutes, then stick it to those 12-year-olds when you steal their babysitting jobs.

The first thing the book instructs you to do is to be prepared. How do you prepare? You read another book, of course! Page two states, “read up on child care and babysitting.” “But you said that this book has everything I wanted to know about babysitting!” you say. Shut-up, stupid! I’m the expert here – I read the book, and the first step is to read another book.

An important step is meeting the children.

“Be friendly but don’t overwhelm the kids with too much friendliness.”

That’s right, keep the relationship friendly and fun, but also professional and cold. Ask them their names and potential business prospects, but no smiling. You are an adult. Don’t smile at children.

Your “Kid Kit” is a special pack of tools to deal with children. You can fill it with anything you like, but playing cards, crayons, musical instruments, and a portable tape recorder are the book’s recommendations. This book has a whole page where you can write your own ideas. Pro tip not in the book: some things to avoid in your Kid Kits are fireworks, knives, meth, and guns. No guns because the house guns should be just fine.

The book also goes over some “Do’s and Don’ts.” “Do arrive on time or even ten to fifteen minutes early for last-minute instructions from the parents.” This one might be difficult for those of you who like to waltz into English 102 twenty minutes into class, but you need to work for that dollar an hour – there’s always a punctual 12-year-old stalking you, waiting for their chance to swoop in when you’re late.

One “Don’t” is “Don’t argue with the kids.” Even if they insist that Hemingway’s contribution to literature is minimal at best, despite popular literary opinion, and you know that Hemingway paved the way for word economy in literature, you shouldn’t stand there and argue with the children. We all know they’re wrong; we just have to hope they grow out of their ignorance and respect Hemingway’s biting, concise prose.

This comprehensive pamphlet that in no way tells you to read another book at the beginning also goes over fun games for the kids! They suggest a wide range of activities including cards, Simon says, red light, green light, and jacks. Add your own! For example, I’ve added, “Just let them play with their phone.”

Are the children bored with their phones? Then tell them a joke! This book suggests some top-notch Knock Knock jokes to get those kids howling. But this special offer will tell you the best ones for the low low cost of nothing!

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Dwayne.

Dwayne, who?

Dwayne the tub, I’m drowning!

Murder and speech impediments are always hilarious. How about this one?

Knock, Knock.

Who’s there?

Shelby.

Shelby, who?

Shelby comin’ ‘round the mountain when she comes!

Hahaha! Vaguely obscene pioneer songs are a great way to relate to modern children.

After the jokes, force the children to do what the book calls a “Creative Play.” The children perform for you using their dolls and toys as characters. Remember to adequately review them in the local newspaper. “Little Timmy’s Big Bad Wolf was pedestrian, but it can hardly compare to the amateur directing of Susie. Her casting choice of a Bratz doll as the second Little Piggy proved to be a wrong move that was amplified by the cartoonish background and bare set design. This reviewer will think twice about attending another performance by the Thompson Family.”

Need something to feed the kids? During this special offer, I will give you two actual recipes from this book.

Peanutty Apple Snack

Carefully cut out the core of an apple.

Fill the center with a mixture of peanut butter and raisins.

Cut the apple into sections and munch away.

And here’s the other recipe, sure to get those kids hopped up on sugar and on their way to helpless addiction by combining two things with no nutritional value:

Chocolate Soda

1 ½ cups of milk

½ cup of chocolate syrup or instant cocoa

½ cup of club soda

4 scoops of chocolate ice cream

Put the milk, syrup and 2 scoops of ice cream into the blender and carefully mix well.

Put 1 scoop of ice cream into each of two glasses.

Pour the mixture into the glasses until they’re ¼ full.

Then pour in the club soda.

This makes two “cool” drinks.

If you are babysitting for more than one child, choose your favorite one and give them the Chocolate Soda. If the other children protest, say, “Maybe next time you won’t flub your lines during the Creative Play.”

After the children are asleep, the book suggests you clean the house. If you’re still going to be paid, you should work.

“Do a little extra, such as straightening out the kitchen.”

After your stellar job, remember to charge for maid services.

Oh no! It’s an emergency! The book goes over nightmares, injuries, visitors, and fights –  in that order. Nightmares are definitely more important than injuries. Just remind the child that nightmares aren’t real! That’ll shut ‘em up so you can go back to your side job cleaning. As for injuries,

“If the child stops crying in a few minutes and goes back to what he was doing before, it’s probably not a serious injury. But if after a while the child is still crying hard or holding the injured area in a peculiar way, call for help.”

That’s right – if a child is injured, wait to see if they eventually stop crying. Even if it looks like their leg is not attached to their torso, wait to see if the kid stops crying and hops back to playing. Everything is fine if the child stops crying. He’ll stop crying. We all stop crying eventually.

Page 29 is an order for the babysitter to keep track of their jobs, pay, and clients. In this handy guide, the last thirty pages are dedicated to record keeping. The forms include important information: Day, Date, Time, and Notes, complete with lines to fill out this information! Can’t make this in a standard word processor.

The Baby-Sitters Club Notebook is in no way a blatant cash grab that explicitly tells you to read a different book for better information. This is 29 pages of information in 20-point font followed by 30 pages of blank lines! You can’t get this great babysitting information anywhere else! (Except every other book longer than 60 pages on babysitting at your local bookstore.) This book is not an attempt to capitalize on a book series that was growing in popularity. This is an opportunity to stick it to 12-year-olds while making some money.

Next Time On Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #10: Logan Likes Mary Anne!

Rereading My Childhood: The Baby-Sitters Club #1: Kristy’s Great Idea

I’ve started a club or two in my lifetime. They started with lofty goals and a generic name. Best Friends Club. Sparks Friends Club. The No Homers Club. We made Membership Cards, usually out of tin foil. We had club bylaws, things like “be kind to each other” and “no one who likes Kimberly can join.” We had a few club meetings, which divulged into the depths of Kimberly’s cruelty. The clubs never lasted more than a week and they certainly never generated income. Unlike Kristy Thomas’s club.

In the inaugural book of The Baby-Sitters Club, Kristy comes up with the idea of the titular club that went on to generate income and adventure for many girls (and maybe some boys) both in Stoneybrook and around the world, both fictional and real. Kristy demonstrates maturity while running and creating the club. She considers feedback from each member and delegates in a professional way. The book also showcases Kristy’s immaturity, particularly when dealing with Stacey, the new girl, and how she deals with her mother’s love interest, Watson, and his family. Kristy has depth, as well as this book. This is a promising start to the greatest book series ever created (come at me, J. K. Rowling).

SPOILERS AFTER THE COVER!!!

The Baby-Sitters Club #1 - Kristy's Great Idea
Oh, I don’t know, book cover? Going to an amusement park? Reading a good book? Taking a bite out of a good book, like the previous owner?

It starts on a hot day at the end of class. The clock ticks and Kristy loudly and audibly expresses her excitement for the end of class and she can go home to her air-conditioned home. Her teacher punishes her with an essay assignment on the word “decorum.” The first time we see Kristy, she’s shouting before thinking, talking before her brain analyzes what she wants to say. This can bite Kristy in the butt, like almost breaking up the babysitters club just as the club starts or with her teacher, forcing her into a punishment in the form of homework.

Kristy finds her best-friend Mary Anne. The first time we see her, she’s biting her fingernails and talking about her ridiculously strict father. Even for that time, he’s incredibly strict. If the book were written today, I bet he’d be one of those parents who stand outside their kids’ classroom staring at them through the little window in the door. He’d probably give her a cell phone preprogrammed with his phone number (and his phone number only) so he can reach her at any moment. Thank God she stands up to him later in the series – I’m always rooting for Mary Anne.

Kristy and Mary Anne rush home so Kristy can get there before her little brother, David Michael. Kristy watches her little brother while her mother is at work. Ms. Thomas is a single mom/divorcee, which is progressive for an eighties book targeted at children. I remember all the dead mothers on television when I was a kid. Every single parent (usually the father) had to have a dead spouse (usually the wife). They couldn’t utter the word “divorce.” And the television producers certainly wouldn’t have a woman divorcee. To have a working mother in an Apple Paperbacks is revolutionary, at least to childhood me. Ms. Thomas tries, both career-wise and domestically. She isn’t perfect but she still succeeds in giving her children the attention they deserve while (seemingly) conquering the business world in Stanford. All this while providing a secondary influence on Mary Anne next door. I like Ms. Thomas and I think she’s a great mother. I would credit her with the spark that gives Kristy her great idea.

Ms. Thomas needs a babysitter, so she calls every teenager in Stoneybrook. Unfortunately, they are all busy. Kristy comes up with the idea for someone to call one phone number and reach several sitters – the Baby-Sitters Club. After Kristy completes her decorum homework, she contacts Mary Anne via their bedroom windows.

Kristy and Mary Anne decide to discuss the club with their friend, Claudia Kishi. The girls arrive at the Kishis’ house and we have our first outfit description:

“I rang the Kishis’ bell. Claudia came to the door. She was wearing short, very baggy lavender plaid overalls, a white lacy blouse, a black fedora, and red high-top sneakers without socks. Her long black hair was carefully arranged in four braids. I felt extremely blah compared to her.”

Claudia’s clothes are an explosion at a paint factory – just colors and mayhem everywhere. I love her eclectic style, but there are a few problems I have. People need to wear clothes that are an appropriate size for them. They should not wear clothes that turn them into a giant blob. I know this is new thinking, but, truthfully, people look better when clothes fit them. Secondly, under no circumstances should someone wear sneakers with no socks – that is an experiment in foot odor no one wants to undertake. And lastly, no to a fedora. Never. No fedoras ever. For all time.

Claudia introduces Kristy and Mary Anne to Stacey McGill, who denies food – her major personality trait. When our resident artist comes up with the logo for the Baby-Sitters Club, Kristy wants to call Claudia a genius, but Claudia is sensitive about that word. Her older sister, Janine, is an actual genius and the sisters have a strained relationship.

As a group, they decide on officers without incident. They also create a flyer with phone numbers that start with KL-5, which is something I never understood and still don’t understand. Why not just use numbers?

Kristy’s sensitivity to Claudia is a stark contrast to her interactions with Watson, Ms. Thomas’s suitor. He brings over Chinese food in an attempt to get to know his girlfriend’s family better, but Kristy ruins it by refusing the food and establishing open hostility toward him. I get that it’s a huge change, but he’s not so bad. No matter how mature Kristy is with her clients or her friends, she still exhibits immaturity when it comes to Watson. After all, she’s still 12-years-old.

Kristy’s mother is the first call during the inaugural meeting of the Baby-Sitters Club. Stacey takes the job after Kristy mentions her brothers. Then there’s a prank call. I wish prank calling was still the bane of telephone use. If this were written today, the prank calls wouldn’t be a juvenile prank orchestrated by Kristy’s brother, like it is in this book. The annoying calls would be from recordings trying to trick you into buying a cruise or, god forbid, trying to fix a Windows PC that you don’t have.

The first call that is not a prank or a family member is a woman named Mrs. McKeever. She wants a sitter for twins named Buffy and Pinky. Kristy would probably make the best first impression for a first-time customer, so she takes the job. Mary Anne is going to babysit for Watson’s children, Karen and Andrew, and finally, Claudia takes a job for Mrs. Newton.

Chapter 7 starts with a long description of how addresses work.

I walked over to Quentin Court right after I got home from school. I left a little early, just in case I had any trouble finding the McKeevers’ house. Mrs. McKeever had said that address was 52 Quentin Court. So I found the side of the street with the even-numbered addresses on it and started walking. There was 22 Quentin Court, 28 Quentin Court, 34, 40, 46, and sure enough, there was number 52.

I know how addresses work, Kristy. This passage would have been necessary if, at the end of 46 Quentin Court, there was a large opening in the ground. But there isn’t a chasm. Instead, here is a woman who keeps her “children” locked in the laundry room. Oh, and they are not children – they are dogs. Two hulking Saint Bernards. I would rather babysit for dogs than humans, but Kristy doesn’t agree. She reluctantly watches over the dogs but makes it clear that it’s the first and only time she is going to do that. She makes $3.50, which made me think of the Loch Ness Monster for pop-culture-from-the-Paleolithic-era-related reasons.

Claudia babysits for Jamie Newton and his three cousins, one of whom hates girls and is a future gamergater. I like Jamie, but I hate his jerk cousins. Claudia reads to Jamie and that gets the kids to calm the fuck down. She handled the situation well, but fuck those shitty Feldman cousins.

David Michael gets a brand new babysitter in Stacey, but the person Stacey is focused on is Kristy’s older brother Sam. According to Sam himself, Stacey is “a foxy chick.” You’ll have to excuse him, he is a manifestation of Jimi Hendrix. Sam decides to stay behind and play Candyland with Stacey and David Michael.

The final babysitter to tell us how her first babysitting job went is Mary Anne. She introduces us to Karen and Andrew – Watson’s children and future stars of their own book series (I never got into Little Sister, so don’t ask me to write about them). We also meet Boo “mess of a cat” Boo. Watson suggests that Mary Anne just avoid the cat, but when Boo-Boo (the cat, not the Boyz4Now ingenue) gets in Mrs. Porter’s garden, Mary Anne has no choice but to intervene. Karen warns that Mrs. Porter is actually a witch named Morbidda Destiny (I love that name). She calls the cat a “rapscallion” and Karen thinks it’s a curse. Mary Anne has to inform Karen that it’s just a word, not a curse. A ridiculous, archaic word, but a harmless word nonetheless.

Ms. Thomas forces Kristy to wear a dress to dinner, where Ms. Thomas and Watson announce their potential engagement. Not their actual engagement – the fact that they might get engaged. This is a misstep for Ms. Thomas. If she has any hope of ameliorating the relationship between Kristy and Watson, she should have let Kristy wear what she feels comfortable in. She should ask her daughter to wear something nice for the occasion, but shouldn’t force Kristy into a dress. This does not help the situation.

Stacey leaves for New York under mysterious circumstances. Honestly, Kristy can be too nosy. It’s none of her business why Stacey goes to New York periodically – that’s where she’s from. Stacey’s mom shouldn’t have lied on her behalf, but the girl is allowed a little privacy, even from her best friends.

Kristy is forced to babysit for Watson’s children, the previously introduced Karen and Andrew. She finds out they’re nice kids and finds common ground in their divorced parents. She tells them, “Divorced kids are special kids.” As Watson drives Kristy home, we are treated to an especially sweet passage:

Later, as Watson was driving me home, Karen said, “Kristy, I wish you were our big stepsister, right now.”

“Well,” I said, “how about if I be your baby-sitter instead?”

“That’s okay,” said Karen.

“Yeah, that’s okay,” echoed Andrew.

I glanced at Watson. He was sneaking a look at me, too. We smiled at each other.

After all of Ms. Thomas’s forcing Kristy to wear a dress and spend time with Watson, it was babysitting, Kristy’s focus, job, and love, that brought them closer as a potential family.

The book ends with Watson and Ms. Thomas (Edie, I guess – that’s not a name for anyone under seventy) announcing their official engagement and the BSC’s first slumber party. This is where we learn about Stacey’s diabetes. To her surprise, her new friends are completely cool and understanding with her complicated health situation. We end with this:

I felt deliciously scared – and happy. We were friends again. Things were okay with Watson. The Baby-Sitters Club was a success. I, Kristen Amanda Thomas, had made it work, or helped to make it work. I hoped that Mary Anne, Claudia, Stacey, and I – the Baby-Sitters Club – would stay together for a long time.

And they certainly stayed together for hundreds of books (all of which I hope to own someday), several years, a tv series (I wanted to watch but couldn’t because I didn’t have cable), a movie (I watched it recently – it’s not great), a CD-ROM game (which I played every day and would still play if I had it), and countless other merchandise (I’m always on the lookout for merch).

This isn’t just the first book in a series. This is the first book in a revelation. When I was a young girl, this was the only book series exclusively about a group of distinct girls. Girls with flaws and strengths and stories. I didn’t have that with any other book series out there – they all had boys mucking up the awesome girl adventures or drippy girls who spent their time nagging boys and not being fun.

Ann M. Martin created my childhood. She created my love of reading. She created my need to write and tell stories. And I don’t think I’m that different. I’m sure millions of women my age feel the same way. This book was fantastic, this series was important, and I am even more excited to read books from my childhood.

After lauding the series, I’m switching it up for next time, but I will get back to the BSC. That the principal series of “Rereading My Childhood.”
Besides Ann M. Martin, one of the many other writers who has influenced me is R. L. Stine and I’m reading R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps: Monster Blood. See you next time!

Next Time On Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #2: Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls

Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #9: The Ghost at Dawn’s House

Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #8: Boy-Crazy Stacey

The neighborhood kids once feared me. When I strolled up and down the street with my dark clothes, fortune telling paraphernalia, and a book of spells under my arm, kids made way for me, for they knew they were in the presence of a powerful individual. At any moment, my eyes rolled up and I got a message from “The Other Side.” The place where mere mortals dare not tread. I saw the harbinger ghosts standing behind the other children. I tried to warn them, but they failed to heed my words. Those kids disappeared and the ones who knew to listen to me continued to exist.

At least that was how I perceived myself for a summer when I was a kid. The fortune-telling paraphernalia was a coin and a deck of playing cards. The spellbook was a child’s introduction to fortune telling and the paranormal and I had to return it to the library in four weeks. I didn’t see any ghosts – I pretended to see dead grandparents and people who died under mysterious circumstances in the neighborhood houses. If all the ghosts I claimed to see actually existed, that would mean every house in my neighborhood had at least three mysterious deaths per house. That would make the neighborhood the most dangerous neighborhood in America, but children don’t really think about statistics. The children who mysteriously disappeared just moved away.

I have always been fascinated with the paranormal or the weird. I wanted a secret passage in my house. I wanted to see a ghost. I wanted to be a part of a mystery. I still want a secret passage in my house and if I ever built my own house, I’d request a swinging bookcase. I still want to see a ghost and if something says “haunted,” I’m the first in line (I still haven’t seen a ghost). I still want to be a part of a mystery, preferably on a train.

When the baby-sitters go poking through Dawn’s house attempting to find a mystery, I smiled to myself. If I were them, I’d be the one to instigate the whole thing. The Ghost at Dawn’s House is a fun mystery book with a secret passage and a ghost. I enjoyed it, even if Nicky annoys me.

SPOILERS AFTER THE COVER!

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My copy of The Baby-Sitters Club #9: The Ghost at Dawn’s House – Ghosts are very safety conscious, we all know they require handrails in order to haunt a place.

The Baby-Sitters Club #9 – The Ghost at Dawn’s House starts with the first BSC meeting after Dawn returns from her trip to California and a little casual racism. She regales the other babysitters about her father, referring to him as “Disneyland Dad” because he took her and her younger brother Jeff to the eponymous amusement park while they were there in an attempt to make up for the time he wasn’t spending with his children. Then Dawn describes Claudia (who is Asian) as “exotic-looking.” C’mon, Dawn (actually Ann M. Martin), you’re better than that. Asians aren’t exotic – there are billions of them. There are more Asians than white people. Even more than blonde people, so, really, Dawn, you’re the exotic one.

But I guess it was the 80’s and, apparently, world statistics wasn’t invented yet, so I guess I’ll give them a pass. But seriously, this will be a recurring issue in these books. It’s nice and progressive to have an Asian character, but can we stop calling her “exotic.” If she had purple eyes, blue skin, and a proclivity for eating paste, then I’d call her “exotic.” Until Claudia exhibits something actually “exotic,” I’ll just call her “Asian-American.” But I do love that dragon bracelet!

These girls are dedicated to baby-sitting. Dawn baby-sat her father’s friend’s kids, Claudia baby-sat some kid while she was on vacation to a ski house, Kristy baby-sat her siblings, and we know who Mary Anne and Stacey baby-sat (see #8). A lot of baby-satting (this is intentional) going around.

Now that’s out of the way, we can finally get to the meaty part of the story, which starts with a stormy night at home with Dawn and Jeff. Their mother is on a date, which, for a book that describes Claudia as “exotic,” is pretty progressive. Stoneybrook has been inundated with thunder and rain, which makes Dawn nervous, especially in her home.

“I stood still and listened. I could hear little rustlings. Far away, thunder rumbled. I shivered. I love our old house and the barn, but sometimes they give me the creeps. They were built in 1795, and there’s just something spooky about a place that’s been around that long. So many people have lived here. . . . Some of them have probably died here, too. Right in the house or the barn.

This house sounds dope. I live in the west, so our haunted houses are usually from the Gunsmoke days – nothing that was around when Aaron Burr (Sir) shot Alexander Hamilton. Well, there were things, but white people came in and forced the Natives to leave while the white people tore down perfectly good structures.

The next day, Dawn invites the BSC over to, in Dawn’s exact word, “search for a hidden passage.” That’s something a group of young girls would do, especially since Dawn’s house is so old. Much to their chagrin, the girls find nothing but hijinks where they scare each other.

Now we have our first handwriting chapter. This time, it’s Mary Anne at the Perkinses – the people who purchased Kristy’s old home. Myriah is older than her sister Gabbie, who is nicknamed “The Gabbers.” That is an amazing nickname. I would love to be called “The Gabbers.” My name isn’t Gabby, but I would still love to be called “The Gabbers.”

Mary Anne is apprehensive about the Perkinses. Her best-friend, Kristy, once lived in that house. Mary Anne and Kristy used to be able to talk to each other via their bedroom windows. Now some weird family has taken over the domain that once belonged to Mary Anne’s best-friend, forcing her to use the doorbell like someone who hasn’t considered the place a second home for most of her life. She is understandably upset about this. But, being the nice responsible person that she is, Mary Anne has a good time with the girls, playing games and coloring with them. The Gabbers hands Mary Anne a picture that looks like a “huge, jumbled scribble.” Mary Anne responds in the best way:

“That’s lovely!” Mary Anne exclaimed. She was about to ask, “What is it?” when she remembered something we Baby-Sitters Club members had thought up. Instead of saying “What is it?” when we can’t tell what a picture or an art project is, we say, “Tell me about it.” That way, the kid doesn’t know we can’t tell, so his feelings aren’t hurt, and he tells us what the pictures so we don’t say anything dumb about it, like “I’ve never seen such a big elephant,” when it turns out to be a picture of the kid’s grandmother or something.
“Tell me about it,” Mary Anne said to Gabbie.

That’s some clever shit. It spares the kid embarrassment and it spares the sitter from insulting the kid.

Dawn sits for the Mob family – er, I mean, the Pikes – and learns that Nicky has a new rule where he can leave the house but can only travel as far a two-block radius around the Pike house. Nicky disappears but reappears, dirty but in one piece, after a quick search.

Dawn goes home after her babysitting scare and tries to relax by reading in the barn behind her house. She falls through a trap door and finds an actual secret passage from the barn to her room – just behind the fancy molding. She also finds three mysterious items – a button, a buckle, and a key.

I knew it. I just knew it: Our house was haunted. It was haunted by the ghost of the secret passage. No one was going to believe it, but it was true. I remembered the rapping noises I had heard the night of the storm. Now I knew what had really made them.

That’s a logical conclusion. Trash in a secret passage? It’s a ghost. Although, my first instinct was that it was a rat or some other subterranean rodent moving trash around. The automatic supernatural conclusion is something a twelve-year-old (as well as some adults who watch too many ghost hunting shows) would land on.

The next chapter is a handwriting one in which Kristy baby-sits for Karen, Andrew, and David Michael during a rainy night. Karen wants to tell scary stories, but Kristy wants to tell jokes. She proceeds to tell that stupid knock-knock joke that involves a damn banana. Martin chooses not to paraphrase the joke but to actually write out the whole joke. As if everyone hasn’t already heard that joke a million times before they enter school. I wonder if Martin had to fill a page quota and was short half a page.

Karen tells a scary story about Ben Brewer, the ghost of the third floor. It freaks out Kristy a little. The four of them (plus Boo-Boo the cat and Louie the dog) end up falling asleep together. Kristy’s brothers make fun of her, and Kristy feels silly falling asleep with her siblings, but she’s just being a good older sister, and her brothers should shut the hell up.

Back to Dawn. She tells Jeff about the secret passage from Dawn’s room one night while Dawn’s mom is out on another date (get it, guuurrrll). They find a Buffalo-head nickel and an ice cream cone. They don’t make it to the barn – they hear weird noises and run out. Ms. Schafer comes home with her date. (His name is Trip, which is a ridiculous name for a date let alone a human being.) Ms. Schafer orders her children to stay out of the passage until they can find some way to seal the openings. Her date leaves and she goes to bed.

Dawn can’t sleep, so she rummages through her mother’s things. She finds a book from her grandmother entitled A History of Stoneybrooke. Dawn flips to the conspicuously named “Legends” section of the book. Basically, some guy named Jared Mullray a long ass time ago didn’t want to leave his property and just disappeared. Dawn believes that the property Old Mullray refused to leave is her house. This leads her to another completely rational and not-at-all jumpy conclusion:

There really was a ghost in our secret passage, and that ghost was crazy Jared Mullray!

Of course he is. But he’s not malicious. There’s no record of Ol’ Jared attacking anyone, and it’s not as if he was murdered. He just didn’t want to leave. While he did disappear, there isn’t any indication of foul play or something malicious afoot. Dawn’s house doesn’t have a history of people running away or a string of suspicious accidents. The ghost, if he is haunting Dawn’s secret passage, isn’t a malevolent specter keeping people off his property, but one of those old people who won’t leave their house even though a park needs to be built in an old neighborhood and the city offered them a good sum of money. It’s his house and if he wants to stay in it and annoy everyone, he can because he’s a ghost and there’s not much you can do about a persistent ghost.

Chapter 10 is about Claudia’s baby-sitting adventure with Jamie and Lucy Newton. Lucy goes to sleep immediately, but Jamie attempts to stay up later with kid shenanigans, like asking for more stories and water. He eventually goes to sleep.

Dawn invites Mary Anne over and we have the first mention of “Cam Geary” the “Corey Haim/Feldman” of the BSC universe. That person might be Justin Bieber for a younger person. For my sister, he was Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys. It was Jonathan Taylor Thomas for me. For Mary Anne Spier, it’s Cam Geary.

After looking at the teen heartthrob in Tiger Beat or Bop or Tiger Bop, (whatever the kids are reading) Dawn invites Mary Anne into the secret passage. The girls are attacked by a flying book and they run away.

Stacey is babysitting a few of the Pike children. Margo and Vanessa use some crazy shampoo on Claire. Meanwhile, Nicky disappears. Stacey asks Dawn for help finding the second most annoying Pike child (the first is still Claire and her “silly phase” which is just an “annoying phase”). Dawn finds Nicky covered in mud near her house, which at the edge of Nicky’s two-block wandering maximum.

Now to the climax. Mallory and Dawn are watching the Pike boys. Nicky gets into a fight with the triplets during a bizarre lunch that involves pregnant woman food combinations and juvenile attempts at humor. Nicky runs away and Mallory scolds the triplets. Dawn finds Nicky in the secret passage. Nicky was the one who left the food, the buckle, the key, and all the other bric-a-brac in the passage. He also tapped on Dawn’s walls and made her think it was a ghost. They share a tender moment before heading back.

The book ends with the BSC having a slumber party at Dawn’s house where they watch a ghost fellate a man and Anthony Michael Hall rape a woman while a racist Orientalist stereotype terrorizes a small town (they watch Ghostbusters and Sixteen Candles – I love those movies, especially Sixteen Candles, but let’s not overlook the more problematic and unpleasant aspects of those movies). Stacey and Dawn are left out of the junk food buffet and play a prank on the rest of the club.

I enjoyed The Ghost at Dawn’s House. It was a predecessor to the beloved The Baby-Sitters Club Mystery books (I remember loving the Mystery series, we’ll see if they hold up when I get those). Nicky gets on my nerves, but I have a short fuse when it comes to children. I know that’s odd considering I’m rereading a book series about children watching over children. Maybe I’ll learn to love Nicky and Claire and the other Pike children as the series continues. For now, I’m happy with the mysteries that surround Stoneybrooke. And just because Nicky was the ghost this time, doesn’t mean there isn’t a curmudgeon who refused to leave his property a million years ago haunting Dawn’s house, or that any other houses in Stoneybrooke don’t contain a paranormal enigma waiting for the BSC to solve.

Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club Notebook

The Baby-Sitters Club #8: Boy-Crazy Stacey

Previously On Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #2: Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls

Complete candor up front – growing up, I had a difficult time relating to Stacey McGill. I had something in common with every other babysitter. I was Asian American and a daydreamer like Claudia Kishi and a west coast girl like Dawn Schafer. I had the responsibility of Kristy Thomas and the social awkwardness of my favorite Mary Anne Spier. My sister and I seemed like Abby Stevenson and her sister, although I was more Anna than Abby. I always had my nose between the covers of a book and wrote stories that I kept with me wherever I went like Mallory Pike. And finally, Jessi and I shared a sense of humor.

Stacey, on the other hand, was beautiful and boys liked her – neither of which were true about me. Stacey was distant and foreign to me – a gorgeous nymph in a waterfall that I would never reach with my misshapen body. Or, at the very least, she was a popular girl in my class who would never speak to me in the first place.

As I got older, the only thing I remembered about her was that she had diabetes. When I thought back on the series, I said to myself, “Diabetes must have been a bigger deal back then.”

After reading The Baby-Sitters Club #8: Boy Crazy Stacey, I still think, “Diabetes must have been a bigger deal back then.” But I also see something in Stacey – her unwavering belief in the best in people and vulnerability because of her belief.

SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON!

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My copy of The Baby-Sitters Club #8 – Boy Crazy Stacey by Ann M. Martin – Someone wanted this to be #3 instead of #8.

The book opens with Stacey and Mary Anne promising the other members of the BSC to write every day and send them postcards. The Pikes are going on a trip to Sea City, New Jersey and they hired the two as 24-hour babysitters for the eight Pike kids.

Eight kids. Mrs. Pike doesn’t work. Two-story suburban house. Beach front vacation house. Seven kids and Mr. Pike’s mystery job.

He is clearly in the mob. He offed some stooly and his mob boss paid for a trip to Sea City, which is close to Atlantic City. That is the only explanation for his ridiculous life, even during the halcyon days of the 1980’s. How can a ten-person family where the mother doesn’t work possibly afford this vacation with two 24-hour babysitters? Illegally, that’s how.

But I digress. There are eight Pike children that Mary Anne and Stacey have to corral around Sea City. The youngest is Claire, 5, followed by Nicky, 8, Margo, 7, Vanessa, 9, the triplets Jordan, Byron, and Adam, 10, and finally, future BSC member, Mallory, who is 11. I had to write down all these children’s names, but Martin does make it easy for the reader to remember who is who. Mallory is the most mature one. Jordan, Byron, and Adam are little jerks. Vanessa rhymes all the times. Nicky wants to emulate his brothers, Claire is obnoxious, and Margo is miscellaneous. That’s how I kept track of them.

Stacey goes over a few of the items she’s bringing along with her to Sea City, one of which is something called “Sun-Lite.” Apparently, if her parents found out she had a “Sun-Lite” bottle, her Mother would murder her. I had no idea what “Sun-Lite” was and I still don’t. A Google search brings me to a lighting company. When I modify my search to add “hair” I get a Florida hair salon. From context clues, it seems to be some kind of bleaching agent. Ann M. Martin fails to explain what it is and this isn’t the last time I came across something I had never heard of.

Chapter 3 starts with our first handwriting section. Stacey asks if Kristy likes the postcard, which is apparently, “wild.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a “wild” postcard. Maybe if it had a nude lady on it. To be fair, there isn’t a description of the postcard, so I guess it could be a nude lady. If you’ve seen a “wild” postcard, let me know in the comments.

The chapter is the car ride from Stoneybrook to Sea City – including a scene where Mr. and Mrs. Pike exchange instructions. Now he’d just plug in the ice cream stop into his phone and follow the directions. Some of the children get sick, sending me into flashbacks. The Pikes have a puke bucket. My family had a puke can.

At the end of chapter three, we are greeted with a lovely passage.

“The Pikes fell into silence as we entered Sea City. They looked awed, and I could see why. Their senses were suddenly overloaded with great kid stuff: the smell of hotdogs and fried food and the sea air, the sounds of the waves and of kids shouting and laughing and calling to each other, but mostly the sights. We passed Trampoline Land and miniature golf and souvenir stands. We passed stores and restaurants and ice-cream parlors. And in the distance was a boardwalk with arcades and a Ferris wheel and a roller coaster and probably plenty of head-spinning rides. And beyond all that gleamed the ocean.”

I was in. The description was exactly what I thought a family destination called Sea City would be. The exception is “Trampoline Land.” I hated the name and I couldn’t figure out what it was. Just an unsafe trampoline in the middle of the beach? This was obviously a time before trampoline misuse amputation. It doesn’t really matter, the children never venture into Accident Waiting to Happen Land.

Chapter 4 is where Stacey meets Scott, the handsome lifeguard. Stacey is instantly smitten, like any 13-year-old girl. What girl hasn’t fallen in “love” with a much older boy? Usually, the admiration is from afar where a girl can daydream about him from a safe distance. However, Stacey actually talks to him after Claire cuts her foot on a shell and Scott the lifeguard has to patch her up. Scott the lifeguard says to Stacey, “I’ve been noticing you.”

I was nauseated. Stacey is thirteen. Thirteen! We learn later that Scott is eighteen-years-old. He is an adult. He is an adult who should know not to pick up girls who have just been introduced to the idea of different teachers for different classes.

I don’t blame Stacey – she’s just a girl with a crush. I blame him. He should know better. He should have just shrugged off her affections and got back to work making sure the beach is safe. Instead, he sends her on food runs only to garnish her with the useless trinket of his summer job – a five cent whistle – and pet names like “babe,” “cutie,” and “princess.” Mary Anne remarks that the gift is stupid. I concur, gurl, I concur.

Stacey spends so much time with him that Mary Anne remarks on page 72:

“You’re getting paid as much as I am,” said Mary Anne in a huff, “and I’m doing all the work.”

Mary Anne is right. While Stacey is off fetching sodasfor an adult man and giving him googly eyes, Mary Anne is with the children, watching over them and keeping them from venturing too far into the ocean. You know, doing the job Mr. and Mrs. Pike paid both of them to do.

Mary Anne and Stacey take the children to miniature golf. This was a bizarre passage. Martin takes the time out to explain miniature golf pars, but not “Sunlite,” “Noskate,” or “lipcoat.” The next chapter is a supplemental chapter featuring Kristy’s baby-sitting adventure. It mentions an “estate sale.” So, a kid may not know what “par” means, but would totally know what an “estate sale” is?

On the other hand, I love the postcards. The contrast between Stacey and Mary Anne’s approaches to the cards is stark and the way they write to other baby-sitters separates how they feel about the other characters. The cards are full of personality. They also tend to foreshadow the chapter. I genuinely enjoy the handwritten bits and I hope I feel the same way in the other books.

In chapter 10, we finally have the fall. Mr. and Mrs. Pike give Stacey and Mary Anne the night off, so the girls go to the boardwalk. We have another term I don’t understand – pedalpushers, which I just Googled and discovered that “pedalpushers” is another word for “capris.”

While on the boardwalk, Stacey discovers Scott making out with some other girl – a girl who is his age and obviously his girlfriend. Stacey is devastated.

The next day, Stacey doesn’t want to go anywhere. She spends the day with Byron, who has been having trouble relating to his brothers. Byron reveals he is afraid of the water. Stacey helps him get over his fear in a lovely scene in which they go for a walk. Stacey comes to the realization that Scott never loved her, but she’s more effusive about it than I was.

“I decided that Scott really did like me, but just as a friend. Or maybe even just as a cute kid.”

No, Stacey. He is an adult. He should have known better. He’s an adult man who took advantage of a child.

At the end of the book, Stacey and Mary Anne hang out with two boys who are appropriate ages. In the background of the book, Mary Anne met a boy named Alex, who was watching over his brothers and sisters. He has a cousin named Toby. Stacey and Toby hit it off. Here we have my favorite outfit of the book:

He was wearing plain white swimming trunks, but his shirt was amazing – tan with silly pictures of cowboy boots and cactuses all over it. And his sunglasses – black bands with narrow slits from side to side to see through.

So our Toby is a futuristic cowboy.

Mary Anne and Alex and Stacey and Toby go on a group date. The group splits and Stacey and Toby go on a Tunnel of Love.

For the record, I have never seen an actual Tunnel of Love ride in my life, but this is a popular trope.

In the Tunnel of Love, Toby kisses Stacey in a sweet first kiss scene. This old asshole smiled when I read it.

The girls say goodbye to their summer romances and return to Stoneybrook, where I’m reminded of how insane Stacey’s parents are. Sure, she had a ridiculous crush, but she took her medicine and ate responsibility. Stacey is a good person who has a disease that she treats with the severity it deserves. Her ability to navigate life with an intrusive disease is commendable and her parents should lay off a little.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, but I have a few issues.

I wish Stacey realized that Scott was taking advantage of her, but I don’t think Stacey is the kind of person to feel anger so quickly. She believed the best in Scott, even though he never earned that belief. She’s a better person than me.

Also, Martin explains the things like diabetes and what a par in miniature golf is, but not what why Stacey’s parents don’t want her hair lighter, what “noskate” is (I Googled that one, too, to no avail), and other weird products. What are we supposed to know beforehand?

The handwritten parts were always a treat and I think it has a good message about expectations and responsibility. Kristy’s interlude was fun. Most of all, I’m happy to get to know Stacey bitter. Maybe this time around, I’ll find more common ground with the Treasurer of The Baby-Sitters Club.

Next Time On Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #9: The Ghost at Dawn’s House