Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #26: Claudia and the Sad Good-bye

I never knew my grandfathers, but I knew both of my grandmothers. They lived with my family at different times and helped raise my sister and me. My maternal grandmother watched Star Trek: The Next Generation every Saturday at five, and that was my first exposure to science fiction, sparking a lifelong devotion to space ships and androids. My paternal grandmother ran off to Arizona with her boyfriend, showing me that even at the ripe old age of 80, life can still be a romantic adventure.

They have both died now, and they have been dead for more than ten years at the time of this essay. The pain has lessened, but I still think about them whenever I watch Geordi La Forge spout some jargon just science-y enough to sound correct without any actual science involved, or whenever I wonder if there’s still enough time in my life to travel around the world.

It’s time for Claudia to say goodbye to Mimi in The Baby-Sitters Club #26: Claudia and the Sad Good-bye, and if that’s too much of a spoiler, then you should be angry at the title, not me, and, frankly, death is easier when you’re prepared, which is something I learned with the death of my father, which is for another essay. For now, the inevitable death of our favorite Stoneybrook grandmother is our focus. And, if it’s not obvious, this one is a little sad.

Claudia starts the novel firmly cementing Mimi has a positive influence in Claudia’s life. Mimi is still dealing with the effects of the stroke she suffered in #7: Claudia and Mean Janine. Claudia has been helping her, but it seems like Mimi is getting worse. During the first BSC meeting of the book, Mallory remarks that Mimi yelled at her for taking Mimi shopping at a place that makes Mimi wait to use the dressing rooms. The problem is that Mallory has never taken Mimi shopping. It’s not looking great for the matriarch of the Kishi household.

Anyway, the BSC gets a phone call from the Addisons, who have two children: Sean and Corrie. They’re not looking for baby-sitting services, exactly, but they are looking for an art teacher for Corrie. Of course, Claudia jumps at the opportunity. Claudia has a great idea, even though those are usually reserved for Kristy:

“Maybe I could start a little art class. Like on Saturdays in our basement. Gabbie and Myriah Perkins love art projects. So does Jamie Newton. That would be fun. And good experience for me, in case I ever want to be an art teacher.”

“And,” said Kristy slowly, “it would show people that our club can do more than just baby-sit. I think it would be good for business.”

“I’d need some help, though,” I said slowly. “I don’t know if I could manage a class alone.”

“If you hold the class on Saturdays, I could help you,” spoke up Mary Anne. “We’ll split the money sixty-forty, since you’ll be in charge.”

I’m surprised Mary Anne didn’t say that slowly.

Later, during the Kishis’ dinner (after Janine’s college class entitled “Advances and Trends in Computerized Biopsychiatry,” which is nothing), Mimi passes out and the family rushes her to the hospital. 

After a long series of tests, the doctors send her home, but it doesn’t seem like Mimi has recovered. Claudia becomes frustrated with Mimi and they have a brief argument. Claudia leaves in tears. 

At the next art class, the kids mess around with watercolors as Marilyn and Carolyn mess with Jamie Newton. After all the kids have been picked up, Corrie’s parents are very late. So late that Corrie is the only one whose painting is dry when her parents finally arrive.

There’s another art class, but this one doesn’t go smoothly. Mimi comes downstairs during the lesson and collapses in front of the children. Claudia retrieves her parents while Mary Anne and Corrie distract the children and get them ready to go home early. Unfortunately, Corrie sees Mimi on the stretcher and cries, and her mother is forty-five minutes late.

Once again, the hospital is not great. They can’t get painkillers for Mimi. That is strange because every time I’ve been to the hospital, they are quick with the pain meds even if I wasn’t in any pain – just general throwing up and dizziness. Luckily, Mimi seems to get better as Claudia stays with her in the hospital. Eventually, the doctors discharge her.

After a few days, Claudia wakes up in the middle of the night and hears her parents talking. Mimi passed away while Claudia was asleep. Everything becomes hectic. Calling the relatives falls to Claudia’s parents, and people come over all day to offer their condolences. Claudia and Janine have a heart-to-heart. Claudia calls Stacey, who cries. Then Claudia calls Kristy, who doesn’t cry, thankfully, and Kristy offers to cancel the meeting. Claudia insists that they don’t cancel the meeting. They sit in silence. Janine even sits in on the meeting because she doesn’t want to be alone.

Claudia still wants to participate in club activities, even though Kristy let her opt out. The girls get pizza and share memories about Mimi, including the first time Mimi had pizza. The family had dressed up to eat at a Japanese restaurant and Mimi wore a traditional kimono. When they arrived at the restaurant, it was closed, so they ended up at a pizza joint.

“And everyone stared,” I said, “because Mimi looked like she was on her way to a costume party, but we ordered two pies anyway, and Mimi ate one slice very bravely.” 

“And,” said Kristy, “as we were finally leaving that awful place where everyone had been staring at us, Mimi turned around, faced the people in the restaurant, and announced, “[sic]Best Japanese food I have ever eaten!”[sic]

Us club members were hysterical. Jessi even dropped a whole slice of pizza on the floor.

I don’t get it. Claudia calls an important garment a costume and Stoneybrook is racist? Like, people in Connecticut have never seen a kimono? I saw one in a store right next to the My Hero Academia enamel pins – it’s not that uncommon. And I’m sure pizza exists in Tokyo. If I was able to get pizza in a little mall in a village in the Philippines in 1996, I’m certain there’s some pizza joint in Akihabara in 1989. I don’t get why it’s funny that Stoneybrook is so devoid of culture that a kimono is perplexing to the locals. Or maybe Martin has some strange ideas about Japanese culture. Either way, the optics here are not great.

And speaking of strange cultural gymnastics, Mimi’s funeral is the next day and she’s buried. Not cremated, which is the custom for Japanese people. The whole funeral is, dare I say, white. White church. White customs. White people. There’s nothing remotely Japanese in the whole ceremony. It could be that Mimi converted, but I’m just not sure and this is not addressed in the text.

For the next few days, the kids at school don’t talk to Claudia, because everyone is up in everyone else’s business and the whole town seems to know about Mimi’s passing. Ashley Wyeth makes an appearance and she’s just as pleasant and warm as ever. That was sarcasm. 

Claudia is thankful when the weekend comes and it’s time for her art lesson. The kids are making puppets and Corrie is making Nancy Drew. She wants to give it to her mother. Marilyn and Carolyn tell a dumb joke about twins named Trouble and Shut Up and that one is so old it went to college for fifty bucks a semester and now thinks everyone younger than it is entitled. After class, Claudia gets a call from Corrie’s mother.

“Well, the thing is, I’ve been held up doing my errands.” (She did sound like she was calling from a pay phone on the street.) “My bracelet won’t be ready at the jewelry store for another half an hour, and the man at the laundry is running late, too.” (What a tragedy, I thought.) “So, I was wondering if you’d keep Corrie for another hour or so, dear. I’ll pay you whatever the rate is for an unexpected call like this.”

Charge her an exorbitant fee like the landlord of a modestly-sized apartment! You got bracelet money, you got peak pricing money, lady!

Claudia and Corrie make sandwiches and talk to Janine. When Corrie’s mother finally shows up, Corrie gives the Nancy Drew puppet to Claudia.

The Kishis go through Mimi’s things. It turns out that Mimi wrote her obituary before she passed. Claudia talks about her anger toward Mimi for dying, the doctors for not doing enough to save Mimi, and herself for fighting with Mimi toward the end. 

In art class, the students learn about collages and make their own. After class, Mrs. Addison is on time! Holy crap, drop the balloons! Cue the “Macarena!” Release the Al Gore!

“Hi,” replied Mrs. Addison. “I’m sorry I’m so early. My husband’s waiting in the car.” (She turned and gave a little wave toward a blue Camaro parked crookedly in our driveway, as if the Addisons were in a big hurry.) “I forgot to tell Corrie this morning that we have tickets to the ice show in Stamford. I mean, tickets for Sean and Corrie. They’ll meet a baby-sitter there, and then Mr. Addison and I can enjoy an afternoon to ourselves.”

Finally, it’s time for Claudia to confront Mrs. Addison.

“Did you know that Corrie is always the last one to leave my house after class is over? And that she’s always the first to arrive?”

Mrs. Addison checked her watch impatiently and glanced over her shoulder at the car waiting in our driveway.

“I love having Corrie around,” I went on. “She’s a terrific kid. But, well, she feels pretty bad about being left here . . . left here longer than any of the other children, I mean.”

“Did you notice,” I started to ask,  “that Corrie hasn’t brought home any of her art projects?”

“I think,” I began (and oh, my lord, I hoped I wasn’t butting in where I didn’t belong), “that Corrie is a little bit mad at you and Mr. Addison.” (What an understatement.) “She wants to please you, but she gets angry and scared when she feels like,” (I tried to think of a nice way to say that Corrie felt her parents didn’t care about her), “like . . . sometimes other things are more important to you and Mr. Addison than she is.”

Mrs. Addison cries and says she’ll do better. I doubt it. Boomers will show contrition and the second it inconveniences them or they forget, things go back to the way they were before. Or they get mad at the possibility of being wrong and take it out on the teenager at Jack in the Box.

I hope the Addisons are saving some of that ice show money because Sean and Corrie are going to need a lot of therapy when they grow up. Honestly, these people shouldn’t have had kids. Not every couple is equipped, prepared, or ready for a tiny dependent human and the sooner people realize that the sooner we can focus on something more important like devastating climate change or Christmas toy shortages because apparently, those two things are equivalent in the eyes of capitalism. I’m just kidding. Capitalism only cares about consumerism and not the very ground we live on. Unless that ground has resources for consumption. But I digress.

Claudia is finally ready to confront her feelings about Mimi, and she does it in the best way for herself. She makes a collage featuring cut-outs from magazines that signify Mimi in some way or another – teacups for their “special tea,” needlework, a Japanese woman holding a Japanese baby. I’m assuming they are holding Goku figurines, sushi, and a flag, otherwise, how would Claudia know they’re Japanese.

Meanwhile, the kids in the art class have a special project they’ve been working on – another collage for Mimi. With all these collages, the Kishi house is overrun with them, and they display them in Mimi’s old room.

Losing a loved one is hard and I think Martin made the concept accessible to a younger audience. Mimi knew she was dying, and it’s implied that she just “let go.” That adds an undertone that death isn’t something sudden, even if it may seem like that to the loved ones. Death is something to be confronted.

Claudia’s human response of anger and a need to return to normal is true to the character and a different narrative. It contrasts with Mary Anne and Stacey, both of whom have the expected emotional response of sadness. It shows that there are several possible emotions surrounding death besides despair and that each reaction is valid.

However, I think there’s a real lack of cultural sensitivity in this book. Why wasn’t Mimi cremated? What was so funny about the restaurant scene? I saw a bunch of racists. Also, I don’t see much of Mimi within the funeral or the stories about her. They felt like stories that could be told about anyone – not just Mimi.

Maybe that was on purpose. Death is universal. Losing a loved one is universal. This last year, we’ve all had to confront loss and death in an unprecedented way. Maybe my criticisms that the book lacks specificity are shrouded in my recent contemplation of death, funeral rites, and if a memorial should be made for the dead, or should be made for the living. These are personal questions with no definite answers that are dependent on societal norms, cultural backgrounds, and personal tastes. They probably shouldn’t be explored in a silly essay that has a joke about the 1996 Democratic Convention in it.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       For a list of every Baby-Sitters Club, Goosebumps, and Fear Street book review I have written, go to RereadingMyChildhood.com or follow RereadMyChildhd on Twitter. For more information about me, Amy A. Cowan, visit my website AmyACowan.com or follow my Twitter: amyacowan.

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Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #19: Claudia and the Bad Joke

Practical jokes are stupid. It’s a way for someone to be mean to another for no reason and then say, “Hey, it’s a practical joke!” as if those few words negate convincing your family is dead or whatever dumb joke they concocted. Granted, not every practical joke is like that. If the real victim is the joker, then I don’t think there’s a problem, besides, maybe, wasting time.

Maybe my thoughts on practical jokes have been skewed by the jokes gone wrong in R. L. Stine novels and terrible jokes on YouTube that are thinly veiled, monetized ways to abuse children or girlfriends. Maybe I’m a sensitive millennial who can’t take a joke. Maybe this next BSC book will show me some great practically-based jokes.

Or maybe not, given the title.

a girl lays in a hospital bed while two children look at her
My leg is broken, kids, I’m not getting a brain transplant. What are you trying to say?

The book starts with the entire town, including the BSC, at a free Slapstick Film Festival at the library. I don’t understand slapstick humor, but there’s no judgment here, given that this is my favorite video on the internet.

See? No practical jokes. Just punching. And it’s only eleven seconds long.

We have the obligatory rundown of every BSC member – including Claudia’s admission that she’s “one of the coolest-looking kids in Stoneybrook Middle School.” After that, Kristy lets us in on her life’s goal.

On the movie screen, a man dressed in a tux was holding out a corsage to a woman in an evening gown. The woman leaned over to smell the flowers and SPLAT! A stream of water got her right in the eye.

But just then, the man got hit in the face with a coconut cream pie.

“Awesome!” whispered Kristy. “That’s my dream!”

That’s a weird dream, Kristy. But my current dream is to read and review every BSC book, so I guess we’re even. It’s all about keeping your dreams practical and attainable. If the past four years have taught me anything, you shouldn’t dream beyond your capacity, or else 200,000 people die (hopefully it’s not as bad by the time this comes out – I’m writing this in September). (I’m editing and uploading this in February – yeah, past Amy, double that. It’s still pretty bad.)

The next chapter is a BSC meeting and Claudia explains club logistics. Then the club receives a call from a new client, Mrs. Sobak, who is looking for a sitter for her daughter Betsy. Claudia takes the job. At the end of the meeting, Kristy sprays ink on Mary Anne’s white blouse. It’s disappearing ink, but I bet Mary Anne’s blouse is still ruined. Also, that’s a stupid joke. Haha, I ruined your shirt. 

During a pleasant dinner and homework session with Mimi, Claudia receives a few calls. One is from Ashley Wyleth, one of the most onerous BSC characters, and the other is the Prince Albert in a can prank call. Because kids love jokes about tobacco. I had to Google what that is. It turns out, to the surprise of no one, most jokes are not timeless.

The next day, Claudia contacts two previous babysitters of Betsy Sobak’s – Diana and Gordon. Betsy is a practical joker and it became so bad, Diana and Gordon both refuse to babysit the child. Still, Claudia agreed to a job, and, dadgummit, Claudia is going to do the job.

She meets Betsy’s mother, Cookie, and we learn Betsy’s father works at Tile Corp. Claudia fails to find out if Tile Corp is a corporation for tiles or a subdivision of the army specifically for tiles. I will update if I find out more.

Betsy starts with the pranks almost immediately with a dribble glass. Then, Betsy tells Claudia where she gets all her pranking supplies.

“From McBuzz’s Mail Order. It’s a catalogue. All McBuzz’s sells is practical jokes. I spent most of my allowance on stuff from McBuzz’s . . . Well, I used to. Then Mom and Dad made me quit. But it doesn’t matter. I already had McBuzz’s best jokes.”

“Oh, good,” I said. “You wouldn’t want to miss out on a single instrument of torture.”

I’m with Claudia – I still think practical jokes are stupid and this book is not changing my mind. Claudia is not having it with the “jokes” and she tries to stop that behavior immediately. However, less than a page later, Betsy gets Claudia with pepper gum. Still, Claudia has a job to finish and she ushers Betsy outside to play. 

They swing on Betsy’s swing set. Just as Claudia starts to get some air, the chain snaps, and Claudia falls on her leg.

My leg certainly was broken. It was a truly disgusting sight. There was no blood or anything, but it twisted in a way that no leg should ever be twisted. I thought I’d see all possible disgusting sights from eating school lunches with Kristy Thomas. But this was much, much worse. I had to look away from my leg.

I turned toward Betsy. She was still swinging, but the expression on her face was one of horror. Then, in a panic, she began to slow herself down. The swing hadn’t even come to a stop when she jumped off it and ran to me.

“Oh! Oh, Claudia!” she exclaimed. “I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry! I knew the chain was broken. That’s why I wanted you to sit down on the swing. I thought when you did, you’d just go – boom – onto the grass. But it didn’t break right away and I forgot and you said let’s have a contest and I still forgot and I didn’t remember until-”

“Betsy, Betsy,” I interrupted her. I had suddenly realized that my leg was numb. I could hardly feel it, which scared me more than anything. “I know you didn’t mean for this to happen. The thing is, I have to get to the hospital. And you’re going to have to help me. Can you follow directions?”

Claudia tells her to do several things: 1) Dial 911 and tell them that her babysitter broke her leg and needs an ambulance; 2) Call Betsy’s parents and tell them what happened; and 3) If she can’t reach her parents, call the Radowskys – Dawn and Mallory are baby-sitting over there. 

Betsy comes back with a pillow and a blanket. She was unable to reach her parents, but Mallory and Dawn are heading over. Sure enough, Mallory, Dawn, Jackie, and a bunch of Pike kids come riding up on their bikes like harbingers of death. That’s right. It’s not Four Horsemen – it’s the Pike kids on bikes come to gawk.

Mallory stays with the kids while Dawn calls Claudia’s parents and rides with Claudia to the hospital. While waiting at the hospital, Claudia remembers Mimi in the hospital and starts to cry. Dawn comforts her, but she doesn’t stop until she’s put under.

Claudia wakes up to her family surrounding her hospital bed. Her mother tells her that the break isn’t critical, but it’s severe enough to warrant a week-long stay. The Kishis must have amazing insurance to get that kind of top-notch care. 

Over the next few days, Claudia receives several visitors. Kristy and Jamie Newton show up, as well as Mary Anne, who sneaks in her cat, and lastly, Mallory, Claire, and Vanessa. Claudia’s roommate, Cathy, doesn’t have as many visitors. Claudia attributes her roommate’s unpopularity to Cathy’s childish behavior. Whenever the nurse shows up to do her damn job, Cathy cries and yells. Frankly, I wouldn’t want to be around someone who screamed when I did my job. Also, Claudia is a more tolerant person than me, because I would request to transfer rooms the second Cathy screams when a nurse tries to take her blood pressure.

Even Stacey calls her, but it’s not a happy call. 

“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking,” I told her. “I keep coming back to this one thing. What if I’d ruined my hands or arms when I fell? Baby-sitting can be dangerous, Stace. And there’s a good chance that when I grow up I’ll be an artist, not a sitter. I don’t want to lose that chance. So I’m thinking of dropping out of the Baby-sitters Club. Just to be on the safe side.”

And that’s it! Claudia quits the club and she has no more stories about her.

No, she doesn’t quit the club. But let’s keep going and see how she deals with her trauma.

Meanwhile, Mary Anne and Jessi babysit for the Pikes, who are, of course, going along with the zeitgeist of pranks in Stoneybrook. There’s a fake spider and even faker barf. Mary Anne and Jessi end the day by pretending there’s an elephant outside and that gets the kids. So, got ‘em? I guess?

It’s finally time for Claudia to come home. Her homeroom teacher calls her and has her homeroom class say, “Welcome home, Claudia!” Mary Anne and Kristy orchestrated the whole event and Claudia likes it. After the call, Claudia spends quality time with Mimi.

At the first BSC meeting since her return, Claudia announces that she’s thinking about quitting the club. It doesn’t help that Mrs. Sobak calls the club and asks for a sitter for Betsy. Claudia remarks that “If I were Mrs. Sobak, I wouldn’t have the nerve to call us again.” Honestly, yeah, Claudia, I’m with you there. Her daughter tricks Claudia into sitting in a broken swing and breaks her leg, and Mrs. Sobak thinks, yeah, sure, send another victim into Betsy’s clutches.

Mallory takes the job with the intent to borrow “tricks” from the triplets. Mallory and Betsy start with a prank-free snack and they bond over shared memorization of the poem “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.” However, the peace is short-lived when Betsy disappears, prompting Mallory to search the house for her. Mallory gets her back when she tricks Betsy into rubbing sneezing powder on her face. Then Betsy pretends to sneeze out a tooth. That’s the beginning.

During the rest of the afternoon, Mal scared Betsy with the slug, Betsy scared Mal with a rubber snake. Mal scared Betsy with the rat, Betsy scared Mal with her cockroach. Just as Mal ran out of jokes, she heard Mrs. Sobak’s car pull into the garage.

Betsy and Mal looked at each other. They smiled.

And Mal knew something just from looking at Betsy then. She knew that neither of them would mention the jokes to Betsy’s mother. As a baby-sitter, Mal shouldn’t have been playing them on one of her charges. But Betsy shouldn’t have been playing jokes after what had happened to me.

A battle of the joke war had been fought, but nobody had won and nobody had lost.

It’s not the end of Betsy’s pranking though. Dawn is the next sacrifice at the McBuzz altar. Betsy puts slime in Dawn’s Kit-Kit. Dawn pretends to faint and scares Betsy. And then there’s shaving cream disguised as whipped cream. Honestly, the pranks have become so tired. This book has ensured that any fondness I had for jokes and pranks was eradicated by the end. Just stop sitting for this kid – maybe the total rejection of the entire Stoneybrook baby-sitting community is the only way to get Mrs. Sobak to get control of her daughter.

But there has to be an ending more suited to the BSC, right? Well, none other than our president and pie-throwing enthusiast Kristy Thomas ends the prank war.

Kristy takes Betsy to the movie. Betsy sees some kids she knows and Kristy ushers her to say hi. Betsy admits that the kids don’t like her very much. Can you at home guess why? It doesn’t take Blue and Steve to figure this one out.

Anyway, at the movies, Kristy hides in the theater, forcing Betsy to go up and down the aisle looking for her. After annoying the entire theater, Kristy finally waves and Betsy sits down for the movie. Then, Kristy puts her thumb into the bottom of the popcorn bucket and Betsy thinks it’s a severed thumb. She screams, of course, and the usher comes over to admonish Betsy. All this in front of her classmates. Betsy has been embarrassed and watches the rest of the movie in silence.

On the way home, Kristy tells Betsy that she needs to think about the consequences of her actions. While most of her jokes don’t hurt most people, Claudia was directly hurt by her irresponsible pranking. Also, she makes others feel the way she felt during the movie. 

They take a brief detour to Claudia’s house, where Betsy formally apologizes to Claudia. I still don’t trust this little maniac, but Claudia accepts her apology.

Later, at the BSC meeting, Kristy shows up early to speak with Claudia privately about leaving the club. Of course, Claudia doesn’t quit the club. However, she does have one condition: she doesn’t sit for Betsy. 

I have yet to see a joke shop in my life. I think they all burned down in the Great Joke Shop Fire of 1992 and no one bothered to open them again. Unfortunately, pranks have just found a new medium on the internet and it’s not better. The pranks are still rooted in a disregard for someone else’s feelings or property. They’re either trying to convince children that they’re going to be snatched by a murderous clown or dumping a girlfriend’s bath bomb with dye so you ruin both her skin for days and a bath bomb. All for fake internet cred. 

This book failed to endear me to jokes and Betsy. Sure, she apologized, but her future lies on YouTube, encouraging her children to beat their sibling in the name of a joke and views. If I never see Betsy again, it’ll be too soon.

And stop pranking each other. This is stupid.

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

Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #7: Claudia and Mean Janine

Listen to this on the Podcast!

I have a sister. She’s one of my loyal readers. She’s also younger than me. When we were kids, she was active, popular, artistic, and had an effortlessly cool style. I was always more withdrawn with my nose behind a book, an unwillingness to talk to people, and a style that included ill-fitting pants and even more ill-fitting sweaters and/or windbreakers. Like I was going to hike in the ‘90s at any moment. She’s one of my best friends now, but during my swishy-pants days, we did not get along. 

It’s the same for Claudia and Janine. Claudia is the cool younger sister and Janine is the stuffy older sister. In this book, the sisters have to confront their differences and their strained relationship after a family emergency. Let’s get to it – I’m eager to use this YA book from 1987 to figure out my strained teenage sibling relationship.

BSC007

First thing in the morning, Claudia compares herself to Janine. Her older sister is smart, gets good grades, doesn’t give anyone trouble, and studies all the time. Meanwhile, Claudia is outgoing, artistic, and brags about her “two semi-boyfriends,” which I’m assuming means they’re interested, but they’re not steady. I don’t think she means boyfriends who are semis, rolling down the interstate, shipping cargo across this great nation. 

We learn that Claudia’s father is a “partner in an investment business in Stamford,” and her mother is “the head librarian at the local public library.” Claudia says that the only books she likes are Nancy Drew mysteries, which the library doesn’t have and she has to hide them because her parents don’t want her reading them. 

What kind of library doesn’t carry Nancy Drew? Don’t they just come with the library? You say, “Hey, I want a library,” and suddenly, those distinctive yellow spines appear on a shelf. Also, what kind of librarian discourages reading? Every librarian I’ve ever interacted with (and I’ve interacted with a lot – weirdo bookworm, remember) has been happy to give me any book I’ve ever asked for, including the En-suck-lopedia. (Real book, by the way. When I put it on hold at the library, the librarian did a double-take before saying out loud, “It’s really En-suck-lopedia, huh?”)

Back to the book, after breakfast, there’s a BSC meeting. Kristy gets another great idea that sets up the B plot of the book. Since most of the kids are on summer vacation, they should have a “play group” a la the one they just held in Kristy’s Big Day.

“We’d just hold the play group a few mornings a week. It could be outdoors, in somebody’s yard, just like last week at my house. We could tell all our regular customers about it, and they could send their kids over any time they wanted. We could charge, say, three dollars per kid per morning. That’s a bargain for our clients, and even divided five ways, the money should be good for us, since chances are there wouldn’t be enough jobs for every single one of us to be sitting if we weren’t holding the play group.”

The day camp is to be held at Stacey’s house and the next day, the girls go from client to client armed with fliers and the slogan: “Summer Play Group: the unique alternative to baby-sitting.” 

Later that night, Mimi and Claudia are making a special meal of waffles and they talk about the impending play group. Janine joins them for dinner and afterward asks if they all want to play The Trivia Game. Mimi wants to play and Claudia reluctantly joins. Claudia spends the whole game griping, thinks Janine made up Napoleon Bonaparte, and gets mad when Janine, predictably, wins the game. Mimi tells her that Claudia’s behavior wasn’t very nice and Claudia replies, 

“Oh, you just take Janine’s side because she’s smarter than I am. Mom and Dad love her more because she’s smarter, and I bet you do, too!”

Mimi says she’s tired, goes to her room, and shuts her door.

Claudia and Janine snipe at each other for a bit, but it comes to an abrupt end when they hear a thud from Mimi’s room. Mimi has collapsed and is unconscious. Janine instructs Claudia to call 911 while she covers Mimi with a bathrobe. Then she tells Claudia to wait outside for the ambulance and to guide them to Mimi’s room when they arrive.

Mimi had suffered a stroke. She’s in stable, but critical, condition, but it won’t be for twenty-four to forty-eight hours before they know the extent of the damage to her brain. The doctor suggests the Kishi family go home and return later.

Despite Mimi’s emergency, Claudia still goes to the first play group. She lets the other members of the BSC know what’s going on with Mimi (Mary Anne almost cries), and they suggest that the kids make get-well-soon cards for Mimi. 

Ten kids attend the first play group, including David Michael, Jamie Newton, and, to everyone’s surprise, Jenny Prezzioso. The little girl shows up in her usual attire – dressed as if she were a museum exhibit about Victorian Era dolls. And, of course, the girl wants to play with the other kids, but can’t because her dress will get dirty, but she doesn’t want to change into a smock because then she won’t be dressed pretty. I will take the Netflix Original Series character, Bailey, over this frustrating one any day.

When Mimi finally wakes up, the whole Kishi clan goes to see her. For Claudia, it does not go well. Mimi can’t speak – all she can do is a blank stare. Claudia is unable to handle Mimi and rushes out of the room. Eventually, Claudia tries again, this time coming up with a system of blinks – one for yes, two for no. This is more successful and Claudia apologizes for her behavior before Mimi’s collapse. When they get home, Janine retreats to her room. Claudia sees her sister possibly crying while drowning out the sound with the pounding of the keyboard.

During the next play group, Jenny, once again, refuses to wear the smock. Meanwhile, Karen is telling everyone that their next-door neighbor, Morbidda Destiny/Mrs. Porter, put a spell on Andrew and he’s going to become a monster. The kids countdown to Andrew’s transformation. Of course, nothing happens and it was just a goof, but Jenny is convinced that Andrew is a monster. The BSC asks him to tell Jenny to put on the smock to protect herself from him. Jenny throws on the smock without question.

The Kishis visit Mimi again. This time, she’s able to wave and write a little bit. However, she is writing Japanese, but it’s in Romaji. It’s very strange. If she were reverting to her native language, wouldn’t she write in Kanji or Hiragana? She writes “kodomo,” which means “children,” but wouldn’t’ she write “こども?” This is peculiar. Again, the Netflix television series handles this situation beautifully, I highly recommend the show.

There is some good news -Mimi is coming home! Unfortunately, Claudia has to miss the play group because Mimi needs constant care. Claudia takes the opportunity to help Mimi without reservation.

At the play group, Kristy brings Louie and the kids give him a chaotic bubble bath. 

Mimi is having trouble speaking English, to which I say, just let the woman speak in Japanese, geez. While Claudia is sad to leave the play group, Mimi is more important to her and she’s in the best position to help Mimi. 

There is a moment when Claudia baby-sits for the Newtons and has Mary Anne take care of Mimi in her stead. Mary Anne is being pedantic and Mimi blows up at her. Mary Anne is shocked because Mimi has never raised her voice. Mary Anne gives her some space (not too much – she can’t be alone) and they reconcile at the end of the chapter.

In a later event, the Newtons hire the BSC as “hired guests” for Lucy’s Christening and we finally get a Claudia outfit:

I chose a new outfit, one I liked a lot. It was a big, loose white shirt with black splotches all over it, and white pants that came to just below my knees. My shoes (and I might point out that I’d had a fight with Mom over permission to buy them) were dainty gold sandals that laced partway up my legs. Then I put on my pink flamingo earrings and a pink bracelet that said CLAUDIA in heart-shaped beads. Finally, I braided my hair into four long braids, tied a ribbon around the top of each, and fastened the ends with butterfly clips.

Capris and gladiator sandals – fantastic. 

During the Christening, Lucy receives constant attention, and Jamie gets jealous. 

I’m not sure what made me look up to see who was holding Lucy at the moment, but I did – and I couldn’t see anyone holding her. So I scanned the yard and saw that she’d been placed in her bouncy walker chair. She was sitting by one end of the food table, next to a half-empty pitcher of fruit punch that had been left out. As I watched, Jamie spotted both Lucy and the punch. He darted toward her, lifted the pitcher, and – 

I ran across the yard as fast as I could, knowing I’d never reach them in time. I could just picture Lucy’s beautiful gown all stained with red punch.

“Jamie!” I shouted. “No!”

But before the words had actually left my mouth, Jamie was putting the pitcher back on the table. And by the time I got to him, he was tickling Lucy’s bare feet.

“Jamie,” I gasped, “I thought you were going to pour that punch on your sister.”

Jamie looked at me guiltily. “I was,” he said, “but I changed my mind.”

“How come?” I asked.

Jamie shrugged, then frowned. “‘Cause I love her,” he said at last. “She is my sister.”

Claudia equates her relationship to Janine with Jamie and Lucy. Even though he’s upset that Lucy is getting all the attention, he still loves her because they only have each other. 

Finally, Janine and Claudia have a good, long talk. Claudia says everyone likes Janine because she doesn’t cause trouble and does well in school, while Janine says that everyone likes Claudia because she’s popular and charming and Janine can’t connect with people the same way. The sisters realize what every set of siblings has to realize eventually – you only have each other. 

No one else will be able to relate to you in the same way that your sibling will – how to deal with your parents, how to deal with peers, how to deal with a life of inescapable cyclical tragedy – from terrorism, to financial collapse, to the pandemic, to another financial collapse. 

My sister and I had to go through the same growing pains that Claudia and Janine (and Jamie and Lucy) have to experience. When there’s only the two of you, there’s no one else to diffuse familial tension with, so that creates animosity. Combine that with teenage angst, and it can be explosive or, as is the case with my sister and me, passive-aggressive. 

Claudia and Janine will get through this the same way Alyssa and I did – we had to grow the fuck up.

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

Rereading My Childhood – A Year With the BSC #50: Self Promotion

A Year With the BSC is an informal series wherein I explore the 1990’s CD-ROM video game The Baby-sitters Club Friendship Kit. The game is more of a personal organizer; it features with a calendar, an address book, a stationary kit, a flyer maker, and a personality profile. I’m focusing on the more interesting aspect of the game: the personalized letters and the journal entries. The full list of entries can be found at rereadingmychildhood.com.

Previously On A Year With the BSC #49: Neither a Simone Nor a Biles Be

Just a few more weeks before we’ve come full circle and it’s been quite the journey! For right now, let’s focus on our favorite babysitters.

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Maybe you should focus more on your school work than on your Kid Kit. Let’s just move on from that.

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Well, if you can’t find it, you’re in luck, my equinophiliac friend! I have a couple posts about Goosebumps! May I recommend my review of Goosebumps classic Night of the Living Dummy?

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I don’t have a father anymore. Can I go bowling?

Next Time On A Year With the BSC #51: Shaving a Doll

Rereading My Childhood – A Year With the BSC #47: The Long Game

A Year With the BSC is an informal series wherein I explore the 1990’s CD-ROM video game The Baby-sitters Club Friendship Kit. The game is more of a personal organizer; it features with a calendar, an address book, a stationary kit, a flyer maker, and a personality profile. I’m focusing on the more interesting aspect of the game: the personalized letters and the journal entries. The full list of entries can be found at rereadingmychildhood.com.

Previously On A Year With the BSC #46: This One’s Weird

The BSC is back and they are writing a lot! Good timing, since I have this week off from school. Next week, it’s summer classes, but let’s not worry about that right now and try to rest after a very annoying semester. (I was on a good streak, it was time for a semester to be a clunker.)

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That’s a little harsh, Jessi, he’s trying his best.

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Claudia! You misspelled your friend’s name! You should spend your time learning to spell her damn name rather than making a poster for someone who recovered from an illness usually relegated to five-year-olds. You need to get your priorities in order, Claud. Also, I feel like Abby can ask Kristy herself.

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Gosh, Kristy, if you don’t want Abby at your game, just say so. No need to be so shady.

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Geez, Abby. I know you’re angling for VP, but the brown nosing is just embarrassing when it involves puns.

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Looks like Kristy fell for it, although I can’t imagine Kristy is dumb enough to fall for Abby’s machinations. Maybe Kristy is playing the long game. She’s planning to get Abby comfortable so she can use her athletic abilities, but sometimes the ire seeps out, like in that shady post from before. Kristy is still human after all.

Next Time On A Year With the BSC #48: Turn On the TV

Rereading My Childhood – A Year With the BSC #42: Steez Chomping

A Year With the BSC is an informal series wherein I explore the 1990’s CD-ROM video game The Baby-sitters Club Friendship Kit. The game is more of a personal organizer; it features with a calendar, an address book, a stationary kit, a flyer maker, and a personality profile. I’m focusing on the more interesting aspect of the game: the personalized letters and the journal entries. The full list of entries can be found at rereadingmychildhood.com.

Previously On A Year With the BSC #41: A Lot to Unpack

After last week’s problematic wording, let’s see how they address the Special Olympics this week.

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Worried someone is chomping on your steez, Kristy? You worried someone’s going to steez chomping all over the original great idea? Worried about some competish?

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Oh my god! There are only 24 hours in the day, Abby!

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That’s the most sensible thing I’ve read. I was seriously worried that they would also take this on. They already lead congested lives for thirteen-year-olds, there’s no need to add more.

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You know, Claudia, you can flip back a few pages and the words “Special Olympics” are written right there. You know that, right? Claudia, I say these things because I’m worried about you.

Next Time On A Year With the BSC #43: Swing and a Miss

Rereading My Childhood – A Year With the BSC #38: Zip Codes and Tickets

A Year With the BSC is an informal series wherein I explore the 1990’s CD-ROM video game The Baby-sitters Club Friendship Kit. The game is more of a personal organizer; it features with a calendar, an address book, a stationary kit, a flyer maker, and a personality profile. I’m focusing on the more interesting aspect of the game: the personalized letters and the journal entries. The full list of entries can be found at rereadingmychildhood.com.

Previously On A Year With the BSC #37: The Kid Sucks

The entries are sparse this week. They must know I’m on Spring Break (whoo) and I shouldn’t have an excuse to add those “Previously On” and “Next Time On” at the bottoms of all the pages. Or they’re gearing up for a huge journal-a-thon just as I’m doing finals and I have six papers due.

Anyway, Dawn sent me a letter about messing up zip codes. Since the letter had my actual zip code in it, I decided not to post it. Sorry. You’re not missing much. She just laments that she gets the Stoneybrook and Palo City zip codes mixed up, even though I’m pretty sure that they start with completely different numbers.

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I checked the BSC calendar for Shannon’s birthday since I could have sworn it already happened. It does not have Shannon’s birthday posted. The other babysitters are there, but Shannon isn’t. Her birthday is apparently March 17th.

I also got a phone call from Jessi. They want to have a dance to raise money for their Kid Kits and she suggested I make some tickets with the BSC Ticket Maker. And send them to . . . the ether? I’m not falling for that one again.

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They all made cards? With the BSC Card Maker? It was just the recycling symbol over and over again.

Next Time On A Year With the BSC #39: Time Travel

Rereading My Childhood – A Year With the BSC #36: Making a Card for Shannon

A Year With the BSC is an informal series wherein I explore the 1990’s CD-ROM video game The Baby-sitters Club Friendship Kit. The game is more of a personal organizer; it features with a calendar, an address book, a stationary kit, a flyer maker, and a personality profile. I’m focusing on the more interesting aspect of the game: the personalized letters and the journal entries. The full list of entries can be found at rereadingmychildhood.com.

This week, Mary Anne answers Mallory’s question from last week.

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Umm, does Shannon read the journal? Like she’s supposed to? I know she’s an associate member, but do they read the journal? Because if she does, this kind of gives away the surprise.

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You know what, Claudia? That’s a great idea! I’m going to use the vast resources of the BSC Card Maker and make her a great birthday/St. Patrick’s Day card! That’s what people like – their special day combined with another day. I’ll start work on that card.

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Yeah, yeah, temper tantrums, I’m working on a masterpiece here.

Turns out the Card Maker isn’t as extensive as I would have hoped. See, there’s a text button, but you can’t see where you’re going to write or how much space you have left. Also, there are “stamps,” which is just click art, so I added a cake. However, there aren’t any shamrocks or St. Patrick’s Day things, so I just added anything that had green in it.

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Shannon’s Jewish, right? She isn’t? Well, the stamp is there and it’s hard to erase. You get a small box and you have to roll your mouse over to delete it, so the Star of David is staying. Also, there’s not a great way to delete your text – once it’s there, it’s there forever.

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Happy Birthday/St. Patrick’s Day, Shannon!

Rereading My Childhood – A Year With the BSC #35: A Phone Call

A Year With the BSC is an informal series wherein I explore the 1990’s CD-ROM video game The Baby-sitters Club Friendship Kit. The game is more of a personal organizer; it features with a calendar, an address book, a stationary kit, a flyer maker, and a personality profile. I’m focusing on the more interesting aspect of the game: the personalized letters and the journal entries. The full list of entries can be found at rereadingmychildhood.com.

In the middle of Claudia’s room, there is a phone. Today, the phone rang!

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It was from Mary Anne! She had a tip for me: if I plan on playing outside with my baby-sitting charges, I should have a key so I don’t lock myself out.

Okay. I guess I can’t argue with that logic, but I feel like that’s a given.

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Sorry, Jackie, but the only George Washington I can accept on stage is Christopher Jackson.

I know it’s not fair to compare a child to a professional, but the more I can talk about Hamilton, the angrier my History professor gets, and the happier I get, because I am a troll.

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Claude, I think you should worry more. You should worry so much more – maybe you’ll actually study.

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The only vacations I want to take are to fine Disney hotels and theme parks around the world. How about it, Disney? Looking to sponsor a blogger? I’ll write about y’all every post. How about three mentions and I can get some tickets to Disneyland? How about just some Haunted Mansion merch? No? This is a Wendy’s? You’re kicking me out? Can I get a spicy chicken sandwich before I go?

Rereading My Childhood – A Year With the BSC #31: Killing Trees

A Year With the BSC is an informal series wherein I explore the 1990’s CD-ROM video game The Baby-sitters Club Friendship Kit. The game is more of a personal organizer; it features with a calendar, an address book, a stationary kit, a flyer maker, and a personality profile. I’m focusing on the more interesting aspect of the game: the personalized letters and the journal entries. The full list of entries can be found at rereadingmychildhood.com.

I started a new school semester yesterday and Kingdom Hearts III just came out, so let’s get this show on the road! What’s going on, Dawn?

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Okay, not Dawn. But this is Dawn adjacent. What is a “birthday tree?” Is it an actual tree? Do you have to carve your name in order to sign it? Is it a paper tree? Is it the stump of a tree like you see at weddings now? If that’s the case, wouldn’t that make Dawn sad since you had to kill a tree to get the stump? If it’s just a paper tree, isn’t that still killing a tree? How far does Dawn take this tree thing?

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That was quite the flex there, Stace. From magnets to “What’s your favorite store?” My favorite store is any bookstore where I can buy some quality The Baby-Sitters Club merchandise from Scholastic. *whisper*yeah, just put the money over there, thanks*whisper*

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OMG, Claudia. You’re misspelling things on purpose, aren’t you?