Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #15: Little Miss Stoneybrook…and Dawn

Previously On Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club: Super Special #1: Baby-Sitters on Board!

There’s no point in trying to conceal my bias – I think child beauty pageants are creepy and gross. I don’t like the idea of forcing children to compete against one another for really no reason. They’ll have enough competition in their futures. However, I don’t blame the children. I blame the judges who are willing to rank children on an arbitrary scale, and I blame the parents who want to slap ten pounds of make-up on their child to make them look sixteen and, finally, I blame the industry that perpetuates this activity – including the trainers who teach the children how to win over judges, the make-up industry that caters to these parents, and the institution itself.

That being said, this month the BSC gets into a fight over a child beauty pageant, so it’s going to be one of those blog entries.

SPOILERS AFTER THE COVER!!!

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“Hey, there’s some girl who is obviously from California peaking from behind the curtain, Janet. Can you do something about her? Just toss a granola bar out the back and she’ll chase it.”

Like most BSC books, it starts with a BSC meeting. Dawn is announced as the new treasurer and she thinks to herself, “I like Stoneybrook, but I’m a California girl at heart. I like hot weather, not cold, and health food, not junk.” The flex is that stark and it is in the part of the book where each member is given a page-long paragraph detailing everything we need to know about each member. I’m starting to skip these. And as for the remarks about California – the hot weather is on point except for Northern California, Tahoe, Squaw Valley, Mammoth, and every other ski resort. We can say that Dawn is a Southern California girl. And have you seen the junk food at Disneyland? Clearly, Californians love their Mickey-shaped donuts. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I don’t think Ann M. Martin had been to California before writing these books.

Anyway, Mallory and Jessi are sworn in as members, and the BSC oath, as introduced in this book, goes like this, “I promise to be a good, reliable, and safe sitter, and to be true to the Baby-sitters Club forevermore.” Sounds like a good oath. Mary Anne cries. Claudia and Dawn roll their eyes, which I think is a little rude. She’s just happy for them, and while I may be an emotionless gargoyle, I think it’s wonderful that Mary Anne feels still things.

Back at home, Jeff is having some problems adjusting to the house. Jeff’s teacher calls and tells Dawn and her mother that he got into a fight. Jeff wants to move back to California and their mother reluctantly agrees to work out a deal with their father and their lawyers, which, frankly, is probably the best solution for everyone. Unfortunately, Dawn does not agree.

“You little twerp!” I said to him hotly. “You are a rotten, spoiled baby.”

“Dawn!” cried my mother.

I ignored her. “Can’t you see what you’re doing?” I yelled at Jeff. “You’re breaking up what’s left of our family.”

“No, I’m not,” Jeff replied quietly. “I’m giving Dad some of his family back. It’s time we evened things up. Besides, I have to try this or I might end up in jail.”

Mom and Jeff and I all began to laugh.

This is the tenth time reading this and I still don’t quite get it. I guess Jeff going to jail is hilarious. Probably because he’s a white boy and if certain rapist swimmers won’t go to jail for being rapist swimmers, then this kid in Connecticut isn’t going to go to jail for fighting. Hell, white men don’t go to jail for stealing billions of dollars from the American people – this kid isn’t going to jail. Now that’s commentary!

At Claudia’s house, Dawn and the young Miss Kishi see the advertisement for the pageant. The girls will be judged on “poise, talent, and looks.” “Looks.” “Looks?” They’re eight, don’t be gross. There is a short discussion on how sexist it is, surprisingly not from our favorite health-food vegan California girl, but from Claudia. In fact, Dawn says she did child beauty pageants and won when she was a child.

The rest of the BSC shows up and there is a quick conversation about how sexist pageants are, which I guess is progressive for when this book was written (1988). Kristy says, “I guess a pageant could be sexist . . . but fun.” Well, Kristy, if it’s fun, then we should keep doing it! Men have a lot of fun slapping flight attendants’ asses, we should just keep doing it! You’re disappointing me, Kristy, but I guess we have to have a central conflict in the book and it can’t be Jeff and Dawn, it has to be the BSC fighting over their separate pageant contestants.

Luckily, Jessi and Mallory refuse to participate on the basis it’s sexist. You stick to your convictions, girls. Thank god you’re here. However, Mallory’s sisters Clare and Margo hear about the pageant. Mallory sticks to her beliefs and refuses to coach the girl, so Mrs. Pike asks Dawn for help, to which Dawn enthusiastically agrees.

The first handwriting chapter we have is for Kristy watching over Karen, Andrew, and David Michael. Karen hears about the pageant (from Kristy) and wants to enter. Her talent will be singing and tap dancing, although she has no training. Then Watson and Kristy’s mother return from their birdbath auction.

Jeff is confirmed to be moving back to California after an effusive week for the kid. They argue again, even though they were laughing just a few days before. This really doesn’t have anything to do with the pageant. Although, Dawn is using the pageant to distract herself from Jeff. It doesn’t matter, as it’s a B storyline.

We have an A storyline! Dawn is at the Pikes’ house, coaching Margo and Clare.

Clare and Margo raced into the bedroom they share. Before I could say a word, they opened their closet and began peeling their clothes off. Margo reached for her bathing suit. On the front was a gigantic alligator, its mouth open in a grin full of big triangular felt teeth.

“This is what I’m wearing,” she announced.

“For what?” I asked

“The pageant,” Margo replied impatiently.

Fuck yeah, she should wear whatever the fuck she wants, but Dawn is playing this ridiculous thing straight and asks that they don’t think about outfits at the moment. They switch to their talents. They don’t play instruments, they can’t dance, and they can’t sing. Margo chooses to recite a poem from memory, but she doesn’t think it’s enough. She wants to recite the poem while peeling a banana with her feet, which grossed me out. Then she took a bite from it while reciting the poem and I retched a little.

Mary Anne babysat for the Perkins’ and, of course, the girls hear about the pageant. It turns out that Myriah can both dance and tap. Myriah has also taken gymnastics and theater. When their mother comes home, the girls ask her if they can participate in the pageant, to which she says,

“In any pageant, or in any game or contest, there are winners and there are losers. You might be a winner, Myriah, and that would be wonderful. Daddy and Gabbie and I and even Laura would be very proud of you. But you might be a loser, too. There are going to be lots more losers than winners. And I want you to know that we’ll be proud of you if you lose. We’ll be proud of you for having the courage to be in the pageant, and for the work and rehearsing you’ll do.”

That is a very good way of putting it. No sarcasm here. It’s the best lesson in the book, besides the final lesson, but we’ll get that soon.

When Claudia sits for Charlotte, they decide to give Stacey a call. These were the days when you had to have a calling card and it cost, like, fifty bucks a minute or something, so this is a big deal. After the call, to distract from separation from their best-friend, Claudia somehow convinces Charlotte to join the pageant as well, even though Charlotte “would rather read” (a girl after my own heart).

Mallory and Jessi sit for the Pike kids and Margo is still rehearing “The House That Jack Built” complete with banana. I’m disgusted just by thinking about it. Tarantino I am not. All the children start to argue as Adam tries to screw up Margo and Claire tries to sing louder to cover up the fighting. Mallory attempts to quiet them down but it doesn’t work and the chapter ends with headaches.

At the next BSC meeting, there’s a bunch of pageant talk, especially about the last question. You know, the one where the contestants either shine with their brilliance or become an internet meme.

It’s obvious that Charlotte really doesn’t want to do it, Margo and Claire are the only interesting girls entering because they’re so wacky, and Myriah is the only one who has the stage presence and talent to win. Claire would make any pageant awesome and I have the receipts.

“Margo,” I said, “What is your greatest wish?”

“Global peace,” she replied immediately.

“Yes, but say it in a nice sentence.”

“My greatest wish,” Margo said, looking rapturous and angelic, “is for global peace. That would be very . . . nice.”

I only hoped the judge wouldn’t ask her to explain what she meant. Margo didn’t have the vaguest idea what global peace was.

“Great,” I told her. “Now Claire, if the house were on fire and you had time to rescue three things, what would they be?”

“I would rescue,” Claire began sweetly, “my family members, global peace, and the first extinguisher.”

Ha! If I were the judge, I’d say she wins.

Jeff leaves for California. Remember when you could just walk all the way to the gate before you had to say goodbye? It’s weird to see on television shows and it’s weird to read in books. It’s certainly more dramatic to say good-bye at the gate, your loved one looking back wistfully over their shoulder as they wave and pass into a long hallway away from you. It’s not the same if you drop them off outside as they fumble with their luggage, all while an attendant is yelling at someone, “Hey! This is the drop-off you can’t wait here! Get to the cell phone lot!”

Finally, the big pageant day arrives. The girls line up, including a girl named Sabrina Bouvier, who, besides being a distant relative of Marge Simpson, does the pageant thing all the time. It starts with the introductions and Claire immediately starts saying hi to everyone she knows in the audience and is promptly cut off, to which I say, “LET HER SPEAK!” and then I would be promptly cut off and kicked out of the pageant.

During the talent portion, Karen sings, that Sabrina girl sings “Moon River” and is bad, Margo does her banana poem, and Charlotte runs off the stage in tears. I blame you, Claudia. Myriah gives a good answer to the interview portion (“I would say to the people who were making the wars, ‘Now you stop that. You settle this problem yourselves like grown-ups. Our children want peace.'”) and Claire says that her greatest hope is that Santa Claus is real. Karen says that if her house were on fire, she would save her stuffed cat, her blanket, as many toys as she could carry, and finally her brother Andrew or her pen that writes in three colors. Sabrina does the “global peace” answer and Margo goes after and freezes up since Sabrina stole her stock answer.

Myriah ends up coming in second with Sabrina first – just like when Lisa Simpson enters the Little Miss Springfield contest. Of course, Sabrina isn’t struck by lightning, causing Myriah to take up her duties.

The girls learn that while Myriah should have won, Sabrina had the look that the judges like and the make-up of a twenty-five-year-old. Claudia realizes that she forced Charlotte to participate. Jeff calls and seems to be in a better place after moving.

I didn’t hate this one as much as I thought I would. Some of the reasoning for the BSC to participate in the pageant is flimsy, but Mallory and Jessi were always there to point out the stupidity and sexism of the whole endeavor. Beauty pageants are a common storyline from many episodic shows (and book series), from Parks and Recreation to the aforementioned The Simpsons. Just like those properties, the beauty pageant participant usually learns that it’s not about the one with the most talent, but the prettiest.

That being said, I would like to leave you with this:

Next Time On Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #16: Jessi’s Secret Language

Rereading My Childhood – Fear Street Super Chiller: Broken Hearts

Previously On Rereading My Childhood – Fear Street: Fear Street Sagas #1: A New Fear

It will surprise no one that I’m not the most romantic person and Valentine’s Day is not a particularly important holiday to me. However, to my partner, Valentine’s Day is very important and he makes an effort to do something for me every year. He is clearly the hopeless romantic and I am not. This dynamic helps us to keep a stable grasp on the holiday. We neither take it too seriously, but we do take time to appreciate each other.

This is not the case for the teenagers in R. L. Stine’s Fear Street Super Chiller: Broken Hearts. They are having a pretty crappy Valentine’s Day. Murder would ruin anyone’s Valentine’s Day – or any day really. Anyway, let’s just get right into it.

SPOILERS AFTER THE COVER!!!

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Fear Street Super Chiller: Broken Hearts – The ketchup got on her pictures of poor man’s Emilio Estevez, Billy Icon, and Flea from Ratt or Rat from Flea or Gnat from Spat.

In typical Fear Street fashion, we have a prologue where we meet our main characters and there’s a tragedy. First of all, we have the twins, Josie and Rachel. Josie’s horror movie stereotype is “the slutty one,” while Rachel would be “early victim.” Erica is their little sister and she would be “annoying little sister.” The last one is Melissa and she is “the nice one.” The girls are driving out to a stable and are having fun talking about boys, because in the world of Stine and the early ’90s, all girls talk about are boys and whether they have boyfriends and how they feel about those boyfriends. Erica refuses to get on a horse and the girls leave her behind.

By the end of the prologue, the one without a personality, Rachel, falls off her horse and lands on her head. We get a “The Following February” and that’s when the first part of our story actually begins.

Melissa has a dream about the horse accident. We learn that Josie blames Melissa for Rachel’s accident and their relationship is strained, if not nonexistent.

Across the street, Josie and her new boyfriend, Steve, are throwing snowballs at each other when they are interrupted by Josie’s dog.

The dog yipped and started toward Josie, as if coming to protect her from Steve. But the wet snow on the rug distracted the little dog, and it stopped to sniff it, then lick it.

“How can you stand that little rat?” Steve teased. “Why don’t you step on it and put it out of its misery?”

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first red herring!

It’s also here we have our first Valentine’s Day letter. Josie opens her mail and finds the letter with the following poem:

“Violets are blue

Roses are red.

On Valentine’s Day

Josie will be dead.”

She believes that a guy named Jenkman, whom she dated a while ago, sent the messages since he seems to be stalking her ever since they broke up. Steven encourages her to ignore it, in typical horror movie red herring fashion.

We finally learn the fate of Rachel. She did not die in the equine accident but she is not the same. She sustains extensive brain damage and can’t be left alone. Rachel’s boyfriend, Luke, and Erica have been taking care of her. Josie is supposed to watch Rachel also, but Josie has failed to do that on multiple occasions, causing Erica to confront her.

Erica wants to try out for Brigadoon but she can’t if she has to watch Josie.

“You’ll have to try out some other time,” Josie said brusquely. She started to pull away from Erica, but Erica held on.

“No way,” Erica said angrily.

A gust of wind made the powdery snow swirl all around them. Josie closed her eys and tried to slip her face down into her wool scarf.

Go away, she thought. Please. Just go away, Erica.

“You’re supposed to help me take care of Rachel when she gets home from her school,” Erica scolded. “You know that, Josie. It’s not supposed to be my full-time job.”

“I know. Give me a break,” Josie said, starting to walk towards the street. “I’ll take care of her tomorrow. Promise.”

“No. Today!” Erica insisted, following her. “I don’t want to miss the tryouts. It’s just not fair. This is my first year in high school. It’s supposed to be such a big exciting year for me. And instead-”

“Tomorrow,” Josie told her, picked up her pace. “I can’t leave Steve waiting there.”

“Yes, you can,” Erica told her. “You can call and leave a message for him.”

“I don’t want to,” Josie said nastily. She began to jog across the snow.

Erica caught up to her. “I don’t believe you, Josie,” she cried breathlessly. “I can’t believe you don’t take more responsibility for Rachel. After all, it was your fault-”

Erica stopped herself.

Josie screams and falls to the ground. Did she have a sudden realization? No, she was hit by a snowball thrown by another red herring named Dave. She composes herself and leaves to meet Steve, further alienating herself from Rachel’s situation and her sister is forced to miss the Brigadoon tryouts.

Melissa and Dave, the boy who threw the snowball, seem to be a couple. I say “seem” because they’re not very affectionate. You know, there are several couples in this story, but none of them are particularly affectionate. For a story that takes place around Valentine’s Day, there isn’t much romance. Granted, this is a horror novel, but My Bloody Valentine had a love triangle so I don’t think it’s too much for some kind of heartstring-pulling. I would even settle for literal heartstring-pulling.

Back at the Josie household, Luke confronts Josie. He says that she “ruined Rachel’s life” and now she’s trying to ruin Erica’s life. Josie fails to show any remorse, insisting that Luke is “hiding behind Rachel” because he’s “too big a loser to face the real world.” Josie is actually talking about herself – Luke has no problems recognizing Rachel’s condition, while Josie is actively avoiding her so she doesn’t have to see her twin in a deteriorated state and how easily Josie could be the same way. Neither Josie nor Luke realizes this – instead, Luke stabs a desk by Josie and storms out, red herring-ing all over the scene (Did I just verb “red herring”? Yes I did). In fact, after the storm out, Josie insists to the reader that she has done nothing to warrant the behavior towards her. R. L. Stine is certainly not setting up a sympathetic protagonist.

After some house intercom shenanigans, Josie gets another Valentine:

“This Valentine’s Day

No memories to save.

The only flowers for you

Will be on your grave.”

The intercom shenanigans continue. Josie hears Rachel calling for her, so she goes to check on her only to find her asleep.

Later, while Erica is brushing Rachel’s hair, we get a new red herring.

“Josie is my sister, right?” she asked, wrinkling her forehead in concentration.

“Yes,” Erica replied. “Josie is your sister. Your twin sister.”

Rachel thought about this for a long while. Then she surprised Erica by saying, “Josie doesn’t like me anymore.”

“No!” Erica protested, letting the brush slip out of her hand. She bent down to pick it up from the carpet. “Josie still likes you, Rachel. Why would you say such a terrible thing?”

“No. Josie doesn’t like me. Josie doesn’t talk to me.”

“That’s not true-” Erica started, but Rachel interrupted.

“Well, I don’t like Josie anymore!” Rachel cried, her green eyes lighting up. “I hate Josie!”

The scene abruptly ends when Jenkman shows up at the house and asks if Josie received his Valentines and that’s the end of the chapter. Does this continue in the next chapter?

No. No, it doesn’t. Dave tries to cheat off of Josie’s math test and she turns him in. He gets mad and says that he’ll lose his wrestling scholarship since that test accounted for half of his grade, prompting him to yell, “I hate Josie McClain!” I don’t know who is worse: Josie for being selfish or Dave for attempting to cheat on a test he should have studied for and redirecting the anger that should be on himself instead at Josie. Also, if he can’t pass a high school math class with at least a C, how the hell is he going to pass college math? High school math is not hard. I am an English major, but I still had to take two semesters of college math. What was his plan? Maybe college isn’t for you, Davy-boy. You know what, it’s not going to matter soon, anyway.

We’re back to Josie and Steve and Josie gets another Valentine:

“Who’s sending these cards?

Don’t bother to wonder.

On Valentine’s Day

You’ll be six feet under.”

There’s some discussion of who it could be and after their ice skating date, they return home and Josie’s dog is dead on the floor. R. L. Stine usually kills off innocent dogs just to ramp up the stakes and that’s a common plot in ’80s and ’90s horror. I’m grateful we stopped doing that. There are better ways to write in stakes besides killing off an innocent bystander, especially when there are so many other reprehensible characters to kill instead.

The cops arrive and one of them almost pukes. You’d think with all the murder in Shadyside, the cops would be pretty phlegmatic about the death of a dog. On the other hand, maybe they’re throwing up the bullshit way to raise stakes by the needless murder of an innocent animal. Yes – I am more upset about the murder of a dog than a human. I always say – I like all dogs more than I like most people. The 2016 election proved me correct.

There are some red herring things with Jenkman buying Valentines at some kind of Valentine store that exists. It’s either a pop-up store in an old Circuit City or it’s just a Hallmark that is overdoing it with the hearts – I’m not sure, but he’s our herring and he has to herring it up all over the place.

Josie receives another Valentine:

“Roses are black,

Violets are gray.

On Valentine’s Day,

You’ll start to decay.”

This is probably the best poem yet, but that’s not saying much. Rachel is ramping up the creepy now, constantly whispering to Josie, “Someone hates you.”

In the middle of the night, Erica wakes up and does not find Josie. So, she gets a phone book (remember those?), looks for Steve’s phone number, and calls. Steve says he doesn’t know where Josie is and that they had a huge fight. Just as she hangs up, the front doorbell rings and Erica says it must be Josie. Of course, it’s not Josie. It’s two police officers, where they tell the family that Josie has been murdered.

“We found your sister in the alley behind the ice rink,” the older police officer told Erica, speaking in a low, professional voice. “We identified her by her wallet. She hadn’t been robbed. She was dead when we arrived. She had been stabbed in the back. With the blade of an ice skate. The skate was still in her back.”

Okay, old officer, isn’t there a better way to put this? First of all, why did you mention she hadn’t been robbed? It’s like when a kid stands next to a cookie jar and the first things they say to you is, “I haven’t had a cookie.” Secondly, I don’t know if the parents really need to know the grisly details seconds after learning that their daughter has been murdered. If they ask how, let them know, but otherwise, let’s give ’em a day or two, huh? Maybe just start with who she was with, what time she left, where she was going.

In the same chapter, Dave calls Melissa and says he’s in big trouble. He reveals that he sent the Valentines as a “joke.” The teenagers of Shadyside, or the teenagers of the ’80s, have terrible senses of humor and no sense of timing or setups or anything that’s actually funny. Sending death threats disguised as Valentines are not jokes. These teenagers are infuriating. Thousands of teenagers on TikTok are funny every day without resorting to death threats and pranks that involve feigning death.

Anyway, Melissa asks Dave if he killed Josie. (Whenever I write “Melissa,” I say the name like this in my head.) He says he didn’t but the Valentines are going to implicate him in her murder. He decides that the best course of action is to break into the McClain household and steal the Valentines back. While the plan is stupid, it makes sense that a teenager who thinks that death threats are the pinnacle of humor would come up with this plan.

Dave hangs out in the rain outside Josie’s house during the funeral. The door is open and unlocked. How convenient! He wanders around the house, gets spooked by laundry, and it finally culminates in screaming and confusion and Erica in a pool of blood with Dave over her body.

Then, in bold letters, we get a single page of text: “February, One Year Later.”

Apparently, Melissa and Luke are together now and they relay what happened. Erica recovered from the stabbing and Dave was arrested, but Erica chose not to press charges.

Dave told the police that he hadn’t been the one who stabbed Erica. He claimed that he had stumbled over Erica’s body while trying to get to the stairway. She had already been stabbed. Dave was so shocked and horrified, he bent down and picked up the letter opener.

And since Erica wouldn’t testify and there was no evidence, the police had to let Dave go. It’s also revealed that Luke has stopped visiting Rachel as much as before. At the end of the chapter, Melissa receives a Valentine.

“Roses are red

Violets are blue,

On Valentine’s Day

You’ll be dead too.”

In the next chapter, Rachel is yelling about Melissa and Luke and how she hates both of them while Erica brushes her hair. Also, Steve calls Erica and invites her to an ice skating party. While Erica was distracted by the phone call, Rachel disappears. She’s just in the front yard, hanging out behind a tree.

Melissa receives another Valentine:

“Flowers mean funerals

Flowers mean death.

On Valentine’s Day

You’ll take your last breath.”

After, Dave’s mom calls and says he ran away from his boarding school. He eventually shows up in her room, because of course he does. He is surprised when Melissa expresses doubt about his innocence, even though all he did was break into her home without her consent and think cheating off a test is okay. Then he promises to go find “the real killer,” which is a promise we’ve heard before from football players who were once held in a penitentiary a hundred miles from my home. Melissa shows him the Valentines she has been receiving and he runs away, saying he knows who killed Josie without having the courtesy to let Melissa and the reader.

Then he’s dead. Sorry, anticlimactic, I know. The interesting thing that happens is that Rachel yells that she goes out all the time, making her suspect number one. The next day, Melissa opens her locker and finds a cover photo:

On the inside of the locker door, someone had painted a large, broken valentine heart. Smeared dots of bright red blood dripped from the heart. Scrawled in thick red paint at the bottom were the words: YOU’RE DEAD.

Given the disconnect between the cover art and the actual contents of these novels, I’m surprised we actually got to see this scene in the novel. Anyway, a little red paint isn’t going to stop these teens from partying at the frozen lake and it’s time to figure out who the killer is!

Using logic, since one of the red herrings, Dave, is dead, and the other red herring is clearly Jenkman, the clear choice is Steve. Now, given that-

Just kidding, it’s Erica.

What? That seems pretty random, you say. Well, I’m sure this all makes sense and is tightly put together like an Agatha Christie novel.

Just kidding again. Erica killed Josie because Josie was the pretty one and then she stabbed herself to frame Dave and then killed him when he figured her out, somehow. She was mad at Melissa because she “took Luke,” because we can’t have a lady killer without some boyfriend stealing apparently.

Erica falls beneath and ice and dies. Again, anticlimactically. Luke, Melissa, and Rachel live happily ever after, I’m assuming. They’re making jokes about Groundhog’s Day in the end, after all.

I wanted to like this one. Valentine’s Day is ripe for murder-y shenanigans – ask My Bloody Valentine, which, now that I’m thinking about it, also has an out of nowhere killer. You know what? I change my mind. This is on par with other Valentine’s Day horror fare.

Although, you know what? My Bloody Valentine has some good death scenes – the ending was just ludicrous. Maybe the problem with Valentine’s Day as a horror setting is that it sounds like a neat, subversive idea. Let’s take something that celebrates love and relationships and murder a bunch of people and send actual, anatomical hearts to people, but the conclusion is never satisfying! So, this is really an allegory for the holiday itself – it starts with a great premise and some of the execution is on point, but the end can never live up to the rest of the night.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Maybe the day be filled with as much or as little horror as is your preference. ❤

Next Time On Rereading My Childhood – Fear Sreet: The New Girl

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 #45: Claudia’s Ruse

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 #44: Vaccinate Your Damn Kids

So the BSC was awfully chatty this week, so let’s get to it. First of all, Dawn sent me a letter.

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Fun fact: Stacey has not sent me one letter. She must think I’m too snarky. And speaking of snark…

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Mal, buddy, boobalah, don’t say, “a swinging time was had by all!” Not when talking about kids.

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What? After five home runs, they still didn’t win? Who were they playing against? The Monstars from Space Jam?

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Cool, Mary Anne, but they still lost and bravery has nothing to do with winning, which is what we care about as Capitalist Americans.

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What 11-year-old doesn’t love O Henry! Yeah, fuck Frozen, I want stories about old-timey couples in abject poverty selling their prized possessions or body parts so they can buy a gift.

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Gawd, Claudia, you can’t even spell your beloved dead grandmother’s name? It’s “Mimi.” That’s it. You only have to remember two letters and then double it! Now I think she’s just fucking with us. She wants to lower expectations so she doesn’t have to try. That’s the only explanation. This is all a giant ruse. It has to be.

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Oh good, those coupons that kids never fulfill.

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Just stacks and stacks of useless paper. Geez, kids, just clean your stupid room without your parents asking one time and you’ll be set for the fucking year. Pro-tip from a previous child.

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

Rereading My Childhood – A Year With the BSC #41: A Lot to Unpack

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 #40: The Early One!

There’s a lot this week, so let’s just start.

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That sounds like a threat, Abby.

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Kristy sounds almost happy that Cokie Mason came to undermine Mary Anne’s relationship with Logan. Am I detecting some jealousy? Some unrequited love? Between two best-friends? C’mon, you were thinking it, too. The only difference is that I have the courage to circumlocute my way through this post while winking and nudging.

Lesbian. I think Kristy is a lesbian. Don’t look at me that way. Moving on!

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Betsy DeVos must be pissed. She hates underprivileged people thinking they’re just as good as normies. She also hates it when poors breathe on her or do any book-learnin’. Makes the poors think they’re deserving of the same opportunities of the upper-class. The gall!

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This is the first time Stacey has mentioned club dues, so I’m assuming they haven’t been due before.

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WHOA, ABBY! There’s a lot to unpack here. First of all, the Special Olympics also helps people with other disabilities, including physical disabilities. Secondly, whoa, Abby. Don’t use the “R” word. I know this is the ’90s, but man, Abby, just say handicapped or disabled. Abby, c’ mon. You need to stop talking to Betsy DeVos. Another fact about Betsy DeVos: she uses the “R” word to describe anyone who didn’t pay their way into an Ivy League College. She also thinks that whites are the true oppressed minority, despite not being either of those things and that it’s okay to drink cereal with water instead of milk.

Next Time On A Year With the BSC #42: Steez Chomping

 

Rereading My Childhood – A Year With the BSC #39: Time Travel

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 #38: Zip Codes and Tickets

I’m back in class and it looks like the BSC is busy with classes also.

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How did Cokie Mason find out about the party? Who fucking blabbed?! Was it you? Yeah, I’m talking to you! Back there! With the face! Did you fucking tell her?!

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That is cute, but it seems like you’re rewarding her for throwing tantrums.

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I hope you talked about this with the parents first, Mallory. Otherwise, even if you know the kids, it’s still kidnapping.

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Oh no! The Teddy Bear Picnic can’t be canceled! I have a teddy bear-costumed character coming and if I cancel, I still have to pay half of the appearance fee. Where is that money going to come from, Kristy? From my baby-sitting dues? The $1.50 an hour I charge for babysitting in the ’90s? I should up my fee. I’m an adult, and that’s better than a child, and every time I time travel I come back . . . wrong. It’s taking its toll, Kristy.

Next Time On A Year With the BSC #40: The Early One!

Rereading My Childhood – Goosebumps: Night of the Living Dummy

Previously On Rereading My Childhood – Goosebumps: Stay Out of the Basement!

Cultural osmosis is an interesting thing. I have this library of pop culture I can draw from and understand references to even though I haven’t interacted directly with that specific piece of pop culture. I have never seen Die Hard but if someone references Carl Winslow shooting a kid, I understand both of the references. (I have, however, seen every episode of Family Matters – even the bullshit ones that were on CBS. You know, the ones where Steve Urkel goes into space and then comes back to marry Laura – the girl he has been harassing for most of their lives.)

And that was the thing about Night of the Living Dummy – as I was reading it, I knew that Slappy has become the main antagonist in subsequent Dummy books. I spent the whole book noticing that 1) it’s more like nights of the living dummy and 2) Slappy is just as much a threat, if not more so than Mr. Wood. It’s time for a classic Goosebumps tale about twins, dummies, and competition.

SPOILERS AFTER THE COVER!!!

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It’s more like “nights” of the living dummy than one night.

Kris and Lindy are twins who seem to hate each other. One has short hair, one has a side ponytail. Other than that, they look identical. Even though they look similar, they are still two different people, but their parents also treat them as identical people. They are expected to play together and, as we later see, their parents don’t make an effort to have them distinguish themselves from the other or actively encourage them to partake in identical activities.

Their mother forces both of them to go outside and play, taking Lindy away from the book she was reading. Was it only our generation had parents that actively didn’t want us reading books? My father was different, though. He was a bookworm and I spent most of my childhood reading books and taking weekly trips to the library while other kids had parents who told them to go outside and play sports or whatever. I saw a study that said that Baby Boomers didn’t read as much as Millennials, so it makes sense that they would chastise us for reading too much. One time when I was a kid and I tried to check out a stack of books from the library and my father said that the library only allowed people to check out three at a time. I don’t think he was trying to curb my reading; I was a kid who walked up the counter with fifteen books and my father didn’t think that I could read all of them or keep track of them to return them to the library.

The girls don’t go to the library after they are kicked out. Instead, they go to the house that is under construction next door. In the dumpster, they find a dummy.

Lindy held the dummy up and examined his back, looking for the string to pull to make his mouth move. “I am a real kid!” Lindy made him say. She was speaking in a high-pitched voice through gritted teeth, trying not to move her lips.

“Dumb,” Kris said, rolling her eyes.

“I am not dumb. You’re dumb!” Lindy made the dummy say in a high, squeaky voice. When she pulled the string in his back, the wooden lips moved up and down, clicking as they moved. She moved her hand up his back and found the control to make his painted eyes shift from side to side.

“He’s probably filled with bugs,” Kris said, making a disgusted voice. “Throw him back, Lindy.”

“No way,” Lindy inisted, rubbing her hand tenderly over the dummy’s wooden hair. “I’m keeping him.”

“She’s keeping me,” she made the dummy say.

“But what are you going to do with this dummy?” Kris demanded.

“I don’t know. Maybe I’ll work up an act,” Lindy said thoughtfully, shifting Slappy [the dummy] to her other arm. “I’ll bet I could earn some money with him. You know. Appear at kids’ birthday parties. Put on shows.”

“Happy birthday!” she made Slappy declare. “Hand over some money!”

Kris didn’t laugh.

Tough crowd. I thought it was pretty funny.

Now we’re back to the cultural osmosis issue. I know that Slappy is the antagonist of the other dummy books and I know that he’s evil. I spent this whole novel wondering when Slappy was going to go all murder dummy. This book threw me for a loop with the introduction of another dummy.

After Lindy announces she was hired to do a ventriloquist act at a birthday party, Kris asks for her own dummy. Her parents come up with a ridiculous suggestion.

“Why don’t you both share Slappy?” Mrs. Powell suggested.

“Huh?” Lindy’s mouth dropped open in protest.

“You two always share everything,” Mrs. Powell continued. “So why don’t you share Slappy.”

“But, Mom-” Lindy whined unhappily.

“Excellent idea,” Mr. Powell interrupted. He motioned to Kris. “Try it out. After you share him for a while, I’m sure one of you will lose interest in him. Maybe even both of you.”

Kris climbed to her feet and walked over to Lindy. She reached out for the dummy. “I don’t mind sharing,” she said quietly, searching her sister’s eyes for approval of the idea. “Can I hold him for just a second?”

Lindy held onto Slappy tightly.

Suddenly the dummy’s head tilted back and his mouth opened wide. “Beat it, Kris!” he snarled in a harsh raspy voice. “Get lost, you stupid moron!”

Before Kris could back away, Slappy’s wooden hand shot up, and he slapped her hard across the face.

First of all, wow, Slappy’s outburst was harsher than I expected in this child’s chapter book.

Now the biggest issue: HEY, PARENTS, IT’S LINDY’S DUMMY AND IF SHE DOESN’T WANT TO SHARE IT, SHE SHOULDN’T BE FORCED TO SHARE THE DAMN DOLL!!! Lindy is the one who embraced the dummy. Kris thought it was disgusting and creepy. Now Lindy is excelling in her weird, creepy hobby and she should be encouraged – not forced to share. And Kris saying she doesn’t mind sharing is infuriating. It’s like standing by a vending machine, waiting for someone to buy a drink, and then saying, “I don’t mind sharing.” No, it’s not yours to share. And her parents justifying it by remarking, “You two always share everything.” This might be the root of the problems between the girls and it brings me back to an issue I brought up earlier. They aren’t able to cultivate a personality apart from each other.

Lastly, her father’s conjecture that one will lose interest isn’t a good metric for parenting.

We also learn there is going to be a school chorus, featuring Russain songs?

“Yeah. We’re doing all these Russian and Yugoslavian songs,” Kris said. “They’re so sad. They’re all about sheep or something. We don’t really know what they’re about. There’s no translation.”

What the fuck kind of school does Russan sheep dirges for the school chorus? The songs we sang during school recitals were nondenominational holiday songs and “Home Means Nevada.”

Anyway, despite all the rigamarole about sharing Slappy, Mr. Powell goes out to buy a second dummy at a pawn shop to give to Kris. She names him Mr. Wood, which is a way worse name than Slappy. Pretty soon, we get a dose of her stand up with her friend Cody.

Kris turned Mr. Wood to face her. “How are you today?” she asked him.

“Pretty good. Knock [on] wood,” she made the dummy say.

She waited for Cody to laugh, but he didn’t. “Was that funny?” she asked.

“Kinda,” he replied without enthusiasm. “Keep going.”

“Okay.” Kris lowered her head so that she was face-to-face with her dummy. “Mr. Wood,” she said, “why are you standing in front of the mirror with your eyes closed?”

“Well,” answered the dummy in a high-pitched, squeaky voice. “I wanted to see what I look like when I’m asleep!”

It’s as funny as any ventriloquist act I’ve seen, and I’d rather watch an hour of this than a minute of Jeff Dunham. Still, Kris knows that Lindy is doing better than her.

Kris keeps finding Mr. Wood in weird positions, like wearing her clothes at one point and mid-choke of Slappy. Eventually, he calls Kris a jerk and is later found in the middle of the kitchen with the contents of the refrigerator strewn about with Kris’s jewelry in the food. Kris insists the dummy did it and Mrs. Powell threatens to take away the dummies if anything else goes wrong. Kris throws Mr. Wood into the closet, then she hears a voice, leading to this exchange:

“I wanted to see if I could scare you,” Lindy explained. “It was just a joke. You know. I can’t believe you fell for that voice in the closet just now! I must be a really good ventriloquist!”

“But, Lindy-”

“You really believed Mr. Wood was alive or something!” Lindy said, laughing, enjoying her victory. “You’re such a nit!”

Lindy did all these pranks after Kris got a dummy also and she did it “as a joke.” Everyone is Stine’s novels are always trying to play pranks on one another, like in Who Killed the Homecoming Queen?What kind of weird pranks were going on in his childhood and why are they always so mean? Kids don’t still do pranks like this, do they?

Kris finds a piece of paper with some weird words on it and, like a dummy (a different kind of dummy), she reads the words aloud. Then the dummy spews green bile at the student body during an assembly.

This whole time I thought Slappy and Mr. Wood are switched because I knew that Slappy is the focus of future Night of the Living Dummy novels, including a whole series called SlappyWorld (we’ll see if I ever get that far). However, Mr. Wood gets up and starts actually attacking the girls. He wants them for “slaves.” The girls try to bury him, but the next morning he’s in the kitchen, saying they’re his slaves and he attacks their dog.

Mr. Wood meets his end when a steamroller runs over his head, a green gas cloud erupting from beneath the vehicle. The girls have become closer and they enter their room together.

They entered their bedroom to find the window wide open, the curtains slapping wildly, rain pouring in. “Oh no!” Kris hurried across the room to shut the window.

As she leaned over the chair to grab the window frame, Slappy reached up and grabbed her arm.

“Hey, slave – is that other guy gone?” the dummy asked in a throaty growl. “I thought he’d never leave!”

I spent the whole book wondering when Slappy was going to reveal that he switched places with Mr. Wood and he was the truly evil one. This ending was fun but I do wonder if Slappy was even meant to continue the Dummy legacy, akin to the final scare of Friday the 13th. Jason wasn’t meant to continue onto to star in ten movies (he wasn’t the killer of Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning so that one doesn’t count (also, fuck a spoiler warning for that one – it’s the worst one and should be skipped (the best one is Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives – it just is))), a television show, a couple video games, some neat cameos, novels I might read in the future, dolls, board games, and countless other things I have yet to own.

R. L. Stine tends to always use these endings that imply that while the characters have learned something, their problems are never really over, like Stay Out of the Basement! (which I covered). Stine may not have intended Slappy to have more books, but he did and I read this book through that lens. Maybe because I knew about Slappy and I expected the book to go a certain way, I was open to being surprised after Lindy says she did all those “pranks” or, more appropriately, “therapist fodder.”

This was a fun book but I wish I could have read this without any knowledge of Slappy. There’s no way I can take away the knowledge I have about these books. And, honestly, this is a series about looking back – we cannot judge these books without the knowledge we have, no matter how hard we try to maintain cultural relativism and ignorance. However, I don’t think it’s such a bad thing or hurts the integrity of the review. This is something we all have to contend with as we interact with popular culture, especially when we’re interactive with popular culture intended for children through the eyes of an adult.

Next Time On Rereading My Childhood – Goosebumps: Legend of the Lost Legend

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 #34: Saying Yuck Weird

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.

My favorite BSC member is Mary Anne. She’s sweet, caring, unexpectedly funny, and has a real journey with her father and growing up. And finally, this week, she sent me a letter.

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It’s not quite the personalized letter I enjoy, but I’ll take it.

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You can’t tell, reader, but if only I could embed the way the voice actress says, “Yuck.” Here’s the closest I can do: “Yeauck.” Pronounce every vowel.

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Well, if the old people didn’t enjoy the kids assaulting them with hearts, they wouldn’t say anything. I bet the oldies actually enjoyed it – they like corny horrible things like child duos performing harmonica/piano music. And even if they didn’t like it, dementia will make sure they don’t remember it! Just kidding, support dementia research.

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When I do the statistics at the end of this, I’m going to figure out on average how many words Claudia misspells per entry. I think she’s trolling me.

Rereading My Childhood – A Year With the BSC #33: Hearts for Old Farts

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.

You know what we don’t do anymore? Watch a movie just because an actor or actress we like is in it. I can’t think of a single person whom I would consider my favorite actor. There are definitely actors whom I would never want to watch in a movie ever (*cough*Louie CK*cough*), but there isn’t a single actor I would watch no matter what they were in. There are actors I like, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pine, other people not named Chris. But the ’90s were a different time – we had favorite actors.

This is all to justify the random name I entered when the game asked me who my favorite actress is.

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Did I enter that Amy Poehler is my favorite actress? Yes. Would I watch anything she’s in? Baby Mama proved that the answer is no. Although, I like Abby’s idea – I should have put down Lisa Simpson. Or, more accurately if we talking about fictional characters on animated television shows, Tina Belcher.

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How big are we talking? As big as the map that the kids of Stoneybrook made for Stacey when she moved back to New York? I don’t care how blind the elderly are, that’s just too big.

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Yep, you wasted bandwidth on this .jpg.

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No, I have chocolate and Edible Arrangement related plans for Valentine’s Day. At least, I do if my partner knows what’s good for him.

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That’s actually surprising, Kristy. For me, it’s Halloween. It’s the only time I can easily get Halloween decorations. Or, as I call them, decorations. If I could, I’d have a spooky tree ghost over a graveyard of zombies all year round, but the “city” thinks that it’s “inappropriate” to have bloody body “parts” in the middle of “July.”