Blog PostsStoneybrook Revisited: BSC Books #15-19

#15 – Little Miss Stoneybrook…and Dawn
This book is SO DUMB and I love it.

First of all, there’s the title. The title. She couldn’t just call it Dawn and Little Miss Stoneybrook? No, that wouldn’t be dramatic enough. It’s Little Miss Stoneybrook…dramatic ellipsis…wait for it…we’re not going to tell you which babysitter it is! It could be Kristy! Or Claudia! Or Mary Anne! But no, it’s…I can’t believe it!…Dawn!

I’m so glad she revealed WHICH babysitter it was in the title. I would not have been able to handle the suspense otherwise.

This is one of those random, out-there plots where all of the eighth-grade babysitters are completely stupid and irresponsible and only the sixth-graders have their heads on their shoulders. They all get insecure when Charlotte Johanssen specifically requests Claudia for a sitter, and then decide that proving themselves as babysitters depends on their proving themselves as effective stage moms for a local pageant.

Also, in a rare case of a plot following through several books, Dawn’s brother Jeff moves back to California, and Dawn and her mom are sad. Yay for continuity? Meanwhile, cool-as-a-cucumber Dawn has a miniature meltdown when she’s jealous that she didn’t get a special induction ceremony like Mal and Jessi did. WHATEVER.

And, this is the book with the eight-year-old Sabrina Bouvier, not to be confused with the later eighth-grade Sabrina Bouvier. There are two people with that name running around Stoneybrook, Connecticut, but only one Kristy Thomas. Okay then.

#16 – Jessi’s Secret Language
It’s Jessi’s first book! It’s also the first Very Special Episode Book, where Jessi gets a regular baby-sitting client in Matt Braddock, a child who is profoundly Deaf.

There’s a lot of talk in this book where Jessi can relate to Matt and Haley’s feelings of isolation because she’s black and also an outsider in their town. The analogy actually isn’t bad. I think there’s something to be said for a story that attempts to draw parallels between different types of prejudice and the ways different marginalized groups experience those prejudices. But, because this is a BSC book, the writing is a little ham-fisted and the message comes across as, “Black people and Deaf people are totes the same, y’all!”

“My family is black. I know it sounds funny to announce it like that. If we were white, I wouldn’t have to, because you would probably assume we were white.” This is a surprisingly astute observation for a BSC book. Too bad that Jessi, like the other BSC narrators, keeps describing Claudia as “exotic.”

Hmm, Jessi is not planning on becoming a professional ballet dancer in this story. She sees it as a hobby, albeit a very important one. I wonder when that changes.

Now, I’m reading this book with a fresh perspective. I took two sign language classes in college and learned about Deaf culture as well as actual signs. From what I remember, the book seems to be pretty accurate. It was a realistic choice to show how some families will learn sign language (the Braddocks) while others (Adele and Katie Beth’s family) wouldn’t.

And, Kristy? The snobby treatment you got from your neighbors when you moved to Mitt Romney’s neighborhood is NOT THE SAME as Becca’s family treated like crap because she’s black! Rrrr, I know she meant well, but I wish the book hadn’t gone there.

#17 – Mary Anne’s Bad-Luck Mystery
Oh, another “spooky” book. I am SO GLAD we have another one of these.

Mary Anne wonders how Cokie Mason got the nickname “Cokie” from “Marguerite.” I don’t get it either, M.A.

“Our president holds meetings with a pencil stuck over one ear, wearing a visor. She says she feels more official that way. I haven’t mentioned this to her, but I’ve never seen the President of the United States sitting in a director’s chair, wearing a visor.” Mary Anne snark is the best snark of all.

I’m glad that Jessi and Mal are the ones who are the most paranoid about the chain letter and superstitions. I was getting a little tired of the two eleven-year-old characters being the most mature ones in the club. Still, you know the girls are acting silly when Kristy is the sensible one.

It drives me crazy when two characters write notebook entries at the same time. I always picture them talking while they’re writing and I find it SO distracting.

“She wasn’t wearing a costume, but she had smeared green makeup on her face and stuck a plastic wart on her nose. She looked like a young, blonde witch. I told you Dawn is an individual.” …This is sarcastic, right? Mary Anne thinks that Dawn is an individual because she dressed like a witch for Halloween? Mary Anne’s girlcrush on Dawn is rather annoying and a little sad, not unlike Kristy’s real crush on Mary Anne.

#18 – Stacey’s Mistake
Stacey McGill is such an author’s pet. She’s the first character to get a fourth POV book when she’s not even a member of the club anymore.

Anyway, there are three things about Stacey’s Mistake that really stick out in my mind. I tend to like Stacey books and this one is no exception, but my favorite BSC books are usually the ones that are the most ridiculous, not the least.

First, I hate the tendency of the BSC books to make everyone apologize after a fight even if only one person’s really at fault. I get that Martin and her ghostwriters are trying to emphasize community and collaboration or whatever, but practically every time I pick up one of these books, both characters have to apologize even if one hasn’t done anything wrong. In the last super special, Kristy and Dawn both had to apologize to each other even though Kristy was the only one being a brat. In this book, Kristy has the opposite problem. This time, Claudia dances with a boy Kristy *cough* “likes,” and by the end, they both have to apologize – Claudia for taking the attention away from Kristy, and Kristy for “overreacting.” No! If a girl visibly likes a boy and then her friend starts flirting with him, she is well within her rights to be miffed at that! Why do these authors insist on making characters apologize for being angry when they’re entitled to be angry?

Second, Kristy’s eyes “light up” when she meets this boy that she winds up liking. Why? Because the boy is really into sports. All “Kristy is a lesbian” jokes aside, we’re supposed to believe that “liking sports” is such a unique quality? If being a sports fan was all Kristy needed in a man, shouldn’t she have had seventy boyfriends by now?

The third thing that strikes me is the obvious fact that no one edited this book. In the first chapter, where Stacey goes through the obligatory introductions and tells the readers about each BSC member, she makes explicit reference to the events of Little Miss Stoneybrook…and Dawn, regarding Jeff’s departure. She talks about Dawn and how she’s upset that Jeff left. In the last chapter of this book, Stacey doesn’t get why Dawn is upset, until Dawn tells her that Jeff has gone back to California. Stacey has to learn information that she already explained to the audience fourteen chapters ago. This has got to be one of the most egregious cases of NO EDITING in BSC history, and it’s only book #18. Amazing.

#19 – Claudia and the Bad Joke
What tricks our memories play on us. I don’t remember this book being so infuriating the first time I read it, but certain details didn’t stick out when I was a kid.

The most frustrating aspect of Claudia and the Bad Joke is not the way Betsy almost entirely escapes consequences for playing a prank that makes Claudia break her leg. It’s also not the way the baby-sitters decide to handle the situation by starting a prank war with Betsy, instead of doing the responsible thing by talking to her mother, or at least refusing to take on a client who caused physical harm to one of their members.

No, what infuriates me about this book is a small detail, a passing comment that happens at a meeting. It’s the first BSC meeting after Claudia comes back, and when talking about club business, Dawn reminds everyone that Claudia still owes dues from when she was in the hospital.

These assholes want Claudia to pay dues from the time she was in the hospital.

Even though she got injured on a babysitting job. Even though she couldn’t work and therefore doesn’t have money to give to dues. That doesn’t matter. These supposed “best friends you’ll ever have” want to take blood from a stone and make Claudia chip into dues even when she has a work-related injury.

The baby-sitters are jerks, y’all.

Coming up next on Stoneybrook Revisited: I read five more books, four of whom I read only once as a kid because they bored me, and one of my all-time favorites. Stay tuned!

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