#33 – Claudia and the Great Search
I’m not sure why I have such an enormous soft spot for Claudia Kishi. She was always my favorite as a kid. Kid-readers tend to identify strongly with the characters who are most similar to themselves, and I probably have less in common with Claudia than with any other babysitter. But my affection for her is great nonetheless.
I made that disclaimer to explain my reaction to this book, because any book that has a plot where one of the baby-sitters thinks she is ADOPTED OMG and spends the whole book searching for her birth parents only to find out that she wasn’t really adopted is bound to be incredibly silly. And it was. But because it was Claudia, I felt bad for her and wanted to give her a hug, whereas if it were any other character, I’d be laughing at her for being so ridiculous and angsty.
I think I just feel bad for Claudia for feeling so out of place in her own family. I have so much empathy for that, even though I’m very close with my family. Whatever the reason for my bias, I have it and I own it. I heart Claudia.
Anyway, there’s a subplot where Kristy is worried that Emily Michelle is behind other two-year-olds, and how the school is struggling with teaching her because she has attachment problems. Sari Papadakis catches onto learning a game before Emily Michelle does, and the preschool program won’t take kids who aren’t toilet-trained. I’m not an expert in preschool rules or anything, but uh, not being toilet-trained as a two-year-old seems entirely normal to me.
Stacey baby-sits the Perkins girls at one point. They make chocolate-chip cookies, and the book takes pains to point out that Stacey “couldn’t taste it because of her diabetes.” I swear, these books are all over the place when it comes to Stacey’s diabetes. In an earlier book, she tells the readers that she has to eat some sweets to keep her blood sugar down, and in this one it’s so strict that she can’t taste a teaspoon of cookie dough. I don’t buy it.
Ann M. Martin promotes her fellow authors of children and YA literature by title-dropping Lois Lowry’s Find a Stranger, Say Goodbye, all about adoption. Except that book was actually good. OH SNAP.
Holy crap, Claudia doubts if she’s even Japanese. What is this. I can’t even.
At the end of the book, Mrs. Kishi explains that there are fewer baby pictures of Claudia than of Janine because Claudia is the second child, and parents’ energies are stretched farther when there are two kids. And this explanation is totally reasonable, but I’m surprised that Claudia, given her jealousy and inferiority issues re: Janine, is so accepting of it. She’s all, “Oh, well that makes sense!” Really?
More reference is made to Stacey feeling more under the weather than usual and we’re still ten original-series books away from Stacey’s Emergency (one of my favorites). Is this an actual arc I see on the horizon?
#34 – Mary Anne and Too Many Boys
This title is correct. There are too many boys in this book and it’s annoying. Mary Anne and Stacey join the Pikes for their Sea City vacation. Stacey reconnects with Toby, Mary Anne reconnects with Alex, Vanessa gets a crush on a boy at the ice cream parlor who turns out to have a crush on Mallory, and it’s all very boring.
Vanessa is really annoying. She leaves “true love forever secret admirer” poems for the twelve-year-old boy who works at the ice cream parlor, and this boy is charmed by these letters because he thinks they’re from Mal – because most twelve-year-old boys would be totally into love poems that talked about forever. I will give Vanessa this, though – she names her pet hamster Frodo, and I find that charming. My iPod is named Frodo. Not the same thing as a pet, no, but the principle is the same. Hobbits rule.
Mary Anne feels anxious about going on a “date” with Alex and ordering messy food. One of my exes once gave me the hostile silent treatment for hours after a date where I ordered a burger, because I “looked messy” eating it, and it ended in a fight where I cried and wound up apologizing to him. Obvs this food fear is all in Mary Anne’s head and not something Alex is doing, but this scene reminded me of that date. Yeah, reason #326485 why I’m relieved to not be dating that guy anymore. Emotional abuse ain’t fun, kids.
#35 – Stacey and the Mystery of Stoneybrook
Oh my god this one is so boring that I almost cried while skimming through it. Skimming, because I couldn’t handle reading it closely. This is a pseudo-sequel to Mallory and the Mystery Diary where there’s a haunted house except it’s not really a haunted house and Charlotte Johanssen (who will now be called CharJo) is flipping out because her grandpa is sick and because she has tonsillitis (remember when that was a thing?) and there’s ancient burial grounds where they paved paradise and put up a parking lot and Stacey meets an old man in a nursing home who DIES IN THE LAST CHAPTER and it’s all so dumb, and not even amusingly dumb.
Stacey also name-drops Summer of My German Soldier, The Little House, and…The Amityville Horror. So, Stacey has diverse tastes, it seems.
The only things significant about this book – Stacey mentions that her diabetes is getting harder to handle lately (foreshadowing!!), and the author “thanks” someone else in the handling of this manuscript, so I believe this is the first book penned by one of Martin’s ghostwriting elves. This is Stacey’s most boring book yet, but fortunately, the next Stacey book is awesome and one of the best of the series. I can’t wait until March.
Super Special #4 – Baby-sitters’ Island Adventure
I may have to take back what I said about the summer camp book being my favorite super special, because this one is awesomely ridiculous. Claudia and Dawn have a boating race and get shipwrecked on a teeny-tiny island off the coast of Connecticut with four baby-sitting charges, and they have to survive on their wits and a few supplies, and sleep in a cave, and catch fish and eat candy bars. None of it makes any sense or is realistic, and it is awesome.
It helps that Claudia gets to be super-competent and helpful, and that Dawn is at her least annoying ever (no, I seriously like her in this book. There’s absolutely no humblebragging about how much of an individual she is.) It also helps that the four kids with them on the boat trip are Jeff Schafer, Haley Braddock, Becca Ramsey, and Jamie Newton – four siblings/sitting charges that I like. They’re written as decent, non-annoying kids, and I think little Jamie is super cute.
This book also has a HUGE amount of asshole behavior from several characters, and it’s all kind of hilarious.
First, Jessi (who only gets one chapter in this super special even though her eight-year-old sister is missing, because Jessi is an afterthought in the author’s eyes) doesn’t want to call her parents to tell them that Becca is lost at sea because she’s afraid of ruining their vacation. Even though their EIGHT-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER IS MISSING. Let’s also acknowledge the ridiculousness in her parents leaving an eleven-year-old in charge of an eight-year-old and infant, including the nights. Her Aunt Cecelia shows up and takes over, and Jessi gets jealous and angry because Martin has given Cecelia more characterization and a more defined personality than Jessi will ever have…I mean, um, because Aunt Cecelia doesn’t trust Jessi. She complains that Aunt Cecelia moved too close to Stoneybrook for her taste after her husband died, like, way to have no sympathy for your widow aunt, Jessi.
Next, Mary Anne and Logan are both jerks. Logan asks Dawn to relay a message to Mary Anne, Dawn forgets, Mary Anne flips out and tells her favorite stepsister that she wants her out of her life. (That was way harsh, Tai.) Mary Anne is a jerk to Logan because she thinks Logan intentionally stood her up, when it turns out his brother was in the hospital. So far, I’m on Logan’s side. Then when Dawn goes missing, Logan is still being a jerk to Mary Anne for thinking that he would stand her up, and dude, seriously, your girlfriend’s stepsister is missing and it’s time to get over it. I basically hate both of them in this book.
But the biggest assholes in the book have to be a tie between Bart Taylor and Stacey’s dad. Bart thinks Kristy is canceling the Krushers/Bashers game because she thinks she’s going to lose to his team, not because her friends and baby-sitting charges are missing (JERRRK). Stacey’s dad won’t let Stacey go home from her visit in New York because this is supposed to be their weekend together (JERRRK). Actually, Stacey’s dad is the bigger jerk because he is a grown ass man and Bart at least has a tiny excuse for being a dumb teenager, but I hate that Kristy (and Stacey) both feel the need to apologize for “overreacting.” No you did NOT overreact, girls, you acted exactly as you should have! Sigh.
The characters also make several references to poor dumb Claudia and how it’s good that she was able to be so competent on the island so she could feel good about something, and it’s meant to be heartwarming but it’s really kind of condescending. I’m proud of Claudia nonetheless, though.
Martin helpfully has Dawn exposit that “we get report cards several times a year.” Martin, I think your readers know what report cards are.
Biggest sign that no one edited this book: Kristy, Mary Anne, Mallory, and Jessi have an emergency meeting to talk about their missing friends. This is a sentence that appears: “What about you, Kristy?” asked Dawn. This is when Dawn is supposed to be stranded on an island somewhere. Also, Claudia is really short in all of the illustrations even though she’s never been described that way.
Also ALSO, Claudia almost loses the first race because one of her ridiculous outfits gets caught on the sails. I can’t. It’s too funny. Still love you, Claudia, but I cannot help but laugh at your expense in this instance.
#36 – Jessi’s Baby-sitter
Notable book is notable. Why is this book notable?
First of all, this is the first time that the “fresh” slang has been used. Jessi mentions that Claudia calls something “fresh” when it’s “cool.” I will keep my eyes open for the first use of “dibbly.”
Secondly, this book is the first instance where a regular BSC follows the canon of a Super Special! I know, I couldn’t believe it myself, but it’s true. The Aunt Cecelia drama from the first book is renewed when she moves in with the Ramseys.
Sidebar: there’s an issue of Jessi being an eleven-year-old babysitter. I actually find this believable. Remember, this book was written in 1990. I remember eleven-year-olds back in 1990 that were given a lot more responsibilities than eleven-year-olds today, at least in America. A sixth-grader babysitting for younger kids for a few hours after school, in 1990? Totally plausible. The Ramseys leaving Jessi alone with Becca and Squirt for an entire weekend is some ridiculous bullshit, but for an afternoon or evening, as long as it’s not overnight? Reasonable.
Anyway, back to the plot. Aunt Cecelia moves in and is incredibly bossy and controlling over the Ramsey kids. She doesn’t trust Jessi. She thinks it was irresponsible of the parents to leave Jessi alone with Becca and Squirt (correct) and that it’s Jessi’s fault that Becca went sailing in the first place (incorrect). Jessi is resentful, because she’s a pretty responsible young adult, but because she is also only eleven, she and Becca play practical jokes on Aunt Cecelia. She calls her aunt Aunt Dictator behind her back – yet, she’s friends with Kristy Thomas.
But wait! There’s a parallel plot, where Jessi helps Jackie Rodowsky with his science project by completely taking it over because she doesn’t trust him. In other words, she treats Jackie the same way her aunt is treating her, because OMG SIMILARITIES YO. And it all culminates in a serious talk where Cecelia and Jessi find a common ground and Cecelia learns to trust Jessi.
Because – get this – Cecelia felt insecure about Jessi’s skill as a babysitter. She, this grown-ass woman who has raised children of her own, thought she wouldn’t be able to live up to Jessi as a caregiver to children.
FOR FUCK’S SAKE.
Seriously, the book should have just left it where Cecelia said that sometimes black people have to work twice as hard to prove themselves, and it’s not fair, but that’s why she was hard on the girls. That racism anvil hurts a little, but it’s at least more plausible than Cecelia feeling inferior to an eleven-year-old.
Oh, and Cecelia pranks Jessi and Becca back, which is kind of amusing.
Also amusing is the Pike triplets’ game, the Wandering Frog People. I have no idea what the game consists of or how it’s played, but that would be a pretty cool name for a hipster band.
Coming up next on Stoneybrook Revisited: Dawn meets an older boy, Kristy gets a mystery admirer and pretends to be excited, Mallory is poor, the girls go to California, and Claudia is framed for cheating on a test omg. See you in February!