Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Baby-Sitters Club: The Summer Before

So, gentle readers, I have finally done what any decent recapper would have done 5 years ago. I have read the BSC prequel published by Ann M. Martin back in 2010. I knew it was out there but I put it off, because really, did we need a prequel? Wasn’t Kristy’s Great Idea basically the prequel to BSC? Did we need more origin story?

The answer, after all, is yes. This was not a bad book! So as a special welcome back (to me) present, I’m recapping it for you. Along with offering a promise to get back into recapping regularly, 2009-style. I’ve moved, (yes, again) back home for good. I’m settled about 30 minutes from the Midwestern hometown I fled almost a decade and a half ago. I’m rebuilding relationships I thought were done for good. I’ve had a good run, in my beloved NYC, in other areas of the country for the last few years, and when circumstances, both good and bad, conspired to offer me the chance to try going home again, I felt I had to give it a chance. And so I find myself, 6 months later, feeling like Stacey returning to NYC or Dawn back to California, trying to navigate the old and new and reconcile the person I am now with the person I was then, and figure out where my home is and what my life will be in my new-old environment. So, I may as well recap the BSC while I do all this, no?

So let’s escape, back to Stoneybrook with a dash of NYC, to a more idyllic time. This book plays like a super-special, with different POV chapters and intertwining stories. There’s no Dawn (sad!), no Jessi (meh), and Mallory is limited to a fourth-grader no one cares about (yay!) Everybody’s dealing with change, and if I remember the summer after my sixth grade year correctly, a lot of it seems pretty plausible. There’s not a ton of action, but the good part is that this is old-school Ann M, none of that ghostwriter crap. There’s also CONSIDERABLE attention paid to continuity, and mad props for that!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Nobody's going to tell Kristy what to do-- especially not the Snobs!

The Baby-Sitters Club #11: Kristy and the Snobs

This is another old favorite. Not sure if it has anything to do with the story or the fact that it introduces the awesomely snarky Shannon Kilbourne and The Fabulous Amanda Delaney and her $400 cat, Priscilla,, or the fact that I just always really liked the super-preppy pleated skirt/sweater vest combos worn by Shannon and Amanda on the front cover. All the stuff with Louie in this book is actually really sad, even though I have a heart of stone. And also, if you really think about it, the life of the Thomas kids is kind of sad… so much change in such a short time—Elizabeth remarrying, gaining Watson, Karen (ugh), and Andrew as family members, moving across town, adjusting to new wealth (not that I’d mind that), and now their dog, one of the last few connections to their previous life, having to be put down. I am shocked they’re as well-adjusted as they are… one of them is going to come unhinged at some point (my money’s on Kristy.)

Also, a few life updates of my own! I have moved (yes, again) to a location much further south than I’ve ever lived, although I’m told this “Isn’t really the South.” Whatever. People call me ma’am and dress up for college football games. It’s the South. It’s nice to be back in an actual city-- a city 1/25th the size of my beloved NYC, but none the less, a city with more than one grocery store, coffee shop, and restaurant, and one in which the possibility of actually meeting a nice single man around my age with all his teeth and no children yet at least seems mildly feasible. I don’t ask for a lot, people.

Anyway, back in Stoneybrook, KT and the Thomas clan have slowly adjusted to life in the mansion, but as school starts again, Kristy finds herself having run-ins with the local tweens (who apparently were all away at camp all summer. Kristy would “kill” her mom if she ever sent her to camp… Conveniently forgetting the forthcoming “Summer Vacation” set-up!) Anyway, if there’s one thing Kristy hates, it’s a snob. Also, squirrels. She does not explain that little aside, but I feel like there’s a story there. As if, perhaps, one time in college Kristy was studying outside on the quad with some friends and a squirrel actually ran onto her blanket and stole the bag of cookies they were eating, causing significant shrieking and general consternation, and also leaving them snack-less. Little bastard. Not that I know anyone to whom that has happened…

So, Kristy’s first encounter with Shannon comes while waiting at the bus stop, when Shannon and her friends are whispering and looking at Kristy and generally being middle-school-aged girls. They ask Kristy if she’s “Mr. Brewer’s new kid” who’s been sending around baby-sitting fliers and she takes offense and there’s some typical 8th-grade back and forth and the encounter ends with Kristy being called “Jerkface” and Shannon being called “Snob” and me pouring another glass of wine.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

She baby-sits, she recycles---She's Super-Dawn!

The Baby-Sitters Club #57: Dawn Saves the Planet

Oh, Dawn. I think the reason I have a copy of this book is because my mom bought it as a gift for me when I was going through my own "Budding Environmentalist" phase, wherein I subscribed to Ranger Rick (does anyone else remember that magazine? I loved it! and side note, I just learned it still exists!) and yelled at my dad every time he threw away the newspaper. And then I grew up, and realized environmentalist girl really wasn't me, and now I'm the kind of person who sometimes forgets/is too lazy to put her empty wine bottles in the blue bin instead of the black one, and is probably going to hell. See you there.

List of things that are going wrong with the environment at this very moment (1992), as written by Mrs. Gonzalez, "who is very cool and has long dark hair that she wears in a thick braid down the center of her back" (Ok, this is relevant how? Is this some sort of standard for being cool? Someone enlighten me!) and as read aloud to the rest of the class by Dawn the brown-noser:
  • Acid Rain and Air Pollution
  • Vanishing Animal Life
  • Too Much Garbage
  • Water Pollution
Yeah, acid rain has really come back to bite us in the butt, huh? This book is so old! Not that it wasn't/isn't a problem, but when was the last time you really heard anything about acid rain? I'm surprised there's no mention of the "Greenhouse Effect". No mention of Global Warming or Climate Change anywhere. So old-school! (And I'm going to say right now, since I'm going to be making fun of a lot in this book, that does not mean I intend to make light of environmental issues. I fully accept and support that these issues exist and need to be addressed politically, socially, and ethically. But can we all agree to do that while still making fun of Dawn for being such a crunchy granola hippy?)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Only Jessi knows what's really wrong with Mary.

The Baby-sitters Club #61: Jessi and the Awful Secret

Ah, lovely. Another yawn-inducing episode of “Intrigue at the Dance Studio” starring everyone’s favorite (black) ballerina, Jessi Ramsey.

We open in the dance studio and are hit immediately with Madame Noelle’s accent and Jessi’s musings on how wonderful she is at ballet. We are also treated throughout this book to lengthy explanations of multiple ballet moves, as well as phonetic pronunciations of the French names. Forget Livemocha, I’ll just add French to the long list of things I’ve learned from the BSC. Turns out Jessi’s dance school is offering a free 6-week class to some underprivileged kids from Stamford and Mme. Noelle needs volunteers. Pretty much the whole class balks at giving up 6 weeks of their lessons to help some dumb kids, but Mme. Noelle clearly knows she’s not teaching at Juilliard, as she reminds her students that they’re probably going to end up as teachers at some point in their career (Because those who can’t do, teach. Not that I necessarily believe that, but hey, I’ve seen “A Chorus Line.” I was also one of the approximately eight people who watched Bunheads this summer. I think this qualifies me to speak on the matter.)

Jessi volunteers, obviI, and so does Mary, this other girl from her class and subject of the titular awful secret, which is anorexia. For the record, here’s my awful secret: I. Do. Not. Care. At. All. About Mary and her awful secret. Maybe if it were Katie Beth, instead of some tertiary character we’ll never hear from again. (Katie Beth is awesome. She’s the Cokie Mason of Mme. Noelle’s dance studio.) Or poor sad sack Carrie who’s about to graduate from dance school without ever having the lead in a ballet because she keeps losing out on them to our intrepid 11-year-old (black) heroine. Wouldn’t that seem like more compelling motivation for an eating disorder?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Campfires, ghost stories-- summer vacations are the best!

The Baby-sitters Club Super Special #8: Baby-sitters at Shadow Lake

Good God, y’all. I know it’s been a while, but a lot has been happening in my life since I last abandoned you. I finished grad school. I attended my college reunion. I cheered on more friends than I care to count as they took the next steps that so far continue to elude moi: weddings, babies, book contracts, home ownership, laser eye surgery. I knew I had to do something, so here it is: I moved halfway across the country to take a new job, one where I am not disrespected and mistreated on a daily basis. I pulled a Stacey McGill (Original recipe and version 3.0)—I woke up one day and found myself leaving behind my comfortable, New York City life—a life of brunch and bridges and Broadway—and venturing back into Tinytown, USA, a world of SUVs and Applebee’s and carefully cultivated elm trees. I live in the Midwest again. Please don’t hate me.

The Tinytown library is a lot different from the NYPL and it contains very few BSC books. Plus, it took several months for me to work up the courage to venture inside. The people there… talk to you. It’s very awkward, if you believe, like me, that libraries, and indeed most public spaces, should be spaces of silence. They’re… friendly. It’s weird. Check-out lady, I don’t know you from Adam. I don’t need your views on the county fair. They’re… kind of slow and inefficient. (Must be all that talking.)

So, yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m known around here as “That bitch from New York.” But you know what? I’m okay with that label, because I’m pretty sure a certain Ms. Stacey McGill was also known by that moniker. Of course, lucky duck that she was, she eventually got to return.

Okay then! All that said, we’re diving back in with Super Special #8: Baby-sitters at Shadow Lake. I have reread this one many times. It’s long been one of my favorites, but until this read-through, I never took the time to pinpoint exactly why. It’s got all sorts of great stuff: sappy Stacey/Sam (Stam? Samcey?) moments, everyone treating Mallory like the dipshit she is, Dawn freaking out about ghosts, and minimal Mary Freakin’ Anne. Most importantly, everyone in this book is hysterically bitchy to each other. It’s phenomenal.

So Watson gets a letter from his ostensibly long-lost aunt and uncle with whom he used to spend summers at their cabin on Shadow Lake. Right off the bat I think there’s something weird about this, because the aunt (whose letter is written out as a prologue, and may I just say, she has lovely handwriting.) is all “Your uncle and I hope to meet Karen, Andrew, your new wife, and her children… We want to see what the boy we remember has become.” Well Aunt Faith, for starters, he’s become a millionaire. But if he’s that important to you, why haven’t you seen him since he was twelve? Were you not at either of his weddings? You only live in Pennsylvania, and you don’t seem to be particularly infirm, even if you are re-evaluating your will. Anyway, this is another example of me getting hung up on the first two pages of the book when there’s so much more goodness to come, so long story short: Aunt Faith and Uncle Pierson want to leave Watson their summer cabin on Shadow Lake in the mountains of western Massachusetts  (there are mountains in Massachusetts? My geography knowledge is further evidence of the decline of America’s schools) when they die, but only if he wants it. They suggest that he take his family on a vacation there to see if they like it.

So Watson not only takes his family, but 10 of his children’s nearest and dearest friends, including all six BSC-ers and 2 friends each for David Michael and The Insufferable Karen Brewer.  Luckily, this cabin sleeps 20-some people.