Wednesday, February 12, 2014

BSC #12: Claudia and the New Girl

By Ann M. Martin. Published April 1988.

During a spelling test, which Claudia is failing spectacularly, the school secretary enters with a new student. Claudia instantly has a girl crush. Ashley is dressed like a hippie, and has six holes in her ears. Showing Ashley to her next class, Claudia learns Ashley is also an artist; she wants to be a sculptress.

Ashley ends up joining Claudia’s art class, where they just happen to be working on sculptures. Ashley looks at Claudia’s work and portfolio and pronounces her to be really talented. And Ashley should know, she had studied at a famous art school in Chicago. And when Claudia looks at Ashley’s portfolio, she’s blown away. Her girl crush grows bigger.

Their teacher announces an art show at the opening of a new gallery in four weeks, and they can all enter to win a $250 prize. Claudia doesn’t think anything she’s currently working on will work, and she doesn’t have enough time to start a new one. But Ashley says she’ll help her.

Claudia sits for the Rodowskys, and of course there’s a Jackie incident. He gets his hand stuck down the bathtub drain, behind a locked door. Claudia has to climb up on the doghouse, to the top of the shed, to open the second floor window. And then use margarine to release Jackie. But they get him out. When they’re all playing outside, Ashley comes over. She lives next door. She wants to just what the hell Claudia is doing, and she makes it pretty clear she thinks baby-sitting is a waste of time. Girl is strictly devoted to her art, and makes Claudia question just how devoted she is.

Ashley asks Claudia to sit just with her at lunch, but Claudia has to tell the BSC first. I think here is where we start seeing the cult come about. Claudia actually uses the word defected. Although, that’s a really good word for her, so yay, Claud. Anyway, they talk about their art, the go to an art show after school. This makes Claudia fifteen minutes late to the BSC meeting. Nobody is very happy with her, and Stacey’s starting to get jealous.

The Jeff problems are continuing, and he has to call Dawn from school while she’s sitting for the Perkins. She has to load up the girls and go talk to Jeff’s teacher, because he can’t get ahold of their mom. I wouldn’t accept talking to his thirteen-year-old sister if I was his teacher, but this is BSC-land. Thirteen-year-olds can practically get married. Anyway, Dawn and the girls get back after Mrs. Perkins, and Dawn didn’t think to leave a note. I would think she should get in some trouble for this, but she doesn’t.

Claudia’s ditching the BSC again, this time to walk downtown with Ashley to look for inanimate objects to be their subjects. When she realizes it’s getting late, she calls Dawn to fill in for her. When she goes to bed that night, she finds a note under her pillow that says, “Everyone at school thinks Ashley is weird. Just thought you should know. –Kristy” That’s kind of creepy, Kristy.

Then Claudia misses yet another meeting. I love how they talk about Dawn having to take over Claudia’s duties. She doesn’t have any duties. They spend most of the meeting bitching about Claudia and Ashley. Stacey says Ashley wore bell-bottoms to school like it’s the end of the world.

Then Claudia misses another meeting, and unintentionally lies to Stacey. Stacey writes a scathing note in the notebook, and then all the girls pull some mean girl shit, leaving mean notes all over her room, and eating then hiding her snacks.

Claudia sits for the Rodowskys again, and Ashley comes over again. Pretty much just to rain on Claudia’s parade, telling her what a waste of time and talent this is. They get into a a fight about what it means to be a friend. After Ashley leaves, Claudia realizes she hasn’t been a good friend to the BSC. And she decides she wants to sculpt Jackie’s head.

She returns the next day to sketch Jackie, and finds Mary Anne sitting. They’re civil to each other, and are almost friendly, until Ashley shows up again. She gets really mad that Claudia’s subject is Jackie, and that she’s not using any of Ashley’s advice. But Claudia stands up to her, and Mary Anne is impressed.

At home, Claudia makes a few to-do lists. She takes care of her friends list right away. She calls Ashley to try to explain how busy her life is, but Ashley doesn’t want to hear it. But she calls and apologizes to Stacey, who gladly accepts. Then she calls Kristy, who doesn’t act like she believes her.

She decides to pull herself out of the art show. She doesn’t think she has enough time, with trying catch up on schoolwork. She breaks the news to Jackie, that her won’t be in the show. He’s disappointed, but loves her anyway.

Claudia actually makes it to a BSC meeting, and makes a very heartfelt apology. Mary Anne cries. It’s all good.

Claudia’s art teacher was sneaky, and entered her sculpture for her, as a work-in-progress. Claudia’s nervous that people will laugh at it. But her family and all her friends come to support her. Ashley, of course, wins first place. But Claudia gets an honorable mention, and her teacher says she would have won had she finished. Everyone is very proud of her.

Claudia’s back to sitting at the lunch table with the BSC, but asks Ashley to join them. She and Kristy bond over calling the cafeteria food smelly and disgusting. Claudia knows she and Ashley will never be best friends, but maybe sometimes friends.

o   Claudia’s English class is studying Newbery Award books. That sounds like a good time to me. I like Claudia, but I think she can be awfully closed-minded at times.

o   Style-wise, I think Ashley was just ahead of her time. I remember rocking those boots on the cover in seventh grade (94-95), and then bell-bottoms coming back probably the next year.

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