Monday, June 30, 2014

BSC Mystery #2: Beware, Dawn!

By Ann M. Martin, ghostwritten by Ellen Miles. Published November 1991.

Dawn is sitting at the Hobarts’, and she and little Johnny are chilling, looking at Highlights, while James and Mathew (yes, one ‘t’) are playing with those assholes Mel and Zak. And they are continuing to be assholes, calling the boys “Crocs” still. Even after Dawn yells at them. Dawn actually tells Mrs. Hobart about it. She says she’ll call their mothers.

And where is big brother Ben? Oh, you know, at the library with Mallory. Be careful, you two! It’s not time for your infamous card catalog fight yet. Anyway, the other girls get totally fangirly over this latest development. They ship the two gingers hard.

Dawn sits for the Thomas-Brewers (Kristy is going shopping for new jeans and a turtleneck), and David Michael takes a picture of her. He tells her it will look good in the paper, if she wins Sitter of the Month. What the what? Mrs. Newton is helping run this contest, where the kids will vote on which sitter is the nicest and most fun. What makes anyone think this is a good idea? And shouldn’t you maybe inform the actual sitters?

Anyway, Dawn thinks she’s on her way to winning, because she made Karen be the bellhop for once during “Let’s All Come In”, and David Michael actually had fun for once.

Of course, the news about the contest spreads fast, and it’s the topic of conversation at the next meeting. Everyone admits they would like to win. But they mainly agree that things tend to go badly when they get competitive with each other, bringing up the science fair and Little MissStoneybrook Pageant. Kristy, being Kristy, points out that she likes to win, though. And Dawn starts thinking about the best way to impress the Rodowsky boys.

Dawn is sitting at the Prezziosos’, and I guess she’s pandering for votes from us, because she keeps insisting she’s being just oh so patient with Jenny. She’s really not, though. She’s getting irritated pretty easily with Jenny telling her how to take care of Andrea. She finally has enough, and sends Jenny downstairs while she puts Andrea down. She hears the phone ring, and she yells at Jenny to get it. Dawn…she’s four. When she finally gets downstairs, Dawn asks who it was. Jenny replies “Mr. Nobody”. Well, ok then.

And then Jenny is AWESOME. She gives Dawn some of her own bitch medicine and totally ignores Dawn, and won’t even share her crayons. Boo-yah! That’s some four-year-old hate right there.

After she gets Jenny in bed and started on her own homework, the doorbell rings. Nobody’s there, except an envelope. Inside is a letter, with cutout letters that says: You’d better watch out, you’d better not shout! I’m going to get you. Mr. X. Oooh, creepy. I don’t know why Dawn automatically assumes it’s for her. There was no name on it. It’s not her house. Anyway, she’s not going to tell anyone, not even the other girls. Because the Sitter of the Month needs to be somebody who is “in control”. Oh, Dawn. Priorities. Getcha’ some.

Dawn has her job at the Rodowskys’, and gets a couple of hang up calls. She decides it must be Alan Gray, because of how he fucked withKristy back in the day. Then there’s a letter left on the doorstep again. Jackie and Shea see it, so she opens it in front of them. This one says I’m watching you. Dawn tells them it’s just a boy teasing her, but Shea suggests she call the police. Because Shea is not a dumbass. But she ignores him. Later, she does call Alan, to shut this shit down. But he’s in Stamford for the night, so he couldn’t be the one doing it.

Jessi sits for her brother and sister, and Becca talks her into letting them watch a scary movie, by telling Jessi she doesn’t know who she’s voting for yet. So they watch it, and get freaked out, of course. Becca goes to bed. Jessi gets a hang up phone call, and then the doorbell rings. There’s a bunch of empty stems with the flower heads cut off, and a note saying Best wishes from your secret admirer. Mr. X. So now she’s doubly freaked out. And of course, she decides to keep it to herself.

Mary Anne and Mallory are siting at the Pikes’, and get a letter saying Do you like your hamster? If you do, you’d better keep an eye on him. Mr. X. The dumbasses let the kids see it, so they spend all night “protecting” Frodo. And Mary Anne and Mal decide not to say anything.

But that night, Dawn hears noises in the secret passage, and runs into Mary Anne’s room. Mary Anne starts freaking out that Mr. X is in their house. So she and Dawn have to tell each other their stories. And…they decide to keep it secret.

Kristy sits for the Kormans on Friday the thirteenth. There’s a storm. The lights go out for a little while. That’s all that happens.

At the next meeting, Dawn accidentally lets something slip about Mr. X. So she has to explain. And it turns out everyone but Kristy has had an experience with Mr. X. They all admit that their keeping it a secret has to do with wanting to be Sitter of the Month. Then Dawn starts to get suspicious about Kristy. She knows Kristy really wants to win.

Claudia sits for Charlotte, and gets one phone call. Then she hears something outside. She throws the door open, and there’s no envelope. But there is baked beans spread all over the porch. That’s just really fucking random.

Dawn sits for the Newtons, and Jamie wants to only play in the front yard. And he doesn’t want to take a walk, and he lets it slip that it’s because Mel will be coming by for a baby-sitter check, for the contest. And so Dawn just knows, because she is SO smart, that Mel is Mr. X. He still gets one by her, though, leaving one of Lucy’s dolls on the front porch, decapitated. Well, that’s kind of sick.

Dawn reports back to Kristy, and she declares the next meeting an emergency meeting.

So they come up with a “genius” plan. Dawn spreads the word that she’ll be sitting for her cousin, all alone at her house. They figure Mel will try to scare her using the secret passage, since every kid in the neighborhood knows about it. That’s…safe. And they still haven’t gotten a lock for it? You’d think Richard would be all over that.

Anyway, all the girls sneak over to Dawn’s early that evening, and talk until they hear footsteps in the passage. Half the girls go to the barn, and half up to Dawn’s room. Dawn throws open the door, and there’s Mel. He runs away, but the others trap him at the other end.

Mel breaks down in tears, and they realize he’s just a kid, so they go easy on him. He confesses everything as Dawn and Kristy walk him home. He was upset with the sitters because he got in trouble over calling the Hobarts names. He got grounded for two months, and if he gets in any more trouble, he has to go to a psychiatrist. Well, guess what, Mel? You’re in more trouble. Kristy tells him it won’t be bad, though.

The girls are so damn proud of themselves, they think it deserves a pizza toast.

At their next meeting, it gets crashed by a bunch of the kids. They’re there to announce the winner of the Sitter of the Month contest. And guess what? It’s a tie! Between all seven of them!

Gag me. I am so done with this book.

o   Y’all, Highlights magazine is still in print. That just makes me really happy.

o   So I’m wondering, is Croc offensive? Is it just the way they’re using it? I know I have Australian readers, let me know. I’m just curious. And then, what is more offensive: the way they’re using it, or the way it would be used today, in the form of a really ugly shoe?

o   Sigh. 34 more mysteries to go.

Friday, June 27, 2014

BSC #49: Claudia and the Genius of Elm Street

By Ann M. Martin, ghostwritten by Peter Lerangis. Published November 1991.

Claudia starts the book by totally overanalyzing a commercial. It’s little things like that that make me love Claudia. But the commercial has a very cute little girl in it. Gosh, I wonder if that will come into play later…

The commercial is during an Andy Warhol documentary, which Claudia is watching to get inspiration. And she gets it. She has a sudden burst of genius, and comes up “Junk Food Fantasy”. Two of Claudia’s worlds have collided.

At their meeting that day, they get a call from a new client, Mrs. Wilder. She needs a regular sitter three days a week, for a few weeks for her daughter, Rosie. And since Claudia is the narrator of this book, she gets the job. That’s an unwritten rule of the BSC. Claudia’s not sure how the job will go; Mrs. Wilder sounds a bit strange, pronouncing schedule like “shed-yule” and shit like that, and she also mentioned Rosie’s career.

When she meets Rosie, Claudia learns Rosie does math club, science club, tap, ballet, voice, violin, and piano. Plus commercials and modeling. Ginger Wilder was ahead of her time when it comes to overscheduling her kid; she’d fit in great now. Claudia is a bit overwhelmed. Rosie goes back to practicing piano, and Claudia says to let her know if Rosie needs her. Rosie’s all, why would I need you? Ha, I love Rosie. Claudia does not. She’s feeling all insecure as Rosie shows off all her talents. Then feels worse when she can’t help Rosie with her homework. And then Rosie corrects Claud’s spelling on a note. Well, Claudia, honestly. I don’t think any of us here would have been able to resist that.

On Claudia’s second day, she’s determined to not let Rosie get to her. When they’re having a snack, Claudia realizes that Rosie is the little girl from the commercial. What a surprise! Anyway, the first thing Rosie needs is help with her science homework, so Claudia calls Janine over. Janine and Rosie have a good old sciencey time, while Claudia sits there and draws a Twinkie. Then Rosie’s tap and voice teachers come over, to help her rehearse for an upcoming audition. Rosie has a dance room in the basement that I think Jessi would be jealous of, btw. After rehearsal, Rosie asks to see if she can see what Claudia’s been working on. She gives a bit of critique, and then says she likes to draw sometimes. Claudia asks if she’d like to draw with her, and Rosie says no.

There’s one day that Claudia can’t make it, so Stacey takes the job. And Rosie’s the same little ray of sunshine. On today’s agenda, Rosie’s agent is coming over with Uncle Dandy. He has an upcoming talent TV show starring kids from central Connecticut. I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve always gotten a faint pedo vibe from Uncle Dandy. Anyway, Rosie goes through her various skills, tap dancing first, then piano, then violin. And then it’s time to act. She has a scene to do, not a prepared monologue. Really? Someone who goes on that many auditions doesn’t have a monologue prepared at all times? Whatever. Rosie wrangles Stacey in to read the part of her father, and she feels ridiculous. But Rosie gets really dramatic, bringing the tears and everything. The agent and Uncle Dandy then leave, saying he’ll definitely be using her. Stacey can’t tell if the tears in Rosie’s eyes are left over from the scene or real. Rosie goes straight to her room, to work on a project.

They talk about Rosie’s attitude at the next meeting. Stacey observes that it doesn’t seem that she actually enjoys what she’s doing. They wonder if her parents are pushing her too hard. Then Kristy, of all people, totally derails the conversation. All because she’s getting another damn Great Idea™. She loves the work Claud is doing on her “Junk Food Fantasy” paintings, and she thinks they should put on a show. They’ll all help Claudia clean out her garage for it. Totes random, Kristy.

There comes another day when Claud can’t sit for Rosie, so Jessi takes it, everyone assuming they’ll connect over dance. But, not so much. Rosie has a crossword competition (I had no idea this was a thing) at school, so she asks Jessi if she’s good at vocabulary, and to help her with a puzzle. Jessi doesn’t live up to Rosie’s high standards however, so Jessi calls Janine in to help again. Janine knows a lot, of course, but Rosie’s attitude comes to the forefront, and Janine gets irritated. After she leaves, Rosie throws a fit and says she only wants Claudia sitting for her, because she likes her best. Well, ok then.

On Saturday, all the girls are over at Claudia’s working on invitations for the art show, while Claud works on a painting of Gummi Worms. Then they get started cleaning out the garage, and soon everyone’s complaining. Claudia wonders why they’re helping if they don’t like it. Stacey says there’s no law that you have to like everything you do. That reminds Claudia of Rosie.

At her next job, Claudia and Rosie are at the kitchen table, working on candy sketches and crosswords, respectively. Rosie keeps asking Claudia for help, until Claud just tells her no, because she doesn’t know the answers anyway. So Rosie continues on her own while Claud concentrates on a Mounds bar. Rosie watches her, then rips off a piece of drawing paper. After a while, Claudia looks up, and sees that Rosie is drawing the Mounds bar, too, and she’s really good. And she actually looks happy and relaxed. Claudia compliments her, and Rosie tells her this is what she really likes to do. Then they hear her dad come in, and Rosie freaks, hides her paper under Claudia’s, and gets back to her puzzle before her dad enters the room.

Claudia is excited. Rosie asked her to come along with her family to the taping of Uncle Dandy’s Star Machine. Uncle Dandy is super corny, and the Wilder parents aren’t impressed with the other kids. Rosie is up last, and plays a classical piece on the piano, then plays a slow Broadway song and sings along. She is awesome, of course. A bigger agent gives them his information. The Wilders are impressed, but Rosie likes the agent she has now. On the way home, Rosie asks for ice cream, but her parents say no; Rosie has a rehearsal early in the morning. Rosie starts crying, saying she wants to be a normal kid. Her parents don’t say anything. Awkward moment for Claud.

Claudia brings Mary Anne along to the crossword competition. There are a lot of BSC clients there to watch. Right. I’m sure a whole crowd of kids wants to watch three kids fill in crossword puzzles. A bunch of kids make fun of Rosie, and actually boo her when she’s introduced. And then they’re really bummed when she wins. Rosie cries on the way home, but Claudia and Mary Anne make her feel better. When they get back to the Wilders’, they have time before Rosie’s voice lesson, so they sit down to draw. They’re having such a good time, they don’t hear Rosie’s parents come in.

Her parents are proud she won the competition, but want to know why she isn’t getting ready for her lesson, and frittering away her time drawing. Poor Rosie gets so upset, she screams that she hates her life, and runs to her room. Claudia tries to get them to see how truly talented Rosie is at drawing, and tells them that she’s qualified about knowing these things, telling them about studying with McKenzie Clarke. They’ve heard of him, so a light bulb switches on, and they start wondering if Rosie could study with him. Claudia sees why Rosie didn’t want her parents to know about her drawing; she knew they’d push her at it like with everything else.

Claudia tells the Wilders about her upcoming show, and asks if Rosie can be a part of it with her sketches. They guess it’s alright. But when Claud talks to her privately, Rosie is very excited. But Claudia makes her promise that she’ll talk to her parents about what she actually wants to do and not do.

So Saturday is their show, and it goes very well, of course. Aside from Alan Gray showing up and making fun of it, putting up his own gross drawings, and dropping chewed gum all over the ground. But there’s not much you can do about him, except kick him out. Claudia actually ends up selling two paintings. Before Rosie leaves to go on a go-see, Claudia asks if she’s talked to her parents yet. She hasn’t, but she will.

On her last scheduled job for the Wilders, Rosie tells Claudia she didn’t get that part she auditioned for, but she’s really not upset about it. They do an art project, and have fun with that. They take a walk, and Rosie tells Claud she had the talk with her parents. They actually seemed like they understood, and asked her what she wanted to do. She picked one school thing, one performance thing, and one creative thing. Math club, violin, and art classes. And guess who her teacher can be? Too bad there’s no continuity with that, at least that I can remember. Oh well. They actually end the book skipping back home.

o   Janine’s so damn nice in this book. I will always love her.

o   Girls, I wish you would remember these words of Claudia’s: ”We may be excellent baby-sitters, but that doesn’t mean we’re good at everything.” See, sometimes I think Claudia is actually the smartest one.

o   Aha, finally! And right after I asked about it in my last BSC post. Uncle Dandy’s Star Machine is filmed in Hartford. There ARE other Connecticut cities besides Stamford!