Wednesday, June 25, 2014

BSC #48: Jessi's Wish

By Ann M. Martin. Published October 1991.

And now for a Very Special Episode of The Baby-sitters Club. Or, Ann Wants to Be Like Lurlene Lite.

Jessi tells us Becca is part of an afterschool club called the Kids-Can-Do-Anything Club. They fortunately shorten it just to Kids Club. I was not looking forward to writing that out a lot. Charlotte, Vanessa, and Nicky are also part of the club. Even though we’ve never heard a peep about it before, the club has been going on for a while. They basically do things to help people. A bunch of goody-goodies, pretty much. Like picking up trash in an empty lot, and now they’re working on a toy drive for the hospital.

On this particular day, Becca comes home from her meeting bummed as hell. First, one of the two teachers in charge is going on a long trip with her husband (just like that? In the middle of the school year? What?), and the other teacher doesn’t think he can handle the club alone. Also, Vanessa told Becca that one of the kids in the hospital used to be a club member. Her name is Danielle Roberts, and she has leukemia. It freaks Becca out that someone just a year older than her can get cancer, and she worries about getting it herself. Jessi calms her fears, and then wonders what she can do to help. Fortunately, she’s got the BSC to talk to.

So at the next meeting, Jessi has a proposal. She suggests they all take the next month off from baby-sitting, and spend it volunteering. Say what? But shockingly, the rest of the club thinks it’s a good idea. They schedule an emergency meeting for Saturday, and by then they should have their volunteer activities lined up.

Jessi goes to the Kids Club after their meeting and meets Mr. Katz, the teacher that’s staying. She offers herself up (not like that, you sickos!), and he suggests a trial period. If everyone’s happy after four meetings, she can stay on until Ms. Simon returns. Jessi is good with that.

Kristy will be volunteering at a daycare center. She’s not sure what she’ll be doing exactly. Dawn will be working at the Baker Institute in Stamford. It’s a program for kids who are physically disabled. Stacey is helping with a new diabetes clinic. She’ll be talking with kids who have been newly diagnosed. Claudia is going to help teach an art class at the community center. Of course. Mary Anne is helping with a friend of her dad’s who has a brain damaged son, working with him (doing what? What is she qualified to do?) and helping out with the other two kids. And Mal will be helping with a recreation program at the park.

Now, I’m all for the girls volunteering and doing good. But there’s something about this that sits wrong with me. With Jessi at least, a month is all she’ll actually be needed for. But it feels weird to me that the other girls are going to be all helpful and shit for a month, and then pull their assistance away, after they’ve worked long enough to make themselves feel good. If these places need help, they need help all the time. But I guess, really, it’s not different from fulfilling community service hours. So, I don’t know.

What’s going to happen to the BSC during this time, you may be asking yourselves. Don’t worry, they’ve got it all figured out. The girls aren’t all volunteering everyday, so whoever is available will attend meetings, and they’ll depend more on Shannon and Logan more for a month.

Jessi attends her first Kids Club meeting, and Mr. Katz reads them thank you letters from the kids in the hospital, including one from Danielle. She says she’ll get to come home soon. The kids decide that they’re probably lonely in the hospital, so their next project is to become pen pals with them. They also take pictures to send to them.

Kristy goes to the daycare center, and is told to just float around. Everyone needs help, and she can decide on where she normally wants to work. The first place she stops is the homework room, and a kid asks her how to spell Michelangelo and Donatello. She asks him if he’s working on a report about famous artists. Kristy. Honestly. I don’t think you know kids as well as you think you do. It’s 1991. It’s obviously about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Anyway, she works pretty much anywhere, and decides she likes the babies the best.

At Jessi’s third meeting, Danielle comes back. She’s wearing a headscarf and a shirt that says Bald is Beautiful. Jessi doesn’t really agree though; she thinks Danielle looks odd and like a little old man. Nice, Jessi. The other kids are weird around her at first, but Danielle lets them ask questions and answers them all. Then they get to work on their letters. Jessi talks to Danielle while she works on hers, and Danielle, apropos of nothing, tells Jessi her wish is to graduate from fifth grade and for her family to go to Disney World. As Danielle leaves that day, Jessi thinks her wish is for Danielle to recover.

The BSC has an unofficial meeting in Dawn and Mary Anne’s barn. They haven’t all been together in two weeks! Oh noes! They get all caught up on each other’s volunteering. Jessi shares Danielle’s wishes. Mary Anne tells her about a place in Stamford (why is everything in Stamford? Why not New Haven or Hartford?) called Your Wish is My Command. They grant wishes for sick kids. Jessi thinks that sounds awesome, and calls them as soon as she gets home, asking them a ton of questions. Then she calls Mrs. Roberts and tells her all about it.

Karen, Margo, and Jackie are all part of Claudia’s art class. What an odd grouping of kids. They’re working on pottery, and they’re going to actually glaze it and fire it in a kiln. Karen is making a jungle, and gets the other kids to believe that her jungle is alive. Claudia says it’s too bad, they can’t glaze and fire live things. So Karen quickly changes her mind. It’s a boring, throwaway chapter.

The older kids are still acting strange about Danielle, but Becca and Charlotte have become good friends with her. Becca asks them both over one Saturday, and they have a really good time, and get pretty rowdy. Danielle overtires herself though, and kind of freaks Jessi and her parents out. She insists she’s fine, though. Jessi feels she has to tell Mrs. Roberts when she picks Danielle up, but she says it happens, and Danielle knows what to do. She also tells Jessi that Danielle is officially on Your Wish is My Command’s wish list.

Jessi passes her four meeting trial period. Yay.

Danielle comes into a meeting unbelievably excited. Her wish has been granted; she and her family are going to Disney World. Everyone gets excited for her, and crowd around her to talk about it. Jessi and Mr. Katz notice that nobody is acting weird with her anymore. Then one girl notices that Danielle’s hair is growing back, and it’s redder than it was before. Danielle gets brave, and completely pulls off her scarf. Everyone is really cool about it, and say they like it.

Danielle has a great time, and brings everyone presents. She gives Jessi a star on a necklace, telling her it’s a wishing star, since Jessi helped her get her wish. Good lord, it’s getting a little maudlin up in here.

Jessi’s last day working with the Kids Club comes, and there’s bad news. Danielle isn’t there, and the rumor is she’s back in the hospital. Charlotte and Becca start crying, and Jessi has to take them out. The club then writes Danielle letters.

That night, Jessi can’t concentrate on her homework. Her mother suggests she write to Danielle herself. Jessi asks if she could call her, but her mom says that’s not a good idea. But she does approve of calling the Robertses at home. Jessi gets her six-year-old brother Greg. She asks him questions, but he doesn’t really want to talk. So she hangs up. Why the hell wouldn’t she ask to talk to his parents? They know her! What did she expect to get out of a little kid?

Anyway, a few days later, she gets a letter back from Danielle. Homework is keeping her busy. And she has hopes that since her first wish came true, maybe the second, about graduating fifth grade, will come true, too.

At the end of the book, there’s a bit about the Make-A-Wish Foundation. And four cents for every copy of Jessi’s Wish that’s bought. So, that’s nice. I don’t think Lurlene ever did anything like that. I couldn’t find anything, anyway.

o   Jessi tells Becca she’s “pretty sure lots of kinds of cancer can be cured now”. Treatable is not exactly the same as cured, Jessi.

o   Kristy feels the need to explain to us that the daycare center is a place for kids whose parents work. Thank you, Kristy.

o   When the Kids Club members are taking pictures of themselves to send to the hospital kids, they use Mr. Katz’s Polaroid. He sets a limit of one per person, since film’s expensive. Oh, nostalgia.

o   Jessi asks why Dawn and Mary Anne just don’t live in the barn. Patience, young grasshopper.

o   I’m surprised Kristy didn’t have Jessi offer her baby-sitting services for Greg while Danielle is in the hospital.

1 comment:

  1. I think everything is in Stamford for these girls because that's where they live. Their worlds are just that small. I grew up in New Jersey but close to Philadelphia, Everything big in our lives took place in Philadelphia. Trenton and New York seemed as far away as Florida when I was 13. I always liked that the authors didn't have the girls going all over the state.