{Rereading The Baby-Sitters Club: Books 55-60, Mysteries 5-6 & Super Special 9}

In this installment of my rereading of the BSC, I am adding a new little feature. I’m calling it “episode-a-bility” and I’m using it as a ranking scale to determine whether or not I think it would make a good episode for the Netflix show. Kind of wish I had done this the whole time, but – well, things evolve as I work on them and this is just one of those evolutions.

The episode-ability scale is simple: a ten means it would make an excellent episode, and the ranking goes down from there. A one means that it probably wouldn’t be particularly interesting at all. I’ll also point out where I think small bits of the stories could be incorporated into other storylines wherever I can.

In book fifty-six, Keep Out, Claudia, the BSC gets new clients. After Mary Anne sits for them, she determines that they are the perfect children to baby-sit for. However, when Claudia sits for them, the jobs starts with a strange interaction with Mrs. Lowell and then the kids treat her disrespectfully, the complete opposite of the way they treated Mary Anne. Mrs. Lowell calls the club and asks that Claudia not sit for them anymore, leaving everyone to wonder what could have happened. The problem doesn’t become obvious until Mrs. Lowell outright refuses to even let Jessi into her house, and Kristy eventually figures out what the problem is: the Lowells are racist (and sexist and basically just all around xenophobic – they even make a snide remark about the Pikes being Catholic at one point).

In the end, the BSC must decide what to do. None of them want to continue to sit for the family, but they aren’t sure how to handle the situation. In the end, it kind of resolves itself as the members are not shy about sharing with the Lowells how un-prejudiced they are (for example, Kristy casually mentions her little sister Emily Michelle, who is Vietnamese, and suddenly the Lowells don’t want her baby-sitting either).

Episode-ability: 10. Characters grow, social justice issues are dealt with, it teaches a lesson. Seems perfect. I will say that they mention Manzanar (and internment camps in general) in this episode, which does already come up in one of the episodes in season one, but in this book it’s a small blip in the overall plot so the rest of the storyline could work well as a full episode. Sidebar: they will need to make plot changes as the races of two of the BSC members changed for the Netflix show. Mary Anne is half Black in the show, so she can’t be the first person to sit for them and have the perfect experience. Dawn is Latina, so she isn’t the blond, blue-eyed sitter the Lowells request in the book. They’d need to use Stacey or Kristy for the initial sitting job.

***

In mystery five, Mary Anne and the Secret is the Attic, all the BSC charges are excited about Heritage Day at school, which naturally leads everyone to look into their own family backgrounds. Mary Anne knows virtually nothing about where she came from, and so she heads into the attic to see if her father has any old photo albums that might give her a clue. What she discovers is a shock: she has grandparents! She has grandparents whom she lived with, sans her father, when she was an infant. This leads Mary Anne to question a lot about herself and her father.

Episode-ability: 7. Does it make sense for the show to start doing the mysteries when there is so much material involved with the main series? Probably not. I feel like they are sidebars to the overall plots in the regular stories and the super specials. I mean, technically ANY BSC book can be read as a stand-a-lone but they do reference other book occasionally. However, I feel like the mysteries almost exist in an alternate Stoneybrook where intrigue crime run rampant constantly.

That being said, I gave this one an episode-ability rating of seven, because this particular mystery unearths some pretty important stuff for Mary Anne in regards to her family, and does contribute to character growth for both her and Richard Spier, so it might be worth exploring in an episode. Perhaps in can be tied into something else as part of Mary Anne’s overall character arc. Based on what we’ve already been presented with, it could fit into the cannon of the tv show.

***

In book fifty-seven, Dawn Saves the Planet, Dawn and Stacey team up on a science project. Their idea is to teach the kids of Stoneybrook about ways to save the environment. Along the way they also plan a Green Fair and Dawn comes up with the idea to start Stoneybrook’s first recycling program. However, things go a bit awry when she get a little too enthusiastic for some people. This book is Dawn Schafer at her finest: fighting for what she believes in despite the opposition around her.

Episode-ability: 8. There’s tons of room for Dawn character growth here as she gets overzealous about her Save the Planet campaign. However there’s plenty of episode material to work with, from the campaign itself to her and Stacey teaching a class to Dawn losing the credit for the idea she started.

***

In Stacey’s Choice, the fifty-eighth installment in the series, Stacey finds herself stuck between her mom and dad. Her dad has a big promotion dinner he wants Stacey to attend but her mother unfortunately gets sick with pneumonia shortly before. Stacey ends up feeling guilty for going to the dinner and leaving her mom at home alone and sick, but then she feels bad that she’s not going to the dinner. Even her compromise (go to the dinner but come back early instead of spending the whole weekend in the city as originally planned), makes her feel torn. In the end, Stacey ultimately learns that she is not the person who needs to be responsible for the adults around her.

Episode-ability: 7. I think the plot would need to be pared down quite a bit, but Stacey dealing with feeling pulled between her parents would make a good episode. Fellow children of divorce would relate to the story and it would show Stacey learning that, while her help is appreciated, she doesn’t have to be the one concerned about her parents’ welfare. However, there’s character growth, which is essential to the little life lesson episode format the show has created.

The sidebar plot here, in which all the children of Stoneybrook order ridiculous things from catalogues, could be entirely stripped away without anyone even noticing. While the kids do learn not to spend their money on junk, it kind of felt like a throwaway plot with the bigger issue at hand.

***

Book fifty-nine, Mallory Hates Boys (and Gym) can be summed up pretty concisely using just the title. A new unit is starting in the sixth grade gym classes at Stoneybrook Middle School, and Mallory is horrified. She’s also an awful volleyball player, and embarrasses herself in every class. Meanwhile, in the greater baby-sitting world, all the boys of Stoneybrook seem to have gone crazy, at least according to Mallory who becomes super sensitive to the opposite sex in this book.

Episode-ability: 3. This wasn’t the worst Mallory book (it was much better than the horse one), but really nothing happened. Mallory is mad because she has to take gym and this causes her to lash out a bit, but it’s hardly a permanent massive personality change and she instantly regrets it. I don’t think it would make good episode fodder at all. There’s not a lot of character growth and, in the end, there is no real explanation for why the boys of Stoneybrook have all decided to start uncharacteristically misbehaving (perhaps it is just the bias of Mallory’s point of view). I can really only see this one becoming an episode if they change up a lot of the plot line and add in a more compelling conflict.

In personal news, this book brought back tons of middle school gym memories for me. Other than hanging out on the foldable bleachers with my friends (which makes me sound WAY cooler than I was; really we just sat there and talked about Full House or My So-Called Life or something), I mainly remember our big volleyball unit, and I was useless at sports (still am). Balls flying towards me is terrifying – they ALWAYS hit me. So I definitely felt Mallory’s pain during this book. However, unlike Mallory, the one area of volleyball where I seemed to excel was serving!

***

In The Mystery at Claudia’s House, the sixth in the mystery sub-series, strange things are happening at the Kishi’s residence. First, Claudia notices that her room is in a different sort of disarray than normal. Her room is generally messy but the mess she comes home to one day is not her mess. On top of that, Janine is acting strangely, leaving the house at all hours of the day and even getting grounded by her parents. Claudia eventually enlists the help of Derek Masters (the baby sitting charge who stars on a popular t.v. show) to help solve the case. She ultimately learns that Janine is the one going through her things… and she has a secret boyfriend!

Episode-ability: 5. I put this one smack in the middle of the scale because the overall bonding between Claudia and Janine was good episode fodder, but I believe it can be incorporated into other existing Claudia storylines. It was funny to read about Janine trying out a new look, and navigating having a boyfriend. It’s cute when she and Claudia bond over it, but that one scene does not make an entire episode. Still, I must admit it would be fun to see the Janine boyfriend storyline.

***

In Super Special 9, Starring the Baby-sitters Club!, Stoneybrook Middle School is putting on a musical! To be specific, they are putting on Peter Pan. The entire BSC is involved in some capacity. Kristy, Stacey and Dawn all have major roles; Mallory is assistant costume designer; Claudia is the set designer; Jessi is choreographer. Even shy Mary Anne is involved as the backstage baby-sitter, which is necessary because the play not only involves the middle school students, but also younger kids as well as some kids from the high school (i.e. Sam Thomas).

The plot follows the process of working on the play from auditions to opening night. It explores how all the characters feel about being in the show. Jessi is the one holding the narrative together as she is preparing an article for the school newspaper, but she is also kind of obnoxious in this book after not landing the role of Peter Pan, which she believed she was a shoe in for given her dance background.

Episode-ability: 3. As a theater nerd/costume designer, I actually loved reading about the girls putting on a play but I don’t think it’s would make a good episode. Plus, they already kind of covered doing a play in the season one finale. Still, I enjoyed the story of their musical extravaganza.

I laughed when one of Stacey’s fears is of a blackout in the middle of the show as this is something that actually happened to us once. It was before the show, about an hour before we were going to go on, and all the lights just went out. Technically it had also happened during the previous night’s performance but it was so brief no one even noticed.

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about Mallory being apprentice costume designer! I wish I liked Mallory more because apparently that’s who I’ve always been. She has to measure all the actors and they spent time at rehearsal doing this which I can tell you from experience is exactly how it happens. Mallory learns quickly that costume design is not all glamour which is something my junior costumers learn very quickly (and their first task is always measurements too!). I love that the job wasn’t portrayed very glamorously. The fact is, costuming isn’t always so glamorous when it’s happening, and I thought it was a fairly accurate representation of the process (however, they were finished awfully quickly).

***

In book sixty, Mary Anne’s Makeover, Mary Anne basically gets a haircut and no one can handle it! She has a falling out with the BSC and becomes a little more popular with the student body at Stoneybrook Middle School. She is surprised when she doesn’t receive any support from the BSC, and when rumors start going around that she’s dating high school boys.

Episode-ability: 2. Okay, so a makeover for Mary Anne might make a good episode of the show. But the way the other baby-sitters just lose their minds (insert harsher curse word if you’re so inclined; I’m trying to keep it PG) doesn’t make ANY sense whatsoever. I can, for the most part, see where Dawn is coming from (jealousy that Mary Anne’s dad took her for the makeover made her miss her own dad), but I have no idea why the rest of the BSC reacts so badly to her haircut right off the bat. For NO reason other than they’re not used to it. I just didn’t get it. They also believe the strange rumors going around about Mary Anne and in true lack of communication fashion, no one talks to her to see if there’s any remote truth to what other people are saying.

Also, I feel like the first season of the show gave Mary Anne a good amount of “makeover time.” She didn’t get a haircut but she started styling herself differently. I think that’s enough.

We had quite a bit of episode material in this little cluster of books, which is not always the case. I can’t believe we’re up to book sixty and, with the Friends Forever series and mysteries and whatnot, we’re not even halfway there! But I am committed to this nostalgia project, and so we soldier on!

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