{Rereading The Baby-Sitters Club: Books 81-90, Mysteries 19-22, Super Mystery 1 & Portrait Collection: Claudia’s Book & Dawn’s Book}

You know the drill by now. Here’s my latest installment of my nostalgia reading of the BSC! We must be at least partially in the realm of when I started to outgrow the series, though I know from upcoming titles that I at least read some of them. To be honest? I kind of gave up after Dawn left, even though in this installment she hasn’t quite left officially yet. In fact, she’s initially back… but then swiftly gone again.

This is a Super Special installment. I read so fast that I was finished with my next bunch of books before I posted this, so I figured I would do some combining. Hunker down, folks… there’s a whopping seventeen books in this installment!

In book fifty-one, Kristy and Mr. Mom, tragedy strikes at the Thomas-Brewer household when Watson suffers a heart attack. He is told that he must cut back on both his diet and his stress level, so he decides to work less and stay home more taking care of the kids. This infringes on Nannie’s household duties and she eventually moves out. And while the kids enjoy Watson’s efforts to play Mr. Mom, things inevitably start to fall apart – both at home and with his work. Ultimately a balance is struck and Nannie moves back in.

Episode-ability: 9. I think this might be a fun episode (aside from the heart attack obviously). But watching Watson play Mr. Mom to total disaster is definitely half-hour t.v. show fodder. And although Kristy doesn’t particularly grow as a character (or perhaps she does, since she seems to have fully accepted Watson at this point and refers to him as her father which is a huge step). And on the other end of the spectrum, they could use the heart attack in a “very special episode” kind of way and have all the Thomas-Brewer kids dealing with it after it happens, much like Mimi’s stroke. Either way, it would work. It would also be fun to “meet” Nannie, although that could happen well before this book ever sees the light of day as an episode.

In book eighty-two, Jessi and the Troublemaker, Jessi once again finds herself dealing with a well-intentioned, but troublesome child. The troublemaker in question is Danielle Roberts, who appeared in an earlier book. She is a friend of Becca and Charlotte’s who has leukemia. In this book, however, she is in remission and has the energy to prove it… and then some! She gets into all sorts of crazy antics, which the BSC tries to talk to her parents about to no avail. However, after everything culminates in a crazy car accident (yes, she tries to drive the car) involving other neighborhood children, her parents are forced to realize that they maybe gave her too much freedom in their relief that she was doing well.

Episode-ability: 6. It’s not a terrible plot but also not a great one. It was nice to see Danielle Roberts again, especially on the mend. However, the content is otherwise just kind of in the middle. I mean, if they introduce Danielle earlier, it might be nice to revisit her, but if they don’t include her first appearance, it seems pointless to bring it up at this point.

It’s time for the nineteenth mystery interlude with Kristy and the Missing Fortune! This time the BSC is back trying to solve a decades old case of a missing person. The person in question is Christina Thomas, who sparks Kristy’s interest because of the similarities in their names. They soon learn that she was the heir of a large sum of money when she disappeared. At first, Kristy somewhat hopes to find her thinking they might be related and she could inherit the money. They never do figure that out, but they do solve the case! The sidebar plot of this one is that all the BSC members and their charges are fixing up a failing arboretum… which just so happens to be essential to the mystery! Oh and Kristy might be related to Cokie Mason, but that’s another issue.

Episode-ability: 7. I don’t generally give the mysteries such a high rating without some solid character growth, but I really liked this one and think it would be fun. The series has yet to introduce Cokie Mason, but that’s not absolutely essential to turning this mystery into an episode. Speaking of which, I’m curious to see if Cokie is going to come into play at some point.

Things get serious in book eighty-three, Stacey vs. the BSC. Stacey, who has for the last couple of books been exhibiting fairly irresponsible behavior, starts hanging out more and more with her boyfriend Robert and his friends. She starts neglecting her duties as a baby-sitter, which includes not supporting Charlotte Johanssen at a talent show the sitters are throwing. It all culminates in Stacey’s quitting the club. Or Kristy throwing her out. Really depends on who you ask.

Episode-ability: 10. This is major episode fodder. Stacey and the BSC are at odds, as Stacey seems to be outgrowing her old friends. We all knew this would be Stacey at some point, didn’t we? It’s a major lesson in how we can grow apart from our friends.

At this point we have a little Portrait Collection interlude with Claudia’s Book. As with the previous installment, Claudia is working on the eighth grade autobiography project, and is having trouble with where she should start. However, we end up getting some background into Claudia’s life: her birthday party that no one showed up to, her trip with Kristy where they briefly lost David Michael, and more. Much like Stacey’s book, this one is cute but not particularly content-heavy. Still, I remember really enjoying these as a teenager, even though at this point I was definitely getting far too old to be a person still super into these books! I really wish I could remember the exact moment I stopped buying them, but that unfortunately has fallen out of my memory.

These don’t really qualify for the episode-ability rating so we’ll move right along to the next book in the main canon.

The next book in the canon is book eighty-four, Dawn and the School Spirit War. Dawn’s at it again with a cause, and this time she has the support of Mary Anne and Mallory. Stoneybrook Middle School is holding their annual school spirit month and Dawn is not into it. Neither is Mary Anne, though she is struggling with that because she also wants to support Logan, who is on the baseball team. The other kids in the school can’t handle it when someone doesn’t participate, and the kids who aren’t interested in it start to feel harassed by the other kids (and honestly even the greater Stoneybrook area, as they call Dawn out on the local news for not participating).

Episode-ability: 8. As a teacher and someone who doesn’t always own the items required for participating in a Spirit Day (you think I own a sports jersey?!), can I just say how annoying school spirit MONTH would be? We do weeks, and that is a perfect amount of time – cause I am into the themed days I can easily participate in! Granted, our school spirit doesn’t really interfere with the general day to day of the building so it is a little different. Nor do our students harass each other for not participating. However, this would allow for Dawn to have a platform episode again, and it would be a really fun costuming job! And honestly I think the solution they come up with is important, as it doesn’t end with an “all or nothing” solution, but a compromise.

Mystery interlude time with Mary Anne and the Mystery at the Zoo, otherwise known as mystery number twenty! Stoneybrook Middle School is doing another special project, this time in conjunction with the zoo, and the whole eighth grade is participating in randomly created groups. While they are working on their projects, strange things are happening at the zoo, mainly involving animal enclosures being left open. The culprit turns out to be a disgruntled zoo employee who is angry he didn’t get a job promotion.

Episode-ability: 5. As per usual, fun story, not a ton of character growth to be had. The sitters got to spend a lot of time at the zoo, and had fun solving the mystery – perhaps the tv show could have a spin off of mysteries? I know, that’s really unrealistic, but you never know!

In book eighty-five, Claudia Kishi, Live From WSTO!, Claudia wins a contest to become WSTO’s latest radio show host. She is surprised to find that she will be working with her former friend Ashley Wyeth and is initially nervous about this. However, they find their groove as they create the show For Kids Only. They audition local talent, including Kristy who is determined to get on the show (she eventually manages with a quiz show about children’s books). Ultimately, Claudia and Ashley help to save the radio station by helping out a young boy, whose mom then makes a generous donation to the station.

Episode-ability: 6. It’s a cute story, and Claudia and Stacey have some growth with their friendship towards the end of the book (Stacey has not made up with the BSC at this point). That being said, I don’t think hosting a radio show would translate well… all I can think about is Frasier!

I moved right on to book eighty-six once I had finished this one, Mary Anne and Camp BSC. The sitters decide to help their clients out for the first two weeks of the summer by hosting a day camp for their charges. They decide to give it a circus theme, and are working towards a show for the duration of the two weeks. Mary Anne is struggling with her father being on a business trip – she starts missing him and becomes fed up with Dawn and Sharon making a mess around the house and ordering take out in his absence.

Episode-ability: 4. They kind of already made the movie using this plot. Sort of. I mean, in that they run a camp. Other than that the plot is different. However, Mary Anne is SUUUUUUPER annoying in this book. IN true Mary Anne fashion, she overreacts and doesn’t communicate with anyone around her, leaving her frustrated and angry at everyone. If I’m being honest, this happens with Mary Anne every other book or so, and it kind of grates on your nerves after a while.

Finally we hit the first Super Mystery: Baby-Sitters Haunted House! Just like a super special… but a mystery! The BSC is split up for this one. Kristy, Claudia, Dawn and Mary Anne head to Reese, Maine to baby-sit for Karen and Andrew as well as some friends of the former Mrs. Brewer (Watson’s ex-wife, just to be clear). Mallory and Jessi remain in Stoneybrook to hold down the baby-sitting fort, and Stacey is still out of the picture. While in Reese, which is the only plot worth discussing, the girls find themselves involved in yet another mystery. There is apparently a ghost in the house: the girls see strange lights, a woman walking on the widow’s walk, and hear screams in the walls at night. Mary Anne assumes there is someone trying to make them think there’s a ghost, and she turns out to be right. The conclusion of the story unearths old family rivalries.

Episode-ability: 5. The only interesting plot line was the one in Reese, Maine. They honestly could have left Jessi and Mallory out of this entirely and it would’ve been a much cleaner story. Having said that, the mystery in Reese is fairly intriguing, and could be a fun action packed two part episode. However from what I’ve seen, it looks like they’re going for more profound with the episodes, and if that’s the case, this storyline doesn’t really fit the bill.

In Stacey and the Bad Girls, book eighty-seven, Stacey finds herself in hot water with her new friends. Initially it seems that all is going well. She and her new friends are hanging out, and she has a new job at the department store taking care of kids while their parents shop. Then she notices how much her friends are eating when they’re at her house, and how they wait for her after work and wander off when she’s talking to people she knows at the store. It all comes to a head when they sneak wine into a concert and attempt to pin it on Stacey. Stacey learns quickly that these were not true friends, and she is ultimately reinstated into the BSC. Meanwhile, the BSC is dealing with the arrival of a cousin of Dawn and Mary Anne’s, Amy Porter. She is visiting while her parents go on a trip to Europe, and she is not handling it well – she eventually runs away from Mary Anne and Dawn and finds her way to Stacey at Bellair’s.

Episode-ability: 10. Assuming we do Stacey vs. the BSC as an episode, this is a logical followup (perhaps an out of order two parter?). Stacey learns a major life lesson in this book, and it’s also somewhat a lesson in forgiveness, as the BSC accepts her back into the fold.

Claudia and the Recipe for Danger is the twenty-first mystery in the series, and the Mrs. Goode’s Cookware Battle of the Bakers has come to Stoneybrook! Claudia, Mary Anne and Shea Rodowsky team up to be the best junior bakers in town, competing against Logan on one team and Grace Blum (best friend to Cokie Mason, who can’t participate because of her bronchitis) on another. There are, of course, a number of other teams but these are the three who team up to try to figure out who is sabotaging the baking competition. While that’s going on, the rest of the BSC is watching the children of the adult contestants, and planning out a restaurant.

Episode-ability: 6. Good. Not great. I wasn’t really satisfied with the resolution of the mystery. I don’t think it got set up correctly for what ended up happening in the end. There were a lot of various red herrings throughout, but none of them seemed particularly plausible even as they were being set up, so the actual culprit came kind of out of left field.

And now we reach the book that likely made me begin to outgrow the BSC once and for all. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: Dawn was my favorite growing up. I still think she’s cool, but I’m not certain why she was my favorite (I still hold to the fact that it was the simple fact that she looked like me). So book eighty-eight, Farewell, Dawn, kind of crushed me. As you might be able to figure out from the title, this is the book where we say goodbye to Dawn as a member of the BSC for good. She decides to move back to California, both because she misses it and because her best friend Sunny’s mother had lung cancer. Mary Anne does not take this news well, and seems to try to push her stepsister away before she can leave. The book ultimately leads up to Dawn getting on the plane and heading out (but not before she and Mary Anne make up, of course!).

Episode-ability: 9. Yes, I will admit that this forces the girls to deal with one of their members leaving, but I am genuinely hoping we never get this far with the series! I mean, let’s be realistic… one season covered eight books and a super special and so far no second season has been announced. Those actresses will be thirty by the time they get around to book eighty-eight as an episode. But if they do, it’ll be a tearful one!

After two super heavy book topics, book eighty-nine, Kristy and the Dirty Diapers, takes us down a different road. Kristy has found a sponsor for the Krushers, a man who owns a company called Davis Diapers. She agrees to the sponsorship, though doesn’t set any terms. She is surprised when she receives the team’s new uniforms and their name has been changed to Davis Diapers. The kids on the team are absolutely horrified and refuse to wear their uniforms. Meanwhile, there are two new girls in Kristy’s neighborhood, Abby and Anna Stevenson. Initially Kristy doesn’t really like Abby, who is also good at sports and fairly outgoing, however when she helps her stand up to Mr. Davis in regards to ending the sponsorship, Kristy starts to see her as an asset. At the end of the book, both Abby and Anna are invited to join the club. Anna declines, citing her busy after school schedule, but Abby delightedly joins!

Episode-ability: 6. This was a super light on the life lessons, so likely won’t make an episode, but if they ever do need to introduce Abby, this would be a good way to do it.

Despite moving back to California, Dawn is not exempt from the autobiography project, which her new school just happened to assign as well. In Portrait Collection: Dawn’s Book, we get insight into Dawn pre-BSC. In her tale, she discusses when she and her friend glued blocks together to make an Eiffel Tower at school, which results in the girls having clean the blocks but not considering this a punishment. Then she discusses the time she met Sunny and they were not initially fast friends. In fact, she thought Sunny was nuts. It isn’t until they have the shared experience of being lost in a department store (their moms are stuck in the elevator) that they finally bond. She also recounts the time she and her family took her grandparents to San Francisco for their anniversary, her fear of fire and an incident she had baby-sitting that she never told a living soul about (good thing too, because Kristy SO would’ve fired her – she reads a letter she shouldn’t have, and accidentally tells the charge what it was about). Like the other Portrait books, it’s a nice little interlude into the background of a BSC member… or I guess we should say We Love Kids Club member now!

Back into the main canon, it’s time to officially introduce Abby with book ninety, Welcome to the BSC, Abby! This is the first book narrated by Abby and I remember not being into it when I read it as a kid (or really a teen at this point cause here’s where I admit that I was still reading these books when I was fourteen years old), but that was likely because I was still mad that Dawn had left. As an adult, Abby’s really not so bad. Initially, Abby seems to fit right in with the BSC and gets into the groove of things really quickly. However, at one of her jobs, she feels an asthma attach coming on, which gets worst with the stress of one of her charges running into the street, and she ends up having to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance. Kristy is, of course, horrified but ends up feeling better about the situation by the end of the book. While all this is happening, Stoneybrook is also holding a carnival to raise money for the school arts programs, and Abby and her family run a very successful cupcake stand.

Episode-ability: 7. This is a fine episode. It wouldn’t be a great one, but it would be a good introduction to Abby. The books have covered asthma before, so they may not want to approach it from that angle, but there’s plenty to learn about Abby: her family is Jewish (significant only because readers at the time requested a Jewish character), she’s a twin, her father was killed in a car accident when she was nine. All good stuff.

One more and that’s it for this installment, and it’s the twenty-second mystery, Stacey and the Haunted Masquerade. Stoneybrook Middle School is throwing a Halloween dance, but strange things are happening around the school. It all starts with the Mischief Knights, a group of kids pulling relatively harmless pranks around the building, but then the strange things grow more sinister and the BSC suspects something larger is at play. Their investigation takes them back in time to another Halloween masquerade in which a teacher died of a heart attack after a student stampede. The football team was blamed and a girl left town, and one of those former members of the football team just happens to be the advisor for the dance.

Episode-ability: 8. As far as an interesting story goes, this definitely has one, and it’s one of the most engaging BSC mysteries I’ve read so far. Like I felt really, really invested in finding out what happened. I love when mysteries delve into the past, so this one kept me turning the pages until I was finished (which already doesn’t take me very long as these books are super short, but this one went every faster!). I don’t think it fits into the aesthetic the show has created, but I’d really like to see this one.

Whew! Still reading? I don’t generally like to double these installments up for the reason that the post gets exceptionally long, but it seemed to make sense in this case so I don’t have post-upon-post about the BSC. I’ve made so much progress in rereading the series, but there is also so much more to go. We shall see if I can still finish them by the end of the year!

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