{Rereading the Baby-Sitters Club: Books 96-105, Mysteries 24-28, Super Special 13, Super Mystery 13 & Portrait Collection: Kristy’s Book}

We’ve got a big bunch of books today as I combined two installments again. Though the first was chock full of books, but the second was only the usual five books plus two mysteries and so it made sense to combine, not to mention the fact that I’m reading them faster than I can write about them at this point.

Book ninety-six, Abby’s Lucky Thirteen, explores the Jewish traditional of the bat mitzvah. Abby and her sister Anna are preparing for this important rite of passage, while also dealing with the pressures of being eighth graders. Outside of worrying about her speech, Abby must content with some school problems that eventually lead her to accidentally cheating on a test (she buys a “study guide” from another student that turns out to be a copy of the actual test). Her teacher finds out and she gets suspended, which she tries to hide from her mother. Of course, her web of lies eventually gets her caught and in trouble. Meanwhile, the kids of Stoneybrook are all banned from television and are suffering, until they come up with their own “tv show” game (essentially acting out mysteries).

Episode-ability: 9. Assuming we ever get to Abby, this would be an interesting episode both because of Abby’s behavior and because of the bat mitzvah. It’s always interesting to learn about other traditions (however, despite not being Jewish myself, I have been to a number of bar and bat mitzvahs for childhood friends so I understood a little bit about them prior to reading this book). The subplot is also cute, but only when the kids start using their creativity to amuse themselves, not when they are all whining that they can’t watch t.v.

Then it’s time for the twenty-fourth mystery interlude with Mary Anne and the Silent Witness. A controversial developer is in Stoneybrook and wants to tear down a number of houses to use the land for his own gain. A new BSC client just happens to live in one of the houses he wants to tear down (the family is refusing to sell). He is wary of baby-sitters, which everyone initially believes is his fear over a recent house fire. The BSC of course, becomes suspicious and puts themselves on the case and manages to uncover the cause of the fire, and save the day from the evil developer! (Seriously, always feels like I’m describing Scooby-Doo when I write something like that.)

Episode-ability: 5. As with all mysteries, they are interesting, but I don’t think they fit into the show’s aesthetic. I will also admit that, while I enjoy them, they do tend to be a tad more unrealistic than the real story, as a bunch of thirteen year old girls would NEVER be this privy to the apparent crime ring that goes on in Stoneybrook, Connecticut!

In Claudia and the World’s Cutest Baby, book ninety-six, Peaches and Russ are back, and they have had a baby! Baby Lynn (I have no idea what Russ’ last name is) arrives on the scene and Claudia is immediately in love with her new cousin. She is also immediately on her aunt and uncle’s nerves as she tries to take over and “help out.” (She does believe she is helping out but really she’s not giving them any space as a new family.) Meanwhile, she also heads out on a trip to Philadelphia with her classmates where she has to deal with a nuisance of her own: a classmate who has glued herself to Claudia’s side.

Episode-ability: 7. It’s a cute story, but I’m not certain it has legs. I think the Philadelphia storyline might actually make a better episode than the baby storyline, as Claudia has to deal with the clingy classmate. However, the baby storyline, with Claudia being clingy and overbearing with her niece, is a good compliment to it, so it’s hard to say.

Mystery twenty-five, Kristy and the Middle School Vandal, brings back a number of plot points from previous books. The first is from the masquerade dance mystery, when the Mischief Knights were first introduced. SMS believes them to be back, as new pranks start to pop up all over the building. However, these pranks are different, more sinister than just plain annoying, not do they have the signature Mischief calling card: red marker. The other plot line that comes back is Abby purchasing the “study guide” from one of the students. The student is question is now one of a number of suspects in this new strange mischief. Once again, it is the BSC to the rescue, however they are dealing with two separate mysteries: one given to them by Cary Retlin as a date and the other, actual mystery of the vandals.

Episode-ability: 6. I found myself way more interested in Cary’s scavenger hunt/mystery than I did in the actual mystery. However, overall I enjoyed this one. Should there ever be a mystery spin-off of the series, this would be a good episode to dive into, but otherwise keep it relegated to the books.

In book ninety-eight, Dawn is back in Stoneybrook with Dawn and Too Many Sitters! It’s summer vacation, and Dawn is in town for a visit, and the BSC takes on some trainees: namely Byron, Adam and Jordan Pike and Jeff Schafer, who all feel they are too old to need baby-sitters and that they should be the baby-sitters. As you might be able to imagine, the boys are basically terrible at baby-sitting, though mostly they end up realizing they don’t want to deal with the time commitment. In an important sidebar plot for the next book, the BSC is also trying to raise money for a trip to Hawaii, sponsored by the middle school (seriously, SMS is the best middle school ever), which they eventually succeed in doing.

Episode-ability: 5. As Jack and Tanner of the Baby-Sitters Club Club podcast would say, this book was “good, clean baby-sitting fun.” So while it may be fun to watch, there was nothing new and exciting to introduce, character development-wise. Not to mention the fact that I’m still kind of hoping they never get to the point where they send Dawn back to California, so her visiting wouldn’t make sense from the get go.

Super special thirteen, Aloha, Baby-Sitters! is the first super special in a LOOOONG time (I don’t consider the super mysteries to be in the same category as a super special). As mentioned in the previous description, the baby-sitters have all raised their own money to help pay for their trip to Hawaii. The only two who don’t end up going are Kristy and Mallory (the former because she is already going with her family later in the summer, and Mallory because her parents said no). In true super special fashion, the narrative shifts from sitter to sitter, showing different viewpoints of the trip. Stacey is, by far, the one with the most exciting adventure, as she is in a helicopter accident (which weirdly never gets mentioned again). Claudia is dealing with guilt about Pearl Harbor, which Mary Anne tries to fix by introducing her to a war vet. Abby gets herself into a commercial for sunscreen, and Dawn cleans up a beach. Jessi spends most of her time creating a scrapbook for Mallory. Meanwhile back in Stoneybook, Kristy and Mallory are holding down the fort, but the “left behind sitters” storylines are never as interesting as the main ones who are on the cool adventure.

Episode-ability: 9. If the super specials exist just for a fun little interlude at the end of a season, sure let’s go to Hawaii! However, the sitters do need to do more together. That has been my one complaint about the super specials in this reread: the sitters are never together! If I went on these trips with my friends in school, we would ALWAYS be doing stuff together! That’s the whole point of going!

Little sidebar: I kind of really loved the scrapbook plot line and it made me wonder if I DID read this one and don’t remember. Many years ago, my cousin and I went to Hawaii to visit my sister in college, and my other cousin (who was only twelve at the time) wasn’t allowed to go with us and she was SO mad! So my cousin and I created a scrapbook for her of all our adventures, just like Jessi did for Mallory. And we literally did some of the same things. I think it’s just pure coincidence but it was still pretty funny.

Once the sitters return from Hawaii, we get one more Dawn installment before she returns to California. In mystery twenty-six, Dawn Schafer, Undercover Baby-Sitter, a new family is in town and just about everything about them is mysterious. First off, they’re feuding. The family consists of three sisters who are all staying at their late father’s estate, where they have to figure out a bizarre clue in order to receive their inheritance. What they don’t realize is that the clues were designed to force them to work together so they could share the inheritance, which is something that is eventually worked out by Dawn. Of course, in the end, the family makes up and comes together. In other news, Dawn over-extends herself trying to spend time with everyone in Stoneybrook before she goes back to California.

Episode-ability: 3. Honestly this one just wouldn’t work as an episode. The mystery wasn’t all that interesting and the subplot was even less interesting. However, I believe this is Dawn’s last hurrah in the main series before California Diaries begins, and thus must be honored!

In Stacey’s Broken Heart, book ninety-nine, all is not not well with Stacey McGill and Robert Brewster. At the beginning of the book, Robert begins acting strangely, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s happening, although Stacey’s investigation doesn’t uncover anything immediately suspicious. She doesn’t get to follow through with her full investigation as she gets an offer to baby-sit for some of her old clients in New York, and so she leaves to stay with her father for a week. While she is there, she meets Ethan, who she immediately likes but ultimately she stays true to Robert. However, a phone call from Claudia confirms her worst suspicions (Robert is seeing someone else), and they break up.

Episode-ability: 8. Maybe. It was a good book, plot line-wise, and it did show growth on Stacey’s part. I might be letting my own personal feelings on the topic get in the way here, but if you ask me, she kind of accepted Robert’s cheating on her way too nicely… but then again I was a good ten years older than Stacey when I was in a similar scenario so it’s a bit different when it happens to an adult rather than a middle schooler. Even so, I was mad at Robert Brewster on Stacey’s behalf!

Finally we arrive at book one hundred, which is a big deal. It is fittingly named Kristy’s Worst Idea, mirroring the first book title (Kristy’s Great Idea for those who don’t know or can’t remember!). It’s a new school year (I believe the 9th repeat of 8th grade), and the BSC has tons of commitments outside of the club, and Kristy is stressed out about this. She worries that they are doing a poor job and that their reputation will suffer. Things only get worse when Jackie Rodowsky gets hurt (not seriously) on her watch and she starts to feel like a sub-standard care giver. The club disbands and the parents of Stoneybrook just cannot handle it. In the end, Jackie is the one who bring them back together when he does get hurt more seriously (he suffers a head injury after falling off his bike).

Episode-ability: 10. While the reason the club disbands seems a little extreme, an episode where the club disbands and comes back together would work really well as an episode. However, I would highly recommend they consider a different reason for the disband, as it seems like a big overreaction on Kristy’s part. Kristy’s stubborness about the club rules however, does need an overhaul. I don’t see why it would be such a big deal for a club member to be occasionally gone from the meetings. They can still be scheduled for jobs.

Kristy’s Worst Idea is followed up with the Portrait Collection: Kristy’s Book. In her autobiography, Kristy delves into her issues with wanting to be independent and the separation from her father. She even tells the story of the time her father returned for a brief period, and they kept his visit a secret from her family. I had to look this one up, as this is what happens in the 1995 movie. However, the book was published after the movie, so I kind of liked that they took that plot line from the film and added it into the main cannon. Overall, it was a nice overview into the inner workings of the mind of Kristy Thomas, and showed her history of being stubborn and independent.

Up next was a new Super Mystery, which I have to admit have not been my favorites. This third installment, Baby-Sitters’ Fright Night, was no exception. While I did enjoy that the BSC was once again out and about on a trip, this time to Salem, Massachusetts, I also found myself losing interest in the mystery fairly early on. The main plot revolves around a stolen diamond from a museum, and the sitters just happen to be staying in the same hotel as the women writing a piece about the diamond as well as the owner of the diamond. So when it goes missing, there’s a whole host of suspects for them to investigate and choose from. Abby finds herself being followed and Kristy outright disappears at one point. Also as usual, there’s at least one baby-sitter left behind, and this time it’s Claudia and Jessi who organize a Halloween parade with the BSC charges.

Episode-ability: 3. The fact that I can’t even remember who the ultimate culprit was for this mystery after reading is VERY recently tells you something about this story. If I am being one hundred percent honest, I read this one as fast I could just to get through it and move on to the next one. Hey, even with the best series, they can’t all be winners!

The books, of late, have been dealing with much heavier topics, and this continues into book one hundred and one, Claudia Kishi, Middle School Dropout. It’s actually a bit of a misnomer title, as Claudia doesn’t drop out of middle school at all. However, she does get sent back to seventh grade after failing to keep up with the 8th grade work. At first, Claudia is horrified and embarrassed by this, but she soon sees that this might be a good move for her. This idea is further solidified at an art class Claudia is taking with a well-known artist, who shares with her that she was left back as a child as well. The sideplot is that all the kids in Stoneybrook become penpals for kids in the hospital (Jackie is still in the hospital at this point and that’s what inspires the idea).

Episode-ability: 10. As a teacher, I think this is an important topic. Yes, the goal is always to move children forward, but the truth is, some children are not developmentally ready for the next grade and many would benefit from repeating material. I also believe the earlier you tackle these issues (i.e. why not tackle the problem when it first happens rather than letting the child get more and more behind as the years go by?), the better off children will be later on, but what do I know? I only do this for a living, right? However, I think the way it happened in this book was weird… the school year had already begun and is relatively well underway when they decide to make the move. But, that being said, taking the stigma out of needing to repeat a grade is a good thing.

In Mary Anne and the Little Princess (book 102), a new family of diplomats from England move to Stoneybrook. They hire Mary Anne as the companion for the young daughter Victoria. They call her a princess numerous times but I think they also say that she’s twenty-seventh in line for the throne or something… so I don’t think that really makes one a princess. But I digress. Victoria is having trouble adjusting to life in the US and is not particularly good at making any friends, despite how hard the BSC tries to help her fit in. On a trip to New York, they get a glimpse into what might be bothering Victoria: her parents are simply never around, not even able to have dinner with her when they go to city. By the end of the book they make some headway with Victoria, though she still has a bit of trouble fitting in. Surprise at the end: Dawn visits for Thanksgiving, closing out the subplot of Sharon overcompensating for her absence.

Episode-ability: 4. This one was meh. I feel like there have been plenty of other more interesting BSC charges with a similar problem.

In Happy Holidays, Jessi, book one hundred and three, the BSC learns about Kwanzaa! Jessi and her family are prepping for the holidays and the members of the BSC express an interest in learning about the traditions of Kwanzaa, so Jessi puts together a celebratory feast. With the help of the kids of Stoneybrook, they prepare traditional foods and work on a skit. However, all is not well at the Ramsey house. Aunt Cecelia and Mr. Ramsey are arguing over the care of the children, and when Aunt Cecelia loosens up, she – along with Jessi, Becca and Squirt – are in a car accident.. just after she gives Jessi permission to unstrap Squirt from his carseat. Spoiler alert: Squirt is completely fine in the end, but this is not immediately clear as he is rushed to the hospital and kept for observation for a few days.

Episode-ability: 8. This is a tough one to rate, as there were two very different plots going on with two very different types of learning opportunities. If it were every going to be an episode, it would likely need to be two different ones, as I feel like the car accident plot takes away from the Kwanzaa plot and vice versa.

In Claudia and the Lighthouse Ghost, mystery twenty-seven, yet another new family comes to Stoneybrook. Or comes BACK to Stoneybrook, I should say. The Hatts, friends of the Kishis and former residents of Connecticut, return to stay with Claudia and her family while they are fixing up the lighthouse that they own. The lighthouse is steeped in mystery, as the BSC comes to learn a young boy died there, forcing the Hatts out of town. The club finds themselves once again enmeshed in a strange mystery from the past. While helping the Hatts fix up the lighthouse, they encounter a strange disembodied voice, strange notes and happenings and of course and angry neighbor. They eventually put all of this together into the resolution of the mystery.

Episode-ability: 7. This one was a good mystery, as far as the mysteries go. If they ever go the Scooby-Doo style mystery route, this would be a great one to cover. As far as main series goes, maybe not. I do have one bone to pick with the book though: who was the mystery voice? I feel like that doesn’t ever get resolved.

Book one hundred and four, Abby’s Twin, takes us back to a slightly heavier topic. Abby and Anna get tested for scoliosis and, while Abby’s tests turn out normal, Anna needs to start wearing a neck brace. This in and of itself isn’t the issue, but Abby takes it upon herself to take extra care of her sister, much to Anna’s chagrin and often embarrassment. Meanwhile, the BSC is working on a winter carnival for their charges (seriously, how do the girls have time for all this stuff?).

Episode-ability: 6. I don’t know about this one. Possibly I’m biased because I decided I don’t love Abby, and find it harder to get through her books (all the cheesy jokes, mostly). This was also a plot that I feel like was explored with Marilyn and Carolyn Arnold at one point, and I didn’t love it then either. Then again, I’ve never been a twin so maybe I don’t know what it’s like.

Book one hundred and five, Stacey the Math Whiz, brings us back to a more lighthearted topic, with a little angst thrown in for good measure. Stacey joins the mathletes and starts competing in and around Stoneybrook. The books have always alluded to Stacey’s math skills but it turns out she’s one of the top in the entire school. Things get complicated for her however, when her dad randomly shows up in Stoneybrook after losing his job. He takes full advantage of the free time to drive to Stoneybrook almost daily, and Stacey finds herself town between spending time with her father and keeping up with her athlete committments.

Episode-ability: 8. This was a fun story and I think there’s some character growth for Stacey and her dad. If the show is doing their job right, Stacey’s parents are headed for divorce so this is a very realistic plot line.

Another mystery rounds out this installment. In mystery twenty-eight, Abby and the Mystery Baby, an abandoned baby gets left on the Stevensons’ front porch. Of course, the BSC is on it right away trying to figure out who the baby belongs to. He soon becomes a celebrity among the BSC and their charges. Meanwhile, Abby notices her mother acting strangely, and it turns out the baby belongs to her estranged sister, whom they find out is in the hospital (she, like Stacey, is a diabetic and stopped taking care of herself and ended up in the hospital).

Episode-ability: 5. Cute story, but I don’t think it necessarily makes the cut for an episode.

And that bring us to the end of this installment, which ended up being much longer than I initially anticipated when I decided to put these two clusters together.

I’m excited for the next installment, which will be another one chock full of books, but also we start the California Diaries (with not one, but two books)! I’ve never read them – I never even owned one, so it’ll be fun to delve into them. I can say with certainty that we are not at the point in which I stopped reading the books, so pretty much everything is brand new!

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