Another week, another installment of “Kelly Rereads Books Written for Preteen Girls” (a.k.a. “Rereading The Baby-Sitters Club“). That would probably be a lot weirder if these weren’t books I read and loved as a preteen girl myself and that I am now revisiting in this strange, strange pandemic year we’re having.
So let’s jump in.
In book one hundred and six, Claudia, Queen of the Seventh Grade, Claudia is literally voted Queen of the Seventh Grade, a title which doesn’t mean much besides helping to plan a dance. A job the king, Mark Jaffe, makes harder and harder by the day by not wanting to do any work or get on board with any of Claudia’s ideas. However, Claudia finds herself weirdly drawn to Mark, particularly after learning he’s had to repeat a grade as well. In other news, Claudia has gained a group of seventh grade friends, one of whom also seems to have a little crush on her.
Episode-ability: 6. This was an okay storyline. I don’t know if there’s much character growth other than Claudia finally getting the guy (and there are so many more suitable guys than Mark Jaffe). I’m also going to be completely honest and can’t even remember the subplot of this one… that fact alone gives me a pretty good idea of how I responded to this book.
Here we have a Portrait Collection interlude with Abby’s Book. And… it was a portrait collection book. It’s interesting to read about the background of each baby-sitter, and Abby was no exception. Much like her peers, she has a compelling backstory including the death of her father in a car accident when she was nine years old. She’s also not a native to Stoneybrook, so hearing about her adventures outside of Connecticut was also interesting. As usual, we don’t do episode ability for this one but the material in the book might make for interesting backstory should the series every progress enough to include Abby.
In Mind Your Business, Kristy!, book one hundred and seven, the Krushers are back for a two week baseball clinic to improve their skills! Kristy enlists her brother Charlie to act as assistant coach, but things get complicated when he meets Angelica, a girl baby-sitting for some of the Krusher kids, and starts to be more interested in her than he is in coaching. Kristy concocts a plan to get Charlie back together with his girlfriend Sarah, whom everyone liked, to no avail. Eventually, Kristy, Claudia, Charlie and Angelica get into an accident on the way to a concert in Stamford, a situation made much worse by the fact that Angelica convinced Charlie to let her drive… and she doesn’t have a license.
Episode-ability: 8. I thought this was a really good one, and exploring Kristy’s relationship with her older brothers would be good for the show. Generally the books focus on Kristy and David Michael, so it was interesting to see how she related to Charlie. I also kind of enjoy it when I’m as annoyed at a character as the main character is, and it was clear from the beginning that Angelica was bad news, so it was really satisfying to see her comeuppance at the end.
Stacey and the Fashion Victim is the twenty-ninth mystery. Stacey takes on a modeling job at Bellair’s, where all the girls are competing to be Princess Bellair. The other participants range from new to modeling like Stacey, to slightly more professional. At first, everything is fine and dandy, and then strange things begin to happen during the shoots and shows: a girl gets poisoned, Stacey herself falls off a platform with a broken railing. The BSC swings into action to solve the mystery, ultimately learning that one of the models is trying to make modeling look unsafe so that her mother will take the pressure off of her to be successful. Outside of the modeling world, the kids of Stoneybrook work on an anti-smoking campaign after Abby discovers Buddy Barrett and Lindsay DeWitt attempting to smoke.
Episode-ability: 6. As mysteries go, this one was good. It had an interesting plot and even explored a potential lesson. Granted, not a ton of people need to learn about high pressure modeling, but perhaps how to deal with the pressure of their parents?
Up next, we have a Mallory book: number one hundred and eight, Don’t Give Up, Mallory. It’s time for another Short Takes class, and Mallory is really excited about this one: studying children’s literature. She is placed in Mr. Cobb’s class, which most of the students are excited about, but Mallory soon sees that Mr. Cobb is a bit sexist when it comes to his teaching style. He allows the boys to get away with not raising their hands and give sub-par answers, and avoids calling on the girls or letting them speak very briefly. Mallory quickly grows frustrated with the class. Eventually, she gains the courage to point this out to him, and succeeds in making him see the error of his ways.
Episode-ability: 8. I’ll give it an eight. It wasn’t an action packed book, but Mallory standing up for herself is an important lesson, and shows some character growth on her part.
In Mary Anne to the Rescue, book one hundred and nine, Mary Anne panics that she doesn’t know what to do in an emergency. This prompts the BSC to take a CPR class together, along with some of their classmates. When Logan shows up on the first day, he has bad news for Mary Anne: his father wants to send him to boarding school! Mary Anne must “save the day” in more ways than one and try to help Logan figure out a way to stay in Stoneybrook. In the end, Mary Anne learns that she can act fast in an emergency when she saves one of their charges from drowning in the pool at the Korman’s house.
Episode-ability: 4. I didn’t love this one. While learning CPR is a good lesson, I don’t think it’s a good t.v. show episode. We’ve already seen in an earlier book that Mary Anne knows exactly what to do in an emergency, and this just drives that message home and doesn’t really need to be repeated. Outside of Mary Anne recusing a child from the pool, this book was not particularly exciting.
In the thirtieth mystery, Kristy and the Mystery Train, Derek Masters is back after doing a movie, and the premiere is… on a train! The BSC, or at least some of the BSC (the rest are back in Stoneybrook helping out at the country club) is traveling from Boston to Charleston alone with the cast and crew and members of the press on a special trip. Strange things begin to happen that they realize are not part of the publicity for the movie. The BSC is soon on the case, ultimately tracing everything back to a disgruntled screenwriting student.
Episode-ability: 5. If you ask me, this was pretty similar to Kristy and the Vampires. Apparently trouble follows Derek Masters wherever he goes! It was an okay mystery and I enjoyed the setting of the train, but that’s about it for this one!
Up next was the fourteenth Super Special, BSC in the USA! This was the first Super Special in a long time and it was packed with content. Jack Schafer arrives in Stoneybrook so he can drive his friend’s RV back to California (sure…). This inspires Watson to take the Thomas-Brewers to get their own RV and travel across the country as well! The sitters split up into the two different RVs, and one take North route while the others take the South. Adventures ensue as each person gets to visit a place they have always wanted to go as well as some surprises along the way. The Thomas-Brewer RV visits the Zumi reservation, Abby deals with her grief over her father’s death at the Grand Canyon and Kristy gets the biggest surprise of all when she sees her father at a baseball game
Episode-ability: 6. It would be impossible to film, since they would literally have to scout locations across the country, but semi-fun. However, I will never understand why these girls keep going on vacations together but rarely actually do anything together. Granted, this one they are forced to as they are traveling in the RVs, but they’re still split into two separate groups rather than caravanning!
The last of the main canon books for this installment is book one hundred and ten, Abby the Bad Sport. This is the perfect title for this book. Abby joins a Special Olympics Unified soccer team, and is immediately upset and stubborn when she doesn’t get to play the position she is used to playing. She insults her teammates when she feels like they aren’t as good at soccer as she is and refuses to listen to her coach, which ultimately leads to her being benched and embarrassed. Meanwhile, the BSC kids try to raise money to help out the team so that they can get uniforms for their games.
Episode-ability: 3. Ugh. I couldn’t handle Abby in this book. I don’t know what happened with her, as she seemed pretty cool when she was first introduced. However, I quickly grew tired of her jokes and her stubbornness. It’s interesting, because she and Kristy are actually relatively similar, but Kristy is way more charming than Abby is.
In Mary Anne and the Music Box Mystery, we have a kind of mystery. Granny and Pop-pop, Sharon’s parents (and Mary Anne’s step grandparents) go on a cruise for their anniversary. While they are gone, their basement floods and Mary Anne must help Sharon clean up. She ends up finding a music box hidden in the basement with a warning that whoever opens it will be cursed. Of course, Mary Anne opens it and, while she is never cursed, she finds herself ensconced in the mystery of who owned the music box and why it was hidden away. Meanwhile, the BSC grows suspicious of the men working on the Porter’s house and they set out to investigate.
Episode-ability: 5. I could take or leave this one. I felt like the mystery was a bit anti-climactic in the end. The treasure all the workmen were supposedly looking for turns out to be absolutely nothing, and the music box ends up belonging to Mary’s Anne’s step-grandmother.
Finally we reached the books I was looking forward to, as I was not remotely familiar with them. The California Diaries series was written about Dawn Schafer and her friends in California. The book are all written in the same format: as journals that the students of Palo City, California, are required to keep in school. The first two journals (and since they are all relatively short, I’m discussing them as a cluster for this installment) are Dawn’s and Sunny’s. In both books, the girls are dealing with various problems that come with growing older and making changes. Dawn is wondering why her friends are drifting apart (she and the group stop speaking to Jill entirely) and the fact that Carol is pregnant, while Sunny deals with her mother’s battle with cancer and her father’s issues with his business.
Since the California Diaries are, strictly speaking, a separate series and do not feature the majority of the BSC, I am considering them ineligible for episode-ability feature. However, I did enjoy the books for the most part. While I did not have a particularly angsty adolescence, reading these books with their late-nineties vibes was fun. These are also much, much edgier than typical BSC books, with a very different vibe which was interesting.
This was a big cluster of books, and I feel like my descriptions definitely reflect that they are all starting to blend into each other at this point! Moving forward, I’ll have to make the point of writing them into the post as I go along instead of when I get to the end of the cluster. However, we are learning the end of the run, slowly and steadily. Still not sure I can make it through all the books by the end of the year, but you never know!