stacey’s CHUD-free mistake

first, an aside: last night, i dreamed that i was a contestant on “project runway,” but we made clothes for cats instead of people. & everyone wanted my cat, charlotte, as a model, because she is large (“voluptuous” was the term used in the dream) & therefore served as a better stage for the designers’ ability to do detail work. okay!

one of my new year’s resolutions for 2010 is to re-read all of the babysitters club books again in chronological order. background on my relationship with the babysitters club: i am pretty obsessed. there is probably no subject on earth about which i know more. sometimes i wonder what amazing things are NOT in my brain because the names & ages of the kuhn siblings are (for example).

the babysitters club series began in the summer of 1986. that was the summer i turned seven. i had two best friends that summer: sarah & abbey. sarah was kind of a rich girl. she had a pony & lived in a gated community. her mom was the secretary at our elementary school & her dad was a lawyer or something. sarah was fairly book-ish, good in school, & we became friends because we liked to braid each other’s hair & study our spelling words. we were both in the most advanced reading group in our class. abbey was your classic “wrong side of the tracks” character. her mom worked part-time at her family’s slaughterhouse & her dad was in the same biker gang as my parents. her mom was my mom’s best friend. abbey was only seven, but she’d had the same “boyfriend” since kindergarten–a sporty dude named mike, with occasional interference from a paramour named kirk. abbey wasn’t so great in school–school was more like a social event for her. but we were buddies because liked to listen to motley crue & eat hostess fruit pies together. all three of us were in the brownie troop my mom headed up.

for my seventh birthday, i convinced my mom to let me have a sleepover with both sarah & abbey. i knew sarah & abbey did not like each other, but i naively believed that they would put their personal differences aside for the sake of me & my birthday. after all, i was tight with both of them. surely we could find common ground.

sarah happened to pack a copy of kristy’s great idea, babysitters club book #1, along with her horse-themed pajamas & barbie sleeping bag. sarah was always on the cutting edge of new children’s literature. i was very intrigued by this book, but i knew the sleepover party needed by undivided attention if we were going to avoid fights between sarah & abbey. but even my most noble efforts came to naught, as those two fought & screamed at each other. there may have even been hair-pulling & scratching. we had to call their parents to come get them & my birthday was ruined. the one saving grace was that kristy’s great idea had fallen out of sarah’s bag…or maybe i snuck it out of the bag when she wasn’t looking. i honestly don’t remember. all i know is that sarah was gone, but i had the book, & i read it, & i was hooked. how can you not love a book that teaches you a vocabulary word (“decorum”) & features a small business? even at that tender age, i was very interested in entrepreneurship.

thus began my crack-like relationship with these books. the second book came out in october 1986, just in time for halloween. at that age, my siblings & i didn’t get an allowance. instead, my dad took us to the woodville mall every week & let us pick out one thing–a toy, a book, a comic book. on weeks when he got paid, our spending limit was $5 each. the limit was $3 for in-between weeks. we were also allowed to save up for something big. i always spent my allotment on babysitters club books when they were available, & i got into other serials too. my favorite after the BSC was “pen pals,” which only ran for seventeen books & two super specials. & let’s be honest: it didn’t come out until i was probably too old to have been reading them. but i will confess that i made it a point to read every new babysitters book that came out until i was probably about 13. that’s six years of obsession. i got babysitters club books for birthdays & holidays. i kept them in this weird case left over from when my mom used to sell mary kay, & i used to bore the pants off my babysitters by recounting the plots in great detail. i read & re-read them & when i got old enough, i even tried to pretend like i enjoyed babysitting (which i most certainly did not).

finally, as a surly teenager who was more into riot grrrl than anything else, i ignored by babysitters club books & i have no idea what happened to my old collection. but i won an ebay auction in 2001 for the complete series for like $100 (a steal! less than fifty cents per book) & started reading them again. as literature, i don’t pretend that they hold up. they’re pretty hackneyed. the girls act like normal 13-year-olds at the beginning of the series, but ann m. martin is kind of a shitty writer. there’s a lot of passive voice, tense shifts, bizarre grammatical errors…these issues improve later in the series, when ghostwriters handle the writing, but the plots became more & more ludicrous. i think ann was still writing them when claudia & dawn get shipwrecked on a desert island with a few of their sitting charges. seriously. WTF? sadly, they were not devoured by truckasaurus rex in the jungle (jared & i just started watching “lost” & jared theorizes that the crazy smoke monster might in fact be truckasaurus rex–fingers crossed!).

so, i’m reading these books, & i have of course been writing them up on goodreads, & what if i posted some of my reviews here too? i know there are a millionty-eleven BSC recap blogs, so i am pretty late to the party, but i have been reading this books for almost 25 years, which gives me a certain…desire to justify my existence, i guess. presenting stacey’s mistake, which got two stars from me on goodreads:

this probably isn’t really a two-star book, but i am marking it down due to the conceit of the premise: stacey is living on the upper west side of new york city with her parents. they live in a fancy apartment building with a doorman. a homeless woman lives on the street outside their building. her name is judy. sometimes she’s friendly & nice & calls stacey “missy” (stacey says this like it’s a nice thing, but it makes my skin scrawl that this 40-something homeless woman would use a term of respect like that to refer to a spoiled 13-year-old). other times, she doesn’t seem to recognize anyone & screams & insults people. i think the implication is that maybe she is schizophrenic. the adults in stacey’s building decide to have a meeting to discuss the “homeless situation” & figure out “how to help”. WTF? classic ann m. martin: acknowledge a social issue like homelessness & then give it the most worthless possible band-aid treatment. anyway, the adults all ask stacey to babysit their kids while they’re at this very important meeting. she can’t possibly watch all the kids on her own…so she gets permission from her parents to invite the BSC to visit & help take care of the kids. & all of their parents okay it (except for the pikes & the ramseys, because mal & jessi are only eleven…which doesn’t explain new york, new york!, super special #8, but…sure).

stacey’s mistake was that she did not foresee that maybe having all of her friends visit new york wasn’t a great idea. mary anne is obsessed with new york & embarrasses stacey by constantly spouting off guide book factoids like how many acres are in central park & shit. kristy is kind of a dumbass tourist who does things like whip her wallet out on the street with no thought of being mugged, & mispronouncing “filet mignon” in a restaurant (not a fancy restaurant though–it’s just the hard rock cafe, what’s the problem?). claudia brought too many suitcases, as usual, & doesn’t get along with laine. apparently both laine & claudia are jealous of the other’s friendship with stacey & all they do is snipe at each other. & dawn is terrified of the big, bad city & seems to be convinced that she’s about the be besieged by murderers, muggers, cockroaches, & CHUDs every time she turns around.

first, the babysitters get kind of lost in grand central station & are late meeting stacey. then they have to take a cab back to stacey’s apartment to drop off claudia’s nine million bags. then kristy has her “filet mignon” incident, & the wallet thing, & mary anne starts embarrassing stacey. dawn acts scared of everything. then they go to bloomingdale’s (which stacey actually refers to as “bloomie’s”–how undignified) & mary anne is collared by security for stealing an eye shadow sample. which is really weird because i don’t think richard really lets mary anne wear make-up yet. but anyway.

they go back to stacey’s house to get ready for the party that mr. & mrs. mcgill charitably allowed stacey to throw. laine comes over to help & this is when she & claudia start getting into it. when the party starts, kristy meets a boy she likes & then claudia cuts in & hurts kristy’s feelings (as if kristy thomas wouldn’t cut right back in if she was that invested in the dude). mary anne bores stacey’s sophisticated new york friends by spouting trivia at them, but wins them over by making fun of dawn & her phobias. stacey hulks out on everyone & it’s a big mess.

the next day, they start their babysitting job. they are watching ten kids, & the parents have provided money for entertainment & food. the girls take the kids to the museum of natural history, which is walking distance from stacey’s building. they lose one of the littlest kids when he goes back to see the brontosaurus (not a real dinosaur–if i recall, the “bronto” skeleton was renamed a brachiosaurus by the time i was at the museum in 2004). mary anne finds him again & all is well. they have lunch at the museum cafeteria, which always makes me think of that episode of “friends” where ross gets joey a job as a tour guide at the museum, but won’t eat lunch with him until joey leads everyone in a confessional trust exercise. sadly, nothing like that happens in this book.

next they hit central park, which is right across the street. they ride the carousel & see the alice in wonderland statue & no one gets mugged, murdered, lost, or eaten by wolverines. they have snacks & buy balloons & the baysitters start having a really nice time together. they decide to stay together for the kids. or…they make up. they take the kids home, & laine calls to invite the babysitters to a broadway play. her dad is a big-time broadway producer who gets comped free tickets all the time & can have a limo pick them up. the babysitters are all over it, claudia agrees to give laine a chance, & they all have a great time. the play involves actors on roller skates. what? stacey invites laine to spend the night again, but laine says stacey should enjoy her quality time with the BSC. so stacey does, everyone is happy, the end. oh, & the grown-ups get a church to help them start a soup kitchen to help out the homeless. fab.u.lous.

a CHUD really would have spiced this book up a little.

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