So here we are. Deep, Dark, Confession Time.
I actually really like Dawn. If I were a lesbian, I believe Dawn would have been my first crush. (Well, her or Stacey. I waver back and forth over which blonde haired, blue-eyed baby-sitter is cooler.)
When I was growing up, I especially loved this book. Perhaps that’s why it has taken me an absurd amount of time to recap and revisit Dawn’s (and the reader’s) first experience with the Barretts. While this book wasn’t on my top five desert Island books (that would be #9 – The Ghost at Dawn’s House); it’s still up in the top 10 Baby-Sitter’s Club books of all time.
This book starts off with Dawn sharing with us that she didn’t start the BSC. Good plan Dawn. When in a new environment, please don’t try to take credit for someone else’s work. Dawn is also sad because she doesn’t have a title yet. Awww Kristy is still being a total bitch to Dawn for stealing her friend.
But Dawn makes adult me question how cool she really is – in the second paragraph. Really Dawn? Let’s take a look at this quote:
The club is the most important thing in my life. If it weren’t for the club, I wouldn’t be riding my bicycle off to another baby-sitting job at this very moment
Really? Perhaps Ann really captured the melodrama of being thirteen. Having a steady group of friends would be great when your life has been turned upside down and your parents divorced and moved you 3,000 miles from anyone that you know besides family members. However, the most important thing? Really?
I guess it’s not really something to obsess over.
Dawn gives us a little background on herself while she bikes over the Pikes. She’s from California, doesn’t like the wet New England Snow (let me tell you, Dawn, I’d kill for a New England Winter right about now. It doesn’t snow from early October until April there. You want to complain about snow? Come to Alaska.) However, I think she has fallen under the curse of the Californians. Maybe it’s my own personal bias, but it seems that everyone I meet from California can’t stop talking about how wonderful it is. Lately, it’s been kind of annoying. No offense to anyone online, i’m talking about Real Life Californians. My point? Dawn goes off on a bit here about how it’s “summer year round.” Now, I know for a fact that there is a rainy season. Way to do some research Ann. Couldn’t you have got Scholastic to fly you to California for a trip? I know I would have tried to get them to pay travel expenses under the guise of “research”.
Oh, right. Sorry.
So Dawn is upset because she doesn’t have a title in the club. Yet. I don’t really blame here here, I’d be slightly perturbed if my friends all had a club, gave themselves titles that don’t really mean anything and couldn’t be bothered to come up with anything for me.
She arrives at the Pikes, and I realize that I am being very verbose. Mrs Pike is off to a meeting of the trustees of the public library, which is in the Prescott Room. I’m glad that with eight kids, they can afford to be a trustee of the library, give Jordan piano lessons, Vanessa violin, and put two children in a beauty pageant, along with whatever else they do.
Eventually we meet the Barretts, when Nicky brings Buddy and Suzi home. So that means that Dawn is currently watching Mallory (10), Nicky (7), Buddy (7), Margo (6), Suzi (4), and Claire (4). I don’t know how I would feel about a twelve-year-old watching that many children alone. She lets the littler ones watch Sesame Street. No wonder Kristy doesn’t like her.
After sitting, Dawn goes to Mary Anne’s to pick her up for the BSC meeting. There, we find out that Mrs. Schafer/Porter is seeing Richard Spier tonight, on a spur of the moment date! Squeee! Also, amazingly enough, Mary Anne is wearing her first pair of jeans!
At the meeting, we find out some really cool hair care tips. I think I shall quote this passage, because it’s just so beautiful.
Claudia and Stacey have suddenly taken great interest in their hair. One night a week they muck it up with an egg rinse. On Wednesdays and Sundays they squeeze lemon juice on it – from real lemons. They keep telling me I should use eggs and lemons in my hair, too. I have long, 1-o-n-g hair (almost down to my bottom). It’s thin and fine, and so blonde it’s white. Mom says if s like cornsilk. Claudia says the egg would give it body. Stacey says the lemon would make it shiny. I say it’s my hair and what I do with it is my business. (I plan to try an avocado paste on it. If Claudia and Stacey and I put our heads together, we’d have a salad.)
At the meeting, they set up some jobs with people we will probably see later. It’s the usual crowd of the Prezzioso’s, the Newtons, and the Brewers. Then Mrs Barrett calls, and of course Dawn answers the phone and gets the job. She finds out that the Barretts are also going through a divorce and that Mrs. Barrett isn’t very organized. She feels close to the kids.
When Dawn gets home, Sharon is running out the door to her date, leaving her kids alone with some left over stew. Since they are twelve and nine, they decide to put the stew back in the fridge and eat some pizza. I really like these books where they act like normal teens. Also, while Dawn makes the pizza, Jeff watches *gasp* television. Then Mary Anne calls, and Dawn talks on the phone. They discuss how they are going to redecorate Mary Anne’s room. Dawn donates some of their old California stuff to the cause. Do you see Kristy offering to help Mary Anne? No. You don’t. Which is why Dawn is a way better friend. Not to mention that she gets her mom to drive her over to Mary Anne’s, which serves several purposes; one of which involves the matchmaking scheme. Because when Richard is preoccupied with women, he’s way less strict with Mary Anne.
But on decorating day, Kristy finds out and comes over to help… and take over. How kind of her, to be so bossy to the new girl. I was the new girl, several times, and I always hated those people who tried to defend their territory with their friends. Especially when you are being perfectly nice and wanting to be friends with everyone.
At lunch the next day, Kristy makes snide comments at Dawn’s lunch. Way to be twelve, Kristy. Also, one of the Shillaber twins points out that if Richard and Sharon got married, Dawn and Mary Anne would be stepsisters. How they hell they didn’t think of that on their own is beyond me, but I’m sure it’s just for the kids who are reading this book and didn’t quit get the whole “step sibling” thing yet.
Kristy is all upset about moving and takes it out on Dawn. Whatever stupid Kristy. Most people would be grateful to move into a house. I know I would, considering that I currently live in someone’s living room. Hey, don’t judge, my rent is really cheap and I am barely there. So she has to leave the house she always lived in. Lots of people don’t stay in their houses forever. Look at all the foreclosed homes in California.
They get into another fight after school, Dawn explains to Mary Anne that Kristy is jealous, and then we get to the sitting job with the Barretts. I just noticed that there hasn’t been very much Stacy/Claudia interaction in this book. Usually Dawn books have her hang out with both sets of BFFs. Yes, I actually said BFFs. I’m blogging about a children’s books series, so I’m assuming it will be okay.
The Barretts house is a disaster, of course. While it is a disaster, Mrs Barrett looks and smells heavenly. For some reason, the Barretts have never seen Mary Poppins, so Dawn has to resort to tricking the kids into cleaning a different way. She decides on cleaning races, which seems like a neat idea, but I don’t know how well it would really work. Dawn bonds with the kids over divorce, and Mrs Barrett is surprised and happy about the house being clean.
Kristy sits for Karen and Andrew at the Brewer Mansion in the next chapter. They play “Let’s all Come In.” Mrs Porter (Morbidda Destiny) comes over to borrow herbs or something and scares everyone. I don’t feel like writing about it because I’ve been working on this for way to long now. It’s really just a nice throwaway chapter to give Kristy a sitting job and talk a little bit more about how the Brewers aren’t typical wealthy people, they let Karen and Andrew play in any room of the house and it’s not like a museum.
Then Dawn decides she is sick of Kristy being all cold to her, so she invites Kristy over. They walk to Dawn’s house together. Dawn makes small talk by describing her house and how the ceiling is super low. They discuss the barn and Dawn says she’s not really supposed to go in it. Mary Anne is also apparently scared of the barn and hasn’t been in it yet. Kristy and Dawn decide to play in the barn. They have a rope swing and they bond over divorce. Apparently, that is a theme in this book.
Finally, Kristy decides that Dawn can be the Official Alternate Officer.
Dawn sits for the Barretts again. It’s an all day affair, and she plans out a schedule for them. It sort of works out, and they end up having some sort of party at the Pikes. With twelve children and three twelve year olds in charge.
Also, hilarious! Mallory gives Byron the Bizzer sign. He cries. Mallory is way cooler when she is a charge.
Claudia sits for Dawn’s brother Jeff. Claudia can’t spell, so her notebook entry is difficult to read. Also, her handwriting looks a bit off. The notebook is all there is about that job, probably because Jeff is easy to watch. He just watches tv like a normal kid. But this notebook entry segues into how busy Dawn is with the Barretts, and how Dawn finally got around to having a chat with Mrs Barrett about Marnie’s allergies and how she really does need to know where Mrs Barrett is when Dawn sit’s for the children.
Mrs Barrett kind of dismisses this and then says, in a rather creepy fashion, to not let Mr. Barrett talk to the children if/when he calls. Dawn stays late and cleans up another mess, it’s completely obvious to me that Mrs Barrett is suffering from some sort of depression from the divorce. I’m going to say that he cheated on her, because it’s an awfully dirty, unhappy divorce. I’m going with He’s A Dirty Cheater… or he’s abusive. I don’t think the kids really show signs of abuse, so I’m going with cheating. (Although Buddy DOES have a fascination with guns).
Dawn sits for the Barretts a lot after this, and apparently the club is upset when she is late to meetings. But I don’t see how sitting during a meeting would be unexcusable. This is probably the first sign of Kristy being a little bit uptight about meeting times.
And finally, in Chapter 10, Stacey gets to do something. She sits for David Michael and they talk about moving. David Michael is scared of moving and afraid that something will be broken or lost. It’s a valid fear. One time I moved and my favorite cereal bowl somehow was removed from the box I had packed it in and smashed to the ground. That same move, the movers were leaving our stuff all over the yard and generally being rude, horrible people who took a lot longer than they needed to (to rack up their bill) and did a very poor job. Never hire two men and a truck. Seriously, worst move ever.
Anyway, so they discuss the problems at the meeting, and Kristy doesn’t know what to do about it. Apparently, Watson and Elizabeth aren’t going to be married until the end of September. There is seriously a lot of drama in these people’s lives. I mean, we have divorce, diabetes, divorce, parents dating, diabetes, and moving.
There is a nice little scene where Kristy kind of breaks down and talks about how worried she is, what with not being near her friends anymore, and not being able to see into Mary Anne’s window, etc. Personally, I’d be kind of excited to not have some friend staring into my window 24/7. There is a reason I don’t make friends with my neighbors.
Anyway, so then Claudia points out that Kristy will still be their friends and she can babysit in her new neighborhood. Kristy is still freaking out and starts to bitch about her new neighborhood, which is ridiculous. Does she not want her mom to be happy? God Kristy. A little perspective. Your mom has four kids and she met a guy who is willing to marry her and take on that responsibility. You get to move into a nicer neighborhood and meet new people and have a hell of a lot more opportunity. I think I just figured out why I haven’t liked Kristy very much since I became a grown up. She’s freaking spoiled and whiny in the older books, and annoyingly bossy and obnoxious in the new books. I would not want to be trapped on the Ocean Princess with her.
Anyway, so they realize that if Kristy can’t get across town, there might not be a club. Sad, but seriously, you girls could just meet once a week. I’m sure there could be a way to manage the club if it met once a week.
Then Dawn complains a bit about the weather, and seriously, I would kill for some 50 degree days right about now. And also, it gets chilly in LA too. Did Dawn never go outside at night?
They have a picnic and I’m kind of confused as to how Sharon grew up in Connecticut and doesn’t know what to serve at a picnic. She must have volunteered to have medical tests run on her in college for some extra cash or something. I get that she was raised upper east coast prep and ran off to california to be kind of granola… well, she was shipped off because she dated someone from the wrong side of the tracks and her parents are apparently the predecessors to Richard and Emily Gilmore. Anyway, so I’m going to assume that Sharon never cooked for herself, and then went to California where she joined the free love and peace people. But still, it’s weird that she doesn’t even remember what people serve at a picnic on the east coast. Or a barbeque, whatever. Richard sucks up to Sharon’s parents, it’s all weird and Dawn decides that grown up stuff is confusing.
Mary Anne sits for the Barretts next, and she has a horrible time. I think she should just stick with sitting for the quiet kids, because her sitting experience doesnt’ sound THAT horrible. It’s the one with the infamous “puddle walk” which is totally fun and I want to do it. Except it’s not raining here, it’s snowing. On October 7th. Don’t try and tell me that Global Warming and Climate Change isn’t happening. This is weird, even for Alaska.
Mary Anne’s sitting job ends and Mrs Barrett is upset because her ex husband called and because Buddy tormented Suzi with the Bizzer sign. The Bizzer sign kind of reminds me of that TV show “Friends” where Monica and Ross give each other that weird gesture where they turned their hands out and hit them together. It’s hard to explain and I want to find a video but I just spent 20 minutes looking to no avail.
Anyway, so back to the saga of Dawn and the Barretts. It’s raining and they are all bored. When it stops raining, they decide to go outside. Dawn lets Buddy go out first, while she gets the girls dressed and ready or whatever.
Buddy disappears, and I think this next part is done really well. Dawn freaks out, calls Mrs Pike, gets upset. They look for Buddy in the neighborhood, until Jordan comes home and tells everyone he saw Buddy get into a car. The police come, and question everyone obnoxiously over and over and over again and people cry and get frustrated and there’s that sense of urgency but you don’t know what’s going on. Plus Dawn cries, which is nice that the sitters aren’t always super stars.
But once the situation resolves itself, with Buddy’s father taking him, the story doens’t make a lot of sense anymore. I mean, taking the boy but not the girls, not even checking in with Mrs Barrett or the sitter. It’s just obnoxious. I realize that divorce is hard, but do people really have to be rude about it? I don’t know. On one hand I feel kind of bad for Mr. Barrett. But then again, that’s kind of an horrible thing to do, plus it’s possibly illegal. It shouldn’t be, as they are his kids too, but that’s the whole reason that family lawyers make so much money.
Anyway, so that resolves itself, Kristy asks Charlie to drive her to meetings when they move, they raise the club dues, and everyone is happy. Including Mary Anne, because Jeff came over and took a picture of all the club members for her wall. The end is sappy and totally sugary sweet, but I love it. It’s all tied up nicely , no lose ends.
Apparently, Jeff Schafer plays ice hockey with the Pike triplets. Also, Vanessa takes violin lessons. I’m not actually sure if that ever comes up again.
Claire is shy when she first meets Dawn. That’s a far cry from her showing off and screaming silly-billy-goo-goo. However, I will choose to explain that to myself by saying that Claire is only four here.
Dawn leads Claire down to the rec room, but in Poor Mallory, the rec room is upstairs.
Apparently, Dawn’s farmhouse has an outhouse. I’m actually not sure if it’s ever mentioned again, but I don’t remember it at all.
There are nine bedrooms in Watson’s Mansion. But later, we find out that no one uses the third floor, which is below the attic, and somehow everyone has their own room. This is one of those things you get really annoyed at when trying to make sim houses based on the BSC. Not that I have ever done that. 1 Master Bedroom + 4 Thomas kids + 2 Brewer kids + Nannie + Emily Michelle = nine… so do the bedrooms on the 3rd floor not count? how many bathrooms are there?
Dawn mentions that she and Jeff aren’t supposed to go in the barn. Her and Jeff play in it anyway, apparently. That’s weird, because don’t they end up living in the barn? And having all sorts of crazy events there? I guess they decided that it wasn’t dangerous?
Richard gets contacts in this book. But later he’s back to the glasses, as demonstrated on the cover of #64, Dawn’s Family Feud.
Apparently, there are people who live in this neighborhood called the Spencers and the Murphys. I don’t think we ever hear from them again.
Continuity does occasionally happen
Dawn listens to WSTO, which is 1313 on your dial. I’m pretty sure this actually stays the same.
Dawn doesn’t let the Barretts play with guns. Mrs. Barrett looks like a supermodel, but her house is a disaster.
Marnie Barrett is allergic to chocolate.
The Bizzer Sign!
Use of the Copy and Paste Function
I’m pretty sure that this sentence appears in most books:
There are eight Pike children — and three of them are triplets!
I’ve got to say, it’s the punctuation that makes it stick out. The narrators of these books are always so excited about triplets and millionaires. Speaking of millionaires, here we go again.
…sometime last year Mrs. Thomas started seeing this really rich man, Watson Brewer, who lives in a mansion (no kidding, a real mansion) across town.
Actual Pop Song Mentioned
Margo puts on a big floppy straw hat and a dress to lip synch to “Puff the Magic Dragon.”
Dawn thinks her house has a secret passage somewhere. Also, there is a lot of discussion of the rekindling of the Sharon / Richard romance. These girls are actually WAY to into their parents dating.
Grammar Lesson of the Week
Janine (of course!) tells us that “Continue on” is redundant. No one explains what redundant actually means, which I suppose could be a message to readers that redundancy doesn’t really matter.
Notable Dated Language
“Almost,” said Mary Anne. She had found a whole bunch of thongs — all sizes — in the closet, and she handed them around.
“Oh, boy!” cried Buddy.
This book also uses the term “zooey” which I’ve only seen used in BSC books. (well, I’ve seen it used as a name, like Zooey Dreschandal, who was named after Zooey Glass from J.D. Salinger’s “Franny and Zooey”. But I digress.
Well, this didn’t really hold up that well to the re-read. I really did love this book a lot when I was little, but Kristy’s complaining and meanness about moving was really grating on me right now. I did love the plot with the Barretts and how well Dawn related to them, and I think the divorce theme that ran through the book was done well, especially for the time period and age group. So I give it an B+ because i think chapter seven was completely useless and irrelevant, and I wish Kristy would be a little less annoying.