16 August 2011


Reading Diary: BSC #7 Claudia and Mean Janine

"So," said Janine out of the blue, "may I ask how your agency plans to function once your founder is residing in a different district?"

"You may," I replied, stalling. I had no idea what she was talking about.

"Oh, I understand," said Janine. "You want to play games. Well, I'll comply. All right, how does your agency plan to function once your founder is residing in a different district?"

"Huh? . . . Janine, talk in English, will you?"

"I am!" Janine looked hurt again. "I can't help it if this is the way in which I speak."

"And I can't help it if I don't understand you."

Meet the Kishi sisters, Claudia and Janine, whose terrible dialogue struggle to understand each other is the main conflict of this Baby-sitters Club book. And let me say from the outset that I'm not too crazy about that.

There were four books between this and the last Claudia-narrated novel, and honestly, after Stacey's angst over her diabetes, Mary Anne's overcompensating widowed father, Dawn's double whammy of single motherhood, and Kristy's mother's second marriage, Claudia's rivalry with her sister seems kind of shallow. And Ann M. Martin probably thought so, too, because she threw in a stroke for their beloved grandmother Mimi, for good measure.

And yes, it can all be related to baby-sitting . . .

I loved taking care of Jamie and Lucy. The Newtons had been practically the first clients of the Baby-sitters Club. But Jamie was the only little Newton at the time. Then Lucy was born. All of us club members wondered how Jamie would react to a new baby in the house. We were sure he'd be jealous. And he was a little bit, but only sometimes.

Now the Newtons were planning a big party for Lucy's christening. The party was coming up soon . . .

The baby-sitting gods, in their infinite wisdom, decided to send Claudia to sit for the newest siblings on the block, one of whom has just about had it with the infant sister who is stealing everyone's attention away from him. It's obviously a parallel and a reversal of the Kishi girls' relationship--but there's something about it that's too easy.

We get some real subtlety when Claudia has to sit for her grandmother, who can no longer be left on her own. The stroke has made it difficult for Mimi to make herself understood, and she must learn how to speak and to write all over again. This makes her the third member of the Kishi family with communication issues--but both Claudia and Janine are willing to show her more patience than they've ever shown each other. It's only fitting that Mimi becomes the key to reconciliation between her two granddaughters.

As for the other members of the BSC . . . they open a summer playgroup for their free mornings and resume regular baby-sitting in the afternoon and evenings. It's awfully similar to the daycare they formed in the previous book, BSC#6 Kristy's Big Day, and has that Been There, Done That feel. Yes, this new project has the neighbourhood kids we already know instead of unfamiliar relatives from out of town, but I suspect some scenes (like "the Louie-washing") were originally intended for the last story, and then cut and recycled into this one. But I like making wild guesses about authorial and editorial intentions like that. =P

Can you tell this isn't my favourite book in the series? Sigh! Seven books in, two narrated by Claudia, and I have yet to warm to her.

Image Source: BSC #7 Claudia and Mean Janine by Ann M. Martin


Syrin said...

I wonder if I had any trouble understanding Janine's lines when I was age appropriate for this book. Because looking at that passage right now makes Claudia look really dumb. I remember liking Claudia quite a bit, specifically because she was an artist, so I'm not sure now.

Jenny said...

I read so many of these when I was young but the only girls I remember are Mary Anne and Stacey. Weird, huh? Why don't I remember Claudia?

Enbrethiliel said...


Syrin -- It is kind of hard to believe that Claudia, who has been living with Janine all her life, wouldn't have tuned into her sister's communication wave before this. Or that Janine, assuming she is as smart as we're told she is, couldn't have come up with a communication strategy for Claudia. Hey, even Sheldon can do it with Penny, and they're an amazing team! ;-)

My own problem with the passage is that it makes Janine look fake. We all know lots of book-smart, super-cerebral people, and they don't talk like that. Even Sheldon wouldn't say something so stilted.

Jenny -- I don't think it's weird at all! Stacey also stands out more to me than the other girls do. And I thought Mary Anne's first book was great, although she doesn't really shine when other people are doing the narrating.

Perhaps it has something to do with the girls being strategically designed to be different, so that everyone can have a favourite? And I know that Claudia has lots of fans on the Internet! =)

Salome Ellen said...

I never cared for these books when my daughters read them (just silly and boring) but I always get a grin when I think of Janine, because my precocious reader, who had never heard the name, not unreasonably decided that it must rhyme with "canine."

mrsdarwin said...

What I remember about this book was that the girls had an aunt named Peaches, who was married to a lawyer. The lawyer had been cured of ambulance chasing when he followed an emergency vehicle which ended up at the home of someone he knew.

Am I right? Is that really in the book?

And I remember thinking that Janine wasn't really all that hard to understand, and that Martin must have been pushing to make Claudia seem dumb.

Enbrethiliel said...


Ellen -- LOL! I have a cousin named Jeannine, so this series's Janine was never a problem . . . But my cousin, who now lives in the US, says that she has met exactly one delivery man who was able to pronounce her name correctly. I suspect what she usually hears sounds close enough to "canine." ;-)

Mrs. Darwin -- I have no idea! =P Peaches hasn't shown up in the series yet. (I might have blinked and missed her, but I don't think so--not if she has such a crazy personality.) But from what I've heard, Claudia and Janine have basically the same conflict in every other Claudia book, so the Claudia and Mean Janine title could likely be applied to the book you're thinking of.

It's interesting to me that so far two people have said that the excerpt makes Claudia seem really dumb. My own problem is that it makes Janine look "fake smart." But I guess if you can't make someone seem realistically super-smart (and I still think the "Janine is a genius" telling-not-showing always sounds like a joke rather than a fact about the character), then you just end up making everyone around her seem unnaturally "super-dumb."

Katie said...

I am looking for the re-release version of this book. It's out, but my library doesn't have it yet!

I definitely remember thinking Janine's way of speaking was complicated and hard to understand, but I bet that was only because I was told by the story to think so. Looking at now, there are no words in there that I didn't know when I was 10. I could have figured it out.

I didn't remember there being a day care scenario in this book as well. I'll look for that when/if I write my review! Thanks for this great post.

Enbrethiliel said...


I'm really starting to think that Janine is Martin's least realised character. She's just not convincing and she makes the perfectly acceptable Claudia look dumb!

Katie, I was really excited to see that you had started reading the BSC rereleases. I've been following all your reviews and am tickled that you're keeping your eyes peeled for possible 80s moments that were rewritten. ;-)