BSC #15: Little Miss Stoneybrook . . . and Dawn by Ann M. Martin
"Oh, hi, Dawn," [Mallory's mother] said. "I'm glad you picked up. I have a special job and I wanted to offer it to you."
. . . Remember when Mallory said that if her sisters heard about the pageant, they'd want to enter it? Well, sure enough, Claire and Margo (who are five and seven) had heard, and they did want to enter. There was just one problem. [Their mother] wasn't going to be able to help them prepare for it . . . She was asking me because I live close by and would never need a ride over. And she was not asking Mallory, who, of course, would be the most convenient helper of all. She knew what Mallory thought about pageants . . .
"Well," [her mother] finished up, "what do you think? This job would be a little different from most. You'd have to help the girls choose outfits, rehearse for the talent competition, learn to greet the judges, that sort of thing . . . Are you interested in the job, Dawn?"
Now I come full circle: BSC #15 was the first Baby-sitters Club book I ever read--and until I started this reading project a few years ago, also the only one. I had thought I remembered it well, but it was nice to be surprised all over again by a few details. Such as how almost every member of the BSC ends up looking after her own pageant princess. If it had just been a case of one little girl in their circle entering and sparking the interest of all the others, that would have been plausible enough and the story would still have been funny. But Ann M. Martin goes above and beyond: in this novel, the real competition is not for the crown of Little Miss Stoneybrook, but for bragging rights to the title of Best Baby-sitter. Who do you think deserves to win???
Let's hear each senior BSC member make her pitch to the judges . . .
Claudia: "Dr. Johanssen said Charlotte especially asked for me to be her sitter . . . She said Charlotte really misses Stacey and she knows I'm Stacey's best friend . . . I guess Charlotte just feels connected to me."
Kristy: "I was the one who thought of the Kid-Kits Charlotte likes so much." (Kid-Kits are boxes that we fill with toys and games, puzzles and books, and sometimes bring with us on baby-sitting jobs.)
Mary Anne: "I was the one who got Jenny Prezzioso to the hospital the time she got sick."
Dawn: "I once saved two kids from a fire when I was sitting in California."
Who would I pick, you ask? (Or didn't ask?) Well, my first answer was that Kristy should get the crown: the BSC was her "Great Idea," after all. But then my inner advocatus diaboli argued that I was describing Kristy as a businesswoman rather than as a baby-sitter. =P And the more I considered the matter, looking at each sitter in turn, the more I saw that Martin had created her cast so well that we can't say that any one of them is better than all the others, although we all seem to have our personal favourite.
The two newest members, Mallory and Jessie, stay out of this fray. Partly because they're more level-headed, despite being younger; and partly because they haven't been baby-sitting long enough to think of it as a career, the way the older girls (subconsciously?) do. Oh, this feels so 80s . . .
Speaking of the 80s, was every girls' book from that decade which mentioned pageants obliged to call them "sexist" at one point? I'll admit that I've only read one other--Sweet Valley High #76: Miss Teen Sweet Valley (LOL!)--but "sexist" isn't a word you casually drop into a juvenile series novel. Does its inclusion reflect the writers' ambivalent views of beauty contests (which they clearly had heaps of fun writing about) . . . or is it mostly there to mollify readers with feminist leanings? Whichever is true, those attempts to be "respectable" while having "forbidden" fun make me smile.
Without going into spoiler territory, let me just say that I'm not crazy about the way Martin weasels out of an interesting ending. But I forgive her because she's adorable and because I like her moral, which is that competition among friends is silly at best and ugly at worst. (Oh, how beautifully ironic!) Competition among members of a body is even more ridiculous--but Martin doesn't really go into the ways that one BSC's members strengths can prop up another's weaknesses. In fairness to her, however, that might have made the book too long and the plot too unwieldy.
A final note: Little Miss Stoneybrook . . . and Dawn being a "Dawn Schafer book," we also get a hefty helping of reality. The Shafers are still reeling from divorce and aren't holding up any better than they were the last time we checked in on them. I find it curious that, from the first time around, I remember Dawn and her brother's interactions more clearly than the conflict between her and her friends, because I can't imagine having that focus now.
Image Source: BSC #15: Little Miss Stoneybrook . . . and Dawn by Ann M. Martin