08 August 2015

+JMJ+

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

4 comments:

Sheila said...

Well, you remember more than I do -- I had forgotten Dawn *had* a brother!

Gosh, it's hard for me to say who's my favorite. I remember liking Claudia a lot. And Dawn. Dawn is so wonderfully crunchy. I envied both Jessie and Mallory -- Jessie for her dancing and Mallory for her big family.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Don't feel too bad about not remembering Jeff. This happens to be the book in which he flies back to California and stops being part of the Stoneybrook cast!

I don't think I have a favourite baby-sitter. I do like Stacey a lot, BUT she was awfully boy-crazy that one summer. I'm trying not "to judge," as they say, but I don't relate to that at all! When I was the characters' age, I was most like Mary Anne. But I don't really find her easy to relate to.

As for Dawn, I feel a spark of connection whenever she imagines (or actually detects?) some slights from Kristy. Although Dawn has become as important a member of the BSC as the others, she still feels that Kristy thinks she's an outsider. I recall noticing, when reading the earlier books in the series, that Ann M. Martin liked putting different characters together to test their "chemistry"--like Stacey and Mary Anne at a beach full of cute boys or Stacey and Dawn at a sleepover. And I had hoped to see Kirsty and Dawn get thrown together soon. But Martin seems to have gone in a different storytelling direction since then.

By the way, have you read her non-BSC novel Ten Kids, No Pets? =)

Sheila said...

I think I have, but it was ages ago. Is that the one where they are absolutely NOT allowed to get pets and just keep ending up with more and more animals anyway?

No, wait, that was The Mitchells. Maybe I haven't read it.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Well, I haven't read it, either! I just occasionally see used copies at bookstores and think to myself, "When I'm done with the BSC . . ."

Then, of course, there are the large family movies, like Cheaper by the Dozen and Yours, Mine and Ours, with an honourable mention going to The Sound of Music! Also some large family TV shows, like Seventh Heaven and Second Noah. If I wanted to make a blog project out of this, I'd have lots of material.