Monday, May 14, 2007

Uncle Andy's Tar Machine; or, BSC #49: Claudia and the Genius of Elm Street

The cover asks "How could a seven-year-old make Claudia feel so dumb?" I ask, "How could an earthworm not make Claudia feel so dumb?" I'm so bored of the whole Claud feels dumb storyline. Seriously. We get it.  She feels inferior to small children because they can spell better than she can. Well, if she feels so bad about it, why doesn't she fucking study? Huh?

Also, the guy who painted this cover totes gave Claud a mustache. Hee.



Also, as per usual, Janine looks about 45 on the cover, not 16. I realize that she's supposed to dress wicked old, but she doesn't even look like a teenager dressed old! Why? Can you tell me?

Plus, why is Claudia going to a sock hop?

Woot. Another example of the BSCers knowing more than parents about said parents' children.

Yeah, the plot of this one is that Claud gets a regular sitting job for Rosie Wilder (the titular "Genius of Elm Street"). (Also, notice how many times the genesis of a plot is a new regular sitting job? Odd...) And nobody likes Rosie, cause she's difficult. And sitting for her is comprised of giving her snacks and "helping" her with her homework in between lessons and rehearsals and practices. Yeah, Rosie's a super-kid. She's done commercials and she tap dances and she plays piano and violin and sings and gets super good grades and wins all kinds of contests.  Essentially, her parents were trend-setters. Yeah, but she also has a secret talent that only Claud can understand. Yep, she likes to draw. But she hides it from her parents. Oh, and the kids at school hate her (big shocker there), and she goes on this kids' talent show called...[cough] Uncle Dandy's Star Machine. And auditions and blah. I got tired just reading about all the shit this kid's got going one, and I'm hardly without multiple projects at once that I should be working on but haven't gotten to yet or whatever. Finally, Rosie throws a tantrum, and Claudia facilitates some communication between Little Miss Perfect and her 'rents, cause she understands the situation in a way the Wilder parents just don't.

Subplot-ish: Claudia decides to create a series of paintings of junk food. And decides to put a show on in her garage. Yeah. See, it's not really a subplot, but it's the closest thing in this book.

So much to mock, so little time:

  • Oooh, foreshadowing! Someone's been studying their EngLit...Yeah, the book starts with a very detailed description of a commercial featuring a little girl, spilled chocolate milk, and carpet cleaning gremlins. And it's ROSIE WILDER! But, of course, Claud hasn't met her yet...

  • Claud's watching a documentary on Andy Warhol. Cause she's an artist! Oh, and she meant to tape it, but she accidentally set the VCR for a.m. instead of p.m. D'oh! And she feels dumb.

  • Janine doesn't get art. Big surprise.

  • "The first time I heard Janine mention 'calculus' I thought she was talking about a Roman emperor." Really, Claud? Somehow, I don't think so.

  • Lucky, lucky us! We get a contrast and compare between Claud's outfit and Janine's! Woo-hoo! "That afternoon, for instance, I was wearing a man's paisley vest I'd found at a yard sale, over a striped button-down shirt with tuxedo-stripe black Spandex stirrup pants, held up with pink-flecked black suspenders. My hair was pulled straight back with a paisley comb, and I was wearing electric-pink ankle boots. The boots really set off the formality of the rest of the outfit, sort of like the punchline of a joke." And "Her hair is always in a page boy, and she'd be perfectly happy wearing a white Oxford blouse and a gray pleated skirt every day. Janine's main accessory is a book cradled in her right arm." Hell, yeah! (I totally didn't know what a pageboy was when I was growing up. A sad, sad time before Google Image search.)

  • Claud's junk food series is inspired by Warhol's stuff. Genius?

  • How is this outfit of Mary Anne's at all stylish? "...A loose-fitting open shirt over a teal turtleneck with off-white chinos and white sneakers."

  • Hee! Mrs. Wilder is all kinds of affectations! She speaks like Madonna does now, and it is hilarious.

  • Who knew that Mrs. Wilder was California Casual? She is, after all, wearing a blue Laura Ashley dress.

  • Ah, made up super-kid books: Preparing Your Preschooler for Success; Gifted Children: A Parents' Guide; That's My Kid! An Approach to Show-Biz Careers from One Month to Eighteen Years. Prescience is unintentionally funny.

  • Oh, I forgot ballet. Rosie does it all.

  • Fave fake soap name? "The Brash and the Beautiful." Total rip off, yo.

  • Apparently, it's so embarrassing to read a scene from a soap opera. Or at least for the super-sophisticate Stacey.

  • "I can't just walk into a gallery and ask someone to give me an exhibit!" Actually, Claud, you kinda have to. And I'm sure Stoneybrook's got a coffee shop or something that shows local artists...C'mon now.  Or ask at the Community Center where you take all these "art classes" that only seem to exist as plot devices.

  • "Well, now you know the secret of the Baby-sitters Club. We may be excellent baby-sitters, but that doesn't mean we're good at everything. Like making invitations." Fucking shocker.  They can't do everything perfectly. Cause, you know, they're only 13. (And 11.) Or something.

  • The name of Claud's show (oh, and Rosie has a few drawings in it, too)? Claudia Lynn Kishi's 'Disposable Comestibles,' a Pop-Art Multi-Media Extravaganza. Neither Janine nor Dawn get the joke: "Here was this huge, complicated name that would give people the idea that they were seeing something really serious, and then the subject of the show would turn out to be junk food." It's called irony, Claudia. Learn it, live it, love it.

  • Alan Gray shows up to cause trouble at the show. Cause he's a 13-year-old guy. I guess. Or cause boys have cooties. Or something.



Yep. I wish I still had the bookmarks referenced on the cover. I'd totally rock those in my copy of "Please Kill Me" or "King Dork." Yeah.

***

Bonus for nerdy librarian types! From the OCLC authority file:

150 Babysitters Club (Imaginary organization)

450 BSC (Imaginary organization)

670 Martin, A.M. Mary Anne breaks the rules, c1994: ǂb cover (The Babysitters Club series, no. 79) p. 2 (Babysitters Club or BSC)

670 LC database, 14 Apr. 1997 ǂb (The Babysitters Club: 2 hits)

675 Pringle, D. Imaginary people, 1987; ǂa Carpenter, H. The Oxford comp. to child. lit., 1984; ǂa Twentieth-cent. child. writers, 3rd ed.

Ah, LCSH.

35 comments:

Jennifer C said...

I always hated this one. It was so full of crap. Plus, I was about nine when I read it and I felt like I wasn't good enough because I didn't tap dance, wasn't good at math, couldn't draw, and was never in a commercial. What was I busy doing if not those things? Reading these shitty books, that's what, and being really, really impressed. So impressed I even joined the BSC Fan Club through the bookorder flyer and wrote ANM a fan letter about how sorry I was that one of her stupid cats had diabetes. Blah.

coquelicot said...

The BSC sure had their share of TV-star babysitting charges. First Derek Masters, now Rosie Wilder? (By the way, wasn't that the name of Laura Ingalls Wilder's little girl? Wait, that was Rose.) Are there really that many up-and-coming child TV stars in Connecticut?

Jennifer M. said...

Hi. I think your blog is pretty hilarious. Um, this sounds dumb but I need to interview a librarian by tomorrow evening (for a class) and I was wondering if you'd like to answer some questions about "the field." If you're busy/not interested, that's perfectly fine. I'm just feeling too shy and last-minuteish to ask a local librarian :\

If you're up for it (I have about 10-20 questions; it should definitely take under half an hour to respond), please email me:

jenage2002 at yahoo dot com

Thank you.

Katie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Katie said...

Gah, apparently I can't spell...

I didn't really care for this book either. So tired of Claudia always being pegged as being dumb. There was Claudia's Freind oops I mean Friend where she finds out Shea Rodowsky is dyslexic and they bond over their lack of correct spelling (yahoo) and Claud is the one who is sent back to 7th grade. Geez, hasn't the girl had enough?

And it always amazed me just HOW much this little kid could do. Honestly, did she ever have any time for fun? I seriously doubt it.

Love the blog, BTW, it's hilarious. Gotta love sarcasm and the BSC.

Stephanie said...

I really enjoy your posts, what a great project you're doing! Also, thanks for the OCLC information - that's priceless!!

Margie said...

This is the only Claudia outfit, like, ever that I CAN NOT VISUALIZE. At ALL. And wtf, tuxedo stripe Spandex pants? What's a tuxedo stripe look like? When I think tuxedo I think pure black with a white shirt underneath and a bowtie, hardly applicable to Spandex. *shudder*

And this book annoyed me, the whole Rosie the prodigy or whatever. Dammit, when I was little I took piano, violin, ballet, tap, art, Spanish, drama... and then by the age of 8 I quit everything and became mediocre just like everyone else. See, Rosie? You too can be a normal kid, and then you'll still get teased but you won't have any cool talents either!

lisa said...

Are "tuxedo-stripes" just "pin-stripes" ??

I have a Mallory bookmark. I found it inside a book I bought at a second-hand shop! Mwahahhaa. And DAMN, that girl is fugly.

Poor dumb Claud.

kiwimusume said...

OK. I hate you. I actually got so nostalgic from your blog that I have bid on two sets of BSC books on eBay. I would like to point out here that I am on a temporary contract in Japan, which means two things:
1. I have to pay through the nose to get them shipped from an English-speaking country.
2. In a year or two I will have to either ship, sell or ditch the already enormous pile of crap in my apartment.
But I bid on a shit ton of Babysitters Club books anyway, because your damn blog has made me that nostalgic. I hate you, Tiff. I really do. >_<

PS: I really liked this book when I was a kid (hence the nostalgic buying binge) but we'll see what happens now the childhood naivety goggles are off...

Becky said...

I actually liked this book because I was one of those kids who did everything - gymnastics, dancing, piano, drama classes, netball, play in the school band, sing in the school choir, extension classes at school - I liked this book because I kind of identified with Rosie. I was even in a commerical - kind of - it was a series of printed advertisements for Helen O'Grady Drama Academy haha. The only difference was that my mother wasn't nearly as weird as hers was and I was occasionally allowed to have ice-cream now and then.

psb said...

Those stirrup pants really pique my curiosity, too. A tuxedo stripe is usually a strip of satin fabric that goes up the outside seam of a man's tuxedo pants. does that make sense? now to picture that with stirrups. . .

Anonymous said...

Coquelicot is right. For such a small town, Stoneybrook did have a lot of famous kids ... there was a princess later in the series. She was like 50th or something to the throne in England. What she was doing in Stoneybrook, I don't know.

Anonymous said...

One of those pageboy haircuts looks EXACTLY like Mary Anne's hair on some of the covers. It's the short black one in the second row when you click on the Google Image link.

colleenn said...

I think I should still have my BSC bookmarks in the back of my old desk drawer at my parents' house. These 40s/early-50s-numbered books in the series was like early-90s when I was buying them new as they came out every month rather than catching up by taking them out from the library like I did with the older ones. (I stubbornly held off on getting into the series until 1991/92 in fourth grade, when on a whim I took out Hello Mallory from the library and got sucked in.) But I was buying most the books new around the bookmark era... I definitely have Claudia's and Kristy's... I think I have Mallory's and Jessi's... I don't think I have Mary Anne, and I must have either Stacey or Dawn because I think I had four or five out of the seven. I should try scanning them if I can find them.

Anonymous said...

What I always loved/hated? about the book art featuring Claudia was how she'd be really Asian on one cover, sort of Asian on the next and not even tan on another. Seriously, book artists! I know a majority of the books were ghost-written, but you would think the book artist would look at past covers to see how to draw Claudia. Or know that an Asian-American should look like an Asian-American!

Annie said...

Where on earth would a person even GET electric-pink ankle boots? I've got a mental image of that little section of Wal-Mart's shoe department where they have really bizarre footwear on sale for like, fifty cents, and there's only one pair of each type 'cause they're basically factory uh-ohs...

Anonymous said...

i love king dork! so much!

Hanna said...

Mary Ann is dressed like a Land's End model...

amanda said...

tuxedo-stripe black Spandex stirrup pants

Okay, I know what tuxedo stripe means, I know what Spandex stirrup pants are (yuck!), but I am having a horrible time imagining this....And to top it off, she's wearing suspenders with a vest? Odd. Poor Claud, to think I admired you as a child.

Jo Whittemore said...

Hey, Tiff, one of these times can you let us know pre-post which book you're going to read, so those of us with too much time on our hands can get to the library and read along?

Anonymous said...

I never did read this book. I think this may have been the point in the series where I stopped reading...

As a fan of both your blog and of www.foundmagazine.com, I felt it was necessary to share this BSC related find with you:
http://foundmagazine.com/comments/825

Sara

Princess Blue said...

Sigh, this was my first BSC book! I've been waiting and waiting to read about this one...Thanks for the blog!

Anonymous said...

I knew none of the answers to Rosie's crossword questions when I was little...you know, Streetcar Named Desire, Ansel Adams, etc. Reading it as an adult I totally knew them all and felt pretty smart! I think if I had been a crossword champion at Rosie's age I would still boast about it to this day 'cause I'm awesome like that.

kate said...

I am SO SICKLY OBSESSED WITH tHIS BLOG. I feel 11 again, except, you know, with access to alcohol and less of a penchant for yearning after Jonathan Taylor Thomas.

kate said...

okay, so I was just reading through the Amazon listings for BSC, and there are all these books about a girl named 'Abby'. WTF??? WHO THE FUCK IS 'ABBY'?

kate said...

So I was just coasting through Amazon finds for BSC, and I found books about a chracter named 'Abby'. WTF?!!!! WHO THE FUCK IS ABBY?

Margie said...

Kate-- Abby is the newest babysitter, she joined the books in 1995 in book 89, Kristy and the Dirty Diapers. She's the token twin/asthmatic/Jewish/daughter of a single mom one.

rachel said...

margie, don't forget that she has scoliosis.

every time there is an outfit that involves turtlenecks, i automatically write it off as disgusting. and claud, your show's name - pop-art is fine, multi-media works, but extravaganza? makes you sound like a 5-year-old selling tickets to the big-top circus in your backyard starring your dog and cat.

MagentaNation said...

Abby doesn't have scoliosis, her twin sister Anna does. And how freaking sad is it that I actually know shit like that off the top of my head?

Lauren said...

I got the link to your blog from a friend last week. I am embarrassed to admit how many of your recaps I've read this weekend, or how many Kleenex I've used up because I'm crying from laughing.

I have the dubious honor of being 27 years old and currently sitting at a desk next to a complete collection of BSC books. I started collecting them at an age where I remember thinking "Wow, I'll be as old as Vanessa Pike someday!" and now I figure I'm older than a Stoneybrook parent or two. It's embarrassing.

My favorite one ever is #21, Mallory and the Trouble With Twins. Also, I had a massive crush on Shea Rodowsky, who was possibly an older man at the conception of my crush. I am delighted that you have a healthy distaste for Fucking Karen, who is possibly my least favorite book character of all time. I was always sad that my younger sister never learned to adore the books the way I did, but now I think she might have been the smarter sibling.

(oh, and I have an autographed picture of ANM somewhere around here! I did truly lead a pathetic existence as a kid.)

Anonymous said...

So... basically every one of Claudia's "OUTRAGEOUS" outfits is just a vest and a baggy shirt over some sort of legginngs in hideously clashing colors? Oh, and boots. Way to be a super-original trend-setter, Claud.

By the way, did anyone else buy any of those babysitter club dolls? I had a Claudia and my sister had Dawn...

Anonymous said...

Heh. I own this book. I love how Rosie Wilder is all snippy and a know-it-all at first and makes Claudia feel like a dumbass. The thing Rosie said about Mozart or something when she first met Claudia? I actually understood her.
I was very disappointed when Rosie began to like Claudia. I was also very disgusted when Claudia thinks that the whole "Disposable Comestibles" thing is so damn funny.
I am such a dork. I love and hate the BSC at the same time.

Mehreen said...

Wow, I totally thought that was Mrs. Kishi on the cover. Poor Janine always gets the short end of the stick. Oh, and growing up, I thought her name was Jan-ine, not Ja-neen, and that was just such a weird name! Of course my name, Mehreen, is weird to Americans, but it's a common Muslim name. And OMG, I forgot about Derek Masters! I always imagined him as that kid on Star Search and Full House who could sing like full-on show tunes at age 6-7. Oh, and also in the Claudia & Ashleny book she talks about Jackie blowing raspberries on her jeans and it took me YEARS to figure out what that meant! I also recall the game Red Light, Green Light, and the endless hours of fun...

Anonymous said...

So... basically every one of Claudia's "OUTRAGEOUS" outfits is just a vest and a baggy shirt over some sort of legginngs in hideously clashing colors? Oh, and boots. Way to be a super-original trend-setter, Claud.

Or overalls. Don't forget the random overalls.

Addison Conroy said...

andy shea alcohol has been covered intensively by the world press over the past decade. I find myself constantly drawn back to the subject of andy shea alcohol. Indispensable to homosapians today, it is yet to receive proper recognition for laying the foundations of democracy. It still has the power to shock socialists, who form the last great hope for our civilization. With the primary aim of demonstrating my considerable intellect I will now demonstrate the complexity of the many faceted issue that is andy shea alcohol.