“I thought about those Olympic athletes I saw on TV”…..or Jessi’s Gold Medal

I bought this book to review in honor of the XXX Olympiad. And I read it, and for the seventeen days of the London Olympics, I failed to sit down at the computer and just fucking write about it already.  So here it is, a little belated, but with good intentions. Jessi’s Gold Medal.

No way in shit either of those girls are eleven.

This book was published in 1992 and I guess came out immediately prior to the Barcelona Games, because Olympic fever has hit Stoneybrook.  Jessi and Becca are enthralled with watching the Olympic Trials on  TV and decide they want a pool in their backyard.  Aunt Cecelia laughs in their faces, but Mama and Daddy are more sympathetic with saying no. No pool, but they do get family passes to the Stoneybrook Community Pool and Jessi is excited to learn how to swim better – she tells us she’s only an OK swimmer.

In an amazing coincidence – or couple of coincidences, SMS is getting ready to have its big annual Sports Festival Day AND Jessi and Mal’s gym class is doing a swimming unit.  On the first day of the swimming unit, Jessi is nervous, because she isn’t a strong swimmer (and Mal is horrified that they are taking the class with boys!). Still, Jessi does OK, and she’s approached by Ms. Cox, who wants Jessi to take a synchronized swimming class during gym class. Because of course she does.  Ms. Cox likes Jessi’s “form” in the water and can tell Jessi has had dance training. Because of course she can.

So Jessi joins the synchro class and is partnered with Elise, who is the other newest girl in the class. Jessi and Elise are opposites. Jessi has good form, but is a weak swimmer and Elise is on the swim team, but isn’t that graceful.  It’s announced that synchro will be an even at the SMS sports festival. Jessi decides to choreograph her and Elise’s routine.

All the babysitters are excited for the sports festival, except Mary Anne and Mallory.  Mary Anne just shrugs it off and decides not to join. Mallory acts like a twat and pretends to want to join, then kind of fakes, but doesn’t really fake, spraining her ankle so she can’t join.  You know, rather than just say “fuck that. I’m not doing this shit.” It’s a stupid B plot and only makes me pity Mallory, Ann’s obvious butt monkey, even more.

The other B plot is that the babysitters decide to host a Mini-Olympics for their sitting charges.  And it’s filled with kids acting like no other god damn kids I know, including all the four years olds being into weight lifting for some reason.

The sports festival comes, and Kristy beats Alan Gray in a one-on-one obstacle course race and, per the terms of a bet they’d set, Alan has to be her personal assistant (props to ghostwriter Lerangis for NOT using the word slave there!) for a week. Jessi and Elise win the gold medal for their synchro routine, despite Jessi spending the entire book explaining that she and Elise are the worst in the whole class. These protagonists shall never fail!

Then there’s the Mini-Olympics and a good time was had by all. All the participants got a ribbon for something so everyone went home happy.  Jessi and Elise announced their intention to quit synchro. It was making Jessi to worn out during ballet classes and Elise during swimming practice.  And Jessi’s Gold Medal is never spoken of again. (I think)

  • When Jessi and Becca are watching the Olympic trials, they are weirdly silent on exactly what sport is being watched.  They athletes are referred to as athletes, but Lerangis never says that they’re watching swimming, or track, or diving, or archery, or gymnastics, or basketball or whatever.
  • According to Wikipedia, the Barcelona Olympics began 7/25/92. Given that about a month went by in this book, the start of the book had to have been no later than early May.  Too early for most  sports to have hosted their Olympic Trials. (Also, according to wikipedia, Freddy Mercury was scheduled to have performed at the opening ceremony, but he died the previous November. Placido Domingo took his place.  Which raises the following question….was Freddy Mercury from Spain???)
  • Little Andrew Brewer is terrible at every event and it makes him so sad. This poor kid can NOT catch a break. At one point, Kristy is babysitting for her sibs and a lot of neighborhood kids come over. Andrew is sobbing because everyone is better than he is. Kristy tries to make him feel better by having him try other things, competing against the other kids. With no fucking thought that he’s the youngest kid there by two full years.  Gah! I hate you, Kristy.
  • Stacey is initially upset that Charlotte won’t join in the Mini-Olympics. And because she has learned nothing from the Little Miss Stoneybrook pageant, tries to force Charlotte into participating. Charlotte gets upset and thinks Stacey is mad at her, then Stacey (at the very least) feels super bad about it. Then at the next meeting, Kristy is like “Oh, we need to talk to her again.” Shut UP, Kristy. And you know who stands up to K-Ron about that? Mallory.
  • My man, Alan Gray, loses to Kristy in the obstacle course. And as her personal assistant for a week, he does all Kristy’s work at the Mini-Olympics. Kristy is way harsh to him also.
  • This whole synchro class makes no sense. I guess it’s not affiliated with the school. They practice at the Community Center, but it’s during the school day. Jessi has to switch lunch periods and get excused from gym class every day for it. And she agrees to join without talking it over with her parents. So I guess there’s no charge for it? I don’t know…..who is this Ms. Cox? And why is she so interested in middle school synchronized swimming?
  • Enjoy your gold medal Jessi.  The next book is the very special “Claudia and Jessi deal with the worst Stoneybrook racists ever,” story.  Those creepy Lowell children won’t care that you’ve won a gold medal.
  • I’d never really watched synchronized swimming, despite being a fairly fanatical follower of the Olympics. But this year, I did watch some of the team (8-members, as opposed to the duos) competition.  I have to admit, I was a little mesmerized by the crazy outfits and the pageantry….and really, just by how fucking hard it looked.  My husband laughed at me, but I honestly kind of enjoyed watching it.
  • Also, watch this hilarity. (Can’t get the video to embed, but you can watch it here, http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4122944961711350389) It’s the way old SNL sketch about male synchronized swimming. It is fucking brilliant.

About nikkihb

Wife. Mother. Reader. Blogger.
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11 Responses to “I thought about those Olympic athletes I saw on TV”…..or Jessi’s Gold Medal

  1. That SNL sketch is totally fucking brilliant. My parents used to put me in front of SNL and SCTV when I was a toddler. I now tell people, “that pretty much explains everything about me.”

    Great post! I remember when this book came out and thinking the SAME THING about them watching the Olympic Trials. The timing was way off. And really, why DID Mallory and Mary Anne have to be involved in the mini-Olympics? I sure as heck wasn’t involved in everything my friends were. Boo, BSC. Boo.

  2. Jenna says:

    Freddie Mercury was, shit you not, born as Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar, which was a British protectorate. His parents were Parsis from India who practiced Zoroastrianism. He did have a 1988 album titled Barcelona, though, which is why he was asked. (all info courtesy of wikipedia, I just knew the Zanzibar part. Because, wtf, Zanzibar?!)

  3. Christina says:

    Freddie Mercury is, of course, not from Spain, but he *did* sing a song with Montserrat Caballe (who *is* from Spain) called “Barcelona”. I don’t remember if she sang it with Placido Domingo at the Opening Ceremonies or not, but I do remember it was on the Barcelona Olympics album. (Yes, I was an Olympics-obsessed 14-year-old.)

  4. Alicia says:

    The BSC had/has a ghostwriter? Did the author die? I used to read these when I was younger, but I didn’t read this one. I remember when I was younger and reading books like this where the character wouldn’t just say, “No thanks, I’m not interested,” and just stand up for herself in the smallest way. It drove me (and still does) nuts to read characters who act like that. I mean, I’m not the best at standing up for myself, but I’d still say, “No, that’s OK, I’m not that interested. But you go ahead and have fun.” God how infuriating!

    And Freddie Mercury is the shit, yo.

    • nikkihb says:

      The BSC had a team of ghostwriters, though Ann M. Martin remains alive and well. After about book 35, she rarely wrote another BSC book and had them ghostwritten. You can tell which ghostie wrote which book, because on a page before the dedication it will say “The author gratefully acknowledges Peter Lerangis (or whichever ghostwriter) for his help with the manuscript.” Ann’s books are the best, but Peter Lerangis is definitely my favorite ghostie. Other ghostwriter were Ellen Miles. Suzanne Weyn, Jahnna Malcolm, and Nola Thacker. I’m probably missing one or two there……

      • Alicia says:

        Why did she need ghostwriters? Did she get tired of writing but didn’t want to stop the BSC series?

  5. Ang says:

    The synchro class setup seems similar to how my school had PE electives: if a student didn’t want to take a regular gym class, they could take a class or get instruction on some activity they were really interested in. We didn’t have swimming in school but you could take swim classes or join the local swim team for your PE credit. The only thing you were required to do once you were in high school was get your CPR certification, whether it was through the school or through the Y or another outfit. It doesn’t make sense in the context of SMS, though, where that doesn’t seem to be the case.

    As for the ghosties, I’m pretty sure AMM still okayed various plotlines and had a pretty big hand in the series, but they were trying to crank out a book a month in the BSC’s heyday. That’s just too much for one writer.

  6. Just came across your blog today. Wow the BSC brings back memories – also didn’t know they had a team of ghostwriters, very interesting!

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