“A California Girl belongs in California”, or Dawn on the Coast

Image courtesy of Goodreads

Image courtesy of Goodreads

Can we talk about this cover for a minute? I always loved this cover, because Dawn is the same size as Jeff while she’s on her knees and Jeff is standing. Who knew Dawn is an eight foot giantess? Also, while search for cover images, I’m lucky enough to sometimes come across covers I haven’t seen before.

Also from Goodreads

Also from Goodreads

This is the Italian version. And it’s even more puzzling than Giant Dawn on the U.S. version. Because for some reason there is a bottle of blue nail polish with an arrow pointing at Dawn’s scalp. Um. She’s on an airplane, which is a scene in the book. And in the book, there is blue nail polish, but it’s at a We Heart Kids Club meeting. And it doesn’t go on her head. So…..I don’t even know. Also, like we’ve never heard of Dawn being a giant, we’ve also never heard of her having terribly misshapen hands like on this cover.

Anyway, spring break is coming up at Stoneybrook Middle School and these lucky assholes get TWO WEEKS off for spring break. Dawn is going to spend the whole time seeing her dad and Jeff in California. In a weird break for the BSC, Dawn spends the first chapter, not the second, giving us a rundown on who’s who in the BSC. Before Dawn leaves, the BSC of course has to have a slumber party in her honor. They have pizza and Dawn insists on having broccoli on her part because she’s starting to be insufferable about health food at this point. You know who else is insufferable? Karen Brewer, who insists on being part of the action at a party for thirteen year olds.

Dawn, though excited, is nervous about leaving her mother alone for two whole weeks. What if her mom gets too close to the Trip-Man? They have a nice good bye dinner, at Cabbages & Kings, natch. There is a cuh-razy pre-9/11 drop off scene at the airport. Dawn’s mom gets to the airport minutes before the plane takes off, and she goes with Dawn to the gate, and Dawn has to request a no-smoking seat. Also Dawn’s stewardess looks like a Kewpie Doll and spends the flight ignoring Dawn and paying attention to her handsome seatmate. And she gives Dawn’s pre-ordered vegetarian meal away to another passenger.

Still, she makes it to California and immediately begins having a good time. Her dad takes her and Jeff to Disneyland. And best of all, Sunny (who’s also on a whopping two week long spring break) has started her own babysitting club, The We Heart Kids Club, which is run like the BSC, but way more laid back. And they serve health foods like guacamole and apple slices at meetings. Jill Henderson and Maggie Blume are both in the club, and it’s really interesting to read this after reading California Diaries. Jill isn’t a pariah yet, and Maggie isn’t anorexic.

Dawn’s having such a good time, getting along with Jeff, hanging out with Sunny, eating health foods, enjoying a clean house, and babysitting her old charges (the hippie-ly monikered Clover and Daffodil), that she starts to think that maybe she, too, would like to live in California like Jeff does.

She has a lot of thinking to do, does it, and eventually decides to return to Connecticut, though she knows that she’ll always have two homes. One in Stoneybrook and one in California.

  • The worst shit about this book is that all the Dawn goodness is interspersed with not one, not two, but THREE random unnecessary babysitting chapters. While Dawn is pondering a move to California, we have to suffer through chapters with Claudia/Mary Anne sitting for the Newtons and their terrible cousins, Jessi sitting for the Thomas -Brewer kids, and Kristy/Mallory sitting for the Pikes.
  • I have a soft spot for the Pikes, but really. Sometimes they are shit parents. Vanessa talks about how she does all the ironing for her mother (Vanessa’s nine you piece of crap, Dee), and they let the kids dip paintbrushes directly into a milk jug to make invisible ink. Kristy seems shocked that they’re letting Claire hang out in pajamas all day, but my kids enjoy pajama days on occasion so no judgment here.
  • Jeff Schafer is one of my all-time favorite BSC characters (along with Byron and Nicky Pike, Janine Kishi, and Alan Gray), and this book is part of why. He’s just freaking adorable in this book. He’s really unabashedly happy to see his sister again. But he’s also sarcastic and teasing toward her and her friends, getting grossed out by them in bikinis (ooooh…..that’s where we start to slash Jeff), and throwing sand crabs at them. He’s also just hyper and nearly out of control at Disneyland, just like you’d expect a REAL (i.e. non-BSC kid) to be. But Jeff is also realistically moody. We know he had behavior problems when he was unhappy in Stoneybrook, and when Dawn announces she won’t be moving to CA after all, he goes into a funk.
  • When Dawn first starting thinking about moving to CA, she made a pros and cons list. For some reason, I think this isn’t the first time Ann M used the pro and con list as a plot point.
  • I think one of the reasons I like this book so much is that it kind of includes all of what’s best about the BSC. Beyond a lot of Jeff Schafer, it had the girls all being really kind and supportive of each other. Jessi sends Dawn a very sweet letter while she’s in CA talking about how they’d gone to Oakley for a couple days and Jessi started realizing that even though Stoneybrook was home, part of her would always belong to Oakley. Jessi thought that Dawn just might need to hear something like that. Also, Dawn gets a letter from Nicky Pike who wants to go hunting for old coins in her secret passage when she gets home. Those two letters help Dawn make the decision to come back to Stoneybrook.
  • Since becoming an adult, it’s always bugged me that Sharon moves her kids three thousand miles away from their father after the divorce. This isn’t something that really ever entered my mind as a kid, because hey, I saw kids move in and out of my school all the time. But now as an adult, and especially as a parent, I think it was absolutely the wrong decision to move Dawn and Jeff so far away from their father and the only place they’d ever known in the midst of dealing with a divorce, no less. In fact, a lot of divorce/custody agreements today include protections for parents from taking their kids far from the other parent. It’d be one thing if Jack had been abusive. And while Jack has a tendency to be a dick sometimes, Sharon certainly wouldn’t have let Jeff move back with him had he been abusive.
  • That said, when Dawn calls her mom before coming back to Stoneybrook, she admits to her that she’d been thinking of moving back. Sharon cries and is clearly upset, but is also supportive of any decision Dawn makes. Still, Dawn’s main reason for returning to Stoneybrook isn’t the BSC, it’s that she doesn’t want to leave her mother alone, and that type of pressure isn’t fair to put on a thirteen year old.
  • I think the Trip-man is even more conservative that Richard Spier. He takes Sharon to a chamber music concert and to a lecture on humor. Not to see a stand-up comedian. To hear some ding-dong give a LECTURE about HUMOR. I think after the free-wheeling Jack Schafer, Sharon was going out of her way to date the anti-Jack.
  • Just an FYI, Dawn. Carrot cake isn’t a health food.
  • Jack Schafer’s handwriting is identical to Mary Anne’s. It was a confusing first chapter for me, not realizing who was writing initially.
  • I had no idea what a Kewpie Doll was when I read this as a kid, and Google didn’t exist back then for me to figure it out. If you’re wondering, this is a Kewpie Doll:

    Creepy as fuck

    Creepy as fuck

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About nikkihb

Wife. Mother. Reader. Blogger.
This entry was posted in Ann M. Martin, BSC, California Diaries and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to “A California Girl belongs in California”, or Dawn on the Coast

  1. Laura says:

    The nail polish? Yeah, I don’t know. (Does it also mention temporary tattoos? I wonder what those would be of. Seeing this French cover makes me think I might have to go on some cover searches of my own. I love seeing different cover versions for books and seeing which scene, if any, that the artist decided to depict.)

    For some reason, I love the Alice reference in the name of the Cabbages and Kings restaurant.

    Very interesting to read CD (I’m about halfway through that series) and see how different Jill and Maggie (and Dawn, too, I think) are from their characterizations in the BSC books.

    I also have pajama days (not when I have to go anywhere) so I totally get that.

    Vanessa ironing: I guess Mal’s not the only Pike kid who has to do chores. (Though I do agree with you that Vanessa doing all the ironing is excessive.)

    Jack must be a more permissive parent (though he’s not Jill’s or Maggie’s parent) because he just teases Maggie and Jill about using Sun-Lite, rather than punishing them, whereas Stacey says in book 8 that her mom would kill her if she found out Stacey was planning to use Sun-Lite while in Sea City.

    I don’t know if DotC is the first instance of this but Stacey also makes a pro/con list in book 28, over remaining in NY v. returning to Stoneybrook after the divorce.

    It’s interesting that you describe Jack as “free-wheeling” when Dawn says he’s always been very organized (not that those are necessarily mutually exclusive) but I’ve heard it theorized by other bloggers that one possible reason that Jack and Sharon were no longer compatible was Jack’s organization v. Sharon’s habit of misplacing her things or leaving her shoes in the vegetable crisper.

    I don’t remember them eating carrot cake in the book. Will have to re-read.

    I did know what a Kewpie doll was when reading the book (or found out at a time when I was still reading them originally, rather trying to than collect missing ones now) but I had a hard time reconciling that image with my image of the adult stewardess so I think I mostly pictured a Barbie doll. Because I could picture an adult looking like that, with caked-on, painted on makeup and vapid personality but the Kewpie doll I just didn’t see.

    • nikkihb says:

      There was a Tumblr (http://bsc-covers-revisited.tumblr.com/) devoted to the BSC covers, but it hasn’t been updated in forever. There might be some cool foreign covers there.

      I called Jack Freewheeling because he’s very laid back. A lot of the organization that’s mentioned in this book seems to be credited to Mrs. Bruen. Jack handles his kids in a more laid back manner than Sharon. When Jeff gets angry that Dawn is leaving, he hangs back and lets him be angry. Also, going forward into California Diaries, he lets Dawn go to a concert and stay out late with a sixteen year old boy, and I can’t imagine Sharon or Richard ever allowing that.

      The carrot cake is at the last We Heart Kids Club meeting.

      • Laura says:

        Thanks for the info on the carrot cake and the covers; I’ll definitely check them out.

        Yeah, I agree with you about Jack being freewheeling. I just meant that I find it interesting how differently people view the same characters sometimes.

        As for Sharon and Richard allowing Dawn to stay out late at a concert with a 16-year-old, Richard would absolutely not but Sharon seemed much more willing about the whole thing when Dawn was seeing Travis in book 37.

  2. May says:

    Hey! So, I don’t know if you speak French or not, but that is very clearly the Italian cover. 🙂 Did they mislabel it on Goodreads or something?

    • nikkihb says:

      Yikes! I fixed it. I’m not sure why I thought it was the french version. It may have said that on GR, but I think it’s more likely that I’ve seen the french versions and vaguely recalled them looking like this.

  3. Jenny Lynn says:

    I agree with your complaints regarding Sharon uprooting her kids and moving across the country in the middle of a divorce, but at the same time, I consider her the second-best parent in the BSC-verse. When her kids were unhappy and asked to move back, she put aside her own feelings regarding the whole deal and let them. That’s pretty cool of her.

    Best parent is Richard Spier, hands-down, but Sharon is pretty cool.

  4. Jennalee says:

    Not only do I have kewpie dolls of my own, I have my grandma’s collection of porcelain ones! I love them. Melody looks like one too! Her big eyes and pointy head make me laugh all the time!

  5. Erin says:

    I completely agree with you about Sharon moving her kids. I thought it was weird even as a child. And when Jeff wants to move back, I would move back as well, figuring that I was hasty moving across the country and it wasn’t a good idea. This is backed up when Dawn moves back too. It sounded like she moved there to be close to her parents…pretty selfish when you have two kids who should probably be near their father.

  6. Alycia says:

    I always had a problem with how tall Dawn appears on the cover too! I would measure Dawn with my fingers and then measure her kneeling leg and see how much taller it made her than Jeff. So glad I am not alone!
    I always loved this book because it took place in magical California. Now I know California isn’t that different than anywhere else but to my nine year old self, it sounded pretty cool.

  7. Katie says:

    This is one of my very favorite BSC books. I really identify with Dawn feeling pulled between different places. If it’s hard for me as an adult (although my parents are not divorced), I can’t imagine having such feelings and pressure at 13.

  8. kate says:

    In the early books it seemed like the Schafers’ divorce was super-acrimonious and there was more of a reason that Sharon moved her kids away from their dad. I think in Dawn’s first book, she even wonders if her Dad would ever kidnap her after Buddy Barrett disappears. It certainly eased up as the series progressed, but lawyers and custody agreements (and bonus hints of infidelity) were always brought up. A lot different from how the McGills’ divorce was talked about.

    • Alycia says:

      I agree, Kate. And in Dawn’s autobiography, she says that her father was pulling away from the family before they announced the divorce. I think Sharon stayed in California for Jack and when they split up, she was so lost, she needed to be close to her family. It is made to seem like Jack didn’t even put up a fight. Also, this started in the 80’s and divorced dads weren’t exactly known for sticking around back then. It’s like with every divorce in the BSC, the dad got a little better. Kristy’s dad ditched them, Jack kept in touch, Stacy’s dad wanted her with him…

  9. Thanks for revisiting these books. I totally remember the Kewpie doll flight attendant now. Thanks for the imagery. 🙂

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