Not Throwing Away My Shot – History books for kids

Look, just because I’ve been incredibly negligent about keeping up with the blog, doesn’t mean I don’t have things to say. Granted, it’s been a while since I’ve read any BSC books, but I’ll try to get back into that soon.

Here’s the thing. I’m on the Hamilton bandwagon. I’m on it in a hardcore way. It’s basically the only thing my kids and I have listened to in the car since last December, so I kind of know every single word. And no, I haven’t been to NY to see it (because I’m not made of money, yo) but it is coming to the Kennedy Center, which I am a member of, so I’ll see the national tour as it comes into DC.

My kids are also crazy about it. My nine year old son has taken his love of Hamilton and turned it into an obsession with history. Which is great! However, my own knowledge of American History is….kind of lacking. I haven’t taken an American History class since I was seventeen, and while I had enough knowledge to answer the low-money questions on Jeopardy, I didn’t have nearly enough to satisfy the questions of a curious nine year old.

So we turn to books, of course. If you have a kid interested in history (or a kid you WANT to get interested in history) here’s where I suggest you look:

1- King George; What Was His Problem? and Two Miserable Presidents, both by Steve Sheinkin.

These two books are my absolute favorite of all the history books we’ve checked out. It’s written simply enough that my third (now almost fourth) grader has no problem reading them, but it’s interesting enough for adults to enjoy. Sheinkin manages to write history that is more than just a timeline of events (ahem…history book writers, take note) and dry details of battles. He uses a lot of personal sources (journals, etc) to paint a picture of the Revolutionary War and the Civil war from a human standpoint. Something Hamilton manages to convey, and probably the reason why my kid and I agree these are the best.

2 – Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales by Nathan Hale

Screenshot 2016-06-29 at 15.32.35

Yes, the author of this graphic novel series is really named Nathan Hale. This clever series features  Nathan Hale (the historical figure) getting sucked up into an American History book and gaining full knowledge of US History. He uses that knowledge to tell history stories to the two men who are supposed to be in charge of hanging him for treason, keeping himself alive a little longer. There are, so far, six Hazardous tales. The story of Hale himself, the story of the Civil War Ironclads, the story of Harriet Tubman, The story of WWI, the story of the Donner Party, and the story of the Alamo. My favorite is The Underground Abductor, the Harriet Tubman story. My son prefers Treaties, Trenches, Mud and Blood, the WWI story. But really, they are all funny and clever and chock-full of really good information.

3- The Who Was…? series

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This series is really far-reaching. Focusing mostly on kid-friendly biographies, there are probably hundreds of books in the series. My kid has mostly focused on historical figures – Lincoln, Washington, Grant. But you can get so much more beyond American History, this includes pop culture, authors, inventors, civil rights leaders and more. These books are very easy to read, (my nine year old has just about outgrown them) but are still worthwhile.

4 – DK Eyewitness Books

Screenshot 2016-06-29 at 15.42.04

DK Books is one of the biggest publishers of children’s non-fiction. Any parent who’s had a kid who’s gone through a ‘phase’ (dinosaur phase, space phase, train phase, history phase, bug phase, etc) has probably gotten a DK book from the library. I really enjoy their Eyewitness books, because they have a lot of pictures for the kids who are more visual. It also means my five year old who can’t read yet can enjoy at least looking at the books with his older brother.

There really isn’t a shortage of non-fiction books for kids out there. And my kid reads super fast, so I’m always on the lookout for recommendations!

Posted in Non-fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Everywhere you look,” or, Fuller House

*Minor spoilers ahead*

It’s no surprise Netflix wanted to cash in on the nostalgia-fueled success of Disney Channel’s Girl Meets World. Full House was the logical choice for them, because literally NO ONE cares what Urkel or the family from Step by Step is up to now.

Look, it’s not like anyone expected this to be good. And it’s not just that it’s bad (and believe me, it’s bad) but that it’s so fucking pointless. Exercises in nostalgia are all well and good, I mean this whole blog exists on it, but it should at least be entertaining. Netflix’s own Wet Hot American Summer series showed that it could be done. The Wet Hot series worked incredibly well with the movie.

But Fuller House doesn’t really work on any level. Girl Meets World, which isn’t perfect by any means, actually works as a show separate from it’s original Boy Meets World. Wet Hot works as a companion to it’s original film. Fuller House? The references to the original are forced, and the characters, while older, haven’t grown at all. It’s disconcerting seeing Joey Gladstone doing Bullwinkle impressions, seeing Steve still eating everything in sight, and watching Danny clean compulsively.

The plot is even recycled badly from the original. This time it’s DJ (now a veterinarian) who is widowed with three boys, ages 13, 6, and a baby. So Stephanie and Kimmy move in to help her out with her kids, along with Kimmy’s thirteen year old daughter.

Look, the internet is already filled to the brim with Fuller House reviews. And they all mostly agree that the show is bad. And it is. Rather than go on an on about how unnecessary the show’s existence is, I’m going to give you specifics about what is bad (and to be fair, what is good) about the show:

The Bad

  • Kimmy’s soon-to-be ex-husband, Fernando. His whole character is so cringe-worthy because the writers seem to think people with accents are funny simply because they have accents. The studio audience actually broke into laughter when Fernando said his full name. Which I guess was funny because, I don’t know? It’s somehow hilarious to hear a guy say Fernando Arnanda Herrero Hernandez Guerrero because he’s not speaking ‘Murican? Also, he’s referred to as Latin a few times, but he’s actually from Spain, which in case you didn’t know is in Europe, not Latin America. His accent is constantly played for laughs or insults.
  • Sloppy guests stars. Macy Gray, those guys from Dancing With the Stars, and Hunter Pence are wedged in and aren’t funny. So in that way, it’s just like Full House.
  • The meta-humor is terrible. They make references to things like The View, child actors, and a few finger-wagging jokes about Michelle not being there. OK, but no one liked Michelle the first time around, so what’s the big fucking deal that Mary Kate and Ashley didn’t want to do the show? They aren’t even acting anymore. It really comes off as disrespectful to the Olsen twins to make snide remarks about their absence.
  • The audience thinks it’s HILARIOUS when one of the cast members uses their old catch phrase. News flash:  “How rude!” “Oh Mylanta.,” “Have Mercy,” are NOT jokes. There is nothing funny about those words and for god’s sake if they try to make ‘Holy Chalupas’ a thing, I will scream.
  • Let’s talk about these child actors. No, let’s just talk about Elias Harger, who plays DJ’s middle son Max. This kid can NOT act. He shouts his lines at near top volume and is constantly mugging for the camera. And for whatever reason he is the kid they’ve chosen to give most of the screen time to.
  • The appearances by Danny, Jesse, Joey and Becky don’t happen every episode and THANK GOD for that because the show drags as soon as any of them appear onscreen. Especially Joey and his stupid face and Bullwinkle impression that is….ugh. I want to punch him in his face.
  • The laugh track (or studio audience, whichever) is overly distracting and too loud. Miller, Boyett & Co. need to know it’s not the 90’s anymore, and people aren’t so into the multi-cam laugh track shtick anymore.
  • I think Jodie Sweetin must be trying to get a singing career off the ground, because they have shoe-horned her singing in nearly every episode.
  • Steve is a creeper. Total stalking weirdo. It’s not even believable that DJ would be considering dating him. Also, I’m not sure if they mentioned how long ago her husband died? Because her youngest kid looks only about eight or nine months old. Seems kind of like she’s rushing back into the whole dating thing, and getting right into a love triangle to boot.


The Not-so-bad

  • The first episode is the absolute worst. It’s unbelievably awful, which means it only goes up from there!
  • The decision to focus mainly on the three women (DJ, Stephanie and Kimmy) was a good one. Those are the strongest storylines in any given episode. And there’s actually an unexpectedly good chemistry between Kimmy (Andrea Barber) and Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin). Given their personalities, it actually makes more sense that they would be BFFs as adults than DJ and Kimmy.
  • Some of the humor is more adult than it was in the original. The adults all drink, but especially Steph who downs tequila like no one’s business and even makes reference to smoking pot and sleeping around. They also make reference to her big fake boobs. The down side to this grown-up humor is having to hear Uncle Jesse make a jizz joke.
  • The show itself is less treacly than the original. Fewer very special moments where everyone talks it out and hugs it out happily.
  • Kimmy has been toned down a notch. But not her wardrobe. Check out these rad scarves she wears: Screenshot 2016-03-02 at 11.19.08

Screenshot 2016-03-02 at 11.23.07

  • You can sometimes tell when the actors in a show/movie are having a good time filming. This is one of those cases. The cast of this show is known for being close, and you can tell they were having a blast on the set. It actually makes the awfulness of the show seem less awful somehow.
  • One thing that legit made me laugh. Stephanie works as a club DJ, and her club name? DJ Tanner. It probably isn’t as funny as I thought, but for whatever reason, I liked it.

So that’s it. Those are my thoughts. It’s not really worth watching, but I know that won’t stop many of you from being curious. In all honesty? I’d actually tune into a second season if they’d make some better choices. No Danny/Jesse/Joey cameos unless absolutely necessary, give Fernando an actual personality besides “Spanish Guy,” Actually show DJ mourning her husband, Show Stephanie trying to deal with the news of not being able to have kids for longer than the two minutes that was spent on it, Stop trying to squeeze meta-humor in, Tone down the laugh track, Get rid of Steve altogether, Lay off Max’s storylines, and lay off the unnecessary guest stars.


Posted in General nostalgia, non-book review, TV | 8 Comments

“Remember your pioneer ancestors,” Or, A Girl from Yamhill

Screenshot 2016-01-31 at 19.03.39

In Beverly Cleary’s first memoir, she covers her life as a child growing up, first in the rural farming town of Yamhill, Oregon, and later in Portland.

I’ve had this book on my to-read list for a long time, and I’m not quite sure what took me so long to read it. I just recently finished reading the entire Ramona Quimby series out loud with my kids, and we all really loved it. Plus Beverly Cleary is celebrating her 100th birthday in a few short months. I decided to read this in her honor, but also to figure out if Cleary is more of a Ramona or a Beezus.

Long story short, she was a Ramona-esque child, but more of a Beezus in adolescence.

But the answer to my question wasn’t even the most interesting part of this book. This book is a lot of things. It’s the story of a how a young writer was molded in her youth, a story of the Great Depression, and a story about the contentious relationship between a girl and her mother.

Cleary’s desire to figure out her mother is by far the strongest aspect of this book, and that’s good because it takes up about 75% of the space, as her mother loomed large over her life. Cleary’s mother was a confusing woman. She was simultaneously emotionally distant, but very possessive of her daughter. In private she would be endlessly critical of her daughter but publicly brag about her. Cleary remembers so many of her feelings toward her mother so strongly, even from a very young age. (It shows in her Ramona books. The source of the  surprising emotional depth in Ramona is very clear.)

This book was published in 1988, when Cleary was seventy-two years old and her mother was still a mystery to her. I’m guessing at the age of ninety-nine, she has no more answers.

We tend to look at the past through rose-colored glasses. It’s basically why each generation thinks the one behind it is screwed up (hint: That’s not true. The kids are all right. The kids have always been all right). And sometimes those rose-colored glasses lead us to romanticize things like the Great Depression. We talk up the moxie and the work ethic of people during that time period. And I’m not saying that didn’t exist. Cleary manages to respect the moxie of the people suffering, but doesn’t pull punches when she talks about what it was like to be a child of the Depression.

Her father, a quiet stoic man, was a farmer by nature. But he left the farm for more money in Portland, where he worked in security for a bank. It was work he hated. He loathed working indoors, particularly being on his feet for hours on end on a marble floor. And he worked that hard at a job he hated to provide for his family. But rather than painting a romantic picture of this, Cleary is very clear that this had a negative impact on her family. Her father, who was kind and gentle on the farm, became angry and lashed out working for very little money for a bank.

All around, this book is a really wonderful read. While it’s in turn heartbreaking and heartwarming, it’s also a fascinating look at a lot of the minutiae of living in 1920’s and 30’s Oregon. Cleary has an incredible memory for little details, things like what courses were offered in high school, or the boy she sat behind throughout grammar school, that add up to this book being a fascinating period piece.

Even though the book comes in a 344 pages, I’d recommend it to eleven year olds. And while I don’t believe in saying there are ‘girl’ books and ‘boy’ books, (This is going right into my son’s pile because I think he’ll like it when he’s a little older) I think there’s a lot in here that will appeal particularly to girls, especially serious bookish girls.

There’s a sequel to this book, My Own Two Feet, which I plan on looking for next time I’m at the used book store.

Posted in Beverly Cleary, Non-fiction, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

This little shit came along…or Check, Please!

I kind of lied in my last post. I said I read 50 books in 2015, and while that’s true, I didn’t count reading this delightful webcomic called Check, Please. I actually spent quite a bit of time reading (and re-reading) the entire archives of this webcomic and I even bought the first book, now available thanks to a strong fandom and a successful Kickstarter campaign.

I also said in my last post that Station Eleven was my most recommended book of 2015, but really I probably have recommended Check, Please WAY more often. (Also, if you follow me on Tumblr, I apologize for the Check Please-iness it’s become recently.)

So what is this all about? It’s a comic about college hockey players at the fictional Samwell University. (Go Wellies!) But I swear, even if you aren’t into any type of sportsballing, this is still a good read. (I’m only a very casual hockey fan, and even then only by proxy because my husband is a fan.) Really, it’s a character-driven coming of age story. The author is a Nigerian-Canadian named Ngozi Ukazu, and she is super talented.

There are five main characters in Check, Please, most of whom live in the hockey house (The Haus). (All images are directly from the Check, Please site)


Screenshot 2016-01-02 at 13.49.24

Eric “Bitty” Bittle: Our protagonist, a Freshman at the start of the comic, is a former figure skater turned hockey player. Bitty is the smallest on the team and is afraid of being checked. He bakes amazing pies and is gay and possibly (definitely) has a crush on his captain.

Screenshot 2016-01-02 at 13.52.27

Jack Zimmermann: Team Captain. Jack is a Canadian Hockey Robot. The son of a Hall of Fame Hockey player, Jack was a superstar in Quebec Juniors and projected to go first in the 2009 draft. Instead he overdosed on vodka and prescription meds right before the draft. He spent time in rehab and coaching pee-wees before giving college hockey a try. Does he return Bitty’s crush? We fucking hope so, but really we don’t know, because Jack thinks about hockey 90% of the time.


Screenshot 2016-01-02 at 13.59.32

Shitty Knight: No, we don’t know Shitty’s first name (yet). He’s the dude with hair so great, girls vomit seeing that sick flow. A third-liner and Jack’s best friend, Shitty is the resident feminist. He’s majoring in Women’s and Gender studies and in his Sophomore year, five different people came out to him in one week. He’s also a giant stoner and headed to law school.

Screenshot 2016-01-02 at 14.10.41

Justin “Ransom” Oluransi and Adam “Holster” Birkholtz: The best defensive duo in all of college hockey. These two bros are inseparable and they break the fourth wall for their series “Hockey Shit with Ransom and Holster,” where they discuss important things like hockey butts, Shitty’s sick flow, and the proper hockey celly. They put the bro in bromance.

In addition to the main five, we get new Freshman in the second year (Nursey, Dex, and Chowder), the team manager and probable Shitty love interest, Larissa “Lardo” Duan, and my personal favorite, Kent “Parse” Parson, who was Jack’s teammate (and more???) in Juniors and went first in the draft after Jack overdosed. Kent Parson is everything anyone could want in an antagonist, even though he’s hardly in the comic.

At first I though Tumblr was a weird place to host a webcomic, but Ukazu totally makes it work. Beyond the actual serialized story, she offers little extras between ‘real’ updates. Sometimes extra drawings, sometimes single panel one-shots, and best of all a few days after each update, she will repost it with notes about her process, and a deeper look at what happened in that particular post.  Tumblr also makes it a really fan-friendly way to read, because not only can you follow the comic itself but you can follow any number of fan accounts also on Tumblr where every panel, every smile, every raised eyebrow, can be endlessly analyzed. And speaking of the fan culture of Check, Please, there is quite a good bit of fanfiction out there, and most of it is really good. It’s rare to find a fandom where much of the fic is high quality.

I think the reason the fans are so active and so into the story is because the author’s obviously very passionate about her own work and the stories and characters she creates. She’s managed to take five guys who have one thing in common (hockey) and give them very different personalities. And has made you care about all of them – even the antagonist.

Anyway, even if you’re not super into webcomics, or hockey, or graphic novels, I still wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Check, Please to you.



Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Books read 2015

I haven’t been a great blogger this year, and I don’t see that improving anytime in the near future. Still, I managed 50 books this year, which was nice. Actually more than 50, I wasn’t very good about keeping track of the books I read with my kids.

Books read for the blog have an asterisk*, books I highly recommend are bolded.

  1. Yes Please; Amy Poehler
  2. Batman: Hush; Jeph Loeb, et al
  3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Long Haul; Jeff Kinney
  4. Grasshopper Jungle; Andrew Smith
  5. The Shadow Hero; Gene Luen Yang
  6. Mother.Wife.Sister.Human.Warrior.Falcon.Yardstick. Turban.Cabbage; Rob Delaney
  7. Remember Me to Harold Square; Paula Danziger*
  8. The Age of Miracles; Karen Thompson Walker
  9. Find a Stranger Say Goodbye; Lois Lowry*
  10. Gone Girl; Gillian Flynn
  11. Andre the Giant; Box Brown
  12. American Savage; Dan Savage
  13. American Born Chinese; Gene Luen Yang
  14. Caleb’s Crossing; Geraldine Brooks
  15. I’ll be Seeing You; Lurlene McDaniel*
  16. Curveball; The Year I Lost my Grip: Jordan Sonnenblick
  17. Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe; Benjamin Alire Saenz
  18. Half-Broke Horses; Jeannette Walls
  19. El Deafo; Cece Bell
  20. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian; Sherman Alexie
  21. Ultimate Spiderman vol 3; Brian Michael Bendis, et al
  22. Doll in the Garden; Mary Downing Hahn*
  23. Wonder Woman Vol 5, Flesh; Brian Azzarello, et al
  24. Outlander; Diana Gabaldon
  25. The Affair of the Porcelain Dog; Jess Faraday
  26. In the Unlikely Event; Judy Blume
  27. Go Set a Watchman; Harper Lee
  28. BSC #23, Dawn on the Coast; Ann M. Martin*
  29. I don’t Know What you Know Me From; Judy Greer
  30. Station Eleven; Emily St. John Mandel
  31. Daredevil; Mark Waid, et al
  32. I Funny (audiobook); James Patterson, read by Frankie Seratch
  33. The Miseducation of Cameron Post; Emily Danforth
  34. The Alex Crow; Andrew Smith
  35. Superfudge; Judy Blume*
  36. The Silkworm; Robert Galbraith
  37. Carry On; Rainbow Rowell
  38. Daredevil, vol. 2; Mark Waid, et al
  39. Nimona; Noelle Stevenson
  40. The Rest of Us Just Live Here; Patrick Ness
  41. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks; Rebecca Skloot
  42. Daredevil Vol. 5; Mark Waid, et al
  43. Daredevil Vol. 6; Mark Waid, et al
  44. Daredevil Vol. 7; Mark Waid, et al
  45. The Adoration of Jenna Fox; Mary Pearson
  46. Ultimate Comics Spiderman Vol. 4 Brian Michael Bendis
  47. Ultimate Comics Spiderman Vol 5; Brian Michael Bendis
  48. A Week in Winter; Maeve Binchy
  49. Giant Days Vol. 1; John Allison
  50. Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You; Peter Cameron


Best Book of 2015
I read quite a few good ones, but the best was probably Station Eleven . I’ve recommended it to several people already.

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Worst Book of 2015
I read a few of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books with my kids, and they aren’t good. But I’m not really the intended audience, so I’d go with Go Set a Watchman. 

Most Disappointing Book of 2015
Go Set a Watchman. Hands down so fucking disappointing. Not just the book, but the whole way it went about being published.

Most Surprising (in a good way) Book of 2015
The Affair of the Porcelain Dog. I don’t read much from indie publishers, so I was really pleasantly surprised by this one. I’m going to read the two sequels this year.

Book You Recommended to People Most in 2015
Station Eleven. 

Best Series You Discovered in 2015
Mark Waid’s Daredevil. If you’re a fan of the show on Netflix and want to read some of the comics, I recommend this series.

Favourite New Authors You Discovered in 2015
Gene Leun Yang. He’s a great graphic novelist.

Most Hilarious Read of 2015
It’s a tie between Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, and Rob Delaney’s Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage. 

Most Thrilling, Unputdownable Book in 2015
Again, I’ve got to go with Station Eleven. I’m going to add Grasshopper Jungle here though, because even though it had its issues, I couldn’t fucking put it down.

Book You Most Anticipated in 2015
In the Unlikely Event because it’s been way too long since we had a new Judy Blume book. (And it didn’t disappoint!)

Favourite Cover of a Book You Read in 2015
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. Rowell’s books all have lovely covers.

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Most Memorable Character in 2015
Nimona. Noelle Stevenson has a knack for writing excellent girl characters.

Beautifully Written Book in 2015
Station Eleven. Sorry to keep going back to this one, but it was one of the best books I’ve ever read. I’d also add Gone Girl, because of the amazing use of the unreliable narrator.

Book That Had the Greatest Impact on You in 2015
The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks. 

Book You Can’t Believe You Waited Until 2014 to Finally Read
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Obligatory Banned Books Week post

Happy Banned Books Week! I don’t have a post written (yet. It may still come) so I’m reposting my blog from Banned Books Week 2011.

Happy reading! And, as always, fuck censorship.

Are You There Youth? It's Me, Nikki

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that we’re in the middle of Banned Books Week.  I usually do a lot more for BBW, but life got in the way this year, and I don’t have a post planned.

I did just finish reading Looking for Alaska, though (DFTBA, John Green) and I understand that has been challenged a handful of times. Because we all know that no teenager in the history of teenagers has ever smoked or gotten drunk.  EVER.  And if they have, fuck ’em.  We shouldn’t be writing books with characters they can relate to, amirite?  A challenge to this book makes zero sense.

It’s been kind of a big year for challenged books, what with the numbskull school board in Missouri voting to ban both Slaughterhouse Five and Twenty Boy Summer (The board members openly admitted to not having read the books.  Which…

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“How could you? Isn’t one enough?” Or, Superfudge

The cover I had as a kid

The cover I had as a kid

The cover my kids have now

The cover my kids have now

This is kind of a cool post for me. My eight year old is a really enthusiastic reader and a total bookworm. But this past summer, I realized he hasn’t been reading any chapter books. He’s mostly stuck to comic books, and books with a lot of pictures (i.e. Big Nate or the Wimpy Kid series), which is fine. Except that I think he was intimidated by chapter books with little to no pictures in them. I didn’t want to force anything on him, so I decided to read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing out loud to him. And it worked. He was so anxious to know what happened, that even though I was reading them out loud to him (and my four year old, who surprisingly followed along and enjoyed it as much as his big brother), he’d take the books to bed with him and read ahead every night.

So this review isn’t just me having re-read the book to myself, I got to experience all four Fudge books (yes, two more have been published since I reached adulthood) through the eyes of my kids.

Peter’s life is going along great, even though his brother Fudge is still a pain in the ass. The Hatcher parents decide to throw a wrench into Peter’s life when they announce that they’re having another baby. When the baby is born, she is almost immediately nicknamed Tootsie, and Peter’s the only one who realizes how ridiculous it is. Fudge goes through a bout of sibling rivalry, but Peter adjusts easily to another baby, and then the parents have yet another big announcement. They’re moving to Princeton, NJ for a year. Mr. Hatchter is taking a year off from his job to write a book about advertising and they want to use that time to see how they like living outside the city.

Peter wants to run away, but has no where to go. So, it’s off to Princeton for the Hatchers. Even though Fudge is only four, he’s very smart for his age, so he starts Kindergarten the same year Peter starts sixth grade, making them both in the elementary school. Having Fudge in school with him is…interesting. Peter gets pulled out of class when Fudge can’t get along with his teacher, and when Fudge gets a pet myna bird, Peter gets to go to Fudge’s class when the bird (Uncle Feather) is there for show and tell.

Peter makes a new friend, Alex, and they dig for worms for a neighbor. No one knows why this woman is so interested in worms, but Alex thinks she eats them. Fudge, being Fudge, comes right out and asks if her cookies have worms in them. This woman’s daughter runs an art gallery in town and is a big fan of Frank Fargo, the father of Peter’s best friend in NYC, Jimmy Fargo.

Fudge continues to cause all sorts of adorable trouble. Falling off his bicycle a million times, pretending to believe in Santa, finding out how babies are made and telling everyone, calling his teacher Rat Face, meeting his favorite author and accidentally insulting his principal in public, running away because he’s not allowed to go on a picnic with Peter and Alex. You know, typical Fudge stuff.

Peter fits in fine and likes Princeton. He has friends and a mild crush on a girl in his class. But still, when their year is up, the family all unanimously decide they’d like to return to the city. The book ends with Tootsie even agreeing. Her first word, ‘yuck,’ becomes ‘Nu Yuck.’

  • Despite the fact that Fudge is who makes these books so memorable, I have a real soft spot for Peter. He’s very realistic, and is a worrier in the same way I was when I was eleven. He worries that the new baby will turn out like Fudge. He worries when he gets called to the Principal’s office. He worries that Fudge will be smarter than him when Fudge tests into Kindergarten early. He worries that his mom is giving up on her dream of being an art historian by putting off college and going back to work as a dental hygienist. When Fudge runs away, Peter’s mind immediately decides he’s been run over by a car.
  • Even though Jimmy Fargo isn’t in the book much, I adore that Judy Blume has given him a story line – he’s acting out because his mom moved out and his parent’s divorced.
  • Hey here’s an idea. Fudge is a brat because his parents never try to make him not be a brat. He takes Tootsie out of her crib and hides her in the closet. He calls his Kindergarten teacher ‘Rat Face,’ and Peter’s the only one who bothers to tell him that’s a shitty thing to do. He whines and cries that he wants Peter and Alex to take him to school, and Mrs. Hatcher gives in to it. When Peter and his friends go to see Superman, Mrs. Hatcher forces him to take Fudge and his friend Daniel along. And of course Fudge sneaks behind Peter and dumps his ice on him. And no one does anything about it. The only time he’s ever disciplined is when he covers Tootsie with trading stamps. And maybe I’m crazy, but I’d be way more pissed at my four year old taking my one month old out of her crib and hiding her in a closet than in covering her with trading stamps.
  • Hands down, Uncle Feather is my kids’ favorite part of this book. My four year old keeps walking around saying “Bonjour, stupid!”
  • All in all, this is a book that stands the test of time ridiculously well.
Posted in Judy Blume | 1 Comment

What if the BSC were on Wet Hot American Summer?

Sorry (no I’m not). You know I’ve spent way too much of my life reading and re-reading Babysitters Club books. And I’ve spend the last few weeks watching and rewatching Wet Hot American Summer.  This is the stupid result.

Kristy Thomas is Susie

Image courtesy

Image courtesy

“I got a call from Mrs. Newton and she said Jamie and Lucy went down for bed forty five minutes late the other night, Claudia. We are BABYSITTERS, god damn it, and children are our future. So you stop SUCKING DICK at babysitting and get out there and be the best god damn babysitters I know you can be.” (*Throws clipboard*)

Stacey McGill is Abby

Screenshot 2015-08-17 at 09.08.14

Abby went from being a camper singing “Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider” to playing seven minutes in heaven in one day. Then by the end of summer was making out with counselors and was going to take Victor Pulak’s virginity. So, Stacey.

Claudia Kishi is Lindsay

image from

image from

Replace Rock & Roll journalist with fashion blogger. And replace the ribs with ring-dings, and we have the same person who knows the transformative power of a hair clip.

Mary Anne Spier is Beth

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Besides her ability to fall into hysterical hysterics, don’t tell me Mary Anne won’t eventually end up with a guy like Associate Professor Henry Newman.

Dawn Schafer is Donna Berman

Dawn wasn’t in the first few BSC books, Donna wasn’t in the WHAS film. But really, it’s Donna’s new-agey bullshit that makes her and Dawn the same person. You know Dawn communicates with people about her energy feathers and skips lunch because of ersatz food.

Jessi Ramsey is Rhonda

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Just look at the shirt.

Mallory Pike is Gerald “Coop” Cooperberg

image courtesy of listencoop on wordpress

image courtesy of listencoop on wordpress

Coop’s a nice enough guy and everyone likes him. But Donna or Katie don’t like him LIKE THAT. You see where I’m going with this?

BONUS: Obviously Jeff Schafer and Byron Pike are Ben and McKinley. (Aged up several years, you creeps).

Image courtesy of fanpop

Image courtesy of fanpop

Adorable as fuck, those two.

Posted in BSC, general, movies, non-book review, Wet Hot American Summer, Wet Hot American Summer | 1 Comment

“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

Posted in Ann M. Martin, BSC, California Diaries | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments

“Why had she buried the doll?” Or, The Doll in the Garden

Image courtesy of Goodreads

Image courtesy of Goodreads

Ten (Almost eleven) year old Ashley and her mom are moving from Baltimore to the small town of Monkton Mills, Maryland for a fresh start following Ashley’s father’s death. They are renting an apartment that’s on the top floor of a large house owned by the elderly Miss Cooper. Ashley gets on Miss Cooper’s bad side immediately because she takes a disliking to Ashley’s cat, Oscar. It wouldn’t have been difficult to get on Miss Cooper’s bad side anyway, she’s an old grump and bad is the only side she has.

Miss Cooper’s backyard is large and well-tended except for a garden that is an overgrown mess. That garden sits on the border of Miss Cooper’s yard and the neighbors, The Smiths. Kristi Smith is a little younger than Ashley, but they become friends anyway. There are no neighbors on the other side, just an empty lot. Ashley is warned by Miss Cooper to stay out of the garden.

Ashley and Kristi don’t listen to Miss Cooper and they play in the garden anyway. Kristi says the garden is haunted, that there is a ghost cat who hangs around and people hear a child crying at night. Ashley doesn’t believe her, until she sees the cat and hears the sounds at night. Curiosity gets the best of her and she and Kristi explore the garden. They do see the cat, who isn’t a ghost at all, but is corporeal and has a nametag which says Snowball. They also find a doll buried in the garden. The doll’s name is Anna Maria, and there is an apology note to Louisa Perkins from Carrie in the doll’s box.

Kristi is terrified of the doll, but Ashley wants to save it, so she sneaks it out of the garden and hides it in her room. Kristi and Ashley fight the next day over who should keep the doll. Ashley keeps seeing Snowball hanging around the yard and hearing the child cry. One day, Ashley follows Snowball to the other side of the yard and through a hole in the hedge to the empty lot next door.

Only, it’s not an empty lot anymore. There’s an old house with a little girl sitting on the front porch. Ashley talks to the little girl who has a terrible cough. The little girl is named Louisa Perkins and she has consumption and is terribly upset because her best friend Carrie took her favorite doll and won’t bring her back. Ashley promises she will bring Anna Maria back to her.

That evening, Miss Cooper arrives on Ashley’s doorstep, telling her that she knows Ashley stole her doll and demands it back. Ashley realizes that Miss Cooper is Carrie, and refuses to give the doll back, telling her that it’s Louisa’s. Miss Cooper is shocked Ashley knows who Louisa is. Ashley’s mom forces her to give the doll back to Miss Cooper.

The next day Ashley, accompanied by Kristi, follow Snowball to the empty lot, which magically transforms and timehops to Louisa’s house. They tell her they weren’t able to get Anna Maria. Louisa is upset because she knows she’s dying. Kristi and Ashley come to believe that if they get the doll back from Miss Cooper, they will give it to Louisa and her life will be saved because her mood will lift and her cough will get better.

But that means confronting Miss Cooper. It takes a lot, but finally Ashley convinces the cranky old lady to follow the cat next door. As they crawl through the hedge, Miss Cooper ages back to however old she was when she stole Anna Maria from Louisa. Ashley and Kristi follow the now-young Miss Cooper into the house and listen at Louisa’s door. Carrie apologizes for taking the doll and Louisa forgives her.

As they head back next door and into the present, Ashley and Kristi immediately run to the cemetery, convinced that they just saved Louisa’s life. But they’re heartbroken to see her gravestone with the same date on it. Miss Cooper makes them cookies and lemonade and they all become friendly. Miss Cooper and Ashley has similar dreams. Miss Cooper dreams that Louisa is forgiving her and telling her to be happy, while Ashley dreams that her father is forgiving her for being angry with him for dying and asking her to be happy.

While I didn’t get into it much, there is, underneath the main story of ghosts, the very sad story of a little girl who is grieving her lost father. At the end, Ashley and her mother end up having a very sweet heart to heart about how much they miss him.

This book was published in 1989, and while I know I read this one, I was twelve when it came out, which is really just a little too old to really enjoy this. This book wasn’t nearly as scary as Wait Til Helen Comes, nor was it as emotionally on-point as Daphne’s Book. Still, it was a fine story, and would definitely make good starter material for an eight or nine year old just getting interested in ghost stories, but for whom Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark might be a little too much.

Posted in Mary Downing Hahn, paranormal | 2 Comments