Yay! A Claudia book!
She’s always had a special place in my heart. We’ve got a lot in common. As a kid, I was also… um… less than brainy. I know what you’re thinking–little asian girls with bad grades exist in real life?
Yes, they do. We’re extremely rare. It’s like finding a unicorn or something.
None this time. Sorry! I’m reading this in a big compilation of the first three books, so I don’t get the benefit of feisty back-cover copy. Perhaps I can make it up to you, though.
We start with a little bit of background on Ms. Kishi–how she’s an artist, gets shitty grades because she’s too busy daydreaming in class, loves to read but not the “right” kinds of books, and has a family that makes her do her homework.
I’d say that captures my entire childhood in a damn nutshell.
Oh, and Claudia hates her sister Janine. Not HATES, exactly. That’s actually how I feel about Janine. Claud is much nicer about it. She just says that Janine is super smart and that sometimes, she can be really difficult to understand and connect with. Mimi (Claud’s grandma) says that being friends takes work, and Claudia promises that she’ll try to work harder to be friends with Janine.
On to the main plot! The girls are chillin’ out max and relaxin’ all cool on a lazy Saturday when Mary Anne discovers a story in the paper about the Phantom Caller, a burglar who strikes only after making several prank phone calls to a home. Apparently, his or her MO is to call a target home, hang up if someone is home, then if no one answers they’ll go in and rob the place. Once someone wasn’t able to answer the phone, and the Phantom Caller came in accidentally while the people were home.
It’s not a foolproof system, but I guess the calling-ahead-thing works well in an era before everyone had caller ID. Otherwise, the Phantom Caller would be “Smith, John” or something else, unless he’s got one of those pay-as-you-go phones. Did you know those are almost totally untraceable? They’re super-cheap, too. Keep that in mind the next time you plan on conducting an affair and/or kidnapping somebody.
Anyway, naturally the girls get all freaked out by this news, assuming that the Phantom Caller will strike while they’re babysitting because, hell, doesn’t all kinds of crazy shit happen to babysitters? They devise a plan to call each other and speak in code if they think the Phantom Caller is breaking in, saying that it’s too dangerous to call the police… or some crap like that.
Oh, and of course they decide not to tell their parents about it because, you know, they would just freak out and stuff. Okay, it’s not like I think the baby-sitters have a ton to worry about here, but WTF is up with this insistence on not telling parents about potentially dangerous stuff? Blah.
I’ll spare you the baby-sitting stories wherein the girls are so afraid of the Phantom Caller that they nearly wet themselves whenever the phone rings, or there’s a noise outside, or someone farts too loud. Each girl does get a mysterious prank phone call that matches the Phantom Caller’s MO, but nothing ever comes of it. Let’s just say that it always turns out to be something totally innocuous and completely uninteresting. I’ll skip these parts the way I wished I could skip them while reading.
Meanwhile, Claudia is pining over a sexy fellow named Trevor Sandbourne (she likes him partly because of his wonderfully romantic name). She really wants Trevor to ask her to the Halloween Dance this week, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, especially not after Claudia accidentally spills some Jell-O all over him. Woops! The only guy that’s giving the baby-sitters much attention is a little creep named Alan Gray, who’s creepy because… um… he just is, all right? I guess he’s kind of annoying, but mostly I think he’s just less attractive than Trevor with a less-than-awesome name.
I’ve got to be honest here: not a lot happens in this book, plot-wise. I know, I know, how can a BSC book NOT be totally convoluted? Well, I chalk it up to the fact that this was one of the earlier books, where Ann M. was still introducing us to the characters. Scholastic wasn’t entirely desperate to keep the series going past its prime, so we’re able to get a more in-depth character analysis of our gal Claudia.
And I really, really like Claudia. Her viewpoint lacks the bossiness of Kristy, the prissiness of Staci, and the passive-agressive frustration of Mary Anne. Speaking of Mary Anne… late in the book, her annoying father finds out about the Phantom Caller and forbids MA from baby-sitting. I guess the girls had a point about not telling parents, at least when it comes to MA’s over-protective dick of a father. Seriously, I always hated that guy.
Well, plot-wise, it all comes to a head when Claud is baby-sitting several kids with Kristy. They hear a loud noise outside and see someone lingering in front of the window. While Kristy makes sure the kids are safe, Claudia calls the cops. A few minutes later, a police officer comes in dragging… get this… a ragged Alan Gray.
The little weirdo’s been watching them through the window. Nasty!
Ugh, okay, to be fair to Alan, he’s just there to ask Kristy to the Halloween Dance. Apparently, he’s got a thing for her and has been trying to figure out how he might ask her to the dance, which included peeking in the club notebook during school and finding out about their baby-sitting appointments. He’s been calling families up in hopes of getting Kristy, but when he actually did have a chance to talk with her, he chickened out anyway and hung up.
Oh, and you know who else has been calling the gals? Trevor Effin’ Sandbourne, that’s who! Apparently he’s hot for Claudia’s bod and has been trying to ask her out, too! Yay! I guess it’s just not as creepy if you think the guy’s hot, at least not for the BSC.
So the gals rock the house at the Halloween Dance, Kristy hanging with Alan and Claudia with Trevor. At some point someone mentions that the Phantom Caller was caught and is now serving some much-deserved jail time, so that means Mary Anne can baby-sit again.
And, after the dance, Claudia and Janine have a nice conversation in which the two of them say they’ll try to talk more in the future. All in all, a very good day for Claudia and a pretty nice ending to the second book in the series.
The thing about homework is that it is just so boring I can barely concentrate on it. Also, it’s useless. Who cares whether > means greater than or less than, or what X equals? (Besides, why bother finding out, since X equals something different every time?)
Excuse me while I laugh my ass off and shoot out an email to my old Algebra teacher in answer to his question of, “And just WHY do you hate math so much, Ms. Quimby?”
The Moral of the Story:
Mary Anne’s father is a tool.
Oh, and if you like a boy, it’s not so weird if he kind of stalks you. I’m talking to you, Edward Cullen!