Thursday, September 17, 2020

Throwback Thursday: The Babysitters Club #9 - The Ghost at Dawn's House


Book Nine in the series sees Dawn as the main character/narrator, it's the second book from her. You may remember from previous recaps that her last main storyline was when she became a twelve-year-old personal assistant/secretary/divorce mediator/childminder to Mrs. Barrett, who had impeccable fashion sense but a poor grasp on what "babysitting" actually constitues. 

In this book, we hear a little more about Dawn's family life. She lives with her mother Sharon and her nine year old brother Jeff in Stoneybrook, while her Dad lives in California. Dawn and Jeff shun the usual kid-favourite snacks in favour of "health food" like tofu, cottage cheese, salad (all I can hear is that guy from Hocus Pocus saying "they're very health conscious in Los Angeles") and crackers. I should keep track of how many packets of crackers Dawn and Stacey eat over the course of this series, because it's literally all they ever have while the others are eating Rolos from a shoe or wherever Claudia has hidden them. 

Dawn calls her Dad a "Disneyland Daddy" - a term that was so widespread at one point that it was defined on several legal websites. It's essentially a term used to describe a parent who, due to having less custody of a child, slips into the role of "entertainer" in order to make up for not being around for the mundane parenting tasks. I don't know if this made much of an impression on me as a kid - my own Dad wasn't around but it was highly unlikely he'd ever be taking us to Disneyland (spoiler: he did not) so I don't remember having any particularly strong feelings about Mr Schafer one way or the other. 

We pick this book up two weeks after the last book, in which we discussed the holiday that saw Stacey have her first kiss (thankfully not with the eighteen year old man she was crushing on), and Dawn is feeling a bit left out because Stacey and Mary-Anne keep talking about the holiday. I can relate, when I was in Secondary School a group of my friends all went to work in Mosney for the Summer (before it was a Direct Provision centre) and it was all anyone talked about for the first couple of weeks back at school. 

The main storyline of this one is that Dawn's house is old and creepy, and she is convinced that there's a secret passage somewhere on the land. There is, and when she finds it, it leads.......straight to her bedroom. The girls all get scared because they think there's a ghost, in particular the ghost of some guy who went missing (it's all very Now and Then-y) that Dawn reads about in the wonderfully titled "A History of Stoneybrooke" by the even more wonderfully titled "Enos Cotterling", who sadly is not real. 

As with many of the Babysitters Club books, this one  has a couple of incredible life lessons, one being the way Dawn speaks about the children she minds. She describes how the club never ask "what is this?" when looking at a picture or piece of art made by the kids. Instead, they ask "tell me about it" so they don't hurt their feelings and end up calling a picture of someone's Granny "a beautiful drawing of an elephant". This is something I still do with my own children, and it ensures that they are always proud of what they create and never embarrassed or ashamed that they did something "wrong". 

One thing that I loved about this book, and something I could identify with in every possible way, was that one of the kids Dawn babysat had a cabbage patch doll. The doll was named Cindy Jane but her "real name" was Caroline Eunice. Cabbage Patch dolls were HUGE in the 1980s, and they came with an adoption certificate as opposed to any kind of ownership certificate. The doll would be pre-named, which didn't always go down well. My own Cabbage Patch doll arrived to me christened Avis Freddie. She was, from that day to this, known as Mavis. 

At this point in the proceedings, I feel like I have to mention Babyland General Hospital, which has enjoyed a recent resurgence in popularity due to Tik Tok. The mere thought of it gives me the creeps, but should you want to witness the "live birth" of  Cabbage Patch dolls from a "mother cabbage", knock yourself out: 

I need to get me some of that imagicillin. 

That's really it for this book - some positive representation for children of divorced parents, with some spook thrown in. And thankfully, very little of Kristy. 

Unfortunately, we also get very little of Claudia, which means the style is thin on ground this time, the only mention being:

"A ring with a fierce green dragon's head on it"  that I imagine looked exactly like this

Snack watch, however, was much more successful.

A bag of chocolate kisses from a hollow book on her shelf
I feel like everyone my age, at some point in their life, wanted the following things: A metal detector, A Mr. Frosty, Clarks Magic Steps shoes, and a hollow book. I have still yet to own any one of these things. I'm presuming that chocolate kisses are the Hershey's ones that come wrapped in foil. 

There were a LOT of movies and books mentioned in this installment, the most notable being:

The Odd Couple
Dawn compares her and her mother to Felix and Oscar, the titular couple from the TV Series produced in the 1970s (which, incidentally, was co-created by Garry Marshall, who appeared in Hocus Pocus as the devil)

European Vacation
Or to give it the full title, National Lampoon's European Vacation. Released in 1985, starring Chevy Chase, directed by Amy Heckerling (who also directed Clueless).

Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase
Originally published in 1930, this book was adapted for film a few times, most recently in 2019.

Harold and the Purple Crayon
A children's book by Crockett Johnson originally published in 1955 about a little boy who creates the world he wants with a crayon.

Chutes and Ladders
A board game called Moksha Patam that originated in India in the 13th century to teach children Hindu Dharma and Hindu values. The British took the game to England in 1892 and changed it to suit themselves, renaming it to Snakes and Ladders (never not at it). It was then brought to the US by board game giants Milton Bradley in 1943 where it was rebranded "Chutes and Ladders". 

Until next time,

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