Thursday, February 4, 2021

Throwback Thursday: The Babysitters Club #12 - Claudia and the New Girl


I've been really looking forward to getting to this book, mainly because Claudia is my favourite member of the BSC (and probably one of my top book characters in general), but also because the style has been thin on the ground throughout the last few books. 

Firstly, the whitewashing is especially strong on the UK/Ireland cover of this one - could be Claudia Kishi, could be Darlene Conner. Who knows. A couple of years ago, blogger Phil Yu (aka Angry Asian Man) re-imagined some of the US covers to reflect what Claudia might have actually had to deal with during her time as a sitter, and while they are intentionally very funny, they're also a stark reminder of how Claudia should have been represented on these covers. 

We kick off with the aformentioned Claudia, who is finding it hard to concentrate in class. We've read in a previous book how Claudia sometimes feels like she's less intelligent than her sister and her peers, and this book is no different. She's struggling with schoolwork and focus. Then, suddenly, all Claudia's prayers are answered when a glam new girl, Ashley, walks into her classroom. 

Claudia knows immediately that she wants to be friends with Ashley - they both have very individual styles of fashion, they're both into art, and Claudia feels like at long last, she will have someone her own age who will understand her passion for art. Ashley does - but unfortunately that's ALL she sees. She's really dismissive of the BSC, and she encourages Claudia to try and spend more time on her art than "the uselessness" of babysitting. Frankly, she's a bit up her own arse and entirely too judgemental for a white girl wearing what's described as "an Indian headband". The club members are really upset when Claudia blows them off to spend time with Ashley, and Claudia ends up being pulled in both directions just trying to make everyone happy and find some time to do what she loves. The girls do some really shitty things to Claudia, including eating and/or hiding all her snacks, leaving her some rotten notes and entries in the club notebook, and short-sheeting her bed (which I had never heard of, but sounds like a really irritating sibling prank). 

The fashion in this book is predictably some of the best we've seen so far:

"[Ashley was wearing] a very pretty pink flowered skirt that was full and so long it touched the tops of her shoes - which I soon realized were not shoes, but sort of hiking boots. Her blouse, loose and lacy, was embroidered with pink flowers, and both of her wrists were loaded with silver bangle bracelets."

"[Ashley] was wearing a long, all-the-way-to-her-ankles dress with three rows of ruffles at the bottom. A strip of black cloth was tied around her head."

"Ashley was wearing a puffy white blouse, a blue-jean jacket, a long blue-jean skirt, and those hiking boots again. Beaded bracelets circled both wrists, and she'd tied a strip of faded denim around her head, like an Indian headband."

"[Claudia] was wearing a very short pink cotton dress, white tights, and black ballet slippers. I had swept all of my hair way over to one side, where it was held in place with a piece of pink cloth that matched the dress. Only one ear showed, and in it I had put my big palm tree earring."

This is the first time where we see how passionate Claudia is about art - when Ashley's last name is announced as Wyeth, Claudia asks her if she's related to the famous painter Andrew Wyeth (who painted one of my all time favourite pictures, Christina's World).  Claudia struggling at school and prioritising her artistic endeavours over her education was important representation - especially in the late 1980s. So important, in fact, that it inspired a generation of Asian women to follow their creative passions and continue to proudly break traditional stereotypes often placed upon them by society. There's an short documentary on Netflix about it, I really recommend you watch it - it's called "The Claudia Kishi Club". 

Meanwhile, Dawn's brother Jeff is still having problems adjusting after their parents divorce, and in a frankly bizarre scene, he calls Dawn when she's babysitting the Perkins girls and tells her he has been called in to the Principal's office at school but he can't get a hold of their mother. Dawn rocks up to the office, two little kids in tow, to try and speak to Jeff's teacher. Dawn is twelve? Thirteen? 

As usual, everything works out in the end, and Claudia even ends up having a sculpture displayed in a local art gallery. Everyone makes up, and all is right in Stoneybrook once more. 

Doritos (location undisclosed)
Bazooka Bubble Gum in her hollow book
Cookies under her pillow
Twinkies in her sock drawer
Pretzels in an old pajama bag
Crackers in the Monopoly box
Marshmallows in a shoe box
Licorice Sticks under her mattress

Claudia's English class are doing a project on a selection of books that have won a Newbery Medal. The Newbery Medals were started by the American Library Association in 1922, named after "the father of children's literature 18th century bookseller John Newbury, who is credited with making children's literature "a sustainable and profitable part of the business market". They are awarded annually to an author who has made "the most distinguishing contribution" to children's literature. You can view the full list of Newbery winners here

Claudia plays a game called "Red Light, Green Light" with some children she's sitting. We called this game Statues as kids, it's where one person faces away and the others try to creep up behind them before they turn back around. 

Claudia mentions having watched Woodstock, a 1970s documentary on the famous 1969 New York festival of the same name. I personally prefer the 1995 Wigstock movie, an equally defining moment in culture that can be seen on YouTube across 8 parts starting here

Stacey is wearing Moonlight Mist perfume and Claudia remarks that it smells like roses. This has to be Helena Rubinstein's Moonlight Mist, a fragrance released in the 1950s under both her main brand and her husband's Gourielli line. There's a beautiful high quality print ad currently listed on eBay that you can view here

Tissues at the ready for the next book, because Stacey's about to skip town. 

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