Nostalgic Bookshelf

Snarky recaps of nostalgic media, including Making Out, Baywatch, Blyton and Baby-Sitter's Club
17
Oct 2018

Famous Five 8: Five Get into Trouble by Enid Blyton

Title: Five get into Trouble

The Famous Five #8: Five Get Into Trouble

Summary: Curious about the big house on Owl’s Hill, the Five go into the grounds one night….only to find that the big wrought-iron gates have closed mysteriously behind them.

Initial Thoughts:

Everything about that summary is wrong. For one thing, they don’t go into the grounds because of some random curiosity about the house; they go LOOKING for the house for reasons. For another, more important, thing, that ellipsis should have three dots, not four, because the sentence doesn’t end during the dot part.

Anyway. I remember loving this book, and my own copy is incredibly battered and soft.

But what I DON’T remember is ever being aware of how bloody old Julian is in this. Okay, if book six was set at Easter, and they were thirteen (Anne), fourteen (George and Dick), and fifteen (Julian), and book seven is the following Easter (so…they’re the same ages?), then THIS book, which is Easter again, is another year entirely. JULIAN IS SIXTEEN? In my head Julian is never that old. Even Anne is fourteen by now. [Dove: I think the last book was summer from the comments about the moors being cold in the summer, but it wasn’t clear. But otherwise your maths lines up with mine.]

That…that isn’t how I ever thought of them, when I was young and reading these. It completely changes everything. THE FAMOUS FIVE ARE OLD ENOUGH TO BE POINT HORROR CHARACTERS.

…damn, now I want to read that. Five Find a Body. Five Accidentally Run Someone Over. Five and the Kirrin Island Phantom. Five Visit Fear Street. [Dove: *blink* Well, I think we’ve found Necro’s NaNo project!] [Necromommycon:OMG, that sounds like fun. I think I have to try this. ] [Wing: Well this sounds delightful.]

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6
Aug 2018
The Baby-Sitters Club #8: Boy-Crazy Stacey by Ann M Martin

The Baby-Sitters Club #8: Boy-Crazy Stacey by Ann M Martin

Title: Boy-Crazy Stacey

Summary: Stacey and Mary Anne are mother’s helpers for the Pike family for two weeks at the New Jersey shore. Things are great in Sea City: There’s a gorgeous old house, a boardwalk, plenty of sun and sand… and the cutest boy Stacey has ever seen!

Mary Anne knows that Scott the lifeguard is way too old for Stacey, but Stacey’s in love. She fixes Scott’s lunch, fetches his sodas, and spends all her time with him… instead of with the Pike kids.

Suddenly, Mary Anne’s doing the work of two baby-sitters, and she doesn’t like it one bit. But how can she tell Stacey that Scott just isn’t interested—without breaking Stacey’s heart?

Tagline: Who needs baby-sitting when there are boys around!

Initial Thoughts:

I unabashedly love Sea City and wish it were real and I could vacation there, so this is going to be difficult to recap just because I love it all so much.

That said, I do have some issues with the title.

On the one hand, yes: I vividly remember that age when my friends’ group were getting interested in boys, only we were all doing that on wildly different schedules, so there were frequently times when one of us was visibly making a fool of herself and the others saw it and discussed it. I’m not sure “boy-crazy” was ever a term we used, but it fits the perspective and attitude I remember having.

But on the other hand: I kind of hate that we do this at all. It’s easy, looking back on this as an adult, to see that Stacey isn’t trying to be selfish (and definitely isn’t trying to look foolish!); she’s just grappling awkwardly with new feelings and experiences.

And I wish that, as a culture, we gave girls a little more guidance not just on the crushing/dating stuff, but on the “being an honest but also kind friend to the person currently wrestling with hormones and emotions.” Because really, I don’t remember anyone ever giving me clear instructions about not falling into the “not like the other girls” mindset, and I could have used them.

Besides, she’s not “boy crazy.” She’s making an ass of herself over one particular guy. It’s not, like, a generalized thing she does with every guy she meets.

My only memories of this book aside from Sea City itself were being mad at Stacey for not doing her share, but even more mad at Scott the lifeguard for taking advantage of her (and his other fans).

[Wing: So word to all of this and thank you for saying it so well. Unlearning the drive to reject “feminine” things so as to be “not like other girls” is a terribly hard thing to do, but important. It took me forever, and I rage at all the time I lost to it.]

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25
Jul 2018

Famous Five 5: Five Go Off in a Caravan by Enid Blyton

[Famous Five 5: Five Go Off in a Caravan by Enid Blyton

Title: Five Go Off in a Caravan

Summary: The Famous Five are having a wonderful caravanning holiday. And when they discover a circus is camping nearby, they hope there’ll be plenty of entertainment.

But two of the circus performers are strangely sinister. The children soon realise that they’re not clowning around — but can they get help in time?

Initial Thoughts

That title is a lie. They go off in two caravans. [Wing: I appreciate your attention to this detail, a la my annoyance over that whole Smuggler’s thing last time.]

Which brings me to perhaps the most disturbing news of the entire series to date: I THINK JULIAN KNOWS WHAT SEX IS. I mean, at least vaguely. He knows it exists. I think. (He may also be having it with a series of farmers’ wives and daughters.) [Wing: Wait, is this not what we’re supposed to assume with him popping off to talk to the wives and daughters as they travel?]

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Initially, when I asked to recap this book, I only remembered the caravan part (not the significance of there being two caravans, just that they went off without adults in a caravan, which I was enormously envious of). The amount of freedom these kids have is mind-boggling to me. I mean, I am old enough to remember when it was normal for children to leave home in the morning in summer and only go back home for meals and when it got to be dusk, so we were basically away from adults for hours and hours at a time in the summer, but that was with the understanding that we were somewhere nearby. Like, in town, and preferably in the neighbourhood. Not off up the highway to some other town, or parked out in the country somewhere in a horse-drawn vehicle.

I really do love this series. It achieves a strange mix of cozy, meal-driven comfort and outrageous, I-would-never-have-been-allowed-to-do-that adventure.

[Dove: This is one of my favourite stories in this series. This is exactly the kind of thing I’d have loved to do as a kid. I didn’t go camping until I was in my late twenties, and when I did, I loved it. Tiny and I were incredibly resourceful in how to make tea without a kettle.]

[Wing: I was taking a drink when I saw the “Anne should just poison them all” tag and nearly choked to death.]

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20
Jun 2018

The Baby-sitters Club #6: Kristy’s Big Day by Ann M. Martin

Title: Kristy’s Big Day

Summary: Kristy’s mom is getting married, and Kristy’s a bridesmaid. The only trouble is, fourteen little kids are coming to the wedding, and they all need baby-sitters. Here comes the Baby-sitters Club!

Stacey, Claudia, Mary Anne, Dawn, and Kristy think they can handle fourteen kids. But that’s before they spend five days changing diapers, stopping fights, solving mix-ups, righting wrongs…and getting sick and tired of baby-sitting!

One thing’s for sure. This is a crazy way to have a wedding. But it’s a great way to have a lot of fun!

Tagline: Kristy’s a baby-sitter—and a bridesmaid, too!

Initial Thoughts

Going in, all I could really remember about this one was that they ran a sort of summer camp for children, and were looking after so many of them at once that they had to divide them into groups.

I wasn’t a very wedding-enthusiastic child. I mean, it wouldn’t have thrilled me to be a bridesmaid, and I found it incredibly tedious to have to attend weddings. Even so, it’s weird how I apparently completely forgot every single thing about the wedding part of the plot.

Also, I’ve read this book probably a dozen times, and only just now noticed how odd that title is; it makes it sound like Kristy’s the one getting married.

[Wing: That’s a really good point about the title. I’m still not a big wedding person, though I’ve had fun at them over the years. I like planning things for them, though. Best wedding story: I set some church drapes on fire once when I was a kid. I’m guessing that’ll be a surprise to absolutely no one.]

[Dove: Well, I hadn’t noticed it before, but now the front cover does hint at child bride too.]

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4
Apr 2018
The Baby-Sitters Club #4: Mary Anne Saves the Day by Ann M. Martin

The Baby-Sitters Club #4: Mary Anne Saves the Day by Ann M. Martin

Title: Mary Anne Saves the Day

Summary: Mary Anne has never been a leader of the Baby-sitters Club. She’s left that up to Kristy… or Claudia… or Stacey. But now there’s a big fight among the four friends, and Mary Anne doesn’t have them to depend on anymore.

It’s bad enough when she’s left alone at the lunch table at school. But when she has to baby-sit a sick child without any help from the club members, Mary Anne knows it’s time to take charge.

The Baby-sitters Club is going to fall apart unless somebody does something – fast. Maybe it’s time for Mary Anne to step in and save the day!

Tagline: Mary Anne’s on her own. Can she take charge?

Initial Thoughts

I remember this book mainly as “the one where Mary Anne’s father finally agrees to let her do stuff,” and I used to find it HUGELY UNFAIR that his change of heart happens because she handles an emergency well. (And I mean, really well. Many parents, possibly including me, wouldn’t be as clear-headed in a crisis as Mary Anne is in this book.) What if an emergency had just never happened, huh? Would she have been in pigtails until she left for university?

On rereading, I may possibly have misjudged Mr. Spier. In fact, now I’m wondering if the emergency was even the whole reason he changed his mind.

I also remember that this is the book where all the BSC are in a fight with each other. That still bothers me enough that I felt anxious at the beginning, waiting for the fight to start.

[Wing: DAWN DAWN DAWN DAWN DAWN DAWN DAWN DAWN DAWN DAWN DAWN DAWN DAWN DAWN.]

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21
Mar 2018

Famous Five 2: Five Go Adventuring Again by Enid Blyton

Title: The Famous Five #2: Five Go Adventuring Again by Enid Blyton

Summary: Spending Christmas at Kirrin Cottage, the Five were not expecting an adventure. But they found one – and became involved in a tense running battle underground.

Tagline: Julian, Dick, George, Anne and Timothy the dog

(Okay, that’s not a tagline, but it’s the closest thing this book has to one. Note the absence of Oxford comma, and try to imagine my irritation.)

Initial Thoughts:

I know this was one of my favourite Famous Five books when I was young, but for the life of me, I can’t remember why.

I’m also SHOCKED that there was an era in publishing in which someone could write a series book set at Christmas and not mention Christmas in the title or have a Christmas-themed cover. This was published in 1942, and you’d think they’d have pulled out all the stops to play on people’s nostalgia for non-war Christmasses, but no. You can’t tell from the front or back cover that this has anything to do with winter at all. [Dove: That’s very un-Christmassy. To the point where I always forget this one is set over Christmas holidays.] [Raven: I was once Christmas shopping in Leeds, and one shop was playing Sunny Afternoon by the Kinks to fly in the face of the usual jingle bell fare. Loved it, it’s now part of my Christmas Song Rotation.]

There are roughly a billion variant covers. Here are two non-awful ones in which no one is wearing bell-bottoms.

[Wing: I am utterly charmed by this one, too! It’s not quite as fun as the first book, but I love George so, so much.]

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7
Feb 2018

The Baby-Sitters Club 2: Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls by Ann M. Martin

Title: Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls

Summary: Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne and Stacey have had some strange adventures since they started the Baby-sitters Club. [Wing: Considering this is book #2, I think that’s a bit of a stretch, blurb writer.] But nothing’s been as spooky as what’s going on right now. The baby-sitters have been getting mysterious phone calls when they’re out on their jobs. When a phone rings and they pick up, there’s no one on the other end of the line.

Claudia’s sure it’s the Phantom Caller, a jewel thief who’s been operating in the area. Claudia has always liked reading mysteries, but she doesn’t like it when they happen to her. So she and the baby-sitters decide to take action – with some very mixed results!

Tagline: Claudia’s not sure she wants to find out who’s on the other end of the line.

Initial Thoughts

What the everloving hell is Claudia wearing on the cover of my copy of this? That’s the one pictured up top there. That vest looks like it was made by a commune of llama-breeding hippies in the 1970s.

Also, we might as well get this out of the way: Kirsten Dunst modelled for the cover of this. I don’t even know why I know that, but I do. [Wing: Wait, what? Did she really? I had no idea.] Not the cover I have; this one:

I love these books too much to be properly snarky about them, particularly the early ones. I thought maybe rereading them I’d be more cynical, but no; if anything they’re even more adorable. So apologies in advance for that. [Wing: It’s so difficult to be snarky over something you love! I still adore these books so, so much, and I feel your pain.]

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