Baby-Sitters Club #7: Claudia and Mean Janine by Ann M. Martin

The Baby-Sitters Club #7: Claudia and Mean Janine by Ann M Martin
The Baby-Sitters Club #7: Claudia and Mean Janine by Ann M Martin

Title: Baby-Sitters Club #7: Claudia and Mean Janine by Ann M. Martin

Summary: Claudia’s participation in the Baby-sitters Club is curtailed when Grandmother Mimi suffers a stroke and Claudia finds herself “Mimi-sitting” and fighting more frequently with her sister.

Tagline: Claudia’s sister is an impossible person to live with!

Initial Thoughts

I really love this book, despite the fact that it has some heartbreaking moments and also, I adore Janine. The cover I have, Claudia looks like she’s thirty, what the hell, cover artist? And that is not the right kind of teapot. And why do they have stained glass windows? I think I’m focusing on the wrong things here.

[Dove: That’s Claudia? I thought it was her mom!]

Enjoy the fireworks, USA! And remember: the Kishis would be screwed under our current political regime, so let’s celebrate what we could be and fix the shit that we actually are.


We open on a typical, rushed, complicated morning at the Kishi house, where everyone is, as always, rushing in a billion different directions. Mr and Mrs Kishi are off to work, Janine’s off to advanced summer courses at Stoneybrook University, and Claudia’s off to a drawing class. Only Mimi will stay home.

Claudia’s thirteen! Welcome to being a teenager. You will be here for the rest of time. Enjoy that. I guess. Oh god, I feel sorry for you and #stoneybrooktime. She goes on to tell us how different she is from the rest of her family: she’s smart, but she doesn’t like school or homework; they’re conservative and she’s wild (preeeeetty sure she doesn’t mean politically conservative here, thank god); and she admits that she can be a real pain sometimes. Janine, meanwhile, is a genius who loves school and never causes any trouble and wears boring clothes (that Claudia passes on to Kristy and Mary Anne LOLOLOL). These clothes: button-down shirts, gray kilts, and crew-neck sweaters. (a) That sounds delightful. (b) If you’re so damn creative, you should be able to make amazing outfits out of that.

Claudia and Janine have nothing in common, per Claudia, though I definitely thought we learned in Claudia’s last book that they both hide junk food in their rooms, so what happened to that similarity, huh? Anyway, Claudia loves art and clothes and friends, Janine loves school and her computer; Claudia’s had boyfriends(-ish), Janine maybe doesn’t even know what a boy is (GIRLS GIRLS SHE LOVES GIRLS); Claudia thinks she’s a big disappointment to her parents, though she doesn’t want to admit it, and Janine teases Claudia because she wishes she was more like Claudia with friends and interests, etc. UGH. I love these girls so much, and their sister relationship, and how they struggle in such different ways. Model minority issues, and Japanese parent pressures, and lily-white Stoneybrooke. Martin doesn’t always handle everything well or with any depth, but it was such a change from everything else easily available to me at the time, I loved it.

(I just finished It’s Not Like It’s a Secret by Misa Sugiura, a fantastic YA book that includes a lesbian Japanese main character, growing up in a white community, racism between people of color, Japanese immigrant families, Hispanic issues in California, an emotional and wonderful queer relationship, and more. Highly recommended.)

Claudia outfit (and her fave art class outfit): black jeans, giant bright blue t-shirt, and snake bracelet worn above her elbow. That doesn’t sound as wild as your outfits are supposed to be, girl.

Everyone gathers together for the breakfast Mimi prepared, which is charming as hell. I love family meals, and we learn that Mr Kishi is a partner in an investment firm over in Stamford, which is the nearest bigger town (though I wouldn’t really call it a city [Dove: Really? Because you called anything with more than one house a city when we were writing together!] [Wing: Hee. Well, I probably would just casually, but I wouldn’t call it a city compared to, say, NYC, which is the other place they reference all the time.] ) and Mrs Kishi is the head librarian at the local library. God, I love libraries. Claudia says this one doesn’t have any Nancy Drews, which I do not for a second believe, head librarian not thinking they’re worthwhile or not.

Summary of the BSC: Kristy’s Great Idea, officers, meetings, girls are all very different but still great friends, Kristy’s getting ready to move across town after her mom married Watson.

Janine and Claudia have a snarky little exchange because Janine uses too many big words, according to Claudia, to ask how they’re going to survive Kristy’s move across town and end up shouting at each other as they both leave. [Dove: As a first reader, I felt really sad for Janine. I could see she was really trying, but she used words Claudia didn’t understand, which made Claudia exasperated. I love Janine. I also like Claudia, but Janine is my favourite.]

In case you didn’t know, Claudia hides junk food and mysteries in her room: cupcakes in a desk drawer, licorice in a pencil case, books under her mattress, M&Ms in her jewelry box, etc. She gets out the M&Ms and some pretzels from the kitchen before the meeting that afternoon, and slowly everyone starts turning up.

Stacey’s blonde hair is now cut to just above her shoulders, and it makes her look older. Claudia considers doing the same, but Stacey talks her out of it because her hair is so beautiful long. Dawn’s white-blonde hair is long enough she has to move it before she sits on the floor. (Claudia says that when she and Dawn stand next to each other, they kind of look like a photograph and its negative, which is an interesting description.)

Here’s Kristy’s solution to her moving across town: Charlie’s now allowed to drive his siblings around, so he’s agreed to drive her to meetings and jobs. They’re going to pay him out of the club dues; he said two dollars each way is too much, but one dollar is fine. Good lord, dude, that won’t even pay for your gas. You’re a good big brother. [Dove: Was it $1/$2 in the original books, or was it less?] [Wing: I think I remember it might have been 50 cents each way originally, but maybe not.]

They set up some baby-sitting jobs, and Kristy comes up with yet another Great Idea. This one is inspired by how they all took care of 14 children before the wedding like the suckers they are. Since it’s summer vacation and there’s not much to do for anyone, they should hold a play group, something like a day camp but shorter, a few mornings a week. They’ll charge $5 per kid per morning, which is a bargain for their clients, and they can do things like art projects and games and storytime.

The first thing hurdle is where to hold it, because parents will want to make sure there’s an adult around. As opposed to that week with 14 kids when the adults were never around? But sure. They can’t hold it at Kristy’s house, of course, because they’re about to move; Mary Anne’s dad works; Dawn’s mom is looking for a job and out of the house a lot; Mimi’s been too tired to have a bunch of kids at the Kishi house. Thank god Stacey’s mom’s (got it going on) doesn’t work and will be fine with hosting.

They post flyers, but they also go talk to all their regular clients in person. Only real thing of note is that Mallory Pike, who is ten or just turned eleven, not sure, is feeling too old for things like a play group but is too young for a lot of things still. Kristy offers to have her be a helper, a baby-sitter-in-training. She won’t get paid, but she doesn’t have to show up as a kid, either.

Sunday night before the play group begins, Mr and Mrs Kishi go out for dinner, leaving Mimi, Claudia, and Janine on their own. Claudia and Mimi make waffles for dinner (Mim pronounces “iron” like “eye-ron”). They talk about the play group over dinner, Claudia is rude to Janine every time she asks a question, Janine is loving her programming classes because computer programing is logical, and Mimi is very, very tired, too tired to really socialise with her friends even though they invite her out.

After dinner, Janine suggests they all play The Trivia Game together. Claudia hates it because she’s not a good student, but Mimi wants to play, so she does. This is basically Trivial Pursuit. At one point, when Janine gives her a clue that Claudia has the book in her room, Claudia sarcastically answers with The Phantom of Pine Hill. Real subtle there, girl who is hiding books from her parents. (Claudia has never even heard of Napoleon “Bone-apart,” which I find suspect that she’s never heard the name), and Janine wins the game, so Claudia starts insulting her.

Claudia blows up at Mimi after when Mimi tells her she wasn’t nice, and Claudia accuses her of taking Janine’s side because she’s so much smarter than Claudia and claims that their parents love Janine more, too, for the same reason.

Even though it is only 8 p.m., Mimi is very tired and goes to bed.

Claudia feels terrible as she cleans up the game; Janine comes back down a bit later to tell her that she won’t tell their parents about the Nancy Drew book in her room. Janine, I love you. Janine admits that she wishes she was as close with Mimi as Claudia is, and they end up fighting again because Claudia accuses her of loving her computer more than any people. God, Claudia, you are really being a shit. [Dove: Yep. I don’t know if it’s because I’m reading this as an adult, or because I really like Janine, but it was clear that Janine was trying to connect with her throughout the book. And it kind of made Claudia look like an asshat for aggressively rebuffing her every time she tried.]

And then they hear a heavy thud from Mimi’s room, and they find her collapsed on the floor, partially undressed as she got ready for bed. They call for emergency services, and Janine goes with Mimi to the hospital while Claudia calls around trying to get ahold of her parents. She can’t reach them at the restaurant, but it’s close enough they should be home any minute, so she quickly packs a bag for Mimi, including things like her nightgown, toothbrush, and the Japanese book she’s reading.

She doesn’t even let her parents pull into the driveway but runs down to the car while it’s still in the street, and they race over to the hospital. Mimi’s had a stroke and at the moment can’t move or speak, but the doctor reassures them he’s seen people make remarkable recoveries from strokes. They won’t know anything more for up to two days.

Monday opens with a notebook entry from Dawn about the play group and Mimi’s stroke. They’re having trouble with Jenny Prezzioso, who is that spoiled four-year-old girl whose mother only dresses her in frilly, fancy dresses even when sending her to a playgroup.

Playgroup outfits!

Stacey: knee-length lime green shorts, matching green high-top sneakers, large white t-shirt with a giant taxicab on the front. That — that is not very sophisticated, Stacey.

Mary Anne: scoop neck t-shirt with lace at the sleeves, blue jean shorts, running shoes.

Kristy: old gray t-shirt that probably belonged to her older brothers at one time and says Bohren’s Movers across the back, jean shorts, running shoes.

Dawn: striped pants with suspenders over a red shirt. (Surprisingly NYC instead of California casual, Claudia points out. I think she’s raiding Stacey’s closet because they’ve been having “sleepovers.”)

They all decide to make get-well cards for Mimi because most of the kids have at least met her and it will make the baby-sitters feel better (Mary Anne is nearly as upset as Claudia).

Here are the kids who show up for day one: Mallory, to be their helper, David Michael, Charlotte Johanssen (Stacey’s fave kid), Jamie Newton, Nicky, Claire, Margo, and Vanessa Pike, Suzi and Buddy Barrett, and Jenny Prezzioso.

Pretty much all of them are wearing shorts, t-shirts, and sneakers, or some variation on; Jenny is wearing a pale pink party dress with puffed sleeves and white smocking across the front along with lacy white socks and pink Mary Janes.

Jenny spends the entire morning either shouting about wanting to play or shouting because she doesn’t want to play in case she ruins her outfit. It’s going to be a long play group, I think.

Claudia sits for the Newtons that afternoon; the adult Newtons are getting ready for a christening for Lucy, and Jamie is feeling envious of all the attention she’s getting. He still acts like a sweet big brother, though, so he’s clearly struggling with this transition in a complicated, sweet way.

They go on a walk over by Claudia’s house and run into Janine who is just getting home from school. Claudia asks her how school was and then when Janine answers about physics and astronomy, Claudia blows up at her for not asking about Mimi or their mom. Janine points out that Claudia asked her another question before she could say anything and also she called the hospital from campus earlier.

Damn it, Claudia, I normally love you, but you are being so, so shitty to your sister.

During this fight, Claudia calls Janine mean and actually raises her hand to hit her, though she doesn’t. What the fuck, Claudia. And in front of the little kid you’re in charge of right now. No, seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you? [Dove: This part seemed really badly written. It felt like the argument was winding down, then Claudia raised her hand to hit, and then thought about it. It felt really staged. As if she was acting how she thought girls in books/movies should act.]

Claudia takes the Newtons back home and then returns to her house for a club meeting. Kristy and Mary Anne are waiting for her outside, because they didn’t think anyone was home, since of course Mimi isn’t there. This is really sad. She’s so important to so many people; Mary Anne and Mimi are particularly close because Mimi can tell her things about her dead mother and teach her things like knitting. Passing on history and skills.

At the meeting, they try to figure out what to do about Jenny; finally, they decide that first thing is to ask Mrs Prezzioso to dress her in play clothes. This, of course, falls on Mary Anne because no one else likes the family (at least at this point). It doesn’t happen during the meeting, though, because they get too many calls, start talking about Mimi, and then Claudia’s mother comes home with an update. Mimi’s awake. She can’t move or speak yet, but family members can visit.

Claudia has to help with dinner because her mother assumes that Janine is too busy with schoolwork, and then they all go over to see Mimi. Claudia takes the get-well cards, but she’s feeling sick with guilt over how she yelled at Mimi right before she had the stroke.

Claudia asks her parents if Mimi can hear them; Janine calls this a silly question, which is dismissive as fuck. Mr Kishi says that he wants to hear her answer then, and she says that of course Mimi can hear them. He tells them that according to the neurologist, the real answer is that they don’t know if she can or not or how well if she can at all.

Claudia goes in to see Mimi second. Mimi’s attached to tubes and machines and she looks tiny in the bed; Claudia freaks out and has to rush out of the room. Janine goes next, and Claudia watches as in the first moment, she also looks shocked, but then Janine manages to talk to Mimi as if everything is okay.

Claudia can’t go back into the room and runs away to cry on her own until it’s time to go. She spends the entire next day telling herself not to be selfish or a baby. Oh, honey, no, you sweet, sweet girl, it’s okay to feel what you’re feeling.

This time, she tries to remember Mimi the way she was before her stroke and visits with her a little. She tells Mimi about how well the play group is going and reads all the cards to her, which is such a sweet thing to do.

Then Claudia figures out a blinking code with Mimi, one blink for yes, two for now, which is both clever and sweet (and a little overdone). Claudia gets to apologise, though, and Mimi accepts it, which is some good closure for Claudia.

She tells the news to the rest of her family and everyone is thrilled by that slight improvement. The happiness wears off by the time they get home, though, because the doctors don’t know how much better she’ll get and it is heartbreaking that the only way she can talk is by blinking.

Claudia sees Janine working at her computer (“keys clackety-clacking away a mile a minute” which is one of my favourite sounds in the world) and thinks that Janine looks like she’s crying, but Janine doesn’t hear her when Claudia calls for her.

Kristy notebook entry about Karen and Andrew Brewer (her new step-sister and step-brother) coming to the playgroup. She scares the kids with a monster tale about how Andrew turns into a monster. Werewolf! They use this to scare Jenny into wearing a smock for the collage art project they’re doing, because that’s totally a healthy way to baby-sit.

Jenny outfit (Mrs Prezzioso’s idea of play clothes): brand-new white sundress with ruffles at the bottom trimmed with pale pink ribbon and white lace and fancy white sandals.

Claudia starts pitching in around the house more and is pleased when her parents tell her how proud they are because she’s been responsible lately. Responsibility is often a touchy subject for them because she doesn’t do as well at school as they want her to.

The Kishis have come home with good news, so they send Claudia up to get Janine for dinner. Claudia snarks at Janine for not helping her with dinner, but then has to admit that Janine has a point, she didn’t know Claudia was doing it and Claudia didn’t ask for help. Stop being a little shit, Claudia. Tell her what’s going on. Stop assuming she’s figured it out.

The good news is that Mimi has started to move a little, was able to feed herself part of her lunch, and tried to speak. That means she’s out of ICU and into a regular hospital room (a private one) and they can visit her more. That is good news. That moment when my mom would be moved from ICU into a regular room was always such a relief. (Both because it meant she was improving and because there’s only so long we could camp out in the ICU waiting room before it got old. Sister Canary tried to teach us all to knit one time when we were all there [and there are a ton of us]; I could not get it down.)

While they visit her, Mimi keeps trying to talk, but can’t, so instead Claudia suggests they have her try to write things down even though she’s right handed and her left hand is the one sort of working at the moment. At first Mr Kishi gives her a notepad and a pencil, but Claudia points out she’s going to need something bigger. Claudia’s too embarrassed to say why she thinks that, but it’s because she knows what’s hard and what’s easy since she’s gone through so much trouble with school. I would also say that she spends a lot of time with little kids who are learning to write and bigger tools and paper is better.

She can write a little, but the letters come out backward and shaky and she breaks between English and Japanese without warning.

Mimi's note in Claudia and Mean Janine
Mimi’s note in Claudia and Mean Janine

The doctor tells them that Mimi’s making average progress and that she’s going to have to have a bunch of therapy, including physical, speech, and occupational, which focuses on basic skills like eating, getting dressed, etc. She has to relearn everything because her brain is mixed-up. It won’t take her as long as a little kid would, because the knowledge is already there inside her, but it will take awhile and will take work.

She’ll get that therapy at the hospital every day, but the adult Kishis are talking about taking a couple of hours off from work in the afternoon, one or the other can be with her from 2 p.m., when she gets back from therapy, until 6 p.m. Janine starts to say something, but Claudia interrupts to say that she can spend the mornings with her, she can switch to a Saturday art class. (It’s the least she can do, she thinks, because she also still believes she nearly killed Mimi.)

Stacey notebook entry: They miss Claudia, things were ridiculous at play group because David Michael brought Louie, the Thomas dog, with him, Jenny is terrified of dogs, and also, everyone decided to give the dog a bath, which went terribly wrong.

Kristy’s a little worried about how Louie, who is not a purebred collie but mixed with sheepdog, will fit in with all the rich, snobby dogs in their new neighborhood, where people mostly have pure bred shih tzus and pomeranians, etc. (Ostrich’s family has had pomeranians almost as long as I’ve known them. They are weird, yappy little dogs. One of them, who is so old she doesn’t have teeth anymore and also weighs about 2 pounds, tried to bite off Monster Dog’s face. With no teeth. And being the size of Monster Dog’s muzzle. Yeah.)

They finally bathe him after a number of chase scenes around the backyard, and then Stacey french-braids his fur, Charlotte ties ribbons at the end of each braid, Margo and Mallory paint his claws with red nail polish, and David Michael uses his fancy plaid leash. What — what the fuck are y’all doing to that poor dog.

(Gender bullshit ahead, too; Kristy asks if Louie looks too much like a girl, and if he does, she’ll just say his name is Louelle. Boys can wear braids and ribbons and nail polish, and also HE’S A FUCKING DOG.)

Mimi does well with her therapy. She struggles with her words the most, though; she forgets words or gets them mixed up or says the Japanese word instead. E.g., when Claudia holds up a picture of a bird, Mimi says: It — it skies in the fly. No, it flies in the sky. It has wings. It catches worms. It builds nests. But I … oh, you know what it is, my Claudia.

God, this is heartbreaking. It’s frustrating and frightening to lose words and to have lost so much and be fighting to get it back — ugh, I feel for Mimi and am also saddened by this book. My heart. This is not okay.

Eventually, Mimi does well enough that she can go home and only come back to the hospital for therapy! Yay!

Again Claudia volunteers to stay home and be with her in the mornings, and her parents will pay her to help tutor her, etc., because it will be a lot of work. (Claudia is bitter that Janine is focusing so much on her classes and acts like she doesn’t care about Mimi at all. And just when is she supposed to spend any time with Mimi, Claudia, considering how you keep sacrificing all your activities to spend all the time with her out of guilt?)

Mimi grows more and more frustrated with the work, though she and Claudia have fun, sweet moments, too. (Mimi can’t remember the word for chair, so Claudia tells her to picture a cherry getting bigger and bigger until it explodes, which works for her and made me LOL.)

The BSC comes to visit after the play group one day to bring Mimi and Claudia cards and gifts from the kids. It is a lot for Mimi, but she does try hard to communicate. After they leave and Mimi goes to her therapy, Claudia rushes out to baby-sit for the Newtons. Jamie still has complicated feelings toward his little sister, playing with her one second, sulking over the dumb baby the next. Claudia has the nagging feeling that something about their dynamic reminds her of how she and Janine get along, but she’s not sure why. I WONDER.

Mary Anne notebook entry about — staying with Mimi. This is not baby-sitting, why is it in the notebook?  Things are still difficult and frustrating for Mimi, enough so that she actually yells at Mary Anne at one point. Claudia thinks it’s because she’s embarrassed to have a friend of the family rather than a member of the family helping her.

(Claudia can’t stay with her because she has an all-day baby-sitting job so they ask Mary Anne to step in, but — why couldn’t Mary Anne take the job instead? It’s not like you’re leaving them without a baby-sitter, Claudia.)

Mary Anne outfit: jean skirt, pink and white striped blouse, and loafers with no socks.

Mimi apologises for yelling and being rude, and they play hooky from the rest of Mimi’s work and watch television the rest of the morning. Mimi got pretty good at Wheel of Fortune, and Claudia decides to add that to her morning routine. Adorable.

The day before Lucy’s christening, Claudia goes over to help the Newtons get ready. It’s very fancy. Is this realistic? I grew up in a church (cult) that didn’t really do christenings or baby baptisms. [Dove: It seemed fairly in line with the few I’ve attended.] The kids are sick, Mrs Newton is freaking out, and Claudia does everything she can to keep both kids happy while Mrs Newton finishes getting everything ready.

The next morning, all the BSC will be at the christening as paid guests, so they’ll be working to make sure any kids are fine but they also get to be there and have fun.

Claudia outfit: big, loose white shirt with black splotches all over it, white pants that come just below her knees, dainty gold sandals that laced part-way up her legs (she fought with her mom over getting permission to buy them), pink flamingo earrings, a pink heart bracelet that says her name, and her hair in four long braids with a ribbon at the top of each braid and butterfly clips at the bottom.

Butterfly clips. Now that’s nostalgic as hell.

Claudia decorates the Newtons’ backyard with balloons, lanterns, crepe paper, and twinkling gold lights. The kids are feeling better, but Jamie is envious of all the attention Lucy is getting.

Jamie outfit: khaki slacks, white button-down shirt, navy blazer, top-siders. (Some kind of loafer?)

Lucy outfit: long white gown with lots of lace and ribbons and tiny pearl buttons on the back and a matching cap. Gross.

The christening goes well, Jamie blesses the minister when it’s done, which is adorable, and the party goes well until Jamie feels ignored and starts trying to get everyone’s attention. He even tries to be King Corn (you know, King Kong), but all that gets him is hushed.

At one point, Lucy’s in her bouncy walker chair near the food table. Jamie picks up a pitcher of punch and holds it over her. Claudia tries to stop him, but before she can even shout, Jamie’s put it back on the table and is playing with Lucy. When Claudia asks what happened, he said he was going to pour it on her but he changed his mind because he loves her. She’s his sister. UGH MY HEART.

This reminds Claudia of that time she started to hit Janine but stopped just in time. She keeps thinking about it all long after the party ends. She thinks she and Janine must love each other, but they’ve never actually said it. Claudia knows that Lucy isn’t more special than Jamie just because she was getting more attention, and starts to wonder whether that means that Janine isn’t more special than Claudia just because Janine gets more attention from their parents.

Also, if Claudia loves Janine, does Janine love the rest of them but doesn’t know how to show it?

(There are some interesting dynamics around open affection in Japanese-American families that aren’t addressed as different cultural mores.)

Claudia goes home and tells Mimi all about the party, then realises that Mimi is alone. Mr and Mrs Kishi had to leave and Janine is up in her room working. Claudia shouts at Janine for leaving her alone, and Janine admits that she’s not sure what to do when she sits with Mimi. Claudia’s the one who spends so much time with her. Claudia’s shocked by this, because Janine was great with her in the hospital when she was still in the coma.

Janine flat out says that no one wants her to be a part of the family. Holy shit, Janine. And then she adds that Claudia’s always pushing her out of Claudia’s world and into her own world. Claudia has no idea what she means by this, which exasperates Janine further and she sends Claudia away.

But Claudia is stubborn and wants to talk to her. She asks Janine to explain herself, and she does. All that “go study” and “don’t neglect your homework” makes Janine feel like she’s not a part of the family and then Claudia gets mad at her for putting extra work on her. Claudia says she does, she sits in her room while Claudia cooks and goes to the hospital and works with Mimi —

— except that, oh, right, Claudia interrupted Janine and volunteered to give up everything to take care of Mimi and no one even asked her to stay with Mimi that day they hired Mary Anne, and Claudia never tells her when she’s making dinner. Janine can’t read her mind, which is such a valid point.

They both think the other is the favourite child for different reasons, and Claudia encourages Janine to tell their parents and Mimi about how she’s feeling. Claudia tells her that it’s a two-way street, though; they all need to make some changes to figure stuff out.

Janine takes this to heart and goes down to have special tea with Mimi right then, which is so fucking sweet. [Dove: Janine, I love you.]

July’s done, play group’s done, summer vacation is half done, and Mimi continues to improve. Claudia and Mimi talk about how things are always changing, sometimes too fast, but it’s inevitable. And then Claudia finally admits that she gave Mimi the stroke because she was so rude to her. Claudia’s been sitting on this for a long, long time and is all broken up inside over it. Oh, Claudia, honey.

Mimi reassures her that it wasn’t her fault. Mimi is getting old and slowing down and nothing Claudia did was to blame.

Janine comes home and offers to take Mimi for a walk, even though Mimi rarely leaves the house except to go to therapy. They go for a sweet little walk down the sidewalk, and my heart grows three sizes.

One final BSC meeting ends the book, and they schedule a job for the family who moved into Kristy’s old house: the Perkins, five-year-old Myriah and two-and-a-half-year-old Gabbie. Kristy gets that job. AND THEN THE PIKES CALL. They want two baby-sitters to go with them to Sea City, this beach in New Jersey where they go every summer. They want mother’s helpers so the adults can have more fun.

Of course, how will they choose which two get to go. Before this can turn into a fight, Dawn says she is going back to California those two weeks to see her dad, the Kishis are going on vacation because the doctor has cleared Mimi for traveling, Kristy knows she can’t go because her mom wants them to spend all this time together to bond as a new family, which just leaves Stacey and Mary Anne. It won’t be easy to convince their parents, especially Mary Anne’s dad, but Stacey’s certain that they’ll be allowed to go and they need to get ready for surf, sun, and fun.

Well, that’s going to be an entertaining book.

Final Thoughts

God, Claudia is terrible in this book. I love her normally, and I still do here, but she is such a shit to Janine all the fucking time. I love Janine, too, and I empathise with her a lot, particularly in this book. The Mimi stuff is heartbreaking, and all the complicated sibling relationships are sad and loving and wonderful.