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Dissecting the unintentional hilarity of The Baby-sitters Club.

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Don't Give Up, Mallory! Part 1 [Jan. 20th, 2013|07:48 pm]
Baby-sitters Club Snark-fest!


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. . .on second thought, go ahead and give up, Mallory.

Shout-out to  kakeochi_umai or the request!

Is it just me, or does Mallory get a bunch of titles in non-standard form?  By which I mean, I think of standard as “Sitter’s Name and the Particular WTF,” or possibly “Sitter Name’s Stupid Thing.”  But Mal gets creepster greetings (Hellloooo, Mallory!), condescending pity (Poor Mallory!), imperatives (Get Well Soon, Mallory! and this one.)  Another sign of how Ann hates her?

The cover.  I. . .kind of like it!  

No, really.  I think maybe around Mallory’s Christmas Wish they got a new Mal model, because she’s kind of adorable.  Her hair is more coppery and soft-looking than the Bozo fright wig she generally sports, and her face isn’t as red and shiny as if she’d just run ten miles.  (I have to say, though, in more evidence of “sucks to be Mal,” I personally think her prettiest cover picture isn’t even on her own damn book--it’s on Mary Anne in the Middle.) Her clothes are inoffensive, and her cringing body-language is spot-on to the text.  Granted, Hodges seems to think Mallory is absurdly tall (seriously, look at the cover of Winter Vacation sometime; she’s a scary giantess), since if she were standing she’d tower over her classmates, but again, we can’t ask for everything.   Hey, maybe the height disproportion can be used to support a “Mallory Becomes a Supermodel” fanfic. And speaking of her classmates (or, as one might say, her peers) they look age-appropriate, which is to say they look like eleven-year-old CHILDREN.  They are BABIES.  Lastly, Mr. Cobb looks appropriately douche-y, with his cuffed khakis and over-gelled hair.  So, really, well-done, Hodges.  Maybe he was saving his weirdness for #109, when he got to show OMG! the least passionate kiss ever on the cover.

Also, this book has an amazing number of cross-references to previously-seen characters.   I’m pretty sure Jahnna and Malcolm decided to liven this one up with a drinking game that involved taking a shot every time they could awkwardly shoehorn in another blast from the past. Granted, a lot of them are totally inconsistent with the previous appearances, but you can’t have everything, including vague competence.  Also, that amount of alcohol would explain a lot about this plot.

Because the thing is, this book takes a stab at a couple of important issues, both of which happen to be close to my heart. 

Granted, it handles them with the finesse of a D-movie zombie, but on some level, I appreciate the nod to an issue besides “How to Be a Creepy Stalker” or “How to Be a Condescending Asshole” or “Beware of Those Who Smuggle Wine in Their Socks.”  More or less, these two issues are:

1. That at the onset of adolescence, a huge number of girls suffer a big drop in self-confidence and this often coincides with a drop in test scores (although this has actually narrowed since the mid-90s.)  There are many reasons for this, but one is probably the extremely narrow and often conflicting societal and cultural demands on and acceptable roles for young women: to be pure but not prudes, sexy but not sexual, bright but not bossy (or bitchy), perfectly groomed and made-up but not high maintenance, etc

2. The idea that children’s literature is worthy of attention and analysis, which in turn goes to the ideas that works for children needn't and shouldn't be shoddily made (ANN) and that these works both reflect and influence societal and cultural ideas and values

Both of these are handled with the thoughtfulness and sensitivity we've come to expect.  So to keep myself coherent, I'll be tossing in feminist and children's book related lolcats on an as needed basis.

Chapter 1:  Evil Mrs. Fredrickson has been promoted to the middle school, apparently.  She’s handing out midterm progress reports one by one, which seems like a really stupid use of class time.  Most of the kids groan, but Mal humblebrags that her grades would be “better than good,” complete with standard “I don’t want to brag, but. . .”

Mallory is the buttmonkey, so of course she drops her progress report and the whole class shits itself at the concept of straight As.  Even Rachel Robinson--I forgot she goes way back to #14, and I thought she had wondered over from the superior Judy Blume oeuvre.  In which case I would think she'd be more understanding.  (I was always way more sympathetic to Rachel than to Stephanie, even before she got her own book.).

Oddly, Mallory refers to her best friend as “Jessica” Ramsey.  Then she describes her siblings, and it’s kind of funny: Vanessa, Nicky, and Claire get actual descriptions, whereas the triplets are just triplets and Margo’s only trait is vomiting

“Word travels fast” about Mal’s grades, apparently, and really I don’t buy this.  Yes, kids can be teased for being a “brainiac” or getting straight As.  But everyone is acting as if straight As is a totally unbelievable things which has never happened before in SMS history, as opposed to, you know, not that big a deal.  I find it really hard to believe that Mallory is the only sixth-grader who got straight As.  Mary Anne, per her bio, gets straight As and isn’t losing her shit about it, and when Mary Anne is less self-conscious and more well-adjusted than you, you really need to examine your life and your choices.  (Of course, the other interpretation is that people tease Mallory for unrelated reasons and this is just convenient fodder, but we haven’t reached that arc yet.)

On her way to English (hiya continuity, it’s still Mr. Williams, and Ann and the ghosties want us to know he still has a potbelly), she runs into Justin Price, class president and the “cutest boy in the sixth grade.”  It’s kind of weird that in a book which is hugely and clumsily about gender relations and dynamics, Ben Hobart doesn’t get so much as a cameo.  Blah blah exposition about the excitement of Mal’s job as sixth-grade secretary and an upcoming fundraiser.

Mr. Williams announces it’s time for another round of Short Takes.  I’ve tried to the point of migraine to understand how Short Takes conceivably works in the SMS schedule, both on a daily basis and on a grading period basis, and I still can’t make it work.  Whatever.  For what it’s worth ($0.000001), Mal says that “everyone in the school studies the same topic intensely for a short time” even though in this VERY BOOK, the eighth graders don’t appear to be doing it.  Anyway, the topic is “children’s literature” and Mal squeals like a hyperactive pig.

If only she were this fashionable.

I’m pretty sure THAT is more mockworthy than getting straight As, but Mal deems the laughter as “good-natured” because apparently the whole class knows she wants to be an author/illustrator when she grows up.  Oh, God, did they have to listen to a presentation during the clusterfuck of #81?   Also, Mal, you draw mice in fucking high-tops.  You still wanna illustrate?

Anyway, one of the teachers is the sex-ay Damien Cobb who “just graduated” from Princeton. (more on that later)  I say “one,” but no one but Mal’s class seems to exist from this point on, so whatever.  Maria Fazio wants to hit that.  She should go have a chat with Stacey.

Mal tells Jessi she’s “ecstatic” and when she goes home she “wasn’t walking.  I was floating.”  I supposed I should be glad she didn’t say “literally floating” which I know is petty and proscriptive of me, but still bugs me when people use it as the opposite of what it means.

References: besides Mrs. F, which I think is probably laziness, and Mr. Williams,  we’ve got Benny Ott (oh, hey, he was actually in Mal’s homeroom way back in Hello, Mallory), Janet O’Neal, (14) Rachel Robinson (14), Randy Rademacher (75), Nan White (39), Maria Fazio (75).  Somewhat disturbingly to me, a girl I went to school with has apparently gotten sucked into the vortex.  Nice knowing you, Laura Nelson.  Sorry you’re never going to get those braces off.

Chapter 2

Mal is so busy fantasizing about her Short Takes class that Vanessa wanders into their room at 5:27.  “I’d spaced on the Baby-sitters Club  meeting. Which is something you never ever want to do.”  That’s not fucking healthy, hon.

Kristy must be having an off day, because Mal doesn’t get a full-fledged look and fifty lashes, just a raised eyebrow.  In recompense, Mal says Kristy may be bossy, but she’s the “glue that holds them together.”  Except when she disbanded you a few books back, because you, Mal, had the temerity to want to pursue a project that was near and dear to your heart.

Also, I really didn’t need a description of Mallory mopping up her sweat.

Blah blah blah Chapter 2 stuff.  A few highlights: “You’d think such a powerhouse person would be tall.  But [Kristy] isn’t. She’s the shortest girl in the eighth grade.”  Huh? Mary Anne has a cool short haircut and cries, Logan has a charming Southern accent.  Stacey is gorgeous, and did Mal mention gorgeous?

Claudia outfit: “. . .denim overall shorts, a short black t-shirt, red-and-white pin-striped stockings that came over the tops of her knees, red thick-soled patent leather shoes, and a black felt derby.”  HIDDY.  No outfit based around “denim overall shorts” is fabulous on anyone over the age of four.  She sounds like Waldo’s demented cousin, the one no one would WANT to find, but can’t look away from.

I still can’t get over Rachel Stevenson’s “publishing” job that puts her in Kristy’s filthy rich neighborhood, after less than five years in the business.  WAT.

Anyway, Mal answers the phone and it’s Buddy Barrett.  Egads!  What canst be afoot?  Buddy, on the verge of tears, says that he’s in trouble, and the first of the books totally nonsensical subplots groans into existence.  Buddy and Lindsey were fighting because Lindsey’s Brownie troop is marching in the Memorial Day parade, and Buddy said he was going to march, too, but “they” (the parade organizers?) said he couldn’t march unless he was part of a group.  So, obviously, he told them he was in a marching band, and they were like, “oh, okay then,” instead of saying, “well, have your director call us and we’ll give them the information.”  Mal tells him not to panic and the BSC will solve the problem.

Kristy erupts in rage at the injustice of it all.  “That makes me so mad! The Boy and Girl Scouts, including the Cub Scouts and Brownies, always march in the parade. But what about all those other kids who don’t belong to any groups?  They should be able to be in the parade, too.”

For heaven’s sake, this isn’t discrimination against non-group-joiners, Kristy.  It’s because kids need to be fucking supervised and kept track off.   I think Kristy’s damage here is that there are kids involved in groups she isn’t personally controlling, which messes up her brainwashing methods.

Anyway, Kristy declares that with God as her witness, there will be a marching band!  And when sitters raise relevant points like “who will be in the band” and “none of these children actually play instruments,” Kristy dismisses them as “minor details.”

“Kristy is amazing.  During the last ten minutes of our meeting, she managed to convince us that if we put on our thinking caps, we’d be able to organize a big band of children, teach them to play instruments, and even make their costumes--all in less than twenty-five days!”

Yeah, she’s amazing all right.  

Chapter 3

Warning: some of the things I say in this chapter are REALLY nit-picky, and possibly a little snobby.

The sex-ay Mr. Cobb waltzes into class in a “collarless shirt, jeans, and a black vest” and shiny shiny hair and teeth.  My twitching begins.  He yells “Salutations!”and asks Jimmy Bouloukos what book that’s from.  Jimmy pretends he’s thinking of the answer and another girl, Megan Armstrong, gets sick of this and is like “Charlotte’s Web.”  

Mr. Cobb’s response? Even in sixth grade (maybe especially in sixth grade), if I’d had a teacher who tapped his nose and said “Exactomundo!” I would have passed out from secondhand embarrassment.  

He goes on to say “I am a huge attention whore We won’t be reading Charlotte’s Web, but it’s good that you know the field.  Also, I’m a pretentious snot rag.


Mr. Cobb name-drops his Princeton degree to a bunch of sixth-graders and then mentions how he coaches the baseball team, so all the boys start randomly cheering for him.  Then he claims that he “volunteered” to teach this course because analyzing literature for all ages “may rank up there as one of my favorite things.”  And yet, I already suspect he bites at it.

Hmm.  This is possibly regional or institution-specific cultural, but people I know wouldn’t generally say they “graduated with” a master’s degree.  Also, like most top-tier research universities, Princeton does not offer a separate MA degree in its English graduate department.  You earn one incidentally on the way to the Ph.D, because, honestly, an MA in a humanities discipline is kind of useless, in practical/professional terms.  And I say this as someone with both an MA and an MFA, doing a job that barely requires my BA, if that.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved work I got to do earning those degrees, and I’m glad I got to do them, but. . .yeah.  

I’m being snippy about this, though, in part because it hits a sore spot for me, which is the idea that teaching is not a unique and demanding job requiring very specific skills, training and experience entirely separate from mastery of the academic subject.  (I have a lot of feels about Teach for America for exactly this reason).  In particular, I think it's is ree-goddamn-diculous to assume that Ivy League students, on the basis of being "smart," are going to be good teachers.  Princeton, at least now, offers a specific teacher preparation program that includes pedagogy, psychology, and student teaching, but I find myself doubting ol’ Damien deigned to take them.  So I’m kind of wondering just when and where Mr. Cobb did his student teaching, and why a tony rich whitebread town like Stoneybrook can’t at least pretend better hiring standards.

Because, okay, there are a bunch of ways you could do a picture book analysis class for sixth graders.  You could do a loose survey and look at trends over time, and talk about reasons for those trends, even throwing in some photocopies from early, moralist children’s literature for context.  You could pick a bunch of issues, in various levels of seriousness (from, say, sibling rivalry to coping with death) and look at texts than handle them and compare and contrast them.  You could look at a whole bunch of variations on one fairy tale or folk story.  You could spend a couple of weeks on "non-fiction" picture books and evaluate how well they convey the information on their topics.  And this is stuff I made up in about ten minutes while eating dry Cookie Crisp cereal while my cat was feeling me up.

What you SHOULDN’T do is have a shapeless class of randomly selected texts with no direction of objectives.  That’s a privilege reserved for tenured professors, who can get away with building a class on “Things I’m Writing a Book About,” or “Random Texts I Can’t Fit into a Syllabus,” and is generally offered to grad students on the assumption that by the time they’ve gotten there, they have the analytical skills to work out the shape of the course for themselves.  Eleven-year-olds sometimes still need to be reminded to brush their teeth.  (Okay, so do some grad students, so maybe not the best example.)

Sigh.  Back to the book.

Then Mr. Cobb marches around the room to yell all dramatically at Mallory to put her notebook and pens away.  She says she thought they would be writing papers, feeding directly into his stupid No, I’m The Cool Teacher fantasy.  

“Wrong!” he spun dramatically. “We will be doing a lot of thinking. This course is a meeting of the minds.”

Oh, Lord, we’ve got another newbie who watched Dead Poet’s Society too many times.

He goes on to say that he’ll be grading them almost exclusively on class participation and how well they express their ideas in class discussions, and this is a bad idea for so many reasons.  And really, it just makes me think he’s lazy as fuck and doesn’t want to grade papers.  It takes a really good teacher to manage a class discussion that includes everyone and doesn’t let a few people dominate while leaving others out.  I’ve had professors who can’t do it.  Also, these are SIXTH-GRADERS.  I can almost guarantee they need the writing practice.  Seriously, have them keep reading journals or write a one-paragraph “response” to each book, or write short reports on other books not covered in class.  You don’t even have to grade them individually, just check/plus/minus.  (I even had a graduate professor who more or less did this, and I appreciated it--it made me marginally less panicked, especially the first few weeks.)  

Most of the kids are all excited not to have to write papers, though.  WHICH DOESN’T MEAN THEY SHOULDN’T BE WRITING THEM.  They will have to write one paper about an “end-of-the-class project to further children’s literature” and that is a bullshit paper topic if I ever heard one.  And note how it doesn’t actually ask them to analyze a fucking text, Mr. Princeton.  Anyway, their first book will be Where the Wild Things Are.

Sandra Hart, the sixth-grade VP who will be playing the ditzy girl in this book squeals about how cute Mr. Cobb is, and wonders how old he is.  Maybe she should have a chat with Stacey.  Mallory doesn’t care because she is worried about this whole class participation thing, and Sandra says Mallory only wants to write papers because she ‘s a brain.  “I heard about your straight As” she says, like it’s a big scandal.

Mallory gets all defensive in her head about how grades matter less than doing her best work, although she’ll spend the rest of the book obsessing about losing her straight A average, which she hates so much because it makes kids tease her.  (Hey, I used to get obsessive about my grades, too, but it wasn’t because I had any illusions of expressing my deep commitment to geometry.)

So she goes home and takes a huge number of notes on every Maurice Sendak book in the house, when Jessi calls to announce that K. Ron has decreed they should all be making band instruments with their charges.  We’ll get to that ridiculousness in a bit.

The next day, Mallory immediately raises her hand, someone calls her Miss Know-it-all, so she lowers it and then raises her hand again. 

Mr. Cobb “looks at her vaguely” and calls on Randy, and I don’t really know what that’s about, unless he’s supposed to be one of the baseball players.  That's not accidental, Mr. Cobb.  Randy and some other boys theorize that the wild things are “on the other side of the world” which. . .yeah, is not really convincing, but Mr. Cobb is so into this Mallory begins to doubt her (standard) analysis that they are in Max’s imagination.  So Mr. Cobb listens to this one not-great answer and moves on to a new question, which is why he’s not ready to teach this kind of discussion class.

After awhile, with Mal’s hand sadly waving in the air and not being called on, he gives the class a five minute break, and my head hurts
from trying to figure out if they’re on block scheduling or he can’t manage a fifty-minute class period.  Then they switch to “on the spot” analysis, and Mal freaks out about how she’ll manage without the notes that have served her so well so far.  Mr. Cobb calls on her, but gets her name wrong.  I bet she wishes she was the glamourous Valerie Spike, though.  He gives her a copy of Green Eggs and Ham to read out loud and she’s so rattled she does it horribly, despite Claire and Margo telling her the night before she’s the best reader ever.  First she’s too quiet, than she’s too fast, than she skips a line, then she slows to a crawl.  Benny Ott rudely pretends to snore and Mr. Cobb doesn’t chew him out, because Cool Teachers let bullies run wild, lest they stifle their creativity.  Also, it takes her so long to read--and Dr. Seuss books aren’t actually that short to read, anyway--that the bell rings before they do any analyzing.  Great job, Mr. Cobb.

At least Fluffy is engaged with the text.

Mallory rushes to the bathroom, wondering how many things could go wrong in a single class, and thinks of herself as “Valerie, the totally mixed-up Pike.”  The thing is, I actually feel for her a lot, but the level of anxiety attacks she’s having sound like they belong in a Mary Anne book.  You girls aren’t allowed to BOTH have a character trait, you know.  Even Stacey and Claudia split “fashionable” into "junior 80s chic" and "postmodern LSD trip."

References: in addition to previously-seen Benny Ott and Randy Rademacher, we also have cameos by Elise Coates (55), Robbie Mara (59), Chris Brooks (59), Chris Avazian (75), Jimmy Bouloukos (75), Glen Johnson (59), Liz Cohen (75).  Sandra Hart also apparently appeared in #75.

Chapter 4

Stacey: What do you get when you take seven annoying kids and a bunch of crap from recycling bin?
Claudia: . . .(drool). . .(actually, more like “drul”)
Stacey: Well, you sure don’t get a marching band.  But you get a wild night! Yuk, yuk.

This subplot is so, so stupid, you guys.  My cat just got stuck in a grocery bag and even she thinks this plot is stupid.

So Claudia and Stacey drag a bunch of cardboard boxes and empty detergent bottles and toilet paper tubes and discarded bongs over to the Barrett/DeWitt household, somehow under the impression that they will be making musical “instruments.”  (If anything in these books deserved unnecessary quotations, these sure as hell do.) The kids are loud and obnoxious and chaotic, blah blah blah, and Mrs. DeWitt is like “the hell is all this crap?”  Madeleine is like “omg omg squeak squeak PARADE” and Mrs. DeWitt is all “buh?”  Awesome organizing, Kristy, to plan to forcibly recruit all these children without asking their parents.  What happens later on will almost serve you right.

Claudia repeats the stupid line about how it’s not faaaaaiiiiir that kids have to be in a group to march in the parade, and blah blah blah marching band.  For some reason, Franklin looks at this pile of crap and asks if they’re building instruments with saws and drills, and Claudia laughs and says no, just tape and blunt scissors.  I’m pretty sure cutting cardboard with blunt scissors is one of the circles of Hell.  Before they leave, Mrs. DeWitt quietly asks that they not totally destroy the house, because they finally got it cleaned up.  

So of course as soon as the parents leave, the kids begin fighting and arguing over who gets which piece of cardboard and destroying the room, so Stacey and Claudia pretend they hear the parents coming back and trick them into cleaning up, and peace reigns until Suzi practically starts to cry over how sad her “instrument” is.  Stacey claims it’s a “google-blaster” and “plays” it by humming into the toilet-paper tubes.  Marnie, amazingly, seems to have matured slightly, since she says “Stacey! What mine?” wanting Stacey to name her “instrument,” which is both cute and more or less verbally age-appropriate.  Her milk jug with stickers is a “snorkaphone” and Taylor’s oatmeal box with paper-towel tubes is a “hum-drum.”  In the midst of all this “fun,” the phone rings and Claudia and Stacey think that somehow their cardboard and plastic can make a ringing noise.  Have they been sniffing that glue?  Don’t hate, ventilate!

Anyway, it’s Mary Anne on the phone practically in tears because she’s been trying to make an instrument with Jenny and they’ve basically glued tubes to a Kleenex box.  Stacey is like “OMG, us too,” and they discuss how they’ve “given up” on making artsy trumpets and shit, like SERIOUSLY they thought that would happen?  Mary Anne asks if the instruments actually play music and Stacey is like “gee willickers, let’s find out!” so she lines them up and tells them to play “Jingle Bells.”  The fuck?  And of course, it sounds as shitty as you would expect from a bunch of kids banging on oatmeal boxes and blowing on plastic jugs. 

This cat sounds better.

Well, except apparently one of their instruments says “Moo!”  Again, the fuck?  Did Peter Legrangis sneak in while Jahnna and Malcolm were passed out in a drunken stupor?  Seriously, make a toilet paper tube moo, and you will have a sensation on YouTube.  In his honor, I attached the waaaank! tag.

Stacey asks Mary Anne if she heard that and Mary Anne is like, “yeah, that was awful, what was it?” like, did Mary Anne dip into Sharon’s stash earlier?  Context clues, honey.

So they clean up and as they leave, Stacey whispers dramatically to Claudia that she hates to break the news, but she thinks this might be. . .A DISASTER.

Okay, for real, thirteen-year-olds--thirteen-year-olds who vacation alone and are entrusted to care for children--thought they were going to make actual musical instruments out of random garbage?  SERIOUSLY?  When I was SIX I wouldn’t have believed that.  Like, seriously, I remember being at Vacation Bible School and having to make “harps” out of Kleenex boxes and rubber bands while we learned about David and King Saul or something, and thinking “This is ridiculous.”

Chapter 5

The sixth-grade officers are having a Very Important Meeting about yet another subplot in the memory garden.  Mallory reports on the sixth-grade fundraiser, to raise money for their class gift.  Isn’t that usually something the outgoing class does?  Anyway, they’re going to have a different event/booth/thing every day of the week, and I already have a headache.  I hate fundraising shit like this in real life; how is it fun to read?  Also, Mallory has named this a “Fun-raiser!” which blows the tiny minds of everyone present, but makes me headdesk because that’s exactly the kind of faux-creative corporate speak I have to deal with--and God held me, sometimes write--in my day job.  

Mallory details the plans and Justin gives her a condescending compliment, which makes her blush.  Then they discuss what to spend their fun(d)s on, which is “very important” and their class’s legacy.  You know, I liked my undergrad a hell of a lot more than my middle school, and I don’t even remember what my class gift there was.  I think it was a fancy outdoor clock or something.

Anyway.  Justin suggests sports equipment, which Mal grudgingly writes down even though she hates gym.  Justin says the tumbling mats are worn out, and if that’s true, shouldn’t the school be replacing them?  Wouldn’t worn out tumbling mats be, y’know, kind of unsafe?  God, SMS is terrible.  For some reason, I’m amused that Mallory says “Not everyone’s a sports fan” while thinking “Let next year’s class buy sports equipment.”  Sucks to be you, uncoordinated fifth graders.  (But the only ten year olds in Stoneybrook are the triplets, I guess.)  

They brainstorm more (Lisa suggests painting the lockers, because her locker is “peeling and has graffiti all over it” and Justin rejects this because they’d have to be repainted again in a few years.  Seriously, what does SMS spend its money on, besides ridiculous Short Takes classes?)  Meanwhile, Sandra, still playing the role of That Ditzy Girl, is brushing her hair and applying lip gloss and waving to boys and simpering that Justin’s ideas sound just great.  Mallory rolls her eyes, but decides she is too intimidated to offer her own ideas--library books and mirrors in the bathroom.  Not everyone’s a fan of telling their reflection they need a nose job, Mal. 

Hilariously, she says she wouldn’t have been “embarrassed” to share her ideas at a BSC meeting.  Yeah, because the good ideas would be commandeered by K. Ron, taking all the credit.

Justin suggests Mal should look up the minutes from previous sixth-grade class meetings, and I laugh and laugh at the idea that SMS archives this crap.  Are they suspecting a FOIA request?  Maybe about the actual age of Sabrina Bouvier?

Later Mallory and Sandra run off to Mr. Cobb’s class, and Sandra giggles creepily about wanting to see what Mr. Cobb is wearing, although it’s not as creepy as Mal’s detailed description of his “crisp tan chinos, leather boat shoes, and an ice-blue linen shirt that matched the color of his eyes.  He defined cute.”

Today they’re talking about Chris Van Allsburg (because, hey, it’s just picture books, why bother having any kind of logical organization of texts on the syllabus?) and Mal, always a free spirit, declares him one of her “top three favorite author-illustrators.”  Mr. Cobb says that The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is his favorite, and Mal blurts out “me, too!” and then literally covers her mouth.  Mr. Cobb is all “Valerie?  Valerie?  Do you have something to say?”  She mutters that her name is Mallory and he can’t hear her, and dude, are you too lazy to even take attendance or look at your class list?  Megan Armstrong, sick of this bullshit, corrects him.  I kind of like this Megan Armstrong girl, and I’m vaguely impressed she’s allowed to be Korean without an overtly Asian or faux-Asian name.  Well-played, Malcolm and Jahnna.  

So Mr. Cobb calls on Mallory, but she’s too frozen with terror, so Bobby Gustavson (75) raises his hand and announces his family reads The Polar Express every Christmas and Mal is all mad because she was going to say that.  Seriously, it’s not all that innovative a tradition, Mal.  She raises her hand later, for basically the whole class, and Mr. Cobb is oblivious while a bunch of boys, and occasionally Lisa (the class treasurer) have “heated discussions.”  I’m trying to imagine a heated discussion between eleven-year-olds about a Van Allsburg book.

(These chapters seem really long!)

Mal goes home and sulks rather than read Make Way for Ducklings, then begins to peruse the previous sixth grade minutes.  I laugh and laugh that one class donated chalk.  I’d like to think that was kind of a fuck you to the whole thing

Then she finds a report from five years ago that the class had pledged $1,000 to the library fund to buy furniture and magazine subscriptions for a student lounge.  But zut alors!  SMS has no student lounge!  It’s a. . .MYSTERY! Mallory notes that those students must now be in high school, and wonders if the students know their precious lounge never came about.  The brilliant detective doesn’t consider that

    1. Since they did the fundraising in sixth grade, they knew there wasn’t one for at least the next two years and nothing happened.
    2. It’s not that hard to find a high school student to ask.  Five years ago would be Janine Kishi’s or Sam Thomas’s class, right?

For all the mysteries they “solve,” they are crap at it.

The Other Cat and I are out!  More bad teaching, clumsy attempts at feminist consciousness-raising, and "music" to come.


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