D for “Divorce”, that is.
Divorce and life-changes slap you in the face each time you turn a page in the fifth Baby-Sitters Club book, Dawn and the Impossible Three.
Our California-girl, Dawn Schaefer, has been moved from the sunny shores of the West Coast of the US, to the damp, dreary Stoneybrook, Connecticut, after the divorce of her parents. Her mum moved her, and her brother Jeff (10) to this old farmhouse that was built in the 1790’s, which Dawn loves.
*makes the ham face* (this will be explained shortly)
There’s a lot about Stoneybrook that Dawn loves. Apart from the occasional bouts of tourettes, largely directed at Connecticut’s weathermen –
On Saturday morning, I shouted at my clock radio and called the weatherman a cheesebrain.
When I heard that the ocean temperature (the Atlantic Ocean temperature, that is) was fifty degrees, I called the weatherman a moron.
– Dawn has adjusted well to the move, which she is quick to point out, is thanks to the Baby-Sitters Club. She met her new best friend, Mary Anne Spier, and the other girls in the club, because of it. She got to know the entire neighbourhood thanks to going out on sitting jobs all the time on behalf of the BSC.
We talked about the Baby-sitters Club. (“It’s more important to me than school,” I said. Kristy understood.)
Which is why Dawn’s tip-toeing around Kristy Thomas. Kristy doesn’t do change very well, and Dawn represents it – a change to the BSC dynamic, their lunch table, and pivotally, a change to her once-exclusive best-friendship with Mary Anne. Kristy, as you would expect of our little bossy dictator, tolerates Dawn, but never laughs at her jokes, and will use any excuse to get angry at, or exclude, Dawn.
Dawn realises eventually that Kristy doesn’t hate her, she’s just jealous. The way Dawn reacts to the realisation is possibly one of the reasons she was my hero when I was a ten-year-old; she calmly, genuinely (unlike certain other best-friend types *coughMaryAnneSpiercough*) goes out of her way to forge a relationship with Kristy. The girls bond jumping off rope swings into hay bales (really) and Kristy suddenly starts agreeing with Dawn and not trying to exclude her all the time *makes the ham face* (stay with me a moment…).
She even makes Dawn the official “Alternate Officer” of the Club, meaning that she can fill in any job of anyone who can’t make a BSC meeting.
That’s right – Kristy makes Dawn the office bitch. Sigh.
It turns out half of Kristy’s problem of late is just that she doesn’t want to move when her mum marries Watson (stay tuned for Kristy Wears a Dress, coming up next read). Watson lives far, far away –
…but I’m the only one whose mother chose to get married to a jerk who’s so rich he lives three and a half miles away on Millionaire’s Lane, which is what they should call that gross street he can afford to live on.
– and if Kristy can’t make it to Baby-Sitters Club meetings, she’ll have to disband the club (apparently they can’t do it without her).
The Kristy Krisis (heh) isn’t really a crisis after Kristy comes up with a fantastic plan; increase the BSC’s weekly dues, and use the extra money from her friends to pay her brother Charlie, who wants any excuse to use the car, to drive her over to Claudia’s three times a week. Swell!
(Did anybody think this was a democracy?)
Club drama aside (*makes the ham face*), the majority of Dawn and the Impossible Three revolves around divorce – an act so heinous, they should make it illegal. No, really.
“[Divorces] should be against the law,” said Kristy. I agreed.
The Impossible Three are three children Dawn starts baby-sitting for – Buddy (7), Suzi (4) and Marnie (1 ½) Barrett. Buddy constantly dresses in a Stetson and flippers like a drunk cowboy; Suzi is a bit accident prone, and Marnie doesn’t do much but poop and constantly make this thing called the ‘ham face’, which apparently means she’s happy. Or pooping. Probably both.
The Barrett family has just gone through a…a…*lowers voice* divorce, and quite a nasty one. While Mrs Barrett is rushing around trying to find a job, going shopping with her friends, and seemingly trying avoid her children as much as possible, she’s also trying to stop her ex from talking to or seeing his children, and constantly gets his custody days muddled. The way she is written tries to have you believe she simply ‘forgets’, and that it’s not out of spite. He tries to call and speak to the children a few times, and keeping to Mrs Barrett’s instructions, Dawn fobs him off.
Mrs Barrett is a twit. She spends the whole book gliding around in posh outfits and designer perfume –
I turned and saw an absolutely gorgeous young woman rushing toward us. She looked like a model. Honest. She was wearing a silk blouse, a sleek linen suit, brown heels, and gold jewelry – not too much, but enough so you noticed it. Her hair fell away from her face in chestnut curls and she smelled of heavenly perfume.
– while ignoring her house, and her children, leaving everything to a 12-year-old sitter who’s being paid chump change to be there and fix everything whenever Mrs Barrett wants to swan out of the house for a few hours.
On her first sitting visit to the Barretts, Dawn makes a great impression on the kids – who she feels close to owing to the recent d-word, and the mother – particularly after she and manages to turn cleaning the (atrociously messy) house into a game, ala Mary Poppins.
Mrs Barrett takes full advantage of Dawn. Dawn turns from baby-sitter to surrogate mother for the (not-so-)Impossible Three; Buddy starts to turn up on her doorstep of his own volition, because Dawn can help him with his troubles at school and his homework; Suzi starts to phone Dawn at home, just because she wants to chat about 4-year-old stuff, whatever that is. Marnie’s diaper constantly needs changing, and all three children always need their hair brushed, which Dawn seems to constantly be doing.
Dawn wants to put a stop to Mrs Barrett’s crap, but isn’t sure how to bring up disorganisation with any adult other than her mother, let alone negligence. She is also particularly hesitant when Mrs Barrett continually returns home grateful and gushing of what a wonderful person Dawn is, and how she can’t do without her.
One afternoon, when Dawn’s upstairs changing Marnie for the seventieth time (Marnie makes the ham face), Buddy disappears. Dawn doesn’t immediately panic (as any other member of the BSC would have), and when he’s not found in any nearby yards, gets a few of the neighbours together to help look for him.
Mrs Pike – that’s right kids, Mallory’s mum! –
*makes the ham face* « is it annoying yet? I KNOW, RIGHT?
– who lives a few doors down from the Barretts, takes charge with Dawn, while search parties start combing the streets looking for the wayward drunken cowboy. It’s only when Jordan Pike rocks up late to the party and explains he saw Buddy getting into a car he didn’t know earlier on that Dawn starts to freak – but to be fair, so do the rest of the adults. The police are called, Dawn sends the Barrett girls off to the Pike’s, where Mallory looks after them (‘”She’ll make a good baby-sitter,” added Claudia’). Then, when there’s no more for her to do but wait, Dawn quietly sits down, covers her face with her hair and cries. Poor little thing.
So, can you guess who’s car Buddy got into? Yeah, it’s not rocket science. Mr Barrett, who was apparently supposed to spend that day with his children, got sick of Mrs Barrett’s idiocy and decided that the best course of action was to just turn up and take the kids. It was like all his Christmases had come at once when he turned up and saw Buddy playing on the front lawn. So he just…took him, for the day.
GREAT IDEA DUDE. THAT’LL REALLY SHOW YOUR EX-WIFE. Honestly, what’s wrong with these lunatics and who let them breed three times?!
The police let Mr Barrett off with a warning when he brings Buddy back, but only after Buddy apparently sadly tells him that Dawn will be worried about him. Father of the Year realises that there’s sitter, and not his ex-wife, at home, and then realises that she’ll probably call the cops.
In the wake of this, Dawn sits down and talks to Mrs Barrett, tells her she can’t sit for her anymore – and tells her exactly why (I wanted her to say, more than anything “it’s not me, it’s you”).
Mrs Barrett begs her to give them another go – promising that things will change, and that she’ll start paying her for chores if there are any to be done when she’s around. Dawn agrees to sit for them three more times, as a trial, they shake hands, and end scene.
Combining the character-based and baby-sitting-based themes of the book is all too easy this time; “Change is hard“. But, instead of our Dawn having to learn a lesson, she gives the lesson. She’s this wonderfully positive, almost un-ruffleable character, and pretty much the only person in the book who seems to be able to cope with change or challenges. Well done Dawn! Pizza toast!
Ooh, ooh, and there’s plenty of news about Ritchie Spier and Sharon Porter (Ritchon? Shachie? Bah) throughout the book! Things with Dawn and Mary Anne’s lovebird parents are going swimmingly. They’re going out on dates all the time, and are inseparable at a BBQ Dawn’s mum throws. Dawn’s grandparents are there – you remember, the ones that didn’t approve of Ritchie Spier when they were back in high school – and seem really impressed with him now, too. Aww.
“You know something?” said Miranda suddenly. “If your parents got married, you two” – Miranda nodded at Mary Anne and me – “would be stepsisters.”
A hush fell over our table. Nobody could speak.
Oh, Miranda, you really do know how to silence a table.
Can we please talk about Miranda and Mariah Shillaber? Kristy and Mary Anne are friends with these identical twins (who apparently still dress identically – gasp). They turn up in every book at the lunch table and nowhere else. It’s like they don’t even exist outside of the cafeteria. But who are they? If they’re friends with Kristy and Mary Anne, why aren’t they in the BSC? The lack of information about them makes me curious. Why are they in the books at all? Will they be important one day? It would have been plausible to have Mary Anne and Kristy eat lunch together, alone, without the BSC’s boring version of Fred and George Weasley joining in.
Next item on the agenda (ugh, I sound like Kristy) is of course, clothes. This happens to be the third book in a row not containing a detailed Claudia outfit description!
There is a vague description from Dawn at one point:
…who wear these really wild outfits such as tight black pants and Day-Glo shirts
Give me more information! I need colours! I need earrings! And where in the hell are the high-top sneakers?
We’re later given a snippet of a Stacey outfit:
She was wearing a simple pink T-shirt under a baggy jumpsuit with big pink and red flowers all over it. Her shiny hair bounced over her shoulders.
This, lads and ladettes, is a jumpsuit, in case you were wondering:
After which Dawn describes her own outfit, sounding like a walking, talking Intel advertisement:
I was wearing blue jean shorts and a white T-shirt that said GENIUS INSIDE. I looked ordinary next to Stacey.
The last thing worth mentioning in the book is this fantastic Janine scene. No segue or lead-up required:
“The club must be doing awfully well,” Janine commented.
“Oh, it is. Extremely well.” I decided to toss out a few big words. “Thanks to the foresight of our president, it’s both profitable and proficient…profusely proficient,” I added. “Well, we must continue on.”
We ran past Janine and up the stairs, but I could still hear Janine yell after us, “‘Continue on’ is redundant!”
Yes Janine, it certainly is.
Next up – Kristy’s Big Day! Which is really, her mother’s big day, but I can’t wait to find out how Kristy manages to make it all about herself! Squee!
Want to re-live Dawn’s first book in the BSC for yourself? I picked up the e-Book version of Dawn and the Impossible Three for about $4 at Amazon!