Claudia & The Middle School Mystery: The Baby-Sitters Club #40 by Ann M Martin
3 out of 5 stars
This title doesn't make any sense. Claudia is accused of cheating on a math test, but she knows immediately who the culprit is. There is no mystery. It should be called "Claudia & The Cheater" or "Did Claudia Cheat?" or something. Also, they never do any of her crazier outfits on the covers, so annoying. And now I'm ahead of myself, sorry.
Okay, so the book starts out with Janine the Genius helping Claudia the Dunce with her math homework. And I will admit right now, I couldn't figure out the answer to the problem in my head. It's been way too long since I've had a math class apparently. Claudia has a big test coming up soon and she really needs to get a good grade on it, because her parents have threatened to make her drop the Baby-Sitters Club (foreshadowing) if she doesn't. Janine is being super patient with her and actually helping, but of course Claudia keeps zoning out. She plans out her outfit for the next day, which is one of two(!) What Claudia is Wearing in this book...
lucky earrings - the ones that look like Princess Di's. [my sister bought a Princess Di purse on eBay when she was a teenager lol.] They're huge (pretend) emeralds, surrounded by thousands of tiny (phony) diamonds. Then I thought I'd work downward from there, wearing my new green-and-blue-tie-dyed T-shirt dress (the casualness of the dress would be an interesting contrast to those fancy earrings) over green leggings. The only thing I hadn't figured out was the shoes - should I go with my old ballet flats, or the black leather high-tops I'd just gotten? [Spoiler: she picks the flats.]
After Claudia is done studying, she goes up to her room and begins her reminiscing about the club and its members. A few tidbits: Kristy's dad lives in California and she *hardly* ever sees him. As far as I've read, she hasn't spoken to him since she was at least 11. Stacey seems kind of tired and weak still from her diabetes...when are they going to get to her story?? And Jessi is black. In case you didn't know.
Alright, time for Claudia's big math test. She has a minor freak out at first, but then realizes she knows this stuff and flies thru it. After school, she pulls out snacks for the BSC meeting: M&M's & Fritos for the normals and whole-wheat crackers for the healthnuts. No drink for either? They're not going to be able to answer the phone with a mouth full of dry crackers. The next day, she gets her math test back and ZOMG, gets a 94! That's an A-. Honestly, I would have suspected her of cheating too. The teacher calls up Claudia and another girl, Shawna Riverson, after class and has them compare their tests. They are exactly the same, both getting the wrong answers in the same way. Seriously, Shawna, have you never cheated before? You gotta change up some of the answers! (Not that I ever cheated, nope not me, never.)
Shawna immediately defends herself, but Claudia is too dumbstruck to say anything, so of course she looks guilty. Shawna is Miss Popular and Claudia knows it looks bad, so she doesn't really even try to convince the teacher. And later that night, she doesn't try to tell her parents what happened. She lets them hear it from the teacher. Big mistake. That just makes you look like you're trying to cover it up. (Again, I wouldn't know.) Janine, surprisingly, defends Claudia when her parents doubt her, saying Claud is not a cheater. Claudia asks her parents not to get involved, even though she could end up getting an F on the test.
Meanwhile, over at the Pike household (they are the only baby-sitting mentioned in this book, weird) the triplets accidentally break a window playing baseball and refuse to say who did it. They've decided to stick together, which kind of backfires on them when all 3 get grounded and lose their allowances until they confess.
Janine and Claudia are not only getting along for once but are working together to try and figure out Claud's problem. That was really nice to see, since usually all we get is "Janine is a genius and therefore she sucks". The BSC is behind Claudia too, except for Mary Anne. She kind of thinks Claud did cheat and thinks she should just confess. Everyone else goes off on her and she starts crying. Psshh...if you're gonna accuse somebody, have the backbone to stand by it. Dawn has the bright idea to break into Shawna's locker to look for incriminating notes and everyone is all for it, except MA of course. Before they do though, Claudia overhears Shawna and her friends talking in the bathroom bragging all about it and how easy it was to cheat. She did it because she overheard Claud saying that Janine was helping her study, which I'm sorry, would still not make me want to cheat off Claud. Janine helps her all the time, you think it's going to pay off this one time? What if it doesn't? Stupid Shawna.
So Claudia and Dawn decide to check Shawna's locker after school and find a note that says "Congratulations on your A-. Who would have guessed that C.K.'s paper would have so many right answers?" Hah. Claudia takes it but then realizes that she can't show it to anyone without admitting where/how she got it, so she puts it back. Then the BSC decides to try and trick Shawna into confessing, like they did with Cokie Mason (several times). But Shawna is smarter than airhead Cokie and Claudia just ends up looking like a lunatic in math class after getting caught actually reading Shawna's notes.
And the triplets? They're still grounded and getting really sick of it. While Jessi and Mallory are sitting for the kids, they use Pig Latin to try and sneak out of the house. Jessi, master of all languages, catches them and teaches them a new language, Op-Talk. Basically, you spell out the word and add OP to the consonants. Byron's name, for example, is Bop-yop-rop-o-nop lol. Seems difficult to listen to. That keeps them happy for about a week and then they're miserable again. Mal finally has the bright idea to reenact the moment they broke the window and they realize they were all partly to blame and it was mostly an accident. (But really, who breaks a window on purpose?) So the triplets are ungrounded finally and the Pike parents celebrate by taking them for ice cream and a movie. Okay.
Claudia thinks that reenactment thing might work for her and Shawna too, but Janine points out the (many) problems with that. Janine instead decides to help her by going to the school and talking to the principal, because she's like their prize former student and stuff. Claudia says it all doesn't matter anymore and to prove it to herself, decides to dress super wild the next day at school. And then we have the infamous Ms Frizzle outfit...I decided to do a Good vs Bad version of this outfit.
I [Claudia] decided that my theme for the day would be The Sea. I put on a blue skirt with brightly colored tropical fish printed all over it. Then I put on a green blouse. I figured that could represent seaweed or something. I pulled my hair into a ponytail, over to one side, and I pinned it with a sand-dollar barrette I made last summer. I ran to my closet and pulled out a pair of shoes. They're the plastic kind called "jellies" that I had decorated with stickers of seahorses and shells. Was it too much? I shook my head. I looked great.
Janine convinces the principal and teacher to give Claudia another chance because "Nobody gets away with calling my little sister a cheater." The teacher agrees to let Claudia retake the test in class the next day (duh, why didn't they think of that in the first place?). She ends up getting a 96, 2 points higher, which obviously means she knows the material. When they speak with Shawna and tell her she will have to do the same thing, she freaks out and confesses to everything. She ends up getting the F and suspended for 2 days. The BSC throws a "congrats for not cheating" party for Claud, she gives Janine a collage as a thank you, and her parents give her a cake to say "sorry for thinking you cheated" or something. And The End. :) Whew, this was a long one! I hope you enjoyed reading it.