Monday, October 24, 2016

Review: "Keep Out, Claudia!: The Baby-Sitters Club #56"

Keep Out, Claudia!: The Baby-Sitters Club #56 by Ann M Martin
3 out of 5 stars

In this book we finally see some of the racism in Stoneybrook that Jessi has apparently been experiencing all along. But it's not even Jessi (at first) who deals with it, it's Claudia. Why is that? Did they feel it would be too difficult to show an African American dealing with misguided bigots? I don't know. This book was okay. The little blonde kids are super creepy but hey, Claudia's cover outfit actually matches the description for once!

The story starts out with Claudia baby-sitting the Rodowsky boys. Shea is practicing the piano (his "a doggie-o's") and Jackie and Archie are down because they don't play an instrument or anything. Archie wants people to clap for him and to be a star. Jackie just wants to not knock anything over for once. Poor Jackie, he's gonna have some serious issues later on. This sets Claudia's little brain a-thinking, while she heads home to clean up her room for the BSC meeting. (Snacks hidden around her room at this moment: Snickers bar and M&M's and Neccos and Fritos and ranch-style potato chips and crackers and popcorn...) Oh! And genius Janine locked herself out of the house!

At the meeting, Claud tells the girls her idea: help the kids plan a musical performance or something. Seriously, the amount of time these girls spend with these kids, they should get a raise! Are the parents giving them any extra money for these rehearsals and costumes and art supplies? I don't think so! A new client calls, the Lowells, and Mary Anne gets the job. When she gets there, the mom gives her a quick up-and-down look but apparently approves of what she sees. The 3 kids are little blonde clones who line up for Mary Anne to check out. The job goes well, although there a few weird moments with the kids asking her what religion she is and giggling at someones eyes on tv.

Then it's Claudia's turn to baby-sit for the clones. Mrs Lowell looks less than thrilled to see Claudia, but Claud just assumes it's because of her wild clothes: leggings and high-topped sneakers, my fringed blue-jean vest and beaded Indian belt, my six silver rings and... (Spoiler: it's not her outfit.) Claudia has a rough time with the kids; they don't listen to her and sneak snacks and such. And at the next BSC meeting, she calls and asks Kristy for any sitter but Claudia. So Jessi gets the job hah. Stupid racist cow. (Sorry, getting worked up over my BSC book here.)

Jessi over-prepares for the job, arriving right on time and putting together a sweet office play set for the kids. But when Mrs Bigot opens the door, she looks shocked and just stares at Jessi for a second. Then she tells Jessi she doesn't need a sitter after all and shuts the door in her face. Jessi doesn't know what to think or do so she just leaves and cries as she walks home. She has a familiar feeling about what happened but doesn't really know. You'd think she would know exactly what happened since she apparently dealt with it all the time after moving to Stoneybrook. The girls are all upset at the meeting, trying to figure things out.

Kristy takes the next job to see what's up and even wears a skirt to see if it was just Claud's wild clothes. (Again, it wasn't.) The kids are fine for her but she has a gross taste in her mouth when she gets home, so she talks to her mom, Watson, and Nannie. She tells them she thinks Mrs Lowell is a racist and Nanny says "With each generation I think it's going to be over. But it isn't even getting better. Maybe I'm just an old fool." I feel ya Nannie, I feel ya. Kristy tells the girls at the next meeting what she thinks and Claudia is understandably upset. But she gets mad at her friends because Mrs Lowell isn't there. "Will you guys at least look at me?" I shouted. "I am not dirt you know. Nothing is wrong with me." 

It'd be interesting to see this book get updated to current times. Claudia would have to prove she's not an illegal immigrant and Jessi would be protesting the police after her dad and Squirt get killed in a routine traffic stop. :( Wow, this review is getting really dark isn't it? Okay, here's a lighter moment and then moving on quickly.

Dawn asks for wheat germ biscuits (gross) and Claud has a bit of humor: "Oh, yeah. Right. Wheat germ biscuits. I have them hidden here under the bed along with my endless supply of tofu."

Mrs Lowell calls for the blonde-haired blue-eyed baby-sitter and the girls realize she's just a general racist against everyone and agree to never sit for her again. They continue on with the band rehearsals and the kids decide to perform songs from Fiddler on the Roof. The concert is a success, Claire Pike doesn't throw a tantrum, Jackie doesn't knock anyone over, and the Lowell kids watch the concert in secret. Claud & Jessi wonder if the kids will grow out of their bigotry eventually.

"It's okay to hate some of the things people do, but it's not okay to hate the people who do them."

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