The Baby-Sitters Club #2: Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls – Ann M. Martin

Claudia, I blame you for my obsession with getting a phone in my bedroom as a kid, along with my own private phone number. You’re also responsible for me making sure there’s always some junk food hidden in my bedroom, in case of emergency.

Claudia’s fashion choices also started my love of all things quirky, something that’s followed me into my adult life. I still buy weird and wonderful earrings because of Claudia, coming up with combinations that make other people look at me like I’m weird but not always wonderful. My current favourite pairing is a shark in one ear and a human skeleton in the other (the shark won).

This is the first BSC mystery and, given Claudia’s love of all things Nancy Drew, it’s only fitting that she’s the one to tell it. A jewel thief, known as the Phantom Caller, has been getting closer and closer to Stoneybrook. This book seems so tame as an adult but I remember it scared me as a kid.

It’s time for some emergency BSC meetings. Our favourite babysitters, who are always prepared, come up with codes to use if they find themselves at a babysitting job when the house is being robbed. Now, if only they can remember what words they’re supposed to say.

“Have you found my b- I mean, did you see my – Have you found my … my …”

In between all of the phone calls where the caller doesn’t speak (what is it with creepy phone calls and babysitters?), we’re also watching boys make food sculptures from their cafeteria food and preparing for the first school dance of the year, the Halloween Hop. Claudia is pining over Trevor Sandbourne, resident poet and cute shy guy, but is sitting back hoping and waiting because a girl can’t possibly ask a boy to a dance. The world as we know it would end!

We also tag along for babysitting jobs with Jamie (Hi-hi!) Newton (along with his cousins Rob, Brenda and Rosie Feldman), Nina and Eleanor Marshall, Karen and Andrew Brewer, Charlotte Johanssen, David Michael Thomas, and Claire and Margo Pike (although we only hear that this job has been scheduled; we don’t actually get to hang out with the Pike girls).

Watson has bought Karen a book called The Witch Next Door. This kid does not need this sort of encouragement. She already believes Morbidda Destiny Mrs Porter next door is a witch. In this book the curse Karen is obsessed with is the multiplication of her freckles.

Kristy reminds up she’s a professional babysitter:

“One false move and I’ll punch your lights out.”

Mary Anne sets prowler traps, Home Alone style. She also reads The Secret Garden. BSC books informed a lot of my own choices growing up. I read The Secret Garden for the first time because Mary Anne did and it ended up becoming one of my favourite books.

Stacey uses a TV remote control when she’s babysitting Charlotte. When this book was published, remote controls were a revolutionary idea for me. If we wanted to change the channel we had to get up off the lounge, walk across the room and turn the dial on the TV. I’d also never heard of cable TV before I read this book. Then, when Stacey turned on Channel 47, my mind was blown. We had 5 TV stations in Australia at the time.

Claudia has an actual conversation with Janine, who doesn’t annoy me anymore. She also spends time with her grandmother, Mimi, one of my favourite fictional characters of all time. I adored Mimi. Even now, she melts my heart every time she says, “my Claudia” and her wisdom stands the test of time.

“You know, my Claudia, that in order for things to change, you must change them. You will grow to be an old woman like me, if you wait for others to change things that do not please you.”

My biggest revelation, rereading this book after so many years, was discovering that “no problem” was considered slang in 1986. Go figure!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne, and Stacey try to be prepared for anything when they babysit. So when they hear about the Phantom Caller, a jewel thief who’s been breaking into nearby homes, they come up with a plan to keep their kids safe.

But when Claudia and the other girls start receiving creepy phone calls while they’re out on jobs, they start to get really spooked. Will the mystery caller scare off the BSC?

Book Haul – 20 to 26 December 2020

Hey book nerds! I hope you’re well.

If you celebrate Christmas, I hope it was as good as it could be, despite whatever COVID restrictions you’re currently living with. If you don’t celebrate it, happy final weekend of 2020. Christmas with my family is always pretty subdued but this year it was even more low key.

I carried a double dose of cervical headache and occipital neuralgia with me from Christmas Eve, so spent much of the day laying very still in a quiet room. Someone wished me a restful Christmas when I spoke to them on Christmas Eve so I’m holding them partially responsible. 😜

I did manage a very short walk on the beach with my mother late in the afternoon, followed by a Macca’s chocolate sundae (because chocolate makes everything better), so it ended much better than it started.

I almost didn’t get to do a book haul post this week because there was no hauling. Santa didn’t bring me any books, although I did manage to find one on sale late last night. So, it’s slim book acquisition pickings this week.

We had a great light show here last night. A storm came through around dinner time but the lightning lingered in the distance for hours. I was up watching it at 3am and it was gorgeous. The clouds that preceded the storm were amazing!

Song of the Week: For some reason I haven’t been able to get MILCK’s Quiet out of my head all week.

Word of the Week: boondoggle. “An unnecessary, wasteful, or fraudulent project.” (from lexico.com)

Bookish Highlight of the Week: A Promised Land, a read outside of my comfort zone.

Recent Reads:


Kindle Black Hole of Good Intentions

The latest novel in the bestselling World’s Scariest Places series takes you to the historic Hotel Chelsea in New York City. Many people consider it a cauldron of creativity due to the numerous writers, musicians, artists, and actors who have called it home over the years. But it is perhaps best known for being one of the most haunted places in in the country …

When a magazine reporter is tasked with writing a story about the Hotel Chelsea’s never-ending renovations, he befriends some of the hotel’s eccentric characters. As the days go by, and he experiences increasingly abnormal events in his life, he begins to wonder if there’s more to the Hotel Chelsea, and its residents, than meets the eye.


There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job – Kikuko Tsumura

Translator – Polly Barton

‘I’d like an easy job.’

I kept asked myself while I was reading whether I was enjoying this book or not and I still don’t have a clear answer. It’s an easy book to summarise: a 36 year old woman is looking for a new job, having experienced burnout in her previous one. Each of the book’s five parts describe one of the jobs she tries out in her quest to find a job that’s not really a job.

I wanted a job that was practically without substance, a job that sat on the borderline between being a job and not.

With a blurb that promised humour and made comparisons between this book and Convenience Store Woman, I had my hopes up. The funny bits, if they were there, must have gone straight over my head; no giggles, chuckles, or guffaws accompanied my reading.

I absolutely loved Convenience Store Woman and I can see why you might mention the two books in the same breath. Sort of. Both women are 36 and the focus of both stories is on their jobs but, while I loved the Smile Mart’s Keiko, I never really got a sense of this book’s cushy job seeker’s personality.

Whoever you were, there was a chance that you would end up wanting to run away from a job you had once believed in, that you would stray from the path you were on.

One of the parts seemed to be heading into magical realism territory but the others didn’t so I wasn’t quite sure whether I was seeing something in that part that wasn’t really there. This was a quick read for me but ultimately I don’t think it’s going to be a memorable one.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Convenience Store Woman meets My Year of Rest and Relaxation in this strange, compelling, darkly funny tale of one woman’s search for meaning in the modern workplace.

A young woman walks into an employment agency and requests a job that has the following traits: it is close to her home, and it requires no reading, no writing – and ideally, very little thinking.

She is sent to a nondescript office building where she is tasked with watching the hidden-camera feed of an author suspected of storing contraband goods. But observing someone for hours on end can be so inconvenient and tiresome. How will she stay awake? When can she take delivery of her favourite brand of tea? And, perhaps more importantly – how did she find herself in this situation in the first place?

As she moves from job to job, writing bus adverts for shops that mysteriously disappear, and composing advice for rice cracker wrappers that generate thousands of devoted followers, it becomes increasingly apparent that she’s not searching for the easiest job at all, but something altogether more meaningful …

A Promised Land – Barack Obama

“Politics doesn’t have to be what people think it is. It can be something more.”

Long before I wanted Jacinda Ardern to be my prime minister, I wanted Barack Obama to be my president. Other than a few standout moments, like Julia Gillard’s efforts in establishing the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and our current prime minister’s poorly timed vacation while much of the country was burning in 2019, I couldn’t tell you a great deal about politics in Australia.

Billy Connolly taught me everything I knew about politics as a kid, with ‘The desire to be a politician should bar you for life from ever becoming one’ and ‘Don’t vote, it just encourages them’ recited on a regular basis in my home when I was growing up.

In A Promised Land, Obama mentions something known as the “What’s the point of voting if nothing ever changes?” syndrome, which pretty much sums up my political worldview as an adult.

[I’d be hard pressed to tell you anything that impacts me personally that’s a priority for politicians in Australia. My single attempt at getting my local member of parliament to mobilise any of their resources to help members of their constituent and the rest of the state in positions similar to mine (those who were being screwed over by changes to the Worker’s Compensation system, which had already resulted in several deaths by suicide by the time I met with them) resulted in an incredulous, ‘What do you want me to do about it?!’ and towards the end of the meeting, a more pointed, ‘You’re f*cked’ (actually, they said that twice during the meeting), before the obligatory, ‘Vote for my party in the next election if you want to see changes’. So, yeah. Politics and I aren’t exactly friends.]

To say that this book is outside of my comfort zone is an understatement. I never thought I’d voluntarily read anything classified as a political memoir. But it’s Obama and I was interested in what he had to say, even if I had to sift through politics that I previously haven’t either cared about or understood to hear it.

This, I was coming to realize, was the nature of the presidency: Sometimes your most important work involved the stuff nobody noticed.

I was surprised by how much I loved this book. I learned so much about the ins and outs of political decisions and the fact that I found the details interesting says a lot about the quality of the writing. But the human stories were what really sucked me in.

This is a book where a football is not a football, where Dr. No scrutinises all things ethical to avoid scandal (“If it sounds fun, you can’t go.”) and the president is the one who brings out the cake for people’s birthdays. Also, and I may be the only one who thinks this is kinda cool, although I’d hate it if anyone was paying that much attention to me, “Renegade to Secondary Hold” was Secret Service code for Obama going to the bathroom.

Make no mistake: this is a heavy book, providing in depth details of decisions relating to the financial crisis, war, healthcare, foreign policy, immigration, human rights and a whole bunch of other unfolding crises that wind up on a president’s to do list.

No one had nuclear war or terrorism on their minds. No one except me. Scanning people in the pews – friends, family members, colleagues, some of whom caught my eye and smiled or waved with excitement – I realized this was now part of my job: maintaining an outward sense of normalcy, upholding for everyone the fiction that we live in a safe and orderly world, even as I stared down the dark hole of chance and prepared as best I could for the possibility that at any given moment on any given day chaos might break through.

I found myself getting bogged down in the details of the financial crisis and for a few days I’d catch myself daydreaming about some of the books I could be reading instead. Everything after that, though, I couldn’t get enough of. Having read little else for almost two weeks, part of me feels like I’ve always been reading this book and another part of me is sad that it wasn’t even longer.

This is also literally a very heavy book and an awkward one to hold; I lay in bed the first night, when I hadn’t even finished the first hundred pages, trying to figure out why my hands hurt so much. It turns out that simply holding onto this book is its own workout.

Handy hint: If you rest the book on your body as you’re reading and use your hands to gently balance it so it doesn’t fall on your face and crush you, your hands will thank you for it.

The pages are also crammed with words so it felt like I was reading a lot more than 700 pages. I was curious to find out just how many words fit on an average full page of text. Because I’m me, I finally decided to count the words on one page – 430. I don’t know what a normal page count is but that sounded like a lot to me.

There’s a lot of serious in this book but that’s not to say there aren’t some smiles and misty eye moments along the way. I chuckled when the secure mobile communications system broke down at the wrong moment, necessitating a very important and very serious phone call being made instead on “a device that had probably also been used to order pizza.”

I lost count of the times I could have easily wandered into ugly cry territory: the outcome of the DREAM Act, when Obama visited soldiers as they recovered from injuries sustained serving their country, personal family moments.

The fuss of being president, the pomp, the press, the physical constraints – all that I could have done without. The actual work, though?

The work, I loved. Even when it didn’t love me back.

There are probably over 700 reasons why I should never be president of anything, let alone the U.S. Here are my current top 5:

  1. The meetings. No one should have to attend so many meetings. I dreaded having to attend one team meeting each month at my last job. A coworker, who shared my disdain for meetings, and I frequently got in trouble for pulling faces at each other when everyone else had their serious faces on.
  2. Filibuster. Just reading that word makes me want to spit the dummy. That the opposition think it’s a great idea to do whatever they can to prevent the other side from winning anything, because it might make them look like they’re competent, rather than prioritising what’s best for the people they claim to be serving? That makes my blood boil.
  3. “The Death, Destruction, and Horrible Things Book”, A.K.A., the “President’s Daily Brief”. If I had to read about all of the possible ways the world might implode/explode every morning over breakfast, I’d not only forego the most important meal of the day, it’s highly likely I wouldn’t remain functional for very long.
  4. I wouldn’t be diplomatic enough. If another world leader was doing something stupid I would be calling them on it, probably in public, and would more than likely wind up causing more problems than I was attempting to solve.
  5. My priorities wouldn’t be overly presidential. My first order of business would be to get whoever had access to them to bring me the unredacted files relating to all things Area 51 and anything else Mulder might have a passing interest in. That’s what I’d be reading over breakfast.

I realized that for all the power inherent in the seat I now occupied, there would always be a chasm between what I knew should be done to achieve a better world and what in a day, week, or year I found myself actually able to accomplish.

When I was only about 200 pages in, I mentioned to someone that this book was really giving me a feel for the type of person Obama is. They asked me what type of person that is. My answer was something like, ‘He’s got values and acts in a way that is in accordance with them. He’s intelligent and likes to have a laugh. He’s a loyal and trustworthy friend and he absolutely adores his family. He’s the kind of person you’d want to know and someone I could see me being friends with.’

500 pages later and I can say with confidence that I still feel that way. My only cause for concern? The man doesn’t like sweets. That’s not something I usually look for in a friend but I suppose no one’s perfect. More sweets for me, I guess.

I’m wondering how it will be possible to fit everything else in only one more book as this one leaves readers in May 2011, but I’m really looking forward to reading the second volume. It turns out reading outside of your comfort zone can be a really good thing.

Whatever you do won’t be enough, I heard their voices say.

Try anyway.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A riveting, deeply personal account of history in the making – from the president who inspired us to believe in the power of democracy.

In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency – a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.

Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office.

Reflecting on the presidency, he offers a unique and thoughtful exploration of both the awesome reach and the limits of presidential power, as well as singular insights into the dynamics of U.S. partisan politics and international diplomacy. Obama brings readers inside the Oval Office and the White House Situation Room, and to Moscow, Cairo, Beijing, and points beyond. We are privy to his thoughts as he assembles his cabinet, wrestles with a global financial crisis, takes the measure of Vladimir Putin, overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to secure passage of the Affordable Care Act, clashes with generals about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, tackles Wall Street reform, responds to the devastating Deepwater Horizon blowout, and authorises Operation Neptune’s Spear, which leads to the death of Osama bin Laden.

A Promised Land is extraordinarily intimate and introspective – the story of one man’s bet with history, the faith of a community organiser tested on the world stage. Obama is candid about the balancing act of running for office as a Black American, bearing the expectations of a generation buoyed by messages of “hope and change”, and meeting the moral challenges of high-stakes decision-making. He is frank about the forces that opposed him at home and abroad, open about how living in the White House affected his wife and daughters, and unafraid to reveal self-doubt and disappointment. Yet he never wavers from his belief that inside the great, ongoing American experiment, progress is always possible.

This beautifully written and powerful book captures Barack Obama’s conviction that democracy is not a gift from on high but something founded on empathy and common understanding and built together, day by day.

Book Haul – 13 to 19 December 2020

Hey book nerds!

It probably looks like I’ve barely opened a book this week, having only finished a picture book and gift book. I’ve been slowly working my way through Barack Obama’s A Promised Land and it’s a serious commitment. Between the 700+ pages and the detailed descriptions of all things political, it’s taking me a very long time to get through it. Hopefully I’ll have it finished by Christmas, all going well.

I finally managed to see Vienna Teng perform in concert this week. It was my second online concert and it was magic! I thought I’d never have the opportunity to see her play live and although I missed the atmosphere of sitting in a room with hundreds of other fans, it was so much better than I’d dared to hope it would be.

I’ve been to some concerts where it’s obvious how much finessing has been done to a singer’s voice to make it sound like it does on their CD. This wasn’t the case with Vienna: the stunning voice you hear on the CD is just as beautiful in concert.

I may be the only person in the world that does this but when I’m really looking forward to a concert a really weird thing happens. I think it’s the music touching me in a similar way watching the ocean or seeing a baby animal for the first time does, but while I feel the emotion of all of them, music alone makes me cry.

I’m barely even aware I’m doing it because it’s not an ugly, sobbing cry; it’s more a growing awareness that I have tears streaming down my face. While I’m usually all cried out by the end of the third song in most concerts, I cried for the entire first half of this one, as well as the final three or four songs. Pretty much whenever she played a song that I desperately wanted to see her play live. Yes, I’m a weirdo. I admit it.

I may have been somewhat dehydrated by the end but I had the most marvellous time. While there’s no way all of my favourite Vienna songs could have made it into the lineup (there are simply too many), almost every song she played was one of my favourites.

Meredith Peruzzi, the ASL interpreter you can see in the bottom right corner of my screenshots, did a brilliant job. She also seemed to be having a great time, looking like she was grooving along to the music.

The standout for me was Vienna’s new song. I’ve been hankering for some new Vienna music for years and it was incredible. I can’t do it justice by trying to explain it but I’ll give it a go anyway: she sang a song in two parts then layered the two into a single song. So it was like hearing three versions of the same song and the two parts being sung at once (technology helped here) shouldn’t have worked but it did. I really hope that when her next CD is released it includes all three versions of this song. It’s called We’ve Got You.

Vienna also did a cover of MILCK’s Somebody’s Beloved, which was one of the many songs I cried through.

Song of the Week: Level Up by Vienna Teng. I’d been listening to this song a lot in the week before the concert.

Recent Reads:


Kindle Black Hole of Good Intentions

Inspired by a terrifying true story from the author’s hometown, a heart-pounding novel of suspense about a small Minnesota community where nothing is as quiet – or as safe – as it seems.

Cassie McDowell’s life in 1980’s Minnesota seems perfectly wholesome. She lives on a farm, loves school, and has a crush on the nicest boy in class. Yes, there are her parents’ strange parties and their parade of deviant guests, but she’s grown accustomed to them.

All that changes when someone comes hunting in Lilydale.

One by one, local boys go missing. One by one, they return changed – violent, moody, and withdrawn. What happened to them becomes the stuff of shocking rumours. The accusations of who’s responsible grow just as wild, and dangerous town secrets start to surface. Then Cassie’s own sister undergoes the dark change. If she is to survive, Cassie must find her way in an adult world where every sin is justified, and only the truth is unforgivable.


An evil force pulses deep within Malpas Abbey, overflowing with maniacal glee …

Overlooking a dark hill, the gloomy Malpas Abbey has been avoided by locals for centuries. Its infamous history is marred with blood and terror. Only the foolish would dare enter such a place, where devilish hauntings have left a string of dead bodies in its wake.

Just as the building is about to be permanently closed, things take an unexpected turn. An American television crew shows up, hoping to investigate the source of the structure’s paranormal activity. Led by producer Matt McKay and paranormal expert Ted Gould, the hapless bunch enter the confines of the hellish residence only to discover that they are in way over their heads.

As the group tries to make sense of the strange occurrences, they soon realise that the cellar might be the key to unlocking the mystery. Inside lies a stone altar that emanates with the evil strength of the Devil himself, feeding upon the crew members’ worst nightmares. 

With the ominous cloud hanging over them, they realise that there’s much more at stake than a disruption in filming. The only hope for survival rests on Ted, Matt and his crew’s ability to find their way out of the darkness, before the house devours them, capturing all the gory details on camera …


NetGalley

A speedy squirrel and a sleepy sloth try to get the job done in this funny, heartwarming tale of two lovable, but unlikely, friends.

Though Sloth and Squirrel are good friends, they have different ways of doing things – and different speeds of doing them. So, when Squirrel gets them jobs as pickle packers to earn money for a new bike, things don’t go according to plan. It seems that the contrasting skill sets of a fast-as-lightening squirrel and a slow-as-molasses sloth can make for a mess of an outcome, and before long, the friends are shown the pickle factory’s door, along with the 677 1/2 jars of pickles they packed incorrectly! Now the pair are bicycle-less, with only pickles to show for themselves. Or so they think – until the resourceful pair come up with an ingenious plan!

This delightful story from Cathy Ballou Mealey is a celebration of friendships of all kinds and a testament to ingenuity and hard work. Packed with funny details that aren’t in the text, Kelly Collier’s engaging illustrations are full of personality and silly, emotionally expressive humour. Together they create a hilarious picture book that’s perfect for a fun and lively read-aloud. At the same time, the positive themes in the book highlight a growth mindset and character education lessons on teamwork, perseverance and initiative.

A Turtle’s Guide to Introversion – Ton Mak

It’s a well established fact that I’m an introvert. Besides my lived experience, I have also found multiple books that could have been written about me.

I found myself on almost every page of Debbie Tung’s Quiet Girl in a Noisy World. If my introversion was ever in doubt (it wasn’t), the perfect score I achieved on Jenn Granneman’s signs I might be an introvert in her book, The Secret Lives of Introverts, was a big ‘I told you so’ to any naysayers out there.

If you’re a kindred introvert, you’ll probably get some validation and a reminder that you’re fine just the way you are from this book. If you’ve already read books that talk about introversion on any detail, it’s unlikely you’ll find any new information in this book.

This gift book has cute illustrations. However, I found the colours jarring. I read this book on an iPad; maybe the colours would look better on a different screen. It’s also possible, because I’m mindful that I read an advanced copy, the colour scheme could change prior to publication.

Thank you to NetGalley and Chronicle Books for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A Turtle’s Guide to Introversion is a delightful illustrated gift book that celebrates the wonderful qualities of introverts through the everyday adventures of a turtle.

Being an introvert comes with numerous advantages and the occasional woe, and no animal knows that better than the humble turtle hiding in its shell. This book celebrates introverts and their many wonderful, often-underrated qualities. 

Perfect for introverts and extroverts who are secretly introverts. And for those who likes turtles.

There’s an Alien in Your Book – Tom Fletcher

Illustrations – Greg Abbott

It’s time for another Who’s in Your Book? book. This book’s Who is an adorable little alien whose spaceship has crashed through its pages.

I managed to find an excerpt at Penguin UK so prepare yourself for image overload!

The interaction begins almost straight away because we need to find out just Who has invaded our book.

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No! Don’t be mean to our potential intergalactic friend. What would Mulder think if he saw you being anything less than welcoming?

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See what you did? Poor little guy.

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I’ll help! May I come with you, happy Alien friend?

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Oh, no. Our travel plans have been delayed. [I will not make a comment about 2020. I will not make a comment about 2020.]

It’s now up to you, dear reader, to keep following the instructions to help Alien. Along the way we’re reminded that diversity is wonderful, with a message of inclusion. And there’s a bonus cameo from Monster so I’m a pretty happy camper.

I really enjoy how interactive this series is. As usual, Greg Abbott’s illustrations bring our new little Who to life, with all of their emotions clearly depicted, and the colours are as vibrant and fun as I’ve come to expect.

I just hope there’s room on the spaceship for me.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Tom Fletcher and Greg Abbott have created a new interactive adventure, this time featuring an adorable alien who has crash-landed in YOUR book!

You’ll have to help Alien back up into space, because aliens don’t belong on Earth … do they?

This sequel to bestsellers There’s a Monster in Your Book and There’s a Dragon in Your Book is packed full of interactive fun, with a gentle message about openness, acceptance and inclusion that will speak to the very youngest readers.

Book Haul – 6 to 12 December 2020

Hey book nerds! How was your week?

Rather than the usual book haul, this week was more ‘I bought a book’. Just the one.

I attended my first concert in 6 years this week. You definitely miss out on the atmosphere when you listen to a concert online but there are also some pluses. The people who annoy you by talking through your favourite song or blocking your view by constantly shifting in their seat or standing in front of you when everyone else is sitting? They’re annoying people in their house, not yours. Also, you’ll probably get the best concert photos you’ll ever take and you don’t even have to sneak your camera past security.

My next concert is Vienna Teng. With the time difference I’m pretty sure it starts about 6am tomorrow for me. Since that’s prime sleeping time I think I’ll have to watch the replay instead and pretend I’m watching it live.

Song of the Week: Heavenly Day by Patty Griffin

Word of the Week: decorum, “behaviour that people consider to be correct, polite, and respectable” (from Collins Dictionary).

Bookish Highlight of the Week: Kristy’s Great Idea. Kristy Thomas was the one who introduced me to this week’s word and it was one of the first words I looked up in the dictionary as I was reading, something I do all of the time now. I’ve been planning a BSC binge for years. Given how many books there actually are, it’s likely to be more of a marathon but I’ve started.

Recent Reads:


Kindle Black Hole of Good Intentions

Sinister forces gather in Duck Falls. Soon, this small American town will become a battleground for the future of humanity.

Six months after the “Ghostland Disaster,” Duck Falls has become a reluctant tourist trap, and a new home to the activist group Ghosts Are People Too. When the Return to Ghostland televised event ends in yet another tragedy, ghosts once again fall under scrutiny … along with the effectiveness of the Recurrence Field.

Away at college, survivor Lilian Roth has discovered she’s able to communicate with spirits. She and her best friend, Ben Laramie, use the skills they’ve acquired to free ghosts from their hauntings.

But Rex Garrote, the mastermind behind the Ghostland Disaster, is raising an army of ghosts to slaughter every living person on Earth. Left with no choice but to fight, Ben and Lilian must recruit their own army of freed ghosts, and prepare them for war.

Will it be enough to save the world?


The Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novels #1: Kristy’s Great Idea – Raina Telgemeier

Text – Ann M. Martin

I stand by everything I said in my review of Ann M. Martin’s Kristy’s Great Idea so, rather than rehash that, I’m going to mention some of the differences I noticed between the book and graphic novel instead.

In the book Kristy wears a dress on the original front cover and it’s mentioned she wears a blouse and skirt to school. That’s not Kristy at all. In the graphic novel Kristy consistently wears what we come to know as her uniform. Much better.

In the book Kristy has a purse. Again, this is definitely not something I would ever picture her with. In the graphic novel her purse has transformed into a backpack. Definitely more Kristy-like.

While I absolutely love that Claudia has a section of her hair dyed in the graphic novel, I don’t think her parents would have allowed her to get away with that. She has to hide her earrings, junk food and Nancy Drew novels from them so hair dye would have to be forbidden as well, right?

The BSC logo that Claudia draws in the graphic novel is different than the one we all grew up with. Similar but different.

The amount the girls have earned by the time of the sleepover and how much they each need to contribute to buy pizza has increased. These aren’t 1986 prices anymore.

Class at Stoneybrook Middle School appears to finish at 3pm now, not 2:42pm like in the book. That makes much more sense.

The sheep barrettes in Claudia’s hair in the book are now a rainbow on her shirt. I’m good with either. It’s Claudia, after all. She can get away with whatever fashion choices she makes.

In my version of the first book, Kristy’s mother’s name is Edie and in the graphic novel it’s Elizabeth. Although I haven’t checked later books to confirm this, Elizabeth sounds right to me.

This isn’t a change, but I was really happy to discover that the landline in Claudia’s bedroom hasn’t succumbed to technology. The BSC meetings would look a lot different if everyone was sitting around with a mobile phone.

I’d forgotten I’d already read this graphic novel so I can’t tell you what I thought last time I read it but this time I was really impressed. The story and important details remain true to the original.

I read the black and white version of the graphic novel. I would be interested to check out the colour version at some point. For comparison, here are the black and white and colour versions of the first page.

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As usual, Raina’s artwork is brilliant and the personalities of each character shine through. I’m really glad I read this straight after finishing the book so, where possible, I think I’ll keep doing this.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In this new graphic novel edition of the very first Baby-Sitters Club book, Raina Telgemeier captures all the drama of the original in warm, spunky illustrations. Witness Kristy’s eureka moment, when she gets the idea for a “baby-sitters club” and enlists her best friends, shy Mary Anne and artistic Claudia, in an exciting new venture. But the baby-sitting business isn’t the only thing absorbing their attention: Kristy is having a hard time accepting her stepdad-to-be, and the newest member of the gang, Stacey, seems to be hiding a secret.

The Baby-Sitters Club #1: Kristy’s Great Idea – Ann M. Martin

The year was 1986. I was in the second grade. My childhood dog was still a puppy. It was my first year playing netball. It was also the year Kristy Thomas had a great idea.

It was an idea that meant that every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 5.30pm to 6pm, I’d be thinking about Kristy, Claudia, Stacey and Mary Anne (and later in the series, new BSC members). I knew they would be hanging out in Claudia’s bedroom waiting for the phone to ring. She’d have junk food for those who partook and healthy options for those who didn’t. They’d talk Kid Kits (another of Kristy’s great ideas but she hasn’t thought of them yet), collect dues (ugh!) and run a thriving business (at 12!).

I never babysat when I was a kid so I’m not entirely sure what kept me coming back for more. It was probably a combination of the friendships and the introduction to the fun and mischief of little kids. I was an only child who desperately wanted a sibling so this was my window into a world of what if.

As an adult I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t be leaving young kids with a 12 year old babysitter. I wondered how long these girls have been babysitting if they are as experienced as they claim. I’m also slightly disturbed, realising it’s extremely likely I’m now older than the babysitters’ parents are in the series.

Kristy’s Great Idea was my second BSC book. It was Mary Anne who introduced me to the other babysitters when she saved the day and given I was a Mary Anne at the time (shy, quiet and serious), she was the perfect one to accompany me to Stoneybrook. But it was this book that made me wish my best friend lived next door so we could talk at night using a secret flashlight code.

I was never especially keen on Kristy but the bossiness that annoyed me when I was growing up seemed largely absent in this book. She’s organised and entrepreneurial. Sure, she’s a real little snot to Watson for a good portion of this book but she’s 12 and her own father is MIA, so you can kinda see where she’s coming from.

There’s a nice symmetry in this book: David Michael is both the reason Kristy thought of the Baby-Sitters Club in the first place and his mother is the first parent to call at the inaugural BSC meeting to request a babysitter for him.

Because of the time spent setting up the story, it’s not until the eighth chapter that we first see one of the famous handwritten notebook entries. It’s written by Claudia, who babysat for Jamie (“Hi-hi!”) Newton and his three cousins. I used to love being able to identify each babysitter by their handwriting (and seeing if I could find Claudia’s spelling mistakes).

When I read my original copy of Kristy’s Great Idea, the final few pages were out of order and the last page was missing entirely. I remember borrowing a copy from my library and the satisfaction I felt when I finally got to read that final page. I also remember dutifully transcribing every word on it and putting my folded handwritten page inside my own copy so I’d always have the entire story at my fingertips.

About the cover: The original covers are always going to be superior to any of the later ones. That’s a given. But why is this the very first time in 34 years that I’ve paid attention to the fact that Kristy is wearing a dress on this cover? That’s sacrilege!

Weird bits (besides Kristy wearing a dress):

  • Classes finish at Stoneybrook Middle School at 2.42pm. Why not 2.40 or 2.45?
  • Kristy has a purse. That’s almost as anti-Kristy as her wearing a dress.
  • I have trouble imagining Kristy voluntarily playing with dolls as a kid. Wasn’t she always a tomboy?
  • Kristy wears a blouse and skirt to school. Who is this imposter?!

A word this book introduced to me when I was a kid: decorum.

My current favourite quote:

You really haven’t lived until a dog has stepped on your face.

I’ve been planning a BSC binge for a long time. All of my childhood books were thrown away (not by me!) and I mourned their loss. I’ve repurchased many of them since and I finally finished my BSC collection almost ten years ago. This was before I started reviewing and at the time I made it up to #54. I’m now hoping to gradually work my way through the entire series.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Kristy thinks the Baby-Sitters Club is a great idea. She and her friends Claudia, Stacey and Mary Anne all love taking care of kids. A club will give them the chance to have lots of fun-and make tons of money.

But nobody counted on crank calls, uncontrollable two-year-olds, wild pets, and parents who don’t always tell the truth. And then there’s Stacey, who’s acting more and more mysterious. Having a baby-sitters club isn’t easy, but Kristy and her friends aren’t giving up until they get it right!