the best friends you’ll never have

Browsing in BSC family members

Thanks Ashley for scanning the cover of the Mystery Game for me! Now after, er, three and a half years of blogging, I finally have a banner that has the BSC in it.


Take a gander at this blog post. I have no idea who this guy is; I was just doing a google search for “highest IQ ever” (who gets sucked into 4am wikipedia spirals? This bitch), and this site came up. Look at the list this guy has written. How many people, according to this list, have an IQ higher than Janine Kishi’s 196? One, a physicist. Janine’s IQ is higher than the estimated IQs of Da Vinci, and Wittgenstein, and Newton.

The series is known to have gotten a lot of things wrong–diabetes, autism, etc. But there is perhaps no mistake more egregious than Janine Kishi and the Unbelievably High IQ. Are we supposed to believe that Janine is one of the smartest people who has ever lived, and yet her parents can’t let her take courses more challenging than those found at the local university, and she amuses herself by correcting people’s grammar and not by making earth-shattering discoveries or writing important academic papers? Or, hell, even just becoming a chess grand master would make her IQ more believable. Yes, sometimes geniuses and prodigies don’t live up to their potential. But we were never given the impression that Janine wasn’t. We were supposed to be impressed by her part-time matriculation at Stoneybrook University.

Let’s think back to Claudia’s Portrait, where she was sent to an alternative academy more suited for her learning style. I find it hard to believe that, given the evidence that the Kishis did not have a problem sending one of their children to private school if they were shown that it was necessary to the child’s academic success, that they would not do the same for someone as extraordinarily gifted as Janine. They could’ve sent her to a special school for the gifted, or allowed her to enroll in an Ivy League school early. I have a university in my hometown that seems similar to Stoneybrook University, given what we know about it, and I would say that the courses I took at my prep school were probably more challenging and had higher academic expectations than the ones at said local university. I just can’t see how Stoneybrook University courses would be challenging enough for a sixteen-year-old with a 196 IQ.

I am just not sure why such a number was chosen for Janine. Isn’t it enough to simply say that Janine is a genius, and be done with it? Or perhaps give her an IQ that is genius level, and make her a member of MENSA or something. But by going with 196, Janine’s character stretches the limit of credibility, given that the only “genius” thing she does is like school a lot and take college courses and talk using a lot of words Claudia doesn’t understand. (Nowadays, however, college courses seem to be nothing all that unusual in American public high schools. And it’s not all that hard to use words that Claud wouldn’t know.) It just seems silly to me to give her something so amazing, and then make it unbelievable by making Janine basically just an ordinary gifted student. At least say, “Claudia has a sister who works at the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton, even though she is only 16″–not, “Claudia has a sister who takes classes at Local Crap State University, even though she is only 16.”

EDIT: I just came across this:

There are, however, close contendors [sic]. An example of an ultra-elite group of intellectuals would be the Giga society, which accepts people only with an IQ of 196 or higher. This would mean a 1 in 1 billion probability. Currently, there are 6 members, which would technically mean these are the 6 smartest people in the world.


One of the major themes of the series is thirteen as a turning point, the age where one is Grown Up. You can baby-sit at night. You can go steady. You don’t ask your parents for help in 95% of the cases where you really, really should. Mallory and Jessi see thirteen as the magic age where they will get sparkly sweatshirts, contacts, and nose jobs. Shannon Kilbourne even titles the essay that frames her portion of the The Baby-Sitters Remember “Thirteen,” which is a sort-of coming of age story.

Apart from the whole “no sitting at night” thing, Mallory and Jessi actually have a fair amount of autonomy for eleven year olds, especially by today’s Helicopter Parents standard. How many eleven year olds do you know, for instance, who go to New York City to visit a boyfriend? How many eleven year olds are allowed to spend a weekend baby-sitting their siblings? (Sorry, Jessi, but I have to agree with Aunt Cecelia on that one. That’s just plain illegal.)

So one would assume that, despite all the whining from Mal and Jessi, that being eleven in Stoneybrook doesn’t really suck that much. Parents are more than lenient. Despite the fact that the Pikes have nixed the nose job idea, Mallory has more independence than would be considered prudent by commentors on parenting blogs, even the “hip” ones. But the same cannot be said for Mallory and Jessi’s peers. It is, in fact, one of the great mysteries of the BSC.

When we are first introduced to their characters, Tiffany Kilbourne is a sitter and Ben Hobart is Mallory’s Australian doppelganger/boyfriend. (Kind of creepy, if you ask me.) Yet somehow, over the course of the series, they are both on the receiving end of maturity downgrades. Rather than being pissed that the BSC has stolen her and Shannon’s sitting “territory,” Tiffany becomes part of the territory and becomes a BSC client. And Ben shows up at events that the BSC are running/involved with, and there is no mention of the fact that Ben and Mallory go out sometimes.

Sometime after December 1994 (Ben and Mallory have a fight about carolling in SS12), Ben and Mal’s relationship fizzles out. Perhaps all of the fighting about carolling and card catalog usage got to him. He shows up at the Greenbrook Club bathing cap contest. He plays an innkeeper in the church Christmas pageant and pisses off Mallory because he adlibs some Faux-stralian flavor into his lines. There is never any mention that hey, at one time, Ben and Mallory might have looked deeply into each other’s glasses and held each other’s sweaty palms. No, all has been forgotten–the scars from those card catalog/carolling fights go too deep. He is excised from Mal’s Chapter Two segments. The first cut is the deepest, indeed.

Ben has a chance to redeem himself after Mal’s Spaz Girl nervous breakdown, however. He is seen saying that he has tried to reach out to Mallory, but she doesn’t seem very receptive. No, Ben, your flames of love died out long ago. It happened while you were decorating your bathing cap to look like a shark attack.

Tiffany Kilbourne never gets a similar shot of redemption. She becomes a client and stays a client. Sometimes, I think, her age is even downgraded to ten. She’s eleven in The Complete Guide, but I swear she’s mentioned as ten in some places. Anyone with a citation, hit me up in the comments.

Then, in Claudia and the Recipe for Danger, we actually have a twelve-year-old pretty much being sat for by the eleven and thirteen-year-old sitters. He is the second Tyler in the Kids Kitchen thing, and no one ever really notes WHY there’s a twelve-year-old there, and he doesn’t do much. But it’s still alarming.

My conclusion is that really, Mal and Jessi seem to be the only eleven-year-olds in Stoneybrook who are afforded such responsibility. Perhaps if Ben had been smart like Logan (never thought I’d type the phrase “smart like Logan,” BUT SEE WHAT YOU’VE DONE TO ME, GHOSTWRITERS?!), and become an associate member, he could have kept his lady and his adult-ish status. It seems like being in the BSC is the ticket to maturity, and will help you avoid all of the potential pitfalls of adolescence, like acne, gum-chewing, trying cigarettes, and hiding those tiny bottles of wine in your flop socks. Look at what happened to Stacey and Dawn once they leave the comforting bosom of the BSC for Bad Girl-ism and California! Would Dawn have gone to a restaurant that served “more than just tea” (AKA HEAD SHOP IN THE BACK, DUDES) if she were still living with Mary Anne? Of course not.

The time warp works in mysterious ways. It can make you age so that you seem ahead of your years (everyone in the BSC). It can make you age backwards (Tiffany and Ben). Stoneybrook, Connecticut. An idyllic suburb of Stamford, a convenient train ride away from New York City straight into the heart of… THE TWILIGHT ZONE.

UPDATE: Not even bodily injury can stop Ashley from sharing her vast BSC knowledge. Thank you, Ashley!:

From #70, Stacey and the Cheerleaders:
Shannon nodded. “She missed the Terrible Twos. Instead she’s having the Terrible Tens. Even her teachers are complaining.” (p.23)
Tiffany is a ten-year-old version of Shannon – physically, at least. (p.60)

But in #112, Kristy and the Sister War, Tiffany is 11 again, though she is still getting sat for.

The Baby-Sitters Club is rife with examples of glaring violations of child labor laws. Logan works as a busboy at the Road Spud. Laine poohs baby-sitting in favor of working as a cashier at Flowers and Bows, the boutique on the Upper East Side (or West? Please, someone with Stacey’s Ex-Best Friend handy, let me know!). Stacey works at Kid Center in Bellairs.

But in later books, someone seems to have sent Scholastic a memo saying, hey, THAT IS ILLEGAL. Sunny says that Ducky is the only friend of hers who can work at Winslow Books, because he is sixteen. Maureen Spencer says that none of Stacey’s friends can work at her new, as yet unopened store, since they’re not old enough. While in many ways the series got more unrealistic as time went on (oh hai princess in Stoneybrook and field trips to Europe), when it got to be CA Diaries/FF time, things seem to have become more realistic. Nothing in the plots of either series are as outlandish as things often found in later BSC.

Another thing I noticed in my reread of Stacey’s Problem: Samantha is one glamorous woman. She is a former model turned fashion photographer. Now, this kind of woman is not going to date just some normal guy. I would imagine that she would probably end up with someone high-powered and rich, because that is the kind of person she would come across in her work. We’re told over and over again that Watson is Very Rich, yet Stacey buys all her clothes at Bloomingdales (which is not cheap–Stacey is rocking the cost equivalent of Marc by Marc Jacobs in eighth grade), she went to a fancy private school in Manhattan, they had an apartment overlooking Central Park, Ed takes Stacey to fancy restaurants and Broadway plays all the damn time. So how come the obvious was never stated, that Stacey is very wealthy as well, in addition to being sophisticated? It seems odd to mention Kristy’s wealth in every Chapter 2 and not say anything about Stacey’s.

One of the indicators that The Powers That Be at Scholastic were sometimes a little lazy in regard to the BSC books is the amazing coincidence of so many of the sitters’ parents being named “John” in some form. We have John Kishi, John Philip Ramsey (who has a brother named just plain John, apparently, according to BSC in the USA), Jonathan Pike (who was also sometimes called “John”), Jonathan Stevenson, and Jack Schafer.

Now, you’d think this would be easy enough to remember while writing about the BSC. Just remember that Stacey’s dad is Ed, Kristy’s bio dad is Patrick and her stepdad is Watson, Logan’s dad is Lyman, and Mary Anne’s dad is Richard. Then you can feel confident calling every other dad with a child in the Club “John.”

Except that Nola Thacker misread the memo. Here is a quote from Dawn and Whitney, Friends Forever:

Barbara looked downright disapproving as she walked up to the table and sat down. But all she said was, “What an interesting place, Richard,” in a cool, polite voice that said, NOT.

What, exactly, is Richard Spier doing on a family fun date with Dawn, Jeff, and some woman named Barbara??


When I saw this picture of a closet-bedroom, I couldn’t help but be reminded of our young whiny friend, David Michael Thomas. So which is better, DM: living in a closet or being legally bound to Karen Brewer?

(The New York Times via Unclutterer)