Original Publication Date: 1998
Ghostwriter? Yes, Ellen Miles.
Claudia goes to sit for the Nicholls, the family who moved into the Addisons' place. Right away, she notices that the two boys are almost too polite, and seem worried about upsetting their father. More odd is that their mother has the same worry. And they react so fearfully to making small mistakes, like putting a little tear in a kid-kit book. Then Claudia hears their dad screaming at them, saying some nasty stuff that parents tend to avoid. The kids themselves do some name-calling casually, as if they're used to it. Claudia thinks it's all very strange, but doesn't quite connect the dots beyond thinking the father is unusually strict. She's confused by how nice their father acts when she's around (which is actually pretty creepy when you think about how abusers are, and I'm glad it was included in the book). But cracks start to appear in the act.
As Claudia's leaving a sitting job, she hears the father hit one of his sons (he thinks Claudia's left, but she forgot her jacket). She goes back to the room where they are desperate to do something, but can't think of what to do and just stutters out a goodbye and leaves. Now, obviously, she should have called the police as soon as she had a chance, but she is only 13 and hasn't had any real experience with this sort of thing; she's unprepared. She does at least consult the BSC right away, and the girls all talk to Claudia's mom together. Her mom then talks to Mrs. Nicholls, who works with her at the library, and also calls a social worker friend of hers. But Mrs. Nicholls denies everything, and the family stops using the BSC, calling Erica Blumberg instead.
But Erica calls Claudia when she's sitting for the boys, asking for help. The boys have several bruises and an unconvincing story to explain them. Claudia calls her mom, who goes to the house with Mrs. Nicholls. Claudia shows up to give Erica moral support...and sees Mr. Nicholls's car in the driveway, too. There's a very loud fight going on inside. A moment later, the door opens and the boys come out with their mom, Erica, and Claudia's mom. They all pile in to Mrs. Kishi's car and take off for Mr. Kishi's office (after dropping Erica off with her mom), because Mr. Nicholls won't think to look for them there. They call social services, and eventually the police to get a restraining order. Claudia keeps the boys occupied while her parents get the mom set up for a long drive to her sister's, even filling up her gas tank for her and getting food ready. If I were in a crisis, I'd want the Kishis helping me. The book ends without all the loose ends tied up, but with the reassurance that the boys are safe.
Established or continued in this book:
The Girls (and Logan):
Claudia candy: Junior Mints, Milky Way bars, Chips Ahoy, Oreos, Sour Patch Kids, peanut M&Ms, Triscuits
Claudia used to "fingerpaint" with her baby food. My toddler was fingerpainting with the frosting on a doughnut we got after church; maybe she'll be artistic like Claudia. She already has a sweet tooth!
Claudia's aunt and uncle (Peaches and Russ) leave Lynn with the Kishis for a week. The baby is six months old. My toddler is 27 months old and hasn't been away from us over night yet (but soon will, I hope). While this is a bad idea for a nursing mother, they leave formula for Lynn so either she's been weaned by now for any of a variety of reasons or she was on formula from the start--which isn't necessarily a bad thing; some women can't produce milk well or need medications that would passed through the milk.
The Club (and clients):
The BSC invites Erica to the meeting after all this goes down, which is nice of them. It gives her a bit of closure.
SMS: nothing new.
At one point, Claudia refuses the offer of a ride home from Mr. Nicholls based on intuition (it's before things really escalate). Listening to your intuition is often a good idea, as long as it doesn't prevent you from living a normal life, for example, if it slips into paranoia. Most reasonable people are correct when they have a sense that something isn't right.
If you have a reason to suspect abuse, report it. Better safe than sorry. And don't assume someone else will take care of it; too many people do that and then nothing gets done. The book is right when it points out that it's a serious accusation, but the police or whoever you report it to will know how to investigate and will take the proper steps. You can report anonymously, too.
I 100% agree with Claudia: there are few things better than a baby falling asleep on your chest. My own goddaughter did that a lot when she was a baby (I watched her three days a week for a while).
St. Patrick's Day happens during the course of this book. By the way, the proper response to "Top of the morning to you!" is "And the rest of the day to yourself."
Starting 8th grade: 10
Halloweens in 8th grade: 6 (plus one in seventh)
Thanksgivings in 8th grade: 3
Winter holidays in 8th grade (that BSC members celebrate in the plot of a book, not just reference): Christmas-5, Hanukkah-2, Kwanzaa-3
Valentine's Days in 8th grade: 4
St. Patrick's Days in 8th grade: 1
Summers after 8th grade: 10
BSC Fights: 11
SMS Staff and Faculty: 67
Students (other than the BSC): 214: 120 8th graders (not including Amelia Freeman, who is deceased), 29 7th graders, 48 6th graders, 15 unspecified. Baby-sitters' Winter Vacation tells us that SMS has about 380 students.
Clients: 37 families
Types of candy in Claudia’s room: 138