Claudia and the Genius of Elm Street – Junk food art and 70’s Allsorts Licorice Pillows!

Claudia and the Genius of Elm street

Back when I was actually buying and collecting The Babysitters club I began to pan off around number 35 – Stacey and the Mystery of Stoneybrook , I bought them on and off , missing Poor Mallory , Claudia and the Middle School Mystery , groaned over Kristy and the Baby Parade and ground my teeth over Jessi’s Wish which was ,for me, the last straw – I stopped right there missing the following -Claudia and the Genius of Elm Street. I wish I hadn’t – though I didn’t like Jessi’s Wish – I never like characters with illnesses in books as lightweight as 80’s teen series. They are good for children to relate to, especially if they have a friend who has an illness but it becomes too pat a package for such a big issue – especially when like in The Babysitter’s club the next book’s topic deals with turning junk food into art but C’est la vie

It’s Claudia’s turn at P.O.V. – she was always one of my favorites although the Kishi household just wasn’t the same after’s Mimi’s death , I’m still a little miffed recalling the ominous book title – Claudia and the sad Goodbye staring back at me to dread a whole month ahead of time in book 25 – Mary Anne and the Search for Tigger. ( As if we didn’t need something upbeat after that , dud )
The book starts off with Claudia feeling like a dunce when she misprograms her V.C.R. when really it happens to everyone. I once stayed up all night when I was little so I wouldn’t risk missing one minute of Night of the Lepus. ( that’s a really, weird horror movie about genetically huge bunnies on the rampage , probably not worth the effort to most but I thought it was terrific. ) Of course this merely leads the reader as set up for the story that follows – The t.v. special Claudia was going to tape but is forced to watch on the spot is a special on Andy Warhol – who did all that pop art in the sixties most notably he caused a stir by painting a Campbell’s soup can and Claudia gets inspired. I recall more of Andy Warhol’s stunts , the movies ( if you can call them that ) and a complete purple sundae – ( I stand corrected I realized where I read it and looked it up – the sundae was actually buzzing with color – chartreuse , mauve , puce and magenta ) but I decided to do one up on Photo shop , and cause the purple looked really wild as is I kept it – hope you like it. I caught Claudia’s junk food fever!
Andy Warhol purple sundae

This is my favorite part of the story, Claudia creative juices flowing decides to start up a series of paintings on junk food as she mulls the possibility of an unwrapped Twinkie and the glorious texture of a Snickers bar. However she is thrust into a job with the so-called genius of the title. A sour little girl who antagonizes Claudia right away. She does the unthinkable and corrects Claudia’s note before they go for a walk causing Claudia to remind herself to smile , just smile. As a babysitter I’ve met my share of know it all’s and I was surprised it took Claudia so long to put Rosie in her place – no matter how much knowledge she has LEARNED , she still is only a child. Claudia tells the others at the club meeting who put in their ideas of how to win over Rosie and while Kristy jokes about Claudia’s art project suggesting she save half a Kit Kat and paint it , it’s Kristy who comes up with the great idea of Claudia having a art show.
Did anyone spot the homage to Little House on The Prairie – It has to be a secret little tribute – Mary Rose Wilder as in Rose Wilder , Laura Ingalls daughter – Of course it could be a coincidence but I doubt it – writers love to weave in a little wordplay. Most of the storyline with Rosie is a little aggravating – I’m pretty easy going , but even I wouldn’t take that garbage. When I babysat I was friendly , kind but not a doormat , when I got that snarky know-it-all , you-didn’t-know that?! Attitude I’d merely lift up my eyebrow and tell her , until you learned it you didn’t know it did you? Did that make you stupid yesterday?
Not that I’m expecting a real mystery it is after all series fiction but you can spot what’s wrong with Rosie from practically the moment she’s introduced , she’s an overworked , exploited genius whose parents shuttle her from tap lessons , rehearsals , to an actual taping of the Uncle Dandy’s Star Machine – a ripoff of Star Search or maybe Canada’s corny Tiny Talent Time. While Claudia discusses her problems with Rosie at the club meetings , the others are organizing the art show. They buy markers to make out personal invitations – considering dollar stores had not quite came out at that time I always found it amazing kids in stories could buy the unessentials at the drop of a hat – I recall my own embarrassing attempt at creating a Babysitters club with five of my friends , we scoured our homes for enough Magic Markers and hand wrote over two hundred fliers. There was no fancy glitter glue or neon – in fact we kept a few fliers where the blue markers had died out and had to be written over with green!
It’s no surprise to discover that Rosie hates her rigorous schedule and has alienated her classmates with her stuffy attitude. Although there was one scene that really annoyed me , Rosie is listening to a group of kids brag about going to Disneyworld ( at least once, but most had gone several times! ) , and she chimes in rather awkwardly that she wore a costume like Mickey Mouse only to be scorned, I guess it’s the fact that this series takes place in Stoneybrook , Connecticut which must be the capital of all Yuppiedom but come on! , I couldn’t help feeling sorry for any kid that would wander into that bunch. Considering I’ve never been to Disneyland or Disneyworld I was feeling rather annoyed that they made her sound so underprivileged! Awk! Egads no Disneyland. I’m thankful when they get back to Claudia finding the beauty in a spilled box of Milk Duds. You just know that Claudia is going to save the day by helping Rosie confront her parents about her overwhelming schedule but I still felt blissfully good at the end when Rosie shyly told Claudia she wanted her to be her new art teacher even though I saw it coming but their was one loose end I wish had been literally tied up – The revenge on Alan Gray – that dimwit shows up at Claudia’s art show and draws a dead cat next to a candy wrapper and leaves little gooey bubble gum landmines all over the freshly cleaned garage floor – his idea of a joke. Oh and I love Claudia’s outfit described at the beginning of the book – a man’s paisley vest , a button down shirt with tuxedo stripe , black Spandex stirrup pants , held up with pink flecked black suspenders , a paisley hair comb and electric pink ankle boots! I used to have little electric pink suede boots ( unfortunately I could never find much to wear with them – I wasn’t as cool as Claud at putting my outfits together! )

Reading the book I was thinking about Claudia’s creative inspiration – seeing junk food as high art and recalled something I saw in a vintage sowing book – circa early 80’s late 70’s and knew I had to tie it in some how. It’s a fabulous knitting pattern for making pillows that look like Allsorts Licorice – isn’t that a hoot. I thought it was so cool and even wished I could pick up a pair of knitting needles and make one. I couldn’t come up with any other Junk Food related crafts but after scouring the web I came up with some interesting finds – I’m not sure wether the pictures are copywrited so if you’re interested go to Google images and type in Skittles Dress you won’t be sorry there is this girl who made a dress entirely out of Skittles wrappers it’s incredible! Really you have to check it out, Claudia would’ve been proud and the perfect Claud present – type in Gummy Bear necklace – someone made a necklace out of gummi bears and shellacked it, giving candy necklaces a whole knew meaning!
80's allsorts Licorice pillows

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One Response to Claudia and the Genius of Elm Street – Junk food art and 70’s Allsorts Licorice Pillows!

  1. Kelli Garner says:

    Really nice posts. I will be checking back here regularly.

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