Sunday, February 28, 2010

#87 Stacey and the Bad Girls


For the third book in a row, it's more or less the beginning of summer. Stacey is still out of the BSC, and still heavily involved with Robert and his friends. In fact, some of the girls in her group congregate at Stacey's house on a fairly regular basis, since she's got the place to herself during the day. The girls have a lot of fun...but they also eat a lot of food. Mrs. McGill isn't happy when she figures out what's happening, and she insists that Stacey (her 13 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER!!!) get a summer job. Stacey doesn't mind that idea so much, but it's easier said than done for someone her age to find a job. First, she tries thew wants ads in the newspaper, but most of what she finds there are full time jobs for adults. She then gets the idea to check the bulletin boards at the supermarket, and she finds four possibilities there. The first is a companion position for an elderly person, the second is an ad placed by a new modeling company looking for teens, the third is from people looking for a dog walker, and the fourth is from a store called Sports Town which needs help in their Toddler Center. None of the four jobs pans out, but Mrs. McGill comes the rescue. Bellairs needs a part-time aide in their Kid Center, and she's landed Stacey an interview, which Stacey aces.

After her first day of work, Stacey's new friends meet her for some shopping. This becomes an every day thing, and even though Stacey is glad to see her friends, she starts to get pretty suspicious that shopping isn't all they're doing. The other girls never seem to buy anything, but Stacey notices that they have new stuff on more than one occaision. She starts to wonder if they could be shoplifting, and if they could be using her as a distraction, since all the store clerks know and trust her. She thinks back to when the same thing happened to Logan. She wants to talk to Robert about her suspicions, but she's a little afraid to. She doesn't want to make Robert feel like he has to give up his friends, like he gave up basketball.

The following week, Stacey's friends meet her after work like always, but this time, they want a favor: they want her to buy some expensive things for them with her discount. Stacey isn't sure she should do something like that, but gives in when her friends pressure her. The other girls pay her back for the items...because they returned them without a receipt for full price. Stacey KNOWS that doing that isn't okay, but she doesn't have too much time to dwell on it. That's because their favorite band, U4ME, is going to be playing in Stamford! The girls all go to the ticket line, but Stacey is the only one who ends up waiting the whole time to buy the tickets. She's not thrilled about being ditched, but she's still pretty excited about the concert. On the big night, Mrs. McGill drives all the girls to the concert. Everything's going fine until the others start pulling out hidden liquor bottles and drinking. Stacey is shocked; she'd never seen any of her friends drink before, and it's not something they'd ever talked about. They more they drink, the louder they get, and eventually, it catches the attention of security. A guard searches their stuff and finds a bottle in Stacey's sweater. Since she definitely didn't put it there, she knows that it must have been one of her friends. All five girls are taken to security, where their parents are called. Stacey manages to prove that she wasn't drinking, since it would bother her diabetes if she did, but she's still in big trouble when her mom shows up. Mrs. McGill grounds her for three days, and requests that she not see those friends again. Stacey has no trouble agreeing to that.

Stacey fills Robert in on what happened at the concert, and to her relief, he's on her side. What Stacey really wants to do, though, is get the advice her her BSC ex-friends about the problem. She even starts to think that she might want to be back in the club. After coming through for Dawn and Mary Anne one day (she finds their little cousin who ran away), Stacey gets invited to a meeting. She apologizes for her behavior, and promises to try harder. One again, the BSC is at full least until #87!

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things

  • Stacey actually quit her job at Bellairs so she'd have time for the BSC. She really couldn't do both?
  • I wonder how Stacey explained her absence from the BSC to the Johanssens', whom she's been sitting for all along. Kristy must have hated that.....
  • The Stamford U4Me concert was arranged days before it actually took place. I don't know much about the music business, but I DO know that it takes quite awhile to set up a major concert like that. You have to book the venue, set up opening acts, arrange for ticket sales, etc. There just doesn't seem to be much of a chance that a show of that type could come together practically overnight.
  • Sunny's mom is diagnosed with cancer in this book...and all Dawn can talk about is moving back to CA to be with the Winslows. Foreshadowing alert!!!!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

SM#1 Baby-sitters' Haunted House


Summer is just beginning (I'll ignore the fact that it began in the last book, too) and the BSC wants a vacation. Big surprise; Kristy doesn't like that idea. Then, the club gets a call from Lisa, Karen and Andrew's mother. They have some friends, the Menders family, who've just inherited a mansion in a little seaside town in Maine. Lisa, Seth, Karen, and Andrew are going up to Reese with the Menders family, and they need two sitters to go along. Claudia is one of them; she already has a long-term sitting job with Karen and Andrew. The girls can't agree on who should be the second. In spite of her earlier reluctance to take a vacation, Kristy pretty much insists that it should be her. When Lisa calls needing an answer as to who her second sitter will be, the girls are honest with her. Kristy, Mary Anne, and Dawn all got permission to go to Reese with Claud. Lisa then invites them all to come.

The car ride up to Reese is pretty uneventful, although Mary Anne annoys everyone by playing tour guide. THe mansion is very cool, and the Menders kids are nice, but really reluctant at the idea of moving from Boston. Lionel, 14 and too old to be sat for, wants to be an actor. He doesn't think he'll be able to make that happen in a tiny town like Reese. Jill is 10, and obsessed with being a teenager (she starts following Dawn around and copying her right from the get-go). Jason, 9, is into sports, and Martha, 7, is very shy. Karen Brewer convinces herself that it's her mission to help Martha make friends, but all that happens is that Karen acts like an irritating nuisance and pisses Martha off. The girls also meet Mr. and Mrs. Cooper, the couple that the Menders family has hired as caretakers for the summer. They're nice enough, although Mrs. Cooper can't talk (she has some problem with her vocal cords).

Since no BSC member can go into an old house without thinking that it might be haunted, the girls of course think that the Randolph Mansion is home to a ghost. It actually looks like they might be right, because odd things start happening that first night. They see someone (or something) out in the hall with a candle, but none of them are brave enough to actually step outside their bedrooms and investigate. The next morning, they find spots of wax on the hall carpet. The girls suspect Lionel Menders; he was acting strangely that morning, and he seemed awfully interested when he caught them looking at the wax blobs. Lter that day, they meet Georgio Trono, grandson of the former Randolph Mansion caretakers. He's the tall, dark, handsome, and (as the girls think) sinister type. He makes all of them uncomfortable, especially when he warns them about staying out of the fourth floor and attic of the mansion, but he seems to take quite a shine to Claud....

Creepy things keep happening. Their second evening in Reese, the BSC members are taking some of the kids on a frog and toad hunt. All of a sudden, they see a light go on in a window in the fourth floor of the mansion. The door to the fourth floor is locked, and no one had been up there since they arrived the previous day. The Coopers suggests that it might have been a reflection from the nearby lighthouse, but the BSC members aren't so sure. That night, the hallway ghost makes another appearance. This time, the girls catch the ghost in the act; it IS Lionel. Too bad they can't explain who's causing the noises upstairs when they're all together.

Claudia has been spending more and more time with Georgio. She's still not exactly comfortable with him, though, especially after she goes to the gardener's shed with him to take a look at a picture of a float he made once. Not only does she find out that Georgio is in college, but she also spots some orange candles that are the same color as the wax the girls found on the floor after the first ghost appearance. They never actually asked Lionel if it was him that first night; they just assumed it was. Now, they're not so sure. Georgio is just plain creepy, and STILL seems determined to keep them out of the fourth floor. When the girls add up all the evidence (lights going on and off, ghost appearances not explained by Lionel, screams in the walls), it looks like someone might be trying to make the Menders family and the sitters think the place is haunted. The question is...why???

One day, Mary Anne decides to do some research on the mansion. She heads to the historical society, and what she learns is pretty interesting. The house has a dumbwaiter, which none of the girls had noticed before. One of its "stops" is actually in Dawn's bedroom. Also, as Mary Anne is returning the materials to the woman at the front desk, she finds out that someone else had been in, asking about the mansion. It was a woman with a thick accent, which rules out Mrs. Menders. Claudia is also doing some research of her own; as scared as she is of Georgio, she goes with him to meet his grandparents in the hopes that she'll learn more about the house. The Tronos tell her that the dumbwaiter has been boarded up for years, and every time Claud tries to learn more mansion secrets, Georgio tries to steer the converstation to other things.

THere's a mini fair in Reese, and sitters take advantage of the time without kids too investigate the dumbwaiter. They find the kitchen entrance to it behind a painting, and they see something down in the bottom of the shaft. Dawn volunteers to go down and see what it is. Just as she gets in there and sees that the object is a tape recorder, the Coopers come back from running their errands. The other members of the BSC get the dumbwaiter closed and the painting back in place just in time; poor Dawn is stuck in there for the time being. That turns out to be a good thing; when the other three sitters leave the kitchen to go bring in the bags of groceries, Dawn learns that Mrs. Cooper can talk. She fills her friends in as soon as they get the Coopers out of the kitchen and Dawn out of the dumbwaiter. They also find out that the Coopers aren't lifetime residents of Reese, as they've always claimed. The mystery gets even more interesting when the girls learn from Mr. and Mrs. Menders that Mr. Menders has a cousin living in Scotland who will inherit the mansion if he doesn't want to live in it full time. That's when Dawn remembers; Mrs. Cooper spoke with a heavy accent. They recruit Lionel to imitate some accents for them, repeating a phrase that Dawn heard Mrs. Cooper say. Sure enough, the accent that matches the one Dawn heard is Scottish. The pieces of the puzzle are starting to come together.

Lisa, Seth, and the Menders parents take a day trip over to Boston, leaving the kids alone with the Coopers. The BSC members aren't thrilled about this, given what they now know (or at least suspect) about the Coopers (actually, the Randolphs). Nothing scary happens, although they DO find a list of horrible things the couple had come up with to do to the Menders family, the BSC, and even Georgio (who turns out to be totally innocent). There's a horrible storm that night, and the adults can't get back to Reese until the next morning. They fill them in on everything they've discovered about the Coopers, but they've already left the country. That's probably a good thing; the Menders family has decided to move to Reese permanently. Also, for those of you who are concerned about Claudia (aka "Jailbait") and Georgio, she finally confesses her real age to him in a letter.

MEanwhile, back in Stoneybrook, the BSC is being run by Jessi and Mal, with occasional help from Shannon and Logan. They have to turn down quite a few jobs, since there are next to no sitters available, and pretty soon, people stop calling. Mallory and Jessi are sure they've ruined the club...until they find out that people haven't been calling because they've been on vacation. They should know by now that that's ALWAYS the case when the club stops getting calls!

Rating: 4

Thoughts and Things
  • Why didn't any of the sitters have a fling with Lionel? He was the perfect age, and they DID make it clear that they weren't actually sitting FOR him.
  • This book is actually kind of awesome. Think the fact that it's a Super Special (yay!) makes up for the fact that it's also a mystery (boo!).
  • Karen drove me and everyone in the book crazy. She just needs to shut the heck up and leave people alone.
  • Jill Menders and her crush on Dawn was annoying, too. Dawn was very patient to put up with her the way she did. It's also another example of how childish the BSC views 10 year olds, and how 11 year olds are suddenly mature enough to be considered friends instead of sitting charges.
  • This is actually the last BSC book I got before I stopped collecting the first time. I'd only been collecting sporadically since #60, but this marked the end of my childhood BSC reading.
  • I wonder what Georgio thought when he got that letter from Claud, telling him that she's actually 13? Also, I find it hard to believe that a dark, brooding college guy wouldn't have tried more with her than taking her on a Ferris wheel and kissing her on the cheek. This wasn't the 1950's, people.
  • I really like the Menders kids, and I wish we'd seen them in another book.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

#86 Mary Anne and Camp BSC


School is just about to end, and everyone is looking forward to summer vacation. There's a three week gap between the end of school and the beginning of most camps and summer programs, so the BSC decides to run their own day camp for their charges. It'll be held at the Schafer/Spier house, and the girls choose the circus as their theme. More than twenty kids sign up, which is good. There are, however, problems right from the start, which is bad. The kids kind of split into two groups by school: about half of them go to SES, and half of them go to SDS. To make things even worse, most of the SDS kids had been to another circus camp, and think that makes them too good for the BSC's version. There's also one other problem, and that's four year old Alicia Gianelli. She's got major separation issues, and won't go on any of the field trips that the rest of the camp takes. She's afraid that if she DOES go, her mom won't be able to find her when she arrives to pick up Alicia and her brother. Mary Anne insists on letting Alicia stay behind rather than forcing her to go places that she doesn't want to go. The other sitters think that Mary Anne is just babying Alicia, and that Alicia should be joining the rest of the campers.

At the end of camp, the kids put on a circus for their friends and family. Rehearsals are kind of a mess, thanks mostly to the SDS students who don't see the BSC camp as a "real" circus camp. Most of them take roles reluctantly, and then don't learn their parts. The sitters have to scramble around at the last minute, adjusting things so their lack of preparation doesn't stick out as much. The performance ends up going pretty well, and most of the SDS kids stop acting so surperior to everyone else. Alicia Gianelli also changes her tune by the end of the camp; she realizes that she's been missing out on an awful lot of fun by throwing fits and staying behind, and joins the group on one last trip to the park.

While the camp is being held, Mary Anne is dealing with some issues of her own. Her dad is away on a business trip, and she's surprised by how much she misses him. Dawn and Sharon are totally into being "bachelor girls," as Sharon puts it, but Mary Anne isn't thrilled. They're ordering take-out food every night, and not cleaning up anything. The mess really bothers Mary Anne, and she's finding it hard to get into the spirit of things. She doesn't talk to Sharon and Dawn about how she's feeling, though, since the two of them are having such a good time. Then, Mary Anne gets hurt falling off her bike. It's nothing serious, but she starts feeling even more sorry for herself. She even tries to get her dad to come home early to take care of her. Eventually, Mary Anne pulls herself together, stops acting like a pouty little kid, and apologizes about her behavior to Sharon. She also manages to enjoy the rest of their little vacation from Richard, even though she's really happy to see him when he comes home.

Rating: 2.5

Thoughts and Things
  • There's one place in the book where Mary Anne is talking about the SES versus SDS feud at camp, and she says SMS instead of SDS.
  • I have to side with Mary Anne about the take out food issue; just READING about them eating all that junk made me feel fatter....
  • I actually like that Mary Anne missed her dad so much and didn't quite know how to deal with it; 13 is still a kid in so many ways, and I don't blame her for wanting her dad back, especially after she was hurt.
  • Alicia really annoyed me.
  • The notebook entry at the beginning of chapter 9 is in Kristy's handwriting, but it's clearly Logan talking.

Monday, February 22, 2010

#85 Claudia Kishi, Live From WSTO!


Claudia is at loose ends, and she decides she needs a hobby. She finds out that WSTO is looking for a kid to run a kids' radio show twice a week for a month. Claud enters, and she wins. She's excited but nervous when she heads down to the radio station for her first meeting with the station staff. She's also surprised when they tell her that she's going to have an assistant. The assistant is the one who came in second in the contest, and that person is none other than...Ashley Wyeth. Claudia isn't exactly thrilled; she and Ashley haven't been on the best of terms since the whole Claudia and the New Girl debacle. At least, they haven't according to Peter Lerangis.

At first, it looks like their partnership isn't going to be a pleasant one. They can't agree on anything, and Claudia gets frustrated at Ashley for constantly treating her like she's stupid. They also can't agree on what acts to put on the show during auditions. They make it to the first show without any bloodshed. There are some minor problems (dead air, finishing up too early), but things go pretty well overall. Claudia and Ashley DO learn, though, that the station is in some kind of financial trouble. That's why WSTO ran the contest: they needed someone to fill that airtime that they don't have to pay. People are really enjoying the show, though, and Claudia and Ashley actually manage to help some people. In fact, their last call on their last show is from the mother of a kid that had called in at the beginning. He'd been really upset about his parents' divorce, and Claudia had given him the number of Dr. Reese, the therapist that Mary Anne saw at one point. HIs mother was so grateful to them that she decided to make a donation to WSTO, and it just happens to be enough to keep the station afloat for another six months. Also, just as CLaudia is about to leave the station for the last time, she gets a call from none other than Stacey McGill. Claud had made some comments about friendship to fill up extra time on the first show, which Stacey had heard. So, the BSC-McGil rift begins to heal...

Also, Kristy is desperate to get on the show. She writes a bunch of ridiculous plays about baby-sitting and tries to make everyone else star in them with her. She also kind of steals a character Mallory made up and writes a play about that. She eventually makes it on the show with a Jeopardy-style game about kiddie lit.

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things
  • I wonder when Claudia stopped writing for the paper? As of this book, she's no longer running her column.
  • Peter L. probably should have reread some of the earlier BSC books, because Claudia and Ashley weren't exactly enemies like he makes them out to be. They just weren't super close friends, due to their different priorities.
  • It would have been nice to have a book centered around Mary Anne and whatever depression issues caused her to seek therapy. Lots of kids and teens deal with problems like that, and reading about one of the BSC members facing something like that might have been helpful.
  • Mallory should totally sue Kristy for stealing the character she made up!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

M# 20 Mary Anne and the Zoo Mystery


The 8th graders at SMS have a new biology assignment: they'll be put into groups, and each group will study an animal and write a report based on their observations. The best project will win it's creators passes to a local water park. To make things even more interesting, the local zoo has partnered with SMS to help with the projects. Buses will take any intersted kids to the zoo after school so they can study the animals there.

Mary Anne is put into a group withy Alan Gray and Howie Johnson. She's not thrilled about that, and she's REALLY not thrilled about the competitiveness that Logan and Alan have going. Her group DOES manage to come up with a good idea, though. They're going to study the bears, the seals, and the emu and call it "Fur, Feathers, and Fippers." Mary Anne studies the emu first, but there isn't a whole lot to study; it pretty much just rests under a tree. She DOES decide to name it Edith, so the day wasn't a total waste. :) The next day, there's a demonstration of painting elephants, and Mary Anne decides to attend before workring on her project. While she's there, she overhears two of the zoo's employees discussing Edith's escape. She was caught and herded back to her enclosure before any damage was done, but Mary Anne still rushes right over to Edith's pen as soon as the elephants are done painting. There are no broken fences or anything, but Mary Anne DOES notice some berry stains on the ground nearby. She also overhears the zoo director, Mrs. Wofsey, tell another worker that she's lost her master key...the one that can open all the cages in the zoo.

Mary Anne is pretty suspicious about the circumstances surrounding Edith's break for freedom. After all, the bird bascially just sits around all day. There's very little chance, as Mary Anne sees it, that she let herself out of the pen. The BSC members talk about possible suspects; there have been protestors outside the zoo every day they've been there, and some of them have even sent Mrs. Wofsey threatening notes. They've also noticed a couple in matching sweatsuits who seem awfully interested in the animals, but not in the same way that most zoo visitors usually are. One of the next times that Mary Anne is at the zoo, she sees those same people. There's also another escape; a giraffe.

There are two gorillas at the zoo (they're on loan from another place), and one of them can use sign language. Jessi brings Matt Braddock to talk to her, and Matt asks her who let the emu out of her cage. Mr. Chester, one of the zoo's employees, enters the gorilla cage with their meals just then, and Mojo doesn't want to "talk" with him around. Matt asks again, and this time, Mojo signs "food." They figure she's just hungry, and leave it at that.

On another zoo afternoon, Mary Anne is attending a lecture about Mojo and James (the gorillas) when news breaks that there was almost another escape. It was the gibbons that time, and Mary Anne is and Logan think they know who did it. They'd seen that couple in matching outfits discussing the price of a gibbon, and they of course assumed that they were going to steal and then sell them. Jessi takes Matt Braddock to talk to Mojo again, and once again, the only answer she'll give is "food."

Each SMS student was given a key when they started observing animals at the zoo. Those keys could be used to "unlock" information about each animal, but when Mary Anne tries using hers at the bear exhibit, she finds that it doesn't work. She'd had no problem with it previously, and it doesn't take her long to realize that she's holding Mrs. Wofsey's missing master key. She knows it has to have come from someone in her group, and that Mary Anne picked it up by mistake when they all emptied their pockets onto a picnic table to find money for a soda. She thinks it's Alan, but he denies knowing everything about it. It was actually Howie; he'd found the key in some bushes, and he'd been the one to open Edith's cage. He didn't have anything to do with the giraffes and gibbons, though. The key was already in Mary Anne's possession at that time. Luckily, she has plenty of witnesses who could vouch that she was nowhere near either exhibit when the gates were opened. Mary Anne, Logan, and their group members put their heads together, and settle on Mr. Chester as the one who's guilty. He doesn't like Mrs. Wofsey much, and he's been caught lying about his whereabouts. He also has a key, and could easily unlock any gate he wanted. Mary Anne and her friends go to tell Mrs, Wofsey about what they suspect, and she sets up a trap for Mr. Chester. If he really wants to make the zoo look bad, he'll try and set Mojo and James free. Sure enough, he tries just that. What he DOESN'T know, though, is that Mojo and James were moved to another pen, and the two gorillas in the cage are zoo employees in disguise. Mrs. Wofest is so grateful to Mary Anne and her friends for their role in catching Mr. Chester that she gives each of them lifetime passes to the zoo. Also, Mr. Chester's guilt explains why Mojo kept signing "food;" he was the one that fed them.

Meanwhile, the BSC and their charges are helping raise money to free an elephant that's being kept in a small cage at a local mall. They want him moved to a more appropriate home, so they organize all sorts of fundraisers to help. The donations they recieve, with some help from a wealthy donor, get the elephant moved to a wildlife park in Florida.

Rating: 2.5

Thoughts and Things
  • When I was a little kid, my mom took me to a mall that was displaying a tiger in a cage. I don't remember which mall it was, but I do remember that the tiger could only take two or three steps in either direction. He just kept pacing back and forth, over and over again. Even though I was really young at the time, it disturbed me to see him like that, and I've never forgotten it. That's probably why I didn't hate the elephant subplot.
  • Mary Anne, Howie, and Alan complain at one point that a soda costs them a whole dollar. Sheesh. At my local zoo, a 20 oz bottle from a vending machine would run them $3.
  • The protestors in front of the zoo wanted the animals freed. How is it more humane to set animals free that probably couldn't survive than to have them in zoos, where they're well taken care of and can educate people?
  • By the way...MAry Anne's group got an A- on their project. They had to toss their zoo idea since Alan cheated, and study Tigger instead.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

#84 Dawn and the School Spirit War


The SMS baseball team has been winning big time, and in honor of the occasion, April has been named Spirit Month. Each day is going to have some special theme or activity. Dawn likes some of them (Clean Up Your School Day, and Garden Day), but she's not so thrilled about some of the others, like Pajama Day. She just doesn't see how stuff like that will prove that a person has school spirit. Dawn's also not the only one who's unhappy; Mary Anne is practically hyperventilating over the thought of having everyone in school see her pajamas. Mallory isn't thrilled with all the Spirit Month stuff, either, but all the rest of the BSC members are pretty into it. *cue foreboding music*

When Class Color Day rolls around, Dawn totally forgets that all the 8th graders are supposed to wear yellow. She scrambles around at the last minute to find something, but only comes up with a pair of yellow socks. When Dawn gets to school, she gets one crack after another from the other students about her lack of yellow. The local news is even there, and THEY single her out for her lack of spirit. Sharon ends up calling the station to complain about the way they treated her daughter,and she encourages Dawn and Mary Anne to write a petition protesting Spirit Month. Plenty of kids are ready and willing to sign it, but there are just as many who aren't too thriled with what Dawn and Mary Anne are doing. One of them writes a mean message on Dawn's locker, and later, Alan Gray throws a water balloon at the girls. Then, a few days later, and actual food fight breaks out in the cafeteria. As a result, the school holds a meeting for anyone who has anything to say about Spirit Month, but everyone who's against it just gets harrassed.

From then on, things go from bad to worse. A mural of Claudia's is destroyed, kick me signs are being taped to people's backs, and lockers are being glued shut. The members of the BSC are at each other's throats; no one who's against Spirit Month (Dawn, Mal, and Mary Anne) wants to work with anyone who's for it (Kristy, Claudia, and Jessi). There's a town meeting that parents are invited to, and it gets even uglier than the one that was just students. Finally, the school administration cancels Spirit Month. Dawn is surprised that she isn't happier about the new turn of events. So, Dawn and Mary Anne go back to the drawing board and come up with a proposal: Spirit Month should be strictly voluntary, and no one should be made to feel bad for not participating. The principal allows her to read it over the loudspeaker at school, and the new and improved Spirit Month is reinstated.

In other news, the Barrett-DeWitt house is way too small for all those people. The kids have overheard their parents talking, and they're convinced that they'll have to move out of Stoneybrook after all. Nope; they're just going to be building an addition onto the house.

Rating: 0

Thoughts and Things

  • This book is crap. It's only the second time I've read it, and there's a very good chance that it'll be the last.
  • It's funny that two out of my three favorite books in the series (#9 and #50) and my two LEAST favorites (this one and #57) are all Dawn books.
  • Dawn and Mary Anne eventually get 300 signatures for their petition. In Baby-sitters' Winter Vacation, it states that there are 382 students in the school. If that were true, the vast majority of students hated Spirit Month and there shouldn't have been much of a fight.
  • I can't freaking believe that it took them until the end of this stupid book to just make the Spirit activities optional. Geez!

Friday, February 19, 2010

#83 Stacey vs. the BSC


Things with Stacey and the BSC haven't exactly been fantastic lately. She's been spending so much time with Robert that she's coming late to meetings and (as we saw in the last book) getting substitutes for her sitting jobs. She's also noticing things about the other BSC members and their behavior that she doesn't exactly like. They're starting to seem awfully silly and immature, especially when compared to Robert's friends. One night, Stacey gets Mary Anne to substitute for her at the Pikes' so she can go out for pizza with Robert and his crew. Who should show up there, hiding behind a juke box and spying, but Dawn. Stacey is totally embarrassed...and a little scared. She has no idea how the BSC is going to react when Dawn tells them that it was no emergency that kept her from her sitting job....

At the next BSC meeting, things are a little tense. Kristy is especially unhappy with Stacey, but Claudia smooths things over with snacks. Stacey keeps noticing all the silly, immature little things the BSC does, though. She doesn't want to be a snob, but but she's getting more and more annoyed with her supposed best friends. She runs into Kristy, Mary Anne, and Dawn when she's out at Burger Town with Robert and his friends, and she can't stop wishing they would just act their age. The other BSC members aren't the only ones who are screwing up, though. Stacey herself is letting Robert and her new friends get in the way of her BSC duties more and more. During a sitting job with Jamie Newton, Stacey ignores Jamie to talk on the phone to Robert....until Jamie throws up all over everything and Stacey FINALLY understands why he was so whiny all evening. She feels bad about it, but the Newtons are pretty nice about the whole thing. Mrs. Newton DOES call the BSC and ask them to limit phone calls to emergencies, leading to another Kristy lecture.

Things kind of come to a head not long after that. Stacey and Robert had been planning a party at his house for their friends, and the only BSC member that Stacey had invited was Claudia. Just before the party, though, Robert calls Stacey and tells her that they can't have it at his house. They decide to have it at the McGills' instead, leading to a dilemma for Stacey. It wasn't that big of a deal that the BSC wasn't invited when it was at Robert's; after all, it was more his party then and he doesn't really know the club members all that well. Now that it's at Stacey's, she almost feels as if she has to invite her BSC friends. She doesn't (other than Claudia), and Dawn and Mary Anne show up in the middle. of it. Stacey invites them in, but they know they're not really welcome and leave.

Things blow up at the next club meeting. Not only do the other sitters feel stupid for not being invited to Stacey's party, which the whole school knew about, but Stacey also forgot to show up to the BSC talent show. Charlotte, who was planning on playing the piano, was so upset that Stacey broke her promise to be there that she ran off stage without performing. There's lots of yelling, and Stacey quits the club just before Kristy fires her.

Subplot: talent show.

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things
  • I actually like the "Stacey is too mature for the club" story arc. When I was younger, I was never in favor of any of the club members leaving, but now, I'm not so against it. :)
  • There was lots of foreshadowing in regards to Stacey missing meetings and sitting jobs because of Robert, but none when it comes to her thinking that the other BSC members are immature. With the exception of Kristy yelling about her sleepover in the middle of the school gym in Stacey and the Cheerleaders, it's like everyone in the BSC is suddenly annoying and immature.
  • Why does Mallory look like she's about to vomit on the cover? Also, Kristy needs some longer pants.
  • The whole "cool crowd" actually DOES sound more fun to hang out with than the BSC members in this book. In a way, I don't blame Stacey for wanting to hang out with them instead.
  • Poor Jamie. I'm glad Stacey had to clean up after him....but that whole chapter makes mac and cheese slightly less appealing.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Claudia's Book

It's Claudia's turn....

Baby Days

The only actual Claudia memory from this section that doesn't come from interviewing other people happened when she was about four and a half or five. The Kishis were having a cement walk put in in their backyard, and Kristy, Claud, and Mary Anne were fascinated by the event. The three girls discovered pretty quickly that wet cement wasawfully fun to play in, but they were caught by Mimi. Mimi called the workmen, who came back and smoothed over the "art" that they had put into the walkway. Then, Mimi let them put their handprints in the cement.

Happy Birthday to Me

Claudia's 6th birthday happened not long after the end of the school year. She had this huge, circus-themed party planned, and her parents had given her permission to invite everyone in her class. Claudia forgot to give out the invitations until the very last day of school was ending, and when the day of the party arrived, Kristy and Mary Anne were the only ones who showed up. Claudia was crushed, and shut herself in her room, crying. Later, Mimi asked her to go over to Mary Anne's for a minute, and when they got there, all the Thomases, Spiers, and Kishis were there to help Claudia celebrate her birthday.

The Truth About the Tooth Fairy

In Claudia's second grade class, losing teeth was a big deal. Claudia herself hadn't lost any yet, and she was pretty happy about that. She was terrified of the tooth fairy, who she saw as a complete monster, who yanked teeth from straight out of kids' mouths when they're sleeping. Then, disaster struck one day at recess. Claudia was playing tag when she tripped, fell, and knocked her mouth on the ground. One of her teeth really started to hurt after that, but she did her best not to let anyone find out about it. Her parents wormed the truth out of her, and Claud was taken to the dentist the next day. Claudia had the tooth pulled, and that night, Claudia decided to hide in the closet and wait for the tooth fairy that way. She was pretty surprised when her own mother turns out to be the one who took the tooth away and left a silver dollar in its place. Then, Claudia got to thinking; if the tooth fairy was fake, did that mean that Santa and the Easter Bunny were as well?

Boo for Fourth Grade

Claudia did so bad in 4th grade at SES that her parents sent her to an alternative school in Stamford for awhile. Claudia's grades improved, but her mood got worse. She was miserable. She started withdrawing from her friends and sleeping all the time. Finally, Mr. and Mrs. Kishi put her back in SES and got her as much individual help there as they could.

The Sea Rose

When Claud was 11, the Thomases invited her on their beach vacation. Hammond Beach wasn't exactly what Claud had imagined it would be, but she liked it all the same. One day, she and Kristy were playing on the beach when David Michael asked to go get a hot dog. Kristy gave him 10 minutes to go and be back, but when he didn't turn up, the girls got worried. They look everywhere for him, and Kristy got pretty frantic. David Michael is found, playing on the beach with some other kids; he'd had no idea that his 10 minutes was up. Kristy freaked out on him, yelling at him not to say he's coming back and then not do it. Claudia realized that being Kristy, as tough as she is, probably wasn't the easiest job in the world.

Rating: 2.5

Thoughts and Things
  • Claudia gets a B- on her project.
  • There are all sorts of inconsistencies in this book: it says that Mr. Kishi is a lawyer, not an investment guy, David Michael is both 4.5 and 5 in the "Sea Rose" chapters, and Claudia says at different times that her butterfly self portrait was drawn in kindergarten AND first grade. Sheesh.
  • Mimi is awesome!
  • This might actually be my least favorite of the portrait books. That's odd, because Claudia was always one of my favorite sitters.
  • One thing that this book DOES have going for it: most of the pictures of Claudia inside are actually pretty cute.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

M#19 Kristy and the Missing Fortune


It's February, and everyone at Kristy's house has cabin fever. Karen suggests going into Watson's library to play, and the other kids are up for it. Kristy finds an old book there that not only has "diary entries" or sorts regarding things that happened in old Stoneybrook, but it also contains a list of residents. The kids ask Kristy to look up Thomas, and she's pretty surprised at what she finds: there was a Christina Thomas who was born in the 1840's who disappeared from Squirelot (her family's home) in 1863. Kristy can't let a mystery like that go, so she makes up her mind to solve it.

Kristy heads to the library that weekend to do some research on Christina's disappearance, even though none of her friends can join her. Kristy discovers that Christina's parents died in a carriage accident about two years before Christina left home, and that when she left, some gold and important documents relating to the Thomases' fortune left with her. Kristy is pretty excited about that; if she and Christina are related, then Kristy herself might end up rich...if the missing gold is ever found.

The Thomas/Brewer kids aren't the only ones feeling cabin feverish; it's become an epidemic in Stoneybrook. One thing the sitters have found to keep the kids busy is taking them to the arboretum. During their visits, the girls find out that the place is in trouble. It's located on a big estate, and even though the buildings belong to the town, the land doesn't. No one really knows who DOES own it, since a fire destroyed town records. There's a development company that's interested in building on the site, and if they buy the land, the arboretum will have to close. There's one chance for it: a wealthy woman is interested in buying the property, but it needs a LOT of fixing up before she can see it. It's the BSC to the rescue! Almost from the get-go, though, things go wrong. Jessi notices that the bucket she's been using goes missing, and there are footprints where none of the workers have been. There are alos pikes of weeds and things appearing in places that had already been cleared. Kristy thinks it's totally possible that DT Developers (she found their business card on the ground) are the ones looking to build on the property, and just might be sabotaging the efforts to clean up the place.

Kristy goes back the library for more Christina research, this time with backup. They do some genealogy, and figure out that Christina's great-grand niece, Mildred Abbott, is still alive and living in Stoneybrook. Kristy meets her for tea and (hopefully) information. Mrs. Abbott points out that Thomas is a fairly common last name, and that it's totally possible that Christina is no relation at all. Kristy doesn't care; she wants to find out what happened to Christina more than she wants to find the fortune at this point. Mrs. Abbott tells her that Christina's brother, Devon, was trying to get his sister to marry a friend of his. That way, this friend would take control of the money Christina inherited when her parents died, and could then invest it in Devon's business. Christina was in love with someone else, and she was planning to elope with him. Before they can run away, her fiancee is shipped off to fight in the Civil War. She ran away on her own to be with him, but he was killed in action. No one knows what happened to Christina after that, although her family did recieve a letter that she sent to Henry telling him what she was planning. His family had sent it back, thinking it might contain some clues to her disappearance. Mrs. Abbott lets Kristy make a copy of the letter.

Next, Kristy heads BACK to the library to try and figure out where Squirelot was located. She compares a map of Stoneybrook from back in the 1800s with a current one, and at least one piece of the mystery gets solved: Squirelot and the arboretum are the same place. The BSC discusses this new find, and decide (thanks to some clues in the letter) that Christina had a special hiding place at home. Since there were roses drawn on the letter she sent to Henry, the girls think that the rose garden might be a good place to start. They head over the arboretum and find out that Mrs. Goldsmith (manager of the place) is not happy about the mess that was left by the "helpers" the day before. Jessi promises that it will be cleaned up. The club members find some shovels, and start digging in the rose garden. They'd been working for half an hour when they're work is interrupted by Mrs. Goldsmith and Mrs. VanderBellen....the one who was thinking of buying the place. After seeing the mess, the girls are asked to leave. They find out later that Mrs. VanderBellen has decided NOT to buy the arboretum. The girls feel bad, but they STILL have Christina's mystery to solve. They do some more historical research and realize that the moon was full the day that Christina disappeared. There was a circle drawn around the roses on her letter, so the club thinks that the full moon might have some significance. Since there's a full moon in a few days, the girls decide to go and see what they find.

The big night arrives. The girls all tell their parents that they're having a slumber party, but they get Charlie to drive them to the arboretum instead (why does that sound so familiar?). As the girls are waiting for the moon to rise, they realize they're not alone. Someone is following them, and it's none other than Cokie Mason. Kristy and the others had noticed her hanging around when they were discussing the mystery, but hadn't thought anything of it. It turns out that Mildred Abbott is Cokie's grandmother, and so Cokie figures that she should get a share of whatever treasure is found. The girls are all waiting at the rose garden when they realize something important: the roses in the letter weren't red, like the ones in the garden, but brown, like the ones carved into the porch railing. The BSC members plus Cokie all race over there just as the moon is rising. There's a shadow from a tree that's cast right onto the carvings, so the girls start digging under that tree. They find a box containing a locket with a picture of a girl who looks like Kristy, another letter to Henry stating that Christina had all her gold with her, and the original Squirelot lease. Christina left the property to the town of Stoneybrook in the event of Henry's death, so the arboretum was saved. Kristy ends up getting to keep the locket, but she's not so excited about the possibility of being related to Christina. After all, that would mean that she's related to Cokie as well!

Rating: 2

Thoughts and Things
  • I don't buy that Watson the gardener had no idea that the arboretum existed.
  • It's kind of cool that this mystery never got completely solved; we never DID find out what happened to Christina.
  • I can't believe I'm on mystery #19 already!
  • The girls didn't seem to think about the fact that they were tresspassing at the arboretum, not to mention vandalizing it after they'd already been thrown out once.
  • I wish Cokie was on the cover of this book; I'm curious about how Hodges would draw her....
  • For some reason, this book was just BRUTAL to recap. I don't know why it was so hard to get through.

Friday, February 12, 2010

#82 Jessi and the Troublemaker


Danielle Roberts's leukemia is in remission, and she's been feeling really good. She's got tons of energy, and her family and friends couldn't be happier. The BSC is glad, too, but they can't help but wonder if Danielle might be going a little too far. Jessi is the first one to experience the new Danielle. She's reading to Danielle's brother, Greg, when they hear a big crash in the study. They race back there, and find Danielle sprawled on the floor, wearing her mother's Rollerblades next to a knocked-over bookcase. Danielle's not hurt, so Jessi doesn't say anything to her parents when they get home. After all, the fact that Danielle is feeling good enough to skate at all is a good thing.

Mary Anne is the next one to sit for Danielle and Greg. It SHOULD have been Stacey, but she called Mary Anne at the last minute ans asked her to sub. Charlotte Johanssen and Haley Braddock come over to play, and Mary Anne catches them sledding down the basement stairs on an old crib mattress. No one gets hurt, but they DO get plenty dirty before Mary Anne finds out what they're doing and puts a stop to it. The BSC members talk about Danielle's antics at their next meeting, but they agree not to say anything for the time being. If her parents aren't worried about her behavior, they figure they shouldn't be, either.

Kristy is next up at the Roberts' house. This time, Haley, Charlotte, Becca, and Vanessa all come to play with Danielle. Things are pretty quiet at first, but quiet doesn't necessarily mean that everyone is staying out of trouble, as Kristy finds out. She's busy reading to Greg (he's sick with a cold) when she realizes that she's been hearing running water for WAY too long. Since Greg has fallen asleep, Kristy investigates. She finds the girls in one of the bathrooms...building a swimming pool. They'd sealed up the shower and just let the water run. They'd even put Easter egg dye in the water. There's a flood, of course, but Kristy and the girls get it all cleaned up before Mrs. Roberts gets home. At the next meeting, the girls agree that Danielle is going way too far with her hijinks, so Kristy gives her mother a call. Mrs. Roberts basically just brushes it off as "high spirits," so the girls leave it at that.

Jessi sits for Danielle and Greg again not long after that. Once again, it was supposed to be Stacey, but she flaked out. Charlotte, Haley, Vanessa, and Becca are over again, and Danielle announces that they're going to play a game called "Going on a Car Trip." Jessi thinks it's totally innocent...until she peeks into the garage to check on them and finds the girls and the car missing. She runs outside just in time to see the car slowly turning the corner, with Danielle at the wheel. She makes it to the driveway, but then the car rolls backward and she can't stop it. It smashes into another car across the street. Jessi races over, and although the girls are scared silly, the only one who seems to be hurt is Vanessa. A neighbor calls 911, and while another neighbor watches the other girls, Jessi and Vanessa head to the hospital. Vanessa is fine (just a little cut on the head), but Jessi is a wreck. As soon as her dad picks her up, she basically loses it.

As soon as Jessi gets home, she takes a nap. Then, she calls the Roberts house to check on Danielle, and both Roberts parents apologize for letting their daughter get so out of control. There are other, lasting effects from the accident, though. None of Danielle's friends will speak to her because she got them in so much trouble. Stacey helps them work through it when she's sitting at the Robertes (yes, she actually shows up for a job) by helping them see that they were all at fault, too. It was their choice to get in that car, even though they knew it was wrong.

Subplot: Jessi and Becca over hear Aunt Cecelia talking about a wedding with a (male) friend of hers, and they're convinced that the two of them are planning on getting married. The fact that Aunt Cecelia says nothing about it to anyone doesn't stop them from making plans. On the day of the supposed wedding, the girls dress up, ready to go watch their aunt get married. Too bad she and Mr. Major are IN a wedding, not having one of their own. Jessi is really embarrassed, because she told the whole BSC about the wedding. She doesn't want to have to admit that she was wrong, so she and Becca figure that they should just convince Aunt Cecelia and Mr. Major that they DO want to get married. They cook a romantic dinner for the two of them, but the not-so-happy couple tell the girls that they're just friends, and have no intention of ever marrying each other.

Rating: 1.5

Thoughts and Things
  • Lots of foreshadowing of Stacey's defection....
  • I actually liked the subplot; reading about the Ramsey family is usually pretty entertaining.
  • Danielle on the cover looks an awful lot like a young Scarlett Johansson. She would have been about 11 when this book was published...I wonder if there's any chance that she was the model???

Thursday, February 11, 2010

#81 Kristy and Mr. Mom


Watson hasn't been doing too well lately, and Kristy has noticed. He's been keeping himself awfully busy with work, and he seems to be getting tired very quickly. When Kristy sees Watson trying to shovel the snow in the driveway, she quickly takes over and sends Watson into the house to rest. He only makes it as far as the porch before he collapses; he's having chest pains. Kristy rushes into the house and yells for her mom and Nannie. She calls 911, and the operator promises to send an ambulence and tells Kristy how to keep Watson comfortable. When the ambulence arrives, Elizabeth and Nannie go to the hospital, leaving Kristy with David Michael and Emily Michelle. The kids (including Kristy) are worried. Shannon, Mary Anne, and Dawn all come over to keep them company, and to help Kristy take care of everything that needs to be done (notifying Sam and Charlie, getting stuff ready for school the next day).

Nannie comes home that night with good news: Watson did have a heart attack, but it was mild. He's been ordered to make some changes, though: better diet, more excersise, less hours at work. Watson doesn't seem to have any trouble with those orders; all he wants to do is spend time with his family, and he's become awfully emotional about doing so. In fact, Watson makes a big announcement at dinner one night. He's decided to turn over most of the day-to-day operations of his business to one of his vice presidents, and become a stay at home dad. This decision goes over pretty well with everyone...except Nannie. She starts to feel like she's not needed anymore, and surprises the family with her own announcement. She's found her own apartment and will be moving out.

Things go okay at first without Nannie there. Everyone misses her, of course, but the household runs relatively smoothly. Then, February begins. That's one of Karen and Andrew's "big house" months, and adding two other people to the mix just makes everything fall apart at the seams. The place is a mess, things aren't getting done, the kids are running wild, and Emily Michelle is sick. Plus, Watson is finding that he can't just give up on work like he had planned; it keeps creeping back into his life. When Kristy goes to visit Nannie in her new place, she confesses how bad things have gotten, and asks Nannie to move back. Nannie had wanted that all along, but didn't want to be in Watson's way. In the end, it's decided that Nannie will take over her old role in the house, and Watson will work from home three hours every day.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Marshall has created a difficult situation for the BSC. Dawn is the first one to encounter it; she goes expecting to take care of only Nina and Eleanor, but finds three other children there as well. Their mother and Mrs. Marshall are taking an exercise class together, and Mrs. Marshall had told her it would be fine to leave all the kids together. Nothing really awful happens to Dawn, but Mallory's experience is a little different. One of the kids falls down the stairs and cuts his lip, and the others are running wild. Mal has to call Jessi for backup, but when Mrs. Marshall comes home, she refuses to pay Jessi for her time. Stacey is the the next one to get a job with the Marshalls, and she brings Claudia along right from the start. When Mrs. Marshall again refuses to pay for two sitters, they both walk out. Later, they realize that Mrs. Marshall probably didn't know that the club has a rule about two sitters being needed for more than four kids, so Kristy calls and explains it to her.

Rating: 2

Thoughts and Things
  • This book had an almost "early BSC" feel to it in some places, but I can't put my finger on why.
  • The hot SMS gossip in this one is that Pete Black and Sabrina Bouvier went to the movies together. I have two things to say about that. First, I guess Pete must have run out of BSC members to date at this point. Second, I sincerely hope it's the 13 year old Sabrina he's dating, not the little pageant kid Sabrina.
  • Why didn't the mother of the other kids offer to chip in for the sitter? Even though Mrs. Marshall was wrong to just expect the BSC to take care of all those kids for the same pay rate as taking care of just Nina and Eleanor, it was also wrong for Mrs. Phillips to just expect to leave her kids with a sitter for free. Some friend she is....

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

SS#12 Here Come the Bridesmaids!

Jack Schafer and Carol are getting married in CA, and Mrs. Barrett and Mr. DeWitt are getting married in Stoneybrook. Most of the BSC members are involved in one way or another...

Dawn is, of course, going to be a bridesmaid at her dad's wedding. Since Mary Anne is too (or so she thinks), Dawn ends up buying the dresses for both of them before Mary Anne comes out to CA for the wedding, but Mary Anne is not exactly pleased with things when she does get there. She hates the dress, she hates the idea of a beach wedding, and she hates the idea of being a bridesmaid and having everyone look at her for the duration of the wedding. Just as she starts getting used to the idea, though, she and Dawn BOTH get a big surprise: Dawn is going to be the maid of honor, and there aren't going to be any additional bridesmaids at all. Mary Anne is almost as upset about this as she was about having to do it in the first place. She gets all mad at Dawn for not considering HER feelings and HER wishes, but they make up in time for the wedding. Mary Anne even wears the dress that Dawn bought her.

Claudia is in CA, working off the cost of her plane ticket there. She's sort of a wedding consultant, and she's running around doing last minute errands for the wedding party. She also gets to take candid pictures at the reception.

Kristy also goes to CA for Jack and Carol's wedding, and while she's there, she helps the We Love Kids Club organize a farewell party for Dawn. They'd kind of had one planned, but of course, no one in CA can plan anything without the help of Kristy Thomas. :)

Jeff is not looking forward to having all of Carol's ugly furniture move into his house after the wedding. He's also worried about what will happen to Mrs. Bruen once Carol's living there. Then, the van full of Carol's stuff gets stolen, and Mrs. Bruen tells Jeff that Mr. Schafer wants to double her hours.

Stacey has become the Barretts' new go-to girl. Since she's gotten so close the them, Mrs. Barrett asks her to take the place of a bridesmaid who dropped out. Stacey agrees.

Shannon is one of the sitters hired to look after the Barrett-DeWitt bunch during the wedding. She spends most of it in the church nursery with little Ryan DeWitt after he starts crying because of the noise and won't stop.

Mallory is the other sitter hired for the wedding. She's so excited about the job that she forgets she agreed to take some kids caroling with Ben Hobart the same day. When she calls Ben to cancel, he gets mad. They don't speak again until Mal gets home from working the wedding. They agree to reschedule, and have a good time.

Jessi plays Santa Claus at Bellair's after their orignal Santa is cast in a movie.

Logan helps the Barretts and DeWitts move into their new house.

Suzi Barrett is scared that Santa won't be able to find them in their new house. She tosses around a few ideas before deciding to leave a trail of cookie crumbs from the old house to the new.

Rating: 3.5

Thoughts and Things

  • I'm surprised that I like this book as much as I do, considering how light on plot it is.
  • Jeff's chapters are, hands down, the most entertaining in the book. :)
  • On the other hand, I could have done without Suzi, and Logan's one chapter was totally unnecessary.
  • There's a nice contrast between the two weddings. You've got the laid-back, non-traditional, CA beach wedding, and then you've got the formal, traditional, fancy church wedding.
  • I had to laugh when one of the Barrett-DeWitt kids got caught drawing a dragon in the church hymnal, and he tried to excuse his behavior by saying that it was St. George's dragon! Peter L. comes up with some good ones sometimes.
  • This was back in the day when only one movie was shown to everyone on the airplane. When I flew last year, everyone got their own little screen and choice of movies (or games), and the headphones were free.
  • Claudia's outfit on the cover isn't half bad, although the pants look tapered in one of the inside illustrations. Kristy's dress, on the other hand, couldn't be uglier.
  • The title of this book is actually kind of misleading. There's really only one bridesmaid, and that's Stacey. Dawn thought she was one, but ended up being the maid of honor.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

M# 18 Stacey and the Mystery at the Empty House

The Johanssens are off to Paris, and they've asked Stacey to look after their house (and Carrot) while they're away. It's a big responsibility, especially since Carrot likes to chew things up while no one is there, but STacey is enjoying herself. At least, she is at first. Then, the odd things start to happen. When Stacey goes to check on Carrot one afternoon, he growls at her. He's never done that before, and even though he calms down when he sees that it's someone he knows, Stacey is still a little shaken up. Then, Stacey finds a glass in the sink on two separate occasions when she's sure she didn't use one. Even though those things could be explained away fairly easily (Stacey thinks she just might have forgotten she used a glass), stuff keeps happening. The coffee pot is warm one morning, and there are some Kleenexes in a wastebasket that Stacey is sure she emptied. Carrot's leash is also hung up in a different place, and the house smells like toast at one point. Stacey tries to ignore all those little things, as creepy as they are, but she can't ignore the woman she finds in the bushes in front of the Johanssens' house. She's just a meter reader, but Stacey lets it slip that she doesn't actually own the house. Later, she sees the meter reader arguing with her husband and business partner. When she gets back after walking Carrot that same day, she notices that the newspaper is missing. That's when Stacey decides to get help from the BSC.

At the next club meeting, Stacey gives the others a rundown on what's happening. They agree that each one of those little events by themselves could be explained away, but when they're all put together, it looks pretty creepy. The girls decide not to take any action, since it doesn't seem like the house has been broken into. The next time that Stacey is at the Johanssens', though, things get even weirder. Her watch, which she'd taken off and left the previous time, isn't where she left it. Then, when she's looking for towels to dry off Carrot after a walk in the rain, she notices a hairbrush in the bathroom with red hairs in it. This discovery totally freaks her out. Not only did that meter reader have flaming red hair, but so does this escaped prisoner that's currently on the run. Stacey quickly gets Carrot back on his leash and runs to Claudia's in a panic.

Claudia manages to calm Stacey down, and they go back to the Johanssens' to take a closer look at everything. They notice something that Stacey didn't see before: there's a vase in the front hall that's been broken. Stacey figures that Carrot probably did it, so she decides to replace it. Claudia isn't so sure that Carrot is responsible, so she suggests calling an emergency meeting of the BSC. The girls decide that Stacey shouldn't be alone in the house anymore, so they work out a schedule so one of them will be with her on each of her visits. They also decide to stake out the house by having a slumber party at Jessi's that Friday (the back of the Johanssens' is visible from the Ramseys'). It starts snowing while they're there, so Claudia and Stacey decide to og and look for footprints. There are none, but there's something else: the vase that was broken is now sitting on the hall table, totally intact.

The next morning, Claudia and Stacey go over the Johanssens' together again. The message pad next to the phone is different than Stacey left it; the pages she used have been turned over, and there's a number written on the next page in handwriting that Stacey doesn't recognize. She calls the number, and it's a recording of train schedules. She gets the others together quickly and they head down to the station, sure they're going to figure out the identity of the mysterious, red-headed intruder. They DO see him down there...meeting the Johanssens as they get off their train. He's a friend of theirs from out of town who had an open invitation to use the house whenever he was in Stoneybrook. He left so early in the morning and came back so late at night that he never crossed paths with Stacey. He was also the one who broke (and later replaced) the vase.

Also, the sitters are planning a sleigh ride for their charges. They need snow to make it happen, though, and for awhile, it looks like it might not. Luckily, the white stuff arrives just in time.

Rating: 2.5

Thoughts and Things

  • At one point, Stacey sees Carrot twitching and whining in his sleep like dogs do and kind of panics. The same thing happened to me once. I knew full well that dogs sometimes kick a little when they're "dreaming," but this dog was thrashing around like nobody's business. I seriously thought he was having a seizure.
  • By the way...the escaped criminal is caught, and the meter reader and her husband make up after their fight (in case you care).
  • Charlotte keeps trying to speak French at the beginning of the books, and she thinks that "thank you very much" is pronounced "mercy buckets." I am totally going to start saying that...
  • So Mrs. McGill used to live in Paris and almost married a French guy? Cool.
  • Claudia seems awfully excited about the museums in Paris in this book. I always wondered why she didn't really want to go on the Europe trip later in the series. Those playground jobs are NOTHING compared to London and Paris!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Stacey's Book

So...all SMS 8th graders have been given the assignment to write their autobiographies. Stacey is up first.

The Early Years

Stacey's first clear memory comes from when she was three, and her family moved from Greenwich Village to the Upper East Side. Next comes preschool, where some other kid put his muddy boots on top of Stacey's copy of Eloise in her cubby (she ends up friends with that kid later on). Mr. and Mrs. McGill take Stacey to the Palm Court in the Plaza Hotel for her 4th birthday, and everyone in the restaurant (including Luciano Pavarotti) sings "Happy Birthday" to her. After the meal, Stacey runs around the hotel pretending to be Eloise, and finally, her parents take her for a carriage ride.

When I Was Five

Stacey's now in kindergarten, and she's just getting to be good friends with Laine Cummings. She's also obsessed with Cinderella, so when her mom (a Macy's employee at that time) signs her up to ride on the Cinderella float in the Thanksgiving Day Parade, Stacey is thrilled. She tells all of her little friends that she's going to be on tv. Just as her float is entering Herald Square and the presence of the tv cameras, Cinderella's crown falls off. Stacey reaches down to pick it up, and doesn't appear on tv at all. When she finds out that no one could see her, she worries that the other kids at school won't believe that she was even IN the parade. Luckily, Cinderella gave Stacey her crown after the parade, so Stace at least has that much proof.

When I Was Eight

Stacey and Laine aren't really allowed to walk around the city on their own, but there's this little store nearby where the girls are allowed to go alone when they want ice cream. They go one day, and without their parents' permission, walk a little bit further than they should to look in some other stores. They decide to get an apartment together, and the list they made of stuff they would need includes such useful items as a giant red crayon and a gumball machine. Not long after, Stacey's mom has news for her. Stacey is sure that her mom is going to tell her that she and Laine are going to be allowed to get their own place right then, but that's not it. Mrs. McGill and Mrs. Cummings have enrolled their daughters in a 6 week ballroom dancing class. Neither girl wants to go, so they ditch. They spend the first class in the cloakroom, laughing at the other kids and the goofy stuff they have to do. During the next class, though, they get a little adventurous. They head out to Madision Avenue, and get some candy at a deli. They go to Park Avenue as well, but neither of them find it all that interesting. They make it back to the dance school by the end of class. They successfully ditch two more dance classes, but things don't go so well during the one that follows. They decide to go to FAO Schwarz, but since it's so far, they take the bus. Traffic is so bad that they have to turn around and go back without even seeing the store, and they end up half an hour late. The police are there, and the girls are in major trouble. Not only that, but they're forced to see the dance class through to the end.

When I Was Ten

Stacey's family takes a vacation to Pine Island, Maine. It's really rustic there, and Stacey doesn't expect to have a good time. There's only one other girl there her age, Mara O'Connell, and they don't exactly get along at first. Then, Mara and her family help the McGills out of a jam when Mr. McGill falls and kreaks his ankle. Things are better between Stacey and Mara after that, and they end up having a good time together. They promise to write, but neither one of them ever does.

When I Was Twelve

Stacey is living back in New York again, and she's invited Claudia for a visit. Stacey goes out of the way to show Claud a good time, but Claud seems cranky and bored. Stace starts to think that her best friend doesn't really want to be her best friend anymore, but Claudia is just feeling bad because she doesn't think she belongs in Stacey's new life in New York. She's afraid Stacey doesn't need or want her anymore, since she's got so many great friends in the city. Stacey confesses that her "great friends" in the city really aren't so great, and that she's missing Stoneybrook. The girls patch things up just in time to have a nice day together before Claudia goes back home.

Rating: 3.5

Thoughts and Things

  • The "When I Was Twelve" chapter should technically be titled, "When I Was Thirteen." Stacey's move back to New York happened during 8th grade, and she was definitely thirteen then.
  • Someone in BSC land really likes the name Mara. First, there was Mara, the oldest of the kids living in the mall. Then there was Mara Semple, a classmate of Jessi's in Jessi's Horrible Prank, followed by the Mara in this book.
  • The Portrait books aren't half bad; I'm glad I've gotten to that point in the series!
  • Those pictures of Stacey in the "When I Was Twelve" chapter? Eeesh. Especially the one on page 160.
  • Stacey gets an A on her autobiography, in case you were wondering. :)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

#80 Mallory Pike, #1 Fan


Mallory's English class has been assigned a huge project. They're supposed to think about a career they're interested in, and come up with some sort of written project centered on that career. Mal knows she wants to write about being a writer, but she's having trouble coming up with a project. Since she wants to write for kids eventually, Kristy suggests she write a play and have the Kids Can Do Anything Club at SES perform it. Mallory loves the idea, and she's sure her teacher will, too. Imagine her surprise when Mr. Williams asks Mal to stay after class to talk about her project proposal. He doesn't feel that it's really career-oriented, and that Mal probably won't learn anything about being a writer just by putting on a play with the kids.

Mallory is pretty bummed when she gets home from school that day, but her mood quickly changes when she sees the mail that's waiting for her. She'd written her new favorite author, Henrietta Hayes, not long before that, and Ms. Hayes had already written back! Mallory's excitement is short-lived, though, when she reads the letter more carefully and realizes that it's just a form letter. She notices that the letter is postmarked Stamford, which gives Mal a new idea for her project: she's going to compare and contrast the life and experiences of Henrietta Hayes with her own life. Mal quickly writes another letter, explaining her project and asking for a real response. It doesn't work; she gets another form letter. Mallory writes a third time and gets yet another form letter. Does Mal give up? No; she looks up Ms. Hayes' address in the phone book and decides to pay her a visit. Mallory is pretty nervous about just walking up to her house, but she sucks it up and goes. Ms. Hayes invites her in, apologizes for the form letters, and even offers her something to drink. She even agrees to help Mal with her project, and when the interview is over, she offers to hire Mallory as her assistant for the next couple of weeks. Mal accepts.

Meanwhile, the Kids Club is pretty excited about working on Mal's play. At least, they are at first. Mallory has become convinced that every author HAS to write from their own life, so the play she writes is based heavily on the Pike family. Well, sort of: everyone but Mal ends up looking bad, and Mal writes herself as the long-suffering angel of the family. The other Pike kids are understandably NOT happy, and their friends who are acting in the play are on the verge of quitting. Mal convinces them to stay, until her mother has a chance to see the play. If Mrs. Pike thinks the play is insulting, then she'll let them quit. Mallory is confident that her play will pass the "mother test".....but it doesn't. Mrs. Pike suggests a rewrite, but not only does Mal not think the kids can learn a new play in only a week (Jessi points out that they don't know all their lines from the original one at the point), but she doesn't want to write an untrue play and make herself into a liar.

Mal's Henrietta Hayes project is going pretty well, but her teacher thinks she needs more biographical information. Mallory heads to the library, and Mrs. Kishi shows her the file she keeps on Ms. Hayes (the library has them for all local writers). Mallory is pretty surprised and dismayed by what she learns; Ms. Hayes' life doesn't at all match up with the lives of her book characters. Mal feels betrayed, as if her favorite author has been lying to her all along. The next time that Mallory is working for her, she bascially calls her a liar and tells Ms. Hayes that she's not being fair to the readers. Obviously, Ms. Hayes is mad. She suggests that Mal look up the meaning of the word "fiction," and then retreats into her study. Mal leaves Ms. Hayes a note, saying that she won't be returning to work and that she was wrong about how much she could learn from the job. What a brat! Mal eventually realizes that she was WAY too harsh on Ms. Hayes, and goes to her house to apologize. They talk things out, and Ms. Hayes helps Mal to see that good writing can be autobiographical, but it doesn't have to be.

Mal ends up rewriting her play, and the new version is much gentler than the old one. The audience, including Henrietta Hayes, seems to like it, and Mallory gets a fantastic grade on her project.

Rating: 1.5

Thoughts and Things
  • The audience may have liked Mal's play, but it sound AWFUL to me. Also, where does she get off making herself look like such a saint in the first version she wrote?
  • Um, Mallory? Writing three letters and then going to someone's house when you don't get the answer you want isn't determination, it's stalking.
  • I'm surprised Mrs. Pike didn't stop Mallory from taking off for Henrietta Hayes' house. You think a parent would have some sense of appropriate boundaries when it comes to stuff like that, and Mrs. Pike was right there when Mal announced where she was going.
  • Almost everything about this book irritated me; Mal was annoying, her stupid play was annoying, her disorganization when she worked with the elementary school kids was annoying, and the cover is annoying. Seriously; Mal looks like she's pushing 40!
  • I must be losing my mind, but I could have sworn that this book was written by Nola Thacker, especially considering how many references to past books are in it. It's actually Suzanne Weyn, though.

Friday, February 5, 2010

M#17 Dawn and the Halloween Mystery

It's almost Halloween, and Dawn is out shopping with Carol. Dawn is done first, and as she's waiting in the car for Carol, she hears a commotion in a nearby store. Someone wearing a clown mask runs out, followed by a clerk from that store who yells that they've been robbed. The clown robber jumps into a nearby black Chevy Cavalier and drives away. Dawn is questioned by the police about what she saw, and about whether or not the "clown" saw her (he didn't). Dawn's pretty terrified by the experience, and bummed that the fact that robber wasn't caught. The Palo City parents have decided that it will be too dangerous for their kids to go trick or treating with a criminal on the loose, so they've instituted a curfew until he's caught.

Dawn is talking over the robbery with the other members of the We Love Kids Club, and they decide they need to catch the crook. Their first stop is the little variety store that Dawn had been shopping in before the robbery happened. It isn't the same place that was robbed, but they carry a lot of Halloween stuff, and Dawn thinks they might carry the kid of mask that the robber wore. They don't, but the salesperson points Dawn and the others towards another store that's only open during Halloween. The clerk there tells the girls that all three of those masks that they had in stock had been sold, and he describes the buyers: one was a high school guy with long, brown hair who left on a skateboard, one drove away in a van from a nearby flower shop, and one was a woman. Right away, the girls decide that the woman doesn't fit as a suspect, so they concentrate on tracking down the two male suspects. The guy at the flower shop bought the mask for his daughter, and it doesn't look like he borrowed it beforehand to rob any stores. The high school guy, turns out to be one of the nicest kids going: he does charity work, helps old ladies and pets cross the street, picks up litter, etc. The girls decide that he's probably not guilty, either, and they're left without any more leads. Actually, not quite: the car that was used in the robbery had a bumper sticker on it from a local fast food place, so the club decides to stake it out and see who comes and goes. The cashier is a blond woman who looks a bit older than most fast food workers (about 35), and the girls mention that they're looking for a boy who drives a black Chevy with a bumper sticker from the restaurant. The cashier tells them that the bumper stickers are free to all customers, so it would be hard to narrow it down based on that. The girls order sodas (no way any of them are eating hot dogs, which is what they serve there), and wait as long as they can to see if anyone suspicious comes in. The only weird thing that happens, though, is that the cashier keeps staring at them. Hmmmm.....

Dawn has been sitting for Erick and Ryan DeWitt a lot lately, and they've got a new friend. His name is Timmy Ford, and he and his dad have just moved in across the street. Timmy is nice, but really shy, and he's having some family problems. His mom isn't in the picture at the moment, and his dad is at work a lot. They're having money problems, too, and Timmy doesn't even think he'll be able to attend the We Love Kids Club Halloween party that's being held in place of trick or treating. Dawn (and the salesperson at the aforementioned variety store) help him put together a cheap costume, so Timmy can look forward to Halloween right along with his new friends. Since the robber hasn't been caught, it looks like the We Love Kids Club Halloween party will be the only celebrating they do that year. In fact, there's actually been another robbery.

On Halloween, Dawn is on her way to a sitting job when she notices the gate to the Fords' backyard sitting open. She goes to close it, and notices some footprints in the yard that match the ones left by the robber (the type of sneakers leaves a very distinct mark). She doesn't think much of it, since lots of people have that type of shoes, but when she passes by the Fords' garage, she stops in her tracks. Inside is a black Chevy Cavalier, complete with a bumper sticker from the hot dog place. Dawn puts two and two together, and figures out that Timmy's dad MUST be the robber. She hurries across the street to the DeWitts and tells Mrs. DeWitt what she suspects. They call the police, who take Timmy's dad into custody.

Since the robber has been caught, the Palo City parents decide that trick or treating can go ahead as planned. Dawn is in charge of taking Clover and Daffodil Austin, and Stephie Robertson around, and all three girls are having a blast. Dawn is a little creeped out, though; at one point, she thinks she sees someone creeping around through backyards. She figures Halloween is just getting to her, so she puts it out of her mind. Then, as they're passing the Fords' house on the way home, she's sure she sees someone back there digging. Not only that, but the mystery person is wearing an all black outfit and a clown mask. That's exactly what the robber was wearing when Dawn saw him. She rushes the kids over the to DeWitts and tells Mrs. DeWitt what's going on. The police had already determined that Timmy's dad wasn't the robber (he had a solid alibi for the time of the first robbery), so Dawn is mystified about who it could be. When the police arrive and umask the clown, it's Timmy's mother, aka the lady from the hot dog place. Guess they shouldn't have wrote off the idea of a female robber, should they?

Back in Stoneybrook, the DeWitts and Barretts are househunting. The parents find one that would be perfect for the family, except for one thing: it's in Greenvale, not Stoneybrook. The kids don't really want to leave all their friends, or their school, so they eventually agree on a house not far from SES. It's smaller than the Greenvale one (and sounds much less awesome, if you ask me), but the kids would rather have a smaller house in Stoneybrook than have to move.

Rating: 2.5

Thoughts and Things

  • It really surprises me that Dawn, of all people, wouldn't consider that the robber could be female. I would pick her as being totally into equality.
  • If I were Dawn, I would have been more scared of the clown mask than the fact that the person inside it had just robbed a store!
  • "A clown is my friend. A clown will not bite me and throw me in the basement...."
  • I like that this one took place at the same time as the last book, but it would have been nice if either book had referenced the other in some way.
  • Dawn dresses as Pippi Longstocking for the WLKC Halloween party. She must have used a lot of wire and hairspray to get her hair to stand out to the sides like that. Plus, she must have had to walk in to rooms sideways!