Wednesday, March 31, 2010

SS#13 Aloha, Baby-sitters!

It's time for the SMS trip to Hawaii that the girls (and Logan) were all saving for in the last book.

Jessi is sad that Mallory can't go on the trip, so she spends all her time writing in a journal and taking pictures so Mal will get the full Hawaii experience.

Abby lies about her age, convinces some people filming a suntan lotion commercial that she's actually 18, and lands a spot in the ad. There's lots of talk about Steven Spielberg seeing her commercial and casting her in a movie. Gotta love Abby's imagination!

Mary Anne and Logan have been getting flak from their friends for spending too much time together, so they decide to be "together but independent" while in Hawaii. That means they won't avoid each other, but they won't try and spend every second together, either. They end hating the experiment, and sit together on the plane ride home. Also, Mary Anne accepts a sitting job for what she hopes will be a "typical Hawaiian family." She feels stupid when she realizes that they're really not that different from the families she sits for back home.

Claudia visits Pearl Harbor, realizes the full extent of what happened there, and starts to feel bad about being Japanese. She's convinced that everyone hates her for what happened, just because of her ethnicity. Mary Anne arranges for Claud to take a sitting job with the same family she herself sat for. The kids just happen to have a grandfather who fought in World War II, and she shows Claudia that she can't take the mistakes of her ancestors personally. They were different people, and it was a different time.

Dawn cleans up a messy beach. Is anyone really surprised?

Stacey is kind of witchy to Robert for most of the trip. Then, she's in a helicopter crash, and is missing for awhile. They make up after she's found safe.

Kristy and Mallory both stay home. Kristy's family is going to Hawaii not long after the SMS kids get back, and Mal's parents didn't have the money for her to take the trip. Instead, they both help out with a day camp at the Stone's farm. Mallory also pisses off some know-it-all mom at the park when she lets Jenny Prezzioso throw a tantrum rather than giving in and keeping her quiet. I should add that this is exactly what Mrs. Prezzioso told Mal to do.

Rating: 3.5

Thoughts and Things
  • I really, really like Super Specials, and I feel like it's been forever since I recapped one. Only two more to go! :(
  • This book makes me see why Robert cheated on Stacey....she was kind of a nightmare.
  • Speaking of Stacey, she's had it tough in more than one Super Special. In the first one, she has to clean Margo's barf out of a trash can on the cruise ship. In the second one, she's stuck in the infirmary. She gets in that car accident in the fifth one. She gets stranded in the snow in the seventh one. She has to watch Toby hit on freaking MALLORY PIKE in the tenth one. I guess she made up for by all the boyfriend stuff in the others. :)
  • I don't wonder how Abby managed to convince those commercial people that she was 18. Check out that picture on page 109!
  • The pictures in this one are, overall, better than interior pictures usually are. Abby and Dawn (page 86) look particularly good.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

#98 Dawn and Too Many Sitters


Dawn and Jeff are spending the summer in Stoneybrook. Dawn is pretty excited to be back on the East Coast, until she finds out about the trip that SMS is going to be offering in July. They've made a deal with a tour company that will allow the school to get a big discount on a trip to Hawaii, provided they bring 50 kids (plus chaperones). If they don't get 50 SMS to sign up, they'll take non-SMS students. The total cost of the trip is $500 per student; half of that is due at the end of the sign up period as a deposit. Mary Anne and Dawn both want to go, so they work on their parents at dinner the day they find out about the trip. Sharon isn't thrilled with the idea of letting Dawn go all the way to Hawaii when she's just paid for her to fly from CA to Stoneybrook, but she and Richard agree to think about it. The next day, Dawn and Mary Anne get the good news: they can go on the trip. Their parents will pay half the cost for each of them, but they're going to have to earn the rest. The other BSC members (the ones who are going to Hawaii, anyway) all have the same deal with their parents.

Meanwhile, Jeff and the Pike triplets have decided that they want to be baby-sitters as well. The BSC agrees to take them on as BITs (baby-sitters in training). Each BSC member will take one BIT with them on on each of their jobs, and then pay the BIT 25% of what they earn. Things don't exactly go well, even from the start: the boys don't really want to go to meetings, they don't like changing diapers, they eat all of Claudia's junk food, and they argue with the kids. Sometimes, they actually add to the BSC's work load rather than lightening it. The club members start to feel like it's a little unfair that they have to PAY the BITs when they're doing more harn than good.

When they're not wrangling BITs, Dawn, Mary Anne, and the others are busy trying to earn the rest of their Hawaii money. Dawn tries selling health food in downtown Stoneybrook, but she doesn't have many takers. Mary Anne tries having a yard sale, and to Dawn's surprise, actually unloads a lot of her old junk. The whole BSC starts doing yard work for their clients, and Logan picks up some extra shifts at the good old Rosebud Cafe. Then, the big day comes: the end of the sign up period and the day the deposts are due. It's also the day that Dawn will find out if there will be a space for her on the trip. Luckily,. there is; Dawn is the only one from the non-SMS waiting list to make the cut.

Back to the BITs. The situation with the boys hasn't really improved much. Byron DID skip a little league game to keep a sitting committment, but then Jeff spends most of a sitting job arguing with Haley Braddock. The girls in the club decide that the experiment isn't working out, and thet the BITs have to go. Since Dawn and Mallory are the ones who are actually related to the boys, they get the job of telling them the bad news. Dawn is sure that Jeff is going to be traumatized, so she keeps putting off telling him. Finally, Jeff comes to her and tells her that they boys really don't WANT to sit anymore; they want more time for fun stuff. So, everything works out there, but the BSC still needs to earn quite a bit of money for their trip. The 4th of July is coming up, so the club decides to hold some games, face painting, and a concession stand at the town's celebration. That brings them MUCH closer to their goal, and when that money is added up to everything they've made sitting, they make their goal with two days to spare until the money is due. It's off to Hawaii for the BSC!

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things
  • I wonder how parents felt paying for all the games and stuff at the 4th of July celebration when the BSC usually hosts things like that for free?
  • I kind of love that Matthew Hobart thinks that the "Rebellutionary War" was when fireworks were invented. :)
  • $500 for a 10 day trip to Hawaii is pretty darn reasonable, even in 1996. That price includes a plane ticket (from the East Coast, no less), hotel, and three meals a day.
  • OF COURSE Dawn is the only non-SMS student to make the cut....
  • Why didn't Anna want to go on the trip?
  • The idea of 10 year old baby-sitters is just ridiculous. Jessi actually mentioned that near the end of the book, which is funny, since it's totally possible that she's less than a year older than some of them.
  • This is the last regular series book narrated by Dawn. She gets one more mystery, and then she's out of the series except for some Super Special chapters.

Monday, March 29, 2010

M#25 Kristy and the Middle School Vandal


Cary Retlin has challenged Kristy and the rest of the BSC to a little mystery war. He's going to leave clues around the school for them to find (each one will lead to the next), and they'll have 6 school days to figure everything out. If they do, they win and Cary will leave them alone. If they don't, he'll keep the watch he lifted off of Kristy. Even though Kristy kind of agreed to this without asking the other BSC members first, they're all up to the challenge. Cary Retlin is going down!

The girls get the first clue the next day before school. It reads: "Get Your Mother (understands)." At first, they think it has something to do with pay phones, so all the club members check the phones in SMS during the day. That's not the answer, so the club reconvenes at lunchtime. That's when they figure it out: Get Your Mother equals "gym" (look at the first letter of each word), and "understands" means under the stands in the gym. The girls gather there after school, and find their next clue. They're not alone in the gym, though; several boys are in there, playing basketball. That's not unusual, but the fact that one of them is a guy named Troy Parker is. He was given a long-term suspension not that long before, and isn't even supposed to be at school.

Meanwhile, SMS is experiencing a little mystery of its own. Someone used chalk, a permanent marker, and something sharp (a key? ) to vandalize a car in the school parking lot. The messages are all about how the teachers have no control, and they seems to be directed at Mr. Kingbridge. Too bad it wasn't actually his car that was vandalized! The graffitti is signed with the Mischief Knights "MK" signature....but in green, not their typical red. The art room is the only classroom with a view of that particular parking lot, but it was empty during the class period when the vandalism happened. Of course, the BSC suspects Cary Retlin, but he more or less has an alibi (he was in class with Abby, except for a bathroom trip).

Back to the BSC vs. Retlin mystery war. The second clue reads: "A drop of golden sun/just short of failing/a skater's figure/not him, you see, but/(where does it all come from?)." The girls take the clue line by line, starting with the first one. Since the line is taken from that Sound of Music song, they figure out that the answer must be "ray." Next, Claudia (the expert in coming just short of failing), figures out that the second part of the clue is "D." Then, Jessi comes up with "8" as a skater's figure, and Abby gets the last part (it's not him, but HER). They put it all together and get "ray-D-8-her," or "radiator." It's too late that afternoon to go back into the school to check the boiler room, where the radiators are, so they agree to meet the next day before school.

That evening, there's a school board meeting. Most of the BSC members attend, since the topic is the teachers' contract negotiations, and they're all curious as to what's going to happen. The teachers want a raise, but the board isn't exactly forthcoming with one. Ms. Karush, president of the board of education, is sympathetic towards the teachers, but Mr. Oates, the chairman of the board, isn't. He points at the recent vandalism in the parking lot as an example of why the teachers don't deserve more money; if they can't control their students, they don't deserve more money. Unfortunately, there are lots of people who agree with him, and the teachers are prepared to strike over the issue. That means school in summer, which doesn't make ANYONE happy.

The next morning, the BSC is out in full force and at school early. They head to boiler room, and sure enough, there's the next clue. This one says: "toasted gloves or barbecued bats, anyone?" Most of the girls have no idea what that means, but Kristy figures it out pretty fast; Cary is talking about the old equipment shed that burned down during her softball team initiation. Kristy isn't sure how Cary would have known about that, but she decides to go check it out at lunch. She's much faster than Cary expected; in fact, he's there leaving the clue when she arrives. The club decides to save it until their club meeting that afternoon.

That same day, someone sets off the fire alarm at SMS, and once again, there's a green "MK" near the alarm that was pulled. Unfortunately, Mr. Oates was at the school and was present for the whole fiasco. He sees this as one more reason why the Stoneybrook teachers don't deserve what they're looking for. The BSC members discuss this latest act of rebellion after school, while Abby and Kristy are waiting for their bus. Cary is still a suspect, but some of the BSC members don't think that vandalism or pulling fire alarms is really his style. Mr. Oates is brought up as a possible suspect; he could be doing all these things just to prove himself right. Also, Troy Parker is still being seen around school in spite of his suspension, and so is Brad Simon (remember him? The one who sold the "study guide" to Abby?). Finally, Mr. Milhaus, one of the SMS janitors, was seen walking by a classroom near the fire alarm that was pulled, just before it happened.

It's time for that's day's BSC meeting, and the next mystery war clue. This one's a doozy: "cafeteria hamburger+A Theory of Man and Woman-SMS on street= a fly on the wall of..." The BSC doesn't have any idea what it means, and they aren't any closer to figuring it out the next day. That's also when the SMS vandal strikes again; this time, they flood a girls' bathroom. Once again, Mr. Milhaus is right there, on the scene, and the girls agree at lunch that day that he definitely seems suspicious. Stacey has also figured out that Cary most recent clue is numerical. What the numbers representing the cost of a hamburger in the SMS cafeteria, the Dewey decimal number of A Theory of Man and Woman, and the street address of SMS are added/subtracted, they get 116. The girls still have a little time before lunch ends, so they dash of to room 116. Sure enough, there's the clue...right behind a giant picture of a fly. The next clue is: "Nothing personal, Claudia, but check your spelling." Claudia figures out that Cary must be referring to her old personals column, so they head to the SMS Express offices after school. Claudia logs into a spelling program. After she finishes the test, a message from Cary pops up: B2 or not B2...that is the question. (Are you sitting down?)" Well, the only place in SMS with numbered seats in the school is the auditorium.

The BSC in the auditorium, just about to grab their clue, when things just sort of happen at once. Mr. Kingbridge arrives with Mr. Oats and a reporter from the Stoneybrook news, just when some crashes and screams are heard from behind the curtains onstage. Someone had messed up a bunch of stuff from the last school play. Mr. Oats tries to get the BSC blamed for the mess (they WERE in the auditorium, after all), and Kristy starts to wonder if maybe, just maybe, Cary wanted it to happen that way. She's mad enough at the very idea that she pulls Mr. Kingbridge aside and tells him what she and the rest of the BSC member suspect about Cary. That, in turn, makes Cary mad enough to turn up at the BSC meeting that day and prove to Kristy that he did indeed have an alibi for the times when things were done. She feels bad, and actually apologizes. The mystery war is still on!

The next clue is: "Hey Abby. IPA2tFotUSoAand2tR (there's a drawing of four witches at this point) look up." The following Monday, the girls figure out that the note is a shorthand version of the Pledge of Allegiance. During homeroom, Abby finds the final clue tucked into the flag holder. It's not a riddle; it reads "Bring me the head of the false Mischief Knights." The girls are clueless; they have their suspects, but aren't really any closer to picking one. The thing that really stands out about all the fake Mischief Knight pranks is the lack of attention to detail. Mr. Kingbridge has a red car....but the one vandalized was a similar one in green. Then, there's the fact that the signature is always in green, rather than the typical MK red. Mary Anne is the one who figures out that the culprit must be color blind, and Claudia is the one who realizes that it's got to be Troy Parker. His outfits never seem to match, and it doesn't seem to be intentional. The club needs proof before they can formally accuse him, and they decide to enlist the help of Cary. They need him to open Troy's locker, even though it means forfeiting the mystery war.

The whole group heads to Troy's locker after school. Sure enough, they find a bunch of plenty of evidence to support their theory. Troy Parker himself catches them in the act of snooping, but ends up confessing everything...just in time for Mr. Kingbridge to hear. Now that the vandalism has been solved, the school board agrees to continue negotiations with the teachers.

Subplot: Inspired by their own mystery war, the club creates scavenger hunts for their charges.

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things
  • Why didn't the club get in trouble for breaking into Troy Parker's locker?
  • Mrs. Martinez from the last mystery makes a brief return appearance in this one (she's a teacher at the high school, so she obviously has a strong interest in the outcome of the negotiations).
  • The cover: Cary Retlin looks like a future serial killer, and Mary Anne is wearing the exact same skirt as she was on the last mystery cover. Her shirt is different, though. Also...could Kristy have a weirder expression on her face? What did the Kristy model do to make Hodges angry? Finally, the "MK" should be green or red, not black.
  • Only 11 mysteries (and 2 super mysteries) left and I'll be done. Can't say I'm heartbroken...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

#97 Claudia and the World's Cutest Baby


Peaches and Russ are finally going to be parents! The pregnancy was actually mentioned in an earlier book; Peaches and Russ had kept it quiet until month number 6 because they wanted to be sure that nothing was wrong before they told anyone. Everything's gone well, and before anyone knows it, Claudia gets a call at the end of the BSC meeting from Russ, who's just about to take Peaches to the hospital. Claud waits on pins and needles until the rest of the Kishi family gets home, and they immediately turn around and head for the hospital to await the arrival of their cousing/niece.

Any of you that have had kids won't be surprised that the Kishis were at that hospital for awhile. Finally, Russ comes out to see them with good news: the baby has arrived, she's fine, and her name is Lynn (Claudia's middle name). Of course, everyone wants to see Lynn right that second, but Peaches is too tired. They're invited back the following afternoon. Claudia zooms back to the hospital as soon as school's over, and gets to meet her cousin for the very first time. She also gives Peaches the blanket she started to make before the miscarriage, and is asked to be little Lynn's godmother. Claudia is flattered and excited, even though she wonders if she should have been chosen over Janine. Janine is cool with it, though; she knows that Claudia has a special relationship with their aunt and uncle.

When Lynn's big homecoming day arrives, all the Kishis are excited. They're waiting at the house when Russ and Peaches bring their daughter home, and it's a big lovefest. Mrs. Kishi tries to keep the visit short, but Claudia insists on staying longer. She's back at their house bright and early the next morning, and almost every day after school. Claud's full of advice and suggestions, and she's always rushing in and getting things done. Before long, it becomes clear to everyone BUT Claud that Peaches and Russ aren't exactly thrilled to have their niece around all the time. Peaches tries very nicely to explain to Claudia that she and Russ just need time alone with Lynn to get used to being a family, and that Peaches herself might know a thing or two about baby care. Claudia blows her top, though, and storms out of the house.

That weekend, Claudia, Stacey, and Abby take a trip to Philadelphia with their social studies classes. Melissa Banks, a girl in Claud's class, has decided that Claudia is her new best friend. Claudia tries to be polite, but Melissa's constant clinging gets annoying. Then, Melissa suggests a little unsanctioned side trip to the Rodin Museum, and ends up getting the two of them lost. Claudia tells Melissa off, and for most of the rest of the trip, Melissa leaves her alone. She DOES apologize to Claud for being so annoying, and explains that she just thought Claudia and her friends were so cool. Melissa now knows she was trying too hard to fit in with them. This gets Claudia thinking: could she have been as annoying to Peaches and Russ as Melissa was to her? When she gets back, she apologizes to Peaches and promises not to be such a pest in the future.

Also, the Arnold twins scare themselves silly with horror movies, until they see a special on tv about how some of the effects are done. Then, they make their own horror movie.

Rating: 2

Thoughts and Things
  • I can't believe Claudia had the nerve to think she was the injured party in this whole situation. She was such an annoying little know-it-all!
  • At one point, Claudia mentions that Janine is wearing a pin shaped like Bach's profile. She then follows that up by saying "whoever that is." Has she forgotten that she was into Bach herself about 50 or 55 books ago?
  • Apparently, the sitters think that it's weird to put mustard on pretzels. Ummm, we have that at just about every fair and sporting event in my part of the country....I didn't think it was unusual at all.
  • I wish I knew what Russ looked like.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

M# 24 Mary Anne and the Silent Witness


The BSC has a new cause: Mr. Reginald Fowler, a Stoneybrook developer, wants to bulldoze Miller's Park and put an office complex in its place. The club decides to write letters to the editor of the newspaper...and they're all published. Pretty soon, the fight between the club and Reginald Fowler is attracting all sorts of attention. Kristy, of course, wants to create a whole media campaign, but the other club members talk her down from that, and the decide to just stick with letters for the time being.

Meanwhile, the BSC gets a call from some new clients, the Martinez family. They live near Miller's Park, and their house is one that Reginald Fowler would need to buy in order to make his development plan go through. They've also just had a mysterious fire in their garage....coincidence? Anyway, Mary Anne is the first one to sit for Luke (age 8) and Amalia (age 3). She likes Mrs. Martinez, and Amalia couldn't be friendlier. Luke, on the other hand, is another story. He's not particularly outgoing, and doesn't seem to like Mary Anne very much. Even so, he won't let her out of his sight, and he's REALLY defensive about the fire. Then, when Mary Anne and the kids get the mail later, Luke gets something that he immediately tears up and throws in the trash can. As soon as she gets a chance, Mary Anne pulls the scraps out and tries to reconstruct the note, but she'd left some of the pieces behind. Something is definitely up at he Martinez house!

Things don't really change much at Mary Anne's next sitting job. Luke is still watchign her liek a hawk, and he still doesn't seem to want to make friends. HE even searches Mary Anne's backpack when she gets up for a minute to answer the phone. Mary Anne decides to ignore that, since nothing was taken, but it's pretty hard to ignore what happens later. Someone writes the words "don't tell" in the soot that remains on one of the windows, and Luke is clearly frightened. Mary Anne suggests a walk, but by the time that she and the kids get outside both the writing and the writer are gone. While the three of them are out, they run into none other than Cary Retlin and his two younger brothers! The Retlins and Martinezes are neighbors, and one of Cary's brothers is friends with Luke. Not long after the unexpected meet-up, the group notices a big black car driving up the street. Luke and Steig Retlin are so terrified by the appearance of the car that they both take off running through the woods. Mary Anne and Cary follow the boys, and Mary Anne sees that Cary has soot on his hands. That's pretty suspicious, but she's a lot more worried about Luke and Steig at that point. Soon, Steig reappears, but no Luke. Mary Anne hands Amalia off to Cary, asking him to watch her while she keeps searching. He agrees, and takes Amalia back to the Martinez place.

Once she's on her own, Mary Anne heads for the area of the woods near the old sawmill in Miller's Park. She's almost there when she hears glass breaking and someone running in her direction. She hides behind a tree, and as soon as it's safe, peeks down the path to see who it was. Mary Anne is pretty surprised to see a teenage boy talking with...Reginald Fowler. Fowler hands his a bunch of money, and the boy drops something before they head off in different directions. Once the coast is clear, Mary Anne goes to see what it was that the boy dropped. It's a brick with green paint on it, which Mary Anne picks up. Just then, the police appear. They shine a light on her and order her to freeze. Mary Anne knows the situation looks bad; she's been caught alone in the woods, holding a brick, near the site of some public vandalism. The police seem to believe her, but want to take her to the station for some questioning. First, though, they head back to the Martinez house to see if the kids are okay. They are; Luke had come back on his own about 20 minutes before Mary Anne got there with the police. Mrs. Martinez gets home before the police have a chance to take Mary Anne away, and she can't believe they'd even THINK Mary Anne would cause vandalism.

Down at the station, Mary Anne is relieved to see both her dad and Sgt. Johnson. Her name is cleared pretty quickly, but her experiences aren't the end of the weird happenings at the Martinez house. Kristy is the next one to sit for them, and while she's there, Luke answers the phone. The conversation doesn't last long, and Luke looks as scared as he did when he and Mary Anne saw the writing on the window. Kristy uses *69 (or whatever the BSC equivalent is) to try and figure out who called. It turns out that the call came from a pay phone in downtown Stoneybrook. Later, Kristy catches Luke, along with Benson and Steig Retlin, setting off bottle rockets in the backyard. She has no idea where they got the message, and all three boys end up getting big lectures. In fact, when Jessi arrives for her sitting job the next day, she learns that Luke and Steig aren't allowed to play with each other for a few days as punishment. She also finds a pack of tobacco in the backyard...and no one in the Martinez family smokes. They also see the same black car that scared Luke into running away, but this time, Steig identifies it as Fowler's car. Hmmm....

The club decides that they need to dig up some dirt on Fowler, so they head to the Stoneybrook Public Library for another fact-finding mission. They find quite a few articles on Fowler, but they're all pretty contradictory when it comes to his biographical information. The girls (and Logan) decide to head for the hospital next, to see if they can find his birth records. They don't find anything on a Reginald Fowler, but they DO find a record for a John and Samuel Wolfer...twin brothers. Mary Anne notices the similarity of last names, and doesn't think it's a coincidence. When she thought she saw Reginald Fowler in the woods, he was later proven to have been in Sn Fransisco at that point. If he had a brother, that would explain things nicely. Mary Anne tries to find phone listings for anyone with a name similar to Wolfer or Fowler, and she finally hits paydirt with a Samuel Wolf. She looks him up in a "Who's Who" directory, and it lists him as being born on January 2...the same day as the supposed Reginald Fowler. What's more, she discovers that they grew up in a little cabin in an area that's now part of Miller's Park.

Abby is the next club member to sit for Luke and Amalia, and she tries everything she can to get Luke to open up. She doesn't have any luck, but she does find a notebook owned by the kids' previous sitter, Allie. It's covered with hearts and the initials "BR.," and it's clear that this girl goes to Stoneybrook Day School. The girls decide that they need to do their own investigating into the fire at the Martinez house, so Mary Anne and Kristy join Stacey there the next day. They offer to help clean out the garage, which is really just an excuse for them to look around. They find a fire extinguisher, and they also notice that there's soot on the ceiling. That doesn't fit; the garage door was open when they firefighters got there, and if it had been open the whole time, there wouldn't have been any soot on the ceiling. Someone had to have opened the door after the fire started, but before anyone arrived to put it out.

The club is still trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle, from the fire to the Fowler/Wolfer/Wolf family to the vandalism at the sawmill. Mary Anne goes to a local hardware store to find out who might have purchased green paint in the color that was on the brick she was caught with. She finds out that the Robbins family are the only ones who've bought any lately. That's when things start to fall into place; Shannon knows of a girl at Stoneybrook Day named Allie Newbern, who happens to have a boyfriend named Beau Robbins. Kristy, Shannon, and Mary Anne all decide to take a little stroll to the Robbins place, and they find Beau there with Allie. Mary Anne comes right out and accuses Beau of everything, and he doesn't try to deny that he's been up to no good. He had come over one day to see Allie when she was baby-sitting for Luke and Amalia. It was raining, so he waited for her in the garage. He was smoking, and when he was done, he tossed his cigarette aside. That's how the fire started; when Beau and Allie couldn't put it out, they called the fire department. Allie felt so guilty that she quit her job sitting for the Martinez kids not long after that, and Beau was so worried about Luke telling what he knew that he threatened him. Reginald Fowler had seen Beau running away from the fire and figured that he was involved. He used that knowledge to get Beau to do some less than legal errands for him. They figure out that Beau must have been dealing with the other Fowler/Wolfer/whatever, since Reginald was known to be in California. The twin brother has one more errand for Beau to do that very night.

The girls, along with Sgt. Johnson, arrange to be waiting nearby when Beau arrives at the cabin near Miller's Park. They also arrange for Reginald Fowler to be there, too....they think it's time the brothers come face to face again. The plan works; Reginald is out to destroy Stoneybrook because he blames the town for this mother's death, and his brother was out to stop him by hiring Beau to vandalize things. Both men are taken to prison. Earlier, Luke had found a map, hand-drawn by Fowler detailing his plans to turn Stoneybrook into a completely modern place with no charm at all. There's a town meeting the next night to discuss what needs to be done with Miller's Park, and everyone finds this new piece of evidence pretty interesting. The park is named a historical landmark.

Rating: 2.5

Thoughts and Things

  • I always thought it was ridiculous that the BSC members found evidence in the Martinez's garage that the police missed. Aren't the supposed to be trained to look for clues and evidence and things???
  • What kind of a name is Steig??? I think he's a real guy, too...just like his brother. :) Not sure if there's an actual Benson Retlin out there, though.
  • Speaking of, when Abby first found that notebook with "BR" written all over it, I totally thought it would end up standing for Benson Retlin. :)
  • This is the first book that actually made me like Cary a little bit; he was so nice to Mary Anne when she was almost arrested.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

#96 Abby's Lucky Thirteen


Abby has a lot on her plate at the moment; she's got soccer, school work, and she and Anna are also preparing to become Bat Mitzvahs. Unfortunately, school is what's getting the short end of the stick for Abby. She even fails a math test and has to have her mother sign it. Then, Abby's teacher announces another that's going to count for 25% of her grade. Abby is in the hall by her locker, panicking a little, when a boy she doesn't know offers to sell her a study guide for the test. Abby jumps at the chance; she needs all the help she can get at that point. The study guide is fantastic, and has all sorts of questions and answers like the type that will be on the test. Abby is able to work through them pretty quickly, and goes to bed the night before the test feeling pretty confident.

During math class the next day, Abby realizes pretty quickly that the study guide she bought was not just a study guide. She glances over the test and realizes that what she actually bought was a copy of the test itself. Abby feels horrible; she didn't intentionally cheat. She goes ahead and takes the test anyway, but for the next few days, she worries over what to do. On the day the tests are given back, Abby and four other kids are called up to Mrs. Frost's desk for a little conference. They'd all gotten the same score on the test, and had missed the same problem (it was wrong on the study guide). Mrs. Frost accuses all of them of cheating, and suspends them for three days. Abby tries to explain what really happened, but Mrs. Frost isn't having any of it, and the suspension stands.

Abby doesn't want her mother to know about the suspension, so she deletes the phone message from the principal before anyone else has a chance to listen to it. Abby then spends the first two days of her suspension at the public library, studying for her Bat Mitzvah service. On the third and last day, though, Abby decides to go to Pizza Express for lunch. While she's there, who should walk by and see her through the window but her mother. Needless to say, Abby is in big trouble (a month of grounding, starting the Monday after the Bat Mitzvah).

When Abby is back in school, she spots Mary Anne buying a study guide from the same guy who sold her one. She stops Mary Anne before she looks at it, and confesses that the same study guide earned her a three day suspension. The girls agree to meet after school and try to talk to Mrs. Frost, who FINALLY sees that Abby was being truthful when she said she didn't intentionall try and cheat on the test.

Meanwhile, all of the Stevenson's Long Island friends and family members are in town for the big Bat Mitzvah day. Festivities being on Friday with Shabbat services at the synagogue (BSC members watch all the little kids while the adults are at the service). Then, Saturday...the big day! Abby's nervous about giving her speech, and reading her Torah portion in front of everyone, but she does a good job. Afterwards, everyone heads back to the Stevensons for a big party...lots of food, a DJ, and presents. I'm assuming Abby survives her subsequent grounding, but she doesn't tell us. :)

Meanwhile, the Stoneybrook parents have put a pretty strict ban on tv. The kids are pretty unhappy about that at first, but they end up putting on their own versions of the tv shows they're missing.

Rating: 3.5

Thoughts and Things
  • Okay, I'll admit it; the first time I read this book, the Bat Mitzvah stuff made me choke up a little.
  • Normally, Nola Thacker is right on the money when it comes to referencing past books, but she makes a couple of mistakes in this one. First, she says that Claudia, Kristy, and Mary Anne had so much business after they started the BSC that Stacey joined...which isn't how it happened. She also makes it sound like Jeff moved back to CA after Richard and Sharon got married, not before.
  • I actually learned a lot about Bat Mitzvahs from this book. For instance, I didn't know that they've only really been celebrated since the last century, while Bar Mitzvahs have been around since the middle ages.
  • Abby is so much cooler in her own books than in the ones narrated by other members!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mary Anne's Book

From Birth to Six Years

This chapter is mostly standard baby stuff. Also, Mary Anne stars school. She likes nursery school (does anyone still call is that???) and kindergarten, but not first grade. Her teacher, Mrs. Frederickson, yells too much.

The Tea Party

Still first grade. Mrs. Frederickson announces that her class gives a tea party every year in honor of Mother's Day, and Mary Anne starts to freak out because she doesn't have a mother to invite. Kristy sees that she's upset and asks Mrs. Frederickson what kids without moms should do. Mrs. Frederickson tells everyone that it's okay to bring another special person, so Mary Anne plans on bringing her dad. The next day, everyone has to tell the class who they're bringing to the tea party, and when Mary Anne says she's bringing her dad, everyone laughs at her (Kristy and Alan Gray almost come to blows over it). Mrs. Frederickson is so busy trying to restore order to the class that she never gets around to telling Mary Anne that bringing a dad is okay. Mary Anne is humiliated, and decides to ask Mimi instead and hope her dad forgets about the party. Nope, doesn't happen: BOTH Mimi and Richard show up. They get things sorted out with the teacher, though, and both get to stay. Later that day, Mary Anne has nice chats with both Richard and Mimi about the whole mix-up.

Stage Fright

It's the summer after second grade, and Kristy, Claudia, and Mary Anne are all signed up for a ballet class at the Y. Claudia is pretty excited about it, and Kristy also gets into the spirit of things once she finds out that pro athletes sometimes take dance to improve their game. Mary Anne is the only one who isn't into it, and things don't get any better once class starts. The rest of the kids seem to be enjoying themselves, but Mary Anne hates it. She's not picking up on things as fast as the others, and she doesn't like it when they have to dance across the room one at a time. Then, the teacher announces a recital for the end of class. Mary Anne doesn't want to be in it, but she doesn't know how to tell her dad that. He's been so excited about her being in the class, and maybe overcoming some of her shyness that she doesn't want him to be disappointed. Her nerves are so bad on the day of the recital, though, that she throws up not once, but twice. Kristy finds Richard, and Mary Anne finally confesses how much she's hated class, and how much she doesn't want to be in the recital. Richard has her promise that she'll tell him the next time she's so unhappy about something. He's such a good dad. :)

E for Eyeglasses

There's a new girl, April Livingston, in Mary Anne's fourth grade class. Mary Anne thinks she fascinating, and that the fact that she wears glasses is fascinating as well. Mary Anne decides she needs glasses of her own, so she fails the school eye test on purpose. She's sent to the eye doctor for further testing, and when she's in the lobby, she realizes that she doesn't like the way she looks in glasses after all. So, Mary Anne tries her hardest to pass the test, but an actual vision problem is uncovered, and she has to get reading glasses.

Exploring My Secret Past

This section is basically just Mary Anne and the Secret in the Attic, with a longer look at her visit to Iowa. Mary Anne goes on that trip want and expecting to talk about her mother, but when she gets there, she's disappointed. All that Grandma Verna wants to do is reminisce about things that Grandpa Bill used to say and do, and she keeps trying to get Mary Anne to remember things about her time on the farm. Mary Anne gets frustrated, blows up at Verna, and decides she wants to leave early. They talk things over, though, and both apologize for not being more understanding of each other, and the fact that they're still largely strangers.

Rating: 3.5

Thoughts and Things

  • The glasses chapters always confused me a little. Mary Anne seems to have had no problems seeing (even when reading) until this point?
  • This just might be my favorite of all the portrait books, but I think I need to reread the last two before I make up my mind.
  • I wonder whatever happened to April Livingston? Mary Anne doesn't mention anything, and it sounded like all three future BSC members were on their way to being friends with her.
  • Mary Anne gets an A+ on her project, by the way. I think that might be the highest grade that any of the BSC members got!

Monday, March 22, 2010

#95 Kristy + Bart + ?

Things are kind of weird with Kristy and Bart. She's always seen them as good friends who just happen to kiss sometimes. Bart, on the other hand, seems to think they're a lot more serious all of a sudden. He's introducing her to people as his girlfriend, and he's always trying to put his arm around her. At a trip to the movies, he actually wants to make out with her during the exciting parts. Kristy's not so into that, but she doesn't really know how to tell him that she would rather just watch the movie rather than kiss. Things come to unfortunate circumstances one night when Kristy is alone, sitting for her siblings. Bart shows up unannounced to watch the Mets game, and while he's there, he and Kristy start making out pretty heavily. Of course, Watson and Elizabeth walk in right in the middle of things, and Kristy is grounded for the weekend. No phone, no tv, no leaving her room except to use the bathroom. She isn't even allowed to help with the sitting charges' world record-breaking attempts which are being held in the Thomas-Brewer backyard.
Kristy is furious over her imprisionment, and blames the whole thing on Bart. When she's finally done being grounded, Kristy calls him, lets him have it, and breaks up with him. Even though she's glad that he's off her back, she feels bad about the way things happened. Kristy is confused enough that she consults Mary Anne about the problem. Mary Anne points out that it sounds like Kristy isn't ready for a boyfriend, and that it's okay. People are ready for stuff like that at different ages. Mary Anne also encourages Kristy to give Bart a call and talk things out with him. It takes her awhile, but she eventually does that. She writes out this whole speech about how she just wants to be friends and doesn't really let Bart get a word in edgewise. The next time they see each other is at the "Record Wreckers" demonstration, and they actually have a chance to talk afterward. Kristy asks Bart about the dance they're supposed to attend at his school that week, and she's surprised when he tells her he asked someone else. He didn't want to go with someone who's just a friend, and when Kristy told him that that was all she wanted, he figured they weren't going. Kristy is surprised and upset, until her friends point out that she never really considered Bart's feelings in all of this. Once again, they talk things out, and agree to try just being friends.
Rating: 0
Thoughts and Things
  • I know that all the make-out stuff in this book is tame compared to what 13 year olds are doing these days, but it was gross and disturbing. I don't need to know what Bart Taylor tastes like, Peter Lerangis!!!
  • Speaking of Lerangis, I really don't want to know where his mind was when he was writing this one. Not only is the kissing stuff very...vivid, but he uses the phrase "gird up my loins" multiple times. That, and the fact that it's implied that the people in the movie that Bart and Kristy see are doing more than kissing, and Abby's reference to Bart and Kristy "doing stuff" at his house makes this one of the most un-BSC books in the whole series. If you stuck different names on the characters and handed me the book, I would have totally believed that it wasn't even part of the series.
  • Kristy actually looks really good on the cover, and the scene that pictured actually happened in the book. Kristy and Bart are walking home from the park, and she looks down at his fingers and thinks they look like bananas. :)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

M#23 Abby and the Secret Society


Abby's bored. It's still February, and there's not much she can do, sports-wise, unless it either gets cold again or spring comes. Then, she sees an ad on the new SMS job board asking for students to help clean up the new Greenbrook Country Club before it opens. Abby decides that a part time job is just what she needs, and (of course) the other BSC members decide the same thing. Before they even start work, though, they discover some unsavory information about Greenbrook's past. It used to be called Dark Woods, and was a very exclusive country club. It only let in certain types of people. In fact, Nikki Stanton-Cha, current owner of Greenbrook, was once reprimanded for bringing a Jewish friend to the club when she was a child. This makes Abby pretty mad, but Nikki is committed to making Greenbrook a place where ALL families can go to enjoy time together.

The first day of work goes pretty well; Abby, Kristy, and Stacey are joined by Rick Chow (I think it's Rick Chow...his last name isn't given), as well as Cokie, Alan, and Cary. Two odd things happen, though: first, Abby keeps seeing a limo circling the grounds. Second, Mr. Kawaja, the gardener, seems awfully determined to keep everyone out of the hedge maze that's on the club grounds. He also won't speak to anyone, and Abby wonders if (maybe) he CAN'T speak. Day two reunites the BSC with their old friend, Sgt. Johnson. The girls ask him if he's there on police business, and he tells them it's more personal than anything. Thirty years ago, his best friend (an investigative reporter) starting digging into some of the shady dealings that took place at Dark Woods. This friend, David Follman, suspected that a secret society was operating out of the club, and used their power and influence to make things happen in Stoneybrook the way they thought they should happen. Just before David was going to go public with his findings, he died in a car accident. Sgt. Johnson has never been able to let the case go, even though the police department considers it closed. The only clue that his friend left behind was "watch where you step." As for the secret society itself, it was thought that Mr. Armstrong, the former mayor of Stoneybrook, might have been involved...along with a Mr. Stanton, Nikki's father. She hasn't seen him in years; he basically disowned her for marrying a Korean man. Mr. Stanton's never even met Nikki's son, Stephen.

Over the next few days, the BSC members work on the mystery whenever they're at Greenbrook. One day, the limo comes back. A man gets out of it, and sits on a bench, watching Stephen Stanton-Cha playing tennis for the longest time. The girls think it's pretty creepy, so they head inside to tell Nikki about it. On the way, Mary Anne spots some photos of old Dark Woods members on the wall, and recognizes the man they saw sitting outside. It's Paul Stanton, Nikki's father. She's surprised to hear that he's hanging around. Then, that same day, Kristy discovers another clue left by David Follman. She trips over some loose carpet, and when she lifts it up to see what's underneath, she sees a message written in some kind of purple-red substance. It says "1954 (DF);" Kristy has no idea what it means.

Another day, Claudia, who's been working with the architect that's helping with some of the renovations, finds some old blueprints from the club's Dark Woods days. She locates the hedge maze on the map, and sees that there's some sort of structure built in the middle. No one knows what it is. The day after that, Nikki gets an unwelcome visitor to the club: Mr. Armstrong, former mayor of Stoneybrook and possible member of the secret society. He's not thrilled with all the work that's being done, and ESPECIALLY not thrilled that the club is not the exclusive, snobby place it used to be. Nikki has to kick him out.

It's raining at the beginning of the following week, so Nikki assigns all the SMS kids indoor jobs for the day. Stacey finds a note in one of the lounges that looks like it's from David Follmer. It says "think penguins." The girls think it's weird, but spend the whole day looking for penguin-related stuff anyway. At the end of the day, they find out that it wasn't a real clue; Alan and Cary had overheard them discussing the real mystery, and played a little prank on them. Cary also confesses to sending those notes to Mary Anne and Logan in the last mystery (aha, I KNEW I remembered reading that somewhere...).

At the next BSC meeting, the club stays a little late to talk about the mystery. They return to the "1954" clue written under the carpet, and none of them could figure out why David Follmer wouldn't have just used a pen to write his message. The girls decide to try and figure out exactly what he used to write the message by scribbling on some spare pieces of wood flooring in anything red or purple that the Kishis have laying around. They're just about to give up when Abby gets the idea to try grape juice. Even that doesn't work...right away. Claudia calls her later, after the juice has dried, and tells her that it now looks an awful lot like the message written on the floor. Claudia also remembers seeing a wine cellar on the blueprints, and thinks that maybe the message was written in grape juice to indicate that the next clue is located in the wine cellar. It is; as soon as the club has a chance, they head down into Greenbrook's wine cellars and find a bottle from 1954. Inside, they find a golf tee with the words "open WWII" scratched into it. The next day, some of the club heads to the library to research WWII, while some head to Greenbrook's pro shop to see what they can find there. It takes days for any of them to figure out the clue on the golf tee; finally, Abby realizes that "open" isn't a command. It refers to the Dark Woods Open golf tournament. Back in the pro shop, they head straight for the tropy case that contains the awards from that tournament. There's only one from the WWII era, and it has a false bottom. Inside are two silver keys, and a note from David Follmer that says "shelter favorite food." No one, not even Sgt. Johnson, knows what it means. Abby thinks she might, though, so she cooks up a little plan.

Abby sends an anonymous note to former mayor Armstrong that supposedly came from David Follmer, telling Sgt. Johnson to look inside the golf trophy because he had the "goods" on Armstrong. They think Armstrong will take the bait, and maybe help unlock the final clue. Sure enough, Armstrong turns up, looks in the trophy, and finds the keys and note. He thinks for a minute, and then heads straight to the mysterious maze. Abby, Sgt. Johnson, and the other BSC members follow him. Once they reach the maze, it looks like Mr. Kawaja isn't going to let Armstrong in. Armstrong just pushes him out of the way and barges in. Just then, Stacey runs up and tells the others that Stephen is missing. She also thinks she's seen his grandfather hanging around again, and that Stephen might be in danger. Abby and Sgt. Johnson decide to follow Armstrong into the maze while the others go warn Nikki that her son is in trouble. Abby and the Sgt. have lost Armstrong at this point, and find themselves stuck in a dead end in the maze. Just then, Mr. Kawaja shows up and tells them to follow him. Yes, he TELLS them; he can speak after all, but doesn't most of the time. They reach the center of the maze just in time to see Armstrong digging in the ground. He uncovers a trap door at the exact moment that Stephen Stanton-Cha rushes into the clearing, and just as Sgt. Johnson orders Armstrong to stop what he's doing. In a split second, Armstrong grabs Stephen and orders everyone to back off unless they want the kid to get hurt. Then, Mr. Stanton arrives on the scene and tells his old friend/foe to let go of his grandson. As it turns out, Mr. Stanton never quite believed in what Armstrong and his cronies were doing, and he's realized what an idiot he was not to speak up. He also very much wants to be reconciled to his daughter and her family, which is exactly what happens. As for the mystery, they figure out that "shelter" in note meant the bomb shelter that was built at the center of the maze. "Favorite food" meant Ovaltine...something David Follmer drank a lot of when he was a kid. Everyone heads down into the bomb shelter through the trap door that Armstrong uncovered, and they find a whole bunch of documents and information incriminating the secret society members. There was also a nice note from David to Sgt. Johnson that makes him cry. :) Greenbrook opens, and everyone is happy. Except maybe Armstrong....
Rating: 3.5
Thoughts and Things
  • This book kind of ruined my "Sgt. Johnson is hot" coping mechanism. First, if his best friend was old enough to be a reporter 30 years before this story takes place, then Sgt. Johnson must be in his 50's at least. Second, some of his interactions with the BSC members are a little creepy. He's always giving them his phone number or spilling personal information, or socializing with them as if they were his equals. It doesn't always read as totally innocent. Third, his first name is Jim. Jim Johnson is NOT a hot name....
  • Yet another huge but previously unheard of property appears in Stoneybrook. The town is like that house in Rose Red: it just keeps adding onto itself....
  • I like treasure hunting/following a chain of clues mysteries, so this one was actually pretty bearable. and the discrimination issues weren't nearly as heavy-handed as they could have been

Friday, March 19, 2010

#94 Stacey McGill, Super Sitter


Stacey is on a mission to convert Robert into a New York City lover. She has big plans to buy him tickets to a Broadway show, and take him out for dinner in the city for his upcoming birthday. The only trouble with that plan? Stacey doesn't heave nearly enough money to make it happen. Then, the BSC gets a call from Mrs. Cheplin, a new client. She's looking for a sitter for her two kids (8-year-old Dana and 6-year-old Adam) every day after school. Stacey jumps at the chance to take the job, even though Kristy (of course) doesn't want one of her sitters tied up with a long-term job.

Mrs. Cheplin isn't too eager to formally give Stacey the job when they first meet; she'd been expecting someone older. She changes her tune when she finds out about Stacey's diabetes, because Dana has just been diagnosed herself. Mrs. Cheplin agrees to give Stacey a one week trial period. The kids are, for the most part, nice, although Dana likes to get her own way. She also has a few diabetic reactions, but Stacey figures out pretty quickly that she's faking in order to get what she wants. Stacey wants to tell Mrs. Cheplin what she suspects, but doesn't. She also doesn't want to tell Mrs. Cheplin that the extra housework that keeps getting added to the list of things to do is almost too much for Stacey to handle, especially when Mrs. Cheplin offers Stacey another two week trial, and offers to pay her even more for the extra housework. Now, Stacey is not only on her way to getting those Broadway tickets for Robert, but she also has big plans to buy a red sports car as soon as she's old enough to drive it. Keep dreaming, Stace.....

One day, Stacey doesn't have time to get everything one Mrs. Cheplin's chore list done before she gets home. Mrs. Cheplin isn't happy...and neither is Stacey. She's running herself ragged trying to please this woman who's only noticing that things that have gone wrong, NOT the things that have gone right. This continues right through Stacey's second trial period. One day, Dana has a legitimate diabetic reaction, and Stacey has to leave the house a mess in order to get her help. Mrs. Cheplin won't even listen to Stacey at first; all she can see are the things that didn't get done. Stacey finally makes her understand what happened, but at this point, she basically had it. When the two weeks are over, Mrs. Cheplin offers her another two week trial, and Stacey turns her down. It just wasn't worth it; Stacey was falling behind in school, ignoring her friends and mother, and coming late to every BSC meeting. The money was nice, but Stacey realizes that having a well-rounded life is more important.

Also, some of the BSC charges see Kristy and Logan buying a ring downtown. They assume he's cheating on Mary Anne, so they start a smear campaign against Kristy and Logan. Poor Kristy was only trying to help Logan pick out Mary Anne's Valentine's Day gift, so the kids throw Mary Anne and Logan a Valentine's Day dinner to make up for being so awful.

Rating: 2.5

Thoughts and Things
  • Mrs. Cheplin goes down in history as one of my least favorite BSC parents of all time. She needs a good kick in the pants.
  • I can totally identify with Stacey when she's plotting exactly how much money she'll be making at the Cheplins', and how long it would take her to save up for different things. I can't even tell you how many times I've done that!
  • No matter how hard I try, I just can't see Kristy and Logan as a couple....
  • I think it's been mentioned before, but what good is Mrs. McGill's rule that Robert can come in the house when she's not there as long as they stay in the kitchen? Anything that can be done in other rooms of the house could probably be done in there.]
  • Amazing that Kristy didn't fire Stacey from the BSC again for taking a job that required her to come late to meetings. Also amazing that a parent dared to schedule jobs that interfered with meeting times...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

#93 Mary Anne and the Memory Garden

Winter break is over, and SMS is back in session. One of her New Year's resolutions is to do better in English, and she's off to a pretty good start with the new project that her class has been assigned. The class is going to be divided into groups, and they'll each do a project of some sort about William Shakespeare. Mary Anne is happy with her group; she's working with Gordon Brown (who knew the prime minister went to SMS???), Barbara Hirsch, and Amelia Freeman. They have their first planning session at Mary Anne's, and it goes really, really well. Mary Anne is surprised and happy to find that she feels comfortable enough with everyone to share ideas and speak up, rather than just sit back and let everyone else make the decisions. It looks like the second part of the school year is off to a good start.
The next day, the SMS kids are greeted with some awful news; Amelia Freeman and her family were hit by a drunk driver the night before. Mr. and Mrs. Freeman, plus 6th grader Josh, escaped with some broken bones and other minor injuries, but Amelia was killed instantly. The whole school is upset, including the BSC. Mary Anne notices that Kristy seems to be having a particularly hard time coping. She's weepy, and can barely function. Mary Anne realizes that for once, she's going to have to be the strong one in their friendship. Kristy starts to bounce back, though, when she takes on the planning of an SMS chapter of S.A.D.D. (Students Against Drunk Driving). At that point, Mary Anne is the one who isn't doing so well. Now SHE'S weepy (well, more so than usual) and she wants to sleep all the time. She knows she needs help, so she goes back to see Dr. Reese. Dr. Reese helps her see that she's just grieving for her friend, and that grief has to happen in its own time and in its own way. Taking care of Kristy gave her something to do, and since Kristy is now dealing with her own grief by taking action, Mary Anne has been feeling kind of lost.
A few sessions with Dr. Reese helps Mary Anne to start feeling better, but she still wants to do something to remember Amelia. Over in California, Dawn and her friends are cleaning up a vacant lot and turning it into a neighborhood garden, which is what inspires Mary Anne. A memorial garden, complete with plaque and bench, would be the perfect way to remember her friend! It takes awhile to get the right permission, but it all comes together in time for the groundbreaking ceremony.
Rating: 3.5
Thoughts and Things
  • Good Lord, was this book ever depressing...don't read it if you want to hold onto your good mood!
  • It was so out of character for Kristy to be so gutted over Amelia's death, but I guess Dr. Reese's explanation of Kristy being upset because death is something that she can't control makes sense.
  • It really, really, really bugged me that no one discussed the possiblility of an afterlife at any point in this book. All we heard about was that death was final, and only Amelia's memories would live on. It would have made a lot more sense if at least ONE person had brought up the topic. Death usually makes people think about what happens afterward, and there are lots of ways that this could have been dealt with in a non-religious way, if that was the concern.
  • The person who owned this book before me filled out the notebook pages in the back, and her response to the "what would you change about the book" question was that she'd change the part where Amelia died. Ummm, if that happened, there wouldn't be a book anymore.

Monday, March 15, 2010

SM #2 Baby-sitters Beware


Strange things are happening in Stoneybrook, and (as usual) the BSC is right at the center of it all. First, Abby and Kristy witness a burglary at the Seger's house. Unfortunately, the burglar witnesses them witnessing him, so the girls run next door to the Rodowskys to call the police. My boyfriend, Sgt. Johnson, and his partner are the ones who respond to the call, but is anything said about protecting the girls since they DID see a crime, and the criminal knows it? Of course not; this IS the Stoneybrook police, after all. Next, Mary Anne starts getting weird notes in her locker at school. They LOOK like they're from Logan, but the messages are not exactly the friendly ones he's usually known for. The very same day that the first note arrives, Mary Anne gets a call from a frantic Kristy. She's heard someone lurking outside her house, and she wants Mary Anne to keep her company on the phone until the police arrive. Then, someone breaks a window, and the line goes dead when Kristy goes to rescue Shannon from whoever is breaking in. Mary Anne is frantic, and calls 911. They tell her that the police are already there, and when Mary Anne hears from Kristy again later, she gets the whole story. Someone threw a rock in her window, and spray-painted "You're Next" across the front door. Again, that same night, Mary Anne notices someone watching her house...and has the same feeling of being watched when she's at the mall a few days later. The girls stop at Claudia's after they're done shopping, and what happens there is scarier than anything that's happened yet. Someone actually sets a fire in some trash cans outside the Kishi house

Not long after, the girls find both the fire at the Kishi's and the vandalism at the Brewer-Thomases in the local crime section of the newspaper. They all think it's a little odd, though, that the buglary at the Seger's hasn't been reported. They don't worry much about it, though, once the weird phone calls start coming in. The first happens at a BSC meeting: someone calls, there's silence, and then whoever's on the other end of the line says "You're Next" before hanging up. Stacey, Claudia, Mary Anne, and Kristy all get calls like that, or ones where the caller says nothing at all. Then, the calls just stop. This brings the club's thoughts back to the Seger burglary, so Kristy calls Sgt. Johnson to find out what's going on. He tells her that Mr. Seger told them that there WAS no crime, and that the broken window they'd seen was the result of a tree pruning accident. The girls know he's lying, but can't figure out why. They also think that whoever was robbing their house might be the one harrassing them.

Of course, the club decides to do some detective research on Mr. Seger. They head to the library, and find out that he's a member of the Stoneybrook Business Bureau. Abby also finds something else that more interesting...and horrifying. She's found a copy of a picture of the BSC in the trash, next to the copy machine. It's the picture that was in the paper after the BSC helped catch the dog-nappers way back in M#7. The club thinks that the burglar might have been using that picture to try and track the girls down and make his threatening phone calls. Next, the girls head to the Stoneybrook Business Bureau to get a list of member businesses. They claim it's for a school project, and leave with a copy of the current list, as well as the one for the previous year. Unfortunately, the list doesn't give any clues as to what Mr. Seger does for a living; his business is just listed as "Seger Associates."

More scary things start happening to the BSC. Claudia and Stacey both get "You're Next" calls, and someone ties a note saying the same thing to Tigger's collar. Then, Stacey is almost run down by a car which swerves to miss her at the last minute. She doesn't get the license number, but she does notice that the car is a red Mercedes, and has last year's Stoneybrook Business Bureau sticker on the bumper. Needless to say, the club is pretty excited to get away for a weekend at Shadow Lake. At least, Kristy, Claudia, Stacey, and Abby are. Too bad the mystery follows them up to the lake. First, someone throws a ski hat into the ski lift mechanism, trapping Stacey at the top. While she's stuck up there, a snow blower is turned on while Kristy is skiing, causing her to fall. Claudia almost heads down a closed trail, since the sign has mysteriously been buried in snow, but is pulled back to safety by Abby. The girls recover in the lodge and try to pass off their accidents as just that, accidents. When they get back to the lodge, though, they find the door wide open. Luckily, no one's inside....

Meanwhile, back in Stoneybrook, the Seger situation gets solved. Mary Anne is sitting at the Rodowskys when she witnesses another burglary. She calls the police, and it turns out that one of the culprits is Mr. Seger's son. He's in some serious financial trouble, and he and a friend have been selling things to try and pay back the money he owes. No charges are filed, and the family get some counseling. Later, the club has an emergency meeting at Shannon's to discuss the mystery. Noah Seger and his friend hadn't been bugging the that part of the mystery is still unsolved. The girls (and Logan) turn back to the SBB lists to try and at least figure out who was in the car that tried to run Stacey over. The car only had the previous year's SBB sticker on the bumper, so they compare the lists to see who's missing from the current list. One of them is Karl Tate, the dog-napper, and he's been released from prison. They call his house and find out that he's out of town...which would explain why nothing scary has happened to the BSC in a few days. Mary Anne calls Shadow Lake to warn them, and gets ahold of Stacey. The phone goes dead before she can get the whole message out.

Back at the cabin, the phone lines AND the power are out. Stacey managed to hear "Karl Tate" before getting cut off from Mary Anne, but she has no idea what Mary Anne meant by that. The Brewer parents and the younger kids go into town to stock up on supplies, leaving the club members, Sam, and Charlie alone in the cabin. They hear something outside, but think it's the wind. When Sam and Stacey go out to get firewood, though, they discover that it was more than that. They find blood in the snow, which understandably freaks them out. Charlie investigates, and he finds feathers there, too, and figures out that a bird probably became breakfast for a fox. That makes the others feel a little better....until they come around to the front of the house and see Kristy's ski poles. They'd been left leaning up against a wall, and are now stuck in the snow on either side of the porch. Someone also broke them. Definitely not a fox...

In Stoneybrook, Shannon, Logan, and Mary Anne take Astrid for a walk after the meeting. They walk by the Tate house to take a look at it, but it doesn't look like anyone's home. No one, that is, but the cat. Astrid takes off after the cat....right through the pet door and into the house. Shannon, Logan, and Mary Anne all go in after her (the door was open), and end up locked in Karl Tate's old office. The phone in there has been disconnected, so there's really nothing they can do except wait. Logan and Mary Anne finally talk out the whole note situation (they'd both been getting them, and each thought the other was writing them), and they make some interesting discoveries. They find another copy of that newspaper photo of the BSC with a big black X drawn over it, and the phone number to the Brewer's Shadow Lake cabin. Just as the three club members really start to panic about what's happening to their friends, Mrs. Tate arrives home. The girls and Logan try to hide, but Astrid barks and gives them away. Mrs. Tate recognizes Mary Anne from the photo, and she starts crying and saying that she's sorry, and that "he" needed to be stopped. The club members think she means her husband, but she doesn't; she's talking about her son, Woodrow. He's been bent on revenge ever since the club sent his dad to prison. They call the police to see if they can get in touch with the Shadow Lake cops in time to warn the others...

Things are going from bad to worse for the Shadow Lake contingent. Stacey discovers that her insulin case is missing (she has a backup in her purse), and that someone had sliced open Claudia's pillow and poured red nail polish over it. Then, the chimney starts smoking; someone had stopped it up, and they won't be able to use the fireplace now. Everyone decides to head to the lodge for the night, and hope that the parents and little kids will meet them there. They're joined by Woodie Keenan, a neighbor of theirs, who'd been pretty friendly up until that time. Claudia, though, notices something odd about him: from the back, he looks like a young Karl Tate. The other club members think she's full of it.

The walk to the lodge is pretty uneventful, in spite of the blizzard that's going on. It's uneventful, that is, until Karl Tate lunges out of the woods at the group. Abby, thinking quicklly, grabs a chunk of ice and throws it at him. He falls, and before anyone can do anything else, a woman runs out of the woods with a gun, ordering them all to freeze. The girls had noticed her before, and thought she was kind of shady. Not so; she's a detective, and she'd been after Karl Tate for violating his parole. Everyone thinks the mystery is solved...until Woodie Keenan grabs Stacey and threatens to throw her into the freezing lake. Woodie Keenan is actually Woodrow Tate, and he blames them for everything that's happened to his family. Kristy distracts him by throwing her emergency flare at him, allowing Stacey to escape. Woodie stumbles, and falls backward into the lake. He's fine, fine as anyone can be who's sent to jail! With that, the mystery is finally over.

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things
  • Once again, the girls don't tell their parents ANYTHING. It's one thing not to clue them in about counterfeit money, baking sabotage, or dog nappers, but if people are lurking outside your house and making threatening phone calls, it's just plain stupid not to tell someone.
  • I never really thought of Shadow Lake as being in a mountainous area. I always thought of it as being wooded, but kind of flat.
  • The mystery notebook makes its first appearance here.
  • When I have two books that were published in the same month to recap, I generally try and skim beforehand to see which one is supposed to come first. Normally, I do a pretty good job, but occasionally, I get it wrong. This was one of those times; Christmas hasn't happened yet, so I should have done this one before Mallory's Christmas Wish. I just didn't think they'd be going on a ski vacation before Christmas, which is why I assumed this one came second.
  • Am I imagining things, or does Cary Retlin own up to writing those notes to Mary Anne and Logan later in the series?
  • It was actually kind of nice to have some continuity between this book and the one about dogs. For once, seemingly random characters actually made another appearance.

Friday, March 12, 2010

#92 Mallory's Christmas Wish


Mallory has convinced her entire family that they need to have an old-fashioned Christmas. They'll be cooking, crafting, singing, the works. Vanessa is so taken with the idea that she enters a contest with a local tv station to have their entire Christmas taped for some family values show. The Pikes, of course, win. Not only will they get to be on tv, but they get a check for $10,000 for their trouble. The whole family is pretty excited...they're going to be famous!

At first, everything goes pretty well. Mallory is a little disappointed that the crew shows up with only a minivan full of equipment instead of trucks and trucks of stuff, but she forgets that pretty quickly in the excitement of having and actual television crew in her house. All the family really does during the first shoot is make cookies, but you know the Pikes; there are plenty of antics to go along with the baking. Things start to go a little south not long after that. First, Margo gets hurt sliding down the banister after the crew asks the kids to come down the stairs mulitple times, so they can get the shot they want. Then, the kids go to see Santa at the mall, and the whole trip turns into kind of a disaster. They have to go up and down the escalator a bunch of times so they can be filmed from all sorts of angles, which irritates the kids. Then, when they finally make it to North Pole Village and Santa, they find that the line is huge. The film crew tries to get the store employees to let the Pikes to the front of the line, but it doesn't work.

What happens next is one of the low points in the whole experience for Mallory. The crew gets wind of the Christmas Boutique that Stoneybrook Manor is holding as a fundraiser, and of Mallory's involvement in making it happen. The crew gets permission to film there, which ends up being a big mistake. They move things around, irritate the residents, and bascially disrupt everything. The woman in charge of making the boutique happen is understandably frustrated, and tells Mallory that they can't come back (the crew, not Mal and her friends). Poor Mallory feels awful, and the family trip to a Christmas tree farm doesn't make her feel any better. Being filmed all the time just isn't fun anymore, and Mal can't wait for it all to be over.

For ALL the Pikes, the last straw comes on Christmas Eve. That's when the family usually exchanges their Secret Santa presents. It's not fun this year, though; they're constantly having to stop, redo things, and wait for the camera people to get their shots. Finally, everyone decides they've had enough. The Pike parents ask the camera crew to leave for awhile, and while they're gone, the family has a little meeting. ALL of them want to stop filming, even though it means giving up the $10,000. When the crew comes back later, the Pikes give them the bad/good news, and the family gets their Christmas back.

Rating: 2

Thoughts and Things
  • I like the Pikes' Secret Santa gift exchange. For anyone who hasn't read this one, here's how it works: each family member writes down a "wish" on a piece of paper, and it's each family member's responsibility to grant the wish they draw. For instance, Mallory wished for the greatest Christmas book ever, and Vanessa gives her a blank journal with a note that reads "It hasn't been written yet. Get to work!" It's a cute idea!
  • From what I've heard about "behind the scenes" stuff on some reality shows, it sounds like all the irritating stuff the Pikes had to do is pretty accurate.
  • Could Hodges have picked uglier colors for Mallory to wear on the cover? Pink is not usually attractive on redheads. I guess he was too busy drawing himself into the cover to think about things like that....
  • The BSC comes to the Pikes on Christmas Day and hangs out for awhile. Mrs. Pike calls this a welcome interruption. Really? After all the talk about Christmas being a holiday for family, and not wanting outsiders to be a part of it?
  • Even though I agree with the Pikes' decision to kick the film crew out, I can't believe they waited until Christmas Eve to do it. Seriously...they couldn't stick it out for one more day?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

#91 Claudia and the First Thanksgiving


It's time once again for a new plot, I mean Short Takes class. All of the new ST classes will center around drama; some classes will read plays as literature, some will perform a play, and some will study drama from around the world. Claudia, Stacey, and Abby are all in a class who will be writing a play for the third graders at SES to perform. The class tosses around a few ideas before deciding that they'll write their play about a girl named Alice who falls asleep the day before Thanksgiving and wakes up at the very first Thanksgiving. The only people who can see her when she travels back in time are the pilgrim and Indian children. Alice and the children exchange information about what Thanksgiving is like for them, with a heavy emphasis on women's and men's roles. The class has to do quite a bit of research on what Thanksgiving was really like for the pilgrims, and they're pretty surprised by what they find...

Casting the play proves to be the easy part; Betsy Sobak gets the lead role of Alice, and they find places for all the other kids who want to participate. Rehearsals run pretty smoothly, until one afternoon. Claudia notices some parents and SES teachers watching the kids practice. They don't seem happy, but Claudia doesn't find out why until the next rehearsal. In the middle of the play, one of the teachers stands up, orders them to stop, and denounces the play as un-American. Plenty of parents and other teachers are unhappy as well, and rehearsal ends. The next day, Ms. Garcia (Claudia's Short Takes teacher) has bad news for the class: they either put on a play that tells the traditional, watered-down version of the first Thanksgiving, or there won't be a play. The class is pretty mad, but they decide to put on a censored version of the play. They DO get the last word, though, by wearing censorship buttons, putting "censored" on the programs, and putting on the original version of the play with SMS students. The whole fiasco makes Claudia think about censorship and freedom of speech, and exactly how far is too far.

Subplot: every single member of the BSC had made plans for Thanksgiving, and every single one of those plans falls through. So, the club decides to have one big dinner for all their families over at Kristy's. Even Dawn shows up!

Rating: 1.5

Thoughts and Things
  • was Halloween at the end of the last book, and all the kids dresses up like Ghostbusters. It was also Halloween in the beginning of this book, and all the kids dressed up like Groucho Marx. I don't think anyone was even trying when it came to continuity at this point...
  • Poor Mal...her family was once again supposed to go to New York for Thanksgiving and see the parade, but the apartment they were going to borrow gets flooded. At least it wasn't Mallory's fault this time!
  • I wonder if Nola Thacker is a feminist? There was a LOT of women's rights stuff in this book.
  • Speaking of Nola, this book actually read much more like a Lerangis book. There were tons of cheesy puns, and a snot reference. Usually, he's the one that's all over stuff like that.
  • I kind of love how Abby tells everyone off. :)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

M#22 Stacey and the Haunted Masquerade


It's almost Halloween, and SMS is going to be holding its first Halloween Masquerade in 28 years. Stacey wants to have more to her life than just the BSC (even though she likes being back in the club), so she signs up for the decorating committee. She's not too excited to find out that Cokie Mason is also on the decorating committe, but she doesn't have anything to worry about for that quarter. From the very first committee meeting, Cokie's constantly getting ignored, and her ideas are always getting voted down by everyone else in the group. This includes Grace Blume, Cokie's supposed BFF. They also have a cool advisor: Mr. Rothman, who's news to teaching at SMS.

In other news, a group called the Mischief Knights has taken hold of the school. They're pulling pranks, like switching items in people's lockers, writing messages on blackboards, and soaping up windows. No one knows who they are, and no one is owning up to being a part of the group. The beginning of the pranks just happened to coincide with none other than Cary Retlin starting at SMS, though. The BSC isn't going to put two and two together until closer to the end of the book, but I thought I'd throw that little piece of information in now. :)

One day before school, Rick Chow (also on the decorating committee) finds Stacey with some big news. Someone trashed all the supplies they'd bought so far for the dance. First, they think it might be the Mischief Knights. They more or less rule them out, since that level of destruction isn't really their style. Plus, there was no "signature" note, and the Knights always leave those. Then, Stacey wonders if it could be Grace. Cokie had mentioned that Grace had been bragging about some hot date she was planning to bring to the dance, and Cokie isn't sure he really exists. Stacey thinks that Grace could be trying to get the dance cancelled to save face.

The following week, there's more destruction. Claudia had made some ad posters for the dance, and someone cuts them into confetti. The culprit leaves one intact, though, and paints "Will you still love me tomorrow?" across it. This time, Cokie is a suspect. She's been kind of bitter about no one in the committee liking her ideas from the start, and Claudia thinks that she might have wrecked the posters for revenge. Less than a day later, someone spray paints "$10" on the walls of the gym. The Mischief Knights are also brought up as possible suspects again, as is a Mr. Wetzler. He's a Stoneybrook resident who doesn't like the fact that SMS is using funding for the dance,and the girls think he might be trying to get it cancelled for that reason. The BSC members decide they need to do some research. Apparently, there was some sort of tragedy at the last Masquerade, which is why the school hasn't had one in 28 years. They question Sharon and Richard first. Neither remembers much about that night (they were only in 6th grade at the time), but they DO remember that a teacher was killed. After checking old issues of the Stoneybrook News at the library, the club gets all the details they need: during the dance, someome turned off the lights, then set off the fire alarm. There was a stampede of panicked students trying to leave the school, and this teacher had a heart attack during all the commotion. Next, the girls decide to hunt up a copy of the yearbook from that year, just to see what they can find. Interestingly, both Mr. Wetzler and Mr. Rothman were at SMS back then...

Just as the girls are finishing up their yearbook research in the school library, a special assembly is announced. At first, the club thinks it's either another prank, or that the cancellation of the dance is about be made. Neither is the case; it's a legitimate assembly featuring a local theater group. What happens during the assembly, though, isn't legitimate. The lights go out, and a good chunk of the student body freaks out. When the lights come back, they discover that one of the actresses had fallen and broken her arm. Other than that, no inuries, and everyone is sent back to class.

After that, Stacey decides that she needs to interview Mr. Wetzler. She cooks up a story about being with the SMS Express, and that she's doing a story about the school budget. She manages to steer the conversation around to the dance, and finds out that some girl was dumped at the last masquerade. Rumor had it that she was the one responsible for the lights and fire alarm going off, and she left school not long after. Mr. Wetzler suddenly remembers an appointment after revealing that, and rushes out like he's on fire. The BSC again turns to the yearbook for help. The culprit wouldn't have a picture in there if she left before it went to press, but yearbooks usually come with a list of students that aren't pictured. Sure enough, there are three girls listed. The next stop for the club is the school basement, to check out old school records. By looking at the files on all three girls, they figure out that the one they want must be Elizabeth Connor. She left SMS in early November, right after the dance. Not only that, but when she lived in Stoneybrook, she lived in the Johanssen's house.

Luckily, Mary Anne has a sitting job at the Johanssen house that night. Since all the Stoneybrook kids are into playing Ghostbusters, she figures that it would be a perfect cover for taking a close look at the house. Stacey joins her, along with the Braddock kids. In Charlotte's room, they find height markings on the door frame, along with the name "Elizabeth." They've been painted over, but are still readable. In the basement, they find a heart containing the initials "LC+MR" carved into it. Liz Connor and Mike in the decorating committe advisor. Stacey confronts Mr. Rothman, and he tells her everything. Back in middle school, he was one of the most popular kids at SMS. Liz, on the other hand, was not. Mr. Rothman tried to be nice to her, though, and she developed this big crush on him. His friends dared him to ask her to the dance, and bet $10 that he wouldn't last all evening with her. Since being popular was important to him, he agreed. He made it all the way to the last dance of the evening ("Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?") before confessing. Then, Liz stormed out of the gym, and not long after, the lights went out and fire alarm went off. It appears that Liz just might be back in Stoneybrook, and Mr. Rothman's fears are confirmed the next morning when he and Stacey find a dummy hanging from a noose on one of the basket ball hoops.

The day of the dance arrives without any further problems. It looks like everything is going well, until Stacey heads into the bathroom and finds one of the teachers in there, missing the big heavy cloak from her costume. She tells Stacey that someone spilled dip on it, then followed her into the bathroom and stole it when she tried to clean it up. Stacey puts two and two together, figures out who must have taken the cloak, and runs back into the gym. She spots Mr. Rothman, dancing with someone who just happens to be wearing the cloak. It's just about time for everyone to unmask themselves, and when they do, Mr. Rothman finds himself face to face with Liz Connor. He's really very gentle with her, gets her out of the gym, and makes sure she gets the help she needs.

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things

  • Exactly how is this dance different from the Halloween Hop that SMS has every year? The way that everyone was talking, you'd think they hadn't had a Halloween dance at all since the tragic one.
  • Why did the BSC have to go to the SMS library to look at the right yearbook? Sharon and Richard would have had copies, too.
  • Cary Retlin is a real guy. :) No kidding... he lives (or did at one point) in my home state of Washington!
  • Still no hot Sgt. Johnson, but I decided that Mr. Rothman bears a striking resemblance to Matthew Morrison from Glee. :D