Sunday, May 30, 2010

#124 Stacey McGill...Matchmaker?


The BSC has yet another new family to sit for: the Brookes. Stacey is the first one to sit for them, and the job is pretty easy. There are two kids; Joni is nine, and Ewan is five, and they don't give Stacey any trouble at all. It's an especially easy job because Mr. Brooke is home the entire time. He's a mystery writer, and he wanted a sitter around to look after the kids so he could concentrate on his latest novel. Mrs. Brooke isn't in the picture anymore; she's in Atlanta, hosting some tv show. At the end of the evening, Mrs. McGill comes to pick up Stacey. It's pretty clear that she and Mr. Brooke are into each other, which couldn't make Stacey happier. She's been concerned lately that her mom doesn't have enough of a social life, and dating someone as nice as Mr. Brooke would be perfect. The next time Stacey sits for Joni and Ewan, her mom insists on driving her over there. Mrs. McGill spends an awful lot of time talking to Mr. Brooke before leaving, and that doesn't exactly make the kids happy. Joni in particular seems upset by her dad's attraction to Stacey's mom, and she's a lot colder to Stacey than she was before. She's even more unhappy when Mr. Brooke asks Mrs. McGill to go with him to the premiere of a play he wrote. Stacey isn't able to sit for the kids that night, so Kristy gets the job instead. Joni is really difficult; she tries her hardest to make her dad late for the date, and she's doing her best to convince Ewan that he's going to marry Mrs. McGill, and that Mrs. McGill will turn into the typical evil stepmother.

Meanwhile, Stacey waits up at home to hear all about the date. It went pretty well, and Mrs. McGill is in a great mood for the rest of the weekend. The Brooke kids, on the other hand, are miserable. Joni is really cold to Stacey the next time she sits, and Ewan just goes along with her. Stacey pulls Mr. Brooke aside after the job is over and lets him know how upset the kids are that he's going out with her mom, and he agrees to talk to them. He does it before Stacey sits there next, but it doesn't really sink in. Joni is still pretty frosty, but Ewan is a bit friendlier. Mr. Brooke is full of praise for Mrs. McGill, which makes Stacey pretty glad, but her mom isn't quite as enthusiastic about the relationship. Some of the themes in his books disturb her, and she doesn't like the way he snaps at Joni for her rude behavior when the families go out to dinner together. Even so, when Mr. Brooke suggests that they all have Thanksgiving dinner together at the McGills', Mrs. McGill agrees. It's a disaster; Joni won't eat anything that her dad didn't bring, and she's rude about the music that Mrs. McGill chose. Mr. Brooke finally loses his temper, causing Joni to run from the room in tears. Stacey has a talk with her, and things settle down a bit after that. It's still a pretty tense dinner, though.

After the Brookes leave, Mrs. McGill tells Stacey that she going to break it off with Mr. Brooke. Stacey doesn't see all the negative things that her mom does, and she's furious that Mrs. McGill would just end what could be a great relationship. She cools off during a weekend in New York (and a talk with Ethan about the subject) and she realizes that she can't make decisions like that for her mom. Plus, Stacey knows that she owes her own mother more loyalty that she does to Mr. Brooke. Oddly enough, the kids had gotten used to the idea of their dad dating Stacey's mom, and they're upset by the breakup. They think it's their fault for being difficult, until Stacey straightens them out.

No real subplot in this one; just the Mallory looking into other schools to get away from her Spaz Girl reputation.

Rating: 2

Thoughts and Things
  • I was so indifferent to this book; I didn't love and I didn't hate it. It was just sort of...there. I DID like that Mrs. McGill didn't go and marry the first guy she dated after her divorce like everyone else in the BSC world.
  • I wonder if Suzanne Weyn (or someone else invovled with the series) was a fan of Little Women? I mean, they could have given Mr. Brooke any first name in the world, but they made him John (another John in Stoneybrook!!!!). At least the kids weren't named Daisy and Demi. ;)
  • I sort of had a bookcrush on the LW John Brooke when I was younger. :D
  • So...another famous author calls Stoneybrook home. Lovely.
  • How do you guys think Joni's name is pronounced? Is it "Johnny" or "Joanie?"

Saturday, May 29, 2010

#123 Claudia's Big Party


Claudia is feeling pulled in all sorts of different directions. She's got tons of homework now that she's back in 8th grade, and she's trying to maintain her friendships with both her 7th and 8th grade friends. Then, there's her relationship with Josh to consider; Claud knows she's not giving him all the time she should, either. Also, Janine has just broken up with her boyfriend, Jerry (didn't this already happen???), and she suddenly wants to be Claudia's best friend. At least the Kishi parents aren't on her case much; in fact, they're going to Chicago for a weekend. At first, they consider having the girls stay with Russ and Peaches, but they're too busy with baby Lynn. So, Mr. and Mrs. Kishi agree to let Claudia and Janine stay by themselves.

Claudia has big plans for a nice, relaxing weekend, but Janine has other ideas. She wants to spend time with Claudia, doing all sorts of stuff together. Claud does her best to be supportive (she knows Janine is probably feeling a little lonely because of her breakup), but hanging around with Janine wasn't how she envisioned her parents-free weekend. She's also still trying to deal with the problem of how to spend time with everyone in her life, and she hasn't really solved that problem yet. It's as if her 7th grade friends are in one part of her life, her 8th grade friends in another, and Josh (even though he's in the 7th grade group, too) in another. That's when she gets her idea: she'll have a party so everyone can get to know each other. Janine agrees to the idea, since the Kishis never said the girls couldn't have friend over. Claudia just intends to have the BSC plus her 7th grade group over, but word about the party gets out, and a lot more people show up. Everyone seems to be having a good time, but they're also making a lot of noise and a huge mess. Then, right in the middle of the party, Peaches and Russ show up. Needless to say, they're not happy. They send everyone home, and order Claudia and Janine to clean up the house in the hopes that their efforts will lessen whatever punishment their parents decide to dish out.

Neither Claudia nor Janine is in a particularly good mood during the initial cleanup. Janine blames everything on the immaturity of Claudia's friends, and Claud retaliates by commenting on Janine's lack of any friends at all. They don't speak for the rest of the night, and the next day, Janine is back to being a crabby drill sergeant. When they DO speak civilly, Janine admits that she let Jerry take over her life, and now that she's not with him anymore, she doesn't know how to reconnect with anyone else. Claudia understands, and promises that they'll do something special together later. Then, the Kishi parents come home. The girls confess everything, and Claudia ends up losing her phone priviledges for awhile, except for official BSC business.

Subplot: Bill and Melody Korman are fighting a lot.

Rating: 2.5

Thoughts and Things
  • During the party, Claudia and Janine have to try making their own pizza with American cheese after they run out of other food. I totally did that once, and it was every bit as disgusting as you'd imagine. :)
  • Bill Korman was an awful little bully in this book. Seriously...he approached Sean Addison levels of awfulness.
  • I can't figure out who's who on the cover. Mary Anne and Mallory are obvious, and the girl on the couch in the red shirt could be Kristy. I'm guessing that the Asian girl sitting on the floor is Jeannie Kim, and the blond in the white shirt and brown pants could be Stacey (she was looking through Claud's music at one point during the party). I have no clue who anyone else is, although the guy in the white sweater next to Jeannie has the exact same haircut as Travis on the cover of Dawn and the Older Boy.
  • When I was typing Dawn and the Older Boy just now, I first typed, Dawn ON the Older Boy. Eeeesh. ;)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

#122 Kristy in Charge


SMS has a new program planned for its students, and it's called "Teachers of Tomorrow." Any interested student will be given the opportunity to teach a couple of classes at SMS in exchange for some extra credit. Kristy, Mallory, Mary Anne, and Stacey all sign up for the program; Kristy will be teaching gym, Mallory will be teaching English, Mary Anne will be teaching Social Studies, and Stacey will be teaching math. Everyone has to sit through some training sessions before they're handed over control of their classes,but Kristy doesn't think she needs any instruction. She likes the idea of lesson plans, which are a big part of the training, and even considers requiring the BSC to do them for each of their sitting jobs. She doesn't think she'll need any kind of plan for PE, though. Ms. Walden, the teacher who's class Kristy is going to get, pulls her side after the second training session and gives her a few tips on how to make things run smoothly. Kristy tunes her out; she doesn't like Ms. Walden's teaching style, and she plans to show her how things can be run better. She definitely listens up when Ms. Walden tells her that she'll be combining her class with a boys' PE class, taught by none other than Cary Retlin.

The first class doesn't exactly go smoothly. Cary and Kristy both ask to separate their classes so they don't have to work together, but Ms. Walden and Mr. DeYoung say no. Then, Cary goofs off during Kristy's warm-up. distracting the class. Then, during the soccer game, Cary shows off even more, and Mr. DeYoung has to step in and restore order. Kristy isn't the only BSC member having trouble with her ToT class, either. Mallory was assigned to teach an 8th grade English class, and her first day is even worse. Kristy and Mary Anne are in the class, and they try and help things along, Mallory simply has no confidence in her ability to handle the class. She drops things, and accidentally sends a piece of chalk flying across the room. This earns her the nickname "Spaz Girl," and she's in tears by the end of class.

Kristy decides a lesson plan might be a good idea for the second class, so she makes the most detailed one in the history of SMS. She decides not to go over it with Cary ahead of time, though, so there's still a distinct lack of teamwork. Then, they head outside for a soccer game. Kristy had split the class into two teams (one for her to coach and one for Cary), but the class complains about the way that she divided them up. Cary steps in and asks them to split into two teams however they want, and they end up with two fairly equal groups. Kristy immediately claims the group that has the most big, strong-looking kids for herself, but that wasn't the wisest move. All the kids on Cary's team are in karate together, and some of them are better players than they look like they should be. Cary and Kristy fight over everything; each one thinks that the kids of the other's team are causing problems on purpose, and eventually, a fight breaks out between the kids. Eventually, Mr. DeYoung has to step in again, and Cary and Kristy are sent to the vice principal's office. Mr. Kingbridge isn't happy; several kids had to be treated for injuries, and the ToT program might end up cancelled because of it. He gives Kristy and Cary one more chance to prove themselves, though.

At the BSC meeting that afternoon, everyone commiserates on the rotten day they had. Mallory had another rough English class and ended up in tears, and (of course) Kristy ended up in hot water. Mallory decides that she's going to teach a poem she likes to the class and not worry about what they think of it, and Kristy decides to try a game that might foster teamwork insteadof competition. To her surprise, Cary likes her ideas, and he even uses some of her warm-up ideas when Kristy agrees to try letting him lead that part of class. Mr. DeYoung and Ms. Walden agree that the two of them almost redeemed themselves for the disaster that was their first two days of teaching. Mallory, though, has a tough time of it on her last day. She manages to finish strong, but not without more "Spaz Girls" being thrown at her. It looks like that nickname is here to stay....

Subplot: Vanessa tries to start a poetry school for your younger siblings, but she turns into a total drill sergeant about it. She coerces them in to being her students by threatening to tattle on them, and forces them to write her way. Abby eventually has a talk with her and encourages her to make poetry fun for her sibs.

Rating: 2

Thoughts and Things

  • Suzanne Weyn kind of owns the end of the BSC series; she's responsible for 5 of the last 10 books. Interestingly enough, Peter L. doesn't have any (I'm not taking FF into account with this).
  • Thank the Lord that Kristy never followed through with making the BSC members do lesson plans for their sitting jobs. If they pitched a fit over that stupid checklist she posted way back near the beginning of the series, imagine what would happen if they had to do those plans. Riot!
  • It's funny that Kristy is back to hating Cary in this book when he was working well with the BSC in the last one I recapped.
  • It WAS pretty cruel to give Mal and 8th grade class; that really shouldn't have happened.
  • BSC trivia: Grace Blume was the first person to call Mallory "Spaz Girl."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

M#36 Kristy and the Cat Burglar


Kristy and her younger siblings are checking out a house that the kids call "the spooky house" when something REALLY spooky happens: they hear a gunshot! They hear sirens almost right away, and Kristy figures that they probably shouldn't be a part of whatever is going on at the house, so they start running for the street. They're just about there when someone orders them to freeze. To Kristy's relief, it's Sgt. Johnson. He introduces the kids to Officer Hopkins, who's also on the scene, and orders them to stay in his squad car while they check the house. Just then, a man shows up and identifies himself as Jack Fenton, the security guard for the house. He had been on duty that day, but had gotten a call about his wife being in the hospital and had gone to see her. The odd thing? Sgt. Johnson had gotten a call around the same time, asking him to be at the house. Fenton asks the police officers if they've checked the vault, and when they do, some diamonds are missing. By that time, another cop, Sgt. Winters, has shown up. He sort of takes over the investigation from then on, and it's pretty obvious to Kristy that he and Sgt. Johnson aren't exactly best friends. Kristy overhears them talking about Reinhart Golem, the owner of the house. He's a bit of a loner, and although he doesn't spend much time at home, his house is filled with nice stuff. Kristy asks the officers why he has a red cat stenciled on his mailbox, and which is something they hadn't noticed before. That cat is the mark of a robber known as the Cat Burglar, who targets very, very rich people.

Later that week, Kristy is called down to the police station by Sgt. Johnson for a little interview. When she gest there, she's surprised to find Sgt. Winters and Officer Hopkins waiting for her instead. They ask her all sorts of questions about how and when they saw Sgt. Johnson on the day of the robbery. They make themselves scarce when Sgt. Johnson himself shows up. He tells Kristy that Sgt. Winters is VERY ambitious, and would like to be the new police chief when the current one retires. He then asks her to repeat everything she saw and heard on the day of the robbery, and shows her a picture of a man he identifies as Ben Birch. Birch is a business associate of Reinhart Golem's, but Kristy doesn't recognize him. Sgt. Johnson gives her a copy of the photo to take with her, just in case. When the questioning is over, Kristy finds Claudia, Kristy, and a very annoyed Cary Retlin waiting for her (Cary had been bird-watching, supposedly, in the woods near the scene of the crime). The four of them decide to head back over to the mansion to do a little investigating on their own. They end up finding a bullet hole, a bullet casing, and a red marker that could have been used to make the cat stencil. Then, they get brave and peek in the windows. Kristy gets the shock of her life when she sees someone staring back at her; Renhart Golem is home. Instead of being mad, he invites the kids in. He tells them that he'd just returned from Paris, and they show him the evidence they've just found on his property. He calls Sgt. Winters, who shows up with Officer Hopkins. Golem then asks Kristy and her friends to help him spolve the robbery, and offers them a reward to do so.

At the next BSC meeting, the girls discuss the case. They're not totally sure that Cary is innocent. After all, he WAS in the area at the time of the robbery, and he's been known to cause mischief. Ben Birch is also a possibility; his business relationship with Golem had gone sour, and he'd definitely have a motive. Before they can get any further, the phone rings. It's Golem, and he wants their help again. He asks them to tell him everything they know about Sgt. Johnson. It seems that his prints were found all over the red marker that was used to draw the cat. The casing from the bullet is also from the same type of gun that the Stoneybrook police officers carry. It looks like Sgt. Johnson may be a suspect! Then, he shows up at a BSC meeting, looking absolutely awful. He says he's there to ask them some more question, but he ends up going on and on about how he didn't do anything wrong, and asking the girls to believe him. Pretty soon, the police chief shows up....and arrests Sgt. Johnson. Apparently, some of the missing diamonds had been found in his desk.

Kristy does a lot of thinking about the case; even though it looks bad, she really never though Sgt. Johnson could be capable of doing something like that. She then turns her thoughts to the day of the robbery. There's really no way that Sgt. Johnson could have drawn the cat, robbed the house, and shown up where Kristy was standing with her siblings without seeming even a little winded. Cary Retlin shows up and interrupts her thinking; as it turns out, he's been having some of the same thoughts. The two of them head to the BSC meeting, and everyone agrees that Sgt. Johnson could very well have been framed. Since Sgt. Winters is so determined to get the chief job instead ogf Sgt. Johnson, he looks like the most likely suspect. The club decides that they need to tell Reinhart Golem what they'd figured out, so they split the club in two. Kristy, Cary, Mary Anne, and Abby will go to his house to try and find him, and the rest will go to Chez Maurice (his favorite restaurant). Kristy and the others find him at home, and they tell him what they suspect. Kristy notices Cary staring at something, looking panicked; it's a blue Tiffany lamp, identical to one the Cat Burglar had taken from an apartment building in New York City. Reinhart Golem had also had a home in that building, and Cary and Kristy realize at the same time that he must be the cat burglar. Unfortunately, Golem realizes that they've put two and two together, and locks the doors so they can't leave. Just as he turns away to find some rope to tie them up with, Cary knocks him down. Kristy hits the button that unlocks the doors, and they escape just as the police show up. The crew that went looking for Golem at Chez Maurice had noticed that he had a reservation there on the day of the robbery, when he was supposedly in Paris. He was indeed the Cat Burglar, and he had used Sgt. Winters and Officer Hopkins to frame Sgt. Johnson because he was mad about a previous investigation. Everyone is okay after their ordeal, but the BSC officially decides to retire from the mystery business.

In other news, Charlotte is obsessed with playing Harriet the Spy, and that goes about as well as you'd expect.

Rating: 2

Thoughts and Things
  • Last mystery! :D (note that the smiley face is different from the one I used after the last Super Special....)
  • I totally got a molestor vibe from Golem. I can't believe that the BSC members kept going to his house without an adult.
  • I kind of like the subplot. :)
  • I swear, Ellen Miles must have a crush on Sgt. Johnson. There's just something about the way she writes his character, and the way she always has the narrator go on and on about his clear, blue eyes....I wonder if he's based on anyone she knows?

Monday, May 24, 2010

#121 Abby in Wonderland


Abby, Anna, and their mom are headed out to the Hamptons for a vacation with Gram Elsie and Grandpa Morris, Mrs, Stevenson's parents. They throw themselves a big anniversary party every year, and this year, the theme is "Alice in Wonderland." Abby is really excited about hanging out on the beach, seeing her grandparents, and helping them get ready for their party. She's also got Kristy coming up for a visit for a week. Right away, though, Abby notices that something isn't right with her grandparents. Grandpa Morris insists on going with Gram Elsie to some appointment she has in town , and then Abby overhears Gram on the phone, confirming that she's going to having something checked out. After that, Abby watches her grandmother much more closely, but no more clues about what might be wrong come to the surface. Then, Gran Elsie sends Abby into the house to get a copy of the party menu. When Abby's looking for it, she finds all sorts of information about breast cancer...and the likely answer to what's wrong with Gram Elsie.

People have started RSVPing for the party, and Gram Elsie has been disappointed with how many aren't coming. Abby decides to give her grandmother a treat, and she starts surreptitiously calling people who've said no and trying to convince them to come. She also decides she needs to find out more about breast cancer, so she heads to the library the first chance she gets. Abby finds quite a bit of scary information, but also lots of information that's encouraging. The comfort that she got from being informed kind of goes out the window when she sees Gram Elsie again. Reading articles and books and statistics is one thing; it's a totally different ball game when it's someone you know. When Gram goes upstairs for a nap, Abby tries to get Grandpa Morris to tell her what's wrong with her grandmother. All she can get out of him is that planning the party is taking a lot out of Elsie.

The day of the party arrives, finally. Everything is going well, and many of the guests that had said they weren't coming show up, thanks to Abby. Then, Gram Elsie and Grandpa Morris give a very touching speech about how much everyone means to them, and how important family and friends are. This is too much for Abby; she runs inside the house, crying. Gram Elsie finds her, and Abby finally confesses that she knows about Gram's cancer. Gram confirms that she does have breast cancer....maybe. The appointment that Abby had heard her talking about on the phone was for a biopsy, and the results haven't come back yet. Gram lets Abby know that even if it IS cancer, she intends to fight it. The books ends without us ever knowing whether or not the lump was cancerous.

Subplot: the Pikes can't afford to go to Sea City, so the kids create their own beach vacation in their own backyard.

Rating: 1

Thoughts and Things

  • Normally, I like Suzanne Weyn, but this book was so poorly written that it's not even funny.
  • This is one of the only books where I actually like the subplot better than the main story.
  • Cover: Kristy dressed up as the Mad Hatter for the party, so if that's her talking to the older gentleman in the background...either he's really short or she's suddenly grown about a foot. Also, her feet are freakishly tiny.
  • When I first read this book, I remember being surprised that they used the word "breast" so many times in a BSC book, even though it WAS in a technical sense.

Friday, May 21, 2010

SS#15 Baby-sitters' European Vacation

This book more or less picks up from where the last one left off. Some of the sitters are in Stoneybrook working at the SES Playground Camp, and some are on the SMS London/Paris trip. I'll start with everyone who stayed behind, because their plots are the most boring and I want to get them out of the way:

Claudia is upset when Janine is made a head counselor at camp. Janine is really hard on Claud, but that's because the other head counselor, Jerry (Janine's ex) is being really hard on Janine herself. They talk things out, and Janine kind of tells Jerry off.

Mary Anne doesn't do a whole lot, except try to stay close to Logan and not stand up for herself when Cokie tries (again) to get close to him.

Dawn substitutes one day at another camp for children with special needs. Susan Felder is one of the campers.

Now, onto Europe:

When Stacey arrives at the group's hotel in London, she opens her suitcase only to find a bunch of men's clothes...and a canister of human ashes with the name of the deceased on the outside. Stacey and Kristy both kind of panic and assume that the suitacse belongs to a murderer...because murderers ALWAYS carry their victims around with them in LABLED URNS. Anyway, Mrs. McGill (she's chaperoning the trip) calls the airline and lets them know that a mistake was made. The owner of the suitcase, Mr. Anderson, calls the airline around the same time. Stacey just wants to ship the suitcase to him in Paris and be done with it, but there's a problem. Mr. Anderson is a World War II veteran, and he's taking his fellow soldier's ashes to Normandy to spread them. Mrs. McGill doesn't feel right about trusting the ashes to the airline, so she agrees to meet Mr. Anderson and deliver the suitcase personally. Stacey doesn't understand why it would be so important for them to do that, until she visits the Cabinet War Rooms and gets a clearer picture of what it was really like for Mr. Anderson and his buddy. They meet up with him when the group arrives in Paris, and Stacey, on the spur of the moment, decides that she wants to go to Normandy, too.

Kristy develops a kind of love/hate relationship with this French-Canadian guy that's with the other school taking the tour at the same time as SMS. She claims to hate Michel with a passion, but she can't stop talking about him. Then, the two of them get separated from the group while they're in Paris, and end up having to spend half the day togther. Kristy finally admits that she has feelings for Michel, but doesn't know what to do about it. After all, they're not exactly neighbors. Abby makes her promise to at least tell him how she feels at their goodbye party, but Kristy doesn't have to. Michel kind of already knows, and they have an oh-so-romantic, Parisy kiss on Kristy's hotel room balcony.

Jessi is excited to see Dance New York, who are performing in London. She goes backstage to see all the kids she knew from her time with the program, and while she's there, one of the girls sprains her ankle. Since the understudy is sick with food poisoning, David Brailsford asks Jessi to substitute during the number that she learned during her time with the program. Jessi's a little rusty, but the performance goes pretty well. Kristy even makes a comment about how Jessi should join the company permanently.....

Mallory's cousin Gillian and her family live in London, and she goes to visit them. Not only is she excited to learn that Gillian is a writer, but she's also excited to learn that she's distantly related to William Shakespeare. She then becomes so obsessed with writing that she sort of forgets to enjoy the trip, until Jessi brings her back down to Earth.

Abby gets to go to Buckingham Palace with Victoria Kent. Victoria is presenting flowers to the Queen, and Abby is convinced that she'll get to meet the Queen, too, but it doesn't happen. She DOES step on a prince, though.

Robert has one really boring chapter all to himself.

Rating: 4

Thoughts and Things

  • Last super special! :(
  • Stacey's story in this book is my absolute favorite SS plot, hands down. It still gives me chills when I red it, and I even got a little emotional recapping that part. I'm so glad she was the one that got the serious plot instead of just giving her another boyfriend or something.
  • At one point, Jessi is with a group that hits the wax museum, the British Museum, the Tower of London, Smithfield Market, and the Dance New York performance all in the same day. That's....kind of not possible, if you want to take the time to actually enjoy everything. The British Museum alone could take up half the day, and the Tower is too cool to just rush through.
  • Peter Lerangis totally needed a fact checker for this book. He has Mallory and Jessi discuss their visit to the Bastille, and it's made fairly clear that they actually went inside it. There's just one problem: it doesn't exist anymore. The French even have an entire holiday to celebrate the storming of the place!
  • This has got to be the worst chaperoned trip ever. Assuming that all 50 slots were filled, that means that there's only one chaperone per 25 kids. That doesn't seem like enough. Plus, Kristy and Michel ended up a hotel room....with the door shut. Where was their supervision???
  • London is to me what NYC is to Mary Anne; I'm a total nerd over it, and I would totally love to live there when I grow up. ;)
  • Does anyone else have the shiny magenta cover instead of the pink one that's pictured? I do, and I'm pretty sure that it came with a set of rings as well.
  • Take a look at the picture of Dawn on page 126; it looks like she got some serious calf implants!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

#120 Mary Anne and the Playground Fight


The school year is just about over (for the 3978343th time since the series started), and the BSC is buzzing over two big pieces of news. First, the school is going to be offering another trip for students, like they did with the Hawaii trip. This trip, though, is to London and Paris. Next, Mrs. Simon (one of the SMS teachers) calls during a BSC meeting to let the club know that SES is going to be running a playground camp during the summer, and she wants all of them to consider applying to be counselors. There are six slots open for SMS students, and all the BSC members (except Shannon) plan to apply. That's nine people applying for those six addition to all the non-BSC kids who are going to be throwing their hats in the ring. Mary Anne is really worried about all the competition.

Soon, Dawn arrives for the summer, and she has some big news of her own: she doesn't want to leavce Stoneybrook at all, even for the nine days that the Europe trip would last. Mary Anne decides that she won't go, either. The others are busy trying to earn money for their trips, though...and preparing their applications for the playground jobs. Everyone except Jessi and Mallory end up making it past the first round of cuts and gets an interview, but not everyone in the BSC who's applied is being totally honest. Kristy, Stacey, and Abby are all planning to go to Europe, but they've really downplayed that on their applications. That just makes the sniping and fighting within the BSC even worse, and by the time the interviews are over, hardly anyone eis getting along. Mary Anne starts to wish that the whole playground job thing had never happened.

As it turns out, Claudia, Mary Anne, Logan, and Dawn get offered jobs, and the others don't. The sitters apologize, and everything is good again.

Subplot: Victoria Kent is getting ready to head back to England, and she doesn't want to go. She's still obsessed with all things American (because they don't have jelly doughnuts in England, apparently), but she's excited that some members of the BSC will be able to visit her on her turf later in the summer. When she finds out that Mary Anne won't be one of them, though....trouble. Mary Anne writes her a note explaining everything, and they're friends again.

Rating: 2.5

Thoughts and Things
  • In chapter 2, Mary Anne says that her dad sent her to live in Nebraska when she was younger, not Iowa. It's kind of funny that this mistake was in a Mary Anne book! :)
  • At Victoria's going-away party, it's stated that she and Abby do some bonding. That explains so much about the next book I'm going to recap...
  • I can understand Dawn's reasons for not wanting to go on the trip, and I can understand Mary Anne's reasons, but Claudia? Why in the world would she want to give up a chance to see some of the greatest museums anywhere to hang out on the playground with a bunch of kids she can see anytime?
  • Mary Anne keeps talking about how there are 9 BSC members applying for 6 jobs; she barely acknowledges that there are other students who might be interested. That's totally a Kristy thing to do.
  • The food at the Kents' party sounded awesome!
  • It still drives me crazy how obsessed with being American that Victoria is, and how she acts like all things American are so different and foreign. I hate to break to the ghostwriters, but they have a lot of the same things over there that we have over here. Plus (I've said it before and I'll say it again), NOT EVERYONE WANTS TO BE LIKE US!!!!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

M#35 Abby and the Notorious Neighbor


Abby is home sick with a nasty case of bronchitis. It's pretty hard for her to NOT be active, so she gest bored pretty fast. Then, Abby decides she's going to start watching the neighbors using her dad's old binoculars. At first, she just kind of watches kids come home from school, but then she notices something about Mr. Finch, the Stevenson's backyard neighbor: he looks exactly like one of the wanted criminals that she saw on Mystery Trackers, an American's Most Wanted-style show. There were two on the show that day that he could be; one was a bank robber, and one was an embezzler who ran off and left his family. Abby can't remember which one that Mr. Finch reminds her of, though. She keeps spying on him through her binoculars, though, and soon discovers another clue. Mr. Finch has drawings on his fridge that were clearly done by kids. The odd thing? No one has ever seen any kids visit him. Kristy tries to talk some sense into Abby; after all, there could be lots of reasons why Mr. Finch has kid drawings when none live there. Abby is pretty convinced that he's a crook, and she calls the Mystery Trackers Hotline to tell them what she suspects. She talks to an intern, who doesn't quite think that they have enough to go on. She DOES give Abby the names of the two criminals from the show she watched: the bank robber is Harry Bronson, and he's from Chicago, while the embezzler, Arthur Maguire, is from Iowa.

Not long after that phone call, Abby sends Kristy over the Mr. Finch's place to snoop in his mailbox. They find out that his first name is Otto...and that he recieved a leter from Des Moines, Iowa. Abby gets back on the phone with the Mystery Trackers intern, and tells them what she's found out about Mr. Finch. The intern checks to see if Otto Finch is one of Maguire's aliases, but it doesn't come up in their records. Byt this time, the rest of the BSC is involved in the mystery. Mary Anne stops by the police station to chat with Sgt. Johnson about the case, but all he agrees to do is check up on Mr. Finch. Then, Stacey and Claudia do a little internet stalking, and (after waiting 10 minutes for them to download) have pictures of both Bronson and Maguire. Bronson is DEFINITELY not a match for Mr. Finch, but Maguire definitely could be. Abby then calls Sgt. Johnson herself, but he advises her to just forget about it. It's not like Mr. Finch has done anything wrong. Abby continues to spy on him, though, and she catches him burning stuff in his kitchen sink. Not illegal, obviously, but very suspicious. Once again, Abby enlists Kristy's help to check out the situation. They pretend to be from the phone company, and get Mr. Finch out of the house by telling him he needs to go to the phone company offices downtown to straighten out a problem with his bill. As soon as he drives away, Kristy heads over to his house. First, she looks in the windows to get a better look at those pictures on the fridge. Then, she digs through the garbage can to see if she can find anything. Before she can get safely back to Abby's, though, Mr., Finch comes home. He's just about to go around to his back door, which would give him a full view of Kristy, when Abby gets the brilliant idea to call him again. As soon as the phone starts ringing, Finch heads for the side door instead.

Abby waits for Kristy to get back, and when she does, she has big news. The pictures on the fridge are signed "Patty" and "Joseph," which are the names of Arthur Maguire's kids. The furniture in Finch's house also resembles the furniture in Maguire's house as shown in the Mystery Trackers episode, and the half-burned photo that Kristy pulled out of the trash? Maguire's kids. It's pretty clear to both girls that Maguire and Finch are, indeed, the same person, so Abby risks another call to Sgt. Johnson. He tells them that he's been in touch with the Des Moines police department, and that the girls need to just drop the case. Not long after that, though, Kristy and Abby witness Finch/Maguire packing a bunch of stuff into his car. It looks like he's going to make a run for it, so Abby tries calling Sgt. Johnson again. He's not at his desk, so there's nothing the girls can do except wait and watch. Before Finch/Maguire can get away, though, the police (including Sgt. Johnson) show up and arrest him for his crimes. Mystery Trackers in on hand to film everything, and Abby even ends up getting some reward money from them for her role in Maguire's capture.

Subplot: a bunch of sitting charges are building go-karts for a race.

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things

  • You'd think that a book which mostly involved Abby staring out her window would be boring, but I actually enjoyed this one. Maybe it's because I've always secretly wanted to catch one of those most wanted criminals from tv. :)
  • At the beginning of the book, the BSC members wonder why a criminal would choose to hide out in Stoneybrook. Ummm, maybe it's because they have the worst police department ever???
  • Abby watches a second episode of Mystery Trackers while she's home, entitled "Nasty Nannies." If you ask me, that sounds more like something that should air on a premium cable channel really late at night....
  • I kind of liked the go-kart subplot. At least it wasn't another fair/festival/carnival/etc.

Monday, May 17, 2010

#119 Stacey's Ex-boyfriend


Stacey is pretty concerned about Robert. He's been acting really out of it for a long time now, and he doesn't seem to be anywhere near snapping out of his mood. He's missing answers in class, he's lost interest in everything, and he just isn't himself. After running into Robert's younger sister at the mall, Stacey decides to give him a call. When she gets the Brewster's answering machine, she's relieved. Even though Stacey is concerned about Robert, she doesn't really want to talk to him. They play phone tag all weekend and then talk face to face at school the following Monday. Stacey asks Robert what's been going on with him, and since class is almost ready to start, they decide to walk home together and talk. Robert tells Stacey more or less the same thing he told her back in February, when she first tried to talk to him about his mood. His friends are boring jerks, nothing's fun, everything's pointless, the same old stuff. There is one thing Robert likes to do, though: talk to Stacey. She's worried that he wants to get back together with her, and the whole school thinks they already ARE back together. That turns out not to be the case; Robert just wants to be friends.

Later that week, Stacey decides to surprise Robert by visiting him at baseball practice. When she gets there, she's the one who gets the surprise: Logan tells her that Robert quit the team three days earlier. She really gets on his case about it the next time she sees him, and she stomps off mad. She tries to talk to some of his old friends to see if she can get any insight as to what's caused the change in Robert, but she doesn't really get anywhere. Everyone else is just as frustrated with him as Stacey is. The next day, Robert calls Stacey to apologize for his behavior. He also lets her know that he's been grounded because of his grades. He's failing almost everything, and he doesn't see the point in trying to get good grades. Stacey offers to help him out by tutoring him every day, which doesn't make her BSC friends happy. They don't think it's a good idea for her to be Robert's only support person, and they don't think it's healthy for her to be spending all of her time trying to take care of him. Stacey is determined to help Robert engage in life again, so she invites him to the mall with the rest of the BSC. The trip is a big fat failure; Robert doesn't say a word the entire time. Afterwards, Stacey forces him to think of one activity that he could stand to be involved in, and he picks baseball....if the coach lets him back on the team. He does, but Robert screws things up right away by not showing up for practice. Stacey gets worried when Robert doesn't call her to talk about it. She's so worried, in fact, that she calls a radio show for advice. She uses different names, and tells the host what's been going on with Robert. The host advises her to encourage Robert to get some help from an adult; the problem is too big for Stacey herself to handle. As soon as she hangs up, the phone rings. At first, Stacey is afraid that Robert heard her, and he's calling to chew her out. Instead, it's Claudia; Claud heard her on the radio, and she wanted to tell Stacey that she agrees with the advice that the host gave.

Stacey makes up her mind to talk to Robert, but she's dreading the conversation. He's not in school that day; according to his homeroom teacher, he's at home, sick. Robert shows up at Stacey's house later that day, and he's totally fine. Stacey tells him that he needs helpand that he should talk to someone that's not her to get it. He blows up at her, but Stacey actually feels relief. She did what she needed to do; the rest is up to Robert. That night at dinner, Mrs. McGill can see that something's wrong with Stacey. Stacey tells her what's been happening in the Robert situation, and Mrs. McGill is all set to call Robert's parents. Stacey convinces her not to; she doesn't want to make Robert any angrier than he already is. Late that night, jsut as Stacey is going to sleep, someone starts throwing pebbles at her window. It's Robert, and he's in bad shape. Stacey brings him into the house so he can call his baseball coach...the one adult he feels comfortable talking to. Robert makes an appointment to see the coach the next day, and they have a long talk. He still isn't 100%, but just talking to an adult makes him feel better. He even agrees to go to an upcoming dance with Stacey, just as friends.

In other news, all of Stoneybrook is excited about Strawberry Fields Forever, a pick-your-own berries place that's just opened up outside of Stoneybrook. Everyone goes a bit oveboard, though, and lots of families end up with more strawberries than they know what to do with. Kristy (of course) gets the brilliant idea of holding a strawberry festival, which raises enough money for the club to take their sitting charges to a new water park.

Rating: 2.5

Thoughts and Things
  • Even though the series gets a thumbs up for dealing with depression, it gets a thumbs down from me for the way it was dealt with. Robert had been depressed for months, and there was no clear trigger that may have set him off. The chances of him getting better just by talking to his baseball coach would have been pretty slim in real life. I would at least liked to have seen him go to a doctor to rule out medical issues. Depression can be a complicated problem, and solutions just aren't always as simple as it may seem from reading this book.
  • I totally want strawberries now!
  • This may have been one of the first instances in the series when the Internet was used, when the sitters went online to get ideas for their strawberry festival. They actually found a strawberry chat room....
  • Normally, it's stupid when the sitters gets irritated with each other for spending so much time with someone who's not in the club; this time, they were spot on.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

M#34 Mary Anne and the Haunted Bookstore


There's a new bookstore in Stoneybrook called Poe and Co. It's going to specialize in mystery books, and Mary Anne is pretty excited to check it out. She's even more excited when the owner, Mr. Cates, calls the BSC and asks for a sitter to help him with his two kids while final preparations are being made in the store. Mary Anne gets the job. Tom (10) and Gillian (7) are nice enough kids, but Mary Anne can tell from the start that they're not happy to be in Stoneybrook. They seem especially unhappy about Cillia Spark, the bookstore designer who's helping their dad get things up and running (I just realized as I was typing how wrong that sentence sounds....). Mr. Cates pulls Mary Anne aside and tells her that the kids' mother left recently, and the kids are having a hard time dealing with it.

At the next BSC meeting, Mr. Cates calls again and asks if multiple BSC members could come and work in the store. There's a lot to be done, and they really need the extra help. Mary Anne, Mallory, Logan, and Kristy all go, and they find that the (still unopened) bookstore is bustling with visitors. First, there's Alex Gable, a high school student who's father owned the building that's being used for the store. It's known as a the Benson Dalton Gable house, and BDG was an ancestor of Alex. He was also a contemporary of Poe's, and a writer as well. Later, Mary Anne catches Alex wandering around the house, as if he's looking for something. Then, Professor Kingsolver, a professor at Stoneybrook University, stops by. She's a Poe nut, and she and Alex get into it over whether Poe or Gable was the better writer. At the end of the workday, Mary Anne and Logan volunteer to stay behind and wait for a delivery that Mr. Cates is expecting. They're alone in the store when they hear something: a beating heart, just like the one in the Poe story. They mention it to Mr. Cates when he comes back, but Mr. Cates brushes it off.

The Poe coincidences continue from there. The following week, Pluto (the Cates' black cat) is sealed up inside some drywall. Luckily, they get him out in time. It's that little event that makes Mary Anne get out the mystery notebook. Someone is causing things to happen, and the BSC is going to figure out who. They think it could be the kids, playing tricks on Ms. Spark in the hope of driving her away. They also think it could be either Alex Gable or Professor Kingsolver, given how passionate each of them is about their respective favorite authors. The final theory? A ghost. No one really knows where Benson Dalton Gable was buried; it's a distinct possibility that he never left his house...

More Poe stuff continues to be uncovered. Mary Anne finds the word "nevermore" carved into a shelf, and then some workmen find a stone slab in the basement with words from Poe carved into it. It looks an awful lot like a gravestone; could Benson Dalton Gable's grave been found after all? Then, everyone in the house gets a big surprise when a raven flies through the window and takes up residence. It seems pretty tame, so Mr. Cates puts it in a cage until its owner can be found. Mary Anne heads to the pet store to see who may have bought a raven lately, and she finds out that it was a woman. Then, Mary Anne, Mal, and Stacey decide to get a look at the "grave" in the basement, and while they're down there, they find a tape player. It contains a tape of a beating heart....which explains what Mary Anne and Logan heard when they were alone in the store. It's pretty clear that someone is playing tricks, so the club decides to figure out who. Mallory borrows her brothers' detective kit, and they lift a fingerprint off of the tape player. Then, Mary Anne makes some coffee and serves it to everyone, and then gets prints off the cups when they're done. The girls look over the prints at their next BSC meeting, and the print that matches the one on the tape player is none other than Mr. Cates. He and Ms. Spark (she was the one who bought the raven) had created the mystery to bring more publicity to the store. The only thing they WEREN'T responsible for, though, was sealing the cat in the wall. That was an accident.

Subplot: it rains a lot. Really.

Rating: 2.5

Thoughts and Things

  • I wanted to like this book. I really did. Instead, I just found it to be really long and dull.
  • So...Poe supposedly got the inspiration for "The Raven" from some decorations in the Benson Dalton Gable House. Actually, it was the talking raven in Barnaby Rudge, by Charles Dickens. Let's get our facts straight, shall we? :)
  • Only two more mysteries to go!
  • I kind of like the redesigned mystery covers, although it's kind of silly that they waited until almost the end of the series to bring those out.

Friday, May 14, 2010

#118 Kristy Thomas, Dog Trainer


The Brewers and Thomases have decided to raise a guide dog puppy for the Guide Dog Foundation. Kristy's really excited at the idea of having another dog in the house, especially since it means they'll be helping someone out by raising it. The family passes their interview with no trouble, and before they know it, little Scout has taken up residence in their house. She's a four month old chocolate Lab, so she's already had some training with her former puppy raiser family (they moved out of the country and had to give her up). The work is really just beginning for the Brewer-Thomas family, though. They have to introduce Scout to the other family pets, teach her what she can and can't chew, train her not to jump up on people, and how NOT to beg for food. She's a smart, calm puppy, though, and training (including obedience classes) are more or less a breeze.

Another part of Scout's training involves taking her out in public so she learns how to behave in any situation. Watson and Elizabeth take her to work, Nannie takes her bowling, and Kristy takes her to BSC meetings. Most people are really interested in Scout and curious about guide dogs, but Kristy DOES run into some problems at the grocery store one time; a lady freaks out over seeing a dog in there and complains to the manager. He defends Kristy and Scout's right to be there, putting the rude lady in her place. The only other real problem they have with training is when Karen gives Scout one of Jackie R.'s broken shoes to chew on; a no-no for any dog.

Meanwhile, the BSC has started sitting for the Cooper family. Mrs. Cooper works with Watson, and she's got three kids: Mark, 8; Jed (yes, Jed), 4; and Deb, 12. Deb came down with a form of glaucoma not long before this, and she's now blind. In fact, the Coopers were what inspired Watson to get involved with the Guide Dog Foundation. Mary Anne is the first to sit for the family, but only the two boys are home, She does get enough of a glimpse of Deb, though, to see that she's very angry about her situation. Kristy is up next, and that time, Deb is the one that's home. Since she's 12, Kristy isn't there as a baby-sitter; she's just there to keep Deb company and to be on hand in case of emergency. She also gets to experience the full force of Deb's rudeness, anger, and bitterness over her situation. Kristy doesn't quite know what to say to Deb, so she gest the idea to have Claudia and Mary Anne bring over some of their sitting charges, so Deb could get used to being around people again. That idea went over as well as you'd expect it to. The next time Kristy is at the Coopers', though, things really come to a head. She's there with all three kids, and Deb wants to go to the video store to get some new movies to listen to. The boys are busy in the backyard, playing with their new slide, and don't want to leave quite yet. So, Deb takes it upon herself to walk to the store. She doesn't make it very far before she gets disoriented, and Kristy manages to get her back to the house before anything bad happens. The whole BSC want to help Deb feel better about her situation, so Kristy decides to invite her Puppy Walker Fun Day at the Guide Dog Foundation. Deb seems to loosen up a little, and she even seems to enjoy herself. She also likes the idea of getting a guide dog of her own someday.

Rating: 2

Thoughts and Things
  • Thanks goodness this one was so short...I would have rated it lower, but I like dogs, and raising a guide dog puppy is something I really want to do someday.
  • Speaking of snarking on the "special" books and not liking the "special" characters, Sadako...I CAN'T STAND DEB COOPER! She's obviously been through something really traumatic, but if she'd been as rude to me as she was to EVERYONE else in this book, I'd have punched her in the face. Why in the world did her parents let her get away with that behavior? It's almost like they were scared of her! She isn't Sean Addison, people!
  • Someone is BSC land likes the name Gillian. The person that interviewed the Brewers and Thomases before they got Scout was Gillian, there's one in the next book I'm going to recap, and Mal's cousin in SS#15 is also Gillian. There are more Gillians than Maras in this series!
  • *sigh* I want a puppy....

Thursday, May 13, 2010

#117 Claudia and the Terrible Truth


The Nicholls family has just moved into the Addison's old house, and Claudia is excited to sit for them. She's met them before, and liked the boys (Joey, 7, and Nate, 5). Mr. Nicholls is another story; he was friendly enough to Claud, but pretty pushy with his sons. The same pattern holds true when Claudia arrives for her sitting job, and she starts to notice some odd behavior in the boys. They're much more concerned with keeping things tidy than most kids their age usually are, and they're unsure about going next door to play. Claud also thinks that they just plain look worried. She forgets about their behavior until the next time she sits for them. She brings along her Kid Kit that time, and when Nate puts a tiny tear into one of the books, he starts crying like he'd done something really wrong. Claudia assures him that everything is okay, but wonders what's going on behind the scenes. Did they have a bad experience with another sitter, or did she herself do something to make them so ill at ease? Claud herds the boys into the kitchen for a snack of celery and peanut butter, but before they can finish, Mr. Nicholls comes home. Claudia had left the peanut butter on the counter, and when Mr. Nicholls sees it there, he blows his top. Claudia admits it was her, and the yelling stops. He tells her it's no problem, and that he thought one of his "dumb, slobby sons" did it. Claud can't believe what she's hearing, and she refuses a ride home. She also realizes that the boys aren't scared of her; they're scared of their dad.

The next sitting job is more or less uneventful. Claudia spills her grape juice, and the boys go nuts trying obliterate any trace of it, and she finds out later that neither of them is allowed to have a stuffed animal; their dad thinks they're babyish. Next time Claud is at the Nicholls," the boys are being punished because Joey touched his dad's briefcase. He didn't take anything from it, he didn't break it, and he didn't even move it. He just touched it, and because of that, both boys are being punished with lots and lots of chores. They're just finishing up the garage when Mr. Nicholls goes home. Claudia offers to show him all the hard work they did, but all Mr. Nicholls can see is the mop they left out to dry. He pays Claudia and hurries her out of the house. She remembers that she left her jacket in the boys' room, so she runs back to get it. She hears Mr. Nicholls yelling at the boys, and then....he slaps one of them. Claudia doesn't see it happen, so she's not 100% sure that that's what she heard, but when she's in view of the garage again, she notices that Joey's cheek is red and that Mr. Nicholls seems awfully eager to hide both boys from her view.

Claud is obviously freaked out by what she saw and heard, so she calls an emergency BSC meeting that evening. Her friends encourage her to talk to her mom as soon as she gets home from work. Mrs. Kishi decides that the first step should be for her to talk to Mrs. Nicholls, who also works at the library. Unfortunately, it doesn't do any good; Mrs. Nicholls just denies that there's a problem, and then calls Kristy that night and cancels all her upcoming BSC jobs. Not long after, Claudia gets a call from Erica Blumberg, Nate and Joey's new sitter. When she arrived at the house that afternoon, she was told that the boys were being punished and needed to stay in their room alone that afternoon. After Mr. Nicholls left, though, she heard crying from upstairs and went to investigate. She found Joey with a black eye, and Nate with bruises on his arm. That's when she called Claud. Claudia quickly calls her mother at the library, and Mrs. Kishi tells her that she's headed over to the Nicholls' to get the boys out of there. Claud goes over there as well and arrives just as Mrs. Kishi and Mrs. Nicholls arrive. Unfortunately, Mr. Nicholls is also there. They get everyone into the Kishi car, and (after dropping Erica off at home) take Mrs. Nicholls and the boys to Mr. Kishi's office in Stamford. Mrs. Nicholls has a sister in New York, and they go to stay with her while Mr. Nicholls gets the help he needs.

Rating: 3.5

Thoughts and Things

  • I remember reading somewhere that Ann didn't want to do a child abuse book, but I think it was a good idea. After all, lots of girls took up baby-sitting because of this series, and knowing what to do in a possible abuse situation probably would have been good for them to know.
  • Thank the Lord that the BSC involved a parent as soon as they knew something was going on!
  • The most heart-breaking part of this book for me was the image of poor Joey and Nate having their stuffed animals thrown away by their awful father. I'm so glad Claudia sent them new ones at the end. :)
  • If this is the old Addison house, why are Joey and Nate sharing a room? Corrie and Sean had separate ones.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

M#33 Stacey and the Stolen Hearts


It's almost Valentine's Day, and Pete Black has roped Stacey into helping with eighth grade's Valentine-gram fundraiser. Basically, students will have a chance to pay a dollar, write messages to other students, and then they'll be delivered later along with some candy. It's pretty fun for Stacey to watch who sends messages to who, and how they act when they approach the table to send those messages. One day, just as Stacey is closing up for the day, Andi Gentile shows up and slips her a note. It's says, "we have to talk about Robert." Stacey isn't thrilled about talking to Andi, even though neither of them are dating Robert anymore, but she calls her anyway and arranges to meet her the next morning before school. It turns out that Andi is a bit worried about Robert. He's been acting a really down lately, and he doesn't seem particularly engaged in life anymore. Andi asks Stacey to talk to him since she knows him so well, and Stacey agrees to try.

That same day, disaster strikes the Valentine-gram table. Just as Stacey is getting ready to leave, she notices that the bag containing the finished grams is gone. She calls Pete, thinking that he might have taken it, but he didn't. She then calls all the other 8th grade class officers, but none of them have it, either. Pete and Stacey decide not to tell anyone that the bag is missing, in the hopes that it'll turn up before anyone finds out about it. The secret's out by the following morning, though; whoever took the bag posted little fliers around the school, stating that while Cokie had bought her boyfriend 12 Valentine-grams, he hadn't bought her any. Cokie is furious; she thinks Stacey did it on purpose. Stacey has to admit that they were stolen. Soon, it's all over the school, and no one's happy. That afternoon, copies of yet another note are all over the school; this one is for Jacqui Grant, and addresses the fact that Robert doesn't, in fact, like her. Jacqui REALLY thinks Stacey is involved, and that she did it because she wants Robert back for herself. Jacqui won't listen to any sort of explanation, and stomps off before Stacey can defend herself. Robert is nearby, and hears the whole thing. He believes Stacey, and offers to walk home with her. Stacey takes this chance to talk to Robert, and ask him if anything's wrong. He tells her that he's just been feeling bored with everything: friends, school, sports, tv, etc. He says he feels better after talking to Stacey, and she says she's glad. What she's NOT glad about is the fact that Robert is a definite suspect in the theft of the Valentine-grams; he was one of the last people she saw before the bag went missing, and he seems awfully happy to have Jacqui off his back.

Stacey finally enlists the help of the BSC (and the mystery notebook). The girls toss around names of possible suspects, including Cary Retlin. He was supposedly at the dentist when the bag went missing, but they figure they should check him out anyway. Mary Anne also suggests that it might have been Pete himself; after all, he'd be in a perfect position to take the bag, and he has a crush on Emily Bernstein and isn't sure she likes him back. There's also Cokie and her boyfriend, and Rose Marie Montey and Brian Hall, another SMS supercouple that happen to be on the rocks. The club members split up and so dome spying on all of the above suspects, but don't really come up with anything conclusive. By the end of the day, though, the thief strikes again by posting valentines all over the school from Rose Marie to Clarence King, and from Clarence to Rose Marie. Rose Marie claims she never sent him one, though....

Meanwhile, Stacey has managed to narrow down the suspect list a little. She comes right out and asks Robert is he was responsible. He claims to know nothing about it, and since he's a bad liar, Stacey knows he's telling thr truth. Next, she realizes that Pete wouldn't need to steal the whole bag if he wanted to take back his valentine to Emily; he could just rummage through it and find it. Cary's dentist story also checks out. Just as soon as Stacey confirms that, she sees the new Valentine-gram that's been posted up all over the school. It's from Jim Poirier to Sabrina Bouvier (the 8th grade one, not the pageant one), and it's pretty embarrassing. Stacey notices something about the copies, though; part of a sleeve was copied, too, and the sleeve is striped. She enlists the help of the BSC, and they scan the school looking for stripes. No one finds the exact stripes that they're looking for, until Claudia remembers something: Cary Retlin was wearing stripes that day. Stacey tracks him down in the school basement, and once again accuses him of the crime. He denies it taking the bag (he really was at the dentist), but he admits that he helped afterward. The real culprit was Alan Gray; he had sent a Valentine-gram to agirl he liked, but then found out that she and a bunch of her friends were going to send them to him as jokes. All the people who were targeted by the public postings were people who were in on the joke.

Later that evening, Stacey heads to Alan's house. She doesn't come right out and accuse him of taking the bag; she just tells him that she knows who did it, and that if that person doesn't return the bag, she's going to go to the principal with what she knows. The next morning, the bag is waiting for Stacey by her homeroom door. She never does find out, though, who it was that Alan liked so much....

Subplot: the BSC works with the children's room at the library to plan a Valentine's Day party for the kids.

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things
  • As mysteries go, particularly later ones, this book wasn't bad!
  • I'd kind of like to know who it was that Alan liked. I don't think it was Claudia this early on, because the girl that he liked was supposedly one of the ones who was sending him fake Valentines. Claudia wasn't in on that, as far as we know.
  • This is the book that totally makes me think that Cary Retlin=Chuck Bass from Gossip Girl.
  • Stacey wonders at one point if the Hobarts celebrate Valentine's Day in Australia, and if they'll even know what it's supposed to be about. Too bad they've already had a few V-Days in Stoneybrook....

Monday, May 10, 2010

#116 Abby and the Best Kid Ever


There's big news in Stoneybrook: the McNallys are moving to Stoneybrook. That means that Lou McNally, aka the Worst Kid Ever, will once again be a BSC charge. The Papadakises call the BSC to get a sitter for Lou and her brother, Jay, while their aunt and uncle unpack some of their stuff, and Abby is the lucky winner. She's not exactly excited; she never met Lou, but she's heard a million stories, and she's expecting a pretty difficult time. Imagine Abby's surprise when she doesn't find a terror waiting for her. Instead, Lou is polite, calm, and seemingly very, very worried about making a good impression. She freaks out when her dog jumps on Abby, and when she drops a glass of water on the floor. This new behavior continues on the day the movers are supposed to come (Abby is there that day, too). Lou is eating a bagel with jelly on it, and she slops some of it onto her shirt. No one but Lou is bothered by it. Later, she goes out of her way to be helpful to the movers, but only ends up getting in the way. So, Abby (along with Stacey and the Rodowskys) take Lou and Jay over to SES, where they find a kickball game in progress. Abby is happy to see Lou join in, but as soon as she gets a little bit of dirt on her, she's out.

In other news, Abby has a big Black History Month project planned, and she's got kids (including Lou) involved. She knows she wants the project to be about the Underground Railroad, but doesn't really know how to structure it. Eventually, she decides to do a documentary-style video about the U.R., and have the kids play the different parts. Lou still seems to be on the fringes of things, so Abby pulls Jay aside to talk to him. He tells her that Lou is afraid that she'll get sent away if she isn't perfect. In spite of this new piece of information, Abby kind of goes off on Lou later about being to uptight. She tells Lou that she needs to lighten up....and Lou takes it to heart, at least temporarily. She wreaks havoc on one of Abby's filming sessions for her project, but by ther next time Abby sits for her at home, she's back to being Ms. Perfect. Then, she drops a dish, it breaks, and Lou flips out. She's convinced that she's going to be sent away. Luckily, her aunt and uncle walk in just then and set her straight.

Subplot: the Addisons are moving away (to Seattle!!!). Sean is convinced that all the BSC members hate him and are glad to see him go, so they feel that it's their job to convince them otherwise.

Rating: 1.5

Thoughts and Things

  • This book was really boring.
  • I don't like Lou, and I'm surprised that so many people apparently wrote in wanting another story about her.
  • I can't believe no one figured out that Lou was acting the way she was out of fear.
  • Lou's brother, Jay, is 11, and the BSC is hired to sit for him. He should meet Tiffany Kilbourne and Ben Hobart.
  • If I were in the BSC, I'd be throwing a party if Sean Addison was leaving and I didn't have to deal with him anymore.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

#115 Jessi's Big Break


Jessi has been chosen to be a part of Dance New York's winter session of classes. That means three and a half weeks in the big city, dancing with some of the best students and learning from some of the best instructors. She'll be staying with her cousin Michael (Aunt Cecelia's son) and his wife, Marian, in Brooklyn. Her first day of dance classes is full of surprises. Not only is Quint in her class, but the instructors seem to have nothing but corrections for her. Jessi starts to think that they made a mistake in asking her to join the class; what she doesn't notice is that the other kids are getting corrected just as often. Quint and his friend, Maritza, set her straight after class, and Jessi starts to think that maybe she's where she's supposed to be after all.

From then on, things just keep getting better. Maritza introduces Jessi to a lot of her friends, and Jessi finds it...refreshing to be in a room full of other black kids (I'm not making that up; she says so herself). Also, David Brailsford, the guy who runs Dance New York, tells her she has great potential. The one not-so-good thing is Quint; he seems to think that he and Jessi are going to be more than friends again, and that's not what Jessi wants at all. She knows she needs to have a talk with him, but she can't work up the nerve. She can't do it during dinner with his family, she can't do it during class, and she can't do it during hang out time with their friends. Finally, after lunch one day, she lays it out on the line. Quint is disappointed, but understands. He's content to be friends for the time being.

Jessi realizes that she's barely been thinking about her Stoneybrook life and friends with everything that's been going on, so she invites Mallory up for the weekend. She feels guilty for not staying in touch with Mal, and even more guilty for confiding in Maritza about all the Quint drama. Things are a little awkward with Mal around. Everyone gets along, and everyone is really nice, but she's the only non-dancer in the group, so conversations are a little hard to come by. Jessi finds herself relieved to see Mal get on the train back to Stoneybrook, and she also realizes something about herself: she doesn't want to go back home at the end of her session. She loves the life she's been living since starting the Dance New York program, and doesn't want it to end. By the time the class's final performance rolls around, everyone is buzzing about the invitations they've recieved to stay for another three week session. Everyone, that is, except Jessi. She didn't recieve an invitation, but she lets all the other kids think she did because she's too embarrassed to let them know the truth. After the performance, she finds out why she wasn't included. David Brailsford pulls Jessi and her family aside, and lets them know that he wants Jessi to audition to join Dance New York full time. She auditions, and gets in, but ultimately decides to put off joining until she's a little older.

Back in Stoneybrook, Becca whines a lot about Jessi being gone.

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things
  • So...Quint and Maritza are both 11, and both are supposedly about 5'8". I know some kids grow up faster than others, but that just seems extreme....
  • I LOVE all the descriptions of New York in this one.
  • I also love seeing the city through the eyes of a BSC member that's not Stacey.
  • When I first read this book, my gut reaction was to disagree with Jessi's decision not to join DNY full time until she's older. Now, I'm not so sure she was wrong. 11 IS awfully young, no matter how often the BSC tries to make us see otherwise.
  • I kind of envision Jessi joining Dance New York when she's in high school. That would have made and AWESOME spin-off series....

Friday, May 7, 2010

SM#4 Baby'sitters' Christmas Chiller

There are three main plots in this one, so that's how I'll break it down.

New York

Stacey and Claudia are heading up to NYC for a bit (Stacey is staying with her dad until New Year's, and Claudia will be heading home on Christmas Eve). Stacey is looking forward to seeing Ethan again, but Claudia is a little apprehensive after what happened with Robert on Fire Island. Stacey is determined NOT to ditch Claud, though. In fact, she really wants her to meet Ethan since they're both artists. Right from the start, though, Ethan is acting a little bit strange. He won't let them see the inside of his coat closet, or his bedroom. Plus, Stacey and Claudia BOTH notice Ethan staring at her when he thinks she's not looking. It's not cute, either; it's weird. Ethan isn't the only weird thing happening for Stacey and Claudia; both girls feel like they're being watched wherever they go. Then, weird things start happening in Stacey's apartment building. First, they find red liquid on the elevator buttons and the floor by Stacey's apartment that looks an awful lot like blood. There's a note tucked into the door that says, "Your time is up." They call Carl, the doorman, for help, and he discovers that the blood is really just something chemical. He hasn't let anyone in to visit the McGill apartment all day, and has no idea who could have left the note/blood. Later that same day, Claud and Stacey hear something at the front door. Rather than go check themselves, they call Carl back up to do it for them. He finds a box, and inside...a jack in the box with a picture of Stacey's face pasted over the face that SHOULD be there.

Meanwhile, Ethan is still acting strangely. He STILL stares at Stacey, he STILL won't let them into certain areas of his apartment, and when they run into a girl coming out of Stacey's apartment building as they're arriving, he seems really unhappy to see her. Stacey can't figure out what's going on with him, OR what's going on in her apartment building. Someone puts gum under the elevator buttons so they don't work, and when Claudia and Stacey try to take the stairs later, they find an "out of order" sign posted on the doorway. They head back to the elevator, only to have it break down while they're still on it. When they finally get back upstairs, they find another note. This one appears to be in Ethan's handwriting, and it says, "Meet me in the basement. Tomorrow. 5pm." Stacey decides to confront Ethan, who claims to have had nothing to do with the note. He DOES have two confessions to make, though. First, he's been staring at Stacey so much and not letting her into particular areas of his apartment because he's working on a sculpture of her for her Christmas present. Second, he used to date a girl in Stacey's building; she's the one he seemed so uncomfortable to run into before. Her name is Cybil, and she's a wee bit unstable. She's the one that's been causing all the problems in the building, following Stacey around, and even trying to push her onto the subway tracks. Stacey, Claudia, and Ethan decide to go to the basement together to see what happens. Sure enough, Cybil shows up,. First, she turns the lights off. Claudia gets knocked down, and Cybil confronts Stacey and Ethan. She's totally unhinged, and thinks she should still be with him. Stacey and Ethan keep her distracted, while Claudia sneaks up behind her and knocks her down. The three of them overpower her, and Ethan takes her back up to her apartment and her parents.

Stoneybrook - Burglaries

Kristy's younger siblings wake her up one morning with big news: the Hsus were robbed. As soon as she can, Kristy rushes over there to be nosy...umm....I mean, offer her baby-sitting services. The Hsus are glad to see her, and Kristy gets a chance to look around. The place is trashed, but nothing is missing except a few electronic items. The weird thing, though, is that someone wrote "naughty" in big, red letters on the wall. The Hsus don't have any enemies, so no one can figure out what's wrong. Then, the same thing happens to the Papdakises. This time, though, they also find dirty footprints in the house that definitely weren't made by any member of the family. After that, Kristy finds a note in her family's mailbox that says "nice." It's in red letters, just like the "naughty" messages written on the walls of the families that have been burglarized. At first, Kristy thinks it might just be from some girl that has a crush on Sam or Charlie, but then, Abby's family gets one, too. This one isn't just left in the mailbox, though. Someone breaks a kitchen window and drops it in that way. Mrs. Porter also has one of her windows broken in the middle of the night, but no notes are left. Dawn is the one who finally puts two and two together: all the naught houses are the ones who recently fired their gardener, Mr. Nixon, in favor of another gardening service. All the nice houses are the ones who haven't done that. The police set a trap for Mr. Nixon by having Watson fire him. The Brewer-Thomas clan then makes a big show of leaving the house for the night, and sure enough, Mr. Nixon shows up. The police catch him, and yet another Stoneybrook crime wave is over.

Stoneybrook - Mary Doe

Mallory and Jessi are on the way home from their church Christmas pageant rehearsal when they come upon a strange woman. She's confused, and doesn't remember who or where she is. She's also very, very pregnant. The girls take her back to the church, where people there take charge of her. She's taken to the hospital, where she's checked out. She has a mild concussion, but her baby is fine. She still doesn't remember who she is, though. The story is all over the media, who have named the woman "Mary Doe." The only real clue to her identity is the ornate gold ring she's wearing, but there's no personal engraving or anything. Later, Mallory also notices a label inside one of her sweaters from a maternity store in California. She calls them, but they have no way of tracing everyone who may have bought the sweater.

Since Mary is well enough to leave the hospital, the Pikes invite her to stay with them for Christmas. Mallory decides to fax a drawing of Mary's ring to a jewelry store in the same CA town where the sweater was bought to see if anyone recognizes it. Before she can get an answer, though, two things happen: Mary goes into labor, and the phone lines go dead because of weather. Sharon drives over in her all-wheel drive SUV and takes Mary to the hospital. When the phones DO come back on, Mallory gets a call right away from the jewelry store. The owner's nephew had designed it for his wife before he left on a business trip; Mary Doe isn't Mary Doe after all; she's Lisa Papademetriou. As it turns out, Lisa had been on her way to visit family in Washington D.C., and she decided to take a cross-country train trip back, from New York to CA. They think she may have been mugged or purse-snatched in Stoneybrook, which might explain the memory loss. Lisa's husband catches the next flight back from his trip, to see his wife and meet his new son, Nicholas.

Rating: 3.5

Thoughts and Things
  • I like that this book acknowledged that there ARE religious aspects to the holiday season, both Jewish and Christian. I was a little surprised that the Pikes and Ramseys were suddenly so involved in church stuff, though. The Pikes even say grace before a meal!
  • Kristy was so annoying in this one, when she kept invading the homes of the robbed families. She didn't care about being a good neighbor and helping them out; she just wanted to be a hero and solve the mystery. Elizabeth actually suggested that Kristy let the police do their jobs, though. Good for her!
  • The crazy Cybil plot was very reminiscient of the crazy Liz Conner plot from Stacey and the Haunted Masquerade. They really WERE running out of ideas at this point in the series!
  • There's a new copy of this book selling for $225 on Amazon. I got mine for $0.25 at Goodwill. :)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

#114 The Secret Life of Mary Anne Spier


It's almost Christmas in good old Stoneybrook, and Mary Anne is busy finishing up her shopping. This year, her dad has given her his credit card to use to charge her purchases, and she goes a wee bit overboard buying cool stuff for everyone she knows. She thinks she has six weeks to earn the money to pay it off, but because of when the bill comes in and because Richard ALWAYS pays his bill as soon as he gets it, Sharon tells Mary Anne that she only has two weeks. Mary Anne kind of panics; she adds up everything she spent of gifts, and it's WAY more than what she had saved. There's also no way she'll be able to baby-sit enough to earn the rest of the money before she has to pay her dad. Then, Mary Anne remembers that Winter World at Washington Mall was still looking for holiday helpers the last time she was there, so she decides to head down there and apply for a job.

Mary Anne doesn't tell anyone what she's doing, since chances are pretty good that her dad wouldn't approve. She gets to the mall, and is filling out her application when the girl sitting next to her, Angela, points out that she can't let them know she's 13. Angela helps her turn the 13 into a 16, but Mary Anne feels bad about lying. She's ready to take off without turning in her application, but Angela does it for her. Before she knows it, Mary Anne is being interviewed, and is then hired. She shows up at 10am the next day, her first official day of work, and finds that Angela was hired as well. Both girls are handed bags containing their costumes. To Mary Anne's surprise, they're going to be playing Santa's elves (elfs?). That's just as well; no one will recognize Mary Anne if she's wearing a huge costume elf head.

Hiding her new secret life is pretty tough for Mary Anne. She runs into people she knows all the time, and she's afraid that they'll somehow recognize her (Hunter Bruno actually does, but Mary Anne swears him to secrecy). She has to lie about where she's going and why, and she's exhausted all the time. To add to the stress of everything, Dawn's visiting for the holiday, and she's acting awfully distant (not BSC distant, meaning awesome, but regular distant, meaning not connected to what's going on around her). The 8th graders at her school in CA are grouped with the high schoolers, and Mary Anne is really irritated by the way that Dawn in acting so superior. Also, something is going on with Angela; Mary Anne catches her crying in the bathroom after work one day, but Angela won't talk about what's wrong. Later, though, Mary Anne finds out the truth: Angela was kicked out of her house, and she's been staying at the local women's shelter. She's got some friends in California who rent a house together, but she needs to make some money before she can go out to see them.

Not long after that, Mary Anne finally confronts Dawn about her attitude. Dawn claims that she was only acting distant because Mary Anne was being so secretive, and that her superior attitude comes from feeling she has to act that way around the high schoolers. Mary Anne finally confesses what she's been up to all along, and things are a little better between the sisters. Dawn even suggests inviting Angela to their house for Christmas. Richard isn't thrilled with the idea; he's convinced that anyone who can't get along with her own parents must be trouble. Sharon, Dawn, and Mary Anne convince him to give Angela a chance, in honor of the the spirit of Christmas.

Mary Anne and Angela both work their last shifts as elves on the day before Christmas Eve. That's when Mary Anne finally confesses to the rest of her family and friends about her job. Richard isn't thrilled that she went behind his back, but he agrees to let it go since no harm was done, and the job is over. She's also able to pay the entire credit card bill in full, and Angela has enough money for her plane ticket to California.

Subplot: The BSC holds a Santa-Hanukkah-Kwanzaa Town fundraising carnival to earn money for the kids who are in the hospital at Christmas.

Rating: 4

Thoughts and Things
  • I SO love this book. It's far and away my favorite among the later ones.
  • Mary Anne actually admitted to her interviewer that she didn't know what job she was applying for. That's a FANTASTIC way to get hired. Only in Stoneybrook....
  • I love reading about all the presents Mary Anne buys for everyone. :)
  • It would have been interesting if Angela had made another appearance in the series, or, better yet, in California Diaries. I like her, and I don't usually like the characters that show up for one book and then go away.
  • I can't believe that a big place like Washington Mall was only getting their Winter World/pictures with Santa stuff set up two weeks before Christmas. I don't know how it is wherever you guys are, but at the malls in my area, Santa is ready to go the day after Thanksgiving, at the latest.