Saturday, January 30, 2010

M#16 Claudia and the Clue in the Photograph


Claudia is taking summer school math again, and as a compromise, her parents are also letting her take photography. She's really into it; her dad (who was also, at one point, into photography) has even let her borrow his fancy camera. Claud is even the one who comes up with the BSC's latest "get Dawn back to Stoneybrook" project. The BSC members and some of their charges are going to put together a "Day in the Life of Stoneybrook" photo album, in imitation of the popular "A Day in the Life of America" book they've all seen (which sounds like the 24-7 series we have in real life). The day of photography turns out to be pretty fun; the kids are pretty creative, and Claudia is really inspired by some of the building facades in downtown Stoneybrook. The bank particularly intrigues her, and she shoots a ton of pictures of just that one building. That comes in handy later...

At the next BSC meeting, a special announcement comes over the radio. Apparently, some serious cash is missing from the bank, but there's no sign that a robbery took place at some point. Claudia wonders if (just maybe) she caught something in one or more of the pictures she took of the bank that weekend, but when she develops them, they don't show anything unusual. There's a woman with a baby carriage that appears in quite a few, and a man in a suit who Stacey thinks looks like a banker. He is; Claudia, Stacey, Becca, and Charlotte head down to the bank one afternoon for some detective work, and while Stacey is turning in some penny rolls, she sees the man talking with other bank employees. Later, during a BSC stakeout of the bank, Shannon finds out that this man in Mr. Zibreski, vice president of the bank. Snce the police now think that the robbery was an inside job, and that it probably happened while Claud and the kids were there, taking pictures of the bank, the BSC is suspicious. Claudia tries calling the tip line that the police have set up, but they think she's a prank caller and won't listen. So, the girls take some of their photos down to the police station. The officer at the front desk is just about to write them off when - TA DA! - Sergeant Johnson comes to their rescue. He looks over the pictures, but he agrees with the other officer; the pictures don't really show anything that could be used as evidence in court.

One day, not too long after, Claudia is working on developing some more pictures of the bank from the robbery day when someone opens the door to the darkroom. Claud can't see who it is, and when she runs out of the darkroom, no one's there. The pictures are ruined, and she's convinced that the culprit is Mr. Zibreski. She thinks he's onto them, and wants to foil their plans. Claud is also pretty disappointed by the loss of the pictures, until she remembers that Mary Anne also took some. Claudia develops those, and at first, she doesn't see anything suspicious. Then, she notices something: there's a light on in one of the offices in the bank, even though it was Sunday and the bank was closed. They go to see Sergeant Johnson again, and he admits that the police are suspicious of him, too, but don't have any proof.

When Claudia is helping the kids decide which pictures to put in Dawn's book, she notices a few pictures that she think contain another clue. They all show the same woman getting PILES of cash out of an ATM, and they think that maybe she rigged it to give her as much money as she wanted. Janine points out that this theory probably isn't likely; the largest bills found in ATMs are usually $20s, so even if all the bills the woman is pictured with WERE $20s, she'd only have $1,000, max. The BSC members are disappointed...until Claud gets another idea. She enlarges various parts of the different pictures, and asks the BSC to come over early for their meeting to check them out. Stacey notices that Mr. Zibreski, even though he has a fancy pocket watch, keeps checking the wristwatch he's wearing. Then, Jessi notices that the time on the fancy pocket watch never changes. Claudia thinks he might be hiding a key to a safe deposit box in the watch, and she's right. Sergeant Johnson is questioning Mr. Zibreski when the girls bring their new photos down to the station, and the BSC members listen as Zibreski makes a full confession. Mystery solved. Also, it was Janine who opened Claudia's darkroom door, not the criminal. She'd ruined Claud's pictures once before by doing that, and was too embarrassed to admit that she'd made the same mistake.

Rating: 2.5

Thoughts and Things

  • The rating for this one probably would have been lower if it hadn't been for all the photography talk. I like photography, so I was interested in that aspect of it, but not in anything else.

  • I'm about 80% sure that this is the first time that Sergeant Johnson has helped the girls with one of their cases, but Claud says that she'd seen him around when they'd dealt with the police before. Ten points to anyone who can find a reference to him in a past mystery!

  • Speaking of Sergeant Johnson, he should have been fired about 456345 times during the series. In this book alone, he lets the girls in on the fact that the police ARE investigating Zibreski, and then lets them into the interrogation room when he confesses. What police academy did he graduate from???

  • Speaking again of Sergeant Johnson, I've decided to picture him as really hot. That will make the rest of the mysteries a little more bearable. ;)

  • I feel like this particular summer in BSC land has lasted forever. It kind of has, considering it's covered the last 5 books including this one.

Friday, January 29, 2010

#77 Dawn and Whitney, Friends Forever

*This book marks the official halfway point in this little project of mine!*


The We Love Kids Club is meeting one day when they get a call from a new client, Mr. Cater. He wants to hire a sitter for his daughter for the next few weeks, until her day camp starts. The catch? Whitney is 12 years old, with Down's Syndrome, and her parents have told her that Dawn is her new friend, not a sitter. Dawn gets the job, and she's pretty curious about Whitney. She's never met anyone with Down's before, and she's not quite sure what to expect. Whitney is friendly, though, and she likes to do lots of the same things that most girls her age would. She even wants to baby-sit! Dawn takes her to visit Sunny "at work," sitting for Clover and Daffodil Austin, and Whitney is great with them. Dawn is impressed by how responsible she is, but the fact that Whitney is, in fact, different, really hits home as their walking back to the Caters'. Whitney gets scared when they come to a busy intersection, and only crosses the street comfortably when Dawn takes her arm.

One afternoon, Whitney decides she wants to go the mall. She and Dawn have a good time, and just as they're about to leave, Whitney goes into one last store and comes out with a "Best Friends" necklace, half of which is for Dawn. Dawn is really touched by the gesture, and realizes that Whitney isn't just a sitting charge anymore; she's a friend, too. On another of their afternoons together, though, things take a bad turn. Whitney decides she wants an ice cream sandwich, but her parents have told her not to snack. Dawn tells her no, but nothing's going to come between Whitney and her ice cream! Finally, Dawn lets it slip that she's the baby-sitter, and that Whitney has to do what she's told. Dawn feels awful once she realizes what she said, and Whitney feels even worse. Not only has she been working really hard to prove to her parents that she's grown up, but she honestly thought that Dawn just wanted to be her friend. The next couple of days that Dawn goes to stay with Whitney, Whitney won't even speak to her.

Dawn is sitting for Clover and Daffodil Austin on a hot day, and she goes inside to get the girls some juice. When she comes back, though, the girls are missing. Dawn checks the Austin's yard, house, and street, but there's no sign of the girls. One boy says he saw them walking with a lady, so Dawn calls the police. A huge search is organized in the neighborhood, so Dawn decides to leave the neighborhood to cover more ground. She ends up at this carnival that's been set up nearby, and to her surprise, there are Clover and Daffodil on the ferris wheel, with Whitney Cater! Whitney had come by and taken the girls out, to prove how responsible she could be. The girls thought it was okay to go with her since she's not a stranger, and she told them she was baby-sitting. Dawn gets everyone home and calls off the search. Later, she talks things out with Whitney, and all is well in that department.

Meanwhile, Dawn's dad is dating up a storm. After he gets to know the women a little, he includes Dawn and Jeff on one of the dates. They go on date after date with women who are clearly not a good fit, until they all finally realize how good they had it with Carol. She and Jack get back together and get engaged again. Back in Stoneybrook, Mrs. Barrett and Mr. DeWitt also get engaged.

Rating: 1

Thoughts and Things
  • It really, really, bugged me that nearly everyone Dawn encountered when she was with Whitney was rude and awful, as if the whole world was out to get people with Down's Syndrome. That's not very realistic. Plus, just because someone stares a little too long doesn't mean they're having mean thoughts. Some people are honestly curious. In my case, I tend to notice people with Down's Syndrome because I worked with a girl that had it years and years ago, and I always wonder what happened to her...
  • This book contains the best meal in the entire series, IMHO: endive salad, asparagus, three-cheese macaroni, and raspberry crisp. It's really the macaroni and the crisp that sounds good; I could care less about the endive salad and asparagus. The food that the Schafers plus Jack's date have at a picnic sounds good, too.
  • One of Jack's dates calls him "Richard." :D
  • Another one of Jack's dates has a daughter named Alana that goes to Dawn's school. Dawn says that this girl is the only person she knows named Alana. What about that older sufer that Stacey hung out with during SS#5?
  • I really want an ice cream sandwich.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

SS#11 The Baby-sitters Remember

It's still summer, and the BSC is having a sleepover at Kristy's. All of the SMS students have been told to write a "What I Did Over the Summer" essay, and all the girls (except maybe Mallory) are kind of dreading it. They all agree that the topic is boring, and start throwing out some other ideas. Jessi is the one that comes up with the "most vivid memory" suggestion, which gives all the club members a lot to think about over the next few weeks.

Kristy remembers the first time she ever baby-sat for David Michael, when she was 10. The Thomases had this housekeeper at the time who was less than reliable, and one day, neither she nor either of the boys were free to watch David Michael after school. Kristy begs to be allowed to sit, since it'll only be for a couple of hours, and Mrs. Thomas agrees. She recruits the neighbors to call and check in on the kids; Mimi even comes over. Kristy does well, and the rest is history.

Stacey's memory is from the beginning of 6th grade. She's full of big plans for the school year; she's going to get good grades, join the soccer team, and make new friends. At first, everything seems to be going well. There's a new girl at school, and she and Stacey start getting pretty friendly. Stacey even invites Allison to have lunch with their group, much to Laine's dismay (she's usually the one who approves new group members). There's one problem, though; Stacey hasn't been feeling quite right lately. She's been super hungry and thirsty, but in spite of her appetite, she's lost weight. She and her parents just chalk it up to a growth spurt, and don't think anything of it (Stacey doesn't tell them that she also feels shaky and dizzy) Then, disaster strikes (well, disaster for a 6th grader). Stacey's group of friends gets together for a slumber party one night, and because there isn't room for everyone's sleeping bags on the floor, Stacey and Laine end up sharing the bed. In the middle of the night, Stacey wets it. Laine wakes the whole house, and Stacey ends up calling her parents to take her home. The following week, the McGills take her to a shrink, who figures out that she has diabetes. Once they have a diagnosis, Stacey misses a lot of school, and her "friends" certainly won't let her forget the bed wetting. That's why Stacey doesn't mind at all when her parents tell her they'll be moving to Connecticut. Since her New York friends reacted so badly to her illness, Stacey decides to keep it a secret from her new friends. The BSC members turn out to be such good friends, though, that Stacey eventually comes clean.

When Claudia was six, her art teacher assigned her class he task of drawing a self portrait at home. Claudia draws a butterfly, using as many of her crayons as possible, but when the teacher looks at her picture, she scolds Claud for not following directions. Every other kid drew a literal picture of themselves, and Claudia is embarrassed. She cries to Mimi about it when she gets home from school, and Mimi marches her right back there and tells the teacher that Claudia was the only kid who truly understood the directions.

Jessi's memory comes from the summer after 4th grade. The Ramseys are awaiting the arrival of Squirt at this point, but Jessi has a secret; she doesn't want another baby. She doesn't want to say so, though, since her parents are looking forward to it so much. They'd had two misscarriages after Becca, and they're still keeping their fingers crossed that nothing goes wrong with this one. Mrs. Ramsey ends up going into labor early, so Jessi, Becca, Aunt Cecelia, and Mr. Ramsey have to kick things into high gear to get them ready for the new baby. When Squirt first gets home, things are just as bad as Jessi thought they'd be. The worst part is that he cries ALL THE TIME. He's got colic, and when Jessi reads that it can last three months, she's not happy. At first, she tries to ignore Squirt by tuning him out with her Walkman. One day, though, she realizes that she's the only one around who's hearing him (Mrs. Ramsey is asleep). Jessi goes and picks up her little brother and sings him to sleep. They bond.

Logan remembers meeting and falling for Mary Anne. Basically, his chapters are Logan Likes Mary Anne! from Logan's perspective.

When Mallory was 10, her favorite author was Amelia Moody. Mrs. Pike takes Mal to a book signing at Washington Mall to meet Ms. Moody, and Mallory is totally prepared. She picks a bouquet of flowers from the Pikes' yard, and has this whole speech planned out. When she's face-to-face with her favorite author, though, Mal loses it. All she can do it cry. Plus, the flowers look horrible compared to the fancy bouquets that others kids brought. Mallory is disappointed that she couldn't manage to say all the things she wanted to, but she never forgets seeing what kind of impact an author can have on a reader.

Shannon's memory happened at the beginning of 8th grade. Sally White had just transferred to SDS, and she caused quite the buzz. She's rich, knows all sorts of famous people, and just seems awesome. Over the first few weeks, Sally chooses one girl to be her particular friend, basically ignoring everyone else. When it's Shannon's turn, she's just as flattered as all the other chosen ones were. Even though she's supposed to be studying for the astronomy club's entrance examination, Shannon spends most of a day at Sally's. When Sally calls the next day and asks Shannon over again, Shannon manages to refuse. That's the end of Shannon's time as "chosen one"; by the time the next week rolls around, Sally's moved onto someone new. That kind of turns Shannon off to new girls in general, hence her early treatment of Kristy.

Dawn remembers her parent's divorce, and her subsequent move to Stoneybrook with her mom and Jeff.

When Mary Anne was 8, she was used to be being baby-sat. After all, her dad worked quite a bit, and not even in Stoneybrook are 8-year-olds allowed to stay alone. Most of the sitters are weird, so when Richard tells Mary Anne that he'll be going away for a whole weekend, leaving her with a sitter, she begs to stay at Kristy's or Claudia's. No dice, but Richard does allow her to have her friends spend that Friday night with her. Mrs. Tate (the sitter) is waiting for Mary Anne when she gets home from school, and she definitely doesn't look any different from the other old lady sitters her dad usually hires. When she won't let Mary Anne have a brownie as an after school snack, since she's having pizza for dinner, Mary Anne escapes to Kristy's to complain. Kristy is outraged on her behalf, and decides to get revenge on Mrs. Tate later at the sleepover. First, they put pepper in her salad. Rather than get mad, though, Mrs. Tate just makes another one. Then, they nail her slippers to the floor. Again, no anger from Mrs. Tate. After that, they hang a scary mask over the light in the refrigerator to try and scare her. By this time, the girls aren't even trying to hide the fact that they're playing pranks. After all, Mrs. Tate seems to be enjoying them, too. She even tells the girls about the old plastic wrap over he toilet seat gag, and gets them good the next morning when she tries to serve them a breakfast of junk stew.

Rating: 4.5

Thoughts and Things
  • At the beginning of the book, Kristy says that the essay they've been assigned is two pages. By the end of the book, though, it's changed to only one page.

  • I was always a bit surprised by how informal Mary Anne is with Richard in this book, considering how things were for her in #4, before he loosened up.

  • The back of the book says that Dawn's memory is meeting Mary Anne. She mentions that, but as a footnote to all the divorce/moving drama.

  • I know that lots of people think the Logan chapter is boring, but I like seeing #10 from his viewpoint.

  • Remember when I said that SS#9 was the last one to be published that was written by Ann? I think I might have lied. This book doesn't list a ghostwriter, either. It's dedicated TO Jahnna and Malcolm, but it doesn't say that the author thanks them for their help in preparing the manuscript.

  • The ad for this book that was in the back of the last one said that it was supposed to come with a pin. Did anyone actually get a pin? Mine had a necklace....
  • It was nice of Mimi to defend Claudia and everything, but I highly doubt that Claud was trying to be all abstract and deep when she drew a butterfly as a self-portrait. I think she just didn't understand the directions.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

M#15 Kristy and the Vampires


Derek Masters is filming a movie called Little Vampires in Stoneybrook, and naturally, the family needs a BSC member on set with him all day. Lucky Kristy, who had been expecting a boring summer, is the one who gets the job. At first, being on a movie set is exciting. There's a lot for Kristy to learn, and getting a behind the scenes glimpse of it all is pretty cool for her. She's also impressed by Derek's acting talent; he keeps upstaging Carson Fraser, the star of the project. Then, the accidents start to happen, and they all seem to involve Derek. The first couple are just due to apparent clumsiness on his part: stumbling when he gets out of his car, dropping a lamp. The third accident, though, is far more serious. Derek, who usually does his own stunts, is due to perform one where he falls through a pane of glass. The propmaster ordered special breakaway glass for the shoot, which won't harm Derek when he falls. Then, Todd Masters (Derek's little brother) accidentally kicks a rock into the glass and breaks it. That's when everyone discovers that the glass was real, and Derek would have been badly hurt if the stunt had gone ahead. The propmaster is sure he ordered breakaway glass from Rockaway and Sons (a local glass company), and has no idea how the real stuff got there. It doesn't matter; he gets fired anyway.

Kristy is pretty determined to figure out how the glass got switched. She convinces one of the movie staffers to show her where the receipts for purchases are kept, but she doesn't uncover any clues. The next day, another stunt is supposed to take place, but this time, Derek is taken out of it in favor of a stunt person. He's pretty bummed, since it involves flying on wires. It's a good thing (for him) that he didn't do the stunt, because as they're hoisting the stunt woman up on the wires that Derek WOULD have been using, they break and she falls. She's okay, just bruised and shaken up. Kristy calls an emergency BSC meeting so the club can try and figure out who might be out to get Derek. First on the list is the star, Carson Fraser. He's not happy about all the attention Derek is getting, and the girls think he (or his creepy agent) might be willing to go to great lengths to change that. Second on the suspect list is Zeke, the prop guy who was fired. He'd have obvious motive to want to sabotage the movie. Third is Sheila Mayberry, publicity person extraordinaire. She's said quite openly that ANY publicity for the movie is good poublicity, and she's been eating up all the accidents that have been happening. The BSC thinks it's possible that she's causing the mishaps in order to have more to write about.

Not long after the meeting, Kristy seizes the chance to "inspect" Carson Fraser's trailer to see if she can come up with any evidence. There's nothing much there except some postcards he's writing to a friend of his, plus some roses and note from a rather enthusiastic fan of his who had been hanging around the set all day. There's definitely nothing that would prove that Carson had anything to do with Derek's accidents. NONE of the sleuthing that the BSC has done has gotten them any closer to solving the mystery, until Kristy overhears a conversation between Sheila Mayberry, a reporter from Variety, and that fan of Carson Fraser's who's note and flowers Kristy had seen in his trailer. The girl's name, as it turns out, is Lindsay Rockaway, and she's a member of the family who supplied the glass. That's when Kristy starts to put two and two together. Lindsay is a BIG Carson fan; maybe even big enough to try and harm Derek for stealing her favorite actor's spotlight. She also would have had access to the glass that was supposed to be used for that stunt. On a whim, Kristy follows her. She's distracted for a moment and ends up losing sight of Lindsay, and when she catches up again, Lindsay is looking awfully disheveled and dirty. Kristy follows her downtown to a convenience store, where she watches Lindsay buy a soda. On the way out, something falls out of her pocket; it's a car repair manual, and the page on brake malfunctions is dog-eared and highlighted. Uh, oh...

Kristy races back to the movie set, worried that Derek might be in danger. At first, she doesn't see Derek, his driver, or the car that they'd been using. She's worried that she's too late, but then, she sees them. Kristy tells the driver what she suspects, and he gets out of the car to investigate. Sure enough, the brake line had been cut, and if they'd tried to drive anywhere, there would have been major trouble. By that time, quite a crowd had gathered around...including Lindsay Rockaway. Kristy accuses her point blank of the crime, and she confesses. She's taken into police custody, and is shipped off to a rehab facility for trouble teens.

Also, Claire Pike is terrified of vampires, so NONE of the Pike girls can go to the set to watch filming. She gets over it by dressing as a witch in order to scare the vampires right back.

Rating: 2.5

Thoughts and Things
  • This movie set had the worst security I've ever seen. Half of Stoneybrook could just come and go whenever they pleased, to the extent that it sometimes disrupted filming. No one really questioned it when Kristy wanted to look at those receipts, and if there had been better security (not to mention people to test stunt equipment), this book wouldn't have even been necessary!
  • Carson Fraser=Robert Pattinson. :)
  • I kind of love that Mallory gets picked by the director for a walk-on role after what happened to her in CA. What a boost for her self-esteem!
  • Look at the cover...I can't believe that Richard let Mary Anne out of the house wearing a skirt that short and tight!
  • Kristy says in the beginning of the book that it's a couple of weeks after the end of school. I guess it really depends on your definition of a couple, but that's approximately when the last book was taking place, too. Stacey's definitely not on vacation in this one, though.

Monday, January 25, 2010

#76 Stacey's Lie


School's out, and Stacey's workaholic dad has offered to take her on a two week vacation, anywhere she wants. He really means it: Europe, Disney World, the West Coast, wherever. Stacey decides at first that she wants to go to California to see Dawn, but changes her mind and asks her dad to take her to Davis Park, on Fire Island instead. Why would she go there when she had the whole world to choose from? Loverboy Robert has a summer job working on the Fire Island ferry, and Stacey wants to spend time with him. Stacey doesn't tell her dad this, of course, and she doesn't tell Claudia, either, when she asks Claud to go. Robert's presence doesn't stay a secret for long, though; Stacey and Claudia run into him when they're out exploring the island on their first day there. Claud's pretty mad, but Stacey makes her feel better by telling her that she only kept it a secret because she figured Claud wouldn't come if she knew about Robert. Stacey also asks her to keep Robert a secret from her dad, which Claudia agrees to do, even though she's not thrilled about it.

Stacey spends quite a bit of time during the first week or so running down to the ferry dock to meet Robert. She figures that Claudia doesn't mind, since she's been invovled with building and photographing fancy sandcastles, and her dad is always off playing with his friend, Mr. Majors. Stacey does feel a little bad, though, on the days that her dad is around and Claudia has to come down to the docks as well. Claud is pretty good about making herself scarce, but Stacey starts to feel that it might not be quite right to leave her best friend alone so much. She feels even more guilty when Claudia mentions how bored she's been. Then, Stacey and Claudia run into Robert when they go out for pizza, and Claudia gets upset. She's tired of being brushed aside, and she had been looking forward to one dinner with her best friend. To make up for running into Robert (which, in this case at least, wasn't intentional), Stacey makes a best friend date for the following night.

The next day, Robert tells Stacey that one of his coworkers has a sailboat, and he's invited the two of them to join him for a sunset sail. The only problem? The sail is scheduled for that night, right when Stacey is supposed to be having dinner with Claud. She doesn't want to cancel, but she does want to go sailing with Robert, so she decides to try and do both. She hurries Claud as she's getting dressed, hurries her to the restaurant, and tries to talk her into ordering food that won't take as long as the lobster she wants. Stacey tries to claim that it's her diabetes, but the jig is up when dinner takes a little longer than planned, and Robert actually comes lookign for Stacey. Claudia is furious, and no amount of empty promises from Stacey makes it better this time. When they get back the their house, Claud moves her stuff out of the room that they'd been sharing. Stacey and Robert don't make it in time for their sail, so they decide to take a walk on the beach. As they're walking, they see another couple walking towards them. To Stacey's surprise, it's her father, and a woman she's never seen before. Stacey's dad is surprised to see Robert, too, and they end up saying good night to their significant others so they can talk things out. Both are pretty mad, since they each feel like they've been duped by the other (guess what Stacey's dad was actually doing when he said he was with Mr. Majors???), and pretty soon, they're not speaking to each other. Not a fun house for Stacey to be in, even if it is her own fault!

Stacey is looking forward to the weekend, since Kristy, Mary Anne, and Shannon are arriving to spend the 4th of July. She's hoping to have the chance to tell her side of the story first, but Claudia beats her to it. The other three girls don't really take sides, but it's not exactly fun for them to be in the middle. The whole weekend ends up being a disaster, including the 4th of July parade that the girls try to march in. When it's all over, Stacey is actually shocked to see that Claudia is leaving with everyone else, rather than staying for the second week as planned. To top it off, Robert is acting more and more distant. Finally, he tells her that he wants to see other people. He just doesn't feel that he can trust Stacey anymore, after seeing how much she lied to both her dad and Claudia. Stacey runs home crying, and ends up talking things out with her dad. She even agrees to give Samantha (his girlfriend) a chance. Stacey even works things out with both Claudia and Robert, once she finally realizes that SHE was the one that caused all her problems, and she owed basically everyone involved an apology.

Subplot: Haley Braddock and Vanessa Pike unexpectedly buy the same new swimsuit and fight about it.

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things
  • The breaking of child labor laws continues. Not only does 13 year old Robert get a job working on the ferry, but 11 year olds Mallory and Jessi get paid jobs as day camp junior counselors. Whatever....
  • I always thought this one was published after Claudia and the Clue in the Photograph. I was under the impression that Claud didn't get into photography until that book, and she'd definitely taking (and selling) a lot of pictures in this one.
  • Mr. McGill only sprung the vacation on Stacey a week or two before it actually happened. If she had picked Europe, that might have been tough to pull off on such short notice, not to mention the cost of last-minute airfare!
  • Given how fast that people remarried in this series, I guess I should be surprised that Mr. McGill and Samantha aren't hitched by the next book.

Friday, January 22, 2010

#75 Jessi's Horrible Prank

Jessi isn't exactly loving her new Short Takes class, which is computer programming. The material that's being covered isn't exactly up her alley, and the teacher, Mr. Trout, is....interesting. He's kind of dorky, and he almost seems afraid of the kids. Most of the kids in Jessi's class are constantly causing trouble for him, and he never disciplines anyone. At first, it's just stuff like spitballs and a lack of volunteering to demonstrate what they're supposed to be learning. Then, the pranks get worse. First, the entire class decides to simultaneously drop all their books on the floor. Jessi doesn't really want to go along with it, but she does so rather than let her classmates down. That's followed by the Great Balding of Mr. Trout; some of his students were convinced that his odd hair was a toupee, and they prove it by rigging up a little device using a fish hook, the hanging map at the front of the classroom, and a wooden pole. The whole class, including Jessi, is in stitches, watching Mr. Trout jumping up and down while he tries to recapture his hair.

While all this is going on, SMS is preparing for its "Sixth Grade Follies" show. It's basically a variety show where the students imitate and make fun of their teachers, and features song and dance as well as acting. Jessi is cast in the show, and she's apparently got such amazing comedic timing that she's asked to take on a special role in the show: Mr. Trout. At first, Jessi doesn't want to do it. Even though she thinks that most of the pranks played on Mr. Trout were funny, she also thinks they're mean. She's just not sure that Mr. Trout is the type to enjoy seeing himself lampooned in that way. Jessi's desire to fit in with her fellow students wins out over her desire to protect Mr. Trout's feelings, and she agrees to take the part.

The "Follies" show is a big hit; everyone in the audience seems to love it. Everyone, that is, except Mr. Trout. Jessi had seen him arrive before the show, and was again hit with doubt as to whether or not she should be playing him. She looks for him after the show, since most of the other teachers who were imitated in the show were there, congratulating the kids on a job well done. She doesn't see him, and when she gets to school Monday and learns that Mr. Trout has apparently flown the coop without warning, she feels awful. Jessi even goes to the principal and tells him how at fault she feels, but she assures her that it's not her fault. Mr. Trout just wasn't cut out for teaching. Other teachers confirm that bit of info; Mr. Trout was always off in a world of his own, no matter how hard they tried to be friendly and include him. Jessi still feels bad, so she tries to start a petition to get him back at SMS. That doesn't work, since no one except the BSC members sign it. Finally, Jessi writes Mr. Trout a letter, apologizing for her role in chasing him away, and asking him back. She gets a reply; Mr. Trout doesn't want to come back, and will be attending graduate school instead.

Also, some of the club's sitting charges put on their own version of the Follies.

Rating: 1.5

Thoughts and Things
  • The fish picture on page 8 is pretty funny. I wonder who drew it?
  • Jessi has a friend in her Short Takes class named Sanjita, who's supposed to be Puerto Rican. Doesn't Sanjta sound a little more Indian than Puerto Rican?
  • Jessi makes lots of references to her experience auditioning for Peter Pan as she's getting ready to audition for the Follies. Kudos to her for recognizing that she isn't the fabulous singer she thought she was back then, and that she's not necessarily guaranteed to be the star just because she can dance!
  • I've noticed that the Lerangis-written Jessi books tend to be a little more heavily oriented towards race issues. That's especially true of the later ones.
  • Jessi's entire class fails a quiz because Mr. Trout was so ineffective in getting the material across. The same thing happened to me in high school Spanish. Our regular teacher left to have a baby, and the sub did nothing but sing songs to us in Spanish and play games. It made class fun, but we were still tested on grammar and vocabulary as if we'd been studying it all along.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

M#14 Stacey and the Mystery at the Mall


The SMS students are all starting a new Short Takes class called Project Work. Three days a week for 6 weeks, each one will go out into the community after school and actually work with a business to get a feel for what the "real world" is like. The BSC members all agree to try and get jobs at Washington Mall so they'll be on the same schedule, which is exactly what happens: Kristy will be working with mall security, Jessi will be working at Cinema World, Claudia will be at the Artist's Exchange, Mallory will be at BookCenter, Logan will be at the Casa Grande takeout counter in the food court, Mary Anne will be at Critters, and Stacey will be at Toy Town.

Stacey's excited about her new job; April, the woman who runs the store, is really nice, and the place is full of neat toys. There's just one problem, which April warns Stacey about right off the bat, and that's shoplifting. Toy Town isn't the only store that's been having problems lately; when Stacey meets up with her friends during her break time, she finds out that all of them have been given the same talk by their new bosses. The first week of work isn't even over before it happens to Stacey the first time. She blames herself, but April assures her that it's not her fault. The following week, a display model of a Gamester (the BSC's version of a Game Boy???) disappears. The following day, the replacement model also disappears. Right after it's taken, there's a commotion out in the mall. Stacey sees a bunch of people running by Toy Town, but no one seems to know what's going on Then, she sees the police arresting a bunch of teenagers, one of whom she recgonizes as having been in the store. Stacey runs and tells one of the cops that she saw the kid in the store right before the Gamester disappeared, and sure enough, the kid has it.

With all the arrests that were made, everyone is sure that the shoplifting will stop. Not so; little things, like toothpaste and kids' clothes, are still disappearing. There are also some larger items, like VCRs and camcorders, that have also been found missing, sometimes from locked storerooms. Then, Stacey has a scare when she goes back to Toy Town's stockroom to get something for a customer. She's surprised by a man in a ski mask, who orders her to be quiet before running out the back entrance into the mall. There is also some evidence that someone has been sleeping in the movie theater at night, and using the kitchen at Casa Grande to cook. The BSC thinks it might be three rather grubby-looking kids whom they've all seen around the mall. At least, that would explain the smaller items that have been disappearing, and the the whole living in the mall thing. What it doesn't explain, though, is how and why the larger items are being stolen. The girls think that the new mall manager, Mr. Morton, might be responsible for that. After all, he'd know how to get around security to steal things without being seen, and he'd have access to locked storage areas. They've even seen him talking to the three kids on the security cameras. The girls at first think that the kids might be working for him, but then think it's more likely that they just found out about what Mr. Morton is doing. They figure that the kids might be in danger, and they decide to head to the mall right then to find them.

After arriving at the mall, the girls (and Charlie Thomas) give themselves two hours to find the kids. Just before the time is up, they discover them sleeping on some mats in the back room of an empty store. Their names are Mara (12), Kyle (8), and Brenda (6). The club and Charlie take them to Friendly's for a meal while Stacey goes to call the cops. Apparently, the kids' mother got very sick and had to go to the hospital. An aunt had been asked to take care of them, but she never showed up. Mara kept them in their apartment as long as she could, but when the money ran out, she moved to the mall. They never told their mother what had happened, since she was so sick. The police and social services both arrive to take the kids, who are later reunited with their recovered mother. Also, Mr. Morton is caught and will probably be punished for stealing and selling those big ticket items. He had run the mall into some serious financial trouble, thanks to his inability to say no to anyone, and he was selling things to try and make up for it.

In other mall news, the club is helping some of the store owners open a day care center. Lots of parents just leave their children in places like Toy Town and BookCenter while they do their shopping, and some of the employees themselves want to have a place to leave their children while they're working.

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things
  • The Project Work days were Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I'm surprised Kristy didn't go to the SMS principal and tell them that PW conflicted with the BSC and that something else would need to be arranged.
  • I know that all the BSC members needed to be working at the mall for plot purposes, but I can't help but wonder if there were any non-retail jobs available to the students? There are 26326543 lawyers in Stoneybrook; I bet at least a couple of them would be willing to have a student volunteer in the office a few days a week.
  • I do like the idea of Project Work, but I don't buy that they would actually let 13 year olds run cash registers and operate fast food cooking equipment within days of starting. It would have been a little more realistic if this had been more of a job shadow situation.
  • Inconsistency #1: Stacey mentions the whole Modern Living/egg baby thing, and says that it was an earlier Short Takes class. Actually, no. This book is the first time Short Takes is mentioned in the series.
  • Inconsistency #2: Logan mentions never having had a job interview. So you mean to tell me that he was not only hired to be a busboy at the Rosebud at age 13, but that he was hired without an interview?
  • I love that there's a store called the Cheese Outlet in the mall. :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

#74 Kristy and the Copycat


Kristy misses playing softball, so she decides to try out for the SMS team. At tryouts, she realizes how tough making the team is going to be. The girls who played last year are really, really good, and Coach Wu is tough. Kristy does pretty well, though, and ends up making the team, along with three other new girls: Tonya, Bea, and Dilys. Their excitement at making the team is short-lived; almost immediately, a couple of the old team members let them know that in no uncertain terms can they consider themselves members of the team until they complete an initiation. Kristy resists, telling the others that SMS doesn't allow hazing, but the the veterans only threaten to make each and every new girl look bad on the field if they don't do what they're told. After Kristy (along with Dilys) refuses to do any initiation, the girls follow through with their threats to turn practices into a nightmare. That's when she gives in: they'll do their initiation.

That Friday night, Kristy has Charlie drive her to Bea's house for what's supposed to be a team party. In reality, as soon as Charlie drives away, she goes to meet the other three new players at SMS. Their task to to spray pain graffitti on an old equipment shed. No one catches them, but Kristy hears some bad news on the radio when her alarm goes off the next morning. The very same equipment shed that she and her teammates had painted the night before had caught fire, and a neighbor who had tried to put it out landed in the hospital. Kristy just knows that she and her friends are responbile for the fire, and for the guy's injuries. Not only were Bea and Tonya smoking after they finished painting, but Kristy also finds that her (very flammable) can of paint is missing. The four culprits gather at Kristy's later that day, and while they're talking over the situation, Tallie (one of the veterans) calls. She tells them that if any of them are caught, and if they feel the need to confess, the softball will leave them high and dry by claiming to know nothing about the initiation. Then, not only will the girls be in trouble for the crime, but they'll also be introuble for apparently lying.

Kristy feels awful about what happened. When she starts getting notes from someone who claims to know what they did and wants some hush money, she feels even worse. The other three girls are getting notes, too, but since there are no instructions as to how the money should be paid, they decide to sit tight. Then, they find out that the boys' baseball team has been blamed for the fire and has been disbanded because of it. Kristy feels especially awful about that, since Logan is on the team. That weekend, she calls an emergency meeting of the BSC and confesses her crime. The club stands behind her, and they help her to see that she should confess. She plans on doing so first thing Monday morning, until she wakes up to another radio announcement about the fire. Several SHS students stepped forward and claimed responsibility once they heard that the baseball team was taking the rap for it. Apparently, they started the fire so they could come put it out and look like heroes, but the neighbor beat them to it. Kristy is relieved, and doesn't end up confessing. She does, however, find her missing can of spray paint hidden under her bed.

While Kristy is busy with the SMS team, Claudia and Stacey temporarily take over Krushers coaching duties. Also, Karen has decided she wants to be 13, and copies everything that the girls in the BSC do. I guess that's where they copycat part of the title comes from, but it's a really minor plot point. Anyway, Kristy finally gets sick of Karen following her around and tells her off a little. That should please the Karen haters out there. :)

Rating: 3.5

Thoughts and Things
  • Normally, I'm not a big fan of the softball books, but I like this one. Maybe it's just the softball coaching books that I don't particularly care for.
  • This book also makes me wish I hadn't sold my softball glove at a my apartment complex's garage sale last year, because I knind of want to go out and play.
  • I know Jon Merrill of BSC Companion fame doesn't like this book because Kristy didn't get caught and punished in the end, but I like that she doesn't. That's what happens sometimes in real life!
  • I like the name Tallie, for some reason....
  • It's pretty clear that Mallory knows at least something about softball, thanks to her brothers and sisters. I wonder why she didn't volunteer to help coach the Krushers in Kristy's absence?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

#73 Mary Anne and Miss Priss


When Mrs. Prezzioso calls the BSC needing a sitter for Jenny every day after school, Mary Anne ends up with the lion's share of the jobs. She's surprised to see that Jenny is back to her old lace-wearing, prim and proper habits. Now, though, she's taken it a step further: she's obsessed with staying clean. She's always washing her hands, and if she gets even the smallest drip of something on her dress, she has to change her entire outfit. After two days of dealing with Jeny the Neat Freak, Mary Anne goes to her dad and asks for his advice. Richard says that the behavior sounds obsessive-compulsive, and digs out some of his old psychology textbooks for Mary Anne to read. This worries her; could Jenny really be seriously disturbed?

As I mentioned, Mary Anne is only sitting for Jenny during her afternoons there. Mrs. P. is taking Andrea somewhere alone, and hasn't mentioned where. Mary Anne finally gets up the nerve to ask her, and it turns out that Andrea has quite the career as a baby model and actress. People are always praising Andrea and telling her what a perfect baby she is, so Jenny has been acting as perfect as possible to try and get more attention for herself. When that doesn't work, Jenny decides to get involved in show business, too. Too bad she doesn't seem to have her sister's talent. She kind of bombs her first audition (it's for a department store commercial), and doesn't get too many calls after that. That's when Jenny does a complete 180, and turns into the messiest kid alive. Mary Anne runs herself ragged trying to keep up with Jenny's messes, and finally gets up the nerve to talk to Mrs. P. about the situation. She's not really sure what to do about her daughter, so Mary Anne offers to sit for just Andrea sometime, so Jenny can spend some time alone with her parents.

At long last, Jenny gets booked for a catalog shoot. She does pretty well, but doesn't particularly enjoy herself. In fact, Jenny's pretty ecstatic the next time she gets rejected for a job, since it means she has more time to join the kickball team the triplets have started. Speaking of, Adam, Byron, and Jordan have decided that they're too old for baby-sitters, and they want to be completely in charge of their team; no help from the BSC allowed. It's kind of a disaster; there are no rules, people are always fighting, and eventually, everyone stops showing up for games. The triplets finally come to the BSC for advice, and things go much more smoothly after that. Also, Mallory is officially back in the club as of the end of the book.

Rating: 1.5

Thoughts and Things
  • The triplets actually call attention to the fact that Mallory, who's only a year older than them, gets all this responsibility while they're treated like little kids. It's about time someone asked this question. :)
  • This book makes it sound like Jenny's previous fussiness was her own idea, but I always got the impression that Mrs. P. was the one who dressed Jenny up all the time.
  • I agree with the BSC; Mrs. P is totally the perfect stage mother! I wonder why she didn't just try and get Jenny involved from the beginning.....
  • At one point, Jenny actually calls the younger Pike girls pigs for playing in the dirt. Harsh!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

M#13 Mary Anne and the Library Mystery


Mary Anne is kind of depressed and lonely. She misses Mal and Dawn, who are both still absent from the club, and Logan is too busy with volleyball to have much time for her. When Mrs. Kishi asks the BSc for volunteers to help out with the Readathon that the library children's room is sponsoring, Mary Anne jumps at the chance. She loves to read, and she's really looking forward to helping other kids love it, too.

Day #1 of work goes smoothly, but it's day #2 that's more interesting. First, there are a bunch of people outside the library protesting books that they want banned. Mary Anne wants to stop and talk to them and try and figure out why they're doing what they're doing, but she doesn't want to be late for work. Then, just as she's helping Charlotte Johanssen and Rosie Wilder pick out some books, the fire alarm goes off. It isn't just a drill, either; someone set a fire in a sink in one of the bathrooms. A week later, another fire is set, in a garbage can outside the back door. It's a little more serious than the first one, since lighter fluid was used to set it off.

The BSC is, of course, on the case. Claudia discovers that the land the library sits on used to belong to a family that ran into some financial trouble. They sold the land to the town with the condition that a library be built on it, and if the library were ever to be torn down or destroyed, the land would revert back to its original owners. The family's name is Ellway, which is also the name of the new assistant children's librarian. She's not the most pleasant woman in the world, so the girls suspect that she could be behind the fires. The club gets their second suspect a few days later, when Mary Anne is helping Nicky Pike find some books. They're sitting down at a table to look over his selections when Nicky knocks his jacket over. What falls out of his jacket? A book of matches. Nicky insists that they aren't his, and that he doesn't know how they got there. Mary Anne actually believes him, and her belief in his innocence is confirmed during another visit to the library, when the fire alarm goes off again without Nicky ever leaving her sight. This one was set in a trash can outside another door to the children's room, and another book was used. That's when Mary Anne realizes something: each and every book that was use to start one of the fires is on the list of books that the protestors are trying to get banned. Suspesct(s) #3...

Mary Anne and Kristy decide to interview one or more of the wannabe book banners, pretending that they're from the SMS newspaper. Kristy comes right out and asks one of them (Bertha Dow...she reappears later in the series) if she'd ever burned books. Ms. Dow admits that she has, but that the publicity was so bad that she figured it wasn't the best way to get her message out there. Mary Anne isn't so sure anymore that the banners are also responsible for the fires. She does, however, come up with another clue: each book, in addition to be one that the protestors wants banned, is also on the 5th grade reading list for the Readathon. The girls figure out that there's only one location left for the guilty party left to use to burn a book, and that's a trash can near the reference area. There's a biography about Lincoln on the list which is shelved nearby, so the girls decide to stake out the area the next time they're at the library. Their efforts are rewarded: they catch Sean Addison in the act. He confesses, and says he did it because he didn't want to be in the Readathon even though his parents are forcing him to. He doesn't like the way they always try to get him and Corrie out of the way by pushing them into so many activities. The whole family ends in counseling. Also, when the prizes for most books read in each grade are announced, Mathew Arnold, Sarah Hill, Marilyn Arnold, and Nicky Pike all win in their grades.

Rating: 2.5

Thoughts and Things
  • That smoke on the cover looks more like a ghost than smoke.
  • I know the kid on the cover is supposed to be Rosie Wilder, but she could easily pass for Mallory. Not only does she have the red hair and glasses thing going on, but she actually looks 11.
  • The girls seem surprised that Sean Addison feels neglected by his parents, and that the Addisons are always sending their kids off to lessons and activities. Didn't they deal with this exact issue in #26?
  • Mary Anne quote: "I had been having bad dreams lately. Dreams about fires burning out of control." Just wait, Mary Anne....
  • Heh...they were still using card catalogs in this book. :) I remember those days....
  • The Outsiders, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Diary of Anne Frank were all on the list of books that the protestors wanted banned, and they're all books that actually have been banned in some places. They were also all required reading for me in either middle or high school. Did I just go to a really progressive school or something?
  • I would LOVE it if the BSC had gotten into a discussion as to exactly why Deenie (one of the books that was burned) is often banned. :D

Saturday, January 16, 2010

#72 Dawn and the We Love Kids CLub


Dawn is still in California, and still loving life out there. She's happily adjusted to the more laid-back style of the We Love Kids Club, and she's been getting close to Stephie Robertson, thanks to all the jobs she's getting through the club. One day, when Dawn, Sunny, Maggie, and Jill are having a meeting, someone from the local newspaper calls, wanting to do a story about the group. At first, they think it's a joke, but when the call the number they were given, it turns out to be the real deal. The reporter, complete with hot photographer named Lance, arrives at Sunny's the next day to conduct the interview. The girls have to wait five days before the article comes out, though. When it does, it attracts a lot of attention from the girls' friends, families....and the local tv station. They want to do a human interest story on the club, which is pretty exciting for the girls. It's exciting, that is, until they actually see how much waiting around is involved in making tv. The interview takes hours, and when it airs, it only ends up being four minutes long. That four minutes has an awful lot of repercussions, though. After the We Love Kids Club appears on the news, they're swamped with job calls. The end up double booked, and one family even ends up booking two sitters. Dawn decides that it's time to make the club a little more efficient. That means regular meetings, and maybe even officers. The other girls don't want the We Love Kids Club to turn into another BSC, but they're willing to make a few changes to prevent the problems they've been having from getting even worse.

Once Kristy finds out about all the publicity that the We Love Kids Club is getting, she gets jealous. After all, the BSC has been around a lot longer, and they've never been on tv or in the newspaper. She tries calling several local newspapers, but they're not interested. Then, she wants to either make a video and submit it to the local news, or try and get them to come and interview the club. Too bad she didn't consult the other members before going ahead and making these plans; the other girls don't really want or need any more publicity at the moment. They're awfully busy with both Dawn and Mallory out of commission, and they don't think they can handle much more. Bummer for Kristy.

While Dawn is dealing with the We Love Kids Club's newfound fame, she's also dealing with Carol. Her dad is still pretty serious about her, and Dawn still finds her kind of annoying. She likes Carol, for the most part, but finds her attempts to be young and hip to be sort of irritating. Then, Dawn's dad drops a bombshell: he and Carol are getting married. That's when Dawn realizes that she hates Carol. She's hurt that her dad couldn't at least wait until Dawn was back in Stoneybrook to make this huge change. After all, she came out west to spend time with him, and now he's going to be with Carol 24-7. Dawn starts to feel unwanted, so she decides to go back to Stoneybrook. She steals her dad's credit card number, and after everyone has left her house for the day, she sneaks back in and books a flight to Connecticut. When she gets there, she doesn't exactly get the warm welcome she'd hoped for. In fact, her mom is pretty furious. Not only that, but Sharon has already booked Dawn a flight back to California, leaving the following afternoon. During her time in Stoneybrook, Dawn is only allowed to talk to Mary Anne. She starts to feel pretty stupid about the stunt she pulled, and she starts to worry that no one is going to want her. Not true; her mom and dad just want her to learn to live up to her commitments, and to include everyone in the decision when she's ready to come back to Stoneybrook.

Back in California, Dawn talks things out with Carol. Things are better, in a way, but there seems to be a lot of tension in the house. Then, Jack and Carol come back early from a date, in the middle of a big fight. Carol seems to think she's at the bottom of Jack's priority list, and doesn't like it one bit. They end up breaking up, and Dawn feels responsible. Jack assures her that it's not her fault, and that he and Carol had been having problems for awhile. wedding for the time being.

Rating: 4

Thoughts and Things

  • I've never been able to explain exactly why I enjoy this book as much as I do, but I've always really liked it.
  • I'm confused about who's who on the cover. I'm pretty sure that Dawn is the one in the red swimsuit, playing with Stephie's hair. Maggie is obvious, but which one is Sunny and which one's Jill? Jill is supposed to have the darkest hair of the four, which would make her the one sitting on the red and white lawn chair. The girl laying on the ground, though, doesn't look anything like the Sunny I see in my head.
  • I bet it's going to take Dawn ages to pay back those plane tickets. Last minute airfare isn't exactly cheap, in most cases.
  • I'm actually kind of sad that Jill is the one that gets shut out of the CA Diaries series. I feel bad that her friends essentially end up ditching her because she didn't grow up as fast as they did.

Friday, January 15, 2010

#71 Claudia and the Perfect Boy


Claudia really, really wants a boyfriend. She wants one so much that after she sees Mary Anne and Logan getting all gooey with each other after school, she runs right up to her room and starts hugging herself. Is that what they called it back in the 90's? Anyway, Claudia decides she needs to make a list of all the qualities she wants in her perfect guy so she'll recognize him when he comes along. Here's the list, spelling mistakes not included:
  • handsome

  • muscles (not too many, not too few)

  • taller than me

  • funny (extremely)

  • athletic
  • sensitive

  • easy to talk to (a good listener)

  • interesting (lots to say)

  • artistic

  • good dresser

  • good speller (willing to correct mine)

  • not critical

  • crazy about me
Stacey spends that night at Claudia's, and Claudia confesses about the list. She and Stacey decide that SMS needs a personals column in their school newspaper, and Claudia goes to Emily Bernstein (I spelled it right this time!!!) the following Monday and suggests the column. Emily loves it, and Claudia is now the official author of "Claudia's Personals."

Claudia is worried about getting enough letters to fill her column, but she didn't need to worry at all. In fact, there's TOO many! Not only does Claudia have to pick and choose the best ones to use, but she has to edit those down quite a bit. She's alos scanning all the letters for her own perfect match, and in the first batch, she finds two possibilities. She prints the letters, just to be fair, but makes sure her responses are among the first that the guys will get. One guy turns out to be none other than Alan Gray. Claudia doesn't particularly want to date him (at least, not yet), so she lies and says she knows another girl who's crazy about him, and she'd be betraying that girl if she went out with him. The second ad is from a guy named Brian Hall, who Claudia knows by sight only. They meet for lunch at the Rosebud, but the date doesn't go well. They don't really have anything to say to each other, and even though he's nice enough, Claudia knows he's not right for her. Back to the drawing board...

"Claudia's Personals" has made the SMS newspaper more popular than ever. They've had to order more copies of the paper, and Claudia even has a second column now. It's called "Claudia Advises," and it came about when Claud started to notice that certain people sounded like they were made for each other from what they wrote in their ads. So, Claudia is now a matchmaker. Too bad she can't match herself up with anyone. She answers a third letter, from a guy named Rock who doesn't even go to SMS. He ends up having some kind of Asian fetish, plus a tattoo that Claudia doesn't exactly love, and he calls her a chick. Date #4 is with Kurt, who plays video games for an hour after their movie date. Claudia then places her own ad, but it doesn't get the kind of responses she wants at first. Then, one comes through from someone who sounds just perfect. The trouble is, he doesn't include any contact information with his letter, so Claud has no way of getting in contact with him. He sends a second letter telling her that he'll reveal himself at the right time, which just makes Claudia more and more frustrated. That's when Stacey confesses that SHE was the one sending the letters. She just wanted to make Claudia feel better, but it backfired; Claud ends up mad. They make up pretty quickly, though, and Claud figures that it might be best to put her man hunt on hold for the time being.

Also, the Barretts have to get rid of Pow because Marnie is allergic to pet dander. Suzi and Buddy are understandably upset by this, but when the Pikes agree to take him, it makes things a little better.

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things
  • I'm totally with Suzi and Buddy on the whole Pow thing. There are ways to get around allergies, and Pow HAD been with the family longer than Marnie. I'm mean....

  • This book was published in 1994, and I find it hard to believe that Claudia didn't know how to use a computer for writing purposes, and didn't know what a spellchecker was. I turned 13 in 1994, and I'd been using computers in school since I was 8, if not younger.

  • In the beginning of the book, Claudia is wearing a pink and yellow outfit, but later on, she says she doesn't look good in pink. Okay then.

  • Am I the only one who finds it weird that both Claudia and Jessi wrote for the school newspaper, but Mallory the writer apparently never did?

  • If this book were written today, Claudia would totally have started an internet dating site for teens, not a newspaper column. I wonder how they'd keep the creeps out, though?
Finally, Sadako was kind enough to give me a blog award! As part of it, I need to list 10 things that make me happy (in no particular order):

1. Christmas
2. Dogs

3. Celtic Thunder (

4. Knowing that people are actually reading this blog!

5. Getting a really good night's sleep

6. London (I would SO move there...)

7. Making a batch of cookies that turns out really, really well

8. My hair, when it behaves itself (don't worry, that's my only shallow one!)

9. Having a clean apartment

10. Snow, in moderation

Now, I need to nominate 10 blogs to receive this award. For some reason, Blogger won't let me post the picture of the award, but if you're curious, you an go to Dibbly Fresh (find the link in my "Other Fun Blogs" section) and get the picture there. - Very nostalgic! - The BSC got a mention in the most recent entry.

3. - Greer doesn't update all that often, but when she does, she's always got something thoughtful to say.

4. - Same as the books; updates every Sunday.

5. - People say the weirdest things....

6. - Another chronological readthrough, but more scholarly than mine. :)

7. - Good stuff!

8. - More good stuff!

9. - Good variety of book reviews.

10. - This is actually where I found most of the links to YOUR blogs!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

M #12 Dawn and the Surfer Ghost


Dawn is back in California and loving it. She and Sunny are spending all their time at the beach, where they're both taking surfing lessons and helping out with an after school beach group for younger kids. At the surf shop one day, Sunny points out Thrash, one of the hottest surfers on the beach. He's about 20 and tan, with long blond hair, and according to Sunny, is one of the best surfers on the beach. Dawn thinks he's cute, but not her type and DEFINITELY too old for her. She finds him kind of fascinating, though, and talks to him about his surfing the next time she's in the shop. Thrash has been all over the world, and it's pretty clear that surfing is his life. As Dawn and Sunny are leaving for their surfing lesson, he calls Dawn Kelea (the name of a Hawaiian princess). Sunny is convinced that Thrash has a thing for Dawn, but Dawn isn't buying it.

Several days later, Dawn and Sunny get some bad news when they go back to the beach: Thrash's mangled surfboard turned up on the beach, and people are pretty sure he's dead. Everyone but Gonzo, another one of the regular surfers, that is. There's a big surfing competition coming up, and Gonzo is pretty convinced that Thrash faked his own death because he knew he wouldn't win. Dawn isn't so sure, especially when she finds out that Thrash's board may have been tampered with.

One evening when Dawn, Sunny, and the kids from their after school group are having a cookout, they spot a surfer way out in the ocean. It's pretty rare for anyone to be surfing that late in the evening, so Dawn becomes convinced that it's the ghost of Thrash, out for revenge on whoever murdered him by tampering with his board. Dawn and the rest of the We Love Kids Club spot the mystery surfer again when they're at the beach together, and this time, he's performing a move that only Thrash is known to be able to do. If that weren't enough, Dawn spots a new guy working at the consession stand that gives her the creeps. He's tan, with short, black hair, and Dawn can't put her finger on exactly what's so scary about him....

As the surfing competition gets closer, lots of accidents start to happen to people at the beach. People are falling off their boards and getting hurt who NEVER fall off their boards and get hurt, and one girl burns her eyebrows off while working the grill at the concession stand. Sunny is one of the victims, and her mother makes her give up surfing for the time being. That means Sunny has more time for helping Dawn solve the mystery, although that doesn't take much work on either of their parts. Dawn sees the freaky concession stand guy again, and realizes that he's Thrash in disguise. She confronts him when she catches him in the surf shop...tampering with Gonzo's board. Thrash wanted revenge on Gonzo, who was the one that tampered with HIS board in the first place. Dawn convinces him not to do it, and Thrash eventually goes to the police. They arrest Gonzo at the surfing contest, which Thrash (of course) ends up winning, with Dawn taking third in her division. Thrash uses his prize money to head to Australia to surf for awhile, but before he goes, he gives Dawn his snake ring.

Meanwhile, back in Stoneybrook, the other sitters are having anothe Arnold twin problem. Both girls are involved in gymnastics and loving it, but when Carolyn injures herself during practice at home, Marilyn feels responsible. She decides that she's not going to leave her sister's side again, and for awhile, both twins seem happy with the arrangement. The BSC knows it's not terribly realistic for them to keep on that way, so they divise plan. They have a friend call each of the girls on day and invite them out somewhere, but only if they come alone. At first, the twins turn down the invitations, but decide pretty quickly that they'd rather have fun than stick together all the time.

Rating: 2

Thoughts and Things

  • Could Thrash be any more stereotypical? There's the name, the tan, the blond hair, the constant use of surfer lingo, the Hawaiian nickname for Dawn.... geez!

  • The cover is supposed to take place during the after school group's cookout, but there's one problem. I'm pretty sure that's supposed to be Jeff on the cover, but he wasn't there for the event; he'd changed his mind at the last minute and decided not to go.

  • It was so obvious from the beginning that the surfer ghost and the concession stand guy were both Thrash .

  • Maybe Dawn should borrow Claudia's snake bracelet and wear that and the ring together? :)

  • I'm starting to realize that, with a few exceptions, I don't actually like the mysteries all that much.

Monday, January 11, 2010

#70 Stacey and the Cheerleaders


Stacey gets hit by a snowball on the way to school one day, and when she looks to see who threw it, she sees that it's none other than RJ Blaser, SMS basketball star. He asks her out (to see Mall Warriors II), which has Stace all excited. Her excitement lasts until the date starts; she and RJ have nothing in common, and he makes fun of her for eating regular popcorn and drinking diet soda. After the movie, they go to Pizza Express, where they meet up with some of the other kids in RJ's super-popular circle of friends. This is when the date gets interesting for Stacey, because it's there that she meets Robert Brewster.

The following Monday, a couple of the cheerleaders are waiting for Stacey outside her homeroom with big news. One of the other girls on their squad has moved, and they're going to be holding tryouts to replace her. They want Stacey to think about trying out. Also, and probably more important than the whole cheerleader thing, Robert likes her, and he's going to be calling her. He does that day, which actually makes Stacey late for a BSC meeting. No word on how Kristy reacts to that...

Stacey's date with Robert goes much better than her date with RJ. Robert is much nicer, and Stacey doesn't feel shy at all about mentioning her diabetes. They have plenty to say to each other, and when Stacey brings up the basketball team, Robert has some interesting comments to make. He points out that the players and the cheerleaders get away with murder; they can leave school whenever they want to, they get far better grades than they deserve on homework, and other students even furnish them with homework answers, just to feel like a part of the "in crowd." Robert doesn't really take advantage of stuff in the same way that his friends do, and is in fact kind of upset about it.

Cheerleader tryouts. Stacey has been working really, really hard, and Jessi has helped her choreograph a fantastic routine. First, though, Stacey needs to make it through the first round of cuts. Everyone is taught a simple routine by the current cheerleaders, and it comes pretty easily to Stacey after all her practicing. She makes it to the next round with no problems, and feels really good about her individual routine. Sheila, one of the cheerleaders who she's gotten to know the best, even gives her a thumbs-up. Stacey is pretty convinced that she'll be the one chosen.

On the day before the "winner" is going to be announced, Stacey is so nervous that she has to retreat to the bathroom during lunchtime in order to throw up. Before she can, several of the cheerleaders come into the bathroom and start discussing her. They talk about how great her routine was, and what a great cheerleader she'd make. The only one who doesn't seem thrilled with Stacey is Corrinne; she had a thing with Robert before Stacey came along (or so she thought), and Stacey isn't exactly her favorite person. Even so, Stacey is even more sure that she's going to be the new member of the SMS cheerleaders. The next day, she goes into the meeting without a care in the world. Imagine her surprise when Kathleen Lopez is the name called, not Stacey McGill. Stace goes righ up to the cheerleaders and asks them why she wasn't the one. Corrine makes no bones about telling her that the other girls felt threatened by her, and wanted someone on the team who wouldn't outshine them. Stacey tells Robert what happened, and he immediately marches both of them into the basketball coach's office and quits the team in protest. He's had enough of the unfair and preferential treatment that the athletes get at SMS, and he wants not part of it anymore. A few days later, an editorial appears in the SMS paper, basically slamming them for their actions. Stacey and Robert respond with one of their own. Stacey is also given a chance to join the cheerleaders again; Kathleen Lopez quit after finding out that she was chosen under less than fair circumstances, and the other girls agreed that they'd give the spot to Stacey this time, without another tryout. Stacey turns them down.

Subplot: Tiffany Kilbourne is feeling kind of useless. Shannon is super smart and involved in school, and Maria has suddenly started winning all kinds of swimming trophies. Tiffany wants to find some way to "win," aka beat her sisters. She tries all sorts of hobbies, but gets frustrated when none of them pan out. Finally, Claudia encourages Tiffany to think of something she'd really enjoy doing, instead of something that she can beat her sisters with. That's when Tiffany decides she'd like to plan a garden.

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things

  • Unlike the last book, this was one that I enjoyed more as a kid than I do now. I totally wanted to be a cheerleader back in the day, so the BSC+cheer=awesome.

  • This one doesn't seem as Lerangisy as most of his books do this point in the series.

  • Don't even get me started on the fact that there are cheerleaders in middle school, and that they and the sports starts are treated the way that they are. When I was in middle school, we didn't have school cheerleaders, and hardly anyone cared who was on what team. Also, if any of our sports people tried half the stuff that the SMS basketball team got away with heads would roll...

  • Remember at the beginnng of the series when Stacey and Claudia WERE the popular kids?

  • I secretly still wish I'd been a cheerleader.....

Friday, January 8, 2010

#69 Get Well Soon, Mallory!

Mallory has been feeling tired and run-down for the last couple of books. She's been getting lots of colds, and is too tired to do much of anything most of the time. One morning when she's especially sick (fever, sore throat, etc), Mrs. Pike takes her to good old Dr. Dellenkamp. She runs a few tests, and few days later, Mal gets the news: she has mono. The doc tells her that the only cure is bed rest, and lots of it.

After about a week, Mallory is so bored that she's ready to (as she tells us) burn her pajamas and blow up the tv. She starts to feel good enough that she asks to go back to school, but her parents say no. Her recovery has been much slower than they expected, and even when she IS back to normal, the only thing Mal will be allowed to do is school. That means no BSC, and no planned family trip to New York for Thanksgiving. Mallory breaks the news to Kristy, and tells her that they should start looking for a replacement sitter. The club holds an emergency meeting the next day, though, and they vote not to replace Mal for the time being. Instead, she'll be an honorary member until she's able to return to the club.

While all this is going on, the BSC is busy with yet another project. They're going to have a Thanksgiving party for the Stoneybrook Manor residents, complete with gift baskets and games. Mallory is given a list of things she can do to help without ever leaving her bed, and at first, she's glad to have something to do. Then, she gets to thinking. The club was shorthanded when Dawn left, and it's only gotten worse. Mallory feels they'd be much better off replacing her after all, so she decides to be so unpleasant to everyone that they fire her. She's rude to the club members when they visit her, and she refuses to help at all with the Thanksgiving project. Mal hates being that way with her friends, but she just wants to do what's best for the club. It doesn't work; the BSC knows exactly what she's doing, and they don't let her get away with it. The Thanksgiving party is a big hit, but the books kind of ends with Mal (kind of) on the road to recovery.

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things
  • I HATED this book when I read it as a kid. Seriously. I considered writing AMM and telling her that, plus giving her some ideas for future books if she was having trouble coming up with any good ones on her own. I actually like it a lot better now.

  • No mention is made of Mallory's visit to the doctor in #68. At that point, she's told that nothing's wrong with her. Given her symptoms, wouldn't they have tested for mono at that point, too?

  • We get two holidays in this book: Halloween and Thanksgiving. I like that. :)

  • Giving the Manor residents toys in their gift baskets was a pretty good idea. Old people tend to get shafted when it comes to presents, because people DO kind of assume that they're only into boring stuff.

  • I loved the chapter where Claire and Margo play hospital with Mallory. It's cute!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

M#11 Claudia and the Mystery at the Museum


Stoneybrook is opening a new museum, and Claudia is excited. There's going to be an exhibit of sculptures by one of her favorite artists, Don Newman, and plenty of other neat stuff. Since most of it is pretty kid-friendly, Claudia decides to take the Arnold twins and Corrie Addison with her to check the place out. There's lots of fun, hands-on stuff for the kids to enjoy in the science and music rooms, but Claudia kind of hurries them through so she can get to the Newman exhibit. They never actually make it down there; while they're heading in that direction, the fire alarm goes off. Claud's first thought is to get the kids out, and just as they've reached the exit, they hear another alarm. This one's different; it sounds to Claudia like the alarms that are attached to art and artifacts that shouldn't be touched. The girls head out to the museum's courtyard, along with quite a few other people. A guard shows up and tells everyone that some valuable coins have been stolen, and everyone will have to be searched before they can leave. Claudia, Corrie, and the Arnolds make it through their search scot-free, of course, and Claud leaves the museum determined to solve the mystery.

At the next day's BSC meeting, the robbery is all the girls can talk about. They rehash everything that happened to Claudia and the kids, and they decide as a group to go back to the museum the next day, stake the place out, and try and figure out where the thief might have stashed the coins. The club (Mallory, actually) determined that they must still be in the museum somewhere, since everyone was searched and the coins weren't found. Claudia thinks they might have been dropped in the donation box, but that's impossible (it's emptied every night). Claud also thinks that they might have been hidden with some souvenir coins in the museum gift shop, but no dice; those "coins" are made of chocolate. :) Jessi thinks the thief threw them into the fountain, but the girls don't find them there. The girls are pretty bummed that none of their theories panned out, but Claudia and Stacey decide to stay and finally take a look the Don Newman sculptures. Newman likes his art to be interactive, so the museum actually welcomes visitors to touch his pieces. Claudia and Stacey touch just about all of them, but when Claudia comes to one of her favorites, Claudia gets suspicious. She'd seen and touched it before, in New York, and it feels different than it did that time. Claud thinks it's a fake (and Stacey thinks she's lost it), and heads right for the curator's office to talk to him. He's pretty mean to them, and that makes Claud even more suspicious. She swipes a copy of his resume off of his desk when no one's looking, wanting to find out more about him.

The next day, the club gets together at Claudia's to talk about the mystery. Claud had pretty much decided to throw the curator's resume in the trash without looking at it, but when the girls (and Logan, who came to the meeting) start talking about how creepy he seemed, she shows it to them. They head to the library to do some research on the museums that were listed on the document, and what they find is very interesting. All but one of the museums listed had a robbery happen during Mr. Snipes' time there, which pretty much confirms the girls' suspicions. Something still isn't right in Claud's mind, though; she feels like she's missing something. After thinking about it, she realizes what it is. She'd gotten a pretty good look at the broken glass case right after the robbery, and there was glass all over the inside of it. If the glass had been broken before the robbery, there would have been blank spaces where the coins had been. Claudia realizes that the person who took the coins must have had a key to the case, making it an inside job. She's also still convinced that the Newman sculpture is a fake, so what does she do? She gets his phone number from information and calls him at home. Newman is very nice, and tells Claudia that the sculpture probably felt different to her because he built little hiding places and secret compartments into a lot of his work so he could hide surprises in there for his kids. Claud loves that idea, but less than a year had passed between her two viewings of this piece, and Newman definitely hadn't hidden anything in there during that time. He's intrigued, and invites Claudia and her parents to a formal party at the museum the following night in honor of the end of his exhibit so they can check out the sculpture together.

At the party, Claudia tells Newman how suspicious she's been of Mr. Snipes. They decide to follow him when they notice him leaving the party, but all he does is head to his office. Then, they head to the room where the sculpture is displayed, but find out that it's been moved to a storage room already. Claudia and Newman head to the storage room, but hide when they hear someone coming. It's the janitor, and they watch as he reaches inside, and pulls out the missing coins. When the janitor turns around to leave, he sees that he's being watched. He tries to make a break for it, but Newman tackles him. Someone else, who turns out to be a Federal agent, then tackles Newman. As it turns out, he custodian wasn't really a custodian; he was a thief who'd been planning to take the coins since the museum first opened. He'd been planning to sell them to a museum in Switzerland and retire on the proceeds of the sale, but the museum had been tipped off in advance that it might be vulnerable to theft. That's actually where Mr. Snipes entered the picture. He specializes in preventing robberies, which is why he was brought to Stoneybrook to work at their museum. Claudia gets a write-up in the paper for her role in the case, and is made an honorary trustee of the museum.
Meanwhile, Claire Pike has decided that she wants to be in show business. She even gets a video made of herself singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" at the mall, and goes as far as sending it out to an agent. After a talk with Jessi about the rigors of celebrity life, though, Claire decides that the entertainment world really isn't for her.

Rating: 1.5

Thoughts and Things
  • This is definitely NOT Ellen Miles' best work. I think it's one of the worst written mysteries I've read so far.

  • If all but one of the museums that Mr. Snipes was sent to protect ended up getting robbed anyway, I'd say he's not very good at his job.

  • I like Don Newman, but it was weird that Claudia just went off alone with him in the middle of his party. She barely knew the guy!

  • Claudia's outfit on the cover is exactly like the one that she's described as wearing in the book. Also, if you changed all the pink stuff to purple, that would pretty much have been my dream outfit as a kid. :)

  • Speaking of the cover, where did Carolyn Arnold go?