Friday, April 30, 2010

M#31 Mary Anne and the Music Box Secret


Granny and Pop-Pop are away on a cruise. They're having a great time...but their house isn't. There's a problem with the plumbing, and their basement gets flooded. Sharon asks the BSC to help the plumbers and contractors get the place cleaned up, and Mary Anne ends up with most of the work time. She's pretty dismayed when she and Sharon head over there for the first time to check out the damage; there's all sorts of stuff (magazines, board games, etc) that just can't be saved. There's plenty more that CAN be saved, though, so Mary Anne and Sharon get right to work moving things upstairs and away from the dampness. Just as Mary Anne is finishing up with one particular shelf, she notices that the paneling on the wall behind it is a little crooked. When Mary Anne touches it, that section of paneling falls away. She reaches inside, and finds a box wrapped in paper. That's not the most unusual part, though; that would be the writing on the paper. It says, "Do not open or you will be cursed." At first, Mary Anne obeys. She puts the box aside, keeps working, and doesn't say anything to Sharon about what she found. Then, she finally gives in and unwraps the package. Inside, she finds a beautifully carved box, but doesn't open it. She finally shows it to Sharon, who doesn't recognize it. Mary Anne takes it home with her, to keep it safe until Granny and Pop-Pop get back.

It takes Mary Anne the whole weekend to finally open the carved chest, and when she does, she discovers that it's a music box. It plays "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," and Mary Anne asks Granny about it the next time she calls. Granny denies knowing anything about it, and changes the subject pretty quickly. Mary Anne doesn't think anything of it; she's got other things on her mind. She's noticed some of the workers who are cleaning up the house snooping in places that they shouldn't even need to be. Mary Anne catches Jim the plumber looking through a file cabinet, and when the contractors mention digging in the backyard, Hank and Esther (friends of the Porters) seem awfully interested. Other BSC members notice odd stuff, too, when they're helping with the cleanup. Eddie the contractor was found in the toolshed, looking for something that he should have had on him in the first place (a shovel). Hank and Esther STILL seem really interested in the backyard, and there's also this old man who's been hanging around whom no one seems to know. No one can figure out why everyone is acting so strangely, so Mary Anne decides to show the rest of the BSC the music box. That's when she finds the secret compartment. It contains a note that says, "Dearest L.S., They're playing our song. Think of me whenever you look up at the night sky. I'll be on the other side of the world, thinking of you. And, before long, I'll be back and we can loog at the stars together, forever. H.I.W." The note is interesting enough, but the photo is what really captures Mary Anne's attention. It's actually half of a picture, featuring a young sailor from WWII. The creepy thing? Mary Anne had been having dreams about this guy...and she'd never seem him or that picture before. She thinks that there was a girl in the other half of the picture, but all she can see is a hand, wearing an ID bracelet.

Granny and Pop-Pop's anniversary is happening right after they get back from their cruise, and Sharon has a special present in mind; she wants to put their old letters and things into a scrapbook, and she enlists Mary Anne's help in sorting everything out. With Granny's permission, she reads through some of the letters. Granny had actually grown up in the house next door to the one that she and Pop-Pop currently live in, and she wrote quite a few times to her cousin and best friend, June, about everything that went on with the Bailey family who lived there. They had a daughter, Lydia, who had a boyfriend, Johnny, that her parents didn't approve of. Then, Mr. Bailey (a bank president) was caught stealing from his company. Mary Anne thinks that he must have buried the money in the backyard, which would explain why everyone is so interested in it. She also thinks that the music box was a gift from Johnny to Lydia, and that Johnny was the sailor in her dreams and in the photo. No one can figure out what L.S. and H.I.W. stand for, though, so the BSC decides to concentrate on the stolen money/backyard part of the mystery. They set a trap for Hank, Esther, and the workmen, just to see who's most interested in the case. They (loudly) claim to have found something in the backyard, and all the adults take the bait. Before they can confess that they didn't actually find anything, they catch the mysterious old man digging in the backyard. As it turns out, he's the father of Jim the plumber. Their family had lived in the neighborhood years ago, and he's still interested in what happened to the omney. Since the backyard needs to be dug to replace some pipes, everyone sticks around to see what's found in the process. There was a tree planted right around the time that Mr. Bailey had his money troubles, so they start there. Sure enough, up comes a metal box. Unfortunately, there's no money inside; just some papers that aren't worth anything.

Granny and Pop-Pop come home from their vacation, and are happy to see that their house is almost back to how it was. What they don't know is that Sharon, Richard, and Mary Anne have a surprise party planned for them. Mary Anne asks Sharon's permission to wear a piece of her jewelry to the party, and when she's searching the jewelry box for something, she finds something very interesting: the same ID bracelet that whoever was cut out of the photo in the music box was wearing. There's no name on it; just some stars. Mary Anne asks Sharon about it, and Sharon tells her that Granny gave it to her back in high school. Mary Anne is sure that the bracelet belonged to Johnny and Lydia, just like the music box, and she takes the first chance she can that night to talk to Granny about it alone. That's when Granny makes her confession: the music box and bracelet were hers. She's L.S., which stands for "Little Star," and the guy in the picture was her first love, Frank (she called him "How I Wonder." Both nicknames came from the song that the music box played). He was killed in WWII. Granny also gives Mary Anne the music box. Also, Johnny and Lydia ended up eloping, and lived happily ever after. :)

Subplot: the addition to the Barrett/DeWitt house is finished.

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things

  • Granny never really explained why she lied about the music box in the first place. Was Pop-Pop in the room when she was talking to Mary Anne on the phone about it?
  • This wasn't a bad mystery, but I think I liked it a little more the first time I read it. I DO like that Mary Anne was the one to narrate it, rather than having Dawn come back from CA to do it or something.
  • I'm kind of glad that Granny had a first love that wasn't Pop-Pop. :)
  • I have a shirt that's the exact same color as the one that Mary Anne is wearing on the cover.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

#110 Abby the Bad Sport


Abby has just gotten involved with a Special Olympics Unified Soccer team. The unified teams integrate "athlete" players who have a disability and "partner" players who don't. Abby really thinks she's going to havea good time; she'll get more soccer practice in (always a good thing in her mind), and she gets to work with Coach Wu of SMS softball fame. At the first practice, Abby notices that there are a few really good players on their team, including one of the athlete team members named Erin. When it comes time to scrimmage at the end of the practice, Abby is assigned a defensive position. She's pretty surprised, and not exactly happy, especially when she learns that Erin has been assigned to the offensive position that Abby herself used to play. Abby doesn't intend to let things end there; she's sure Coach Wu made a mistake, and she plans to take her rightful place (as she sees it) back from Erin as soon as possible.

At the next few practices, Abby does her best to show Coach Wu that she should be playing offense. She mentions that she was the leading scorer on her team back on Long Island, but Coach Wu isn't falling for it. Abby starts to question whether or not she's even a good coach, and she also gets more and more jealous of Erin. By the time the first game rolls around, Abby decides to take matters into her own hands. Instead of staying in her proper position on the field, she takes every opportunity to show off and try to score. When the team loses, Abby blames everyone else but herself for the way things turned out. Erin points out that Abby didn't stay in her position, making it easier for the other team to score. Soon, other people are notiocing that neither Abby nor Erin are being good sports or team players. Then, they almost end up fighting, and Coach Wu benches them for two games. Of course, Abby blames Erin for it completely; she STILL thinks she deserves to be the star, and she STILL doesn't see what she's doing wrong. At the end of the second game. Coach Wu relents and puts both girls back in the game, as long as they can work together and act like teammates. The team ends up losing, but Abby is still relieved to be playing again. Afterwards, she's still got a lot of energy to burn off., so she goes for a run in Miller's Park instead of having pizza with the team. She's doing a few laps around the track when who should show up but Erin! They have a sort of impromptu race, which ends in a tie. Abby apologizes for being a jerk (finally!) and things are a little friendlier.

In other news, Mrs. Stevenson wants to take the girls to see their grandparents in New York and pay a visit to their father's grave in honor of his birthday. Abby doesn't want to dredge up memories of his death, so she begs off the visit by claiming that she can't let her soccer team down. Also, a bunch of BSC charges and the other sitters form a Booster Club to help out Abby's team.

Rating: 1

Thoughts and Things
  • Even thought I basically hate this book, I like how they wrote the disabled characters. There really wasn't much of a fuss made over which players were and which weren't, and Erin wasn't made out to be some sort of saint who was being wronged by big, bad Abby. She was just a big a jerk as Abby was at times. :)
  • I don't get why Kristy took Abby's unsportsmanlike conduct so personally. They actually fought over it!
  • As much as I've come to like Abby, I didn't like her in this book. She was so conceited it was ridiculous.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

SS#14 BSC in the USA

Mr. Schafer's friend, Mr. Choi, is an art dealer in New York. He's moving to L.A., though, and needs to have his huge RV moved there, too. Since he doesn't have time to drive it himself, he asks good old Jack to do it for him. Jack heads to Stoneybrook to pick up Dawn and Jeff, so he can drive them back to CA instead of them taking a plane later. When Watson gets wind of what the Schafers are doing, he decides it's a pretty good idea and rents his own RV. He also invites the BSC to go along. Not to be outdone, Jack also invites any of Dawn's friends to go along. In the Brewer RV are Watson, Elizabeth, David Michael, Karen, Andrew, Abby, Jessi, and Mallory. They'll be heading across the southern part of the country. That leaves Jack, Dawn, Jeff, Mary Anne, Kristy, Claudia, and Stacey in the Schafer RV; they'll be going north. Here's what happens along the way:

Jessi gets to visit Oakley, NJ right off the bat, and spends most of the visit thinking Mallory is racist because she seems uncomfortable when visiting the Ramsey grandparents. Jessi's grandma points out that Mallory seems tense because she wants to make a good impression. Later, Jessi visits Dalton, Mississippi, where her ancestors were supposedly slaves. It's an eye opening experience for her, and she even meets a woman who might be a distant relative.

Mallory wants to visit Chincoteague and Assateague Islands to see the ponies that Marguerite Henry descirbed in her books. She's a little sad at how touristy everything is, but actually seeing the wild ponies kind of makes up for it. She and everyone else in the RV also spend the entire trip dodging and annoying know-it-all named Liz Hoyer.

Claudia gets to visit the Art Institute in Chicago. She also pisses off Stacey by accidentally picking up her private journal, and buys a Georgia O'Keeffe sketch near the Wall Drug Store in South Dakota.

Abby the Elvis fan chooses Memphis/Graceland. That part of the trip is fun, but she not too excited to learn that Elizabeth's place of choice is the Grand Canyon. Abby's dad loved the Grand Canyon, and the family had been planning a trip there just before he died. Abby doesn't particularly want to be reminded of that, so she's not looking forward to being there. It turns out to be a really nice experience for her, and makes her feel a little closer to her dad.

Mary Anne chooses to visit Maynard, Iowa, so she can see her grandmother again. Verna won't let them drive all the way to Iowa, and meets them at the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN instead.

Jeff wants to go rock climbing, so he chooses Yellowstone National Park. When he finds out that there IS no rock climbing in Yellowstone, he talks his dad into going to Grand Tetons National Park instead.

Dawn wants to visit a ghost town, but they still haven't come across one by the time they get to Idaho. Then, she sees a brochure for a place called Buzzard Gulch which looks like exactly what she's been wanting. It turns out to be a cheesy theme park, and Dawn is embarrased at first. Everyone has a really good time, though. I would, too. :)

Karen wants to go to Four Corners so she can stand in four states at once and wave to Stoneybrook.

Stacey chooses Seattle because she's awesome. :) Just kidding; Ethan is staying there and she wants to see him again. She's a little nervous, since the only time they were together was her visit to New York when she was in the process of breaking up with Robert. Things go very well, and they kiss at the top of the Space Needle.

Kristy wants to visit as many Major League ballparks as possible. She hits quite a few of them along the way, and drags everyone else to a bunch of games. At a Giants game in San Francisco, Kristy spots her dad on the big screen during the seventh inning stretch. She's not sure she wants to see him, but her friends talk her into it. They have an awkward chat, and just as Patrick is about to introduce the girls to the women he's with, Kristy bails.

The Schafer RV runs out of gas in the Badlands, and the Brewer RV gets rear-ended, gets stuck in a tornado in Oklahoma, and makes a side trip to visit Zuni country, but everyone makes it to Palo city safe and sound.

Rating: 4

Thoughts and Things
  • How in the world did Watson get his RV home? Was he able to pick it up back East and drop it at another office of the same company in CA? Also, did he pay everyone's airfare home from CA?
  • I'm a Seattle native, and I can tell that Peter Lerangis has never been here. There's absolutely NO WAY that Jack Schafer would have been able to park an RV big enough for all those people on the streets of downtown near Westlake Mall. I'm not even sure that would be legal! Also, that awkward kiss picture on page 184; if they're still on top of the Space Needle, there should be a much higher fence than the one drawn. It's there to keep people from jumping off. At least, I THINK there's still a higher fence there. It's been awhile since I've seen pictures, and believe it or not, I've never actually been to the top. :)
  • Andrew Brewer is eager to see a baby panda that's supposed to be born at the San Diego Zoo right when they arrive. I don't know how that zoo operates, but generally, baby animals aren't put on display right away.
  • The Abby/Grand Canyon stuff is actually very touching. That combined with Stacey's WWII plot from the next Super Special makes me forgive Lerangis for describing what Bart Taylor tastes like when he's being kissed. :)
  • Look at the picture on pages 22-23. Why in the world is Karen so tall? David Michael is tiny compared to her, and I thought he was supposed to be a little older. Also, why is Dawn drawn with shoulder-length hair through the whole book? There was definitely no mention made of her getting a haircut.
  • I heard not too long ago that Four Corners isn't technically in the traditional place that everyone thought it was. I wonder what Karen would have thought of that?

Monday, April 26, 2010

#109 Mary Anne to the Rescue


Mary Anne, her family, and the entire BSC are having a snack in the airport cafeteria while they wait for Dawn's plane to get in. All of a sudden, a man at another table starts choking. Sharon rushes over to him, gives him the Heimlich, and saves his life. Everyone is completely grateful to Sharon for what she did, but Mary Anne is a little traumatized, too. Instead of taking action like Sharon did, Mary Anne was totally freaked out. In fact, she almost fainted. She's really ashamed of herself for being such a scaredy cat, so when Kristy suggests that the whole BSC take a first aid class at the community center, Mary Anne is excited; she's hoping that taking a class like that will help her be less useless during an emergency. Unfortunately, the class itself isn't what Mary Anne expects it to be. The graphic first aid posters on the wall gross her out, and even even the thought of a bloody, serious emergency makes her naseous. To top things off, Logan has some bad news for her after class. Not only is his dad sending him off to this wilderness survival camp for the summer, but he also wants him to go away to boarding school. It's the same school that Mr. Bruno himself went to and enjoyed, and he wants his son to have the same experience. Logan, obviously, doesn't want to go, and his mom seems less than enthusiastic as well. Unfortunately, when Mr. Bruno makes a decision, there's no arguing with him. Dawn tries to push Logan to talk to his parents, but he snaps at her and says that that's not how his family works.

The next first aid class centers on CPR, and they start with a baby. It's only a doll, but it's so lifelike that Mary Anne ends up really disturbed. In fact, she almost faints again. First aid class is definitely NOT helping her with her fear of emergencies. Next, the class makes a visit to an emergency room. Needless to say, Mary Anne is about as far from excited as she could possibly be, especially when a little boy who'd had a febrile seizure is brought in for treatment. Mary Anne sees the whole thing, and she can't wait to get out of there. The last straw comes when the class participates in Stoneybrook's Safety weekend. The students are going to be staging a fake accident scene, and Dawn volunteers Mary Anne to be the "heavy bleeding victim." Mary Anne tried to make it clear that she didn't want to participate, but gets roped into it anyway. She then has to spend her afternoon lying in a disgusting pool of fake blood, getting more and more angry. Afterward, she kind of blows up at Dawn for getting her roped into the fake accident, and Dawn points out that Mary Anne probably should have tried to speak up a little more.

Not long after, Dawn and Mary Anne are sitting for the Hsus and Kormans. Everyone is swimming, and things go well until Timmy Hsu ends up in the deep end. He can't swim, and starts to drown. Mary Anne, remembering the lesson on drowning from the first aid class, dives in and saves him. She's proud of the way she handled the emergency without freaking out, and that inspires her to be a little bolder with Logan. She encourages him to speak up and tell his parents that he doesn't want to go away to school, which he does. Mrs. Bruno even stands up to her husband, and Logan gets to stay in good old Stoneybrook.

Rating: 2

Thoughts and Things
  • I totally identified with Mary Anne's squeamishness about blood and guts and hospitals; in 9th grade health, I wouldn't even open the textbook when we were studying first aid because I didn't want to see the pictures. :)
  • The description of the seizure kid coming in to the emergency room was surprisingly...detailed. Not what I'd expect in a BSC book.
  • Mary Anne and Logan are wearing the same shade of lip gloss on the cover. :D
  • I keep forgetting to acknowledge this, but Abby and the Mystery Baby marked the 3/4 point in my blog project. Only 25% of the books left to recap, including Friends Forever and The Summer Before.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

M#30 Kristy and the Mystery Train


School's out, and the BSC has already landed a pretty exciting job. Derek Masters is in town, and he's got a big Hollywood movie to promote. It's a murder mystery called Night Train to Charleston, and in order to promote it, the cast and crew are going to be taking a train from Boston to Charleston for the premiere. Derek is going to be bringing Nicky Pike, Linny Papadakis, David Michael Thomas, James Hobart, Buddy Barrett, and his best friend Greg from CA along as his guests, and Derek's brother, Todd, will be bringing his best friend, Daniel. None of the cast, crew, or parents are going to have the time to look after all those kids, so they ask for three of the BSC members to go along to help. Kristy, Stacey, and Aby are the lucky three who get the job.

While everyone is waiting to board the train in Boston, Derek fills the sitters in on who some of the people are that will be making the journey with him. First, there's Jane Atlantic, the only reporter who's being allowed on the train for the whole journey. She's also a Stacey doppleganger. Then, there's Rock Harding, the director, who doesn't have much to say to anyone who's not in "the business." Next, there's Ronald Pierce, screenwriter and father of Todd's friend, Daniel. After him, Derek introduces the group to Anne Arbour, publicist extraordinare. Finally, they get a glimpse of the movie's two main stars, Benjamin Athens and Elle San Carlos. They don't actually get to meet them, though; they're kind of keeping to themselves.

Before everyone can even board the train, things start happening. Elle's soon to be ex-husband, Charlie, shows up and tries to convince her to go back to him. He's hauled away by security, but not before he can threaten either Elle or Benjamin; Kristy isn't sure which one he's lookingat. Soon after boarding, Kristy and the other sitters take the kids to the dining car for some lunch. Each one of them is handed a program with a map of the train and a list of which scenes from the movie are going to be acted out on board the train during the journey. There's also something else in there: a note that says, "The truth will come out - there's nothing you can do to stop me." Everyone seesm to have gotten one in their program, and Kristy thinks it's just some sort of publicity thing. Then, she notices that Anne Arbour seems annoyed and puzzled by the whole thing, which kind of throws that theory out the window. Then, when lunch is delivered, Elle San Carlos finds a little something extra in hers: a rubber hand with a copy of the same message tucked between its fingers. After lunch, the sitters take the kids back to their sleeping compartments for a rest. They barely get a chance to settle in before disaster strikes; the car starts filling up with smoke. When everyone tries to escape through the other end of the car, they discover that the door is locked. They finally manage to get the door open, and when the conductors rush to investigate, they discover that there's no fire. Someone, though, set off a smoke bomb. They also tell Kristy that only someone with a key could have locked the door to their compartment. The trouble? All the staff members have keys or access to keys, and there's a master set that's kept in the supply closet in the staff quarters. Almost anyone could have gotten ahold of a set of keys and locked the door.

After dinner that night, Kristy and Stacey take Todd and Daniel down the observation car to look at the stars. When they get there, though, they find that they're not quite alone. There are two men arguing on the platform outside the car, but Stacey and Kristy can't see who they are since the train is going through a tunnel at the time and it's dark. Suddenly, just as the train leaves the tunnel, one man pushes the other off the train! Stacey runs to get the conductor and Kristy yells for help, but the only one to hear her is Jane Atlantic, the reporter. She shows Kristy a note she received, instructing her to be in the observation car that evening if she wanted some real news. She's VERY interested in the story of a possible man overboard, but when the matter is looked into, everyone turns out to be present and accounted for. There isn't a single person missing from the train. No one is particularly happy with Kristy and Stacey, since the train had to be stopped while they investigated. Also, no one believes them. The girls know what they saw, though, so Kristy returns to the scene of the crime later that night to see if she can find anything suspicious. All she comes up with is a page from the movie script. She decides to hold onto it, just in case.

At this point, just about everyone is a suspect. This includes Elle's ex-husband, Charlie, who's supposedly not even on the train (he's been sending her telegrams). The three sitters do a bunch of sleuthing, including searching the sleeping cars of their suspects. During a brunch stop in Washington D.C., Kristy fills the kids in on what they've been doing so far, mystery-wise. They go on a script hunt, to see who might have a copy with a missing page, but they come up empty-handed. Later, after the train is moving again, Kristy and Derek notice something about the script: none of the characters' names are right. Kristy thinks on it for awhile, then gets an idea. She rushes out of the sleeping car to test her theory, but before she can (and just as the train seems to be picking up speed), the lights go out. The train stops, and an announcement about mechanical difficulty comes over the loudspeaker. Kristy heads back to check on the kids, and orders them all the stay in their sleeping cars. She then heads to the stage car, where Abby and Stacey are watching a reenactment of some of the scenes from the movie. She wants to tell them her theory about the mystery, but Abby runs off to read a bedtime story to Todd and Daniel before she can. So, Kristy fills Stacey in. The character names on the script are different because the page is from a DRAFT, not the final edition. Who would be most likely to have a rough draft of a script? Yep, Ronald Pierce, screenwriter and Daniel's father. Stacey and Kristy head back in to the stage car to tell someone what they've figured out. Before they can, another smoke bomb goes off. When the smoke clears, they see that someone has written another message about the truth coming out; this time, it's on the windows of the car. The girls approach Ronald Pierce and ask him what's going on (since 13 year old girls should ALWAYS be the ones to approach potential murderers). He's not the guilty one, but he knows who is; it turns out that he stole the idea for Night Traing to Charleston from a student of his, Laurence Channing, and Laurence isn't happy about it. Ronald paid him, but that wasn't enough to keep Laurence from blackmailing him for even MORE money. Now, Ronald is scared that Daniel might be in danger, so he and the sitters rush back to the sleeping cars to check on the kids. When they get there, they find Abby alone. The boys had talked her into a game of hide and seek. They find both Todd and Daniel, but just as they do, Laurence Channing comes out of nowhere and tries to grab Daniel. Kristy throws herself at him and manages to knock him off balance enough that other others can subdue him. Then, she locks Todd and Daniel into their bathroom to keep them safe. Laurence Channing is taken into custody, and given psychiatric evaluation. He also gets a writing credit on the movie, and the proper payment that goes along with it. Unfortunately, because of this little snafu, Ronald's writing career is over, and it's back to teaching.

Meanwhile, back in Stoneybrook, the remaining baby-sitters are helping Nikki Stanton-Cha open Greenbrook Club for the summer. All the kids are having fun..except for Nikki's son, Stephen. He can't swim, and he's embarrassed to let the other kids know, so he spends a lot of time on the sidelines. The BSC manages to save the day....of course.

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things
  • This mystery isn't bad, as BSC mysteries go. It's not exactly realistic, but I've never claimed to read these books for the realism. :)
  • This mystery also might be the winnder for dumbest character names ever. I mean, Jane Atlantic? Anne Arbour? Finally (and possibly worst of all)....
  • ROCK HARDING?!?! Between Harmony Skye in the last mystery (stripper name) and Rock Harding in this one (use your imagination), I can't help but wonder where the ghosties were getting their ideas for names.
  • In chapter 2, Kristy actually says that it's okay for club members to miss a meeting if they have something really important to do, like baby-sitting. Since when? Kristy ALWAYS freaks out if members have to be absent.
  • This is one of the books where Ben Hobart is "one of the kids," rather than being a friend of the sitters. He teases the other kids, participates in all of their activities, and even enters the goofy bathing cap contest. It's even mentioned that he and Mal are the same age, but nothing's said about their "relationship."
  • When the sitters are at Greenbrook, Mallory is the one that's obsessively staying covered up and wearing high SPF sunscreen, while Mary Anne is soaking up the sun like it's nothing. Since when did Mary Anne stop being sensitive to the sun?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

#108 Don't Give Up, Mallory


Mallory is really excited when she finds out that her new Short Takes class is going to be all about children's literature. She still loves kids books, still wants to write them someday, and is really looking forward to studying the topic thoroughly. Her teacher is Mr. Cobb, who's fairly new to Stoneybrook (and SMS). All the girls think he's hot stuff, and Mallory isn't exactly upset when she finds out that she's been assigned to his Short Takes group. From day one, though, the class isn't exactly going the way Mal had hoped it would. Mr. Cobb tells them right off the bat that they won't be doing much writing; the class will mostly be based on participation. Things aren't any better the next day. In fact, they get worse. Mallory waits politely with her hand raised to answer questions and share her opinions, but Mr. Cobb bascially ignores her. There are several boys in the class who just speak up whenever they have something to say, and he seems to focus on those students. Finally, he asks Mal to read Green Eggs and Ham to the class, but she's so rattled that she makes a mess of the whole thing. Mr. Cobb also gets Mallory's name wrong...according to him, she's Valerie. She finally sets him straight during a later class, but only with the help of another student who speaks up for her. Mallory has absolutely no confidence in Mr. Cobb's class, and she can't seem to get it together. She kind of blames him for her lack of ability to participate; she thinks he's favoring the girls over the boys, especially when it comes to letting the boys speak out of turn. When he stops her after class and asks her if anything's wrong, though, Mal doesn't say anything at all.

Things aren't all bad for Mallory at school; she and the other 6th grade officers are busy with their fundraising week. Mal is in charge of all the booths, and her fellow officers are much more respectful and encouraging than her Short Takes classmates. When Mal is glancing over some past 6th grade meeting minutes, she discovers that the 6th grade class of five years ago raised $1000 for a student lounge in the library...and the money was used for building repairs instead. Mal and the other officers go talk to Mr. Taylor, who agrees to refund the money...if the class can raise another $1000. They raise the money and then some, and the library is finally going to get their lounge. This is thanks in large part to Mal's efforts with the fundraisers, and the the success that she has there inspires her to talk to Mr. Cobb. She accuses him of favoring the boys, and blames his teaching style for her lack of participation. Mr. Cobb isn't happy, and Mal leaves feeling like the meeting didn't exactly go well. Things change in class from then on out; Mr. Cobb makes everyone raise their hands and wait to be called on, and he makes more of an effort to encourage the quieter kids to speak up. Things aren't perfect, but they're better than before.

Also, Buddy Barrett is upset about not being able to march in the town Memorial Day Parade because he isn't part of a group. So, he starts his own: the Buddyy Barrett Marching Band.

Rating: 2.5

Thoughts and Things

  • I really wasn't on Mal's side. Mr. Cobb didn't favor the boys over the girls; he favored outspoken kids over quiet ones, and Mal's class just happened to have lots of outspoken boys in it. Also, he DID give her chances to participate, and she dropped the ball. While I do agree that Mr. Cobb wasn't particularly patient with the shyer kids, I also don't think Mal shoudl have laid all the blame on him.
  • Claudia has Cheez Whiz hidden in her room in this one. My deep, dark secret? I actually like the stuff. :)
  • There are lots of mentions of past stuff in this one: not only is Mal being secretary a main focus, but her Young Author's Day Award gets a mention, too. So does the band that the kids made in #56.
  • I wish Hodges would stop putting Mal in pink clothes; it's really not her color.
  • Mr. Cobb looks like he's about 45, yet he's supposed to be fresh out of college. Whatever.

Friday, April 23, 2010

M# 29 Stacey and the Fashion Victim


Stacey heads to good old Bellairs with her mom for Take Your Daughters to Work Day, and gets recruited for the store's upcoming Fashion Week. She's not sure she wants to do it, since she didn't have the greatest experience with modeling in the past (a reference to the tv show???). Mrs. Maslin, the woman in charge of Fashion Week, talks her into it. When Stacey shows up for her orientation, she's pretty surprised to see Cokie Mason there as well. Apparently, Cokie had been "discovered" by an agent named Dylan Trueheart. What's even more surprising is that Cokie's being pretty friendly, and she fills Stacey in on who a lot of the other models are. First, there's Sydney. No last name; just Sydney. She has lots of professional experience already, and is kind of a snob. She also used to date Roger Bellair, son of the owner of Bellair's. Next, there's Harmony Skye..,and her annoying, pushy stage mother. Then, Cokie points out Cynthia Rowlands, who (at 16) is supposedly past her prime as a model and is thinking of quitting the business to be a regular kid. Finally, there's Blaine Gilbert, a Stoneybrook resident who also has a ton of professional experience, and who's mother works for Bellair's national office.

On day number one of modeling, things are chaotic. The girls are supposed to be doing a sportswear fashion show, and backstage is crazy. Sydney seems like the only one who isn't getting caught up in the insanity. Stacey notices that she's also one of the only girls (other than Stacey herself) that eats healthy food instead of subsisting on diet Coke and cigarettes, and avoids the petty gossip that goes on backstage. Speaking of gossip, no one is exactly thrilled with the fact that Harmony has been given a lot of the best stuff to wear, thanks to her mother's pushiness. Things aren't going so well for Harmony by the end of the day, though; she drinks a cup of tea, and immediately gets very sick. Her mother is convinced that she's been poisoned, but Mrs. Maslin convinces her not to go public about it by pointing out how it could hurt Harmony's career if she got a reputation for being a risk. Mrs. Skye backs down on the poisoning theory...but Stacey doesn't. As soon as she can, she talks over the incident with the BSC. Basically anyone and everyone involved in Fashion Week is a suspect at that point: Cynthia, Blaine, even Roger Bellair. There's no real evidence that points to any particular person, though.

The following Monday, Stacey is participating in her first catalog shoot. Things go well until someone shreds the pajamas and bunny slippers that Sydney, Harmony, and Blaine were supposed to wear in a group shot. Claudia (she's working with the art direction) thinks Dylan Trueheart should be added to the suspect list; he might be doing these things to make his client (Cokie) look good. Both girls decide to keep their eyes open to see if they can learn anything new. Stacey finds something new on her next trip to the bathroom; someone's written "Mirror mirror on the wall, who will be the next to fall?" on the mirror in lipstick. Later that afternoon, the photographer discovers that 8 rolls of film were exposed and are useless, and another girl finds a spider in her shoe. Blaine is also locked in the freight elevator, and has to be rescued by one of the lighting guys. On Wednesday, the pranks continue. Harmony falls off the catwalk when a light flashes in her eyes, distracting her. Another girl breaks out in a rash after using some foundation from her dressing table, and there are more creepy notes written in makeup. One says "Pretty is as pretty does, until pretty dies." Another says, "Beauty kills," and a third says "Model behavior can be hazardous to your health."

As scary as things are getting, Stacey decides not to tell her mother about everything that's going on. Instead, she decides to investigate the possible poisoning of Harmony. That means staking out the beverage table to see who the other tea drinkers in the group might be, just in case someone OTHER than Harmony had been the target. Stacey lucks out when the woman who usually supervises the cart asks her to keep an eye on it while she goes to get some more diet soda. Stacey is there when nearly every model comes by, but none of them take tea. Stsacey even makes a point of offering it, but there aren't any takers. So...that bit of sleuthing leads to nothing.

On Friday of fashion week, there's a photo shoot on the roof of the building. Stacey and Harmony are in a shot together, and Harmony suggests that it might be nice if they posed over by a railing. When the girls lean against it, the railing gives way and they both fall. Luckily, it's a short fall to another part of the roof, and neither girl is hurt. Harmony actually apologizes to Stacey, though...much to her confusion. Then, as the girls are climbing back up, Stacey notices some screws laying on the ground nearby; someone had intentionally tampered with the railing. Stacey gets to thinking, and she thinks she's figured out what's going on. She enlists the help of her friends to set a trap the very next day. They hide in the bathroom...and catch Harmony getting ready to write another lipstick message on the mirror. She's been behind everything all along. Harmony doesn't particularly like modeling, but has felt she has to go for it since her mother wants it for her so bad. She figured that if Mrs. Skye thought that modeling was dangerous, she'd pull Harmony out forever. The girls in the BSC decide NOT to tell anyone that Harmony was behind everything, as long as she cuts the pranks. Harmony also gets up the courage to talk to her mother, and modeling is done for her. Modeling is also done for Stacey; she just can't see herself in that world as a career.

Subplot: Buddy Barrett and Lindsey DeWitt are caught almost smoking, leading to the Great Stoneybrook Smokeout. That's a day where smokers sign a pledge promising not to smoke for a whole day, and kids sign one promising not to start. Some of the Stoneybrook smokers include Frankling DeWitt, Watson, Mrs. Hobart, and Aunt Cecelia.

Rating: 2.5

Thoughts and Things
  • I wonder why no one got suspicious of Stacey offering tea to everyone when she was minding the beverage cart? I would have.
  • Harmony Skye=stripper name
  • Stacey would have LOVED "America's Next Top Model!"
  • Dylan Trueheart is a really stupid name....this book was full of those.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

#107 Mind Your Own Business, Kristy!

(picture once again courtesy of

It's spring break, and things start off pretty well for Kristy. She wins four tickets to a Blade concert in Stamford, and the Krushers are going to be holding a spring Klinic (Kristy's spelling, not mine) to get ready for the season. Charlie, who just broke up with his girlfriend and doesn't have any plans for spring break, is going to help Kristy coach. At first, Kristy is excited that her big brother is willing to donate his time to help the Krushers. It doesn't exactly work out the way she wanted it to, though. The kids LOVE Charlie, and they listen to him better than they've ever listened to Kristy. She feels left out, and gets kind of jealous. Then, Angelica arrives on the scene. She's sitting for Timmy and Scott Hsu during vacation, and it's love at first sight for her and Charlie. Kristy doesn't like her much, though. In fact, she decides that Charlie should reunite with his old girlfriend, Sarah. Kristy asks each of them to lunch one day at the Argo, and plans to leave the two of them alone to talk. It doesn't work; instead of a happy reunion, both Charlie and Sarah get mad at her.

The Klinic continues, and Charlie's relationship with Angelica heats up. They start showing up late to practices, and when they do arrive, they're so wrapped up in each other that Charlie isn't much help anymore. Then, the day of the Blade concert arrives. Kristy decided to bring Claudia, and (much to her dismay), Charlie's bringing Angelica. He borrows Watson's car, which he isn't used to driving. Angelica gets kind of sick of all the sudden stops and jerks of the car, so she offers to drive. Kristy knows it's a bad idea (after all, it's Watson's car, not Charlie's), but the switch in drivers is made. Angelica handles the car better than Charlie did, but she drives way too fast. A cop pulls them over, and before they've even had a chance to stop the car, Angelica frantically asks Charlie to switch places with her because she DOESN'T HAVE HER LICENSE. Keep in mind, the car is still moving at this point, but luckily, it stops. Unluckily, it stops because it hits a guardrail. Everyone is okay, but the Stamford police take them all down to the station to wait for their parents. Angelica and Charlie both get fines, and Watson's car is wrecked.

Things are pretty much over at this point between Charlie and Angelica. Her parents actually thought he was a bad influence on her, and won't let her see him again. Whatever. At least the Krushers' Klinic is going well. In fact, they're supposed to get a visit from Jack Brewster, former Mets player. Charlie supposedly has some connection to him that he won't elaborate on, so Kristy is pretty skeptical that Jack will even show up. He does; as it turns out, Jack is distantly related to Sarah Green, Charlie's old girlfriend. They both show up for the last day of Klinic, and it looks like Charlie and Sarah might be on their way to a reunion after all.

Rating: 1.5

Thoughts and Things

  • This book was kind of brutal to get through. I don't remember it being so bad before.
  • It's a little weird how obsessed Kristy was about Charlie's love life.
  • Angelica really was kind of a twit.
  • I'm getting a little tired of the very Lerangisy Lerangis books. I feel like the majority of the books I've read lately have fit into that category. I need a Suzanne Weyn book to balance things out!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Abby's Book

(photo courtesy of

From Birth to Backpack

Abby and Anna are born about a month early. From the get-go, it's pretty clear that they have a special connection. When one baby would cry, Mrs. Stevenson would put the calm baby in her crib and the crier would settle down. When one girl gets hurt, the other cries as if she were hurt, too. It isn't until preschool that Abby realizes that not everyone has an identical twin; preschool is also when the twins' separate interests start to emerge. Neither girl particularly likes it when people make a big deal out of the fact that they're twins, but they still want to hold onto that special bond they have. When their dad takes them to pick out backpacks before starting first grade, they choose different ones and are horrified. They end up choosing the same ones after all, with neither girl getting what she chose originally.

Red and Blue Just Won't Do

First grade. Abby and Anna are in the same class, and their teacher seems less than thrilled with having identical twins. The other kids don't even try to tell them apart; they're both called Abby-Anna. The girls hate it. Then, their teacher sends a note home with them, discussing the trouble that having twins in class can cause. She asks the Stevenson parents to start dressing one twin in blue, and the other in red, so it's easier for everyone to tell them apart. The Stevenson parents agree to try it, and Anna becomes blue and Abby becomes red from that day forward. This helps the teacher tell them apart, but not so much the students. Instead of calling both of them Abby-Anna, the kids call them by their colors. The girls hate that even more. They also don't believe their teacher can really tell them apart; they think she's really only looking at the colors they wear. So, they decide to switch colors one day to see if anyone notices. Sure enough, everyone thinks Abby is Anna and vice versa. Even their dad, who shows up at school that day, mixes them up. This freaks out both girls; they think their own dad doesn't even really know them. He was just playing along with their joke, though; he knew who was who the whole time. Since no one is particularly happy with the color experiment, Anna decides to cut her hair short so they can go back to wearing whatever they want.

Without Dad

One day, when they're in fourth grade, Abby and Anna's dad is hit by a car on the way to work and killed. The Stevenson family kind of falls apart. Mrs. Stevenson's parents stay for a few weeks to help out, but when they leave, things are still a mess. Mrs. Stevenson just can't function the way she used to, and Abby and Anna are left on their own a lot. Groceries aren't getting bought, laundry isn't getting done, and the house is a mess. The girls drop out of all their after school activities, and stop seeing their friends as much. One night, Abby points out how awful things are to her mom, and asks what Dad would have thought if he could have seen the state of the house. This mobilizes the family; Mrs. Stevenson hires a housekeeper to take care of things during the week, and encourages the girls to go back to their old lives as much as possible.

The Shooting Star

One year (more or less) after Mr. Stevenson's death, things are still not quite right for the remaining Stevensons. Mrs. Stevenson is throwing herself into work, most likely to try and escape the pain of being without her husband, leaving the girls on their own. They in turn throw themselves into their various friends and activities, to the extent that all three of them end up leading mostly separate lives. Then, Mrs. Stevenson announces that they'll be taking a family trip to Sanibel Island in Florida during the twins' winter break from school. Abby is really excited at the prospect of actually spending time with her mother and sister, but when they get to Sanibel, nothing really changes. For days, each Stevenson pretty much pursues her own activities and interests, much to Abby's dismay. Finally, she hears about a family New Year's Eve party that their resort is throwing, and she tries to get Anna and her mother to with her to sign up for it. They ask Abby to go do it for them, which kind of makes her lose her temper. She points out that they haven't done a single thing together since their arrival; the staff doesn't even know that they're together. They end up having a talk, and deciding to spend New Year's Eve together.

>New Places, New Faces

The Stevensons move to Stoneybrook. Basically, we get to see parts of Kristy and the Dirty Diapers from Abby's perspective.

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things

  • I wasn't much of an Abby fan when I first got back into the BSC as an adult, but I've liked her more and more as I've gone through this blog project.
  • The whole color coding thing was totally appalling. It was appalling for the teacher to suggest something like that, and it was appalling for the Stevenson parents to go along with it. The girls were obviously very different people right from the start; would it have taken THAT much effort for their teacher to learn who was who?
  • It makes me sad that no one in the Stevenson family ever really moved on from Mr. Stevenson's death. I like them and I want them to be happy!
  • The pictures in this book are much better than most of the portrait pictures. Mrs. Stevenson is DEFINITELY the hottest BSC mom (page 108), but she faces pretty stiff competition from Maureen McGill, as pictured on the cover of Stacey McGill...Matchmaker?.
  • Abby gets an A- on her autobiography.

Monday, April 19, 2010

#106 Claudia, Queen of the Seventh Grade


Claudia is pretty well settled into her new seventh grade life. She's getting good grades, she's a got a good group of friends, and she's even been nominated for Queen of the Seventh Grade! The Queen (and King) are in charge of putting on the Seventh Grade prom, along with attendants of their own choosing. Claudia doesn't think she has much of a shot at winning, and her BSC friends don't even think she should run (they still think of her as an 8th grader). Claudia DOES run, though, and she wins. Her king is Mark Jaffe, and other 13 year old 7th grader (her was left back in 3rd grade). He's definitely cute (and has the female groupies to prove it), but he's a total jerk. Claudia isn't exactly thrilled to be paired up with him.

At the first prom-related meeting with the faculty advisor (Mrs. Hochberger), Claudia is a little upset to learn that the King and Queen roles are mostly symbolic; they don't actually have to do much to make the prom happen. She had envisioned actual committees of actual students doing actual work. She gets Mrs. Hochberger to agree to do things her way, but Mark is another story. He was totally fine with not having to do anything, and his lack of ability to be on time for these prom meetings reflects that. Claudia also isn't getting much support from the BSC. They keep making fun of the immaturity of the 7th graders, and don't really take the whole Queen thing seriously. Jessi and Mal are actually the only ones who are suppportive of Claud at first.

Even though Claud isn't getting much help from her King or her friends, she's happy to see that TONS of kids sign up to work on prom committees. It's still an uphill battle, since Mark isn't doing much to supervise the committees that he's supposed to be in charge of. By the day before the prom, he's shaped up a little. He, Claudia, and a bunch of other kids are getting the gym ready for the big day when she suddenly finds herself alone with Mark. She's just about to rush out for her BSC meeting when she trips and falls. Mark helps her out...and then kisses her. Claud definitely kisses back, and by the time she gets home for her meeting, she's really confused. She's hated and been frustrated by Mark all this time, but she didn't totally hate kissing him. She tries talking to her friends about it, but they just keep making fun of 7th graders. Claudia lets them have it. She points out how rude they've been, and how bad it's been making her feel. They apologize, and things are okay in that respect.

Prom time. The King and Queen are supposed to share a dance, and Claudia is not looking forward to it. She hasn't been able to talk to Mark about what happened between them the day before, and she's afraid it will be awkward. It is, kind of, especially when the entire seventh grade starts chanting at them to kiss. They do, and Claudia is officially in love.

Subplot: More Sean Addison drama. This time, he doesn't think he needs baby-sitters anymore, especially since Mel Tucker has been making fun of him at school.

Rating: 2.5

Thoughts and Things
  • Mark Jaffe is SO not good enough for Claudia.
  • Claud thinks that kissing someone twice means you're in a relationship. That's almost as good as Stacey thinking that Robert giving her flowers means that their relationship is solid.
  • I love that 11 year old Jessi and Mallory are the only two BSC members mature enough to be supportive of Claudia.
  • Cover: I wonder if that black kid in the background is Curtis Shaller, the boy Jessi dated for awhile?
  • I got the feeling that the Addison parents were kind of excusing Sean's bad attitude rather than trying to do something about it. The kid id still very troubled, and I think he needs more help that he's gotten up to this point in the series.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

M#28 Abby and the Mystery Baby


Abby comes home from school one day to find an actual, living baby on her front porch. She brings him inside, but isn't sure what to do next. She's home alone, and there's no one around to help her figure the situation out. So, she calls Kristy (of course). Kristy and Nannie come right over, and Kristy gives Sergeant Johnson a call. He shows up just before Abby's mom does, and interviews each one of them about what happened. Mrs. Stevenson seems awfully interested in the blanket the baby was wrapped in, and she manages to convince Sgt. Johnson to let the little guy stay with them until his parents can be found. Abby thinks this, paired with her mother's behavior around the baby, is weird, but she doesn't think much of it. After all, there's a baby in the house!

By the following afternoon, news about little Eli's arrival (the Stevensons are calling the baby Eli for the time being) has spread. Half the neighborhood comes over to visit him, which freaks the kid out. Kristy, Shannon, and Mary Anne herd most of the kids into the Stevenson's kitchen to work on their projects for the BSC's Writing Month, and bring them in one at a time to visit Eli. Later that evening, Abby's reading over what the kids wrote. Most of it is about Eli, but only Maria Kilbourne's story gives her pause. She writes about Eli arriving in a green car...could that be fact? Abby gives Maria a call, and as it turns out, she DID see a green car pull up at the Stevenson's house the day before and drop something off. Sergeant Johnson and a social worker happen to be over at the house just then, meeting with Abby's mother, and Abby decides to interrupt them to tell the Sgt. what Maria saw. Just then, the doorbell rings. There's a rather nervous looking woman waiting, who turns out to be the nanny that Mrs. Stevenson requested to look after Eli while she's at work and the girls are in school.

The BSC decides that they have a real mystery on their hands. They're a little light on suspects; it's pretty much just Erin (the nanny, who seems to like Eli but always acts jittery and nervous around anyone else) and this woman in a writing class that Jessi and Mal are taking. She'd recently written a story about a woman abandoning her baby, and that was enough evidence for Jessi and Mal to start following her around and finding out all they can about her. There's only one piece of real evidence that Abby's found, and that's a reciept from a pharmacy in NYC. On a hunch, Abby calls the pharmacy, pretending to be her mother, and asks for a refill of her prescription. When the pharmacist tells her they don't have a record under the name of Stevenson, Abby asks them to check her mom's maiden name - Goldberg. They have a record for an M. Goldberg...not Abby's mom.

Speaking of, Mrs. Stevenson is still acting strangely, and Anna's noticed it, too. One afternoon, she just takes off without telling her daughters where she's going. This isn't like her, so Abby does some investigating. She goes into her mother's study and finds a post-it note on her desk with a name written on it: Miriam. That's when Abby starts to put two and two together: the prescription reciept was for M. Goldberg, and Miriam Goldberg is her mother's sister, who hasn't been in touch with the family for years. Abby and Anna look through old photo ablums to find pictures of their long lost aunt, but the only ones they come up with are old...from childhood. In one of them, Miriam is holding a blanket that's identical to the one that Eli was wrapped it. Remembering how oddly her mother had looked at that blanket, Abby starts to wonder if Miriam might be Eli's mother. Abby races back to her mother's study, and redials the last number. A receptionist at a hospital in NYC answers, and on a hunch, Abby asks for Miriam Goldberg. She's definitely a patient there, so Abby makes up her mind to go to NYC and get the answers she's looking for. When she arrives at the hospital, she finds her mother in a hospital room with her aunt Miriam. She'd been cut off from the family for years, because her parents didn't like the man she was seeing and wouldn't have anything to do with her as long as they were together. Mr. Stevenson had gotten sick of bailing her little sister out of her messes, which was why SHE cut Miriam out of her life. Eli (whose name is actually Daniel) is definitely Miriam's baby, but she'd broken up with her awful boyfriend/baby daddy before he was born. Miriam had been in a rough financial situation for a long time, but she hadn't wanted to ask her family for help. Then, she started to get really sick (she's diabetic) and decided to ask her sister to take care of little Daniel for awhile. When she got to the Stevensons and found no one at home, she left the baby on the porch with a note (Abby never saw it, but her mother found it). Mrs. Stevenson has suspected all along that her sister might have left the baby, which is why it was so easy for her to convince the authorities to leave Daniel with them. Miriam is on the road to recovery,and ends up reunited with her whole family.

Rating: 2.5

Thoughts and Things
  • Would it really be so easy for a woman who abandoned her baby to get him back? I would think there'd have to be some sort of process, regardless of the reason that the kid was given up of where he was left.
  • It's strongly suggested that Miriam was never married to Daniel's father. Pretty scandalous for a BSC book. Normally, the ghosties go out of their way to mention that single parents have either been divorced or lost a spouse.
  • At the beginning of chapter 4, Claudia is picking all the Special Dark bars out of a bag of Hershey's Miniatures. Am I the only one who would have pegged her as a Krackle girl?
  • I wonder how much it cost Abby to take a cab to the Stoneybrook train station, buy a ticket to NYC, and then take a taxi to the hospital. Also, did she just buy a one way train ticket? She had no way of knowing for sure that her mother would be there, willing to drive her home.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

#105 Stacey the Math Whiz


At the end of the school day, Stacey gets a message from Ms. Hartley, the chairperson of the SMS Math department, requesting a meeting. Stacey can't figure out what Ms. Hartley might want with her, so she's pretty mystified. As it turns out, Ms. Hartley wants to invite her (again) to join the Mathletes, SMS's competitive math team. They have a real shot at the state championship that year, and since Stacey's standardized test scores are so high, the team could really use her help. Stacey isn't too excited about the idea; she figures that most of the kids on the team are total nerds, and she doesn't really want to spend her spare time hanging out with them. She gives Ms. Hartley a "maybe," but doesn't think she'll end up joining. At that afternoon's BSC meeting, though, the other club members are surprisingly in favor of Stacey becoming a Mathlete. She starts to rethink the idea, and decides to join.

Stacey's first meeting/practice with the Mathletes is the next evening at Ms. Hartley's house. She starts to think that she might have made a mistake when she finds out that Jason Fox and Alexander Kurtzman are on the team, too (they're dorky), but she feels better when she finds out that Emily Bernstein, Rick Chow, Bea Foster, Mari Drabek, Amanda Martin, and the Prime Minister of the UK are also on the team. They work on some tough math puzzles, and although Stacey gets the right answers with no problems (pun not intended....) she still isn't sure that she's ready for the meet the following day. Ms. Hartley assures her that she is.

The next day's meet goes well, and SMS becomes the Stoneybrook 8th grade math champions. Next up is regionals, which SMS also wins. Last but not least is the state championship, which is a best of three series. SMS takes the first match with no problems (dang it, I have to stop doing that!!!), but they lose the second one. Just before the third match is supposed to happen, Stacey's dad calls with some news. He's got tickets to a U4Me concert, and he wants to take Stacey. It's on the same day as the final match for the Mathletes, and there's no way that Stacey can do both. At first, she chooses the concert. She rationalizes that family is more important than friends/school, and she really wants to see U4Me again (she got kicked out the first time, remember?). In the end, though, she decides that she can't let the Mathletes down. They end up winning the match as a team, and Stacey breaks the individual state scoring record.

There's actually a lot going on in subplot land. First, Stacey's dad loses his job, buys a car, and starts spending (or wanting to spend) all this time with her. It starts to conflict with her other responsibilities, but he eventually gets a new job and goes back to being Mr. Workaholic. Also, there's a math fair at SES, and lots of the BSC charges enter. Finally, Stacey HAD been tutoring Lindsey DeWitt in math, but once she joins the Mathletes, Claudia takes over. As it turns out, Claudia is just the person to help Lindsey; Claud has a slightly more "creative" way of solving math problems which gets the job done just as well as Stacey's more correct way.

Rating: 3

Thoughts and Things
  • This book was surprisingly entertaining, considering the fact that it's all about math.
  • Would it even be legal these days for Ms. Hartley to host a school group meeting in her basement?
  • I don't know what it is with divorced BSC dads being creepy, but I have to add Ed McGill to the list. First, he buys that huge Lincoln Town Car with tinted windows, and he wants to spend all his time with Stacey. He's always taking her out to late movies, and buying her flowers. He even comments on the fact that she's so beautiful that she makes the flowers look ugly.
  • There's no way on God's green Earth that I would have been in a MATH FAIR in elementary school. Or, you know, ever.
  • This is the third time in the series that Claudia has sucessfully tutored someone. She really needs to start giving herself more credit for being able to do stuff like that!

Friday, April 16, 2010

#104 Abby's Twin


It's time for health checks at SMS, but Abby isn't worried. She knows she can hear well, and she's already got contacts and glasses. She doesn't give much thought to the scoliosis check, either, but it turns out that she should have. The nurse who's doing the checks hands Abby a note after she's done, and tells her to give it to her parents. Apparently, Abby needs further testing. Later that evening, she finds out that Anna got a note as well. Their mother takes the news pretty casually, but makes an appointment with an orthopedist in New York City ASAP.

Abby is nervous about the appointment, and she's nervous during the appointment while she, Anna, and their mother to get back with the results of their x-rays. Finally, he does. Both girls have curves in their spine; Abby's is 14 degrees, which isn't a big deal (they don't treat curves under 20 degrees), but Anna's is at 25 degrees. Plus, her bones aren't done growing, which means that the curve will probably get a lot worse if it's left untreated. She's going to need a brace, and the orthopedist refers the Stevensons to yet another specialist who will make Anna's brace.

The day after the doctor's appointment, Abby heads to the mall with the BSC to shop for the Winter Carnival that the club is planning for their charges. She feels guilty for leaving Anna all alone at home, moping over her diagnosis. Abby is determined to spend as much time with her sister as possible, whether she wants that or not. As soon as Abby is home from the mall, she sets up some video game so she and Anna can play. This doesn't exactly thrill Anna; not only does she not like video games, but had been watching an orchestra performance on tv. Also, Anna starts pushing Abby away by drawing attention to the fact that they're not as alike as they used to be, due to the scoliosis situation. This hurts Abby; she doesn't get why Anna would react the way she has been when Abby is just trying to help.

Mrs. Stevenson manages to get an appointment with the doctor who makes braces for the end of that week. Abby insists on going along, even though she doesn't need to. Beforehand, though, she gets her hair cut so that it looks just like Anna's. When Anna asks her why, Aby tells her that it's a show of when all members of a sports team shave their heads in honor of a teammate with cancer. Anyway, getting the brace made is kind of a process, and Abby decides that Anna still needs some cheering up. Since she'll need larger clothing sizes to fit over the brace, Abby wants to buy her some new stuff. She enlists Stacey's help, and Stacey actually does a pretty good job of picking things out that Anna would like. Unfortunately, Abby vetoes everything as being too boring, and picks out stuff that SHE likes instead. Abby can tell that Anna's not thrilled with the new stuff,and decides to try even harder to make Anna happy again. Then, the day for picking up Anna's new brace comes. She asks Abby not to go along, and when she gest home and Abby wants to try the brace on so she'll know what Anna's going through, Anna refuses. Abby keeps sticking as close to Anna as she can, in case Anna needs any help. Things kind of come to a head on Anna's first day at school with the brace. Alan Gray knocks into her, causing her to fall and drop her books. It was a total accident, and he's very apologetic, but Abby pretty much rips him a new one anyway. Anna is really upset, but not at Alan. She knows he didn't mean to knock her down; Anna's upset at Abby instead. She's had enough of Abby's clinginess, and the girls stop talking to each other.

The silent treatment lasts for almost an entire week. Then, during the Winter Carnival, Abby catches Anna in line for a sled ride. Abby is convinced that Anna is going to get hurt, and tries to stop her. She's too late, and Anna takes her ride down the hill. When Abby sees that her sister is okay, she finally realizes that Anna isn't fragile just because she has scoliosis. Anna also apoligizes for being kind of snippy and shutting Abby out; she just needed to process her diagnosis in her own way. The girls make up...and make plans to go to the mal and exchange the clothes that Abby bought. :)

Rating: 2

Thoughts and Things
  • Does scoliosis really warrant the kind of reactions that it got in this book? We did scoliosis checks in school every year, and it was never a big deal....even for the kids that had it. With the way Anna and especially Abby reacted, you'd think one of them had cancer or something.
  • I'm really surprised that Suzanne Weyn got Abby's "voice" down as a well as she did. She's normally a better Mary Anne writer.
  • Abby looks fantastic on the cover; definitely her best one. It's a little ironic, though, that the tomboyish, sports-loving twin is the one who looks the most girly!
  • The whole Winter Carnival plotline was a big yawn. So what....another neighborhood festival in the Schafer-Spier backyard. Also, how is this event (which everyone wanted to do) different from the stupid Fall Into Fall block party from #100 (which no one wanted to do)?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

M#27 Claudia and the Lighthouse Ghost


The Kishis have some family friends coming to stay with them. The Hatt family used to live in Stoneybrook, but moved when Claudia was about four. There was some mystery surrounding exactly WHY they left. The dad, apparently, was accused of doing something awful. None of the BSC members know exactly what it was, though. Claudia isn't exactly thrilled at the idea of having a potential criminal and his family staying in their house, and she's even less thrilled when she's told that Janine wil be moving into her room for the duration of the Hatts' visit.

The day of the Hatt family's arrival comes pretty quickly. The parents seem nice enough, and ten year old Caryn is as well. High school age Steve is sort of quiet and sulky, but cute...a fact which both Claudia and Janine (who's having problems with her boyfriend, Jerry, at the moment) notice. Twelve year old Laura, who's going to be in seventh grade at SMS with Claudia, is another story. She's sort of rude, and isn't exactly thrilled with the Kishi house,and she's especially not thrilled with Claudia. Claud is given the job of showing her around school,. but Laura is obsessed with getting to know all the most popular seventh graders...none of whom Claudia actually knows.

At lunch that first day, the Hatts get to talking about the old Stoneybrook lighthouse. They actually own the property; it's where the bad thing happened that got them drummed out of town. They want to check it out, mostly to see how sturdy the building is. Steve, though, wants to have a late night party there for all of his friends. Mr. Hatt finally gets around to checking out the lighthouse one day after picking Caryn, Laura, and Claudia up from school. The building is structurally sound, and he's decided to paint and renovate it. While they're exploring, Claudia not only thinks she sees someone moving around inside the lighthouse, but she also hears a mysterious voice calling "I'm here." Spooky. Next, a Mr. Langley, who lives next to the lighthouse, comes over the the group, freaking out that the Hatts have dared come back to Stoneybrook. Later that week, Mallory, her mom, and Claire are driving past the lighthouse and they see someone trying to get in. The Hatts also start getting some threatening letters. It's pretty clear that someone hasn't forgotten what happened when they were in Stoneybrook before....

The club decides that they need to know more about exactly what happened at the lighthouse all those years ago, so they look up the incident in the newspapers at the library. 16 year old Adrian Langley (yep, just like the lighthouse's neighbor) died after falling out of the lighthouse window one night, into the freezing water. When they next have a chance to talk to Mr. Langley, they find out that he blames Mr. Hatt for the death of his son. After all, it was Mr. Hatt's responsiblity to lock up the lighthouse, and if that door hadn't been locked, Adrian would have been able to get out safely. Claudia's a little scared to be around Mr. Hatt after learning that....what if he'd locked Adrian in there on purpose? Then, just as the whole group is leaving the lighthouse that day, Claudia finds a note. It's clearly pretty old, and it says: If you last the night in the lighthouse, you will be one of us." The words are followed by a devilish looking picture of a gargoyle, and the name Fred. Janine recognizes it as the one that's over the front door at SHS. Whoever left that note must have been a student, so they hunt down Adrian Langley's younger brother, Paul, to see if Adrian had ever belonged to any high school gangs that might have used the lighthouse for initiation. Paul actually takes them into Adrian's old room, and shows them a scrapbook which contains a photo of a group of boys in front of SHS. Just as Claudia starts to ask Paul which one was his brother, Stacey sees smoke pouring out of the lighthouse. They call 911, but it turns out to be a false alarm. Someone had set of a smoke bomb inside; there was no fire. There was, however, a mesage scratched into the group nearby: "The party's over or else." Everyone figures that it refers to the party that Steve Hatt is planning on throwing. Mr. Hatt doesn't want his son to cancel the party, though. In fact, he wants to expand it. He wants everyone invited: the Kishis, the BSC, the whole town. Steve is not exactly thrilled with that; he wanted to have a cool party with just SHS kids.

The party begins a few days later without incident. Just to be on the safe side, the BSC members meet every 15 minutes to discuss anything suspicious that they might have seen. After one of these meetings, Claudia spots someone upstairs in the light house. No one's supposed to be up there, so Claud investigates. She runs into a man she's never seen before. At least, no in person. He looks very much like one of the guys in the photo Claudia took from the Langley's house. Claudia alerts Mr. Hatt to his presence, but they lose track of the guy. It turns out that he's trying to climb down a string of Christmas lights on the outside of the lighthouse. The string breaks, and he falls into the water. Mr. Langley (he'd shown up to complain about the party noise) fishes the guy out of the water. He's cold, but okay. His name is Patrick Bellknap, and he had been the leader of a gang called the Gargoyles. Adrian wanted to join, and the initiation was to spend the night locked in the lighthouse. So...Mr. Hatt had nothing to do with Adrian's accident, and Mr. Langley apologizes. Also, the Hatts finally move into their own house, much to everyone's relief. The only trouble? No one ever figured out where the mysterious voices that the BSC members kept hearing inside the lighthouse were coming from.

Also, some comet is flying past Stoneybrook, so the club arranges a comet viewing party for their charges.

Rating: 2.5

Thoughts and Things
  • It's kind of interesting that Claudia and Janine found themselves attracted to the same guy in this one....where have I read that some storyline recently? :)
  • I love the books that don't completely solve the whole mystery, but leave a little bit of a question mark there as to whether or not something supernatural WAS happening.
  • So the comet passes Stoneybrook within a few hours. Is that possible? The last time I remember a comet passing my hometown, I remember it being visible for days.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

#103 Happy Holidays, Jessi


It's the beginning of December, and Jessi is super excited for the holiday season. She says that seeing all the decorations, hearing the music, etc, makes her feel like a little kid again. I wasn't aware that she'd stopped being a kid, but whatever. Anyway, the one not-so-bright spot for the whole Ramsey family during this supposedly happy time is Aunt Cecelia. She's grumpy, she's always lecturing and criticizing everyone, and it's causing a lot of stress for the family. Finally, Mr. Ramsey has to order her not to be so strict and difficult with the kids, and to remember that she's living there as a guest in their house. Things DO start to change a little; during a shopping trip,. Aunt Cecelia is MUCH nicer to the three Ramsey kids than she's been in recent past. Then, during the ride home, they get in a car accident. Jessi, Becca, and Cecelia are okay, since they were all wearing their seatbelts. Squirt, though, wasn't. He'd been fussing in his carseat, and because they were so close to home, Cecelia had let Jessi unbuckle him. That's how he ended up on the floor of the car, unconsious.

An ambulance arrives and takes all four of them to the hospital. Everyone is more or less okay; Squirt wakes up, but the doctor tells the Ramseys that they're seeing some unusual neurological activity and that they'll need to keep him in the hospital for observation. The Ramseys work out a visiting schedule so Squirt will never be left alone during the day. Having him in the hospital starts to put an awful lot of strain on the family, though. No one is really in the holiday spirit anymore, and Aunt Cecelia is right back to being her crabby old self. To top it off, just about everyone in the family blames themselves for Squirt's injuries.

Finally, Squirt is allowed to come home the day after Christmas. He's just in time to help celebrate Kwanzaa with his family, which includes some Ramseys from Oakley (including cousin Keisha). The attitude of the family hasn't really improved much, though; there's still a lot of sniping going on, even with the extended family in the house. They all start fighting in the middle of one of their evening Kwanzaa celebrations, until Keisha yells at them to stop and points out how dumb they're being, considering that the whole purpose of Kwanzaa is to celebrate family and unity. Then, Squirt burps and the tension in the room is broken. Everyone apologizes, and it's a happy Kwanzaa once again. :)

While all this is going on, Jessi is also busy organizing a Kwanzaa Festival for the people of Stoneybrook who might not know much about the holiday. They have games, food, crafts, and even a play.

Rating: 2.5

Thoughts and Things
  • After the accident, Squirt is allowed to fall asleep during the ambulance ride. I thought that anyone suspected of a concussion should be kept awake? They would have had no way of knowing until tests had been run at the hospital, but you'd think they would at least take the precaution.
  • There's this whole awkward conversation at a BSC meeting about whether or not it's racist for African Americans to have a holiday that's ONLY for African Americans. I wish Jessi had pointed out that there's nothing barring white people from celebrating Kwanzaa with their AA friends; it's just meant to celebrate African American culture. At least, I think so.....
  • Aunt Cecelia was a nightmare in this book. I don't think I ever disliked her more at any other point in the series.
  • Some of that Kwanzaa food sounded awesome!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

#102 Mary Anne and the Little Princess

(Still no Dibbly-Fresh....)


The Kent family has just moved into Kristy's neighborhood. They're from England, and they call the BSC to hire a companion for their 8 year old daughter, Victoria. Mary Anne is the lucky one who gets the gig, but she's pretty nervous. The nanny (she was the one who set up the job) referred to Victoria as a princess, and Mary Anne has never sat for royalty before. On the morning of her first meeting with the Kents, she's more nervous than ever. They send their chauffer over to get her, and he's really nice. The Kent parents are also nice, but formal. Victoria, on the other hand, isn't particularly friendly. She's sort of closed off, and doesn't seem too keen on Americans. The other kids in Stoneybrook don't exactly help things with their awkward questions, and it looks like Victoria won't be making many American friends. Mary Anne starts to wonder exactly what she's gotten herself into...

On Mary Anne's first official day as Victoria's companion (the first meeting was more of an interview), things have changed. All of a sudden, Victoria is enthralled with all things American. She can't believe how many channels she can get on American tv, she's fascinated by Washington Mall, fast food restaurants, and wants nothing more than a trip to New York City. Victoria even records Mary Anne talking so she can listen to it later and try to imitate the accent. Mary Anne starts to understand Victoria a little more. She's only 8, and she's having to deal with a new country, new school, new town, new friends, all without her parents around for support (they travel for work). The whole BSC decides that they should try and make Victoria feel more welcome and included, so they invite her to a football game at SMS. Victoria thinks they're going to a soccer game, and is a little confused when she sees that it's a different game entirely. She doesn't really endear herself to the other kids, though; she only invites BSC members along on her trip to New York City, and makes it clear that she DOESN'T want any kids there.

That Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, George (the limo Driver) picks up Stacey, Kristy, and Mary Anne after their half day at school. They head to NYC, along with Victoria and her nanny, Miss Rutherford. They do some touristy stuff, and are supposed to meet the Kent parents for dinner. At least, that's what Victoria thinks. When she finds out that they won't be joining the group because of work stuff, she's awfully disappointed. Mary Anne even catches her crying. The next day, Victoria is still in a bad mood. The Schafers/Spiers have invited her, along with George the chauffer and Miss Rutherford, for Thanksgiving dinner. Victoria kind of blows up at the fact that her parents are, once again, missing an occasion that's special to her. The poor kid actually believes her parents don't love her, and that they're going to find some other kid they like better and make her their daughter instead. Mary Anne has a talk with Victoria and helps her see that her parents DO love her, in spite of the fact that they travel a lot.

Subplot: Richard is away on a business trip, Dawn and Jeff are in CA, and Sharon starts to cling to Mary Anne a little more. Also, she keeps referring to herself as Mary Anne's mom, and referring to Mary Anne as her daughter. It becomes pretty clear that Sharon is using Mary Anne as a substitute Dawn. Sharon admits that she has a tendency to live in the past when she misses someone or something, and that she'd do the same thing if Mary Anne were gone. Also, Dawn makes a surprise visit home for Thanksgiving.

Rating: 2

Thoughts and Things
  • Don't even get me started on all the ridiculous British stereotypes. What I especially hated was the fact that Victoria was so fascinated by all things American and started trying so hard to assimilate. Not everyone wants to be one of us, BSC people!
  • I don't think Victoria can actually call herself a princess, can she? She's not the daughter of a king or queen.
  • It was actually sort of touching when Dawn showed up on Thanksgiving to surprise her mom. :)
  • I don't really have much to say about this one....