Monday, January 11, 2010

“If only I were thirteen instead of eleven. Life would be a picnic.”...BSC # 29: Mallory and the Mystery Diary”

Memory Reaction

I was so jealous of Mallory when I read this book. I know, that sounds crazy. But this was another book where one of the girls discovered some secret in their attic/basement/house. I think technically, Mallory discovered the secret in Stacey’s attic, but it still seemed cool. I don’t really remember what the specific mystery was, just that they resolved it by finding a painting in the attic that was painted over another painting.

Also, this book is where I learned what a séance is. Clearly, the schools just were not doing their job with that.

Revisited Reaction

Mallory and Claudia are helping Stacey unpack after moving back to Stoneybrook, and they find an old trunk in the attic. Stacey and her mom don’t want it, so Mal brings it home with her. Now, the trunk is locked and Mal refuses to let anyone break the lock off, because it is so pretty. But when Vanessa threatens to talk all in rhyme until she finds out what’s inside, Mal gives in.

The trunk is mostly full of old clothes, as well as a diary. It was written by a twelve-year-old girl named Sophie in 1894. In the second half of the year, Sophie’s mother died giving birth to a little boy. Soon after, Sophie’s “Grandfather Hickman” accuses Sophie’s father (Jared) of stealing a portrait of the mother (his only daughter). Grandfather Hickman never approved of Jared and uses the missing painting as an excuse to write the whole family out of his will. In her final entry, Sophie vows that she will find the real thief, and writes that if she doesn’t, she’ll come back and haunt her house (that Stacey is now living in).

Mallory believes this, because not only does she believe in ghosts, but she thinks that some one would still care about something they wrote as a twelve-year-old when they die years later. She asks Stacey if she has seen signs of ghosts, but Stacey has only heard a few noises that she attributes to the “country.” So, the BSC tries to solve the mystery the old fashioned way. But they really have no way to go about this, so then they try having a séance. Shockingly, that doesn’t work either.

Meanwhile, there’s a subplot involving Buddy Barrett, who’s having trouble reading. Because they can’t see a problem and not get involved, the BSC offers to tutor him, and Mal gets the job. It starts off bad, but Mal gets him to improve by letting him read comics and Encyclopedia Brown mysteries (which makes me all nostalgic). This gets Buddy excited about reading, which makes him better at it, etc., etc. But more importantly, this leads to Buddy wanting to see the diary. He also asks to search the trunk, and finds some more papers at the bottom. Amazingly, this includes a “confession” where Grandfather Hickman confesses that the portrait was never stolen; he just had it painted over because looking at it depressed him. And he was too embarrassed to tell anyone, so he said it was stolen. Grandfather Hickman was a bit of a jackass.

Mallory guesses that the confession and the diary ended up in the same trunk because Grandfather Hickman owned both houses, and someone in the family must have been throwing different things from different places into the trunk for storage. So, they guess that maybe that same person moved paintings to Stacey’s. They search Stacey’s attic again to see if they can find the missing portrait, and of course, they do. Even though the damn thing’s painted over. They are able to figure out what it is, due to a chip in the paint. It’s all pretty most contrived. I mean, what are the chances that a) the diary and the confession, which were written years apart, by different people, and in different places, end up in the same trunk; b) That the trunk itself ends up in the same place as the painting, which had been hanging somewhere else; and c) That the painting they are looking for is not only chipped, but chipped in a spot that makes it clear what is painted underneath? It’s so ridiculous it is distracting.


  • Mal writes in her journal that she feels like she has been eleven for a decade. Imagine how she’ll feel after another 100 books or so?
  • The title is kind of a stretch because the book isn’t really a mystery, and the girls certainly don’t solve anything. They read the resolution on piece of paper that tells them everything they needed to know. And they need Buddy to do that, because Mal was apparently incapable of looking at the bottom of the trunk herself.
  • Buddy has trouble reading Green Eggs and Ham. Now…I know people read at different levels, but when I was eight, I was reading BSC books. So, if Buddy’s still struggling with Dr. Suess, shouldn’t someone have noticed the problem a lot sooner?
  • Kristy gets inspired to explore her own attic after Mal’s discovery. We’re told that Watson’s mansion has an entire 3rd floor that isn’t being used, and THEN an attic/fourth floor that runs the entire length of the house. That means the place really must be huge. If all the people in Kristy’s house have their own bedroom, it has got to be at least ten rooms, plus more on the third floor and fourth floors?
  • Is it my imagination or are there always more outfits than usual described in Mallory books? She does a run through of the whole club (except Kristy, who was in jeans and a turtleneck – shocking stuff).
  • Jessi: “A long, heart-covered sweat shirt over her dance leotard and a pair of pink pants that…were held up at the waist with a drawstring.”
  • Mallory: “Boring old jeans, but a top that I liked a lot – a big white long-sleeved T-shirt that said I (heart) KIDS across the front.”
  • Mary Anne: “She was wearing a very cool short printed jumper over a striped shirt…the jumper was white with a small red print, and the shirt was white with narrow, widely spaced stripes.”
  • Claudia: “Jeans, a plain white blouse, a pink sweater, white socks and loafers. She said she’d gone back to the fifties for the day.” She should do that more often.
  • Stacey: “A short-sleeved blue-and-white jumpsuit with cuffed pants. Parts of it were striped, parts were solid. On her feet were high-topped sneakers laved only halfway up so that she could roll the tongue down of the shoe.”
  • Dawn: “Her outfit was fairly normal – pants and a baggy sweat shirt – but on her head was a small straw hat.” A straw hat? WTF?
  • It is ridiculous how much of a difference Mallory supposedly makes with Buddy in a couple weeks.
  • How come everyone in BSC land has an attic that you get to by going up a flight of stairs? I always had the kind that pulled down from the ceiling.
  • Buddy Barrett’s teacher is a bit of a jerk. He sends a note home to Mrs. Barrett explaining that Buddy’s having trouble reading. In it, he suggests that Mrs. Barrett spend “quality time” with Buddy reading. Because it can’t be his fault for not being a good teacher. And he’s completely justified in critiquing how a single, working mother spends her time.
  • Kristy only agrees to have a séance if she can be the “channeler.” Mal wanted to do it, since it was her idea, but goes along with Kristy because, “that’s the sort of thing that happens when your friends are older than you.” I think it is just the sort of thing that happens when your friends are bossy and controlling. And when you let them walk all over you.
  • Kristy gets all dressed up with clothes Karen found in their attic to play the channeeor. And she gets all into it, pretending to have spoken with Sophie. Which seems really out of character for her.
  • Poor Mal is disappointed because she thought a séance would really work. When my friends and I played with a Ouiji board, none of us thought it was actually going to work, we just thought it would be fun.
  • Stacey’s worried about going in her attic, and Claud asks if she’s afraid of the “boogeyman.” And Stacey says yes, because “they didn’t have the boogeymen in New York.” Which seems like an odd answer. I would think being from New York made her too “sophisticated” to believe in the boogeyman.
  • Mallory tells Stacey that if her house isn’t haunted, it must mean Sophie cleared her father’s name. Kristy’s actually the voice of reason and tells Mal it might also mean there’s no such things as ghosts. But then she turns around and asks to be the channeler/leader of the séance.
  • It is kind of sad that even though this is a Mallory book, the mystery is really about Stacey’s house.
  • Dawn’s apparently jealous of someone else having a ghost, because she tries to tie the Sophie mystery to Jared Mullray, the ghost that supposedly haunts her secret passage. Her reasoning is that Sophie’s father’s name is Jared, but that really shouldn’t mean anything since that Jared lived in her house, not Stacey’s.
  • It turns out that “Grandfather Hickman” is actually Old Hickory, who is some famous ghost in Stoneybrook, and his grave is the site where Cokie and Co. tried to scare BSC once. Which is kind of a ridiculous coincidence. I mean, what are the chances that the diary Mal reads is connected to a semi-famous person?
  • I don’t think they actually tell us the story of Old Hickory in that book. It turns out he was some rich guy who left all his money to a long-lost nephew, but demanded that no fancy tombstone be set up (because it was a waste of money). But the nephew had one made anyway, and so Old Hickory haunts the cemetery. It seems like a lame reason to haunt somewhere.
  • Mary Anne and Dawn are all excited at the end because their parents go out to celebrate their “25th date” as adults. Which I guess is foreshadowing to the next book when they get married. However, isn’t 25 dates a kind of lame thing to celebrate? It also doesn’t seem like a long enough time to be on the verge of marriage.
  • It’s really kind of unbelievable that these girls believe in ghosts. They’re always being described as super mature, but then they go and freak out about ghosts.


Pebble Stone said...

I totally agree with you about every point you've made. V. funny post; made my night :)

Literary Crap said...

Why does Mallory have an I <3 Kids shirt when she's eleven. What age group is she placing herself in then?
And whose idea was it to print those shirts? If anyone older than Mallory Pike wore that shirt, it would be creepy.

Mary Ann said...

Dawn's straw hat made me laugh out loud. I mean, seriously? A straw hat? The ghost writer's well of ideas for outfits must have been running dry after having to come up with so many in a row.

Anonymous said...

I love this blog it brings back so many memories!

Happy said...

I actually remember the little straw hats . . . I think they were on a hairclip that you used to accessorize when you tie your hair only half up.. remember? Of course, I am from california so maybe I am very california casual like miss Dawn, haha.

Anyway, I recently reread this book and now I totally want to buy a nice "handsome" trunk for my room too. But not for the mystery, but for the way it looks.

Amy said...

a) Joke's on us. It's not Kristy who's the lesbian.

b) as a direct result of this book, and an episode of 90210, I think I'll spend the entirety of my life searching for an abandoned diary in every house I live in.

That Kind of Girl said...

@Amy: omg, which episode of 92010? Was it the college years? I stopped watching after Brenda left. (Loved that ho.)

Oh man, also, I never read this alleged mystery, but it sounds so abysmal that I'm half-tempted to see if I can pick it up at a used bookstore this weekend.

Anonymous said...

Brenda actually was the one that found the diary! I think it was the college years though, Kelly was with Dylan at the time.

Anyway, great post! an awful lot of the BSC mysteries do revolve around "ghosts".

coulrophobic agnostic said...

A t-shirt that says "I heart kids"? I'm pretty sure wearing that would be an arrestable offense these days...

Mrs. Albert Peterson said...

"Buddy Barrett’s teacher is a bit of a jerk. He sends a note home to Mrs. Barrett explaining that Buddy’s having trouble reading. In it, he suggests that Mrs. Barrett spend “quality time” with Buddy reading. Because it can’t be his fault for not being a good teacher. And he’s completely justified in critiquing how a single, working mother spends her time"

This part of your post really bothers me, especially coming from a family of teachers.

Sure, there are bad teachers out there and yes, I get that a single working mother is busy. However, the teacher doesn't necessarily know the situation, Buddy is having trouble, and parents should work with their kids. It's easy to blame it on the teacher but maybe, just maybe the teacher is right.

And by the way, if Buddy's having that much trouble at that age (as you pointed out!) that's not something that a regular class teacher is necessarily equipped to deal with.

HelenB said...

Weirdly, I remember all the outfits in this book but not the plot, at all. I do love the fact that the girls actually act like preteen girls in this one, though, freaking out about ghosts and holding a seance. I was totally doing stuff like that when I was 11/12!

Mrs AP - it's not the teacher's fault, of course, but it sounds like he's trying to blame Mrs B. I think, under the circumstances, no one should be blamed for the fact Buddy's struggling, and finger-pointing is hardly a constructive solution to the problem, and it's not exactly the teacher's role to be telling Mrs Barrett how to parent her kids, either.

Anonymous said...

i remember Mal says she will never pine for a boy except Ben Hobart

Ugly Baby Tony said...

So Grandpa Hickman pretended the picture was stolen even though he knew it wasn't as an excuse to write his family out of the will? That's so evil.

I think I have a new BSC favorite character. Move over Stacey and Claudia. Old Hickory is my homeboy.

BSC Snarker, aka Kristen said...

Mrs. Albert Peterson I didn't mean to offend you or any teachers. I agree, parents should work with their kids at home. And I know that teachers don't necessarily have the resources to help every kid as much as they need it. Plus, Mrs. Barrrett is a bit of an airhead so she probably is a little to blame.

But the way it was presented made it seem like the teacher sent a note home saying, "Buddy is having trouble. It's your fault, so deal with it." I would think a better note would suggest a conversation, so they can try and deal with the problem together.

I mean, there is not an actual note (or an actual teacher), so we can't really judge.

Sada said...

So all of the ghosts in Stonybrook are RELATED? What the hell? Also, if we're starting a club for people who will, thanks to the BSC, search every house they live in for an abandoned diary and/or secret passage, can I be VP?

SJSiff said...

Sada: you can be VP if you have your own phone line.

booboobrewer said...

It's obvious Ann wrote this one herself because the outfits are all really tame...

The 25 dates could have been spaced out over a long time. I'm pretty sure the marriage didn't take place in like, less than two months. Well, I hope it didn't ;)

Audrey said...

Sada and BSC AG : Actually, I think Sada should be president, since she had the Idea ~_^ And I'll of course be secretary since I have the neatest « computer-writing »...*grins*

Unknown said...

Hi! I love all your posts! You are hillarious!!! Hats off!!! :)
So, I was wondering... Am I the only teenage girl who reads this blog and (used to) read BSC books???

Literary Crap said...

Blog award! Keep the nostalgia coming!

BSC Snarker, aka Kristen said...

Richard and Sharon were probably dating more than two months when they got married, but it couldn't have been too long - Dawns parents were divorced in the middle of seventh grade and her mom was remarried when she was in eighth. Now, how many times she'd been in eighth grade at that point is another story.....

MsJess said...

I think this the rare Mallory book where she wasn't the ghostwriters total butt monkey. Although she always was the butt monkey during the super specials.

Lori said...

I liked this one especially Mallory tutoring Buddy

Sexy Sadie said...

It sounds like Claudia is wearing Mary Anne's clothes and Dawn is wearing Kristy's clothes.

Anonymous said...

i read little women when i was 8

Anonymous said...

it wasnt ooc for kristy. besides being bossy she was presented as often making fun of things and people.

Not a ghostwriter, thankfully said...

geek queen: Your not. I still read the BSC books, and still look for them haha. I have never read Little Women yet. Though I know it. I'm also looking for other classic books (I've actually read Heidi when I was 11) Kinda weird (lame?) but my mum is 51. So, she was the one who influenced me to loving classic book and even some 60's music.

Haids said...

Mallory, you ARE a kid. That reminds me of on the Office when Michael creates on online dating profile called "LittleKidLover." What a creeper.