Monday, February 1, 2010

“I might have to move to Maynard, Iowa!”……BSC Mystery # 5: Mary Anne and the Secret in the Attic

Memory Reaction

When I was a kid I had never heard the term “RetCon,” but if I had, I would have known this book fits that definition perfectly. Because in this book Mary Anne suddenly has a whole history that none of us had ever heard of, where she lived with her grandparents. And I just thought it was so unbelievable that such a “secret” existing when we had never heard a single hint about it in the past.

But I was still totally jealous of her. Just because it seemed like it would be so cool to have a secret about my past to discover (even if it was a “bad” secret). I guess I was at the stage where I was old enough to think the BSC was unrealistic/silly, but still young enough to want to be like them.

Revisited Reaction

Mary Anne has been thinking about her mom a lot. Or, more accurately, she’s been thinking about her lack of a mom. This gets worse because Stoneybrook’s having a “Heritage Day” for the town historical society to raise money. Because of this, all the kids in town are working on projects that relate to their family or to Stoneybook history. Mary Anne sits for Charlotte, who’s really into her project on her ancestors. Charlotte shows Mary Anne all sorts of photos of her great-great grandparents (or something like that), which inspires Mary Anne to look in her own attic for pictures of her mom. What she ends up finding is letters and photos that suggest she (Mary Anne) lived with her maternal grandparents in Iowa soon after her mom died. This is a bit of a shock, since she didn’t even know she had living grandparents.

Mary Anne gets it in her head this means her dad gave her away as a baby, and that he never wanted her. She doesn’t want to ask him about this, and instead, just lets it eat her up inside. She even worries that she might have to go back to her grandparents. Then, in a coincidence that is WAY to convenient, her grandmother calls Richard for the first time in years. Mary Anne accidentally picks up the phone, so she hears that her grandfather died. Grandma (whose name we don’t know) wants Mary Anne to come for a visit, but Richard doesn’t want to let her go. However, Mary Anne only hears part of the call, and thinks her grandma wants (and could get) custody. She’s scared to tell anyone and kind of freaks out about it. She eventually goes back to the attic and reads the rest of the letters she found. She learns that after a few months her dad asked for Mary Anne to come home to him, but her grandparents refused. She doesn’t find any more letters, but obviously she knows she ended up back with her dad. However, she’s still upset and worried that her grandmother could get custody.

Finally, she breaks down and tells her friends. They encourage her to talk to her dad, and he explains that he was not in a good place after her mom died, and he agreed to let Mary Anne stay with her grandparents. After a few months, he asked for her back and pushed to make it happen. The grandparents said it would be easier for them to make a clean break, and broke off all contact. Nice people. But now, Grandma thinks that was a mistake, and she’s mad that her husband didn’t see Mary Anne again before he died. Once she hears all this, Mary Anne decides she would like to go for a visit. The last chapter ends with a bunch of letters being exchanged while she’s visiting…where everything is all hunky-dory. And after this book, there was always an extra sentence or two in the traditional Chapter 2 about Mary Anne’s grandparents, and how Richard was strict because he’s trying to prove something to them.


  • Mary Anne has a dream early in the book, where she’s on a farm with an elderly couple – and later realizes it’s really a memory. It’s a bit coincidental that she suddenly has this dream.
  • Mary Anne: “That day I was wearing a pink sweater and chinos, with these cute little boots I’d just bought. I guess you could say that my style is basically pretty preppy.” I think Mary Anne may be the only one who’s outfits always seem normal.
  • Claudia: “For example, that day she was wearing a lacy white top over a solid white bodysuit, a black mini skirt with white polka dots on it, lacy white leggings, and red high-tops. Plus some really outrageous back-and-white jewelry…that she’d made herself.” That sounds like it wouldn’t be TOO bad, if it weren’t for all the lace.
  • All the kids in town have different projects for Heritage Day. For example, Vanessa Pike’s class is reciting a poem about Stoneybrook that Vanessa is writing. That seems like a really unfair assignment. Vanessa has to write a poem (a really long one, apparently), and the other kids just read it? Shouldn’t they have all written something, and the teacher picked a couple to read? Or something else that’s more balanced.
  • Mary Anne can’t find her mom’s grave at the cemetery, and she starts to look for graves with her mother’s maiden name (since her mom is buried near relatives). But if her family is from Iowa, why are they buried in Stoneybrook?
  • Does Mary Anne really think her grandparents (who she hasn’t seen in years) have a chance of getting custody of her over her Dad (who’s raised her for years)?
  • Mary Anne doesn’t tell anyone what she’s found for a while, but people can tell she’s upset. Dawn keeps telling people Mary Anne must have had a fight with Logan. She even refuses to let Logan talk to Mary Anne when he calls. It’s really rather condescending.
  • So of COURSE the BSC ends up involved with Heritage Day…they make cut outs of “famous” Stoneybrook-ites from history, so people can pose with them in pictures.
  • One of the cut-outs is of Sophie, the “ghost” in Stacey’s attic. The model the cut-out of Sophie off the “picture of her they found in the attic.” And I wouldn’t remember this if I hadn’t just read the other book, but the portrait was of her mother.
  • Dr. and Mr. Johansson have to work the day of some Elementary School parent-child picnic, so they call the BSC. Which is so ridiculous.
  • Mary Anne doesn’t take money for taking Charlotte to the picnic, which is actually really nice of her.
  • What are the chances that Grandma calls out of the blue at the exact same time Mary Anne is uncovering all this?
  • When they are painting the cut outs, the BSC gets into a “paint fight” and Logan gets paint on his shirt. He ends up taking it off, and Mary Anne gets so embarrassed over it.
  • A woman shows up at the house asking if it’s the “Spier-Schafer” house. Now, who asks for a house like that? I’ve lived with relatives where we didn’t share a last name, and people are always assigning the wrong name to the wrong people. And that is after years. The Spiers-Schafers have only been merged for a few months at this point.
  • Mary Anne thinks this woman is a social worker, and that she’ll get a bad impression (because the girls were having a paint fight, playing music, and Logan had no shirt on). Now, Mary Anne was super-worked up, so I’ll let her get away with that assumption. But, we find out later the woman was a “census taker.” But what is this woman doing taking the census in 1992? Would it be so hard to come up with a more realistic reason?
  • Mary Anne says that Claud’s spelling was “a little off” in the sign she made. It read: “POSE WITH STONNEYBROOKs SELEBRITYs.” If that’s what Mary Anne calls a little off, I’d hate to see what she calls horrible.
  • There’s a scene when Dawn talks about how heritage day makes her want to find out more about Jared Mullray. Richard is all, who? And Dawn answers, “the guy who haunts our secret passage?” Then Richard is all, “oh. That Jared Mullray.” For some reason that scene totally made me think of Jack Bristow.
  • Just like in the book where Richard gets married, Richard gives Mary Anne a letter that her mom wrote before she died. She wanted Mary Anne to have it when she turned 16, but Richard decides to give it to her early because she is “so mature” for her age. It seems so arbitrary that her mom would pick the age 16, but not want Mary Anne to have anything before that.
  • This book’s weird, because it definitely takes place during the school year, but Mary Anne ends up on this extended vacation in Iowa. They don’t say how long she’s there, but the last chapter is full of letters between her and the rest of the BSC, and it seems like she’s there for weeks.


Anonymous said...

how did Mary Anne's mom die?

Adventurous Kate said...


Mary Anne's mother had cancer.

Great recap! This was one of the more serious BSC books. Loved those way more than the frivolous ones.

Unknown said...

Hi, I don't want to offend you, but I was a little astonished to find a typo in your usually-impeccable writing.
You said "coincident" that is WAY "to" convenient.
I think that should be "coincidence" that way "too" convenient.

Kait W. said...

The way they react to Claudia's spelling drives me crazy, especially since they're always calling on her to make signs and murals for school events. Why doesn't someone write out the text for her to copy?

If I asked someone to make signs for me and they spelled as badly as she does, I'd make them redo it.

BSC Snarker, aka Kristen said...

Oops, thanks for catching that geek queen. I just fixed it.

Henery the Eighth Oi Am said...

Speaking of typos, just wanted to point out that you often say "Awe" when something's cute but you should say, "Aw."

nikki said...

Yeah, Mary Anne's mom's death wasn't sudden. So doesn't it seem more likely that she'd write little notes or something for every birthday? Rather than just "oh, Richie, here's a necklace and a letter. Give them to Mary Anne when she's sixteen. Because she can, like, drive or whatever so she'll be ready for a necklace and a letter."

dragonzflame said...

I always thought it was odd that she knew so little about her mother, right down to having no idea of where her grave was. Wouldn't she have been asking questions?

I get that it would be kind of painful for her dad to talk about her, but wouldn't you think MA would have a right to know all about her mother, and have the chance to 'visit' her on special occasions? Not just never talk about her?

Pebble Stone said...

Mimi's first name is in this book.. I just can't remember it! Mary Anne was walking in the graveyard and she see's Mimi's grave and the name on it was not Mimi it was ____ ____ "Mimi". Oh, what was it??????
...Good post :).

Sada said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sada said...

This would be so much more believable if they scrapped the Heritage Day malarkey and let Mary Anne discover the secret via the phone call--which could then prompt a full attic investigation. GHOSTWRITER FAIL! Again. *sigh.*

Also? Mary Anne's dead mom kinda sucks.

p.s. Typos happen to the best of us. And I'm saying this as a professional proofreader.

Anonymous said...

thank you for posting this book

Michele said...

Hey Pebble Stone, the name on the headstone was 'Yamamoto.' That was it, so I'm not sure if that's a first name or last name.

Devika said...

Oh lord, I was looking for this book on Amazon, and the reviews on there make this book seem like "To Kill a Mockingbird." There are some real gems, such as:

"If you want to meet a truly unforgettable, memorable book character that will forever touch your heart & even change how you think, read this book & meet Mary Anne Spier."

(And it just gets better from there!)

Rachel said...

I never really read the Mysteries - except for the Fashion Victim one and one about a Train, I think - but I wish I'd read this one! How odd that they'd put something so apparently important about Mary Anne in this series and not the main one. I do remember the thing about Mary Anne and her grandparents appearing in the Chapter 2s at some point but not being there early in the series, so this post explains that.

Anonymous said...

Finally someone points out that Mary Anne's mom is... kind of annoying. My best friend's mom died when my friend was 1, from lung cancer. Preparing for this, her mom wrote her 12 letters for her to read every year until she turned 18, and then throughout college, getting married, having kids... she covered everything in about 200 letters. Now, her mom was a verbal woman, so maybe not everyone else's would be so extreme, but just one letter and necklace at 16? Wtf? How about just once a year instead? Cause you're right, never talking about her really isnt the same...

オテモヤン said...


The Late Alma Spier said...

I'm sorry I didn't live up to your parenting standards during my last few months on this planet. Between dealing with the radiation and chemo, coming to terms with my own demise, trying to spend some quality time with my only child and my husband (and trying to convince him that when said kid gets older that Laura Ingalls Wilder wear is not the way to go), I wasn't able to write as many letters. And because I come from simple folk, I didn't have all that much jewelry for Mary Anne. I did the best I could. Don't hate me for it, my Mary Anne...!

coulrophobic agnostic said...

It never occurred to me until now that it's a bit odd that Alma didn't leave much for her daughter. Maybe she figured Richard would fill in the blanks...

BTW linked to you on both my blogs :)

Kait W. said...

Yamamoto was Mimi's last name. In an earlier book Claudia writes a postcard to Mimi and addresses it to Mrs. L. Yamamoto. It's weird, though, because someone mentioned on another blog that there are no "L" names in Japanese!

BSC Snarker, aka Kristen said...

Hey, I've never claimed to be perfect typist. Thanks for understanding everyone.

I didn't mean it was weird for Mary Anne's mom to not do more letters/videos/whatever....I just thought it was weird that she randomly picked 16 as the age where Mary Anne would start finding this stuff out.

Sexy Sadie said...

I think the only part of Claudia's outfit that would be considered stylish today are the lace leggings.

hulahula said...

I liked how at the end of the book Logan asks Mary Anne if she's milked a cow yet. Logan REALLY wants that HJ....

Unknown said...

Listen, I'm really sorry if I offended you, or anyone else.
I know typos happen.
Like I mentioned before, this is one of my favourite blogs.
Again, I'm really sorry. :(

Anonymous said...

One of the cut-outs is of Sophie, the “ghost” in Stacey’s attic. The model the cut-out of Sophie off the “picture of her they found in the attic.” And I wouldn’t remember this if I hadn’t just read the other book, but the portrait was of her mother.

they found pictures of both of them

charmecia said...

to michele:
that was mimi's last name. because that would be kind of weird if that was mimi's first name
since mrs.kishi's name is rioko and peaches's name is miyoshi
yamamoto would be a weird japanese first name.

i really liked this book and i thought it was a good first mystery for mary anne, because mary anne gets to learn more about her mother as well as learned that she had grandparents who are still alive.

yes i agree with most that richard could of at least take mary anne to visit her mom every once in a while. i mean the girl should at least know where her mom is buried or what happened to her and etc.

and richard should of been honest with mary anne to begin with, especially if the girl hasnt seen her parents for more than 13 years.
that's 2 mistakes that you made so far, richard spier.

Anonymous said...

Haha I remember being 8 or 9 years old, and *also* feeling super embarrassed when Logan took his shirt off, like I'd accidentally read something smutty. (Not that I even knew what smut was then. I just knew I felt really awkward.)