Wednesday, November 17, 2010

“Nothing like this has ever happened in this building before”……BSC Little Sister #99: Karen’s Big City Mystery

Memory Reaction

I didn’t read this as a kid. I think I only made it to book 20 or so, and didn’t even read all of those. But I do remember being amazed sometimes when I went to the bookstore and realized there were so many Little Sister books. I found them so much less interesting than the regular series and couldn’t believe people were still buying them.

Revisited Reaction

The good news: Karen’s leaving Stoneybrook for a month. The bad news: this is a little sister book so we’re going with her. She’s heading to Chicago for a month to live with her “little house” family.

There’s a break-in in Karen’s apartment building and some “valuable” paintings are stolen from one of the residents. Karen’s all excited about it and wants to solve the crime. She wanders all over the building looking for clues, and even manages to interview a couple neighbors. While doing this she keeps running into Matt, the grandson of the victim, and thinks he’s “suspicious”(despite only being seven). But eventually, she realizes that she’s been running into him because he’s also playing detective. They decide to join forces, and Matt introduces Karen to his grandmother, Mrs. Arthur. She tells Karen the paintings were a gift from an old boyfriend and shows Karen a picture of the guy. Karen thinks he looks familiar, but doesn’t figure out why until she sees Fred, a deliveryman, walking into the basement of the building.

They tell Mrs. Arthur, who tells the doorman, and they all go downstairs to confront Fred. In addition to being the thief, Fred turns out to be the son of Mrs. Arthur’s old boyfriend. He also has the dumbest motive ever. It takes ages to explain because it is so stupid there’s no way to summarize it. Basically, his mother died, his father got “too sad to work” and lost all his money. When the father died, Fred and his brother changed their names to hide from bill collectors. They knew their father had given someone paintings and described them, and then when he was making a delivery, he happened to notice the paintings and came back later to take them. He realized he didn’t know what to do with them after that, and wanted to return them, but didn’t know how to do that either. The grandmother decides she doesn’t want to press charges, and while the cops still bring him in, he gets off pretty easy.

Then Karen has a “calm” stay for the rest of her time in Chicago.

  • I’m not sure if this was intentional or not, but it is fitting that Karen recognizes that Fred is the son of the guy in Mrs. Arthur’s picture, because in the mystery where she and Kristy are stuck in an old house, she recognizes that the woman in a picture was someone who had a store in Stoneybrook.
  • While “investigating” Karen hides by the mailboxes and jumps out and takes a picture of everyone who comes to check the mail. How does she get away with that? I would think the doorman would say something to Karen’s mom about how she should keep her daughter from annoying the crap out of everyone.
  • When Karen asks the doorman about the theft, he says that he didn’t see anything, but that he’s sure the police will figure it out. Now, maybe he was just saying that cause he was talking to a kid, but normally police wouldn’t solve a small break-in like that.
  • Karen can really be very bratty. Matt was using a tape recorder to tape his notes as he “investigated.” And when he drops it she grabs it and runs to her apartment to listen.
  • Here’s a sign of the times….Karen took pictures the day of the break-in, but she can’t look at them, or show them to Matt because the film hasn’t been developed.
  • Isn’t Karen supposed to be smart? Cause after she steals the tape from Matt, she needs to listen to a lot of it to figure out he’s playing detective too. Even when he talks about having suspects, she’s not sure what it means.
  • I’ll give Karen some slack about believing a seven-year-old could be responsible for the break-in because she’s a little kid too.
  • If I think it’s unrealistic for 13-year-olds to solve crimes, then clearly I think it’s beyond ridiculous for a seven-year-old to do it. But at least Karen tells an adult before trying to confront the culprit.
  • So, Karen’s little-house family moved to Chicago for six-months, and she was originally going with them. But does that really make sense? It seems really disruptive to have a seven-year-old switch to a new school that likely has a different curriculum for such a short time. Especially since her father has joint-custody of her and lives in Stoneybrook.
  • Fred says he changed his name to hide from bill collectors. Is that supposed to make him sympathetic? Even if it was debt from his father, I just don’t feel bad for him for it.
  • I think we’re also supposed to be sorry for Fred’s father too. But honestly, his wife dies and he’s too sad to work for the rest of his life? I’m sympathetic to his loss, but that excuse can only last so long.
  • There is this backstory about how Mrs. Arthur was once an actress, and it seems to be a set up for the end, when she lies to Fred about having called the police (which ends up delaying him from running off before someone else DOES call the cops). I guess one would need acting training to pull off a huge con like that?
  • I don’t quite understand how these paintings were “valuable.” Mrs. Arthur’s old boyfriend was an actor who stopped working years ago. So, he’s not famous or anything. How are some random paintings he did so valuable? Granted, Mrs. Arthur says they weren’t the most valuable things in the apartment, but she says they were valuable.
  • Karen informs us that when she found out the guy next to her on the plane had been on a business trip to NYC, she started telling him everything she knew about the city. Amazingly enough, the poor guy had to take a nap soon after.
  • Matt’s grandmother tells Karen that the paintings that were stolen were not as valuable as other paintings in the apartment. Karen looks at these paintings and thinks she could have made a better painting. Is that supposed to be a dig on modern art?
  • Karen says that her father grew up in the “Big-House.” I guess that should have been assumed, since Ben Brewer haunts the attic, but I don’t remember any other direct confirmation of it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

“Me, the worst speller on the planet, work for the school newspaper?”…..BSC # 71: Claudia and the Perfect Boy

Memory Reaction

When I first read this book, I thought it was the most unrealistic thing ever. It had middle-school students placing personal ads and going on dates like they’re adults. I didn’t believe it would happen in an actual middle school, without it turning into an outlet for ridicule.

Now, today, I have multiple friends who have gotten engaged/married to someone they met on However, when this book came out, there was no Internet. It was much less socially acceptable to place personal ads. So, having 13-year-olds do it with no issue is ridiculous. And it certainly wouldn’t become the most popular thing in a school. Even if some kids were willing to do this, I’m sure there would be others who laughed at them or used it to play tricks on certain kids. I’m don’t know what it would be like in a middle school today, but back then, it was ridiculous. There’s really no other word for it.

Revisited Reaction

This book takes place right after Stacey met Robert, so it makes sense that Claudia suddenly feels bad about not having a boyfriend. She and Stacey are talking about it while reading magazines, and notice some personal ads. Claudia ends up asking Emily Bernstein (editor of the SMS paper) if they can add a personals section for kids to the school paper. Emily says yes, the rest of the newspaper board agrees, and Claudia’s placed in charge.

The personals column becomes a major hit. Claudia also adds a “suggestions” section, where she notes if two people placing ads would actually be a good match for each other. However, while Claudia’s being a great matchmaker for all her classmates, she doesn’t have any luck finding a guy of her own…the guys placing ads sound great on paper, but in actuality kind of suck. She tries placing an ad of her own, and has equally bad luck. She finally gets one letter that seems promising, but the person didn’t provide his real name or any contact info. Eventually, Stacey admits that she wrote the letter to try and make Claudia feel better, but realized it was making things worse. So, Claudia doesn’t end up with a boyfriend, but decides that she’s not quite as upset about it, since she still has her friends and gained a new talent/hobby in working on the column.

The subplot focuses on the Barretts. It seems that Marnie’s allergic to dogs, which means they need to get rid of Pow, the family pet. Buddy and Suzi are all upset about it, as one would expect. But eventually, the Pikes agree to take the dog in, which means the Barrett kids can still visit.

  • Claudia outfit: “Pink socks with gold stretch pants, and then…a gold turtle neck with a pink sweater and…blue jewelry.” She thought she looked like a “human sunset.”
  • When the BSC hears that Marnie’s going to the allergist, they wonder if Mrs. Barrett could be forgetting that Marnie’s allergic to chocolate. Do they really think that little of her? Forgetting to leave a phone number of where you’ll be is quite different than forgetting your child’s allergy.
  • Right after the news goes out that there’s going to be a personals section, Claudia starts getting letters for it. One of the first ones is from a guy upset about his parents divorce, saying he wants to talk to other kids with the same problem. Even in a world where middle-schoolers place personal ads, it seems a bit unrealistic that a kid would do that.
  • Claudia wonders if she should tell said kid to talk to a therapist. I feel like that’s a PSA the ghostwriters wanted to add in, starting about midpoint of the series. Like someone suddenly decided kids needed to know it was okay to see a therapist.
  • I think Claudia does mention doing this personals column in at least one other book, but it definitely doesn’t get mentioned much after that. I always hated that…Claudia spends so much time on it in this book, and then never seems to again.
  • Claudia loves spell check, as you would expect. But her misspellings are SO bad, I’m surprised it even knows what she means. I tested some of her misspellings in Word, and it didn’t come up with the right suggestion for “butey” (beauty) or “cule” (cool), and those are pretty basic words.
  • It seems weird that Emily has so much control over the paper. Yeah, she’s the editor, but this is middle school. There should be some teacher involvement.
  • After she finds out Marnie’s allergic to the dog, Mrs. Barrett removes the rug and all the stuffed animals from her room, to help keep it “dust free.” But, if it’s the dog she’s allergic to, does dust still matter? Pow’s sleeping out in the garage at this point.
  • I don’t think Suzi and Marnie have always shared a room, have they? I remember when Dawn first started sitting for them, and she helped the kids clean their bedrooms….there were three of them. I think they just made that up for this book, so that Suzi could complain about the lack of toys (which she does when Shannon’s baby-sitting her).
  • One of the guys who Claudia meets actually goes to another school, but had Alan Gray (his neighbor) submit the ad. And Claudia’s all, “Well, if he goes to private school, it must be the Paulson School.” But how would she know this? There are other private schools in Stoneybrook.
  • One of Claud’s date outfits is, “A long white shirt under a green tapestry vest, green corduroy pants, and low boots.” That’s pretty tame for a Claudia outfit. In fact, it seems too tame. Especially for a date.
  • Wow, this book’s dated. Claudia has to cut sections of her column at the last minute. And to do so, she literally cuts and pastes the text out of a layout board that’s going to the printer.
  • Mary Anne puts a note for Logan in the personals section, saying “You’re cuddly kitten will love you forever, call the Tig at…” It’s really just there as a way to add drama, because the ad gets switched around with someone else’s, and Logan thinks Mary Anne’s placing an ad for a new guy. But it makes no sense, cause no one else is using the personals for messages like that. Also, why would Logan be reading the personals in the first place?
  • Emily says that they need to start printing more copies of the paper, because before only some students bothered looking at it, and now every kid wants to get a copy. I’m pretty sure in my school they gave one to every student, regardless of who read it. I would think they’d make a point of doing that in most schools.
  • Actually, it was my high school that gave every student a copy. I don’t think we even HAD a paper in my middle school, and we most certainly didn’t have a weekly one. Emily says that they only recently became weekly, but it still seems unbelievable.
  • One of Claudia’s dates has an actual tattoo. He says he was grounded for a month because of it, but it’s the real thing. Now, I suppose he could be lying, but how does a thirteen-year-old get a tattoo without his parents’ permission. Ear piercings are one thing, but tattoos?
  • Claudia makes a list of things she wants for a guy, and at first it seems like she’s being picky…but she really has good reason for turning down the guys she does meet. One guy will only talk about things that are Asian and one doesn’t say a word except to answer her questions. Another turns out to be Alan Gray, who she doesn’t even bother meeting for a date.
  • The Pikes tell Buddy and Suzi that they can come over to see Pow any time, and Mallory just tells them to “call if it’s after midnight.” I’m not sure they should have been quite that generous.
  • It seems like a personals page would be a hit for a couple weeks, then die down. So all the talk about Claudia helping the paper seem premature.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

“We may not have found the fortune, but we had done something almost as wonderful”….BSC Mystery # 19: Kristy and the Missing Fortune

Memory Reaction

I was so jealous the BSC in this book. I would have loved to solve mysteries all over town as a kid, but I just didn’t have the opportunity. But the BSC kept falling into them. Then on top of that, we get this book where they get to look for buried treasure. Totally not fair.

I do remember sort of siding with Cokie in this book. Because Kristy keeps thinking she’s related to the woman who’s treasure they’re looking for. But then Cokie shows up all, “she’s actually my ancestor, I should get her treasure.” I remember being amused by it, although I’m not totally sure why.

Revisited Reaction

Kristy and her younger siblings are looking through Watson’s library (he has a library because he lives in a mansion, you know) and come across an old Stoneybrook town record book. In it they find a reference to a Christina Thomas who disappeared in 1863, at age 18. Kristy feels connected to this woman because their names are so similar, and tries to find out what happened to her. She goes to the library to investigate and finds out that when Christina was 16, her parents died in an accident and left her and her siblings a fortune. When Christina disappeared two years later, so did a large amount of her gold, as well as papers documenting the family’s holdings. Kristy tracks down Christina’s Great-Great-Niece Mildred, who’s now a senior citizen, to see if she knows anything about Christina. Mildred tells Kristy that Christina was in love with a Union soldier during the Civil War, and gives her a letter Christina had written him before she left (it was returned to the family when this soldier died). Mildred believes this letter’s a clue to the whereabouts of the money.

Meanwhile, Jessi goes to the town arboretum to ask for advice on taking care of plants (she has a plant-sitting job). She finds out that the town arboretum’s in danger of closing, because no one knows who actually owns the land it sits on, and a developer wants to buy it. Jessi says the BSC and their charges will come help fix it up, to try and convince a potential donor to buy the land for the town.

It turns out that the arboretum actually sits on the land that once belonged to Christina’s family, which brings our two plots together. The BSC becomes convinced they’ll be able to find Christina’s missing gold buried in the arboretum. While looking, they actually make the place look worse by digging holes all over the place and the donor backs out. But the girls come back at night and use the letter from Christina as a map. Then they actually find something, which is beyond ridiculous. There’s no gold, just some papers where Christina bequeaths the land to the town, which means the arboretum’s saved, even though the BSC totally blew it in terms of fixing the place up. And as a sidenote, it also turns out that Mildred’s Cokie Mason’s grandmother, which explains why Cokie had been hanging around listening to the BSC’s conversations.


  • Claudia: “She was wearing this blue-and-green stripey shirt that was kind of tight and stretchy-looking. Over it, she was wearing a really, really, baggy pair of overalls. On her head was a floppy green hat, and on her feet were those big black clunk boots made by Doctor somebody.”
  • Stacey: “Platform shoes with really high cork soles…black lacey legging-things, and a blue dress that looked kind of like these pajamas I used to have when I was seven. Baby dolls, I think they were called.” I can’t picture Kristy in baby-doll pajamas, even at age seven.
  • Karen drops Emily Michelle on the floor when playing, so Kristy puts her in a “time out.” But two minutes later when they all decide to explore the library, she’s allowed to come with them. Some punishment.
  • Kristy’s all worried about the plant-sitting client calling the parents in town to say the BSC members are plant killers. I think that’s a bit over top.
  • Charlotte skipped into the “third grade”? Then why is she eight? I know I’ve said this before, but every book where it’s mentioned it annoys me all over again.
  • The arboretum woman would have given Jessi advice for nothing, but Jessi insists they do it “fairly.” It actually seems less fair to Jessi to spend days helping out, in exchange for some pretty simple advice.
  • What is it with Ann Martin and February? In one of Abby’s mysteries, she’s moaning about how much February sucks because winter’s almost over but it’s not springtime yet….and Kristy does the same thing here. Honestly, I feel like that describes March better than February.
  • Of course, all the kids in Stoneybrook just love the idea of going and fixing up an arboretum with their baby-sitters. No kid would EVER be annoyed at the idea of being forced to do yard work for someone else instead of watching cartoons or playing video games.
  • Kristy goes over to Mildred’s for tea all by herself. Doesn’t that seem a little dangerous? I mean, she doesn’t know anything about this woman.
  • It’s very rare to get a Kristy outfit other than jeans, so I’m including it here, even if it isn’t as much fun as a crazy-Claudia outfit. When meeting Mildred she wore, “A dark-green corduroy skirt…with a white button-down shirt, and a blue sweater.”
  • Mildred says she has “heard” of the BSC….which seems odd considering she has no young children. Cokie’s her granddaughter, which might explain it, except that Mildred has heard GOOD things about the club.
  • Marilyn Arnold’s described as the more outgoing twin, but I’m not sure this is true. Usually, Carolyn’s said to be the trendy/popular one and Marilyn’s the serious musical one.
  • Isn’t Charlotte supposed to be super-smart? Cause she doesn’t know the meaning of the word sabotage, and then can’t even repeat the term five minutes later. I can buy her not knowing what it meant, but I would think she’d at least remember how to say it.
  • On the day that Dawn and Jessi realize the arboretum used to house Christina’s estate, they get so excited that they run off and leave the place a mess. The next day, Mrs. Goldsmith (the curator) yells at them a bit (although we don’t specifically see what she says). It’s pretty rare for something like that to happen, but it’s nice to see a bit of realism.
  • The next day happens to be the day some potential donor’s looking at the place. Now, since this is what the BSC has been fixing the place up for, you would think Mrs. Goldsmith would remind them that it’s happening that day and ask them to clean up quickly. Or that she would have done some work herself earlier in the day, rather than depend on teenagers she doesn’t know very well.
  • How did these girls not know Cokie was Mildred’s granddaughter? They traced the family for multiple generations, but than stopped as soon as they found a still-living person? I would think they’d spend a little bit more time searching to find out about Mildred’s kids. Especially since the research probably got easier as they got closer to the present time.
  • Cokie shows up when the girls go treasure hunting because she overheard the BSC talking about it. Those girls never seem to learn about that. This isn’t the first time Cokie has caused problems for them because she overheard a conversation.
  • Kristy also tells us that Cokie once tried to steal Logan from Mary Anne. Which, I guess she did early in the series. But, Kristy specifically described Cokie trying to steal Logan when he and Mary Anne were temporarily broken up. And that’s not really a fair statement, cause if someone’s broken up, they can’t be stolen.
  • When they go on their little treasure hunt, Claudia and Stacey put together theme-outfits (again). I kind of wish I had a treasure hunt to go on so I could do that.
  • Claudia: “Was wearing black jeans, short black cowboy boots, and a black suede jacket with fringe along the back and arms and silver buttons that looked like those old Indian-head nickels.”
  • Stacey: “Was wearing black leggings, black high-top sneakers, and a long, bulky dark green sweater. She had hidden her blonde hair beneath a dark green wool baseball cap.”
  • I actually feel a little sorry for Cokie. I know she’s a bitch, but Mildred gives a locket that was dug up with the “treasure” to Kristy, who she barely knows, over Cokie, her granddaughter. That doesn’t seem right.
  • Of course the papers the girls found ended up saving the arboretum. Because we couldn’t have had a scenario where the BSC screwed up and did something bad that they weren’t able to instantly fix.
  • There’s a big fancy party at the end to celebrate the arboretum being saved, but we hardly get any outfits out of it. Just that Claudia wore a tuxedo (which she’s done before).
  • The locket they find with the treasure has a picture of a girl (Christina) who looks just like Kristy. I’m not sure where they are going with it….earlier in the book, Kristy wonders if she could be related to Christina, but acknowledges that Thomas is a common last name. Then, when they track down Mildred, it seems to put an end to the relative-speculation. But the picture suggests there’s really a connection.
  • The problem with the plants (since I’m sure you’re all wondering) was that Jessi was over-watering them. But since the owner had left multiple pages of instructions, I would think Jessi would have known how much to water them. This isn’t Claudia were talking about.
  • How likely is it that Kristy would be able to read copies of newspapers from 1861?