I didn’t read this as a kid.
This somewhat convoluted, so bear with me….Claudia has a sitting job for the son of Rebecca Madden, a woman who’s grandmother was a slightly famous artist named Grandmother Madden. She signed all her work that way, so that’s how she’s known, even though it feels awkward to keep saying that. Anyway, Rebecca inherited her grandmother’s house and its contents after her death a few years ago. Her cousins had been fighting the will, but when they found out there were no remaining paintings as part of the inheritance, they (just recently) agreed to let her have it. Rebecca’s planning an estate sale of her grandmother’s possessions, and Claudia volunteers the BSC to help out. Rebecca’s hoping to make enough to go to art school.
Now, the backstory on Grandmother Madden’s that she was a known artist, but after a show in New York got terrible reviews, she gave up painting, and supposedly destroyed any work she hadn’t already sold/given to others. Then she became an art teacher. Claudia decides that since she can’t imagine destroying her own work as an artist, the same must be true about Grandmother Madden. Because all artists are exactly the same, right? She thinks/hopes she’ll find the paintings hidden in the house. The value of the paintings went up after Grandmother died, which was why the cousins had been fighting the will.
While the girls are working in the house, they run into a couple weird things. First, Mr. Ogura, a guy who works for the company helping plan the estate sale, keeps turning up. The girls think he’s suspicious because more than once he showed up at the house looking for Rebecca at the same time that she has gone to his office to see him. He’s also around when a catalogue of Grandmother Madden’s paintings disappears.
The BSC also thinks Rebecca’s husband, Mr. Cook, is suspicious. Basically because he doesn’t think the baby-sitters are the greatest people around, which I actually found refreshing. He gets annoyed when he sees Claudia going through paintings and dropping something that may have been valuable. Plus, Rebecca’s son Jimmy keeps saying how his Dad doesn’t want Rebecca to go to art school, and doesn’t like him to paint, which does make the guy sound like jerk.
Anyway, it turns out there are actually two Mr. Ogura, a father and a son. Rebecca had been working with the senior, while the junior (that the BSC has been dealing with) is actually working with Rebecca’s cousin to try to find/steal some of Grandmother’s paintings. We find out that Grandmother Madden didn’t completely destroy her work, she just had her students paint over them. Mr. Oruga Jr. and the cousin try to leave with some of the painted over paintings. When Claudia tries to stop them, they lock her in a closet. Mr. Cook shows up and lets Claud out, then they call the police and find Mr. Ogura and the cousin with the paintings. And since Rebecca did so well with her estate sale, she decides she’ll still share the money from the paintings with her cousins.
Meanwhile…Remember how Claudia became an honorary trustee of the Stoneybrook Museum? Well, that plot gets brought back up after about 20 books. The museum’s opening a kids’ art room called the Kaleidoscope Room. It sounds like it’s basically a room where kids can go and try painting/drawing/etc on their own. The woman running it asks Claudia to bring some kids to try it out. She can’t make it, so some of the other BSC members go with some charges. Hijinks occur. This woman thinks the projects should be structured, so she gives them all pictures with the outline of a bear and only gives them brown paint. But Claud and the others get her to see that she should let kids be creative and have more open projects. So, the room opening’s a success
- Claudia outfit: “Navy blue pants with wide legs, red suspenders decorated with big sunbursts, a white T-shirt, and over it all, a huge red-and-white-checked shirt. [Her] earrings were also bright yellow sunbursts.”
- Claud’s doing research on Grandmother Madden and uses an electronic card catalogue at the library. I guess that’s a sign it’s a later book.
- They never really explain the deal with Mr. Cook not liking art. The little kid keeps talking about how his dad doesn’t want his mom to go to art school, and doesn’t like him painting. But at the end, the guy says he was just jealous that he didn’t know anything about art, and seems fine with everything. I feel like we missed a scene or something.
- Stacey outfit: “Short plaid [red and black] skirt, clunky [black] shoes, ribbed (black) turtleneck, and [red] vest.”
- Claud outfit: “Overalls and a long-sleeved green-and-blue striped shirt [and] a green-and-blue checked cap.”
- Charlie drives Claudia and Kristy over to the Madden house one day after school. A couple days later he’s giving them a ride home when they decide they want to go to the Madden house…and they make a point of saying they give him directions. Wouldn’t he remember how to get there?
- Rebecca tells Claudia where her key’s hidden so that the BSC can help with the sale one day when she won’t be there. Then a few days later, Claudia just shows up at the house and goes for the key. It seems a bit inappropriate, since she’d only really been given permission to use it that once. But since she saves the day, I guess all’s forgiven.
- The whole reveal about the paintings being painted over’s a rip off of that Mallory book with the diary. I actually specifically thought they wouldn’t do the painting over thing, because it was already done in that book. I guess I was giving them too much credit.
- There’s this other subplot about the kid finding a cat that looks like a cat the grandmother used to own, and it makes me think of another Mallory book. But it turns out that the cousin who was involved had lost her cat, which I guess the grandmother owned. I didn’t really pay that much attention because it wasn’t remotely interesting.
- Grandmother Madden would buy a new cat whenever one died on her, and get one that looks the same and name it the same thing. I’m not a pet-person, so I may be missing something, but that seems a bit weird.
- Claudia outfit: “[She] was wearing a long, full, black skirt with red, orange, pink, yellow, and turquoise flowers embroidered along the hem; a loose pink top; and a necklace [she’d] made out of papier-mâché beads painted to match the flowers on the skirt.”
- The woman running the Kaleidoscope Room’s a bit extreme…it really never occurred to her that kids would want to choose their own colors for painting? Especially since she gave them an outline of a bear, and not all bears are brown.
- When Claudia’s talking to her mother about how she can’t believe Grandmother Madden had destroyed her art, Mrs. Kishi’s all, “well the article says she did, so she must have. Have you been reading Nancy Drew again?” I’m not sure why but it made me laugh.
- Corrie Addision shows up as one of the kids trying the art room, which makes sense since she’s been known to like art and was in the original book about the museum. But I feel like she only shows up every twenty books. And her parents don’t show at the opening, so I guess they’re still missing out on key moments in their kids’ lives.