Monday, August 24, 2009

“I knew my friends would be incredibly envious of the experience”……BSC Mystery # 9: Kristy and the Haunted Mansion

Memory Reaction

This was one of the times I was jealous of a mystery and not annoyed by it. I think it is because it isn’t really a mystery…it is just Kristy and some kids exploring some old house. I thought the BSC was so lucky for all the little adventures they have.

Revisited Reaction

Kristy and Bart have a game with their joint softball team versus a team in another town (the “Krashers” previously mentioned in another Mystery). It is about 30 minutes away by car, and, for some reason, they drive to it in a van (driven by Charlie) with the nine starters (for lack of a better word) of the team. Besides Charlie, Kristy, and Bart, this includes Karen, David Michael, Jackie Rodowsky, Buddy Barrett, and a few Basher kids whose names aren’t really important.

Anyway, on the drive back to Stoneybrook. It starts to rain and Charlie gets a little lost – they end up stuck on some road between two washed out bridges, where the only house in site is this big mansion on a hill. They talk to the caretaker, Will, (who lives in a separate cottage out front), who tells the kids to spend the night in the mansion.

The kids are all a little spooked, because they are kids and in a big empty house. Then they snoop around and find out that it is the “Sawyer House,” some mansion that is rumored to be haunted. They snoop some more and find the diary of a girl named Dorothy who lived there back in the 1930s, as well as a bunch of newspaper articles. It turns out that Dorothy was planning to elope with a guy her father didn’t approve of when she disappeared during a rainstorm and was assumed dead. They also realize that Will is the guy the father didn’t approve of, and he has never really gotten over it. That is pretty much the whole story, and the next day the bridges are fixed and the head home.

However, a while later we find out that Karen stole a photo of the girl from the mansion. She tells Kristy she thinks it looks like the woman who runs a knitting/sewing shop in town. Mary Anne backs this up, so the girls all go to the store and confront this old lady. She confirms she is Dorothy and back when she disappeared, she just decided she didn’t want to go from a controlling father to a husband, so she just ran away. And apparently never felt guilty about letting her family or the man she loved think she was dead. At the end she is even all, “maybe I’ll give him a call now that I know where he lives.”

The “haunted” in the title is a bit misleading. They heard a couple weird noises while they are there, but the term really just comes from the fact that the kids had heard stories about the house. And the caretaker explains all the stories away, saying he just made the house looked lived in and people let their imaginations run away with them.


  • Fun fact: Kristy is scared of lightning.
  • Mixed in with the chapters of the kids in the mansion, we get to read about the concerned parents calling each other. And Watson apparently keeps calling the BSC to see if they heard from Kristy.
  • Stacey outfit: “Lacy purple leggings with big floral tops, or black miniskirts with little cowboy shoes.”
  • Claudia outfit: “A hand-painted silk scarf to top-off a polka-dotted jumpsuit . . . or two handmade paper-mache earrings that look like donuts, with a third that looks like a cup of coffee.”
  • Nicky Pike was one of the kids riding in the van to the game, but ended up riding home with his parents. It really comes off like a plot-devise. I think it was just done so that when Mallory and Mary Anne are baby-sitting job at the Pikes, Mr. and Mrs. Pike don't look like horrible parents for going out while their kid is missing.
  • In Dorothy’s diary, she mentioned how she has argued with the caretaker/boyfriend about not wanting to be just a housewife. Now, why would she plan to elope with this guy if she knew he didn’t support it? If all she wanted to do was run away, she should have just run away.
  • Kristy knocks on Will’s door, and he is a little hesitant about telling them to stay. She just thinks that he should respond to her with, “Oh, you poor kids, please come in and let me take care of you.” I think most people would be a little weirded out about inviting strangers in – even if they are kids.
  • As soon as I read this, I remembered it – a Claudia outfit: “White knee-length shorts, white Keds, and a tie-dyed T-shirt she’d made the weekend before…with spirals of yellow and green and purple.” Then the rain makes it all run and turn her skin purple and green.
  • Janine brings a new set of clothes to Claudia when she is at the Newtons (because of the rain ruining them), and Claudia asks her to watch Lucy while she changes. And Janine gets all nervous, it is kind of cute/funny.
  • So, Claudia tells Jamie Newton that the Krasher’s bus is missing and tried not to make it “too scary.” Then she lets him listen to her call hospitals to see if there was an accident.
  • The kids all sleep on the floor of this mansion, and all they have are blankets. They complain about not having pillows, so Charlie tells them to put their sneakers in a blanket and use them. That seems like a really uncomfortable pillow.
  • Dawn is nervous about where Kristy is, and her mom tells her to clean her room to take her mind off things. And Dawn is all, “I’m not that desperate.” But doesn’t Dawn like to clean?
  • The day after the storm, Kristy and Co. have to wait for workmen to fix the bridges before they can leave. But, they are on a road where no one lives…why would the workmen be fixing a bridge like that so early? It can’t even be that the caretaker called them, since he doesn’t have a phone (which is also why Kristy and Co couldn’t call their families). I guess you could argue that people might use the road even if they don’t live on it. But, it still seems doubtful.
  • Guess who made the welcome home sign? It said: “Wellcome Home, Krasherz!”
  • Dawn spreads stories around school about how Kristy spent the night in a haunted house. Cokie Mason actually tells Kristy she is “awesome” for being in a house when a cold hand grabbed her a midnight. I can’t believe Cokie would believe that, let alone compliment Kristy about it.
  • At a BSC sleep-over at Kristy’s, Sam pays the pizza guy a dollar to come up to Kristy’s room and tell her the pizza has anchovies all over it. I wish we got more of Sam’s point of view.
  • No one, except maybe Karen, really thinks the house is haunted. They mention stories about it being haunted, and they hear a few weird noises. But they don’t seriously consider it being haunted.
  • So, the stories apparently come from Will putting lights on in the house while he is cleaning it and stuff like that. I am not quite sure why he has to make the house looked lived in. No one lives there or plans to live there part time, and people know the house is empty, so it is not a security thing.
  • Will gives Kristy flashlights, but it also seems like the house has electricity.
  • Speaking of that….I guess it is lucky that not only did Kristy and Co. found a vacant house to crash in, but it had working electricity and water (and possibly heat). I am sure the owner pays all those utility bills for his empty house just in case something like that happens.
  • Will also gives the kids a bag of apples and bread to eat. It seems little convenient that he has this food sitting around (at least enough that can at least partially feed 11 people.
  • Will mentions he bought the house because he never really got over Dorothy. Is that supposed to be romantic? I probably thought it was back when I was a kid, but seeing it now makes him seem kind of pathetic.
  • I still don’t even get why the kids are all in this van in the first place. The kids parents are all driving to the game, and it seems like a waste to have a select few go separate. I’m actually surprised that parents would let their kid ride with some 17-year-old they barely know.
  • Kristy thinks it is cool that she is related to most people in the van….I think that is more favoritism at work than anything else.
  • Dorothy really is kind of a bitch. She sneaks out of her house to elope with Will, then decides she just wants to be free to be on her own, so she just lets her parents think she is dead? And it doesn’t even occur to her over the next fifty-years to drop them a line and let them know she is okay.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

“My friends and I could take care of the kids for the week”….BSC Super-Special # 3: Baby-sitters’ Winter Vacation

Memory Reaction

What I really remember about this book is how every time I read it I think of the continuity error. The BSC go on some school trip to Vermont, and tell us that they went in 6th and 7th grade too. But in the Disney World Super-Special (#1), Kristy says she has never left Connecticut.

Maybe a mind like this is why I am now working as an editor.

Revisited Reaction

Apparently, all of SMS goes on a mandatory trip to this lodge in Vermont every year. There is this couple in Vermont who let schools come stay there for almost nothing and the kids have this “Winter War” thing. It is essentially a series of competition in winter events like skiing, ice-skating, etc.

The first night there, they arrive during a huge snowstorm. Another bus of elementary school kids was on the way there, and crashed in the storm. The BSC volunteers to be part of the rescue mission to help the kids. They are allowed to do this, which is a little unbelievable, but whatever. Then, it turns out the kids’ teachers have to go to the hospital and everyone thinks the kids will have to go home. But, the BSC volunteers to be there sitters/chaperones for the week. Somehow, the adults agree to this.

Anyway, despite the baby-sitting, they all get their own little adventure.

Mary Anne: Volunteered to be the “trip historian” and do research on the trip. She is supposed to be writing a paper, which is the framework for the whole “write notes” thing.

Kristy: Is in charge of the whole “Winter War” and also a team captain. She gets super competitive and tries to get people on her team to play in more events.

Claudia: Is also competitive and apparently the best skier in the school. She is on the opposite team, so she and Kristy compete some.

Stacey: Meets some guy and spends the whole book disappearing to make out with him. Seriously, she has a chapter at the beginning on the bus, then another early chapter where she meets him skiing, and then we don’t hear from her again until she is saying good-bye to him. But everyone else spends the book talking about how Stacey keeps wandering off somewhere.

Dawn: Falls down during an ice-skating race and feels like an idiot. Then she lets people stop her from participating in other events. Then, gets over herself.

Mallory: Does her stupid spy thing. You’d think she would either get better at spying by now or stop doing it.

Jessi: Is in charge of running a talent show. She is worried that she’ll screw it up, but ends up doing okay. She also performs herself and thinks the school has “finally accepted her.”

The kids: We only really get personality out of one kid, Pinky. She is kind of a brat and the other kids don’t seem to like her. Jessi thinks she is racist, but it turns out she was homesick and embarrassed about it. She seems to cheer up at the end.


  • I don’t really understand the way this school trip supposedly works. The parents are asked to make a donation to the “Winter Carnival Fund.” Then the Lodge covers whatever the school doesn’t fund. And they apparently do this with several schools just to give kids an “away from school experience.” If this is some charity, why not invite different schools each year to spread it around?
  • They leave on a Monday and return on a Saturday….It seems like this is in place of a week of school, not a trip on vacation. My middle school had a trip like this, but it was on the weekend, and we really had to pay for it.
  • This is the first time a sixth grader is in charge of the talent show…why would they let a sixth grade have that big a responsibility? Not that I think Jessi is incompetent, I am just surprised they would do that.
  • The girls don't get paid, so it is even more unrealistic that they would volunteer to give up a vacation.
  • Mary Anne finds out the lodge supposedly has a ghost, but we never really get the details. It is a rather lame attempt at adding a “mystery” – even the person who wrote a book saying there is a ghost doesn’t believe in it.
  • It seems like there is no teacher involvement with this Winter War at all. The only teacher who gets any kind of face time is this gym teacher that Mary Anne is afraid of. But that part is boring.
  • Mary Anne spends the whole trip mooning over Logan (who couldn’t go on the trip because he is in Aruba with his family). Mary Anne is worried Logan is going to cheat on her, but then he calls the lodge to tell her how much he misses her and was going crazy too. Ah, co-dependency at thirteen.
  • Mallory sucks at the spy thing. She decides the cook is poisoning everyone (proven false), thinks a teacher is having an affair with some other teacher (proven false), and watches Stacey make out with her latest boyfriend (where she gets caught).
  • When they first get to the room they are staying in (bunks where all the girls for a grade are together), Stacey and Claud pair up right away and Mary Anne and Dawn pair up right away. So poor Kristy is left without a bunk-mate (this is before they end up staying with the kids). It seems a little mean, but I guess someone had to be left out.
  • I also can’t figure out if the schools are the only ones at this lodge or if it is a big hotel with lots of other guests. It is really not explained very well.
  • The SMS teachers actually vouch for the BSC as being good with kids…but then do hesitate at the idea of the BSC being their primary chaperone for the week. That seems…realistic?
  • I am surprised the kids parents would let them stay at the lodge when they find out the elementary school teachers are injured. These are elementary school kids.
  • Claudia gets a crush on her ski-instructor, and thinks he is in love with her. Then he introduces her to his wife and kids.
  • I feel old. I remember reading this and thinking how crazy Claud was for thinking her older ski instructor was into her, and how anyone old enough to be married with kids is clearly over-the-hill. His age? 25.
  • Mary Anne confesses she must be a huge dork because no one had volunteered to be “trip historian” before. So, why don’t the teachers assign people? The whole thing is weird.
  • Jessi ends up afraid to ski or skate because she doesn’t want to get frostbite or sprain her ankle and not be able to dance.
  • Stacey tells us how she sees Mal taking out her journal, and is all, “who is she kidding?”
  • So, the BSC is supposed to be watching the kids, but they end up abandoning them to do winter sports…only Stacey and the gym teacher go with the kids to a ski lesson, and Stacey ends up leaving to ski alone (then she meets her new “luv” target.
  • Kristy and Jessi keep making all these announcements at breakfast/lunch about the Winter War/Talent Show. Which, again, seems weird since there are other people at the lodge.
  • The lodge has a dance (there is almost always a dance with these girls) and Mallory is also terrified about it. But she does manage to enjoy herself.
  • It really doesn’t seem fair for Kristy to be in charge of the whole contest when she is also a team captain. Just like it isn’t fair for Claud to judge a sculpture contest when she is on a team.
  • Mary Ann and Dawn have this whole fight when Mary Anne is too busy thinking of Logan to sympathize with Dawn. Mary Anne is actually in the wrong here, but Dawn ends up apologizing to her.
  • Is there any other book where we hear about Claudia skiing? Cause apparently she is some super-expert at it.
  • The talent show is only 45 minutes long…that seems short. It also doesn’t seem fair for Jessi to be the only one in charge of picking acts (especially since she is in it), or that they do it in the span of a day.
  • How do you have an event called a “Snowball fight”? Kristy describes it like it is capture the flag, but I can’t figure out how they regulate people not using “slush balls.” It also seems pretty dangerous…letting kids through snowballs at each other?
  • The SMS teachers tell “ghost stories” that are all really lame and cliché – dog eating a finger, a killer scratching through the rood of a car – but maybe this is where I first heard them.
  • When I got to this scene, I felt like I had the chapter memorized – Kristy is trying to talk kids into competing in a cross-country ski event. She keeps telling people “if you can walk, you can do it.” So then these kids tell her they can’t walk. It isn’t really that funny, it just is strange how vivid the memory is.
  • Of course, one of the kids Kristy does talk into competing falls and breaks his leg. She feels bad and doesn’t mind that her team loses.
As an FYI, this update was early because I am going on vacation tomorrow. I'll be gone for two weeks, so the next post will probably be up around 8/24.

Monday, August 3, 2009

“What if I get too fat to dance?”…..BSC # 61: Jessi and the Awful Secret

Memory Reaction

The secret in this is that a girl in Jessi’s dance class has anorexia, and what really stands out in my mind is how Jessi confronts the girl. She tells the girl that she knows all the symptoms because she and her friends “looked it up in a book.” Which is okay, except for the fact that she then says she looked it up because she was worried about her. I must have been ten or eleven and still thought it was incredibly stupid of Jessi to tell the girl that’s the reason, instead of saying she was looking it up for a school project. Of course, the girl will get irritated at that.

Revisited Reaction

Jessi volunteers to help teach a dance class for kids that her ballet school is giving. When she does, she starts getting to know this girl, Mary, from her class. Mary is obsessed with her weight and thinks if she could just lose ten pounds her dancing would approve. Jessi thinks this is crazy, because Mary is super-skinny. Then, she realizes that Mary never seems to eat, which makes Jessi worried. So, of course, this is all because Mary is anerexic. She keeps denying it, and gets annoyed at Jessi for mentioning it, but she eventually faints in class a couple times. Jessi finally claims she is going to tell their dance teacher, which gets the girl to admit it.

So, meanwhile, the class itself is for underprivileged children. Jessi enjoys teaching the kids (most of them), and thinks it is sad that they won’t be able to keep dancing once the program ends. Her friend Quint gives her the idea to get the dance school to arrange the scholarship for some of the kids. Watson hears about this, and decides to fund the scholarship himself. So, Jessi is all happy about what they have accomplished.

  • During Jessi’s regular class she says that there is a piano player who plays for them to rehearse to. Does that seem believable? I can see if they were preparing for a show, but just for a regular class?
  • Jessi talks about this girl, Carrie, who is the “oldest student in class.” She thinks that Carrie is nervous because she is about to graduate and hasn’t had a leading role. Do people really “graduate” from class like that? And are kids who want to dance professional going to be training at the same place as little kids?
  • Claudia outfit: “She was wearing a neon green tank top under a white oversized man’s shirt and fuschia pink stirrup pants.” The top doesn’t sound so bad, but the pink stirrup pants kill it. However, I will admit to owning a pair back in the late eighties.
  • Jessi is allowed to wear “non-traditional” clothes to the kid’s dance class, and is thrilled about it. However, I specifically remember her liking not having to think about it previously.
  • Jessi’s own pick for workout clothes: “A neon green leotard and a pair of deep blue work-out pants with heavy yellow slouchy socks.” What is with all the neon green?
  • Jessi, Mary, and the other students teaching the kids class go out to a Burger King after classes to get to know each other. Obviously, this is an issue for Mary. Jessi suggests she get a salad (this is before Jessi knows she is anorexic), and Mary is all, “there is so much fat in salad dressing.” She doesn’t have to get dressing.
  • In this book Shannon has a lot of free time and wants to keep hanging out with Kristy. However, Kristy is apparently “too busy” for this. So, the other girls in the club tell Shannon to call them. Kristy is thrilled with this solution for a while, but then gets jealous when she sees her friends and Shannon doing things with out her. But the weirdest part is that no one can figure out why Kristy is annoyed whenever people talk about Shannon.
  • Is it weird that everyone refers to Kristy’s grandmother as Mimi? Mrs. Brewer actually does this when talking to Stacey (as in, “Nannie will be home at…”). I don’t see that happening.
  • The mother of a little girl who is one of Jessi’s favorites keeps staring at her in class. Jessi is all freaked out, but it turns out that the woman was watching her because she (the woman) was surprised to see a black person dancing. The woman is black too, and apparently someone had told her that her daughter could never be a dancer. So, it gives her hope or something. And that little girl is one that gets a scholarship.
  • Quint writes Jessi a letter describing how he gets annoyed about girls who obsess with dieting in his ballet classes. Then he says, “I’m lucky guys don’t have to worry as much.” Not exactly the most sensitive attitude. I mean, eating disorders are a serious thing, but you can’t really judge people unless you know what they are going through.
  • Jessi’s attitude isn’t really much better though. She is right that Mary is too skinny but she mentions how even though she watches her weight, she doesn’t struggle with it too much.
  • Madame Noelle tells Mary to have chicken soup to get over her “virus,” and Jessi thinks that the advice is “wiser than she realizes.” But I am pretty sure a dance teacher has seen eating disorders before. And we do find out later Madame Noelle suspected Mary’s problem.
  • Jessi has a lot of nerve for just walking up to her dance teacher and suggesting the school give out a scholarship. It worked out, since it is a BSC book, but still. It probably wouldn’t in most real life situations.
  • There is something weird about how Watson just “decides” to sponsor the scholarship. I am not sure how, it just is.
  • I don’t think this book really presents anorexia in the best way. It really is a psychological disorder, and it is presented as though it is just some girl taking dieting too far, and all she needs is to be told. It is like the Full House episode where D.J. had anorexia for a day.
  • It also doesn’t present “underprivileged children” in the best way. Well, the book actually describes them as “less privileged.” First, the teacher is super-relaxed, and Jessi and the other assistants think she doesn’t expect anything from them. Then, she actually teaches them and gets them to perform a recital, and the assistants act like they helped her “accomplish something” and made the kids really happy. But I am not sure why they think that. The kids danced for six weeks and only two of them get to keep attending class.