Wednesday, May 25, 2011

“How about some good old-fashioned bartering?”…..BSC # 66: Maid Mary Anne

Sorry about the delay with this internet connection has not been working very well.

Memory Reaction

This wasn’t one of my favorites as a kid. I’m not exactly sure why, but I know I didn’t read it over and over as the way I did with some of the others. I definitely read it more than once, but certainly not dozens of times. I don’t think it’s because I disliked the plot, I just didn’t like it as much as others.

Even so, I do have two pretty vivid memories of it. The first is that at one point, Mary Anne’s mopping the floor for this woman she’s helping out. A couple of kids the club sits for show up, and they end up slipping around having fun on the wet floor. I don’t think I’m only remembering this because it’s on the cover….it’s more likely because I also thought playing on a wet floor was fun as a kid.

The second memory’s how Mary Anne drags Logan over to help her clean or do something for this woman, and even though he helps her, he complains about it. It was one of the few times we see him act like a normal teenage boy would.

Revisited Reaction

Mary Anne has gotten really into sewing and meets Mrs. Towne, a neighbor who’s a very experienced with quilting, smocking, and embroidery. Mrs. Towne agrees to give her lessons. The day of her first lesson, Mrs. Towne doesn’t answer the door when Mary Anne arrives. Mary Anne thinks this is weird, so she tries opening the door, only to hear Mrs. Towne calling for help….it turns out she slipped and broke her ankle. Mary Anne calls 911 and helps gets Mrs. Towne to the hospital.

A few days later Mary Anne goes back for her lesson, and ends up helping Mrs. Towne with some household chores (she’s a widow with grown children living out-of-state, so she has no one to help her out). They decide that instead of paying for lessons, Mary Anne should help her out around the house while the ankle heals. At first this goes well, but then Mary Anne ends up doing more and more things. Mrs. Towne’s constantly calling asking for help with minor chores. Mary Anne has it in her head that she’s a selfish person, so she feels like she needs to jump whenever Mrs. Towne calls her. This starts to interfere with her baby-sitting and her time with her friends and Logan. But she actually decides to talk to Mrs. Towne about it, which is pretty rare for the BSC. Mrs. Towne’s very understanding, and the two agree that Mary Anne will just pay for the lessons with money, and Mrs. Towne will get a housekeeper to help out. Because things always go great when you decide to talk out problems like this.

Meanwhile, Mary Anne started a sewing class for kids in town, because it’s not possible for her to do something and not bring in baby-sitting. Nicky Pike and Buddy Barrett are the only two boys in the class, but then they start getting made fun of for doing something as “sissy” as sewing. So, they drop out run around with tool belts trying to be all manly. But they realize the kid making fun of them will just find something else to pick on them about. So they re-join the class, just in time to get their work into a quilt the class is making for Mrs. Towne.

  • There’s a scene where Stacey’s baby-sitting the Barrett and she watches Suzi playing with Pow (the dog). Supposedly, Suzi’s holding Pow’s ear up to her cheek, while he licks her other cheek…..which sounds like the most disgusting thing ever. But I’ve never had pets so maybe it’s normal?
  • Nicky and Buddy both call to drop out of the sewing class the same night. Nicky also tells Mary Anne that he knew Buddy was quitting. And Mary Anne and Dawn can’t think of any explanation for why they would quit. But I don’t think it’s that hard to come to the conclusion that they thought it was too girly. The boys had already complained about not wanting to embroider flowers.
  • Mrs. Towne sure is nice about having kids always stopping by. I don’t think it’s a big deal that Mary Anne calls her neighbor and asks for sewing lessons, but it seems a bit rude to keep dropping by with little kids that various BSC members are sitting for.
  • Speaking of dropping by with little kids, the girls are always doing this with Mrs. Stone, that woman with a farm that appeared in Stoneybrook half-way through the series.
  • Do we hear of Mrs. Towne again? I don’t think so. It’s nice of Mary Anne to keep up with agreeing to see her.
  • The kids in the sewing class decide to make a garden-theme quilt for Mrs. Towne, so Buddy decides do a square with a spider on it for his section….as soon as I started reading about the class I remembered that he did that.
  • At a sitting job for the Pikes, Mallory and Jessi start baking a bunch of cookies with the kids. They end up using all sorts of ingredients to make different flavors. They use various combinations of chocolate chips, peanut butter, M&Ms, oatmeal, raisins, nuts, and coconut. I’m trying to figure out how much flour and sugar and other ingredients the Pikes would have needed to make that many batches of cookies.
  • Actually, later Mary Anne says they made about six dozen cookies, which is really hardly any, so they must have only made a few of each. Later Mallory brings cookies to a BSC meeting to get rid of all the extras. But how many extras could there be if they if they were splitting them between all the Pikes, Jessi, Becca, and Buddy were involved?
  • The quilt the kids make is a “friendship quilt,” which means everyone does one or two squares that eventually get sewn together. The only time I ever did this was when I was in high school and my geometry teacher had us make quilt patches to show practical application of angles and shapes or something.
  • There’s all sorts of foreshadowing to Dawn leaving for California. She talks about it in every scene, as opposed to other books where she only talks about it in every other scene.
  • Almost nothing happens in this book. Seriously. I know it’s not a mystery so it’s not quite as convoluted as some books, but it’s still really lacking in plot.
  • I’m honestly surprised Nicky and Buddy took the sewing lessons to begin with. I mean, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with boys sewing, but Nicky and Buddy aren’t really as open-minded as me. Isn’t Nicky always complaining about not even wanting to be in the same room as his sisters?
  • The Arnold twins are the kids who come over and play on the wet floor. They look nothing alike on the cover, but I guess that’s expected.
  • Mary Anne and Logan are going on a picnic and they pack up a ton of food for just the two of them….cream cheese and jelly sandwiches, avocado and cheese sandwiches, pimento cheese, salsa and chips, grapes, and Oreo cookies. I think they do this in a lot of books…but who needs that much food for one afternoon?
  • I like that Logan gets all annoyed at having to go over to Mrs. Towne’s to catch a wasp instead going on a picnic. Then he gets annoyed again when Mrs. Towne starts talking to them when he’s about to kiss Mary Anne (she was talking through the door).
  • Mary Anne actually leaves in the middle of a BSC meeting to go help Mrs. Towne. Now, I get that she wants to be helpful, but I’m not sure why she couldn’t tell Mrs. Towne’s she’d be over in a half hour.
  • The whole plot about Mary Anne wanting to be less selfish was based on a conversation with Dawn, I guess “off-screen” of the book. Mary Anne was nervous about giving a speech in school, and Dawn told her that all the kids she’s giving it to will be thinking about other things, so Mary Anne should think about that instead of how she’ll do. Which isn’t horrible advice, and Mary Anne’s probably the only person who would take that and think she’s being called selfish. Which pretty much proves she’s NOT selfish.
  • Of course at the end, Dawn tells Mary Anne she never thought she was selfish, and that it’s okay for people to think of themselves….then turns it into a conversation about how she needs to think about California because her feelings about missing it are important. Then Mary Anne apologizes for not paying enough attention when Dawn said she missed California.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

“Maybe they didn’t catch all the shoplifters last week, after all”…..BSC Mystery # 14: Stacey and the Mystery at the Mall”

Memory Reaction

I totally loved this book as a kid, because it includes kids living in a mall, and as a kid I always thought it would be cool to spend the night in one. Not because I loved shopping. I just thought it would be really fun to roller blade up and down the aisles and wonder around with no one there. I also had a fantasy of putting in a rope swing and riding from level to level. I’m weird, I know.
In terms of specifics, I mainly remember the girls running through the mall at the end trying to find the kids who were living out my fantasy. Then after the BSC finds them, the girls take the kids to a restaurant while one of them calls the cops. Then the oldest of the kid looks at them all betrayed because of it.

Revisited Reaction

The BSC has a class/project where they have to take part time jobs after school three days a week to learn about being in the workplace. They don’t actually earn any money, it’s just for school credit. The BSC all gets jobs at Washington Mall, although they could have chosen different locations. Stacey ends up with a job at the toy store, probably because it worked kids into the better than if she was at some fashion boutique.

All the girls (and Logan) find out right away that there’s a lot of shoplifting at the mall. And a week or so into the project, mall security catches a bunch of teenagers supposedly behind it. But after that, stealing continues. There are some big things being taken (TVs, treadmills, etc.) and smaller things (towels, childrens clothes, etc.). Someone’s also sneaking into a kitchen in the food court and cooking at night. At one point, Stacey comes face to ski-mask-covered face with one of the thieves in the storeroom of the toy store.

Because these girls are goody-goody, they can’t stop at just working at the mall. They also notice that their bosses sometimes need to bring their kids to work, and that parents sometime leave their kids at the toy store/bookstore/whatever while they do other shopping. So, the BSC decides that the mall needs a day care center. Because of this they meet the mall manager, who’s excited about the idea and gives them (or the daycare) a space at half the normal rent (without a second thought) and they get to help make the thing happen.

The girls start talking about the thefts and decide there must be two sets of people stealing. Their impressive library research skills tell them the mall’s been having financial trouble since the new manager took over (who has been having new community-building events). They decide the mall manager must be stealing because his new policies have been losing money for the mall. They also put together the fact that a bunch of kids that always seem to be around are living at the mall and behind the rest of the thefts.

There’s a fire alarm at the mall one day, and when reviewing security tapes (which Kristy has access to for her job), the girls realize these kids must have done it. They think that maybe they pulled it when they caught the mall manager stealing. Now because this is the BSC, the conclusions they jumped to are actually right…..the manager had threatened them, so they pulled the alarm to find good hiding places.

But anyway, the girls go back to the mall and run all over to find out where these kids are hiding. They think they are in danger now that they now about the mall manager. The BSC finally finds the kids, and get the sob story about how their mom’s in the hospital, their aunt never showed up to take care of them, and their electricity was turned off. So, these kids moved into the mall. The BSC does realize this is a problem they can’t solve themselves and call the police, who bring in social services. The kids tell the cops about the mall manager, and before they have to worry about social services splitting them up, the mother’s magically out of the hospital and ready to go home. And she won’t have any trouble getting back into the apartment the kids had abandoned weeks ago, or paying rent on top of hospital bills, when she likely doesn’t have great insurance or even a job.

  • You’ll never believe the stores these girls picked to work at. Claudia worked at an art store, Mallory worked at the book store, and Mary Anne worked at a pet store. Aren’t those the most original places for those characters to get jobs?
  • Kristy works for mall security. I’m sure the ghostwriters wanted her to work at a sporting goods store, but they needed someone in security to give the girls the inside info on all the shoplifting. And Kristy made the most sense.
  • Logan works at the Mexican restaurant in the food court. I can’t imagine how this taught him anything he didn’t already know from working in the Rosebud CafĂ© in Stoneybrook.
  • Jessi gets stuck working at the movie theater. She says it isn’t her first choice, which I’m guessing means there was no ballet store at the mall.
  • During story hour at the book store, Mallory reads the books Stone Soup and Tikki Tikki Tembo, both of which are real books I remember reading as a kid.
  • I can buy a bunch of kids living in the mall for a few days, or even a couple weeks. But these kids were apparently living there for (at least) the entire six weeks that the project lasts. And no one noticed?
  • Speaking of these kids….they don’t say what their mother’s sick with, but apparently she was hospitalized several weeks before the kids were living in the mall (long enough for their electricity to get turned off). But suddenly, she’s going to go back to being a full time single parent?
  • The kids’ aunt was supposed to stay with them, but she never showed up. Now, they had just moved to town so they hadn’t enrolled in school or gotten a phone hooked up. But, are we really supposed to believe their mother didn’t realize what was going on? Especially since the kids only visited a couple of times without any aunt. The mother never wanted to speak to her?
  • Also, what’s the deal with this Aunt who never shows up?
  • I can’t believe how much I want to rant about a book I liked so much originally.
  • When the girls first hear about the project, Kristy’s worried about the affect it will have on the club. But then they all decide to take jobs at the mall, which means all seven of them (including Logan, Dawn's in California) will always be busy on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. Wouldn’t it have made more sense if some of them took jobs in downtown Stoneybrook and worked on different days?
  • Stacey’s teacher says that he and the other teachers split up all the jobs and are now assigning their group of jobs to their students. But this seems like a weird way to assign jobs. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to split the kids into classes based on the jobs they wanted? Otherwise, it’s hard to believe that most of these girls all got their dream jobs.
  • Shannon says she can take extra sitting jobs while the rest of the club’s working at the mall. But if these girls get so many sitting jobs, how can Shannon cover them all herself.
  • Right before the mall project started, Stacey had a class called “Math for Real Life.” As part of this, Stacey got to play the stock market with an imaginary $5,000, and apparently did crazy-well. Re-reading the books now makes me realize that Stacey wasn’t just supposed to be pretty good at math, she’s written as being exceptional at math and great with money in general.
  • The way this day care center comes together makes no sense. The girls all mention the idea to their managers and get a list of store owners who want to help run the place. Because these people have enough spare time to do something like that. Then a few weeks later the BSC’s helping to paint the empty storefront where the center's going to exist? I’ll admit I don’t know everything that would be involved in such a venture, but I’m sure it’s more complicated than that.
  • They make a big deal about telling us how nervous the entire BSC is about asking the mall manager about a day care. This is because they were told the old mall manager was really mean. But I still don’t buy that Kristy would be so terrified about it.
  • The girls all get dressed up so that they can go ask the mall manager about the day care. But why are they the ones asking about? Just because it was their idea doesn’t mean they should be the one talking to him.
  • How’s stealing a treadmill and a couple of TVs going to solve a mall’s financial issues?
  • Jessi’s working at the movie theater, and is helping at a kid’s birthday party when a fire alarm goes off. Her manager shows up and leads them down a hallway to the exit. But they previously said that the theater was on the 4th floor, so why is there no mention of steps?
  • The thief Stacey sees is supposedly the one working for the mall manager. But why would he be stealing from the toy store? That’s not really on the same level as big screen TVs.
  • They’d also been making a big deal out of the fact that the thefts have been happening at night and when security cameras were pointed elsewhere. So, why would this guy be going around in his ski mask in the middle of the day.
  • The only real outfit we get is what Claudia wore to the painting party. She “had wrapped a neon-pink bandana around her head, and she was wearing a humongous pair of overalls over an ancient striped T-shirt.” That seems like a pretty appropriate outfit for such work, which is much less fun than usual.
  • When Stacey and her manager are helping set up the day care, another employee covers at the toy store. Supposedly, she’s a part time employee who only works weekends. That’s the only person we ever hear about working in the store, other than Stacey and her manager. Does this store have no other employees?
  • Stacey doesn’t tell her mom about seeing the thief in a ski mask in the store, because she doesn’t want to have to quit working at the store. Nice to see she has such an open relationship with her parents.
  • Charlie drives the BSC to the mall when they decide to look for the kids living there, and the girls actually tell him what’s going on. He says they have to call the police in two hours if they haven’t found anyone. That may be the most authority these girls ever deal with in the mysteries.
  • When the girls call the police, they show up with someone from “Stoneybrook Social Serves,” but it’s been established Washington Mall isn’t in Stoneybrook.
  • On the cover, you can see that Zingys is in the background, which is that store they always talk about as having “wild” clothes. But it looks like there’s a pink jumper on display in the window, which is anything but wild.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

“Tell me you didn’t go and solve the mystery without me”……BSC Super Mystery # 3: Baby-sitters Fright Night

Memory Reaction

This is the first time I read this one, so memory doesn’t really apply.

Revisited Reaction

Stacey, Mary Anne, Kristy, Abby, and Mallory are spending a few days in Salem, Massachusetts on one of their school’s cool but unrealistic field trips. They’re supposed to do a history project about whatever they learn there, but the girls really spend the whole trip solving a mystery.

The case revolved around a famous diamond called the Witch’s Eye that’s rumored to have a curse on it. The current owner’s loaning it to a museum in Salem for display, and it’s immediately stolen. Stacey and Mary Anne are there at the time, and Stacey finds a piece of paper with what she eventually realizes is a safe combination. Later, Mary Anne and Abby find a disguise in some bushes outside the inn they’re staying at, and decide the culprit must also be a guest there.

The suspects are Martha Kempner - a famous mystery writer, who’s writing an article on the diamond, Harvey Hapgood – a guy who offered to buy the diamond a day before it was stolen, and Sean Knowles – who the BSC thinks is spying on the diamond’s owner, but is actually an insurance agent. They briefly consider Mrs. Moorehouse, the diamond’s elderly owner, and/or her nurse, but take her out of the running since she didn’t have insurance and wouldn’t benefit from the theft.

So, for the next few days, the girls talk about the clues while sightseeing, going to a Halloween parade, and dealing with middle school drama. Alan Gray and Cary Retlin both play a bunch of pranks on Kristy and Cookie Mason keeps picking on Mallory’s roommate Eileen. At one point, Abby’s waist pack’s stolen, and the room she and Stacey are staying in is broken into.

At the end of their trip there’s a big storm and the power goes out in the inn. Stacey, Abby, Mary Anne, and Mallory realize that since the room doors are opened with electronic key cards, anyone who left their room after the power went out wouldn’t have been able to lock their doors. They decided to just go ahead and enter the rooms belonging to their suspects, to see if their safes open with the combination Stacey found. Martha Kempler’s opens, and the girls realize she must be connected to the crime. Instead of calling the police or telling their chaperones, they decide to go off to stop her from escaping. But it turns out Martha and her partner (Harvey Hapgood) was watching the girls. The final confrontation happens in a dark hallway. It turns out that Martha had hidden the diamond in a ceramic pumpkin in the gift shop, which Abby had bought, so Marha’s trying to get it back. After a ridiculous scene where Abby physically fights with the culprits the police show up and arrest the thieves. In the middle of all this, the diamond “glows,” in what is supposed to be a sign of it having supernatural powers, or something.

While all this is going on, Kristy was off dealing with her prank war with Alan and Cary. Cary had tricked her, as part of a plan to scare her and Alan Gray. Instead, Alan and Kristy scare each other, then team up to get Cary.

Jessi, Claudia, Shannon, and Logan are keeping the fort down back in Stoneybrook. They end up helping the kids put on a Halloween parade, and deal with Jordan Pike thinking he has magic powers. There’s not much else to say about that.

  • Claudia doesn’t go on the trip because her parents are too worried about her grades, and Jessi doesn’t go because she is in a Halloween dance at Stoneybrook University. Claudia I can understand, but what exactly is a Halloween dance?
  • Stacey outfit: “Black jeans, black boots, black turtleneck, silver cropped top over that, black boots with silver side buttons and silver X earrings.” I’m not sure why (or how) she was wearing two pairs of boots, but other than that it sounds decent.
  • When talking about the Scarlett Letter, Stacey comments about how awful the movie was. This was written in 1996, so I’m assuming she means the Demi Moore one. You know you’ve made a bad movie when it gets trashed in a kids book.
  • Now for a little game….which of the following outfits was worn by Claudia, and which was worn by the poor-fashion-less girl everyone makes fun of? Answer at the end of this post.
  1. “Doc Martens with pumpkin stickers, a hand-batiked shirt in orange and black, plus one orange sock and one black sock.”
  2. “A huge purple dress, a puffy orange windbreaker, and these really clunky shoes. Her hair stuck out in spikes beneath a wool hat that had a pattern of white snowflakes on a red background.”
  • Why would a thief carry around a piece of paper with a safe combination when they’re stealing a diamond? She wouldn’t need the combination until she got back to her hotel room.
  • The museum the diamond was stolen from, is part of a complex of museums/historic buildings. A group from SMS is there, with kids splitting up to go to various sections. After the theft, Mary Anne and Stacey are separated. Mary Anne ends up outside and sees that the complex is closing. The police are taking everyone’s name, and they tell her that everyone else from SMS went back to the inn and she should do the same. Now, what the hell kind of chaperons just leaves the area without all their students? Especially when a crime has just taken place.
  • As soon as theft occurs, Mallory decides she HAS to have the mystery notebook to write down clues. Writing them in another notebook’s just not an option for her. It seems a bit out of character for her to be so obsessive about it, but whatever. She has Jessi give the notebook to the spouse of one of the teachers, who’s joining the trip a day later. How Jessi gets it to this person, I don’t know.
  • Kristy’s upset that she wasn’t around when the theft occurred, or when Abby and Mary Anne found the disguise. So, when she finds what she thinks is a clue, she sneaks off by herself to investigate, hoping to solve the thing herself. It ends up being Cary’s trick, and Kristy ends up annoyed that they “solved” the case without her.
  • For part of the trip, Mary Anne’s watching the daughter of one of the teachers on the trip. I guess they needed to have some baby-sitting in there (even though we got some in the Stoneybrook chapters).
  • Martha wanted to steal the diamond from the museum, because she had previously tried to buy it from Mrs. Moorehouse, and didn’t want a connection being there. So, why did her partner offer to buy the diamond from Mrs. Moorehouse (in public) right before the stole it? That’s just calling attention to yourself.
  • The girls come up with some relatively cute last-minute costumes. (Claudia helped via the phone):
  • Kristy wore her collie hat, a necklace made of dog biscuits, and went around with a magnifying glass and a name tag reading “Sherlock Bones.”
  • Stacey went as Mother Time (all black and numbers painted on her face).
  • Abby went as the women’s soccer World Cup (a soccer shirt, and a blow-up globe and plastic cup tied to her arms.
  • Mallory was a pumpkin patch, which is more creative than just a pumpkin I guess. She dressed orange, and pinned pumpkins cut out from orange paper all over her, tied with green yarn.

  • Apparently Stacey’s so good with math, that when she sees a set of numbers, she instantly memorizes them (which is how she remembers the safe combination after giving the piece of paper to the police). I don’t remember hearing about that skill before.
  • Why do these kids always write letters to each other when the person out-of-town will be home in a day?
  • During the Alan/Cary incident, Alan’s trying to scare Cary and tells him Kristy’s baby-sitting, but might have followed him. But Cary’s all, “oh no. Kristy’s way too responsible a baby-sitter to put a child at risk like that.” Now really, what 13-year-old boy says stuff like that?
  • After Martha’s safe opens, Mallory does some actual thinking and remembers that on the morning of the theft, Martha wore sneakers (to run away quietly), and every other time they’ve seen her she’s been in high heels (that make a lot of noise). So, they don’t completely luck into solving this one.
  • I’m trying to figure out how these girls avoided getting into trouble with their teachers for wandering off during the storm and getting so mixed up with the thieves.
  • I also can’t believe these girls actually walked into other people’s hotel rooms and tried opening their safes.
  • At the end, Mrs. Moorehouse tells the girls how Abby ended up with the diamond because the theft took longer than she thought and didn’t have time to get back to her room before the police came around….so she hid it in the pumpkin in the gift shop. But how would Mrs. Moorehouse know that? The last we saw of Martha was her telling her partner not to talk to the cops and asking for a lawyer. I don’t think she was ready to confess.
  • After Martha’s been arrested Kristy suddenly shows up, and the rest of the girls ask how she found them. And she’s like, “oh that doesn’t matter.” Which seems like the ghostwriter’s way of admitting it doesn’t make sense but she put it in anyway.
  • Answer to the fashion game? Claudia wore the stickered Doc Martens and Eileen (the fashion disaster) wore the purple and orange ensemble. I think they're both pretty awful.