Friday, February 24, 2012

“It had been a merry, scary season”….BSC Super Mystery # 4: Baby-sitters’ Christmas Chiller

Memory Reaction

This was after my time. The fact that I’ve already covered most of the books I actually read, is sort of messing up my format lately, but there’s not much I can do about that.

Revisited Reaction

This book really has three mysteries that only intertwine slightly. But they all take place in the days leading up to another Christmas in BSC-land.

First: Someone’s breaking into homes in Kristy’s neighborhood, trashing them, and leaving messages that say “naughty” painted on a wall somewhere. Someone also tries to break into Abby’s and Mrs. Porter’s houses, but just leaves a note saying “nice.” Of course, the BSC has to jump in and try to investigate. They even volunteer their baby-sitting services to the families who’ve been victimized as an excuse to poke around. They help figure out that it’s a gardener that several families in the area had recently dropped for a different company. And because it’s the BSC, they end up helping the police set the guy up, by having Watson fire the guy, then pretend to go out of town. So the police catch the guy and everyone (except the culprit) is happy.

Meanwhile: Mallory and Jessi are walking home from a rehearsal for their church Christmas pageant, and they find a woman on the street with no memory of how she got there, and no ID or belongings. She’s also pregnant, because regular amnesia isn’t dramatic enough for a Super Mystery. Anyway, this woman (who they’re calling Mary) ends up staying at the Pike’s for a few days. Then she goes into labor. During a snowstorm. The only surprise is that it happens the day before Christmas Eve and not midnight on Christmas. Anyway, Mallory helps track down the woman’s identity by tracing a label in her clothes and sending the picture of a ring to a jewelry store near it. Or something equally ridiculous. It turns out the woman was taking train to travel after visiting some friends in Boston, but before going home. Her husband was in Australia on business, so no one was really looking for her. She got off the train and was mugged or something. But giving birth started bringing her memory back, because otherwise it’d be too depressing for a Christmas story.

Lastly: Stacey and Claudia are visiting Mr. McGill in New York and are being harassed by someone. Weird things keep happening in the apartment building…the lights go out in the hallway outside their door, they get stuck in an elevator, someone dumps red paint in the elevator that looked like blood, etc. Also, someone leaves a creepy note on their door and a picture of Stacey that was taken by someone following her. The worst thing is that Stacey almost falls/maybe was pushed in front of a subway (but was fine, obviously). At first they think it may be Ethan, but they finally confront him. It turns out that his ex-girlfriend, Cybil, lives in Stacey’s building and has been stalking them. She leaves them a note to meet in the basement, and like idiots they go. There’s a whole dramatic confrontation, complete with a power failure, but at the end Ethan just brings her to her parents to get her help. It’s really anti-climactic.


  • Claudia outfit: "She had braided her long jet-black into a single braid with narrow red, blue, green, yellow, orange, and purple ribbons woven in. Her short red turtleneck dress had a braided yellow belt, and she was wearing purple tights, yellow scrunch socks, and black Docs. Her earrings were in the shape of Christmas trees, but they were painted in rainbow colors, instead of just green. On some people this might have been too much, but on looked fabulous." - of course it did.
  • The funniest part’s that when the police arrest the gardener, the BSC runs out of Abby’s house to watch, and Watson, Mrs. Brewer, and Mrs. Stevenson keep calling out telling to them to stop. As though they’ve finally decided to set limits with their children’s crime fighting.
  • However, these same adults don’t have any issue with their kids helping to organize a neighborhood watch.
  • Ethan tells Stacey her Dad’s apartment building was built over an old graveyard. Really? Why is everything always built over a graveyard?
  • When Mal goes to the police station to give her statement about finding Mary, they tell her to bring her parents. And Mrs. Pike goes! Someone in the Stoneybrook police department actually treats the BSC members like the minors that they are. I’m shocked.
  • Most of the BSC goes to Abby’s house for a Hanukkah party and after giving us all a lesson about the holiday, they hang out with Anna. But it seems weird that Anna wouldn’t also invite her own friends to it. I don’t think this is the first time this has happened with an Abby book.
  • What’s worse is that when they hear that the Papadakises house was robbed, they all take off to “investigate” and just leave poor Anna behind.
  • One weird thing’s that Kristy finds a note in her mailbox that says, “nice” and she writes it off as some girl who may have a crush on Sam or Charlie. But then later, the guy actually breaks into Abby’s house and Morbidda Destiny’s house to leave them “nice” notes. Why the switch?
  • Stacey and Claudia go to a coffee bar in the city…they seem young for that, but maybe people do start drinking it at that age now.
  • I don’t mean to judge, but what was Mary’s husband doing going to Australia when his wife was 9 months pregnant?
  • Two of the homes that were broken into happened when the people were on vacation. Now, this is in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Do most people go out of town the week before Christmas, but come home before it? I usually hear about people leaving for the holiday itself.
  • Who uses a gardener in December anyway?
  • Apparently Mal and Jessi put random facts about horses in the club notebook, so Stacey and Claudia know that horses in harnesses only appear in Central Park. Or something like that. It makes Mallory and Jessi sound really lame, and maybe that’s the point. But seriously, they like horses so much they can’t do anything without mentioning them?
  • A salesperson at Tiffany’s lets Stacey and Claud try on jewelry. That seems very kind of her. Oh, and of course Stacey’s dad has already promised her diamond earrings after she finishes high school. I wonder if he told her that before or after she asked for a diamond ring?
  • Mallory mentions saying grace before eating dinner with her family. Now, I remember a lot of scenes with the Pikes eating meals, and I don’t think they’ve ever mentioned saying grace before them. I guess they did that to support this new backstory about the Pikes ALWAYS helping out with their church’s Christmas pageant. Because I don’t think we’ve ever heard them talk about church before.
  • Dawn’s in this book, since she’s visiting for the holidays. She says she wants a "bi-coastal" sleepover with all her friends someday. Which has already happened.
  • Also, does Dawn think the word “bi-coastal” sounds cooler than it is?
  • The entire Prologue and Epilogue of this book is done as a notebook entry from Jessi. It’s really annoying, I hate her handwriting.
  • Most of the girls are at a sleepover at Kristy’s when Mrs. Porter’s house is robbed. Watson and Kristy's mom don't let the girls run out and play detective when it happens (in the middle of the night). However, they do go the next day, and I think she’s amused by the girls’ detective act. She keeps smiling as they subtly try and ask questions. It makes me like her a little.
  • It was really obvious that Ethan had an ex-girlfriend in the building, and that she was the one behind everything. I wish they had just made her bitchy, instead of out-and-out crazy.
  • So apparently, Cybil tells the doorman in Stacey’s building that she’s friends with Stacey and they like to play jokes on each other. But I can’t believe that the doorman wouldn’t speak up when the “jokes” involve dumping paint all over the building’s elevator.
  • If you’re wondering how the girls have so much time on their hands…SMS closed for winter break a few days sooner than expected because of issues with the heat. Only in BSC-land can they get extra days off and not have to make them up at some point down the line.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

“Have you been reading Nancy Drew again?”…….Baby-sitters Club Mystery # 32: Claudia and the Mystery in the Painting

Memory Reaction

I didn’t read this as a kid.

Revisited Reaction

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.