So, in this installment, one of the last books to maintain any sense of real time, our baby-sitting heroines have just a few weeks until school starts again. So, they’re all about the end of summer activities: slumber parties, hanging out in the hayloft,* baby-sitting. Oh, and searching for secret passages. Which I’ve done. And Dawn literally falls into hers, and she’s convinced someone died there. Which I’ve not done. She’s been hearing noises, and she finds some old stuff, and she’s just positive that someone was shut in there to die two hundred years ago. And that this person is now a ghost. And that this ghost is haunting her secret passageway. LAAAAAAMMMMMEEEEEEEE!
Turns out the noises are the house settling and Nicky Pike.
The plot’s pretty simple, but there’s plenty to say about this one, starting with the cover. Dawn’s outfit on the cover really could be called California casual. SHOCKING!
Not so shocking? I had about five shirts like that that I wore with my jeans pegged. (Though I think they’re going the wrong way on the cover…I’m pretty sure the passage goes down, not up.)
This book was also written back when Ms. Martin threw in real pop culture references, like the movies European Vacation [which has “A Town Called Malice” in it!], Ghostbusters, Star Wars, and Sixteen Candles, along with the perennial faves Mary Poppins and The Parent Trap. Is it wrong of me to love that Claudia wants to watch Star Wars?
I’m also pretty sure it’s the first mention of Cam Geary, foreshadowing Mr. Logan [I seriously had a crush on the boy in the cover art. I was lame-o] Bruno.
There’s all this stuff about how missing kids freak Dawn out, and how Buddy Barrett went missing that one time, and how kids really do get kidnapped. (Someone’s been watching too much “To Catch a Predator!”)
The two biggies, though: 1. Now, I know 13-year-old girls like to scare themselves, but they don’t actually believe in ghosts.
2. Will no one shut Karen up? The baby-sitters just let her tell stories to scare other kids! I find it ridiculous that no one ever really disciplines the little bitch.
My favorite example of “health food” in the book: “a salad with cottage cheese, pineapple, peaches, and coconut topping.” Nothing wrong with this in theory, but for as much as Dawn goes on about how her health food thing is soooo different, this is not that exotic or whatever…
Also, before marrying Richard, Sharon got around. “But Mom had been going out with several different men. One of them was the son of friends of my grandparents, two were from her office [BAD IDEA!!!!!], and a couple more were men she’d met at some party.” And that’s in addition to Mr. Spier.
I’m constantly baffled by 13-year-old girls looking at small children as friends. You can feel affection or whatever, but they act like they’re close friends…It borders on creepy.
I can’t think of any good Claudia outfits, but there was on hilarious thing:
”So just put his p.j.’s on him. He’s had a long day and should go to bed—“ (she glanced at Jamie, who was listening intently) “—s-o-o-n,” she spelled out..
Yep, Mrs. Newton was spelling words to Claudia, who CAN’T SPELL LIKE! And I’m pretty sure she’s spelled “soon” as “son” in the notebook a few times.
*Um, sorry to rant here, but they live in suburban Connecticut, and they MAGICALLY have bales of hay in the barn? ‘Cause, unless you have a working farm and bale it yourself, you have to buy bales of hay! And I can’t see Dawn’s scatterbrain of a mother driving way out in the middle of nowhere just to buy some bales…and how would they get it back? Would they really be able to get multiple bales of hay in their car? And, there’s not much farmin’ country in Connecticut, so where would they even get it? Not many farms, not many feed stores…