Thursday, October 25, 2012

"I'm a real jammin' dude and the girls agree/there's no cooler guy than Jordan P." BSC Mystery #3 Mallory and the Ghost Cat (1992)

AKA Mallory Finds a Cat and Acts Stupid about It

Bloody hell, this book was truly awful. As an adult I enjoy the BSC mysteries more than I did as a child. Mostly because I spend less time nit-picking them and more time laughing my ass off. Most of the later mysteries are so ludicrous and convoluted, they feel like they belong in B-movie horror series.  For example, Stacey and the Crazy Halloween Mystery (or whatever it's called) feels like it should be called Prom Night VII or Carrie XXXII or something. (That's the one where they have a Halloween dance, and everyone's up in arms over what happened "last time." Some girl who went insane during a fire at a Halloween Dance in 1983 or something comes back to finish the school off. LOVED that one. Laughed myself silly.)
And a couple of the mysteries were actually kinda realistic. Well, at least, the first one, about the missing ring, could have actually happened. But this just dumb. It felt like a Dawn book, with all the ghosts and spooks in it.
The plot? I guess it has one. Mallory gets one of those standing babysitting jobs for a family that lasts through one book and then just disappears. She and the Craine girls keep hearing a cat, and finally find a white cat in the attic. They name it Ghost Cat, and stupid Mal actually thinks it's a ghost. Its true owner turns up, and he looks just like a man who lived in the house eons ago, who also had a white cat just like Ghost Cat.
Meanwhile, Mallory's great uncle Joe moves in with the family. They try to make things pleasant for him, but he acts crotchety and cranky. Eventually, he's diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and is moved into a nursing home, where he's happy and enjoys visits from the Pike Klan clan.
Interesting Tidbits
The cover to this book is absolutely awful. First, Mal looks like a man. Her glasses are about 7 sizes too big for her face and her hair looks like a mullet. Two of the Craine girls look appropriately "scared" (assuming that the cat is actually something to be scared of) but the third looks like a china doll with no expression.
Mallory says that her family doesn't have time to make tomato sauce from scratch. Yet her mother buys a hunk of mozzarella and grates it. Wouldn't be easier just to buy a bag of the grated stuff?
Margo makes a big deal of seeing the Pike boys in their skivvies. In a family that easygoing, I imagine half-naked children would be a regular occurrence. I'm imagining Bart Simpson eating dinner in his underwear and saying, "Hey, this isn't the Ritz."
Okay ghostwriters, make up your minds. Sometimes all the Pikes, even Mallory, are brown haired, sometimes several of them are described as redheads. In this one, everyone has brown hair but Mallory. Different father, maybe?
This is at least the third BSC book I've read to mention A Wrinkle in Time. I keep hoping some of the books from the later 1990s will mention some of my favorite Newbery winners: Walk Two Moons or The View from Saturday maybe. Heck, even the earliest ones could have The Westing Game (which I read in sixth grade and is still, to this day, one of the very best books I've ever read) or something else. Spread the love around, AMM!
Mallory says no one would ever mistake Dawn and MA for "real" sisters because of their hair and eye colors. I call bull on that because as a child, I had blonde hair and blue eyes and my sister had brown hair and eyes. And everyone always knew we were sisters because of some similarities of facial shape.
For once, it's not Byron eating weird food. Mal makes Jordan a peanut butter, banana and salami sandwich for breakfast.
The Craines are usually watched by their Aunt Bud, whose real name is Ellen. She and Mr. Craine always call each other Bud, because they are buds. Kinda clever.
The Craine girls say they got sleeping bags for Christmas. Sophie's has Barbie on it, which seems about right. Katie's is Muppet babies, which feels like a dated reference by 1992. Even weirder is that Margaret has one with the Simpsons on it. While it's current, I don't think a family with three little girls those ages would watch the Simpsons.
Dumbass Mallory is worried to meet Aunt Bud because she rides a motorcycle, so she's probably covered in tattoos and would offer Mal a beer.
When Margaret gets home from school, Mallory tells her to go upstairs and change before they make cookies. Do most kids change clothes when they get home? I didn't even do that when I had to wear a uniform.
Double Dumbass. Margaret's convinced the mewing sound is the sign of a ghost cat, and Mallory lets a six year old scare her.
What's with all the houses in Stoneybrook having attics filled with crap belonging to former owners? Wouldn't you want to take your personal items with you when you move?
Do you think it means something that both of the Mallory stories involving attics have a Sophie in them?
I'm reading this while watching Harry Potter. Guess which one is more realistic.
Claudia spelling: mised, forggoten, persson, unckle (three times), reely, speshall.
Claudia and Mal babysit for the Pikes, and Claudia suggests they might have fried bologna and sardine sandwiches, Cheez-it omelets or spaghetti with chocolate sauce for dinner. I think one of the triplets actually ate the first one in another book.
After Uncle Joe blows up during a very quiet Pike dinner of bland food (well done steak, rice, turnips and Brussels sprouts), Mallory opens the fridge and lets her siblings eat whatever they want--you know, a regular Pike meal. She offers to make Claudia a "Mallory Special." Other than being Mexican food, it's not really explained what that entails.
Mallory's been whining about Uncle Joe ever since he arrived because he's been upsetting the routine and is all cranky. It's not until Margo wants to cheer Uncle Joe up that Mallory considers things from his point of view.
Little Katie names all her own baby dolls. I'd buy that, except that they have names like Martha and Nancy. Where'd she hear those before?
Kristy babysits for the Kormans and takes Karen with her. Karen decides to leave when Melody won't stop pretending to be a cat. Even Kristy is irritated by it, though I can't imagine why. It wasn't as if Melody were being dangerous, or not listening or behaving.
Since when does Mrs. Pike work part time? I know she was temping in the book where Mr. Pike lost his job, but I don't remember her having an actual job.
In this book, at least, Mallory's dad's name is John. I'm pretty sure he's called Daniel in another book.
Oh Dawn, you are such a goon. In her notebook entry, she proclaims herself the ghostbuster of Stoneybrook: "Are there phantoms in your phlower garden?"
It's bad enough that Dawn actually believes in ghosts, but now Mallory believes that Ghost Cat, who is obviously a real, living cat, is the ghost of a cat that died in the Craines' house years before. And she calls Dawn in to help her figure out the truth.
Mal says the Craine girls are too young to be scared of ghosts. In my experience, it's usually kids that age that ARE afraid of ghosts and boogeymen...not eleven and thirteen year olds.
Dawn's kind of jerk to the Craine girls. She wants to take a picture of Ghost Cat to make sure she shows up on film. When Margaret thinks she wants to take a picture of the girls, Mallory has to make Dawn take the picture. Then the girls are happy when Ghost Cat is proven not to be a ghost, but Dawn's all disappointed.
Every time a BSC book is an "issue" book, one of the girls ends up going to the library, or reading an encyclopedia, and then shares the information. It reads like a PSA pamphlet you'd pick up at a grocery store pharmacy.
I don't know why, but I loved this paragraph: "Boy, I was having some heavy thoughts! But it's hard to get too philosophical in the Pike household. Someone usually interrupts you."
Uncle Joe had been quiet and standoffish his entire visit, and it's not until his last day that he starts to warm up and actually talks to the kids and calls them by name.
Ghost Cat's real name is Rasputin, and he comes when the Craines call him by his proper name.
Claire has a dress she calls her "Lucy dress" because it's similar to what Lucy wears in Peanuts. Mallory says Claire wears it practically every day and sometimes sleeps in it. Sounds pretty realistic.
Mallory and Kristy are amazed that Claudia is doing art on her fingernails. Obviously this was before acrylics became fashionable.
No real outfits in this sucker.
Heh. I flipped through the end of the book because there's usually something interesting to see after the story ends. Above the list of books, it reads: "Something new and exciting happens in every Baby-Sitter's Club book." False!

Oh, and it advertises the old BSC fan club. There's no date when the offer expired. Wonder what would happen if I sent in a check?
New Characters
Margaret, Sophie and Katie Craine (6, 4, 2)--26, 24, 22
Next week: I have a book set aside. It’s a Dawn. I just can’t remember which one.

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