Monday, January 6, 2014

“I bet his idea of an amusing afternoon is balancing his checkbook.” BSC #9: The Ghost at Dawn’s House (1988)

As I stated in one of the comments on an earlier post, I didn’t hate this one as much as I expected to do. I think I had just overdosed on the books the last time I read it, as I had literally blogged the first eight of them in two weeks. So, while I don’t give it two thumbs up, it doesn’t get the two thumbs way down it did the last time I tried to read it.

Dawn is convinced there must be a secret passageway in her house (for unexplained reasons.) The BSC all hunt for one but have no luck, but a short time later, Dawn literally falls into a passage between her bedroom and the barn. She convinces herself there’s a ghost living in it (because, likely.)

Meanwhile, Nicky Pike’s allowed to wander freely as long as he stays within two blocks of his house. The BSC decides to hunt him down anyway and discovers he’s the reason that things keep turning up in the secret passage, rather than a ghost. (Although Dawn still believes in the ghost. Because she’s that special.)

Interesting Tidbits

The cover: the passage goes from under the barn up into the house, so why does the passage on the cover lead up? (Dawn’s actually cute here though…I used to have a shirt just like hers.)

You’d think that since Dawn and Jeff’s dad is on the other side of the country and they don’t get to see him often, they’d spend more than two weeks of their summer with him. Especially since they haven’t seen him since January and they aren’t old enough for jobs to get in the way.

Dawn watched European Vacation on the plane to California.

Oh, so this is the book where Claudia’s hollow book first shows up! I always wanted one of those when I was a kid.

I’d forgotten how the plots in these early books flowed from one book into another.#8 features, among the other Pike-related plots, the introduction of the idea that Nicky doesn’t feel like he fits into his family because the triplets don’t want to play with him and everyone else is a girl. This, of course, is a major plot point in this book. (They tried that again leading up to a couple of the super specials later on in the series, but it wasn’t nearly as effective.)

I’m looking forward to recording all the stupid places Sharon puts stuff in this one. Chapter two starts us off well: hedge clippers in the living room and glasses in the butter dish. (Since when does Sharon wear glasses anyway?)

Somehow, I doubt Mary Anne would actually be interested in searching for a secret passage, especially since she finds the idea scary. (Sure enough, she’s actually scared of everything later.)

Even stranger, I can’t picture Stacey being scared of searching for a secret passage. Or storms. Or whatever. Isn’t she supposed to be all New York sophisticated?

Knowing that the Perkinses are real, it always annoys me how perfect and precocious they’re portrayed. They’re multitalented, never fight, argue or have tantrums, and are adorable. It makes me want to vomit.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I use a bit that Mary Anne uses when sitting for the Perkinses. Gabbie draws a picture and MA doesn’t know what it’s supposed to be, so she says, “Tell me about it.” I use that one on my niece and nephew all the time, because my nephew’s still in that scribbling stage where his whole picture is done in one macaroni-and-cheese colored crayon and is a blob. (My niece is six. Her pictures actually look like something, but I’ve still been wrong about them before.)

Dawn and I have something in common: the fear of a kid getting kidnapped.

Real book: The Tailor of Gloucester, by Beatrix Potter.

I love how Dawn finds a secret passage and automatically assumes the house must be haunted because of it.

Ever notice how often Watson and Elizabeth go out on the town when Karen and Andrew are visiting? I guess they can only take Karen in bite-sized morsels too.

Old Ben Brewer. Yawn…Why does Kristy a) let Karen tell crazy ghost stories when the kids are already worked up and b) let Karen scare HER with same crazy ghost stories? I can buy Andrew and even DM getting worked up over them, but Kristy’s about thirteen. She should not be scared by stories told by obnoxious six year olds.

Dawn and Jeff eat in front of the TV—a rerun of All in the Family, which they to hate. (I didn’t ‘get’ the show as a child, but I love it now). Neither one of them is sure why they’re watching it.

I love the conversation between Dawn and Jeff about ice cream cones when she finally shows him the secret passage. She’s like, “Remember when Dad took us to Dairy Queen that one time?” They don’t realize there are different kinds of cones because they don’t eat ice cream, so they assume the cone they found must be really old (or at least, old fashioned.) I know ice cream cones aren’t exactly “natural” but they would biodegrade. It’s not as if that cone could be there for 100 years. And I’m pretty sure ghosts don’t eat, so how does Dawn think it got there?

I love that Jeff, who is three and a half years younger than Dawn (nearly ten), keeps trying to talk her out of the idea that the passage is haunted. Like she’s six or something.

Enter the Trip-Man. I’d forgotten that he got that nickname because Dawn joked that’s what his friends call him. (The title quote is something else she says about him.)

Dawn manages to freak Jeff out and they stack furniture in front of the door to the passage. You know it’s really sad when Sharon of the glasses in the butter dish has to be the voice of reason. (Not only that, she points out that ghosts can supposedly float through walls—and furniture.)

A+ for consistency…whenever olden-days Stoneybrook comes up, it is always spelled Stoneybrooke.

One of the characters in the Jared Mullray legend is Mathias Bradford. This is actually clever, as we all know that Claudia (and at this point, Mary Anne) live on Bradford Ct.

Claudia spelling: th for the (seriously? She can’t even claim that’s a tyop…) nigt, siting (sitting), thats, porgram. She also uses diner for dinner, but this is my favorite line: “lucy [sic] was an angle.” Yes, but is she acute or obtuse?

Even funnier: Mrs. Newton spells to Claudia. I’m surprised Claudia was able to understand.

For some reason, Jamie wears pyjamas rather than pajamas. (I double checked. This is not a British edition.)

Jamie’s full name is James Anderson Newton, as we learn when Claudia gets very upset with him.

Ooh, foreshadowing! Mary Anne thinks a guy in a magazine is cute! And yes, ladies (and gentlemen, if any are reading), it’s your favorite hunk you’ve never seen…Cam Geary!

I have no idea why, but that reminds me of a line from one of the other books. I can’t remember which one it is, but it’s either a Mary Anne or a Dawn. They’re talking about names for some reason, and Dawn says, “For the longest time, I thought Logan Bruno was strange name.” Anyone know which book that is?!

Dawn calls Mary Anne a dope. After she (Dawn) scared the crap out of her (MA) in the secret passage.

You know Vanessa’s upset because she forgot to rhyme her words.

I like this: occasionally, Dawn can’t tell the triplets apart. She says things like “said one of the triplets.” If she’s only known them for a few months, babysitting them here or there, it would make sense that they’d occasionally blend together.

You’d think smorgasbord at the Pikes=gross food time, but they disappoint. Adam and Jordan have fried baloney while Byron eats fried PBJ and Nicky eats a potato chip and banana sandwich.

Someone needs to explain to Nicky that going into the Schafers’ barn—and the secret passage—without permission is trespassing.

This must have been before the map of Stoneybrook was created, because Dawn lives two blocks away from the Pikes.

The BSC is going to watch movies, and they all suggest REAL ones! I love it! Ghostbusters (Kristy), Sixteen Candles (Mary Anne), The Parent Trap (Dawn), Star Wars (Claudia) and Mary Poppins (Stacey). Dawn and Stacey are both already established as loving their choices, although it would have been funny for Dawn (the ghost fanatic) to want to watch Ghostbusters.

Wait a minute. Since when is Stacey funny? Stacey: “They’re the ones who are going to get pimples.” Dawn: “Let’s get them.” Stacey: “Pimples?”

There just was not enough of Sharon leaving stuff in random spots for my taste in this book.

La-la-la. Happy ending!

New Characters:

Myriah and Gabbie Perkins (5 and 2)—31 and

Next week: We get to meet Mary Anne’s lovah boy (why don’t these girls talk like New Englanders?! Their parents should be pahking cahs and whatnot. And I can say that because my relatives in Rhode Island—just a few hours from Stamford—talk that way), in #10, Logan Likes Mary Anne


  1. I remember reading this book as a young kid and thinking that the Trip-man would be literally balancing his checkbook on his fingers. I was too young to know what that really meant. But a while later, my dad was sitting on my parents' bed with bills and papers and a calculator spread out all over, and I asked him what he was doing. "Balancing my checkbook. I'm making sure that the checks Mom and I wrote were cashed right." LIGHTBULB!

    Great catch with the Mathias Bradford/Bradford Ct thing. Really cool.

  2. The line that Dawn says about Logan Bruno is from Mary Anne and the Great Romance when their talking about Marilyn's friend. So Claudia loved Star Wars? I'll be she even wore her hair like Princess Leia's too. I never thought of it as a kid but your right its weird that they only spend two weeks with their dad in the summer. Normally, wouldn't it be longer? With my friends it was usually most of the summer.

    1. Thank you! It's been about five years since I read that one. Gozzie Kunka, right?