Sunday, March 20, 2016

“Going out with him would be like going out with one of the Pike triplets!” BSC Mystery #28: Abby and the Mystery Baby (1997)

I’m still angry about this book.
I’ve never read it, you see. But it has been thoroughly spoiled for me. I first started re-reading the BSC because I found a blog similar to this one. That blog was incomplete, only covering a smattering of the stories in the vastly-complex BSC universe. (I don’t think there is a blog out there that could cover every BSC universe book, including all the Little Sisters and Kids in Ms. Colman’s Class. Your brain would rot long before you ever got too far into those series.) I was aware of most of the BSC titles, but I hadn’t kept up with the mysteries. When I found out there was a book titled …and the Mystery Baby, I was excited. When I was a child, I always wanted to find a baby on my front stoop and get to keep it. I actually thought that if I did, my parents would let me raise it, even though I was ten or so.
So why am I so pissy? My local library is part of a large library system with a lot of branches. They have most of the BSC books, but my local branch only had about ten or twelve of them. I took home every one of the BSC books I’d never read, including Abby in Wonderland, and then I requested to have some of the books I really wanted to read transferred over from other branches, including this book. But before it ever arrived, Abby in Wonderland totally and completely spoiled the entire mystery of this book. I got crabby enough that I never bothered to read it. Why bother?
Abby finds a baby on her front stoop, and, despite police and social services involvement, the Stevensons are allowed to keep the baby. They name him Eli and the BSC attempts to figure out who he is and why he was abandoned. It turns out that Abby’s aunt, Miriam, left her son with the Stevensons because she was ill and needed to go to the hospital. Miriam hadn’t spoken with her family in years because they didn’t accept the baby’s father. Miriam recovers and she and the baby—really named Daniel—are reunited with the family.
In the B plot, Mal and Jessi suggest a ‘writing month’ and poetry slam for the kids.
Interesting Tidbits
The cover: That poor baby, sitting uncovered on a front porch in what is clearly in the middle of winter. Brr!

When Abby first finds the baby on her stoop, she is a lot less surprised that I would have been. I probably would have started off by saying, “What the…?” Abby just drags the car seat inside, gives the baby a cuddle, changes his diaper, and calls him a cute little booger. When she finally does stop to wonder why the hell a baby was just randomly on her stoop, she does the most logical thing…and calls Kristy. Kristy shows up with Nannie, which is a little surprising, given that Kristy seems to think that 99 percent of mysteries don’t require any adult involvement.
The BSC gets introduced by what they would bring to caring for the strange baby. Kristy had already met the baby and called the cops, because she’s so logical and such a leader. Claudia would make a mural or mobile. Stacey would start a college fund. Mary Anne would knit a blanket or booties. Dawn would read up on organic foods for babies. Mal wouldn’t panic because she’s used to babies and Jessi…would fit the baby for ballet shoes. Hm. Poor Mal and Jessi. They always get the short end of the stick.
At the BSC meeting, Stacey is wearing Hush Puppies. I know those are shoes, but I always imagine the fried food instead. I’m actually picturing Stacey wearing greasy yumminess on her feet.
“I know it’s a mistake to confuse fiction with fact,” says Mal, for whom there is a whole book of her doing exactly that. Maybe she learned her lesson…?
This should be a huge clue to the mystery of the baby: Abby’s mom announces they’re allowed to keep the baby, ‘for now.’ Tessie—my best friend and pseudo-sister, for those of you not in the know—is a social worker and a foster parent. I don’t care what state you’re in, if a baby is dropped off on your doorstep, you don’t just get to keep it…unless you can offer some evidence that you are biologically related.
Come to think of it, at this point, no one has stopped to wonder why the baby was dropped off at Abby’s house of all houses. If you decided you couldn’t raise your baby, where would you drop it off? I know these days you can, in many states, drop your child at a fire station or a hospital without penalty. But if you were going to choose a house, how would you decide? Abby’s house isn’t the first house off the highway or even in a neighborhood. It’s got a long, imposing driveway, and doesn’t look particularly family-friendly. In fact, if someone were watching the house, they’d realize that it was occupied by a couple of latch-key teenagers and a harried parent who’s rarely home. If I were driving around Abby’s neighborhood with an infant I couldn’t care for, I’d be more likely to drop it off at, say, Kristy’s house or the Papadakises’. There’s probably a stroller on the front porch, a child’s bike or two in the front yard, or at least a mini-van with a car seat in the driveway….all good hints that this is a family who has and loves children.
Right after I put all that logic and thought into the last post, Mal theorizes that Abby’s house was selected because she lives in a rich neighborhood. So at least someone is thinking, even if that’s really a simplistic way of thinking.
The first two clues: Abby finds a pharmacy receipt from NYC in her yard. Later, Maria Kilbourne mentions that she saw a green car drop baby Eli off.
I love how we have to be reminded that Abby’s Jewish in ‘subtle’ ways on a regular basis. Her grandparents use pretty common Yiddish phrases all throughout a brief phone call with Abby, and they all get explained. I knew what mazel tov meant when I was pretty young, and bubbelah as well. But even if you didn’t, kids old enough to read these books should be able to use context clues to determine approximately what those words mean.
Ahh. I kinda love this. The Pikes have gotten into the spirit of Writing Month…which means the triplets are writing disgusting poems, of course. Actually, everyone is writing poetry, which makes Vanessa upset. I can only imagine: Pretend you had a huge family and you only had one personality trait…and then everyone else in your family decided to tread into your territory. But my favorite part is that, even at nine, Vanessa responds to the drama that is her life by becoming a mopey, Emo teenager who hates everyone and everything. Remember when I mentioned teenaged Mal as the fangirl with the nose ring, thick eye liner and chunky glasses? Vanessa would totally be dressed all in black with even more eyeliner than Mal, still writing really horrible poetry. Only now, it would all be about death and none of it would rhyme, ‘because life has no rhyme or reason.’
This is ridiculous. The sentence above regarding Mal not being able to distinguish between fact and fiction comes from Mal and Jessi’s writing workshop. A woman in that group had written a story in which a woman abandoned her baby right before baby Eli turned up at the Stevensons’, so M&J are convinced that means she might have done the same thing. So the two of them start stalking her and never see her with a baby. She never buys diapers or baby food or anything else for a baby. Which verifies for Jessi and Mal...that she must have abandoned a baby…as opposed to the thought that maybe she never had a child to begin with….
Kristy, on the other hand, suspects the weird nanny that Mrs. Stevenson hired to take care of the baby while she’s at work…mostly just because she’s a little odd. No solid concrete evidence, but that’s never stopped Kristy before.
The BSC and Anna are looking at the Stevensons’ Bat Mitzvah pictures when Claudia spots a cute boy. The title quote is Abby’s response. (I almost went with ‘Check out Kristy in a dress,’ Stacey’s commentary on the photos.)
Claudia spelling: Malory, quesion, whant, writter, leav. She also uses no for know and your for you’re. It’s a joint entry with Mal, and all I could think during the first part was, how does Mal not go through and copyedit Claudia? I would have such a hard time with that if it were me. But then Mal ends the entry by suggesting it’s a good thing that Claud doesn’t want to be a writer, given her spelling. Ha, ha! This is actually followed by a mistake where Abby says that Claudia wasn’t offended by Stacey’s joking, not Mallory’s.
I like this, too: The Arnold twins are fighting over ridiculous things like the fact that Carolyn is jealous that Marilyn’s toothbrush is purple and hers is ‘ugly green.’ That sounds almost exactly like 20 different arguments that my sister and I used to have. Realism!
Carolyn really is a girl after my heart in this book. When she sets up a writing station, she includes paper, pencils, a dictionary, a thesaurus…and a baby name book. I name a lot of characters through baby name books. Although, why do the Arnolds have a baby name book? You can’t imagine they used one to name their twins, who have the stupidest twin names ever. (What would they have named two boys? Sean and John? Mark and Clark?)
This should be enough for most people to solve 90 percent of the mystery. Abby called the pharmacy on the receipt she’d found and attempted to verify it wasn’t her mothers. She checked on whether they had any prescriptions in her mother’s name, Rachel Stevenson, and even her mother’s maiden name, Goldberg. Obviously, the pharmacy had never heard of HIIPPA or however you spell it, because they had no problem telling Abby they had a prescription in the name of M. Goldberg. A couple chapters later, Abby sees the name Miriam written in her mother’s office and remembers that’s her aunt, the sister her mother talks about. Obviously, Miriam Goldberg would be the M. Goldberg from the pharmacy.
Come to think of it, the Goldberg family isn’t exactly the most forgiving bunch, is it? Between Rachel and her parents not talking to Miriam for years and Gram Elsie not talking to her sister for years over a little case of blabber mouth, they really are unforgiving. It’s actually kind of interesting because you can see Abby pushing her little family unit not to be like that in a few books. The Stevensons aren’t as dysfunctional as say, the Kilbournes, but they aren’t really terribly close either.
Abby actually makes the M. Goldberg connection after she realizes that Miriam is ‘Eli’s’ mother. Abby’s mom had been horrified/fascinated by the blanket the baby had been wrapped in. When Anna and Abby finally find a picture of Miriam, she’s barely more than a baby herself, clutching the same blanket.
“You’ll be grounded for fifteen years.” I can’t decide whether Anna is serious or hyperbolic.
Apparently Miriam was never married to Daniel’s father, which is pretty progressive for a BSC book. But it sounds to me that Abby’s grandparents largely disowned her because she was in a relationship with this guy, but long before she ever got pregnant. Makes you wonder: was he a drug dealer? A pimp? A hippie? Hmmm….
Abby actually likes the triplets’ rap about boogers and puke. Makes the comment about wanting to date one of them take on a whole different spin. Hee hee!
Just when I thought the ‘Mary Anne cries about everything’ shtick couldn’t get any worse, she actually cried at a song about chlorophyll.
So what happened to our other suspects? Mal and Jessi’s suspect, as you can imagine, never had a child; her story was just a story. And the nanny was nervous because this was her first nanny job, so she was acting a little jumpy. That’s it, that’s all. Lame.
Claudia: red flannel mini-dress, black and white checked vest, black tights, red high tops, red scrunchie
Stacey: stonewashed jeans, white shirt, green v-neck sweater, brown hush puppies

What’s next? #106

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