Friday, November 27, 2015

Sweet Valley Twins #71: Jessica Saves the Trees

SVMS boys' soccer team just made it to the Division A section. That means nothing to me but is somehow a huge deal at their school. Before tryouts for the team, the boys say that they'll dedicate each goal they make to the girl they like. Aaron scores three goals to Jessica, but Lila says it doesn't matter because sixth graders never, ever make the team. Lila and Jessica are currently fighting because this book happens right after the psychic sisters one where the twins were on television and Lila is still jealous even though she says she isn't jealous.

Elizabeth gets called into Mr. Bowman's office because of an article she wrote on two kids getting thrown out of a local candy store. The owner of the store flips out because she only threw them out because they started a food fight before, but Liz never bothered to get her side of the story. She writes a retraction that puts the blame on the boys, only to find out that it was actually two completely different guys. Mr. Bowman then tells her she needs to be more objective.

Jessica is all gung ho when Aaron makes the team. He even stops by her locker and walks her to class like the older boys do with their girlfriends. Mr. Clark holds a meeting later in the day to inform the students that they apparently don't have a soccer field large enough for Division A competition. He tried to find another field to no avail. Randy then speaks up and asks if the kids can raise the money. Mr. Clark agrees but lets them know that they only have one week and need $5,000.

The kids all head to the mall to raise money. Jessica talks to a few people but doesn't get any cash. She does get a quarter from another middle school student but winds up giving him twice as much between her and Liz for his school's library project. Jess becomes impassioned with the idea of how sports can help the community and gives a huge speech, which leads to a ton of people donating.

At school on Monday, Mr. Clark holds another meeting and announces that the school will have its soccer field and all because of one student. Aaron is sure that he means Jessica and she's even about to stand up when he announces that it's all because of Lila. The kids only raised around $1,700, but Lila went to her dad and got him to donate the rest. She basically steals Jessica's speech, and everyone goes crazy. They all surround her and make a big deal out of her.

Elizabeth tries to talk to Jessica who says that Lila only did it to get back at her. Even though Liz doesn't believe her, Lila then wanders by and sneers at her in a really bitchy way for a sixth grader. Jessica is so upset that she runs outside and spends some time in the wooded area by the field, which makes her feel better.

When the construction crew comes in, they find that they will need to tear out a major section of the trees. Jessica is upset because she thinks the trees were there for her when her friends weren't. She also watches her favorite actress, Lois Lattimer, on television talking about activism and wonders how she can get involved.

Liz goes to the Nature Society to get some information for her article on the soccer field and meets Bill Watkins. He tells the twins that there are trees in Sweet Valley that are more than 400 years old and that it's a shame the school wants to tear down so many. Jessica urges him to get involved, he laughingly calls her Lois Lattimer, and tells her the Nature Society is way too busy for something like that. As soon as they get outside, she demands that Liz write an article calling for construction to stop. When Liz refuses because her article must be objective, Jessica springs into action.

She gathers a group of kids to help her, including Mandy, Amy, Maria, and Sophie. They get a ton of other support on their side, and the school winds up split right down the middle. The pro tree side call the others tree killers and the pro soccer field call the other side tree huggers. Mr. Clark comes across both sides having a screaming match and claims he'll listen to both sides equally, which never actually happens.

Elizabeth keeps trying to be objective, which as Todd tells her, is nearly impossible. A group of kids get thrown out of Casey's when they start a fight, and things get even worse at school. Janet eventually demands that Mandy and Jessica choose between being Unicorns and saving the trees. They choose the trees, and Mary winds up going over to their side too.

After speaking with a few teachers, she realizes that there is no right answer and asks both Aaron and Jessica to write their own editorials on the subject. Both also come to her with petitions they want the paper to print. She gets so annoyed that she goes to the Nature Society for help, and Bill loans her a bunch of books. Liz finds something in one of the books, goes to look at the trees, and then runs to call Bill.

Jessica and the pro tree side stage a massive demonstration. When the construction trucks show up, they all run outside and chain themselves to the trees. Liz shows up with Bill, who talks to the principal, and then goes to look at the trees. She thinks they're all on her side until he announces that all the trees must come down. Turns out that they have a massive tree disease that might spread throughout the city. She's so upset that she runs home and cries.

Steven comes home just to tell her that the high school kids are talking about how she's a huge loser. Ned and Alice then come home and say that the school doesn't have the funds to take down the trees and build the soccer field so they won't get a field. They then ground her for going overboard. Liz tells her that Mr. Bowman held her partially responsible for not doing research early on.

After a restless night, Jessica wakes with a great idea. Since the tree disease could affect the whole community, it's only right that the whole city share in the cost. Ned and Alice run to call the principal, who holds yet another assembly on Monday. This time, he praises Jessica for saving the trees and the field. Everyone is still unsure of how to act around her.

That all changes when the twins head into the cafeteria and find barely anyone there but hear chanting outside. All the kids in school get together to start another Save the Trees campaign. They want to raise money to plant new trees, and Mr. Clark even agreed to donate whatever money was left over after building the new field.

Cut to a few weeks later. Jessica and Lila are helping plant new trees and still picking on each other, which is basically business as usual. Mr. Clark wrote Lois Lattimer a letter about Jessica, and the actress wrote her back, so now Jessica claims Lila is jealous of that. Talk then turns to the upcoming festival that is the center of the love potion book.

*Mr. Bowman is a good one to talk. He claims that Liz must be objective because she's the editor, but then he never does a damn thing as the adviser. Sorry, but if there are major flaws in the SCHOOL newspaper, I'm holding the adviser more responsible than sixth grade writer.

*There are multiple people in this book who haven't been mentioned in awhile, including Grace, Belinda, and Dennis.

*Speaking of Grace, she jokes with the other Unicorns at the end about their booth for last year's festival, but I'm pretty sure she wasn't a Unicorn then. Didn't she only join the club later?

*Aaron comes to apologize to Jessica, but when she forgives him, he tells her she should just drop the whole trees thing because he assumes she only did it to get back at him.

*Ned and Alice talk with Jessica about all the protests and demonstrations they did in college but are then shocked, yell at her, and ground her for doing the same thing.

*Bill tells them that the trees by the school are actually only around 60 years old, which doesn't make sense. Ned says he and his dad both played in the woods when they were kids. If the trees are only 60 years old, the woods wouldn't have been tall enough or deep enough to play in when his dad was a kid.

*Everyone is so in awe of Lila because they can't imagine a kid getting an adult to pledge so much money like she did. Have they never met her before? She's the only sixth grader with her own credit cards and charge accounts. Lila probably could have just charged the entire cost.

*Wouldn't the Division A people look at the soccer field before agreeing to let SVMS join? They act like the school was added, then the leaders did an inspection and found the field wasn't big enough. They're literally set to start playing a few weeks before getting the news.

*It's funny that in other books Liz is all about adding her own personal slant to stories but now learns that she should be objective.

*She tells Jess that the newspaper is serious business and not a gossip column. Given some of the articles published in other books, it sure doesn't seem like a serious paper!

*Lila gets her own soccer jacket, and the team plans to dedicate all the goals they score to her all season long. They also make plans to get a picture of her and her dad for the paper, but he backs out at the last minute. I like to think that she never even bothered to call him...

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #1: The Secret of the Old Clock (1930)

Let's go all the way back to the very beginning with the very first Nancy Drew book ever!

Nancy is just your average 16 year old girl with a housekeeper named Hannah and a lawyer father named Carson Drew. When she hears that local man Josiah Crowley just passed away, she's not that interested until she learns that he supposedly promised a lot of people some of his money. His relatives, the Tophams, claimed that he left them everything because they took care of him, even though they actually only took care of him for a few months towards the end.

Nancy learns about the mystery surrounding a will that he may or may not have written when she almost runs over a little girl in the street. She takes the girl back to her caretakers, who tell her that they took the girl in after her mother died. They thought Josiah would leave them enough to care for her, but the only will ever found left nothing to them. The two women also reveal that someone stole their silver candlesticks and some other expensive antiques, which they blame on the nice young men who recently bought some of their old furniture.

Though Nancy hops in her car and gives chase, she can't catch up with the guys in the moving van. All she can really do is tell the police what happened. After hearing about other people who were left out of the will, she goes to her dad. There's an older woman who can barely afford to keep her house, two brothers who were close to Josiah, and two old friends of his family. Nancy and Carson check with the judge who read the will. He also heard of a second will but has no idea if it was true.

Two of the women who claim they were in the original will tell her that Josiah had a bad habit of hiding things all around his house. Their best guess at where he hid his will was in an old antique clock. She runs into her old friend Helen, who asks her to buy tickets to a charity ball and then invites her to her family's summer camp for the week. Nancy turns down her invitation but agrees to sell the last few tickets for her.

She really only uses that as an excuse to visit the Topham house again. It turns out that she went to school with the daughters but always disliked them. They're money grubbers who only care about gossip and getting ahead in life. Their mom is exactly the same way and seems eager to buy tickets to the ball because she thinks it will make her look good. Nancy takes a look around for the clock and learns that they sent it to their summer cabin.

After consulting with Carson, Nancy heads up to see Helen and to find out how close the Topham house is to the cabin. The Topham girls told her that they have a caretaker looking over the house who could give her a tour. She sneaks across the lake in a boat, only to have the engine die and leave her stranded for hours. When she finally does get to the cabin, she finds the guys with the moving van cleaned out the house.

That doesn't stop her from snooping around though. When they nearly catch her, she manages to hide and find the missing clock. They really do catch her later but just lock her in a closet. The caretaker shows up and after briefly thinking she's one of the robbers using a fake voice, he finally lets her out. She finds a notebook hidden inside the clock written by Josiah that states he had a last will hidden in a safety deposit box.

The judge, Carson, and Nancy find the safety deposit box, and the cops find enough evidence to arrest all the robbers and get the women back their missing things. Carson decides to read the will with everyone in attendance. The Topham family show up and act super snotty until they find out that Josiah only left them a flat $5,000 and nothing for their girls. The rest of the money goes to everyone else, who gets between 10 and 20% of his estate, which is around $10,000 to $20,000. That was some serious money back in the day!

The Tophams immediately claim that the will is a fake and that they will fight it. Everyone else is just happy that they got something. Carson recommends that they use the money to do anything and everything they always wanted to do and instantly hands over the cash. In the very end, we learn that the Topham case was thrown out of court and that everyone really did get their money.

*This just might be the very first time I ever read the first book in the series! I probably read it as a kid, so I had no memories of it. I have to say that I'm probably more fond of the 80s and 90s books. This one didn't really have a lot of suspects or a lot of action.

*A ghostwriter revised the book in the 1950s and removed a cute scene where the robbers were drinking illegally. The book originally came out in 1930 during Prohibition when they couldn't drink.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Baby-Sitters Club Super Special #13: Aloha, Baby-Sitters!

The BSC, minus Kristy and Mallory, are off to Hawaii for summer. Kristy can't go because Watson already planned to take the whole family later in the year, and Mallory can't go because her family can't afford it. To twist the knife in a little further, Jessi decides to create a diary for her that shows her everything they did on their trip.

Mallory: Speaking of Mallory, she gets the luck of the draw to sit for Jenny at the same time that Jenny's parents decide she has way, way, way (way?) too much freedom. They now let her throw tantrums but won't give in and ask that Mallory do the same thing. Jenny throws a fit at home, gets over it, and then throws a mega fit at the park. Some random woman sees and lectures Mallory about how Jenny is clearly in pain and needs attention. Since Kristy got them all BSC shirts and Mal is wearing hers, the woman sees it and calls the next day to lecture them again. Mallory goes back to the park later and sees some little boy throwing a massive hissy fit. It turns out his mom is the same woman from before. Even though Mal wants to tell her off, she just wanders away and thinks about how the woman will now know how she feels.

Jessi: Despite opening and closing the book, Jessi really has no story. She annoys everyone by taking a bunch of pictures and writing down their experiences in her book. Oh, and she also stops listening to their tour guide to focus on writing more to Mal.

Kristy: Kristy gets the phone call from the crazy lady at their meeting and worries that they have a new enemy in town. She also helps out on the Stone farm and leads a camp for kids. The only thing she really does is lecture Karen and some random kid about watching television instead of helping out on the farm.

Dawn: Since this is a book with a Dawn story in it, she somehow finds a disgusting beach and decides to clean it up. She encourages everyone else to help too, and they wind up finding a group of local kids to help. She then encourages them to keep the beach clean and probably nods in a condescending way.

Abby: While out on the beach, Abby comes across a crew filming a commercial for sun tan lotion. One of the actors dropped out, so she wanders up and pretends like she's eighteen. They immediately give her the job, but the head chaperon almost won't let her. She gets super sunburned but has a great time and starts daydreaming about Steven Spielberg discovering her on television.

Mary Anne: Mary Anne and Logan decide to be TBI on their trip, Together But Independent, because apparently their friends hate how much time they spend together. She helps a family find their missing son who was just hiding in a room, and she gets a job sitting for a local family. Though she assumes they will be all crazy Hawaiian, their just a formal family. They ask her to sit again, and she recommends Claudia for reasons you'll discover shortly. Her and Logan then decide they would rather be together than apart.

Claudia: Claudia gets down in the dumps after visiting Pearl Harbor because she's Japanese and even wonders what side Mimi was on during the war. She keeps hiding out and refusing to go places that have any connection to the war. Mary Anne finds out that the grandfather of the family she sat for was in WW II and encourages Claudia to sit for them. Claudia breaks down to the man and confesses her feelings for him, and he calms her down by telling her a story about his ancestors and later pointing out that the bombs made Pearl Harbor look minor by comparison.

Stacey: Stacey gets pissed off at Robert when he spends most of the flight talking to Sue Archer and later accuses him of hitting on the flight attendant. They take a trip with a group to go on a helicopter tour but wind up on two different helicopters. Hers naturally goes down in the middle of nowhere, but no worries because they get rescued the next day. Robert feels really bad and even confesses that he cried, and people in town want to touch her because she's the girl from TV.

Jessi gives Mallory the finished journal, and Mallory almost cries before thanking her, saying that it was almost like she was there. Seriously? She should have shoved it down her throat for reminding her of what she missed!

*Dawn gets all pompous to inform them of a banyan tree they see on the island. Logan then asks her if she plans on eating the leaves for dinner, and I giggled.

*The waiter explains to them that mahimahi is dolphin, and Dawn almost flips her lid until he explains it's dolphin fish. You would think someone like her would know that.

*I love that the chaperon doesn't want Abby to leave the group to do the commercial, but he doesn't have a problem when Mary Anne wants to skip out to babysit.

*Given that Watson had no problem with Kristy skipping their last family vacation, he should be a nice guy and invite Mallory to come with them to Hawaii.

*Mary Anne freaks out because Logan is all quiet when they get to Hawaii and thinks he might want to break out. Turns out he's upset because they didn't get leis like they did on The Brady Bunch. They do get leis at the end though.

*Mary Anne is also so “devastated” when Stacey goes missing that she can't function and spends all day crying. Really? Because it kind of seems like they aren't even friends outside of the club.

*The teachers decide to just proceed as normal to keep the kids' minds off the missing helicopter. Seriously? Three of their friends and one of their teachers is missing and they want them to just hit the beach?

*Um, yeah, how much did this trip cost? They are constantly going off on all these little side trips without paying any extra. It doesn't seem fair either if everyone paid the same price. The cost of going on a private helicopter tour alone should add significantly to the price they paid.

*Miss Holier Than Though Dawn actually eats one of Claudia's Doritos. I think California softened her.

*Carol, her dad, and Jeff come to see her at the airport when they have a layover. You can tell this is before 9/11.

*Abby in no way looks eighteen. She has to bring a teacher along and the BSC shows up to cheer for her. She laughs it off like the teacher is her agent and the members are her little sister's friends.

*Abby goes to help them set up the volleyball net, and someone tells her it's not her job because she's the talent. Ugh, like she needs a bigger head.

*Dawn supposedly hates the term eco-conservatism or something like that. Personally, I think she would love it.

*Robert and Logan both get one chapter each, and both are pretty pointless. Robert's just sets up his fighting with Stacey, and Logan's is about him missing Mary Anne and getting a surfing lesson from Dawn.

*I know a lot of people love Claudia's sections of the book, but they were pretty meh for me. She acts like she never heard of World War II before, which really makes me worry about Stoneybrook Middle School. At the end, she does find out that Mimi never talked about the war though.

*Mallory's story really annoys me. Margaret, the woman from the park, has both a son and an older daughter. Yet somehow, an 11 year old girl knows how to handle a tantrum better than a mother of two.