Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas from Brian's Jalopy!

Isn't that cool? It's a Trixie Belden Christmas Tree! I want! I found it here at Madonna's Mementos: http://www.madonnasmementos.com/Christmas.html You can order one for yourself, though I doubt it will get here before Christmas.

I want to thank everyone who has stopped by and checked out my blog over the past ten months. I hope you have enjoyed it. Please feel free to leave a comment on any of the posts; I love reading them! I've also joined Twitter and will be sending out blog updates there. Please follow me: http://twitter.com/briansjalopy Seriously. Please. I have no followers. I feel like a loser. Don't worry; it will be mostly blog updates. I won't spam you with daily tweets about what I had for breakfast or how often I changed my socks or anything.

I hope you all have a very merry Christmas and a happy and safe new year. I will be back in January with more recaps, new series, and of course, more Trixie! Thank you so much for your support. God bless!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Butlers Without Hats and Horses With Socks: Trixie Belden #26- "The Mystery of the Headless Horseman"

I’m so sorry for the delay. I started a new job, and then Christmas, so life got crazy for a bit (not that it still isn’t!)

I also apologize for the crappy quality of the cover pictures. I'm trying to take my own photos and not bootleg them whenever possible, but my camera refuses to take a good quality picture unless the flash is on. When the flash is on, I get a big glare spot in the middle of the photo. Grrr. Anyway...

I didn’t get this recap up in time for Halloween by a long shot, but it will still work. Despite the title, it’s not really a Halloween story. It does take place in the Fall, though. The Bob-Whites are planning a charity bazaar to benefit UNICEF. Everyone is excited, but Trixie is worried because Diana is avoiding her. She seems worried and preoccupied. The Bob-Whites are finally able to talk to her about it on the bus. Di explains that Harrison (the Lynches proper and uptight butler) is missing. He got a phone call the evening before and left suddenly, saying he would be back in an hour or so. But he never returned. Diana feels responsible because her parents are away and she wants the household to run smoothly. Plus, Harrison is supposed to oversee the bazaar tomorrow. It’s the mystery of the missing butler, and of course Trixie and the Bob-Whites spring into action. They immediately saddle the Wheeler horses and go looking for him. Regan says he saw Harrison last night, riding a bicycle along Glen Road.

The Bob-Whites split up when they get to the woods, and Honey and Trix find a trail of bike tires. They follow it to a little home set back in the forest. It always amazed me that Trixie and Honey (well Trixie at least) have lived in this area for years, yet they’re always stumbling across houses that they didn’t know were there. The place is called Sleepyside Hollow. They find Harrison’s bicycle propped against the front porch, and they find Harrison inside, locked in the cellar. He has a gash on his forehead and his cold and a little shaken up, but otherwise OK.

Harrison says he came to the house to feed the cat when the owner, Mrs. Rose Crandall, was called away. He says he fell down the stairs and hit his head, and the door locked behind him. Trixie is, of course, suspicious, because the basement door was bolted. Which would indicate either that someone else was in the house with Harrison, or that Mrs. Crandall has one clever and crafty cat. Trixie’s suspicion causes friction between her and Diana which continues throughout the book. Di says what Harrison was doing is really none of their business (and she’s kind of right, really), but you know Trix isn’t going to let it go.

At the Belden family dinner that night, the children tell their parents about the days events. Mr. Belden tells them about Rose Crandall’s husband, Jonathan. He was curator of the Sleepyside Museum until he died suddenly of a heart attack. Mr. Crandall had taken a priceless Ming vase home with him for safekeeping that same weekend, but he passed away and no one knew where he had put the vase. A lot of the townspeople thought he stole the vase, so his reputation became tarnished. Even Mr. Belden isn’t sure. Harrison was a good friend of Jonathan Crandall’s, though. Mr. Crandall was one who loved puzzles and games, and had also hidden his wife’s birthday present the same weekend. He gave her a clue (“It’s elementary”), but she never could find it.

That night, Trixie and Honey venture back to the house because they’re afraid they left the cat locked in the cellar. They bike back to Sleepyside Hollow after dark, where they see a figure all in black riding a horse near the house. A headless figure! The horse glides silently by, without even making the sound of hoof beats. Like he was wearing socks (would that really deaden the sound of hoof beats that much? Horses aren’t exactly lightweight.) Honey wants to leave (smart girl), but Trixie wants to investigate. But Mrs. Crandall is home, and she sees them and invites them in for cookies. I want to live in Sleepyside; every time the Bob-Whites end up at someone’s house unexpectedly, there are always fresh cookies waiting for them.

The girls talk to Mrs. Crandall about Harrison, and she tells them that she got a nasty phone call the night before. Someone called telling her that her sister had taken ill, so Rose rushed to the hospital. Her sister wasn’t ill, so it looks like someone was trying to lure her away from the house. The girls don’t say anything about the headless horseman.

The bazaar must go on, and Mrs. Trask agrees to head it up in Harrison’s absence. There is a nice scene for the ‘shippers of Jim and Trixie picking up donations, and Harrison’s derby hat (which was left behind in the Wheeler stables the night before). Di insisted that Jim bring it over. Trixie thinks Di is being bossy, but Jim suggests that maybe Trixie is used to being the boss and doesn’t like someone else taking over. Hee! Good call, Jim.

Trixie and Jim stop by the hospital to see Harrison. Someone steals the hat from the station wagon, which is odd because the wagon is full of much more valuable items than that. Trixie and Jim see a “mysterious” man and woman leaving Harrison’s room, but when they ask him, he says he has had no visitors. Trixie is upset that Harrison is lying to them again.

She is also upset later at the bazaar, when Mart says he told Di about Trixie’s suspicions. Di gives Trixie the GLARE and head toss of DOOM, so things are not well between them. Trixie wants to find the vase and clear Jonathan Crandall’s name, but pursuing the mystery will continue to cause friction between her and Diana. You know she’s not going to let it go, though.

Stuff happens…they keep seeing Harrison and his cronies around town, and around Sleepyside Hollow. Trix thinks they are looking for the vase as well. She and Honey end up hiding in a hayloft of an old barn, again, and they overhear Harrison and the man and woman talking about the vase. She’s more convinced than ever that Harrison is a thief, and this splits the whole Bob-White group into factions. Even Brian and Mart are on Di’s side. Dan suggests that the girls get together and do something girly like go shopping together to remember why they’re such good friends in the first place. Honey sets it up. Di and Trixie are cold to each other at first, but Honey loses it and tells them to grow up, basically. Honey rocks. Trixie agrees to let the business with Harrison go, and things are OK for a while. But then she sees one of Harrison’s accomplices on a bicycle and can’t let it go.

Di gets mad and takes Trixie and Honey to the Sleepyside Museum to settle things once and for all. The mysterious woman and man are both there. The woman is a museum lecturer, and the man is a guard. Di says they have been friends with Harrison for years. She is feeling good about winning, so she takes the girls up to a display of an Oriental jade figure that was donated by her family. When Di sees the statue, she gets very upset and runs out of the museum. Later, she tells the Bob-Whites that the statue in the museum is a fake. Harrison is the one who delivered it there, and now she believes Trixie that he is indeed a thief. She had been worried all along that Trixie was right (because, let’s face it, Trix is usually right about these things), and that’s why she was so upset.

The gang heads back to Sleepyside Hollow. Trixie thinks the vase is probably in the same hiding place as Mrs. Crandall’s birthday present. They go back to the barn, and Mart finds the Headless Horseman’s costume. It’s a cape on a wooden frame that is made to fit over the head, so the rider will look headless. Someone is definitely trying to scare Mrs. Crandall away so they can find the vase. The Bob-White head back to the house, because Trixie has finally figured out where the vase is hidden. Under one of Mr. Crandall’s grafted fruit trees. It has the letters LMN on it. Elementary? LMN tree? Get it? Harrison is at the house as well, and the Bob-Whites are about to attack, but Trixie stops them. Harrison and his buddies were only trying to find the vase to save Jonathan’s reputation. The real bad guy is the museum’s current curator, Alfred Dunham. He shows up with a gun, but the boys make quick work of him, with a little help from Reddy. Mr. Crandall’s name is cleared, Mrs. Crandall gets her last birthday present, and a thief is captured.

I’ve realized the last few lines of these books are usually incredibly cheesy, so I’m going to start closing my posts with them. This book ends thus:

“Not bad, Miss Sherlock,” Mart told her. “Not bad at all.”

Everyone laughed as Trixie chuckled and answered, “Why, it was elementary, my dear Mart!”

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It's Two-Fer Tuesday- on Wednesday!

To make up for my absence last month, I present you with not one, but two quick reviews! I found both of these books at the library by chance. I had read them in the past but couldn't remember the title or author or anything. Serendipity rocks.

Free Fall by Joyce Sweeney is the story of four teen-aged boys who go to explore a cave. Neil is the oldest and the main character. Along for the ride are his younger brother David, David's best friend Terry, and Neil's best friend Randy. Of course, they get lost and trapped. No one has any idea where they are, so they have to survive and escape on their own.

This isn't just a story of survival. There's a huge load of emotional baggage that the boys bring into the cave with them, starting with the fact that none of the boys get along. Neil and David's little sister died a couple of years earlier when their house burned down. It's technically David's fault, but Neil blames himself and has shut David out. He also has never told his best friend about this (Randy moved to their town after the fire). I find it hard to believe that no one at school ever mentioned this to Randy, but whatever. Terry is a wuss, and Randy is sarcastic and mouthy. He and David both have hot tempers and muscular builds, and may just kill each other before this whole thing is over. Being trapped and possibly close to death, the boys are forced to come to terms with their issues and work together to survive.

There is action in the form of cave exploration, rattlesnakes, a climb that doesn't work out, and a daring escape. The emotional stuff is heavy- we're talking dead sisters, abusive fathers, divorce...This is also a story about teen-aged boys, and they act the part well. There is swearing up to and including the "F" word, bathroom humor, sex talk (but no actual sex), and fighting. this is not G-rated Trixie Belden stuff. I found Free Fall to be an effective and exciting enough story. And I'm a sucker for a story about siblings, so that was a plus. But again, this book is loaded with profanity, so consider yourself warned.

The second book I found is Murder at the Spaniel Show by Lynn Hall. It's pretty obscure, so I'm not going to bother with the cover art. Tabby is a teenager who works at Quintessence, a springer spaniel kennel in rural New York. The kennel is set to host a national springer spaniel show when things get wacky. Someone starts sending threatening notes to the Ted Quinn, the man set to judge the Best In Show competition. Ted is the twin brother of Turner Quinn, the blind owner of the kennel, and he has flown in all the way from England to judge.

Tabby is just the "kennel girl," but she manages to be right in the middle of everything that happens at Quintessence. No one is really sure if the threats are serious or just a sick prank, but Tabby grows increasingly anxious as the three days of the show wear on. She does manage to figure out who the culprit is, but it's too late. Sort of.

Lynn Hall has apparently written over 80 books, but I hope most of them are better than this one. Honestly, I found it a bit boring. I didn't feel like I really knew Tabby, other than she's slightly overweight and kind of sarcastic. There is a lot of information about dogs and dog shows here, but I still didn't get any sense of Tabby's "passion" for dogs. In hindsight, the culprit is pretty obvious, but I'm still not really sure what that person was trying to accomplish. To be fair, I may be expecting too much from a book that is geared towards grades 6-9.

OK, back to Trixie after this. Since Halloween is coming, I feel it only appropriate to read The Mystery of the Headless Horseman. I hope to have it up in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Unicycling Poachers: Trixie Belden #5- "The Mystery Off Glen Road"

I have to admit, I was dreading this re-read. This is a book I’ve never had much desire to go back to. I know it’s by the original author and a lot of fans love it and all. But I have a very low threshold for embarrassment, and Trixie has to do some really silly things to accomplish her goal in this book.

With that said, the book wasn’t quite as bad as I remember it, except for one scene. There is a great moment between Brian and Trixie; probably the best in the whole series. And, most importantly, it explains the title of this blog! So here we go.

It’s November, and a storm is brewing. A hurricane! Trixie and Honey are down at the Bob-Whites now-finished clubhouse, admiring their work. Trixie is worried that the storm might knock down one of the big trees surrounding the clubhouse and damage the roof. But there is no time to stand around and worry. Tom and Celia’s wedding and reception are in an hour. Is getting married during a hurricane good luck or bad luck? Seems like a sign of things to come. (just kidding- I love being married.) Sidenote- Celia’s gown is described as “lace over satin,” which sounds really pretty.

The wedding goes OK, but the storm does a lot of damage. Trixie’s worries come true; one of the tall spruce trees beats the clubhouse like a red-headed step-child. The roof is torn off, and the back wall is damaged. There is no money in the treasury to fix it. None of the Bob-Whites have any cash, except for Brian. He has saved fifty dollars to buy a used jalopy from Mr. Lytell. I looked up “jalopy” expecting to find a specific vehicle from the 50’s. But wikipedia says jalopy is just a term for an old, beat-up, piece of junk car. The book does say the car is in good condition and is a steal at fifty dollars. It is referred to as a Ford later on.

Because he is so honorable and noble, Brian insists on giving up his fifty dollars to fix the clubhouse. They can’t wait any longer because winter is almost here and the clubhouse won’t survive without a roof. Trixie suggests that the Bob-Whites work as gamekeepers for the Wheeler game preserve, since the old gamekeeper just quit. The Bob-Whites like the idea, but they still won’t have the money until after the first week, and by then the car will be gone. Mr. Lytell is only holding it until Saturday.

This is where things get wacky. Trixie comes up with an idea. She tells Honey that she can give the diamond ring that Jim gave her to Mr. Lytell as collateral to hold the car another week. By the end of the week, they will have the fifty dollars from the gamekeeper job and can buy the car for Brian. It’s a good idea, but her parents have put the ring in a safety deposit box at the bank. Honey says no one is going to believe she suddenly wants to wear a diamond ring, so she’s going to have to gradually start acting girly. Honey says she should fall in love- because that’s what makes girls suddenly change overnight. Her cousin Ben Riker is visiting for Thanksgiving, and Honey says he would be the perfect candidate. One problem- Trixie can’t stand him. But this is for Brian, so she will go along with the plan. I never understood this, even as a kid. Why not just tell her parents what she wants to do and have them get the ring? Trixie just says that she would never get permission (I guess because of the ring’s value), but I think she underestimates them. If I had a kid who wanted to do something that nice for their sibling, I would be really proud.

Anyway, Trixie starts fluttering around, moaning about dishpan hands and how Ben wouldn’t like it and all that. She comes down to dinner in a dress and starts dropping hints about how she should really have her nice ring to wear, to impress Ben. It’s really, really embarrassing, so I’m gonna skip over it. It eventually works, and Mr. Belden does get the ring for her.

The girls give the ring to Mr. Lytell, who agrees to hold the jalopy another week. They also get the game keeper job, so they start patrolling early mornings before school while the boys are busy working on the clubhouse.

Oh, yeah, there is a mystery in this book. The girls find strange footprints in the preserve. They see an older man in outdated clothing leaving Mr. Lytell’s store. And they find a deer carcass lying in the preserve. They think that the dogs (Reddy and Patch) ran it down and killed it. They agree not to say anything to the boys, because the dogs would undoubtedly be put down.

Honey gives Trixie a fake diamond ring to wear, since hers is at Mr. Lytell’s. Ben comes, and the girls convince Diana to capture his attention so that Trixie doesn’t really have to flirt with him. Because Diana is so beautiful that no boy can resist her, it works like a charm. Trixie sneaks off back to the place where she found the deer carcass and discovers it is gone! She also finds strange bike tire tracks. Single, like a unicycle, not double like a bicycle. How can she tell the difference? Wouldn’t they look the same? And why does her mind automatically go to “unicycle?” Wheelbarrow, hello? She and Honey have some funny conversations about an escaped circus performer, balancing on his unicycle while toting a deer carcass over his shoulders. Honey points out that circuses “aren’t insane asylums. People don’t escape from them.” Heh.

The boys...oh yeah, the boys tease the girls a lot in this book, as usual. They don’t like Ben either, and don’t really want Trixie with him. Jim is jealous and Brian is clueless, but Mart is suspicious. The girls tell him about the suspected poacher, and he agrees that they should keep investigating.

The day before Thanksgiving, Trixie and Honey go for an afternoon patrol. The horses bolt, and when they finally stop, they’re in a clearing with a cabin in it. Maybe the poacher lives here? Pretty brave of him, to live right in the middle of someone else’s land. Or the cabin could belong to a squatter. During all of this, Trixie loses the compass she was wearing. It belonged to Bobby, and that’s not good. She gets back home for the evening and Bobby insists that he needs the compass, so Trix has to confess that she lost it. This doesn’t go over well, as you can imagine. After the smoke clears, Mart tells Trixie he will lend Bobby his compass if she tells him why she wanted the ring. She does, and Mart is ecstatic. He says he and Honey will try to find the cabin tomorrow, while Trixie helps Moms get ready for their Thanksgiving open house.

Everything comes to a head Thanksgiving Day. Honey and Mart don’t find the cabin. Bobby finds Trixie’s (fake) ring and takes it, to get back at her for losing his compass. Then, Bobby disappears as well. The Bob-Whites initiate a frantic search. Trixie finally finds him up at The Robin (the trailer that now belongs to Tom and Celia, who are apparently taking a very very long honeymoon). He says the ring “sorta slipped down the drainpipe” in the sink. Bobby is upset, but Trix tells him it wasn’t real anyway. She explains about using the real ring as collateral for the car, and then hears someone behind her. It’s Brian, and he heard the whole thing. He gets kinda choked up, and there are warm fuzzies all around. Very nice scene.

Honey and Trixie wrap up the mystery of the poacher/squatter by finally getting back to the cabin the next day. It belongs to the man they saw at Mr. Lytell’s store earlier. His name is Maypenny, and his family has owned some land right in the middle of the preserve for years. He’s kind of a hermit, and he has permission to hunt and set snares for his food in the preserve. So there wasn’t really a mystery at all, and I kind of hate that in “mystery” books. The girls think Mr. Maypenny would be a perfect gamekeeper, and he agrees to take the job. He also helps the boys get the clubhouse fixed, just before the snow flies. The Belden parents find out about Trixie’s ring swap and they aren’t mad. Oh, and Mrs. Belden insists that Ben Riker is a nice boy, but “you can’t expect an only-child to be as well-adjusted as one with siblings.” This only child objects, Moms.

I will be on vacation the second week of September, so this blog will be on a little break. I should be back either at the end of September or beginning of October. I really am wowed by all the positive response so far. Please, if you have any comments, leave them- I would love to hear from you!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Jewel Quest: Trixie Belden #14- "The Mystery of the Emeralds

This is the type of story that seems to appear in every children's mystery series. It involves cleaning out the attic on a rainy day, old letters, the Civil War, the Underground Railroad, and the Old South. It's an interesting mystery, but the plot does hinge on one really HUGE coincidence that I find a bit hard to swallow.

The books opens with Trixie doing some kind of wish ritual that I had never heard of before. It involves saying "Rabbit, Rabbit" right before going to sleep and just after waking up. I don't know if it's real or if the author made this up. Of course, our girl wishes for another mystery.

It's summertime at Crabapple Farm. It is also raining, which makes it a perfect day to clean out the attic. Trixie and her mother are going through the mountains of old stuff that seem to multiply in every attic, looking for stuff for a White Elephant Sale, which is like a yard sale, I guess. Trix loses her balance and crashes through a wall, opening up a long-closed crawl space. She finds a old canteen that looks Civil War-Era, and they wonder if they could get anything for it at the White Elephant Sale. ?! 88Keys cringes at the thought of a real Civil War artifact being sold at a yard sale. Trixie also finds a letter in the pocket of some old clothes.

Trixie, Honey, and Jim read the letter before the Bob-White meeting that afternoon. I won't quote the whole thing, but it is from someone named Ruth and is written to her sister. Mrs. John Sunderland, Croton-on-Hudson. Ruth is in Virginia, at a place called "Rosewood Hall." Ruth writes of tensions between the North and South. She is sending one of their (freed) slaves north along the Underground Railroad with this letter. The letter also mentions an emerald necklace (still hidden at Rosewood Hall). There are instructions on how to find it hidden "in the place where we spent the last afternoon you were here."

The Bob-Whites mull over the letter during the meeting. Trixie is determined to try and find the necklace, even though it is apparently in another state. The others really defer to her in this book, and try to make sure she gets her way and shield her from all disappointment. Trix and Honey bike ride to Croton the next day, and find the only Sunderland listed in the phone book, a Miss Julie. She is very nice, but elderly and scatter-brained. Apparently Ruth was her aunt, and she did indeed go south to get married and never came back to New York. The girls tell her about the letter, and she gives them some old diaries of her father's to look through. She encourages them to try and find the necklace.

At Miss Julie's, the girls also meet Neil, a boy about their age who helps Miss Julie out. Trixie takes an instant dislike to him, just like she did to Dan. Neil seems suspicious of the girls as well. He has dropped out of school because he loves horses and wants to get a job on a ranch. He goes inside, and Trixie and Honey take the diaries and leave.

The diaries are pretty dull reading, but they do reveal that Rosewood is in Clivenden, Virginia. Trix is bummed, until Diana asks if Clivenden is anywhere near Williamsburg. Why yes, yes it is! In an amazing coincidence, Di says her parents are leaving the next day for Williamsburg and had wanted her to go with them, but she begged out of it. She says she will ask her parents if they will take all the Bob-Whites on the trip. Of course, they say yes, and that the trip will be her birthday present. And of course, the Beldens let their kids out of their chores, again. (Chronologically, this is their seventh trip in, like, a year, which you will see in future recaps.)

The group takes a quick tour of Washington and Williamsburg, but of course their minds are on getting to Clivenden. Trixie thinks she sees Neil on the way down, but isn't sure. Mr. Lynch lets Jim drive the group around while he and Mrs. Lynch are doing their business-type stuff. They meet Lizzie James at the post office, who directs them to Rosewood Hall. Unfortunately, all that's left is a ruin and some horses. An unfriendly man who says he owns the place makes them leave.

Just down the road they find another old plantation, and this one is intact. It's called "Green Trees," and is owned by Edgar Carver. Green Trees is set up like a little museum, with tours every Thursday. The Bob-Whites tell Mr. Carver about the letter, and he says Ruth was his grandmother. He did sell Rosewood Hall to Jenkins (the nasty man who ran them off), but he still owns Green Trees and the family burial ground. He gives the Bob-Whites permission to hunt for the necklace.

Jim and Trixie search the burial vault and find a locket with a picture of Ruth and a little piece of paper with further instructions. This is the place Ruth and her sister spent their last afternoon together? Creepy! Neil catches them and thinks they're robbing the grave. He and Jim fight, Jim wins, and Neil runs off. Trixie has a change of heart about him and thinks he might not be such a bad guy. I have no idea what brought this about; this is the guy she took an "instant dislike" to a few pages ago. She thinks he must have a gentle side, the way he took care of Miss Julie. But also that he is probably trying to find the emeralds, because why else would he have ended up in Virginia?

The instructions in the locket say to look in the secret passageway between the two homes, behind the brick marked with an "X." Is it a rule of fiction that every old home has to have a secret passageway? Mr. Carver isn't aware of any passage, but he lets the Bob-Whites look around.

The next day, the Bob-Whites find Mr. Carver out of his wheelchair, and with a nasty knock on his head. He doesn't remember what happened and thinks he just fell out of the chair. The Bob-Whites think someone (maybe Jenkins) attacked him. While future doctor Brian hones his bedside manner, Neil shows up and wants to talk to Trixie alone. He has been working for Jenkins on his horse farm, but he says Jenkins is cruel both to him and to the horses. He did tell Jenkins about the necklace, and they have been looking for it together. But now Neil wants to get away from him. Trixie says that the Bob-Whites will help him.

Mr. Carver is OK by the next day. His friend Ms. Bates brings by a copy of the plans for the house. Ms. Bates is kind of mouthy and jerky, so I won't talk about her much. Trixie notices that there is some extra space between two of the rooms. It's very clear on the blueprint, but apparently no one has noticed it for the last hundred years. Of course, it's a stairway to the secret tunnel connecting the two houses.

They don't find the brick right away, and Jenkins shows up on the final day to say that he has found the necklace. He brings it over to show them and offers to sell it to Mr. Carver, since it's in the family and all. The girls can tell right away that it's just junk jewelry, but they play along. Mr. Carver says he will think about it and Jenkins leaves.

Finally, Trixie and Jim find the marked brick in the tunnel. They can hear someone (Jenkins) digging on the other side of the wall. They get the brick out, and there is an old box behind it. The necklace! The group confronts Jenkins, who scrams. Mr. Carver says he will use the money from the necklace to have an operation that should allow him to walk again. Mr. Lynch is going to buy Rosewood Hall and restore it, and Neil will get the job of taking care of the horses. In the end, Trixie helps another poor orphan, makes the lame walk, and continues her jewel-finding streak. Not bad for a few days' work. Still, wasn't this supposed to be Diana's birthday trip, not Trixie's?

I'm really sorry for the delay on this. Summer is a busy time around here. I've even been canning tomatoes (just like Trixie!). We are going on vacation at the beginning of September, and I hope to have at least one more recap up before then.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"You've probably heard of it-The Last Frontier, all that stuff." Norman Tuttle on the Last Frontier

I found this book at a library sale for $1. It involved a teenaged boy growing up in Alaska with a fisherman for a father. Being the mildly obsessed Deadliest Catch fan that I am, I had to buy it.

Norman Tuttle on the Last Frontier is written by Tom Bodett. Yes, "I'm Tom Bodett, and we'll leave the light on for ya." That Tom Bodett. Norman Tuttle is a thirteen year-old boy growing up in Alaska in, well, I don't know when, but it's a fairly recent book. Norman is the oldest of five children, and yearning to be treated more like an adult and less like his younger siblings. His dad takes him for granted until he falls off of his fishing boat into the chilly Alaskan waters. Dad vows to treat him better after that, and their relationship does improve. Unfortunately, Norman gets his first girlfriend shortly after this, and it's all downhill from there.

Each chapter in the book is a short story, so you get these kind of snapshot views of a couple of years in Norman's life. It's that weird time between childhood and adulthood, where suddenly your friends aren't as cool as they used to be, but they're still preferable to your ancient parents. The giddy haze of first love, the gradual growing apart, the heartache after the relationship crashes and burns.... man, I don't miss those days.

Norman grows sullen and distant from his family after he and his girlfriend break up. A plot to "rescue" her from a baby-sitting nightmare to make her appreciate him again ends up making things worse. Said girlfriend gets revenge by getting Norman in a lot of trouble with his parents. He's finally sent away for the summer, to live and work on a farm with family friends in Oregon.

This book is funny. Like literally laugh-out-loud funny in a lot of places. Bodett really makes the character of Norman come alive through situational anecdotes and simple language. The stories are poignant without being sappy, and realistic enough to make the point that growing up in Alaska is really no different than growing up anywhere else. I found myself alternately cheering for Norman and wanting to slap him. I found the conclusion a bit disappointing, because I'm not sure that Norman really learns the lessons he needs to learn by the end of the book. But maybe that is the point Bodett was trying to make; that the awkwardness and mistakes of adolescence can't always be neatly tied up and resolved by the time you become an adult, or by the last page of a novel.

I haven't forgotten about Trixie; I'm working on The Mystery of the Emeralds right now. I hope to have it up next week.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Experimental Nephew: Trixie Belden #8 "The Black Jacket Mystery"

Sorry this took me so long. It was a challenge to re-cap. I’ll admit that this is not one of my favorite Trixie books, though it is popular with a lot of the fans. It just seems like there is a lot of meanness and distrust throughout the book, and lots of arguing among the Bob-Whites. Dan is kind of a jerk at first (understandably), but so is Trixie. This is also the second of the books written by "Kathryn Kenney" (aka a series of ghostwriters) instead of series creator Julie Campbell, so there is a change in tone.

That’s Trixie and Dan on the cover. Yes, Dan is dressed like The Fonz on almost every cover of this book that exists. The black jacket is pretty important to the story, so I guess it’s a good little bit of consistency.

This is a winter story, which begins with Trixie hurrying to catch the bus. She has been up late worrying about her pen pals Dolores and Lupe, who live in Mexico. An earthquake destroyed part of their village, including their school’s library. Trixie wants to do something to help them. She comes up with the idea of an “ice carnival” to be held on the Wheeler’s frozen lake. It will involve skating exhibitions, races, prizes, food booths, etc. Patrons will have to bring donations of books to get in. it sounds overly-complicated to me. I mean, why not just have a book drive? I guess they think the carnival will draw more people. The Bob—Whites excitedly make plans throughout the day.

When Trixie gets home, she overhears Regan talking to her mother. Something is worrying him and he is asking Mrs. Belden for help. He also says he doesn’t want the “youngsters” to know about it. Trixie manages to tear herself away from eavesdropping, but of course she is curious about what’s going on.

Honey comes to spend the weekend with the Beldens while her parents and Jim are out of town. There is a funny scene of the Belden brothers both trying to carry Honey’s suitcase and help her into the house. It surprised me a bit, because it’s generally implied through the series that Brian and Honey like each other, while Mart was more into Diana.

The four of them go to Manor House on Saturday for ice skating and horse riding. While looking for one of Bobby’s skates in Regan’s tack room, Trixie accidentally knocks down a box of papers. She sees a legal document with something about a judge “willing to let (Regan) try.” She puts it back quickly, but of course, she doesn’t forget about it. Mysteries literally fall out of the sky and hit her in the head, it seems.

Later after they’re done skating, Bobby tells Trixie that he knows a “sec-rud.” (Secret). It involves Regan and Celia and Tom, and it’s a “sperimen.” Trixie and Honey figure out he means “experiment.”

The Bob-Whites come up with a Mexican theme for the carnival, since that is where the books are going. There is lots of planning, decorating, gathering donations, selling ads, and making posters that goes on that I won’t get into, because it’s not that exciting. Trixie and Honey manage to convince the boys to do most of the work, anyway.

The next Monday, a new kid gets on the bus at the Wheeler’s stop. He’s escorted by Mr. Maypenny, the Wheeler’s game warden. The boy is about Mart’s age, wearing a black leather jacket and cowboy boots. He is not friendly. Trixie decides right away that she doesn’t like him. Later, Mart is assigned to show him around at school. He introduces him as Dan Mangan. Dan is cordial but cool to the Bob-Whites, and ends up going to sit with some other guys from their class. They can hear him bragging to the other kids about being in a “club” who doesn’t let anyone push them around. The Bob-Whites wonder if he was in a gang, since gangs wear cowboy boots and leather jackets (??).

Trixie and Honey have several encounters with Dan throughout the next few chapters. Honey usually tries to be nice, and Dan looks like he might warm to her, but then Trixie mouths off to him and spoils it. I get why she finds him annoying, but she doesn’t really give him a chance. Strange things start happening, too. A large wildcat is seen and heard in the preserve. The girls see someone in a black jacket a couple of times, but when they ask Dan, he says it wasn’t him. Honey loses a valuable watch. She thinks it fell of when she was riding. The girls go back to the clearing where they think it might be, but it’s not there. They do find cowboy boot prints around the area. They go to Maypenny’s to find Dan and ask him if he found the watch. Dan says he hasn’t found the watch and was nowhere near the clearing. He gets mad and thinks Trixie is accusing him of stealing.

Later at Mr. Lytell’s store, Honey finds her watch. Mr. Lytell says a dark-haired kid in a black jacket pawned the watch earlier that day. Trixie thinks it was Dan, but Honey points out they don’t have actual proof. Unfortunately Regan comes in about this time. He finds out what happened and says that “Dan is an experiment that failed.” He says Dan will be sent away by the end of the week. Dan still denies that he pawned the watch.

The Bob-Whites clubhouse is broken into over the night. Someone stole some money they had in there, and walked all over the carnival posters. Muddy tracks are all over them. Cowboy boot tracks, of course. Mart points out that the tracks are bigger than his feet, but Dan wears a smaller size. Also there are cigarette butts in the clubhouse, but Dan doesn’t smoke.

The Bob-Whites decide to tell Mr. Maypenny that they no longer suspect Dan, and to invite him to come skate at the lake. But they find Mr. Maypenny hurt. A branch has hit him over the head, knocking him out and gashing his scalp. They take him to his home to doctor him up, but Dan is there. He seems very nervous and mad and tries to get them to leave, practically pushing them out the door. But the boys finally stand up to him and insist on taking care of Mr. Maypenny.

Future doctor Brian sews up Mr. Maypenny’s head just like on T.V. (It really does say that). The boys get annoyed with the girls for not really knowing what to do. Dan gets mad at the “rich kids” for being nosy. Like I said, there is lots of fighting in this one. After they yell at each other, as the Bob-Whites finally leave, Trixie knocks Dan’s jacket off the back of a chair. But it’s not Dan’s jacket! It says THE COWHANDS on the back. Tough gang name, there.

It turns out that a member of Dan’s old gang has followed Dan to Sleepyside. The guy wants to rob the Wheelers, and he wants Dan to help. He’s the one Trixie and Honey keep seeing in the game preserve, and he’s the one who pawned Honey’s watch and vandalized the clubhouse and hit Mr. Maypenny over the head with a branch. Dan finally stands up to him, even though he’s afraid of him. He even helps Trixie when she and Bobby get lost in the preserve. Bobby has fallen down into some kind of hole/cave thing, and Dan helps get him out and keep the wildcat away until help arrives.

It turns out that Dan is actually Regan’s nephew, the son of his now-deceased sister. Dan’s father is dead, too. Regan had brought him to Sleepyside to try and get him to make a fresh start, away from the city and his gang. Trixie explains to her family and Regan how Dan helped Bobby and protected them, and they agree to give him another chance. Trixie even apologizes for using the clues she found to make everyone suspect Dan. Dan softens up a bit, too, and even helps out with the ice carnival, which is a big cheesy success. Dan is voted into the Bob-Whites, and one more makes lucky number seven.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Username Change

I changed my user name to the same name I use pretty much everywhere else on the internet. I was tired of living a double life. Don't freak; it's still me. :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Every Family Has a Creepy Uncle: Trixie Belden #4- "The Mysterious Visitor"

This is one of my favorite Trixie books, so I apologize in advance that this recap is a bit lengthy. The mystery is good, the characters are, well, in-character, and Trixie and Mart face some actual danger at the end. I cut it down as much as I could, but there is a lot of good stuff here that I didn't want to leave out.

The cover above is the actual copy I read, but I really love this early cover as well.

It's a scene directly from the book, and I love the "fifties wealthy" decor of the Lynch mansion. :)

It’s October now, and school is back in session. Trixie and Honey are getting ready to ride home on the bus and are lamenting an essay they have to write over the weekend. The theme is “how I spend my summer vacation.” How many of us had to write that same essay every fall? School hasn’t changed that much in fifty years, apparently.

All of the Bob-Whites are attending high school together. They wear red jackets with “B.W.G.” stitched on the back. This always annoyed me a bit. I don’t have a problem with secret clubs, but it seems kind of jerky to throw it in peoples’ faces and then say “but it’s a secret.”

The (secret) Bob-Whites are dedicated to (secretly) helping others, and Honey has found their next victim-er, beneficiary. It’s Diana Lynch. She is the same age as Trixie and Honey, and is described as the prettiest girl in school. She’s sweet and funny, but lately she’s been quiet and withdrawn. Sensitive Honey says she used to be the same way and can tell something is wrong. Trixie feels guilty because she’s known Di for years but didn’t notice. She says Diana’s father made a lot of money very quickly, and they moved from a simple apartment in town to a home that rivals the Manor House out on Glen Road. I know you’re probably rolling your eyes about now at another poor little rich girl, but I can see how that would be a pretty big lifestyle change.

Honey and Jim ask Di to spend the weekend with them. She telephones her mother, who gives permission. Mrs. Lynch also says she is sending a car with a suitcase of clothes. This seems reasonable, but Di gets very upset. She refuses to say why, though.

The suitcase arrives, and Miss Trask ends up unpacking it because Diana is busy outside. She confides to Trixie that the dresses Di’s mother sent are too grown-up for a thirteen year-old. Miss Trask is worried that Diana will be a bad influence on Honey. (?!) Trix explains that Diana didn’t want the dresses and that Mrs. Lynch just got the wrong idea. But Di overhears them talking and gets upset. (She gets upset a lot in this book). She says she will leave, but Miss Trask manages to smooth things over.

After dinner, Di finally confides in the girls after the boys go to the movies. She says she wants to throw a simple Halloween party for her entire class, but her mother wants it to be really formal and elaborate. Honey agrees to have her mother talk to Mrs. Lynch and explain that not everything has to be Camelot all the time. Di is pleased, but is still worried that “Uncle Monty” will ruin everything. Apparently he is Mrs. Lynch’s long-lost brother, who showed up from Arizona after the Lynches made lots of money. How convenient.

The Bob-Whites plan what sounds like a pretty fun party. Roasted hot dogs and marshmallows, costumes, games, etc. But, just as she had worried, Uncle Monty does indeed try to ruin everything. He convinces Mrs. Lynch to hire an orchestra, caterers, and expensive decorations as a “surprise” for Di. The Bob-Whites show up to the Lynches early to set up for the party, but find it decked out like Hollywood. Di is upset (again). She thinks Monty is trying to annoy her father enough that he will give him a lot of money to leave. He didn’t have any actual proof that he was Mrs. Lynch’s brother, though he did know a lot about her family and the night she was born. Apparently Mrs. Lynch was adopted, so it is possible that she does have a long-lost sibling.

Uncle Monty appears then, dressed as a cowboy. Because he’s a REAL cowboy from a REAL ranch in ARIZONA, see. He calls everybody “podners” and “little lady” and stuff. Ugh. Di tries to tell him that most of the kids don’t know how to dance and that they would rather play the games she had planned, but Monty won’t hear of it. He’s really annoying and sleazy. He asks Honey for a waltz. She uses her power of charm to politely decline, then leads Monty off to the other room to plan a musical quiz game for the guests. (The orchestra plays a few bars of a song, the kids guess, Monty gets to be the M.C.) Honey is awesome.

The rest of the Bob-Whites discuss Monty after they leave. Trixie points out that Mrs. Lynch has blue eyes, but Monty’s are brown. She remembers that there is a portrait of Mrs. Lynch’s birth parents in the gallery. If she could see if both her parents had blue eyes, they would know Monty is an imposter. Blue-eyed parents can’t have a brown-eyed child. And while that’s not entirely true (the genetics for eye color are more complicated than that), it’s still good thinking on her part.

Later, Honey tells Trixie that Monty overheard them talking and he knows of her plan to look at the portraits. Monty practically glues himself to Trixie’s arm all evening, keeping her busy and away from the gallery. He’s so creepy. Other than that, the party ends up being pretty successful. The other Bob-Whites even start to like Monty a bit. He tells great (though exaggerated) stories about being a “bronco-buster” out West. (Do real bronco-busters even use that word?) They tell Trixie to give it up and stop investigating Monty, because it’s just going to hurt Di’s feelings.

Tom Delanoy (the Wheeler’s chauffer) shows up to pick up the kids around midnight. You know, until I started writing these recaps, I had always mentally pronounced Tom’s name as “Delaney.” But know that I write it out, it’s obviously “Del-uh-noy.” Anyway, the kids tell him about the party and ask if he has met Uncle Monty yet. Tom insists that he saw Monty in town at the train station two weeks ago! Monty came up to the car and asked (in an English accent) to be taken to 291 Hawthorne Street. Tom told that it was a private car. Tom has a photographic memory, and he definitely saw Uncle Monty in town before he said he arrived. Tom tells Trixie that Hawthorne Street is basically Skid Row, and that 291 is a bad hotel run by a man named Olyfant. Tom tells Trix to stay away from there. You know she’s not going to listen.

Over the weekend, Tom also tells Trixie that Mr. Wheeler has promised the old gatehouse to him and Celia (the maid) to live in after they get married. Apparently Celia moves fast. Didn’t she and Tom just meet in August? The Bob-Whites have been fixing up the gatehouse to use as their clubhouse for a while now, and they’re understandably bummed. Trixie calls Diana to tell her what’s going on, but Di refuses to speak to her. She’s upset about something. Again.

Trixie, of course, makes the trip to Hawthorne Street and Olyfant’s Hotel. It’s just as bad as Tom described it, and Trixie has a narrow escape with Olyfant himself. She fast-talks her way out of it. She also sees a personalized match book from the Lynch house in Olyfant’s hand, so the trip isn’t a total loss.

Diana finally forgives Trixie a few days later. She says Monty told her that Trixie said some bad things about Diana and her mother at the party. Di is now definitely convinced that Monty is a fake. She says she and Honey asked to see the portraits in the gallery, but someone had slashed them from their frames! Monty said he lost his key to the gallery and that one of the servants or caterers could have taken it and the pictures. Lame.

Diana invites Trixie to stay through the weekend so they can keep an eye on Monty. The first night, Trixie checks the veranda fireplace to see if Monty tried to burn the portraits. Canvas is hard to burn. She does find a piece of the portrait in the ashes, and Di’s grandparents do have blue eyes. She also finds Monty. He confronts her about her visit to Hawthorne Street and the portraits. Again, she talks her way out. She says the portraits were probably painted from black and white photos, and Mrs. Lynch probably just requested blue eyes because hers are blue. So they don’t prove anything. But there is no doubt that Monty is on to her now, or that he is shady.

The Bob-Whites hold a meeting after school the next day. The girls tell them everything they know about Monty. The boys want to tell Mr. Lynch right away, (which is what they should have done all along!) but Trix says they don’t have proof. She says she will get it by the next day, before Mr. Lynch gives Monty a check and the Robin so he will leave. The boys tell her it’s too dangerous. Mart says he has a plan to get the proof without endangering them, but he won’t say what it is.

There is a hilarious bit around the dinner table that night at the Lynches. Mr. Lynch says has indeed given Monty fifty thousand dollars, plus the Robin.

“Mr. Lynch said to Di with undisguised joy, ‘Your uncle is driving back to the far, far West tomorrow morning, dear. Early tomorrow morning. So be sure to say goodbye to him this evening.’
Staring into her soup, Di said dutifully, ‘Goodbye, Uncle Monty.’”

Bwah! Di has a bit of a snarky side sometimes. I love it.

Trix knows it’s now or never. She searches both Monty’s room and the Robin. She finds a pistol permit with Monty’s picture, but the name Tileny Britten on it. Of course, Monty catches her right about then. He’s holding said pistol, and he’s not happy. He ties Trixie up and they take off in the trailer, but not before he spills his whole plan to her. Why do the bad guys always do that?

Trixie is in real trouble as Monty pulls away from the Lynches in the tow car, with her tied up in the Robin behind him. She starts to cry, but right about then she sees the door to the shower compartment opening. It’s Mart! I love Mart. He unties her and they manage to attract the attention of a local cop who is always stationed at the traffic light on the edge of town. The cop takes them all to the station, where Monty’s plan is revealed for all to hear. Mart had hidden a tape recorder in the Robin just before Trixie came in. He had planned to confront Monty and get him to reveal his plan so that it could be recorded, then come back and get the recorder later. Monty saved him the trouble by spilling his guts to Trixie as he tied her up.

As usual, it all works out in the end. Monty goes to jail, Mr. Lynch doesn’t lose his money or the trailer, Mart and Trixie don’t get shot, and Trixie doesn’t get in as much trouble as I think she should. I mean, between the trip to Hawthorne Street and confronting an armed man, that’s pretty risky behavior. Not only is she not really in trouble, Mr. Lynch decides to give her and Mart the Robin as a reward. They agree to give it to Tom and Celia to live in after they get married. The Bob-Whites get to keep the gatehouse for the clubhouse. Diana’s mother sees how unhappy she is and she gets rid of a bunch of the servants they don’t really need. Di will also get paid to help take care of her twin brothers and sisters. And the REAL Uncle Monty has been tracked down! He really does have a ranch in Arizona, and he invites the Bob-Whites to spend Christmas there with him. Two diamonds, a horse, a trailer, a trip to Arizona...what awesome free stuff will Trixie find or be given next? Stay tuned to find out!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

"She didn't look like a substitue teacher." Thirteen Ways To Sink a Sub by Jamie Gilson

I promised that this blog wouldn't be all about Trixie Belden, and I'm a blogger of my word. A couple of months ago, I found this book at a library sale for $1.00.

Squee! Hardback and everything! I loved this book when I was a kid, and it totally holds up now. I read it earlier last week when I was having a bad day, and I was laughing and feeling better by the end.

For the first and maybe only time this year, Mr. Starr's fourth-grade class at Stockton Elementary has a substitute teacher. The kids in the class decide to try to "sink" her (i.e.- make her cry). It's boys vs. girls, with the losers having to get kickballs out of the "Spit Pit" (a dirty stairwell full of trash) for the rest of the year.

The main character and narrator is a kid named Hobie. The substitute is a young teacher named "Svetlana Ivanovitch." She dresses the part, too, in a traditional Russian outfit. Miss Ivanovitch initially thinks that fourth graders are no different than kindergarteners and treats them accordingly. She quickly re-thinks this when the kids start switching names, sneaking out, and playing tricks on her.

I love Gilson's kid characters- they are funny and realistic without being cutesy or condescending. Or too bratty, as would be easy in a situation like the one in the book. Some of the kids do eventually feel bad about what's happening, but no one wants to be the one to stop it. Miss Ivanovitch is also smarter than she first appears to be. It was interesting to read this book as an adult, and one who worked briefly as a substitute teacher. I felt a new sympathy for the poor sub that I didn't feel as a kid.

Gilson wrote several books featuring Hobie and the kids of 4B. Double Dog Dare, 4B Goes Wild, and Hobie Hanson You're Weird are the titles that I know involve these kids. Get them if you can find them. I haven't read her other books, but if they're anything like Thirteen Ways To Sink a Sub, they will be good reads.

Back to Trixie ASAP. Mysterious Visitor is up next! Woohoo!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Dicks and Dips: Trixie Belden #3 "The Gatehouse Mystery"

The word “dick” is used a lot in this book. It was a simpler time, folks. Just so we’re all clear, “dick” is slang for a private detective. A “dip” is a pickpocket.

The story opens with Trixie writing a letter to her brothers at camp, even though they’re due home in less than a week. We get a brief recap of the events of the last two books. Summer is winding down, and school will be starting soon. The next day, Trixie, Honey, and Bobby go to explore an old cottage down by Glen Road, on the Manor House property. It apparently used to be the gatehouse for the estate. Bobby promptly falls and cuts his knee. The girls send him to Regan to get patched up, then look to see what he cut himself on. It’s a rock. A very pretty, shiny, very sharp rock. A diamond! I want to be Trixie. She’s found two diamonds in the last few months.

The girls theorize as to how the diamond got there, pushed down into the dirt floor. They come up with some wild theories about jewel thieves and hobos and gang wars. The girls go to get shovels and tools to look for more diamonds, but Jim and his father return around that time. Honey wants to give the diamond to them, but Trixie makes her promise not to tell so that they can solve the mystery.

The girls don’t find any more treasure, but they do notice scuff marks and heel prints on the cottage floor. Someone has been there recently. Trixie theorizes that a tramp may have stolen the diamond, then dropped in the cottage when they came in to get out of the rain. Whoever it was will probably be back when they realize they’ve dropped the diamond. Honey says she hid it in a secret compartment of her jewelry box. The girls feel as though someone is watching them and listening to them as they talk. They even hear a twig snap outside. Whoever it was is gone. Honey worries that if there really is a diamond thief around, that person might be dangerous. If they heard her talking, they now know the diamond is in her room. I think she has a point. Trix brushes it off, as usual.

Over lunch, the girls tell Jim about their plans to be detectives someday. Jim laughs and calls them “Moll Dicks.” I had to look that one up. The only definition I could find for “moll” was a gangster’s girlfriend. And we know “dick” means detective. Also, I think this is a re-print of the very first Trixie edition. In later ones, Jim calls them “Schoolgirl Shamuses.”

A new car driven by a young man pulls up about this time. Jim says the guy showed up and helped Regan fix one of their cars. He will be the Wheeler’s new chauffer, pending Mr. Wheeler’s approval tomorrow. There is also a new gardener, Nailor, as the old gardener quit abruptly right around the time the girls found the diamond. Trixie thinks either one of them could have dropped the diamond. She agrees to spend the night with Honey in case one or both of them try to sneak into her room to take it.

There is a funny scene of Trix drinking coffee for the first time after dinner to try and keep awake. She’s reduced to tears by how awful it is. Amateur. I love coffee. Anyway, of course she falls asleep, but someone does try to sneak into Honey’s room. Trixie wakes up and yells, which scares him off and wakes up the rest of the house. Whoever it was gets away. Trixie tells Jim she had a nightmare, but he doesn’t buy it. She finally tells him about the diamond. Jim says both Dick and Nailor have good recommendations and couldn’t be suspects.

About this time, Trixie’s brothers return from camp early. Introductions are made. Brian is the oldest. He’s sixteen, (I think), and has dark hair and complexion like Mr. Belden. Mart is eleven months older than Trixie, and they look enough alike to be twins. The boys hear all about the diamond and the girls’ suspicions.

Trixie thinks Dick is the most likely suspect. The others aren’t sure. Dick is almost sadistically rude to Trixie, even though he is nice to everyone else, even Bobby. He also shows up with a black eye the day after he gets the job, and says he has to go see a doctor for it. He’s gone the whole day. Regan is not pleased. Honey and Jim invite the Beldens to spend the whole weekend, so they can hopefully catch the thief. Lots of swimming, eating, and horseback riding follows. The kids keep tossing around theories based on the clues they have so far. The diamond, the footprints, tire tracks down by the cottage, Dick’s strange behavior. Trixie is convinced he’s guilty, but Jim points out that he had a letter of recommendation from one of Mr. Wheeler’s old friends. Later, Trixie shows Honey how easy it is to forge a signature with some carbon paper. Honey admits that she forgot to get the mail a few days ago, and Dick could have lifted a letter and forged the signature on his recommendation letter.

Also during all of this, the gang comes up with the idea to form a secret club. “The Bob-Whites of the Glen” is born. They will use the bob-white whistle Jim taught Trixie and Honey back in book #1 as their signal. And they want to fix up the gatehouse for their clubhouse. They make a rule that all money they use for the repairs must be earned. They come up with various job ideas. Mowing, weeding, gardening, mending. Honey is excited by the opportunity to earn her own money, which is really cool of her. I’m jealous of her mad sewing skills. I’m trying to learn right now, and it’s a slow process.

Dick finally comes back from the doctor the next day. Regan promptly puts him to work. Dick does agree to give Jim a driving lesson that afternoon. He seems dead-set on keeping it. After the lesson, Dick comes back alone. He tells them that Jim went into town to get a haircut and something to eat and will meet them at the movies later that evening.

As the evening goes on, Trixie gets more and more worried. Jim doesn’t show up at the movies. She takes a cab back to Manor House in time to see someone sneaking into Honey’s room. Suprise suprise, it’s Dick, looking for the diamond. Trixie confronts him but quickly realizes she is alone and no one can hear her if she screams. She keeps Dick talking, hoping to figure a way out. Dick says he knocked Jim out and tied him up in the woods. He snuck back to the house and cut the phone lines. He’s about to knock her out too, when Jim and Regan show up with a hunting rifle. Jim wiggled free from the ropes and called the police from a neighbor’s house. They show up just in time to take Dick (aka “Dapper Dick,” the big New York City pickpocket) to jail. There is a reward for the recovery of the diamond. Regan tells Trixie she must use it to buy Susie (a small black mare) “for Miss Trask.” (Even though Trix will pretty much be riding her and taking care of her all the time). Trixie agrees, and says she will use the money she had been saving for a colt to pay for a new roof for the clubhouse. Oh, and Tom Delanoy becomes the Wheelers new chauffer. He’s a cool guy, and will show up throughout the series. They should have hired him in the first place, and skipped all this nonsense with Dick the Dip.

I know I said I wasn’t going to do these recaps in order, but I feel it important to introduce all the main characters before moving on. These early books really do set up the foundation of the rest of the series. So I’ll be doing #4 The Mysterious Visitor next to introduce Diana, then probably skip ahead to #8 to get Dan’s origins. Then we’ll mix it up from there.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Picture Time

I'm almost finished with The Gatehouse Mystery recap, but I wanted to make a seperate post to share something with you all. Illustrations!
Of course, after I said I would stick with the oval editions, I had to get the newest edition of #3 because I didn't have it in my collection. Although the covers are new, the publishers have included the old illustrations from the original editions. They're totally vintage and retro and all that.

From left to right: Jim, Honey, Brian, Trixie, Mart. Mart, I love you, but you totally look like Beavis.

Honey and Trixie looking for the jewel box. Love Trixie's ginormous swimming skirt.

Trixie and Honey at the movies, talking to Tom Delanoy, who will eventually become the Wheeler's chauffer.
These kind of clash with the images I have of the characters in my head, but they were interesting to see nonetheless. I should be finished with the recap in the next few days.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Word on the Editions

Trixie Belden books have been published and re-published many times throughout the years. Trixie's look usually changes a bit with each new printing.

I'm not sure of the exact dates on all of these, but I think this is the first. Notice Trixie's midriff-baring top. Scandalous!

These are called the "Deluxe" editions, but I see nothing deluxe about them. They're plain and a bit ugly. I have #6 in this edition, and on it, Trixie looks like a scruffy boy in a dress.

"Cameo" editions. I think Trixie and Honey look really cute in this one.

Fans call these the "short and ugly" editions. You can probably tell why. I really don't get this particular cover. What is Trixie looking at? Herself? In a bed, in the mansion? And there is a hand behind her, and everything is purple. Somehow, I don't remember that chapter in the book.

The newest editions, released in 2003. Trixie looks very modern and cute, but it just doesn't seem quite right to me. She's almost too pretty.

Though fans like to debate over which covers are the best, in this blog, you will be seeing the oval editions unless I can't find a good picture of them. These are the ones my older cousins had, and the ones I read when I was young. In fact, they're the only editions I've ever read. This is what Trixie looks like to me (except with normal flesh tones). She and all the Bob-Whites are firmly rooted in the 60's in my mind. I may post a few of the other covers just for comparison's sake, or to make fun of them. :)

With all that said, I will admit that some of the older covers are really intricate and have a lot of cool pictures and details. Some of the older editions have illustrations that the oval paperbacks don't have. You can check them out here. http://trixie-belden.com/books/editions.htm

Still working on The Red Trailer Mystery recap, but it shouldn't be too much longer. I got a bit distracted because my husband gave me
Watchmen to read. I never read graphic novels, but I have to admit that one is pretty good.

On The Road Again: Trixie Belden #2 "The Red Trailer Mystery"

Do you remember the 50's? When people freely roamed the country in RV's and campers? Some even lived in their trailers permanently. Rest stops and RV parks didn't conjure up images of scary transients and shady drug deals like they do today. Oh, and trailers didn't come equipped with televisions and air conditioners and posturpedic mattresses. Those were the days.

The Red Trailer Mystery, Trixie, Honey, and Miss Trask set off to track and find Jim to tell him about his inheritance. They take the Wheelers camper,
the Silver Swan. You will notice that the trailer on the cover is not the Silver Swan, but The Robin. The Robin will become a permanent fixture in later books.

This book is all about travelling, tracking, seeking, and finding. The characters (Trixie and Honey, Jim, the Darnells, Jeff the Waiter, and the bushy-haired man) kind of intertwine throughout. They keep ending up in the same places at the same time. It comes off as kind of coincidental, but I guess the area they are travelling in isn't really that big. It makes for an intricate, if mildly confusing, plot.

Trixie, Honey, and Miss Trask get off to a late start, so they first stop at a campsite in Poughkeepsie for the night. They're ultimately heading for a place called Autoville, which is like a mini-village for RV's. It has a restaurant, pool, stables, the works. From there, they can ride out to the four camps that Jim might possibly be working at. In Poughkeepsie, the Swan ends up parked next to large expensive-looking red trailer. It's The Robin! This doesn't mean much to the girls at the time, but I'm already looking forward to its re-appearance in The Mysterious Visitor.

Ahem. Anyway, the girls notice that the occupants of The Robin have the shades pulled already, even though it's early in the evening. They let the dogs out, and a little girl comes out of the red trailer and picks up Bud. Her name is Sally, and she wants to keep Bud. Her mother and siblings come out of the trailer. Mom wants Sally to go back inside and leave the puppy with Honey. She seems afraid to have anyone see them. The girls note the frayed and worn condition of the family's clothes, and how sick and half-starved they look. There is an eleven year-old girl, Joanne, with them. About this time, the family's father appears and makes them all go back in the trailer. He has bushy black hair and a bushy black beard. Take note, reader- you will hear a lot about bushy hair in this book.

During the night, Trixie hears voices coming from the red trailer. The woman (Sarah) and man (Darney) are arguing. He says "it has to be this way" and that his family is turning against him. Sarah says he "has to take it back." After the argument ceases, Trixie hears the man sobbing.

In the morning, the girls and Miss Trask go to eat breakfast. They leave the dogs in the trailer, but Buddy is gone when they get back. They can't find him and eventually have to leave for Autoville. The way the dogs are treated in this book annoys me. They let them out to run around in a strange place, no chains or leashes, and then go off and leave them when they can't find them. Maybe it's just me; I mean, my dog would be gone for good if I let him off the leash in the woods.

When they stop for lunch, the girls are surprised to see The Robin is also parked there. Joanne shows up and brings Buddy back to Honey. Apparently, Sally climbed into the Swan and took him. Kind-hearted Honey offers to let Sally keep the dog, but Joanne says they couldn't afford to feed him. She runs off into the woods, crying. Before they leave, Joanne's father comes up and asks the girls if they have seen her. They tell Mr. Darnell about Joanne running into the woods. The father indicates that she ran away on purpose. The family goes ahead and leaves! Dogs, kids- everyone gets left in this book!

TheSwan reaches Autoville before dark. There are two state troopers there, asking if they've seen a big red trailer. There have apparently been a rash of trailer thefts in the area. Plot point! Miss Trask says they did see a red trailer, but the girls point out that the driver had his family with him, so it probably wasn't stolen.

They have dinner in the Autoville restaurant. A waiter gets really, REALLY mad at Trixie for bumping into him and making him drop some dishes. He gets in trouble with his manager, and the waiter (Jeff) tells Trixie she will pay for it. Later, the girls hear and see Jeff talking to a bushy-haired man about "switching jobs." They cannot tell if the man is Joanne's father or not, but he looks similar.

The girls make several horseback trips to the local camps, but Jim isn't at any of them. He has stopped by asking for work, though, and he's apparently on a bicycle now. On the way back to Autoville, the girls find a van hidden in the woods. The girls think the van was probably used to haul away loot from the trailer robberies.
That evening, the girls hear Jeff and the bushy-haired man talking again. It involves hiding something in an old barn and orchard. Trixie also realized by watching Jeff in the restaurant that he eavesdrops on the customers' conversations. That's how he figures out where they're going and what they have with them.

On another ride, the girls notice an old barn and orchard, just like Jeff had talked about the night before. During the ride, the horses get spooked and run off, which gets the girls lost. They end up at a farmhouse owned by the Smith's. Kind-hearted Mrs. Smith brings them inside for lemonade and cookies. She's a chatterbox who calls everyone "lamb", and she tells the girls all about how they need help on the farm bringing in their bean crop. Luckily, a bushy-haired man and his family had happened by the day before and the Smiths hired him. The girls are sure it's the Darnells. Oh, and Mrs. Smith cut his hair so he wouldn't get too hot, so we now know Mr. Darnell isn't the Bushy Haired Man (or BHM) the girls heard talking with Jeff. They don't tell Mrs. Smith about the stolen trailer.

Trixie feels guilty, so she goes back the next morning to warn the Smiths about the possibly stolen trailer. She finds Mrs. Smith in tears. The Darnells apparently took off abruptly, after the girls had stopped by the day before. Mrs. Smith can't find her locket, either, and she thinks the Darnells "borrowed" it, like the trailer.

Later, Trixie and Honey come back to investigate the barn. They find the locket in a crow's nest (it's a long story), so they return it. Mrs. Smith is very happy, and she also says two boys showed up looking for work after Trixie left that morning. They're out picking beans right now. The girls go to the barn and find what is apparently the loot from the stolen trailers (TV's, radios, appliances, etc). They hide in the loft as two men come in. It's BHM and Jeff. In true dumb-crook fashion, the two lay out their entire scheme as the girls listen upstairs. They also say that someone let the air out of their tires in the woods, and that they caught a husky red-haired boy up in the barn loft the day before. Jim! Jim is repeatedly referred to as "husky" in this book. I always though of him as a farm boy type, lean and muscular. Maybe "husky" meant something different back then.

The crooks argue. BHM is about to double-cross Jeff when Honey sneezes. BHM climbs up and threatens to kidnap the girls and hole them for ransom. Trixie stays calm and tries to talk him down. BHM speculates that maybe the girls and Jim are part of a teenage gang of thieves. Honey tries to go gansta and shouts "This is our territory, see? Scram out of it, big boy, or you'll get hurt!" LOL!!!

Thankfully, the police arrive around this time. Someone had placed an anonymous call telling them of the thieves location. It wasn't Jim; it was a man's voice on the phone. The girls are remarkably calm after all this goes down.

Let's see- I need to wrap this up. The girls finally figure out that the "two boys" who are working at the Smith's are actually Jim and Joanne. They are reunited with Jim and tell him about the half-million dollars. The Darnells are reunited with Joanne. Mr. Darnell was the one who called the cops, and they're grateful for his help and let him off easy. Apparenly the Darnells are from Sleepyside, but they had fallen on hard times and "borrowed" the Robin. It belongs to Mr. Lynch, who said they are welcome to use it as long as they need to. Mrs. Smith says they must stay there and live with her, after they return the trailer. Honey gives Bud to Sally to keep, which is sweet of her. Back at Autoville, the Wheelers and Mr. Rainsford have arrived. Apparently, Mr. Wheeler knew Jim's father in school. They want Jim to come and live with them and will eventually adopt him. So it's a very sticky, sweet, happy, wholesome ending. Trixie even says "sometimes dreams DO come true." Gag.

Coming soon- #3 The Gatehouse Mystery Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Rich Girl, Poor Girl; Trixie Belden #1 The Secret of the Mansion

This is the very first Trixie book, written by Julie Campbell in 1948. Yes, it is SIXTY years old. And it's age kind of shows, though in my mind Trixie is kind of forever set in the 1960's or 70's. Anyway...

A lot happens in this book. More than I remembered. We are introduced to Trixie, working with her mother in the garden and bugging her for a horse. Throughout the book, Trixie goes back and forth between complaining and then reflecting on how she really does have it good after all. There is character backstory (Dad's a banker, older brothers Brian and Mart are working as camp counselors for the summer, little brother Bobby is a pest, but an adorable one). Trix is lonely and bored without her brothers around.

Dad comes home early from work and says that he found their reclusive and elderly neighbor, Mr. Frayne, unconscious at the end of his driveway that morning. Dad took him to the hospital, but it doesn't look good. We get backstory on the neighbor; how he and his wife were charming and neighborly, until she died suddenly after being bitten by a copperhead snake. Snakes are like a recurring theme in this book, as you will see. Mr. Frayne became mean and reclusive after her death. His run-down mansion sits somewhere behind the Belden's home.

As if this wasn't enough excitement for one day, Trixie then sees vans pulling up to the Manor House, the large mansion up the hill from Crabapple Farm (i.e. the Belden's cozy farmhouse). And, wonder of wonders, they brought horses, too! Dad says that the Wheeler family is moving in and that they have a daughter Trixie's age. Trix and Bobby go up to check this out.

They meet Madeline "Honey" Wheeler. Honey is tall, thin, and pale. Trixie's initial impression is that she must be stuck-up because she is wearing a "white linen dress and stockings and sandals." To be fair, I have to say if I were Honey, my initial impression of Trixie wouldn't be that great, either. She is kind of pushy, immediately asking about the horses and if she can ride. She and Honey make a deal; Honey will teach her to ride a horse if she will teach Honey to ride a bike. Yes, Honey has never ridden a bike. It is quickly revealed that she is the stereotypical "poor little rich girl." Shipped away to boarding schools and summer camps by her parents, never allowed to do anything dangerous, never allowed out on the streets "for fear of kidnappers." She's afraid of snakes, spiders, worms, dogs,... pretty much everything. She was also sick for a while. Now her parents have bought this place in the country, but Honey laments that it's no good if she can't have any fun.

Trixie tells Honey about crazy old Mr. Frayne, and that she wants to explore his house. Honey is appalled, but Trixie spins it by saying she just wants to make sure the place is locked up. Sure. Honey admits that she and her father walked up toward the mansion by mistake, and that she thought she saw a face at the window. That settles it for Trixie. They're going exploring.

But first, we meet Regan (the Wheeler's groom) and Miss Trask (Honey's governess). We get our first mention of Miss Trask's "sturdy brown-and-white oxfords." I should do a post about the clothing of the Trixie Belden series sometimes. Oxfords, jodhoppers, dungarees....Trixie has her first riding lesson. She does well, but Regan and Honey don't want her to overdo it. After the lesson the girls hike up to the Frayne Mansion. Julie Campbell does a pretty good job describing the place and setting the scene. It's dark, foreboding, weather-beaten, and really, REALLY dirty. Through the windows, the girls can see stacks and stacks of junk (old newspapers, dishes, cartons), and it's described as being "white with mold." Yuck. If Mr. Frayne lived there for so long, shouldn't he already be dead? My allergies hurt just thinking about it.

They climb in a window and sure enough, someone is inside. It's a red-headed boy, about 15, sleeping on an old mattress. He wakes up and points a shotgun at them. Honey is (understandably) scared, but Trixie is confrontational. She tells him this is Mr Frayne's house and that he was taken to the hospital. They boy looks sad and says Mr. Frayne is his great-uncle. They even have the same name: James Winthrop Frayne. Jim came from Albany to find his uncle. Both of his parents are dead. He's trying to escape his wicked step-father Jonesy. Jim: "I call him Simon Legree, myself." Heh. There are some pretty serious descriptions of child abuse in this book (beaten, tied to a bed for three days, etc) but Jim is surprisingly nonchalant about the whole thing. He does say he won't go back.

Because their hearts are so big, Trixie and Honey immediately begin arguing about whose family will adopt Jim. Girls, this is the guy who was pointing a gun at you a few minutes ago. Just sayin'. They agree not to tell and that they will bring him something to eat. They come back later with a picnic lunch. They work out a signal with Jim; they will whistle like a Bob-White quail so he will know it's them. Bob, Bob-White! And with that, the bob-white signal is born.

Mr. Frayne is rumored to have a treasure somewhere, even though he lived like a miser. Jim would be the only living heir to the fortune, if there is one. It could even be as much as half a million dollars! Jim has a dream of using the money to go to college and to open a school for orphaned boys someday. At the very least, he should inherit the mansion and its grounds. The girls and Jim start searching through the house for the money, which they do several times throughout the book. This time, they find a brass key, but can't figure out what it opens.

I'm going to have to skip over a lot of the middle, or this will be way too long. It involves scary chickens, mad dogs, runaway horses, and copperhead snakes. Trixie's summer vacation is way more exciting than any of mine ever were. She even sucks the blood and venom out of Bobby's toe after he is bitten by a copperhead. Ew. The girls discover Jim is an excellent horseman when he rides Jupiter, the Wheelers' strongest horse. Regan figures out pretty quickly that the girls are sneaking off to see someone, but he says he will mind his own business. Apparently he knows what it's like to run away from a bad home. Regan is awesome. Nosey Mr. Lytell who owns a general store on Glen Road is also starting to catch on, after he sees them out riding. Mr. Lytell is not so awesome. He's kind of like Mr. Olsen from Little House On The Prairie. Actually, he's nosy and gossipy, so maybe more like Mrs. Olsen.

On another search of the house, Jim and the girls find a will. Jim is the sole heir! The executor of the estate is a Mr George Rainsford. They have no idea how to contact him. Jim is still worried about his stepfather showing up. He wants to leave to find a job somewhere else, but the girls convince him to stay longer. Then, the most unbelievable part of the book happens; a plane crashes just behind Ten Acres. No, seriously. No one is hurt, but the media is all over it. One of them even takes pictures of the inside of the Frayne Mansion. Also, Mr. Frayne has finally passed away, and the media connects the two stories. They even mention the missing heir. Jim knows his stepfather will make see it in the paper and come looking for him. The girls convince him to stay one more night. Of course, that's the night it hits the fan.

The girls do one more search and find a diamond engagement ring inside a vault hidden behind a painting (of course). They go for a moonlight horse ride and come back to find a man sneaking around the mansion. Jonesy! He leaves, and Jim says he will sleep in the summerhouse. The girls leave, but come back when Trixie sees smoke coming from the direction of Ten Acres. Jonesy dropped a cigarette and all the old papers and boxes have set the mansion on fire. The fire department is called. Trixie wakes Jim up in the summerhouse so he can escape the fire. Jonesy shows up again, screaming about how Jim and the money are all burning up inside the house. The fireman pay no attention to him (he is clearly more worried about the money than Jim). Finally Jonesy leaves. The girls go back home for the night.

In the morning they go up to the summerhouse, but Jim is gone. He leaves a note saying he finally found the money. It was in an old mattress that Trixie had dragged out of the house earlier for reasons I can't remember. The money will keep him going for a while. He says he wants Trixie to have the ring. That same day, Mr. George Rainsford shows up. The girls tell him what has been going on. He admonishes them for breaking into the house and confronting Jim when they didn't know who he was. Trixie says she has a habit of acting before she thinks. Mr. Rainsford says he's sure she meant well and she will never do anything like that again. Poor, naive Mr. Rainsford. He also says that there is a half-million dollar fortune, which had been set up in a trust fund for Jim. The girls hatch a plan to take Miss Trask and the Wheeler's trailer and go find him before he gets too far away. Cliffhanger! The story will pick back up in #2, The Red Trailer Mystery. And so will this blog.