The Trail of the Green Doll (Judy Bolton Mysteries #27)

By Margaret Sutton

“This must be the entrance to the cave…We never would have found it if Judy’s shoe hadn’t scraped against it when she fell.”
You were determined to find it, with or without me,” she retorted. “Isn’t anybody going to ask me if I hurt myself?”
Apparently nobody was.

Judy’s adventure starts out with her putting a sign on the road advertising her home as a place for tourists to stay. Without consulting her husband who is a secret FBI agent with an office in his house. Not Good, Judy, Not Good. Of course, It quickly attracts some really sketchy men and Judy comes to her senses. Anyway, a young single mother with two children whose car had just been forced off the road and her purse stolen also saw it, and Judy is off to the races.

What follows is a mystery involving a valuable jade collection that is missing from a mansion that has just burned to the ground. The rather flaky and secretive widowed mother was traveling to see her Uncle Paul, the owner. Besides being the key to the missing jade, her history includes a soap opera-ish love triangle between her, her late husband, and his identical twin brother, three cousins who grew up there.

This effort by Margaret Sutton is notable for its exploration of the Hindu mythological tale, The Ramayana, which permeates the story and the mystery. It surely would have been very strange and very educational to her young readers.

This book is not a favorite despite its exotic and interesting aspects. The little family and their troubles did not appeal to me, and one of the mysteries (Talking Trees!) had a very far-fetched explanation. Almost as implausible as the secret tunnel in The Black Cat’s Clue.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

October 8, 2021

The Pink Dress

By Anne Alexander

I don’t remember how I heard about this book. No doubt through my interest in girl’s series books. When I read all of the glowing reviews and looked around and saw how expensive it was, I couldn’t justify it but I did put an email alert on eBay so I would be informed whenever one came up for sale. Lo and behold, when one did, and I re-researched it, I saw that it was on Kindle for 9.99! There goes the once justifiably inflated price of another out-of-print book. Thank-you Amazon.

I just finished it, and I do see why people love it so. I still prefer Rosamunde du Jardin, whose stories are a little more complex, but this one really drew me in from the very beginning. Although sometimes, I grew very frustrated with how blind Sue was to her so-called friends, when she finally woke up and smelled the coffee, the resolution and climax were very satisfying. It was very realistic to how teens would think and behave back in the ’50s and probably even today. They are immature and insecure and very silly sometimes. The book had some surprises regarding her new cool boyfriend, Dave, who had quite a good character arc! In parts, it kind of reminded me of a John Hughes movie, or another favorite teen movie, Can’t Buy me Love.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

January 25. 2016

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm

By Kate Douglas Wiggin

“Rebecca’s eyes were like faith,—”the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” …Their glance was eager and full of interest, yet never satisfied; their steadfast gaze was brilliant and mysterious, and had the effect of looking directly through the obvious to something beyond, in the object, in the landscape, in you. They had never been accounted for, Rebecca’s eyes.

I loved the well-realized characters, life lessons demonstrated with a light, sometimes amusing touch, and words of wisdom. This is a great comfort read and trip back into time on par with, if not better than, L.M. Montgomery, Jean Webster, Louisa May Alcott, the Five Little Peppers and the Pollyanna series. It kept me interested from first page to last because of the quality of the writing. My only regret is the lack of any kind of sequel, unlike the previously mentioned works. It would have been lovely to see Rebecca’s continued progress into maturity and what life may hold in store for her. (Although, in truth, it is made crystal clear that her final place will be as a teacher and the wife of Mr. Aladdin, her wealthy mentor, Adam Ladd.) Still, the journey there would have been a treat to read. Although some, looking at this relationship through modern eyes, might find it inappropriate, It was written with innocence and I found it charming. The book is concluded with her path pretty much set and the financial problems that beset her family pretty well solved. It does seem to me that if not Rebecca, the story of her brother John, destined to be a doctor, could have made a wonderful continuation.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

August 27, 2015

Mother Carey’s Chickens

By Kate Douglas Wiggin

This is the story of a wonderful single (widowed) mother raising her four children around the turn of the century. Because they are in very straitened circumstances they have to downsize. Nancy, the oldest daughter, remembers a yellow house they saw on a vacation to Maine when their father was alive where the family can live much more cheaply. Sound familiar? It was made into a Disney movie, Summer Magic.

For a while, this book is quite similar in tone and content to many other children’s books I have read from the turn of the century. It noticeably picks up around chapter 20, however. A neighbor family, The Lords, are introduced. This family is a piece of work. Henry Lord, especially, being a seriously messed up parent, to the point of tragedy. The two children are the bitter but brilliant Olive and the nerdy Cyril, who has tons of potential. As with her more famous Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, I would kill to read a sequel. Unfortunately, once again, Kate Douglas Wiggin did not oblige. The Lords are surely one of the most unique and non-stereotypical families in any literature of the time and genre.

There are several quite slapstick and delightful comedy scenes. I found myself pausing with delight and saying to myself, “Hey, this is really funny!” Among them, the resurrection of “You dirty boy”, a much-hated to the point of being a family joke, statue. Despite the family’s best efforts, it refuses to be broken so it can be disposed of. The deed is finally accomplished after they move into the yellow house, by a fall from a loft, after the initial move, despite supremely careless packing, failed to destroy it. However, Osh Popham, their friend and landlord, glues the whole mess together from “a thousand” pieces much to the family’s chagrin, and presents it to them during a solemn housewarming ceremony. The description of Nancy teaching her brothers and sisters how to pretend-faint on command and en-masse creates a hilarious picture in the mind’s eye. At her signal, this performance turned a serious and possibly weepy cliché moment into laughter instead of tears.

Mother Carey is a beautiful widow who is universally admired at first sight by all who meet her acquaintance. Yet somehow, I liked her too. Here is a rather poignant glimpse into her secret thoughts and emotions:

Was doing all that she could, she wondered as her steps
flew over the Yellow House, from attic to cellar. She could play
The piano and sing; she could speak three languages and read
Four; she had made her curtsy at two foreign courts; admiration and
Love had followed her ever since she could remember, and here
She was, a widow at forty, living in a half-deserted New England
Village, making parsnip stews for her children’s dinner. Well,
it was a time of preparation, and its rigors and self-denials must be cheerfully faced.

Summer Magic is my number one comfort movie, and it was amazing to read so many passages and scenes and dialogue that Sally Benson incorporated into the film. The book is considerably fleshed out with more characters and plots, but regrettably, only a bit where Nancy meets her future love, Tom Hamilton. Miss Benson obviously read the book very carefully and loved it.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

May 13, 2015

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

By John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, J.K. Rowling

“GINNY: After I came out of hospital — everyone ignored me, shut me out — other than, that is, the boy who had everything — who came across the Gryffindor common room and challenged me to a game of Exploding Snap. People think they know all there is to know about you, but the best bits of you are — have always been — heroic in really quiet ways. My point is — after this is over, just remember if you could that sometimes people — but particularly children — just want someone to play Exploding Snap with.”

For a play, I thought this was a worthy edition to the Potter canon. But it’s not great like the books and it’s not written by J.K. Rowling, so it shouldn’t be judged as such. The epilogue of The Deathly Hallows serves as the jumping off point to the story. What could be more appropriate and welcome? The adventure centers around Albus, the estranged son of Harry, and Scorpius Malfoy who, after both are sorted into Slytherin, become close friends. In a misbegotten effort to prevent the death of Cedric Diggory, by the use of a forbidden and illegal time turner, they rain down disaster and darkness on the Wizarding World and their own families. Lots of scenes from the original 7 books are revisited and we are treated to some alternate realities in which, for one, Ron and Hermione never fall in love and get married and Harry Potter is killed by Voldemort. It’s not nice to try to change history. It has somewhat of an “It’s a Wonderful Life” vibe in places. Some of the ways the boys unintentionally change history are overly fanciful and fan fictiony, but the script fits in. Potterheads should not be outraged, and I was not disappointed. There are lots of cameo appearances by many beloved and hated characters from the books and movies, and I believe it when I read what a crowd and critic pleaser the actual West end play is.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

August 2, 2016

My Best Friend’s Exorcism

By Grady Hendrix

“The devil is loud and brash and full of drama. God, he’s like a sparrow.”

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel about the friendship and loyalty of Abby towards Gretchen. Of course Gretchen was Abby’s friend too, as we see especially in the concluding pages, but for almost half of the book, Gretchen wasn’t there. She’d been replaced.
I loved the humor in the face of the horrific. Not especially the gross details of some of the fates of the teens involved and of course the possession and exorcism, but really the uselessness and terrible behavior of the adults. That was the scariest evil in this book.

“Families like that don’t listen to other people,” Mrs. Rivers said. “You get in the middle of whatever this is and you’ll be giving them an excuse to blame you for everything.”

Mrs. Rivers, Abby’s mother, was not a good parent and was a bitter person although not without good reason. But she was right in all of her observations. Her portrayal was fascinating and unpredictable. One of many gripping characterizations in the book.

Of course, some of the events just could not have played out the way they did for real. When confronted by the sights and smells and devastation that Gretchen’s possession caused, including what happened to one friend in particular, surely at least one parent, teacher, doctor, law enforcement, or clergyperson, would have stepped in, Like in The Exorcist. Denial caused by cognitive dissonance can only continue to a certain point. But that would have defeated the purpose of the book, I guess.

Someone had to do something. Someone had to say something. Teachers weren’t doing it. Her mom wasn’t going to do it. The Langs wouldn’t do it. That left Abby.

This was a real page-turner and one which was emotionally satisfying as well.

P.S. As I always do, I went on Google Earth to find some of the stomping grounds of the characters. Amazingly, Gretchen’s street not only exists, but her exact house is right there too. As are all of the other locations as well. I loved that authenticity.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

May 20, 2020

The Sherwood Ring

By Elizabeth Marie Pope

“A gentleman can hardly continue to sit,’ he explained, in his serenest and most level voice, ‘when he asks a very remarkable young lady to do him the honor of marrying him. And – ‘he somehow contrived to grin at me wickedly, ‘I usually get what I want, Miss Grahame,’ he added, and pitched over in a tangled heap on the floor.”

This was a lovely light read involving friendly helpful ghosts and 3 charming love stories. I would have been so captivated had I read this as a young teen. I was pretty captivated as an adult. I would recommend this for any romantic teen who loves innocent love stories and history. Peaceable Sherwood was a wonderful character who provided a good portion of the gentle humor in this tale. He reminded me of Geoffrey Delavale in Patricia Veryan’s Journey to Enchantment

Rating: 4 out of 5.

September 27, 2019

The Girl Sleuth

by Bobbie Ann Mason

Bobbie Ann Mason’s book on Girl Sleuths crystallized for me why I loved Trixie Belden and why Nancy Drew left me kind of cold. Any girl (or boy) that grew up on these series books will find a lot to love and relate to in this volume. As well as very illuminating, it is, at times, laugh out loud funny. You will find yourself cringing and shaking your head in wonder at some of the excerpts from the unrevised versions of the stories from the ’30s and ’40s.

If only I had been introduced to Judy Bolton instead of Nancy Drew! Where was she? Did my library even have her? Did I just overlook her? It’s a mystery, but I am sad for my younger self for being deprived of her adventures when I really would have just gobbled them up and waited in suspense for the next one. Well, this book has made me think maybe it’s not too late…I’m bidding on a lot offered on eBay today!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

April 20, 2014

Nancy Drew and Her Sister Sleuths

by Michael G. Cornelius and Melanie E. Gregg

This book consists of 12 or so essays of diverse, and at times, unusual subject matter. Of course one would expect an essay on race and xenophobia (which yielded unsurprising conclusions), but how the french translation quixotically at times altered “Nancy’s” family origins and relationship to her father? The history of the Stratemeyer syndicate was interesting, dispelling many myths about the series (originating from taking information from interviews of Mildred Wirt and Harriet Adams at face value, not accounting for memory lapses or spin.) The essay claiming Nancy Drew was afraid of technology was poorly supported and weakly exampled. I don’t buy it and I had the feeling that another scholar could have made the opposite case. Of particular interest were the forays into the “sister sleuths” Cherry Ames, Trixie Beldon, and Linda Carlton: In many ways, they were better written and the heroines more interesting and more worthy to be role models than Nancy Drew. The essays range from academic and too serious to fun and amusing. But all were very educational and had interesting insights. Being a Marshmallow and a Potterhead, I did enjoy the occasional mentions of Veronica Mars and the essay on Hermione Granger. Surprisingly, there was little to nothing regarding the great Judy Bolton series.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

April 9, 2014

Lisa and Lottie

By Erich Kastner

A.K.A. Lottie and Lisa. This is a charming little children’s book (age 9-12?) that was the basis of Disney’s beloved Hayley Mills vehicle: Parent Trap.

That’s how it is at Bohrlaken on Lake Bohren, where the story begins which I am going to tell you. It’s a rather complicated story. And now and then you’ll have to pay careful attention if you are really going to get the hang of it. It’s quite straightforward at the beginning; it doesn’t begin to get complicated till later on.

Lisa, the extrovert and Lottie, the introvert, meet at camp and discover that they are twins, separated by divorced parents. They change places to get to know the parents that they never even knew existed. In the book, the father is a well-known composer and conductor, and the mother is a hard working and struggling single mom. They divorced because the Dad, essentially selfish and focused on his music, was never home. He just wasn’t meant to be a family man, he thinks. Yet he is a loving father to Lisa, as long as she is not too intrusive. Like the movie, the father has been snared by a cold unpleasant woman. Naturally, the girls plot to become a family again. There are some minor differences (the girls live in Vienna and Munich, for example) between the movies and this book, but the changes worked for the movies, as the original plot points work for this little book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

September 12, 2017