Tagline: Someone is out to scare Dawn!
Cover: Yep, it's a mystery. Dawn, California Casual in denim-on-denim and some weird bracelet, needs the curtain to protect her from the eeeeevil envelope. It kind of looks like the house is on fire, too, but that doesn't really happen.
Plot!: This is one of the most poorly plotted Mysteries, I would say. Because not only does it pretty much rip off two previous books (Little Miss Stoneybrook...and Dawn, and Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls), it has all of the girls working separately and only really coming together at the end of the book. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
One by one, the sitters (except Kristy) start receiving mystery notes and calls on their sitting jobs. They each decide not to tell each other, because at the same time there is a Sitter of the Month contest, and they each want to win (even though they agree not to compete against each other). Eventually they do share the ideas and come up with a plan to trap Mr. X. Which they do, and it's a little boy who hates the BSC because they got him in trouble for teasing. But he gets the help he needs and everyone is happy. Oh, and there's a seven-way tie for the best sitter, and they all win. The end.
Continuity Watch: Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls, Little Miss Stoneybrook...and Dawn, Stacey's Emergency and Jessi's Baby-sitter all get shoutouts. That does not make up for basically recycling the plots.
Points of Interest:
- In the first chapter, there are a bunch of regulars (Nicky Pike, Jamie Newton, the Hobarts) and then two other boys, Zach Wolfson and Mel Tucker, who apparently also made an appearance in Kristy and the Secret of Susan. Do you think that this random mention has anything to do with the mystery? Knowing the BSC, there are probably a tonne of red herrings, but in this case it's more like the random 8 year old in the first act will go off in the third act.
- Dawn shares that her "wardrobe is mostly in bright colors, and it's all pretty informal stuff - loose and kind of sporty." Really?
- So Ben Hobart and Mallory were studying at the library. When Dawn breathlessly reports this to Mary Anne, MA sighs and gets teary eyed. There's sensitive, and then there's emotional problems.
- Although if you're going to cry at a telephone commercial, it better be the one about the grandson calling his grandfather from Dieppe and saying thank you.
- Dawn says she likes to hear Mallory rattle off the names of her brothers and sisters. Really? I mean, there are seven names to say, but it's not that impressive. It's not like it's Matt Damon's imaginary siblings in Good Will Hunting.
- Ben thinks that Mal is a "bonzer sheila," which apparently means a great girl, although this has never been confirmed by an actual Australian person.
- The kids at school decided that there should be a contest for "Sitter of the Month," to show who is the most fun and nicest and the best baby-sitter. I love the idea that the kids came up with this specifically because they KNEW that it would mess with their minds.
- While sitting for Karen, Andrew and David Michael, Dawn plays Let's All Come In, featuring Bruce Stringbean, Darryl Blueberry, and Ladonna. Then Kristy accuses her of being "super-sitter" to win the contest. I have a feeling there's no pleasing Kristy.
- Stacey says that when they compete with each other it never goes well. Jessi agrees, bringing up the time she stole Jackie Rodowsky's science project out from under him. Which...was not about that at all. It was more reactionary because of how Aunt Cecelia was treating her. A better example is the Miss Stoneybrook pageant, which they do eventually bring up.
- While sitting for the Prezziosos, Dawn has Jenny - a four year old - answer the phone. That does not seem like a super-sitter decision. Especially because the caller is Mr. Nobody/Mr. X, the mysterious figure who is menacing the sitters.
- Dawn's letter to her brother: "Dearest Little Bro, What's up? What's fresh? Everything's cool back here in Stoneybrook. What's happening out there in sunny Cal?" No, really.
- Mr. X leaves a note on the Prezziosos' front porch: You'd better watch out, you'd better not shout! I'm going to get you. Mr. X. And it's done in cut-out letters, like a ransom note. Dawn immediately thinks that Jenny is behind it. Jenny, the four year old, who is currently asleep in bed, was behind this complicated note. Dawn is full of wild assumptions in these mysteries.
- Also, Dawn decides to not tell anyone about this. Gah. This note is really scary! Also, why does Dawn assume it's for her? Maybe someone wants to kidnap Jenny or Andrea or something, and Dawn is hiding evidence.
- When a similar thing happens at the Rodowsky's house, the boys want to call the police. Why are the children smarter than the baby-sitter?
- Is anyone surprised that Becca's favourite show is The Cosby Show?
- Ah, popcorn makers. Do people use those anymore?
- When Jessi is sitting, she gets a note from Mr. X (Best wishes from your secret admirer) and a bouquet of flowers with dead flowers on it. But Jessi doesn't say anything either, because she wants to impress the others.
- The Pike parents. I never know what to think about them. I've talked before about the ridiculousness of having four kids under the age of 2 and then continuing to have more children each successive year, but they also talk about how easy going they are when it comes to rules. But then Mallory (whose perspective is definitely skewed) says how tough they are about her clothes and appearance. I wonder what they would do if Mallory wore, like, a sparkly top or something. They'd probably ground her, but then insist that she babysit for them anyway.
- The note for Mallory and Mary Anne: Do you like your hamster? If you do, you'd better keep an eye on him. And there's a picture of an eye instead of the word. Okay, that's pretty much a direct threat. And they still decide not to do anything.
- But the Pikes see it and freak out and decide to spend the rest of the day protecting Frodo, their hamster. So now this crazy person is affecting the kids, and yet the sitters still decide to not do anything. This is aggrevating.
- Oh, and a dead mouse shows up on the Pike's porch. Here's my thinking: if you're ever in a situation where you're trying to decide if it's serious or not, and dead animals show up, it's serious.
- Kristy sits for the Kormans, and she gets a mysterious phone call....from her mom. And then the door rings....and it's Mr. Papadakis. Waah-waah.
- Chapter 11, page 98: the sitters FINALLY come clean about Mr. X. And it turns out that they all have Mr. X stories - except Kristy. So, of course, Dawn starts to suspect Kristy as the culprit. Because Kristy would TOTALLY sabotage the club in order to win the super-sitter contest.
- Claudia's notebook entry: Whooever Mr. X is, I wish he wuld just dissapear off the fase of the eurth. I mean, even if he is'nt danjerus, or evil, or any of that stuff, the fact is that hes' a pest. A reel pane. And I wish he'd quit buging us. I get that she can't spell, but not even the word FACE? or REAL? GAH.
- Mr. X smears baked beans all over the Johanssen's porch. O...kay.
- While baby-sitting for Jamie Newton, Jamie lets it slip to Dawn that Mel Tucker is going to do a secret baby-sitting check on them. Mel...Who? Oh, right, that random guy from the first chapter. I'm sure glad I paid attention to that!
- When the doorbell rings Dawn says: "I had a feeling it wasn't Avon calling, if you know what I mean." This line cracks me up.
- With a suspect in mind, the BSC set up a sting to catch Mr. X in the act. I don't know why they didn't do this already. Mr. X has a pretty similar M.O.: a few phone calls, and then something left at the door. So why wouldn't they just have someone staking out a sitting job? No, instead they have this fake thing, where Dawn tells everyone that she'll be home alone, sitting for her 'cousin.'
- Mr. X breaks into Dawn's house through her secret passageway. That's...really creepy.
- So Mr. X turns out to be Mel Tucker after all. He confesses to everything, except for the dead mouse and making some noises that Dawn heard. The reason he was doing all this? Because the BSC told Mrs. Hobart that he was teasing her boys, and she told Mel's parents, who grounded him.
- After hearing Mel's story, including that his parents want to send him to a psychiatrist (or, as Kristy says, a feelings doctor), Dawn tells Mel's dad that Mel is basically a sweet kid. Um, how do you know that, Dawn? You've already said you don't know him very well, and what you have seen: teasing an Autistic girl, teasing the Hobarts, threatening the BSC, and breaking his grounding to scare the BSC and their charges, not to mention conning the rest of the kids into giving him the information of where the BSC would be sitting. So, stay out of it.
- Sleepover, pizza: guess what! Yes, that's right, a pizza toast. Dawn eats cheesy pizza? I guess it's vegetarian, but I would see her going for a sprout topping or something.
- A whole bunch of kids show up at Claudia's to announce the winner of the Sitter of the Month contest. And it's a seven-way tie. Yes, they all win. Gag.
Final Thought: Even though this one comes fairly deep into the series (1991), there's still a lot of Kristy and Dawn tension simmering just below the surface.