Friday, June 28, 2013

UFOs in the sky! New Bobbsey Twins #5-The Case of the Close Encounter

    Now we come to one of my favourite books in the series. The cover has to include all four Bobbsey Twins (at least at this point-more on that when I get to the later books),  but Bert was the only one of our fab four to view a UFO in the night sky.

     But I get ahead of myself. This book opens with Nan feeling sick. So she asks her twin Bert to handle her babysitting job.  Bert is usually game for anything, but the particular boy that needs babysat is Artie Houlihan-a hyper and mischievous brat! Bert finally agrees and goes. Hilarity ensues as Bert chases the supercharged lad around and tries to keep him out of trouble

Looks like Bert's eggs are scrambled!

    Soon the chase leads to the backyard where Artie hides from Bert. As Bert tries to find the little boy, suddenly a light appears in the sky! First a bright white light, and then multi-coloured spinning lights! As any sci-fi fan worth his Luke Skywalker merit badge can tell you, that spells UFO!

     Bert tries to tell the police and press what he witnessed, but they only humour him at best

"You saw what son? A UFO? Did you see Bigfoot too?"
   Later though, a woman visits who says she is writing a book about people who experience alien encounters. Her name is Lenore Bainbridge and she seems like an X-files type government agent (and this is before X-files came out!)

   Word is getting out about Bert's sighting, and he and his siblings decide to investigate.  It looked like the UFO landed in a field a quarter mile or some from Artie's house, so the Bobbseys (and Artie who begs to tag along) go there. They find a patch of grass that looks blackened and burnt along with flattened areas. They find junk in the grassy field too including a coffee cup with "Cup 'n Saucer Diner" on it. This seems a tenuous link at best, but the Bobbseys know of a "Flying Saucer" diner. The owner is very friendly but has a "foreign" accent. He says that he bought the diner recently, and changed the "Cup 'n" to "Flying" to appeal to kids more who would patronize the shop, as well because the slight letter change was quite cheap. The twins also discover that the Cup 'n Saucer has been out of business for a couple years, but Felix Usher, a young man who lives as a hermit, lives in a shack where the cups were stored, and has access to several hundred of them which he probably uses.  Flossie thinks his accent and strange mannerisms may mean that he is an alien in disguise. The older twins especially scoff at this idea.

     But when the twins go back to their bikes they find a cassette in the basket of one of them. When they play it, they hear strange whooshing sci-fi sounds and a voice comes on telling them to stop searching.

    Later that night, a scary alien head appeared at Flossie's window! Glowing evilly, with the same whooshing alien sound!

     The twins make no progress questioning Felix Usher who is quite mean. Nan and Freddie return to the grassy field, but suddenly a high pitched whine disturbs the quiet of the lonely area! Then there is a blinding flash, and a tree near them bursts into flames!  The two Bobbseys high-tail it to their bikes and pedal away. Freddie is quite terrified, but Nan smells a rat. When she catches up to Freddie, she calms him down and insists on going back to the tree. There is a charred ring that encircles the tree, and it looks like that is where the fire spreads. She determines that someone fastened a flare to the tree with wire and in harmony with sound effects from speakers hidden somewhere  made it seem as if aliens were firing ray guns. Going back home, they see specks of paint on the windowsill of Flossie's room.  It's a kind of phosphorus glow-in-the-dark paint. Looks like the nightly visitation was a trick too!

     The twins do a background check on Milios, the cafĂ© owner, and he checks out. So, what is the reason for the hoax?  The twins spot the woman who claimed to be an author a few times too.

     The twins backtrack the events. It seems that everything started with Bert's sighting. He remembers that he spotted the UFO shortly after he turned on a powerful spotlight to look for Artie. The Houlihans live in an isolated area that has no lights around it. In fact, the only light they spotted came from an area near the grassy field. The Bobbseys triangulate and realize that that is near where Felix Usher lives. They decide he is involved and call the police.

     Long story short, the twins sabotage Felix's light, and with the police aiding them and the Houlihan's consent use a spotlight at night again. Turns out, Usher is part of a gang that stole a top-secret government helicopter that has a stealth "silent running" mode! Lenore is a government agent who was following up on all UFO sightings because the running lights on the chopper are as the spotters describe. They lure the chopper to land and arrest the villians

     This is an EXCELLENT book! I loved (and still do) sci-fi, and this has a dash of that, along with creepiness (I remember getting chills when Flossie's room was invaded), and overall mystery. I had no idea what was happening (but figured it wasn't real aliens), and was very satisfied with the way everything wound up. A splendid book!

    Take care 'till next time folks!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A spooky house, and a gold hunt. The New Bobbsey Twins #4-The Secret in the Sand Castle

    This book marks a change in illustrations from George Tsui to Paul Jennis. The transition was very smooth (unlike the one when Mr. Jennis left, but we'll get to that later)

     Ok, onto the story!

     The Bobbseys are on vacation at the shore! Well, a working vacation-Mrs. Bobbsey needs to write an article for the travel section of the newspaper for her part time job, and Mr. Bobbsey was asked to help a real estate agent by providing lumber advice on a house he is renovating (Mr. Bobbsey owns a lumberyard) Speaking of said house, that is where the Bobbseys will stay-it's an old Victorian or Edwardian era house by the beach complete with rusty weathervane and old shuttered windows

     As the Bobbseys arrive, and Flossie enters the house to explore, she is frightened by what she believes to be a ghost! Turns out, it's just the caretaker carrying a bunch of sheets that were flapping in the wind


     The caretaker does tell them though that the house is supposed to be haunted by the brother and sister that lived in it years ago (don't worry-it's not)

     The Bobbseys laugh this off, and as the parents go to take care of their business dealings, the kids unpack the car and pick their rooms. To their surprise, as they are downstairs, they are disturbed by shattering glass! Going up to Flossie's room they see a full-length mirror has been completely destroyed

  Since their parents are still away talking to Mr. Reade, the realtor, Freddie and Nan decide to bike over to the local library and look up the history of the house.  The brother and sister that owned it were a bad lot. He was a sculptor and she was a painter, but they turned to a life of crime and stole gold from an armoured car! When the police tried to arrest them, they attempted to escape out to sea, but the boat sank and they were killed. It is believed that the gold is somewhere on the premises of the house since it was established that they didn't have it with them when the boat went down. These interesting researches are cut short when the two hear a crash and look out the window to see their bikes knocked over! Freddie leaps into action and stops a kid who just pulled this prank.

    Freddie and the boy get into a short scuffle, but the librarian and Nan arrives and make them clean up the mess of scattered books they made. Mr. Reade also puts in an appearance and says that he's come to take the boy home (turns out it's his son). When the siblings go back to their table, they discover that the book on the house they are staying in is gone!

    Nan and Freddie go back to the house and tell the other Bobbsey kids what happened. They decide to put the mysterious into their subconscious for awhile and have a clambake. The girls go off to buy ingredients while the boys go into the root cellar. But someone shuts the door on them and locks them in!

    The boys are trapped until the girls return from the store, hear them banging and let them out

     When they go back in the house, they discover that all of their things on the ground floor have been disturbed. Articles of clothing were moved, and so on. Then strange noises are heard! But the Bobbseys may be frightened, but they aren't put off so easily. They discover that the old house is full of secret passageways and tunnels.

     Despite a few scary moments, they go down these tunnels and find out that someone who knows them can easily get access to the house and make noises to scare people

     Worn out from detecting, the kids decide to prepare for the clambake, and then make an early night of it.

     The house is BIG as i mentioned earlier, so each kid has their own room in a wing away from their parents. They are sleeping peacefully when a scream erupts! It's Nan-a face was starring at her from the window of her second floor room! The parents and other kids investigate, but can find no trace of the midnight visitor nor any sign he was ever there.

     The next day, the Bobbseys discuss the case and their suspects. There is Jimmy Reade, the young son of Mr Reade who seems to be a troublemaker and ne'er do well, there is Mr Reade who it is discovered has financial problems, and may want to keep the house unrestored for his own ends, and of course if the gold story is true, it could be almost anyone else that might want to find the gold.  And then old Pete Smedley the caretaker seems to really believe ghosts are involved.

     Nan decides to clear her head by busying herself with her artwork-she wants to draw the rambling old house and so gathers her gear for an enjoyable pasttime

     She notices that the trellis is broken though-that would make a perfect ladder for someone who wanted to climb up on her window! As she thinks about this, she gets the creepy feeling that she is being watched. Whirling around, she catches the glint of binoculars-someone WAS watching her!

     Going back in the house, she encounters Bert who tells her that he continued exploring the passages and found a treasure map! It leads to a small shack on a point of land that stretched out into the ocean. They decide to gather the younger twins and bike out there

   They get to the shack, but all they dig up is a message in a bottle warning them to go away! The bottle is new, so the twins know that someone is watching them closely. At that point, Mr. Reade appears with binoculars round his neck and yells at them that the shack is his property and they mustn't trespass. Cold, and wet (the tide came in, and they had to swim from the shack to the shore), they prepare to leave, when Pete appears and says that he was sent to pick them up. He explains that the road only leads to the shack, so when they were spotted biking on it, he knew where to find them.

    When the twins get home, they are fairly stymied. None of their hunches seem to be paying off

     To make matters worse, suddenly all the lights go off! Mr. Bobbsey discovers that the circuit breaker was shut off and the cables were cut. This is no ordinary power outage, but sabotage! Just then, a shadow passes the window! Bert springs into action, leaves the house, and tackles the intruder! It's Jim Reade! Bert presses him, but Jim seems genuinely scared. He says that he was going to scare the Bobbseys with a mask, but then a "real" ghost came and shut off their electricity! Mr. Bobbsey and Bert realise that Jim isn't acting-he really is terrified, so they don't push him further.

   The next morning, the kids are hard at working building a sand castle (see! Sand castles do play a part in the story). They decided to make one based on the old house they are staying in. Since they no longer have the picture of the house from the library book that was taken, they are using Nan's half completed drawing as a guideline. They discuss the details of the house, and talk about how they can build a stationary weathervane like the one on the roof. Then they talk about how the weathervane never moves with the wind. Could it be sculpted and painted by the siblings and made of gold?

   They then catch the glint of binocs again and realise they were being watched. They race back to the house to find Pete with a ladder trying to climb to the roof! Whilst going back, Nan realises that it has to be Pete doing all the evil deeds since as caretaker, he would know about the secret passages, and have access to the property without looking suspicious. As Pete is on the roof, Bert knocks down the ladder trapping him until the police arrive.

    Turns out, the kids were right, the weathervane WAS made of gold! And old Pete was the driver of the getaway car when the former house owners stole the gold. He scared away any tenants to the house and attempted to find the gold for himself. So, another case wrapped up!

   I did like this story, but i thought the ending was a little rushed. Also, maybe it's just me, but i always thought Jim Reade was a little creepy. It seems to be implied that while Pete did most of the troubles, Jim was the one who snuck up to Nan's room. This seems a bit...disturbing, especially in a kids book (but maybe it's not the way i think)

   Either way, the story does hold the interest of the reader, and the new artist does a fab job!

   See you in the next review!

A brief overview of the books

A few people mentioned to me that they didn't know there even were Bobbsey Twins books in paperback after the original series ended, so i thought i'd give a brief explanation of how the series progressed.

    Most of you know the original series. It had a total of 72 books and was printed from 1904 thru 1979.

    Then in 1980, Wanderer marketed another Bobbsey Twins series as kid mysteries in the format of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. This series is here:

In 1986, Minstrel books took over the series, titled it "The New Bobbsey Twins" and started again from #1. I started reading the series with the end of the Wanderer books, but it was REALLY hard for me to find the earlier books in the series (i was a kid, and the one bookstore i could easily visit wouldn't order them), so i remember the New Bobbseys much better than the Wanderer books:

     While i enjoy the entire collection, after #17 of the new series, the stories got a LOT more babyish and less interesting. For example in books 1-17, the Bobbseys stopped a jewel thief, enemy spies stealing plans for a US helicopter, a smuggling ring etc. In books 18-30, they stopped some kid planning to mess up the science fair, a mother who tried to sabotage someone's cookies at a bake sale, a prize pig owner, etc. UGH! Maybe the publishers thought these kiddie mysteries would better appeal to younger readers, but not so much for me!

    Also, i thought i'd give a sneak preview of things to come: a couple years ago, i bought the old pictures used by Paul Jennis (the artist of the New Bobbsey Twins books 4-17) that he used to draw the illustrations. I'll show them when i get to the books, but as a sample, here's one of my favourites where Nan is chased by a (model) airplane on a pier a la North by Northwest:

     So stick around! Plenty more to come!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Jewels stolen! Flossie kidnapped! A young girl terrorised into silence! New Bobbsey Twins #3-The Clue That Flew Away

    This book has plenty of thrills as this blog post's title suggests!

    A wealthy friend of the Bobbseys is having a party whose guest list included not only the twins and their parents, but also movie stars! The mother of their friend, Mrs Armstrong has a small hot air balloon model made of jewels, which will be used in a movie about a balloon race as the grand prize for the winner. One of the full-size hot air balloons that will be used in the movie is suspended 50 feet off the ground in the yard of the estate manned by the head ballonist, and tied down with ropes and anchors as a showpiece at the party.

  Everyone at the party is a little star struck to meet such celebrities as the stars, the director, and the crew, but the young tween girls are especially enthralled by Tim Archer-a young teenage actor who is starring in the film. Even level headed Nan is tongue-tied-especially when he asks her to dance at the party! She only enjoys this for a few minutes because a 20-something woman cuts in and says that Tim promised her the first dance. (If this was written today, i don't think they'd have an adult woman dancing with a young teen, but this was before the world was quite as mad as it is today) A bit stung, Nan notices that the young lady is quite pretty, and is the same height as Tim.

    Suddenly. a scream disrupts the social get-together! It is a hysterical Mrs. Armstrong-her jewels (including the Armstrong flyer) has been stolen! The twins rush over to her. Nan from the ballroom, Freddie from upstairs (where he was hiding with the Armstrong's son from Flossie who was trying to make them dance with her), and Bert from the gameroom.

     The police are called, and soon Lt. Pike arrives leading the rest of the police officers (doesn't the guy ever get a break?) He questions Mrs. Armstrong, and says that since there is a guard at the mansion's front gate, no one could have left yet, so the clues are fresh, and the thief is probably still present. As he looks around, he spots the Bobbseys. After a bit of teasing, he agrees to let them come upstairs with him to Mrs. Armstrong's bedrrom where the jewels were kept (he really is kind to them despite his gruff exterior).

     While searching the room, they find a charm engraved to Tim.  When they go downstairs, Flossie says that she saw Tim entering the bedroom some time ago. This clinches things for Lt. Pike, and he accuses Tim of being the robber

     Tim is taken away "for questioning", and the party soon breaks up (with the police searching everyone on the way out)

     The next day, the Bobbseys go to the field where the filming for the balloon launches take place (i guess they decided to film it in the Bobbsey's small town of Lakeport too). They get there just Ross Benton, the movie director is listening to young actress Jessica Gordon cry in terror when she has to ride in the balloon. Mysteriously, she is suddenly scared of riding in hot air balloons (even though she had no problem with it before). In despair, Mr. Benton looks around, and spots Flossie. The little Bobbsey girl looks enough like Jessica that he realises that with a little makeup, she can play Jessica in the distance shots in the balloon (convenient, eh?)

Freddie is a little jealous!
A dimpled smile!

     After getting Mrs. Bobbsey's approval (and signing off a contract), Flossie is made up, and compared with Jessica. Yes-it will work! Flossie's going to be in a movie!

     The rest of the Bobbseys meet the rest of the crew and do a bit of investigating. Among the crew is Lara, the makeup lady (who Nan recognises as the woman who wanted to dance with Tim), Ron Keller (the head ballonist, and a real grouch!), Pete (one of the balloon operates who makes friends with the twins and explains how the balloons work, and others.

  With Flossie being so busy, the older twins ask Freddie to befriend Jessica and try to get her to explain why she is so afraid of balloons. He is talking to her when overhead a hot air balloon hovers quite close, and drops a sandbag! It lands very near them, giving them quite a scare!

  But Jessica then tells Freddie that she saw something at the party, but seems very afraid to say more. Then the false front of a building falls and almost crushes them! Bert and others examine the wooden support that gave way and realise that it was cut, that was no accident! Freddie mentions how balloons are an integral part of this mystery. Even at the party, he saw a party favour balloon floating past a window while he was hiding from Flossie. And it seemed to be heading to the big balloon suspended above the yard. Balloons everywhere!

  In the meantime, the filming goes on. Tim is released by the police, with a caveat that he is not to leave town, and he films his scene where he leaves in a balloon at the start of the film's race. Flossie too is filmed being launched in a balloon. She is having a great time, but while flying in the balloon, she notices a shiny object glinting at the bottom of the gondola. She shows it to Pete (he is flying the balloon), and he says that he thinks it's a real ruby!  When they land, they are met by Ron Keller and the balloon crew who deflate and pack up the balloon in a van and drive them back to the set. Flossie shows Ron the ruby. He stiffens and says that it needs to be taken to the police right away, and drives like a maniac to get back to the set!

     As soon as they get back, Flossie wants to tell her siblings what she found, but doesn't get a chance to because director Ross Benton approaches saying that Jessica has disappeared somewhere and he needs a long range shot before the light changes. He wants Flossie to run across the field towards the camera. She does this, but a balloon zooms in!

     Flossie is too far away for anyone to react, but a figure that looks very much like Tim Archer reaches out of the balloon, snatches Flossie, and prepares to fly away! The fighting girl manages to grab the hair of her assailant, but it comes off! It was a wig! The wig flutters to the ground, and the balloon gains altitude, with Flossie kidnapped in it!

     Pete says that he thinks he can calculate the trajectory of the balloon based on the wind and other factors, and hopes to have a pretty accurate idea of where it is by the time the police are called and arrive. While chaos reigns on the set, the remaining twins examine the wig. It is cut to look precisely like Tim's hair. That must be how Flossie thought she saw Tim entering Mrs. Armstrong's bedroom-someone was dressed to look like Tim to frame him. The twins figure out that Lara's makeup and costume tent has everything that would be needed to disguise someone this way, and since she and Tim are the same size and build, she is likely in on the theft. Since Tim (a ballonist) is innocent, and Pete is with the twins, the only other person who can operate a balloon is Ron Keller, so he must be the second villian. By the time, Lt. Pike arrives, the twins have this figured out, and Pete has the direction of the balloon triangulated.

     Meanwhile, in the balloon, Ron is bragging over his evil deeds, but Lara seems upset at the part she played. Jessica tells Flossie that at the party, she saw "Tim" from the back releasing a party favour balloon up to the main balloon where Ron Keller was waiting. But when "Tim" turned around, the face was really Lara. Ron threatened and terrorised her into silence. Ron unashamedly agrees and then says that with the balloon and the strong wind, they can make a clean escape. He calls Lara over to make plans. Flossie, seeing her moment, grabs the cord that leads to the vent, and kills power to the burner! They begin to fall-fast! Ron manages to decelerate them, but can't get them to gain altitude again before they hit. He grabs Flossie in anger and says that she and Jessica will be hostages now, but Lara refuses to go along with his scheme and tells him to let the kids go. Soon police sirens can be heard, and Ron panics, picks up a sandbag and runs. When the police cars appear in the distance, he drops the sandbag and heads for the woods.

  Lt. Pike, the other twins, and a handful of police officers arrive and Flossie tells them to open the sandbag. When they do, the missing jewels are discovered amidst the sand!

     The book ends with Tim's name cleared, Jessica now unafraid to ride in balloons, Flossie "retiring" from acting, and a grateful crew letting Pete take the Bobbseys and Jessica up in the hot air balloon for a ride!

     I really liked this story when i was a kid (and still do). I've said it before, the first 17 stories of the new Bobbsey Twins was the absolute peak of the Bobbseys 100 year publishing of books to me. The story is exciting, action-packed, and suspenseful enough for youngsters without being too much. Something that the ghostwriter (all Bobbsey Twins books are written under the pseudonym "Laura Lee Hope") is very good at doing is sprinkling the clues throughout the book, so it makes sense who the villian is, but it isn't so obvious that the average 10-12 year old will figure it out in the first few chapters.

     The only thing i think is a bit contrived is how Jessica and Flossie look so much alike (i mean, yes, they were going to just use Flossie in long-range shots, but the artwork shows them looking like identical twins!

     Also, i didn't explain this in the synopsis, but in case you are wondering where Jessica's parents were during all of this, it is explained that they are actors too, and are working on another movie elsewhere. Lara is Jessica's guardian (that's kind of like the fox guarding the henhouse, eh?)

     Well, i don't know what else to say, so i'll just bid you adieu for now, and hope to see you when i review book #4 in the NBT (New Bobbsey Twins) series!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A locked room an armoured car! NBT #2-The Case of the Runaway Money

Hello again! And welcome to another New Bobbsey Twins mystery review!

This time, our young detective quartet are at a kids mini-marathon. Older twins Nan and Bert are competing. The race is for charity, and it was Nan's idea to hold it. The heavy hitters of the city (Mayor Childress, wife of city Counselman Cox, director of Lakeport cultural affairs Harrison Potter, and armoured car securities owner Jackson Winters) are heavily involved with the contest, so there is quite a turnout.

Bert and Nan are in the top 10 racers (i like how they don't come in first on EVERYTHING they compete in), and so are up on stage when the donation box with the charity money is opened. GASP! Shock! The box is only filled with strips of newspaper, and the money is nowhere to be found!

Each of the "heavy hitters" have had the money box in their possession, and only they have had it by themselves, so they are naturally the suspects the Bobbseys investigate. For various reasons, each twin suspects a different one of the suspects, so they separate to investigate their quarries (except Flossie, who gets Bert to help her tail Mrs Cox). There are several misadventures the twins experience when doing their detective work:

Freddie is in trouble!

Looking for clues
Nan does a bit of snooping

Confronting a suspect!

That is REALLY inconspicuous guys!

     What it boils down to is this, each suspect has semi-suspicious behaviour, and they all handled the box. First, Mrs. Cox delivered the box to Mr. Potter's office (where the people could visit and put donations in special envelopes-which to me clears Mrs Cox, since when she had it there was no money in the box yet). From there, that morning, the box is given to Mr Winters, who drives the armoured truck, while his employee, Hank is in the back with the money box, and from there the box is given to the mayor who has it during the race, and then opened it.

     The councilman's wife when followed was buying expensive furs (i hope they're faux firs, right?) and clothes with cash! She spent $15,000 on clothes (and remember this is the '80s,. so it's probably about $30k adjusted for inflation) making her seem, at least unusual. (Turns out her family lost a bit of their fortune when one of their banks failed during the stock market crash of '29, so they always use cash).

     Mr. Potter has a sickly aunt, so not only was he not in town immediately after the theft, but he needs money to pay for her hospital bills (turns out he sold some of his stocks to cover it)

    Mr. Winters was suspected of stealing money during a theft of his armoured truck several years ago (it was suspected that he set it up, but it was a baseless accusation)

    After all of the suspects are cleared, the Bobbseys come up empty and short on ideas. So, they decide to reenact the crime and see if they can discover where the theft could have occurred.

     They figure out that the villian was Hank, the employee of Mr Winters. He had an identical donation box that he made, and whilst the armoured truck was in transit, he took the flattened box from underneath the carpet, sealed it, ripped open the genuine box and stole the money.

     The twins call Lt. Pike of the police who reluctantly goes with them to confront Hank at the armoured truck office, and browbeat and trick him into confessing.

    Ok, i don't think i gave as comprehensive or coherent a synopsis of this book as i did the last one, so if it sounds confusing, it's my description and not the story. I actually really liked this one as a kid. The twins really have to use their little grey cells to figure out the case, and on the way, they encounter enough danger (i didn't tell you how Freddie came to be menaced by a mean dog-you'll have to read the book!) to make things exciting, yet not too intense for young readers. I also like how this book shows that the rich of Lakeport each have certain idiosyncrasies that make them seem queer and suspicious, so each suspect honestly seems guilty and keeps you guessing until the end. Yet, the reveal doesn't come out of the blue-clues are scattered throughout the book so you can pick up on who the real villian is.

     Well, that about covers book #2. See you next time!

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Bobbseys are not amused at the strange happenings at the amusement park! (Review of New Bobbsey Twins book #1-The Secret of Jungle Park)

    Hello blog readers! Welcome to my first book review! (I hope my ramblings are coherent enough to understand)

  The book opens with Nan Bobbsey (the eldest girl) being helped with her makeup for a rock band she is in by her younger sister Flossie. Flossie's twin Freddie appears seemingly hurt by a monster, but it is only older brother Bert playing around with his makeup gear. We are right away introduced to town bully and general bad guy Danny Rugg, who also is in a rock band. A local amusement park (named "Jungle Park") is hosting a battle of the bands contest where youths compete with their rock bands for a prize. The show has hardly begun when what appears to be a fire disrupts the entertainment!

  It is shown that the emergency was a prank-a smoke bomb, but the police treat the matter seriously. Lieutenant Pike of the police force (more will be said about him later) knows that it's no joke when a crowd is panicked. People could get seriously hurt in the chaos that could ensue. The Bobbseys ask him if they can investigate afterwards, and he grudgingly agrees. The contest goes on, and the Bobbseys band (the Aliens) tie for first place with Danny Ruggs band (the Skulls). Both will play again in an elimination heat at a later date.

  The Bobbseys do their thing and search for clues afterwards finding an eyepatch and a swizzle stick (i always thought this was a bendable straw, or maybe a coffee cup stirrer. If anyone has any other ideas, please tell me)

  The eyepatch may point to Danny since his costume has one, but the Bobbseys know better than to assume anything without more definitive proof. Still Bert thinks that with Danny's history, he's the likely prankster. Freddie has more confidence in the clue of the swizzle stick. It has the logo for the Sunset Grill on it. Fortunately for him, the Bobbsey family goes out to eat once a week, and it's his turn to pick the restaurant. Sunset Grill it is!

  This place turns out to be a cheap one-star dive where the food is awful at best. But Freddie and Nan are able to sneak into a private hallway and listen at the door of an office where a deep-voiced man is growling on the phone "The problem is Tiny!" Of course, this isn't easily understood by our heroes who wonder if the problem is small, why is he so mad. Their eavesdropping is cut short as they are discovered. With the old standby excuse that they were looking for the washroom, Nan and Freddie take their leave and go back to the dining area.

  The next morning, the Bobbseys hear a radio report of strange accidents happening at Jungle Park. Simon Harris-co-owner (who also owns restaurants and real estate all over town) is interviewed. Freddie recognises the voice as the deep-voiced man at Sunset Grill, and Nan and the younger twins go to investigate.

  When they get there, they find Lieutenant Pike also doing an investigation. They sweet talk their way into joining him as he interviews some of the employees. First, is co-owner Mr. Loomis. He mentions that his partner Mr. Harris and he are upset that business is slow because of the accidents and strange happenings. Mr. Harris is even hiring a fix-it man from his own pocket to save expenses. He's a redhead with an eyepatch! (Dum, dum, dum!)

  Next they speak to the animal trainer, Beverly Baku. She's kind of a hippie black woman. She manages to annoy Lt. Pike, and the Bobbseys decide to take their leave (Lt. Pike only tolerated them being there by a narrow margin, and they feel that if he's annoyed, they don't want to upset the apple cart)

  As Nan and Flossie try to decide their next move, Freddie goes into action! He spotted the bald co-owner Mr. Harris and follows him. When the girls catch up, they spot the eyepatched, redheaded man. Not much happens though, and the siblings go home to regroup.

  At home, they meet up with Bert who was tailing Danny put didn't find out anything. The older twins decide to search the park after hours. They don't get far because someone let the animals loose and they almost get trampled by a stampeding elephant! Shaken from their narrow escape, they beat a hasty retreat back home.

  The next day, the kids go to Jungle Park to rehearse with the rest of the Aliens. After this, they break away to do more detecting. It seems Beverly Baku left town suddenly, and as the twins talk to Mr. Loomis, the eyepatched fix-it man comes into the office and is big and frightening:

  Mr. Loomis gives the handyman instructions and he leaves. After this, he chats with the twins for a bit, mentioning such things as how ironic it is that a big man like him has the nickname of "Tiny", and then offers to let them ride a roller coaster for free.

  The coaster ride is fun, and they even see Mr. Eyepatch waving at them from the ground far below, but then terror strikes! During the ride, the cars come loose! Realising something has gone wrong, Mr. Loomis is able to shut down the ride before the kids get hurt. When they recover from their shock, the twins determine that the coaster cars were sabotaged-this was no accident! Since the handyman supposedly worked on the roller coaster, the twins and Mr Loomis search for him. He was seen heading to the fun house, so they go there, only to find a redhead wig and an eyepatch. It was a disguise!

  Brainstorming back home, they realise that Mr. Harris was saying that Mr. Loomis (aka "Tiny") was the problem on the phone, not the size of the issue.

  Next day, the twins follow Mr. Harris and see him talking to members of a construction company. Mr. Bobbsey owns a lumberyard, and he later explained that Peabody construction wants to build a mall where the amusement park stands. The twins figure out that Mr. Harris wants to sell it, but Tiny won't agree. As co-owners, they both need to sign off on it, so "the problem is Tiny". Nan sketches Mr. Harris, and then adds a red wig and eyepatch. It's the handyman! They're one and the same person!

  Now, the twins call Lt. Pike, who lets them ride in the police car for the final showdown. They find a man in a gorilla suit (who blends in since the park has many people in costume), but wait! He's jimming the lights! After a funny chase, they capture the gorilla, aka the redhead handyman, aka Mr. Harris

  And the final band competition? Despite a dirty trick, Danny Rugg tried to pull, the Aliens win! A nice wrap up to the case!

   My thoughts: What can i say? I loved these books as a tween (this came out in '87 making me about 11 or 12 years old), and they still hold a place in my heart. Maybe some of that is nostalgia, but i really think the adventure is just right for young kids, and would recommend this to any parent with young children to read.

  Every detective has a policeman who has a love-hate relationship with them all the way down from Sherlock Holmes and Inspector Lestrade. Lt. Pike is such a policeman for our young detectives. But despite a bit of gruffness, he is kind, and really does value the twins' thoughts as can be seen by the way he does allow them to tag along.

  Each book has about 10 illustrations in them. (Here's a little secret-i love the books so much that a few years ago, i bought prints of the pictures used by the artist as a basis for his artwork! As a photographer, i find these especially interesting) These illustrations were by George Tsui in the first few books, and then by Paul Jennis until book #18. This along with the "ghostwriters" for the first half of the series marked the heyday of the series for me. Book #1 is 5 stars in my opinion, and the series has new life breathed into it!

Please join me soon for a review of book #2!

Welcome to my new blog! (My intro and very first entry!)

Hello! I have seen and enjoyed blogs on some of the books i read as a child such as Trixie Belden and the Three Investigators, but have never seen anything on the new Bobbsey Twins series. So, i decided i would start one myself!

So, what was the series about? Well, it seems that many people have heard of the Bobbsey Twins, but not many have read their books. The Bobbsey Twins series started way back in 1904 and the main characters are older twins Bert and Nan (aged 8 when the series started pre-WWI, but quickly changed to age 12), and younger twins Freddie and Flossie (aged 4 when the series started pre-WWI, but quickly changed to age 6). As a youngster, my parents would treat me by taking me to antique book stores and i actually owned several first editions dated back to the pre-WWI era. That series lasted for 72 books and ended in 1979. By the 70s, the series was less "adventure" and more mystery, but still, the writing was ok, but usually after reading those once, i didn't want to reread them. Then in 1980, Wanderer books restarted the title with paperbacks instead of hardcovers, and more of a mystery flavour (indeed, the books' cover actually said they were a "pre-Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys series". This is when the series REALLY began to take off in my opinion. At an early age, i liked reading Isaac Asimov and Agatha Christie, so anything mystery, or sci-fi related piqued my interest. I may get to reviewing the Wanderer books (there were 14 and went from 1980-1986) at some point, but for now, onto the 3rd (and thus far final) series. When Wanderer books ended, Minstrel books took over with the "New" Bobbsey Twins series. The books were a bit smaller, meaning the pace was faster, but the stories (at least the first 17) were well-written with enough mystery, danger and suspense to keep my tween mind interested, yet not too much. This series lasted 30 books and went from 1987 to 1992 where the series has died (at least until the time i write this-2013)

  While i enjoy more adult novels today instead of just kid stuff, a lot of books have things in them objectable to me (cursing, sex, violence, spirtism, etc), so it is always a pleasure for me to dust off these gems of childhood and reread them without those worries.

  I will do these reviews periodically-i hope to do at least one a week, but to be frank, we'll see how faithful i am to this. If i see that interest in them is there, i will feel like doing them more often. Please, leave comments with your thoughts on the series, questions, or what have you, but please keep the comments family-friendly. No cursing, or vulgar or crude language, please.

  And now, onto the reviews!