Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #26: Claudia and the Sad Good-bye

I never knew my grandfathers, but I knew both of my grandmothers. They lived with my family at different times and helped raise my sister and me. My maternal grandmother watched Star Trek: The Next Generation every Saturday at five, and that was my first exposure to science fiction, sparking a lifelong devotion to space ships and androids. My paternal grandmother ran off to Arizona with her boyfriend, showing me that even at the ripe old age of 80, life can still be a romantic adventure.

They have both died now, and they have been dead for more than ten years at the time of this essay. The pain has lessened, but I still think about them whenever I watch Geordi La Forge spout some jargon just science-y enough to sound correct without any actual science involved, or whenever I wonder if there’s still enough time in my life to travel around the world.

It’s time for Claudia to say goodbye to Mimi in The Baby-Sitters Club #26: Claudia and the Sad Good-bye, and if that’s too much of a spoiler, then you should be angry at the title, not me, and, frankly, death is easier when you’re prepared, which is something I learned with the death of my father, which is for another essay. For now, the inevitable death of our favorite Stoneybrook grandmother is our focus. And, if it’s not obvious, this one is a little sad.

Claudia starts the novel firmly cementing Mimi has a positive influence in Claudia’s life. Mimi is still dealing with the effects of the stroke she suffered in #7: Claudia and Mean Janine. Claudia has been helping her, but it seems like Mimi is getting worse. During the first BSC meeting of the book, Mallory remarks that Mimi yelled at her for taking Mimi shopping at a place that makes Mimi wait to use the dressing rooms. The problem is that Mallory has never taken Mimi shopping. It’s not looking great for the matriarch of the Kishi household.

Anyway, the BSC gets a phone call from the Addisons, who have two children: Sean and Corrie. They’re not looking for baby-sitting services, exactly, but they are looking for an art teacher for Corrie. Of course, Claudia jumps at the opportunity. Claudia has a great idea, even though those are usually reserved for Kristy:

“Maybe I could start a little art class. Like on Saturdays in our basement. Gabbie and Myriah Perkins love art projects. So does Jamie Newton. That would be fun. And good experience for me, in case I ever want to be an art teacher.”

“And,” said Kristy slowly, “it would show people that our club can do more than just baby-sit. I think it would be good for business.”

“I’d need some help, though,” I said slowly. “I don’t know if I could manage a class alone.”

“If you hold the class on Saturdays, I could help you,” spoke up Mary Anne. “We’ll split the money sixty-forty, since you’ll be in charge.”

I’m surprised Mary Anne didn’t say that slowly.

Later, during the Kishis’ dinner (after Janine’s college class entitled “Advances and Trends in Computerized Biopsychiatry,” which is nothing), Mimi passes out and the family rushes her to the hospital. 

After a long series of tests, the doctors send her home, but it doesn’t seem like Mimi has recovered. Claudia becomes frustrated with Mimi and they have a brief argument. Claudia leaves in tears. 

At the next art class, the kids mess around with watercolors as Marilyn and Carolyn mess with Jamie Newton. After all the kids have been picked up, Corrie’s parents are very late. So late that Corrie is the only one whose painting is dry when her parents finally arrive.

There’s another art class, but this one doesn’t go smoothly. Mimi comes downstairs during the lesson and collapses in front of the children. Claudia retrieves her parents while Mary Anne and Corrie distract the children and get them ready to go home early. Unfortunately, Corrie sees Mimi on the stretcher and cries, and her mother is forty-five minutes late.

Once again, the hospital is not great. They can’t get painkillers for Mimi. That is strange because every time I’ve been to the hospital, they are quick with the pain meds even if I wasn’t in any pain – just general throwing up and dizziness. Luckily, Mimi seems to get better as Claudia stays with her in the hospital. Eventually, the doctors discharge her.

After a few days, Claudia wakes up in the middle of the night and hears her parents talking. Mimi passed away while Claudia was asleep. Everything becomes hectic. Calling the relatives falls to Claudia’s parents, and people come over all day to offer their condolences. Claudia and Janine have a heart-to-heart. Claudia calls Stacey, who cries. Then Claudia calls Kristy, who doesn’t cry, thankfully, and Kristy offers to cancel the meeting. Claudia insists that they don’t cancel the meeting. They sit in silence. Janine even sits in on the meeting because she doesn’t want to be alone.

Claudia still wants to participate in club activities, even though Kristy let her opt out. The girls get pizza and share memories about Mimi, including the first time Mimi had pizza. The family had dressed up to eat at a Japanese restaurant and Mimi wore a traditional kimono. When they arrived at the restaurant, it was closed, so they ended up at a pizza joint.

“And everyone stared,” I said, “because Mimi looked like she was on her way to a costume party, but we ordered two pies anyway, and Mimi ate one slice very bravely.” 

“And,” said Kristy, “as we were finally leaving that awful place where everyone had been staring at us, Mimi turned around, faced the people in the restaurant, and announced, “[sic]Best Japanese food I have ever eaten!”[sic]

Us club members were hysterical. Jessi even dropped a whole slice of pizza on the floor.

I don’t get it. Claudia calls an important garment a costume and Stoneybrook is racist? Like, people in Connecticut have never seen a kimono? I saw one in a store right next to the My Hero Academia enamel pins – it’s not that uncommon. And I’m sure pizza exists in Tokyo. If I was able to get pizza in a little mall in a village in the Philippines in 1996, I’m certain there’s some pizza joint in Akihabara in 1989. I don’t get why it’s funny that Stoneybrook is so devoid of culture that a kimono is perplexing to the locals. Or maybe Martin has some strange ideas about Japanese culture. Either way, the optics here are not great.

And speaking of strange cultural gymnastics, Mimi’s funeral is the next day and she’s buried. Not cremated, which is the custom for Japanese people. The whole funeral is, dare I say, white. White church. White customs. White people. There’s nothing remotely Japanese in the whole ceremony. It could be that Mimi converted, but I’m just not sure and this is not addressed in the text.

For the next few days, the kids at school don’t talk to Claudia, because everyone is up in everyone else’s business and the whole town seems to know about Mimi’s passing. Ashley Wyeth makes an appearance and she’s just as pleasant and warm as ever. That was sarcasm. 

Claudia is thankful when the weekend comes and it’s time for her art lesson. The kids are making puppets and Corrie is making Nancy Drew. She wants to give it to her mother. Marilyn and Carolyn tell a dumb joke about twins named Trouble and Shut Up and that one is so old it went to college for fifty bucks a semester and now thinks everyone younger than it is entitled. After class, Claudia gets a call from Corrie’s mother.

“Well, the thing is, I’ve been held up doing my errands.” (She did sound like she was calling from a pay phone on the street.) “My bracelet won’t be ready at the jewelry store for another half an hour, and the man at the laundry is running late, too.” (What a tragedy, I thought.) “So, I was wondering if you’d keep Corrie for another hour or so, dear. I’ll pay you whatever the rate is for an unexpected call like this.”

Charge her an exorbitant fee like the landlord of a modestly-sized apartment! You got bracelet money, you got peak pricing money, lady!

Claudia and Corrie make sandwiches and talk to Janine. When Corrie’s mother finally shows up, Corrie gives the Nancy Drew puppet to Claudia.

The Kishis go through Mimi’s things. It turns out that Mimi wrote her obituary before she passed. Claudia talks about her anger toward Mimi for dying, the doctors for not doing enough to save Mimi, and herself for fighting with Mimi toward the end. 

In art class, the students learn about collages and make their own. After class, Mrs. Addison is on time! Holy crap, drop the balloons! Cue the “Macarena!” Release the Al Gore!

“Hi,” replied Mrs. Addison. “I’m sorry I’m so early. My husband’s waiting in the car.” (She turned and gave a little wave toward a blue Camaro parked crookedly in our driveway, as if the Addisons were in a big hurry.) “I forgot to tell Corrie this morning that we have tickets to the ice show in Stamford. I mean, tickets for Sean and Corrie. They’ll meet a baby-sitter there, and then Mr. Addison and I can enjoy an afternoon to ourselves.”

Finally, it’s time for Claudia to confront Mrs. Addison.

“Did you know that Corrie is always the last one to leave my house after class is over? And that she’s always the first to arrive?”

Mrs. Addison checked her watch impatiently and glanced over her shoulder at the car waiting in our driveway.

“I love having Corrie around,” I went on. “She’s a terrific kid. But, well, she feels pretty bad about being left here . . . left here longer than any of the other children, I mean.”

“Did you notice,” I started to ask,  “that Corrie hasn’t brought home any of her art projects?”

“I think,” I began (and oh, my lord, I hoped I wasn’t butting in where I didn’t belong), “that Corrie is a little bit mad at you and Mr. Addison.” (What an understatement.) “She wants to please you, but she gets angry and scared when she feels like,” (I tried to think of a nice way to say that Corrie felt her parents didn’t care about her), “like . . . sometimes other things are more important to you and Mr. Addison than she is.”

Mrs. Addison cries and says she’ll do better. I doubt it. Boomers will show contrition and the second it inconveniences them or they forget, things go back to the way they were before. Or they get mad at the possibility of being wrong and take it out on the teenager at Jack in the Box.

I hope the Addisons are saving some of that ice show money because Sean and Corrie are going to need a lot of therapy when they grow up. Honestly, these people shouldn’t have had kids. Not every couple is equipped, prepared, or ready for a tiny dependent human and the sooner people realize that the sooner we can focus on something more important like devastating climate change or Christmas toy shortages because apparently, those two things are equivalent in the eyes of capitalism. I’m just kidding. Capitalism only cares about consumerism and not the very ground we live on. Unless that ground has resources for consumption. But I digress.

Claudia is finally ready to confront her feelings about Mimi, and she does it in the best way for herself. She makes a collage featuring cut-outs from magazines that signify Mimi in some way or another – teacups for their “special tea,” needlework, a Japanese woman holding a Japanese baby. I’m assuming they are holding Goku figurines, sushi, and a flag, otherwise, how would Claudia know they’re Japanese.

Meanwhile, the kids in the art class have a special project they’ve been working on – another collage for Mimi. With all these collages, the Kishi house is overrun with them, and they display them in Mimi’s old room.

Losing a loved one is hard and I think Martin made the concept accessible to a younger audience. Mimi knew she was dying, and it’s implied that she just “let go.” That adds an undertone that death isn’t something sudden, even if it may seem like that to the loved ones. Death is something to be confronted.

Claudia’s human response of anger and a need to return to normal is true to the character and a different narrative. It contrasts with Mary Anne and Stacey, both of whom have the expected emotional response of sadness. It shows that there are several possible emotions surrounding death besides despair and that each reaction is valid.

However, I think there’s a real lack of cultural sensitivity in this book. Why wasn’t Mimi cremated? What was so funny about the restaurant scene? I saw a bunch of racists. Also, I don’t see much of Mimi within the funeral or the stories about her. They felt like stories that could be told about anyone – not just Mimi.

Maybe that was on purpose. Death is universal. Losing a loved one is universal. This last year, we’ve all had to confront loss and death in an unprecedented way. Maybe my criticisms that the book lacks specificity are shrouded in my recent contemplation of death, funeral rites, and if a memorial should be made for the dead, or should be made for the living. These are personal questions with no definite answers that are dependent on societal norms, cultural backgrounds, and personal tastes. They probably shouldn’t be explored in a silly essay that has a joke about the 1996 Democratic Convention in it.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       For a list of every Baby-Sitters Club, Goosebumps, and Fear Street book review I have written, go to RereadingMyChildhood.com or follow RereadMyChildhd on Twitter. For more information about me, Amy A. Cowan, visit my website AmyACowan.com or follow my Twitter: amyacowan.

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Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #11 – Kristy and the Snobs

Previously On Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #10: Logan Likes Mary Anne!

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I wasn’t there when my childhood pet died. His name was Sammy, and he was a gorgeous Australian Shepherd. He died while my family and I were abroad, visiting my extended family in the Philippines. My father had to sit my sister and me down and explain that our dog wasn’t going to be there when we got back. I still remember the exact spot in my Grandmother’s house, the exact chair I was sitting in, a long bench next to the dining table, and the exact color of the flip-flops that I stared at as my father told me the bad news (yellow).

In The Baby-Sitters Club #11: Kristy and the Snobs, Kristy at least has the luxury of saying goodbye to her beloved Louie, and I don’t consider that a spoiler – the dog is limping before the end of chapter one. Anyone who has read a book featuring a beloved pet knows that doesn’t bode well for Spot.

The book’s title implies that there’s some kind of Kristy vs. the Snobs war, and there are a few pranks, but the crux of the novel is heartbreak and loss. Ann M. Martin writes about sadness in a stark and plain way. The pain isn’t covered up with flowery language and metaphor; there is no euphemism sufficient enough to describe the death of a beloved pet. It’s a sad book, but it’s a good one.

SPOILERS AFTER THE COVER!!!

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My copy of The Baby-Sitters Club #11: Kristy and the Snobs – “Oh dear! Jeans and a dog that sits! How plebeian. Come smaller clone with white cat – my dog that never sits and I don’t want to catch anything uncouth.”

The book starts with breakfast at the Watson/Thomas compound. They cook their own breakfast, Watson helps with the chores, and they clean their own house. They don’t have a pool, or a tennis court, or a fountain in the entryway. That’s not a compound, you say? Not like their neighbors, who actually have maids, cooks, pools, butlers, and courts tennis? This difference is made apparent by the appearance of Kristy’s neighbors, who attend a private school and are all blonde.

“Are you the one who’s been sending those fliers around? For some baby-sitting club?”

“Yeah,” I said. (Every now and then our club tries to find new people to baby-sit for, so we send around advertisements. We’d put one in every box in my new neighborhood not long ago.)

“What does your little club do?” asked another blonde.

“What do you think?” I replied testily. “We baby-sit.”

“How cute,” said the blonde with the curls.

The others giggled.

“Nice outfit,” called the one non-blonde, putting her hands on her hips.

I blushed. Too bad I’d chosen the jeans with the hole in the knee that day.

But if there’s one thing to be said about me, it’s that I have a big mouth. I always have. I’m better about controlling it then I used to be, but I’m not afraid to use it. So I put my hands on my hips and said, “Your clothes are nice, too. You look like clones. Snob clones.”

Slam, Kristy. You got ‘em. Now they’ll have to respect you. I feel like I’ve said and done this exact thing in my past life as an awkward eleven-year-old.

While this is going on, Louie is limping on page seven. The dog is not long for this world and they take him to a veterinarian named Dr. Smith, who is a woman. I only mention that because when I read the name, I thought it was a male vet. I was surprised at my own internalized misogyny when it’s revealed that Dr. Smith is a woman. Martin is progressive (most of the time, she could do better with Claudia), especially in the eighties. Dr. Smith informs them that Louie is getting older, has arthritis, and his eyesight is getting worse. She prescribes some pain medication and suggests short walks for Louie. Kristy does just that when they get home and meets one of the snobs, the one who lives across the street, and her immaculate dog, accompanied by another blonde child.

“What,” she said, pointing to Louie, “is that?”

That,” I replied, “is a dog.”

The girl made a face at me. “Really? It’s hard to tell. He’s so . . . scruffy.”

“Yeah, he’s icky!” cried the younger one.

“He’s old,” I said defensively. “And he has arthritis.”

The older girl softened just a smidge. “What’s his name?” she asked.

“Louie.”

“Oh. This is Astrid. Astrid of Grenville. A pedigreed Bernese mountain dog.”

“And this is Priscilla. She’s purebred. She cost four hundred dollars,” said the little kid.

First of all, dogs shouldn’t have titles. They’re not in Game of Thrones. They didn’t just stab the Mad King and inherited a title. Astrid of Grenville, Kingslayer, Heir to the Iron Throne, Vanquisher of the Montorian Horde, Defender of the Clahnahvan of the Western Vales, and daughter of Buddy and Miss Honey Toes. That sounds ridiculous. This is Astrid. She’s a dog. She can shake, but only if you give her a treat afterward. She also responds to friendly whistling and “Hey, dog.”

Priscilla is a fine name for a finicky cat, but one of my dogs cost about four hundred dollars, and she still shat and humped everything in sight. That doesn’t mean your animal is better bred or less trouble. However, reminding everyone how much something cost is a thing a spoiled child would do.

The older girl introduces herself as “Shannon Louisa Kilbourne” and her charge is Amanda Delaney. Any good BSC fan will spot the name. I know that at some point, Shannon and Kristy will put aside their differences and Shannon will become an associate member of the BSC. Let’s see how these two work it out, but not before some pranking shenanigans.

While Kristy is babysitting for the Papadakis clan, Shannon calls her and warns her that smoke is coming from the upstairs bedroom. It’s a ruse, of course, but Kristy doesn’t figure that out until she gets the children outside. Kristy retaliates by sending a diaper service to Shannon.

Chapter five is our first handwriting chapter in the book with Mary Anne at the Perkins’s. Mrs. Perkins is preparing for a new baby, and Myriah and Gabbie are excited. But Jamie Newton comes over and complains about his little sister, prompting Gabbie to become upset. Mary Anne and Myriah set up a tea party for the Gabbers and invite some of her favorite stuffed animals. This placates the child and then it’s back to Kristy, but this time, she’s babysitting the four-hundred-dollar cat and its humans – Amanda and Max Delaney.

They are brats. They demand Kristy get them Cokes, then ice, then no ice. She complies with their arbitrary requests – she doesn’t want to piss off new customers. Shannon calls and wants help with Sari Papadakis, but there’s nothing wrong with the kid. She just wanted to waste Kristy’s time, I guess. Not a great prank, but they’re twelve, and I’ll give them a break.

Meanwhile, Dawn is having some problems with Jeff. He’s being moody and while Dawn’s watching over him, he yells that he wants to go back to California with his father. When Dawn tells the BSC during the next meeting, she mentions that her mother called her father and he was reluctant about taking in Jeff. It seems that Jeff doesn’t have a place anywhere.

The Delaneys call again, but Kristy refuses to take the job. Instead, Stacey takes over. When she arrives at the job, Mrs. Delaney asks that they clean up their playroom while she’s away, but Amanda insists that they like their room messy. Stacey concocts has an ingenious plan.

“You know, you’re right. I like a really messy room. In fact, I don’t think this room is messy enough. Look at this. A whole set of Lincoln Logs. They’re not even on the floor.” Stacey poured the Lincoln Logs into the toy soup.

“Hey!” cried Amanda. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Yeah! What are you doing?” added Max.

“You said you like a messy room,” Stacey replied. “Well, I do, too.” She picked up a stack of construction paper and let it start floating to the floor, piece by piece.

“Quit messing up our room!” shouted Amanda. She held her arms stiffly at her sides and stamped her foot.

“Why?” demanded Stacey, pausing long enough to let the remainder of the paper settle into the toy soup. Then she began scattering puzzle pieces.

“Because,” said Max. “That’s why.”

“I thought you liked a good mess,” Stacey went on.

“We do,” Amanda began, then hesitated. “But not . . . not this good a mess. Cut it out!”

“I’m just trying to help you guys out,” Stacey told her.

“No! I mean . . . we want it clean.” Amanda scrambled around, picked up the paper.

The Delaney kids pick up their room – Stacey’s plan worked. She continues like this for the rest of the job. Max demands a drink so Stacey starts pulling out cups, saying she doesn’t know how much drink he wants so she’s just going to start pouring as many cups as she can. He ends up getting his own drink. In the end, Stacey convinces them to play some kind of advanced hopscotch involving a snail. It’s a successful babysitting job.

Kristy employs the same tactics the next time she babysits of the Delaneys, but it’s interrupted by a pizza delivery prank from you-know-who. Kristy sends it to Shannon’s, who comes over with the pizza. The girls commiserate over the round prank and Kristy pays for half the pizza.

Chapter 11 is a handwriting chapter – Claudia at the Pikes. Half of the Pike clan has chicken pox and Claudia has a hard time trying to placate everyone. It ends with two more children joining the pox party. Then it’s back to the main story.

Louie is not doing well. Horrifying dog scene warning.

Louie seemed to have lost complete control of his hind legs. He was pulling himself around the kitchen with his front legs, dragging the back ones as if they were paralyzed. And he was, as you might imagine, in a panic. He crawled into a leg of the kitchen table, and then into the stove.

I knew Louie wasn’t going to make it to the end of the book, but nothing prepared me for that in my innocent BSC book. As I’m writing this, it’s about a month after I’ve actually finished the book, so I’ve forgotten some of the specifics. (Classes have started back up and I was writing a personal narrative for this class I’m taking.) My notes just said, “Oh, Jesus” with a highlighted page number, meaning it’s something I’m thinking of excerpting. When I read this again, I felt that searing pain in the back of my throat. I have an affection for dogs and I wouldn’t be able to handle seeing a dog lose control like Louie. I worried about my pets when they had nightmares – and dreams couldn’t hurt them. Unless, of course, their parents burned a child murderer alive and he came back to exact revenge on his murderers’ children.

The family and Dr. Smith come to the decision that Louie is in immense pain and would be better served if he were to be gently lead across the Rainbow Bridge to the golden dog park in the sky. David Michael asks if his mother will, “hold him while he goes to sleep?” Kristy’s mom carries Louie as they enter the veterinarian’s office, but her arms are empty when she returns.

The Thomas and Watson clan hold a funeral and, to their collective surprise, Shannon, Tiffany, Hannie, Linny, Amanda, Max, and two random friends (previously called “the snobs”) show up to pay their respects.

After a few days, Shannon’s dog, Astrid, gives birth to a litter of puppies and she gives one of them to Kristy and David Michael. They name the dog “Shannon.” Also, Kristy extends Shannon (the human one) an invitation to join the BSC, but Shannon is too busy to attend meetings, so they make her an associate member, like Logan. Ann M. Martin leaves us with this:

I knew David Michael would never forget our Louie. None of us would, because Louie had left a sort of legacy. He’d brought Shannon and me together so we could be friends instead of enemies, and that in turn had brought a new puppy for our family, but especially for David Michael. So, I thought. Endings could sometimes be beginnings. They were sad, but sometimes they brought happiness.

That’s what Louie had shown us, and that’s just one of the things we would remember about him.

It’s important to teach children that not every ending necessarily means a definitive, capital “E” End. This book was devastating, and Martin describes Louie’s pain in detail appropriate, but not euphemistic, detail. She doesn’t patronize her young readers by shying away from the more unpleasant aspects of losing a pet. She could have had him just go to sleep one night and never wake up, but she chooses to force the reader to face the grim reality of a dying pet. This is an integral BSC book that may be harder to read (because of subject matter – the reading level itself is the same as the other books), but it’s one that I think will resonate with most people.

Next Time On Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #12: Claudia and the New Girl

For a list of every Baby-Sitters Club, Goosebumps, and Fear Street book review I’ve done, go to RereadingMyChildhood.com or follow RereadMyChildhd on Twitter. For more information about me, Amy A. Cowan, visit my website AmyACowan.com or follow my Twitter: amyacowan.

Rereading My Childhood – Goosebumps: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb

Previously On Rereading My Childhood – Goosebumps: Monster Blood

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When I was eight, during the summer between third and fourth grade, my parents took my sister and me halfway around the world to the Philippines. The trip was my first venture outside the United States, my first plane ride, and my first time in a country that spoke a completely different language. It wasn’t a random trip to a random country – my mother is Filipina, and we had (and still have) extensive family out there. I spent most of my time running around, exploring the countryside where my family lived on the slope of the Mayon Volcano. My favorite haunt was a dilapidated church and the adjacent graveyard. I was obsessed with the cracked gravestones and the icon of Mary with the faded paint and a chipped hand. Unlike Gabe in Goosebumps: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, I never came face to face with a supernatural creature, but I like to think I had an adventure, albeit a safe one.

R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb was an absolute delight to read. This is what I came to Goosebumps for: kids my age (or slightly older) overcoming scary situations with a little dash of humor. While on a trip to his ancestral home of Egypt, our protagonist, Gabe, explores the Great Pyramid of Giza. Gabe is a sweet kid and his uncle, scientist Ben Hassan, is a likable adult who helps his nephew. Gabe’s adversary is his cousin, and Ben’s daughter, Sari, who is charming in her own way. I’m looking forward to exploring this book – this reminder of why I loved these books so much as a kid.

SPOILERS AFTER THE COVER!!!

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My copy of Goosebumps: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb – What will wake the dead? Anything! I have that mummy wrapped around my little finger! I’ll let myself out.

The book starts at the Great Pyramid and a thirsty child. Gabe asks his parents for water.

“We can’t give you a drink now,” she answered, staring at the pyramid. “Stop acting like you’re four. You’re twelve, remember?”

“Twelve-year-olds get thirsty, too,” I muttered. “All this sand in the air, it’s making me gag.”

“Look at the pyramid,” she said, sounding a little irritated. “That’s why we came here. We didn’t come here to get a drink.”

Hey, Mom, you can drink and look at pyramids at the same time. The end of the first chapter surprised me. Instead of a danger that is revealed to not be a danger at all, we have an ominous passage:

“I’m afraid you’ll just have to appreciate the pyramid from the outside,” Dad said, peering over the yellow sand, trying to focus the binoculars.

“I’ve already appreciated it,” I told him glumly. “Can we get a drink now?”

Little did I know that in a few days, Mom and Dad would be gone, and I would be deep inside the pyramid we were staring at. Not just inside it, but trapped inside it, sealed inside it – probably forever.

I’m in. I’m interested. I want to know where the story is going, and I’m happy the first chapter’s cliffhanger wasn’t some fake out.

Gabe’s dismissive parents are quickly ushered away from the book and our protagonist is left with his Uncle Ben Hassan, an Egyptologist with a daughter, Sari. Gabe has an adversarial relationship with Sari. She treats him like a child despite their identical ages. She has a strained relationship with her cousin, but she has a great relationship with her father – one that sometimes forces Gabe to look at them through an invisible barrier. The father and daughter have inside jokes and play pranks on Gabe. He gets frustrated with them, but, as a reader, I never felt the jokes were too malicious, and I have the notion that Uncle Ben has played these pranks on his daughter and that the source of their inside jokes. He’s trying to pull his nephew into a relationship the only way he knows how – jokes.

Uncle Ben has discovered a new burial chamber in the Great Pyramid and he invites his nephew on a tour. This is where we have our classic horror warning.

Uncle Ben handed us both flashlights. “Clip them into your jeans as we go in,” he instructed. He gazed at me. “You don’t believe in curses, do you? You know – the ancient Egyptian kind.”

I didn’t know how to reply, so I shook my head.

“Good,” Uncle Ben replied, grinning. “Because one of my workers claims we’ve violated an ancient decree by entering this new tunnel, and that we’ve activated some curse.”

This is classic horror. The characters were warned. The strange old man told the teenager to avoid Camp Blood. The fortune teller told the young jock not to enter the abandoned funhouse. The cheerleader read the stories about the escaped convict who targets babysitters. They were warned, but they continued deeper into the pyramid.

Uncle Ben goes down a rope ladder first, followed by Gabe, who falls off. Sari catches him. She teases Gabe, but she would never let him get hurt.

They reach the bottom of the pyramid and Uncle Ben introduces us to his excavation team – Ahmed, a taciturn man who is obsessed with the curse, Quasimodo, which is a nickname, and Christy. It’s nice to see a woman among the archaeologists. Thank you for the representation, Stine.

Uncle Ben forbids the children from exploring on their own, but the kids do it anyway in typical kid fashion. Sari gets ahead of Gabe and he gets lost trying to find her. He stumbles on a “mummy case.”

Uttering another low cry, I took a step back.

The lid raised up another inch.

I took another step back.

And dropped the flashlight.

I picked it up with a trembling hand and shined it back into the mummy case.

The lid was now open nearly a foot.

I sucked in a deep breath of air and held it.

I wanted to run, but my fear was freezing me in place.

The lid creaked and opened another inch.

Another inch.

I lowered the flashlight to the opening, the light quivering with my hand.

From the dark depths of the ancient coffin, I saw two eyes staring out at me.

This is a fun, scary passage, even though the single sentence paragraphs make the passage look like a poem. The mummy is just Sari, but I wasn’t mad. I just thought, “Oh, that Sari, always with the pranks.”

Uncle Ben finds the children and admonishes them for running off. The next morning, Uncle Ben leaves the children behind at the hotel after two workers come down with a “mysterious illness.” Sari and Gabe get bored and decide to go to the museum. Gabe goes over the mummification process, complete with brain pulling and intestine yanking, much to Sari’s chagrin. We see that Sari is not impervious to everything around her. Her father is an Egyptologist and she has no problems spelunking in a stuffy pyramid, but she cannot listen to her cousin say things like, “The brain had to come out first. They had this special tool. It was like a long, skinny hook. They’d push it up the corpse’s nose until it reached the brain and then wiggled it back and forth, back and forth, until the brain became mush.” Sari is complicated. Just don’t talk about guts and she’s fine.

They see Ahmed in the museum and after a brief chase scene, Ahmed tells them that Uncle Ben sent him to get the children, so the children get into his car with him. They realize they aren’t heading back to the hotel – they’re being kidnapped! That’s terrifying! Fun fact! When I was a kid, someone tried to kidnap my sister and me, but that’s a story for another review.

The kids jump out of the car and run back to the hotel. Uncle Ben returns and they tell him about their experience with Ahmed. Uncle Ben believes them. He doesn’t imply that they didn’t understand what was happening, he doesn’t dismiss the children. He actually listens to them. Thank you, Stine, for having at least one adult actually listen to a child for once.

Uncle Ben wants to leave the children in the hotel, but Sari and Gabe convince him to take them with as he returns to the pyramid. He gives them beepers in case they get separated, and, of course, they get separated. If they didn’t get separated it would be the end of the story. The floor gives out from beneath Gabe and he falls on his beeper, breaking it, but he’s in an undiscovered section of the pyramid.

There were mummies leaning against the wall. Mummies lying on stone slabs, arms crossed over their chests. Mummies leaning at odd angles, crouched low or standing tall, their arms straight out in front of them like Frankenstein monsters.

I realized that I had made an incredible discovery here. By falling through the floor, I had found a hidden chamber, a chamber where mummies had been made. I had found all of the tools and all of the materials used to make mummies four thousand years ago.

That’s creepy – a room full of dead bodies. Sari catches up with Gabe, but Ahmed is close behind. He reveals that the chamber is the “sacred Preparation Chamber of the Priestess Khala” and Ahmed is trying to prevent anyone from trespassing in it. Then he reveals the true identities of the surrounding mummies.

“They were all violators of the Priestess’s chamber,” Ahmed revealed. The thin smile that formed on his face could only be described as a proud smile.

“You mean – they’re not from ancient Egypt?” Sari cried, raising her hands in horror to her face.

“A few of them,” Ahmed replied, still smiling that frightening, cold smile. “A few of them were ancient intruders. Some are quite recent. But they all have one thing in common. They all became victims of the curse. And they all were mummified alive!”

Then he points out the one he did himself! This dude is insane and scary as shit. Uncle Ben finds them and tries to reason with him “scientist to scientist.” Ben, boobala, the man threatened your assistants by showing them what it would be like to be boiled alive. He’s not a scientist. He’s a crazy man with a knife who is threatening your daughter.

Ahmed knocks Uncle Ben out and forces the scientist into a coffin with the children. There’s a little crying and suspense before Uncle Ben wakes up and reveals that every coffin has a trap lever. That’s a little deus ex machina – I wanted the children to figure out a way out for themselves and save their Uncle, or maybe the kids could have observed the trap lever during their trip to the museum. I guess the book can’t be perfect.

The kids and Uncle Ben escape and are forced into a final confrontation with Ahmed. Gabe pulls out a mummy hand that he keeps with him. (This isn’t a deus ex machina – it’s been mentioned.)

Maybe I thought the mummy hand would distract Ahmed.

Or interest him.

Or confuse him.

Or frighten him.

Maybe I was just stalling for time.

Or maybe I was unconsciously remembering the legend behind the hand that the kid at the garage sale had told me.

The legend of why it was called The Summoner.

How it was used to call up ancient souls and spirits.

Or maybe I wasn’t thinking anything at all.

But I spun around and, gripping it by its slender wrist, held the mummy hand up high.

And waited.

Ahmed stared at it.

But nothing happened.

I waited, standing there like the Statue of Liberty with the little hand raised high above my head.

It seemed as if I were standing like that for hours.

The thought of this kid holding up a mummy hand while everyone around him is just staring at him and shrugging is a hilarious. I laughed out loud. If there’s an episode of the television show based on this book, I hope that’s played with a comedic beat. (I just checked – there is no television adaptation of this book.)

But the mummy hand does something eventually – the mummies come to life and chase Ahmed out of the pyramid, allowing Uncle Ben, Sari, and Gabe to escape. Ahmed should have been run into the tar pit, but that might be too gruesome for a kid’s book, even if the book is a horror book.

It ends with the three of them sharing a moment, including a silly pun that will probably be an inside joke among them.

“We’re okay,” Uncle Ben said gratefully, throwing his arms around Sari and me. “We’re okay. We’re okay.”

“We can go now!” Sari cried happily, hugging her dad. Then she turned to me. “You saved our lives,” she said. She had to choke out the words. But she said them.

Then Uncle Ben turned his gaze on me and the object I still gripped tightly in front of me. “Thanks for the helping hand,” Uncle Ben said.

I see what you did there.

Goosebumps: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb was a delight. It was scary, funny, and I loved the dynamic between Gabe, his cousin, and his uncle. This is what Goosebumps is all about: a kid overcoming a scary situation with gumption and humor. I had an adventure to an ancestral homeland when I was a kid and, while it didn’t involve any mummies, I keep those treasured memories in a special part of my brain. Gabe’s experience was scary, but he became closer to his uncle and cousin, and now he has a great story to tell. And I enjoyed reading it.

Next time: The Baby-Sitters Club #11: Kristy and the Snobs

Next Time On Rereading My Childhood – Goosebumps: Stay Out of the Basement! 

For a list of every Baby-Sitters Club, Goosebumps, and Fear Street book review I’ve done, go to RereadingMyChildhood.com or follow RereadMyChildhd on Twitter. For more information about me, Amy A. Cowan, visit my website AmyACowan.com or follow my Twitter: amyacowan.