Read an Excerpt
The Mystery in the Snow
By GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Charles Tang
ALBERT WHITMAN & CompanyCopyright © 1993 Albert Whitman & Company
All rights reserved.
Benny glanced out the window over the kitchen counter. Outside, his twelve-year-old sister, Jessie, was playing with their dog, Watch. Snowflakes fell onto the Aldens' back lawn.
"I hope it snows all day," six-year-old Benny said. "And all night!" He dropped the last spoonful of dough onto a cookie sheet.
At the table, his sister Violet, who was ten years old, was sprinkling powdered sugar on a freshly baked batch of golden cookies. "It would be nice to have lots of snow," she said. "We could go sledding."
"And build snowmen," Benny added.
Mrs. McGregor, the Aldens' housekeeper, carried Benny's filled cookie sheet to the oven. "I don't think there's much chance of that," she said. "A few flurries is all those clouds have in them."
Benny sighed. He had been looking forward to the season's first big snowfall. It was late this year. "It won't be much of a winter vacation without snow," he said.
"Let's make our own snow," Violet suggested.
Benny turned away from the window. "How?" he asked.
"We'll cut snowflakes," Violet told him.
Benny knew how to do that. Before vacation, he and the other first-graders had made paper snowflakes to decorate their classroom. "I thought you meant real snow," he said, disappointment in his voice.
"We'll hang them in the window, Benny," Violet said. "That way, every time you look out, you'll see snow."
"What a good idea," Mrs. McGregor said. "And if you make some small snowflakes — no bigger around than the cookies, I'll show you something else you can do."
Benny was curious. He cut the paper into four pieces. Then he folded and refolded each section. In one piece, he cut several small holes. Each was a different shape. When he unfolded the paper, he had a beautiful snowflake.
Mrs. McGregor laid it on top of a cookie.
Violet's eyes lit up. "Talk about good ideas!" she said.
Benny didn't think it was such a good idea. "Who's going to eat cookies with paper snowflakes on them?" he asked.
Mrs. McGregor laughed. "Oh, I think everyone will eat these when we're finished."
Violet sprinkled the powdered sugar over the snowflake. Then she carefully removed the paper. The top of the cookie was dusted with a beautiful white design.
The three of them cut more paper designs.
"Can I sprinkle the sugar?" Benny asked.
Violet handed him the can. Benny turned it upside down and shook hard. The sugar poured through the holes in the can top like snow from a cloud.
Just then, Jessie opened the door and Watch bolted through. He slid across the floor to the table. Sniffing the air, he sat back on his hind legs and begged. Benny slipped him a cookie.
Jessie hung her coat on the hall tree beside the door. "It sure smells good in here," she said.
Henry, their fourteen-year-old brother, came in with an armload of firewood.
"Is it still snowing?" Violet asked.
Henry set the firewood down near the kitchen fireplace. "It's stopped," he said. "At least outside. Looks like a regular snowstorm in here."
Benny laughed. "It's the sugar," he said. "We're using it to make our own snow."
Grandfather Alden entered from the front of the house. He was wearing his overcoat and scarf. His cheeks were rosy and his eyes sparkled. It was early for him to be home. He rarely left his mill until the end of the workday.
"Grandfather!" Benny exclaimed. "What a surprise!"
"Did I hear something about snow when I came in?" Mr. Alden asked.
"We were hoping for a snowstorm," Violet told him.
Grandfather smiled. He looked as though he had a big secret. "What if I said that you'd see more snow this week than you've seen in a very long time?"
"Where?" they all asked at once.
Mr. Alden told them about his friend, Todd Mercer, who owned a lodge in the hills two hours north of Greenfield. "It's a wonderful place," he said. "Every winter holiday, there's a kind of carnival with special events and prizes. Todd's been wanting me to bring you children up there since he bought the lodge."
"Well, then, why haven't you, Grandfather?" Benny asked.
Mr. Alden chuckled. "That's exactly the question I asked myself this morning," he said. "So I phoned Todd."
Benny couldn't stand the suspense. He shot to his feet. "Are we going?" he asked.
Grandfather looked from one to the other. "Do you want to go?"
They all said, "Yes!"
"When will we leave, Grandfather?" Jessie asked. She was thinking about the packing that would have to be done.
"Do you think you could be ready in" — Mr. Alden looked at his watch — "an hour?"
The children glanced at one another.
Henry wondered if his skis needed waxing.
Jessie wondered if her skates would fit.
Violet wondered where she had put her winter hat—the one with the purple stripes.
Benny wondered what food they would take.
There was so much to do. How could they possibly be ready in an hour? They looked at Grandfather Alden.
"Yes!" they all said. "We'll be ready!"CHAPTER 2
Benny was the first to see the carved wooden sign. It read Snow Haven Lodge. "We're here!" he exclaimed.
Mr. Alden turned the station wagon into the long driveway. Snowflakes danced in the headlights. "And not a moment too soon," he said. "With all this snow, driving will be impossible before too long."
Violet glanced out her window. The branches of the evergreens were already heavy with snow. The ground below was covered in a soft blanket of white. "It's so beautiful!" she said.
"And so quiet," Jessie said.
"What's that up ahead, Grandfather?" Henry asked. He pointed toward a long, low building. Its lights cast a warm glow through the gathering dusk.
"Must be the lodge," Mr. Alden told him.
"Is that where we'll stay?" Jessie asked.
"I imagine so," Mr. Alden answered.
"I'd rather stay in one of those," Benny said. He pointed to a group of small cabins on their right.
Grandfather stopped the car in front of the lodge. Several other cars were parked there. Watch sat up and wagged his short tail.
They climbed out of the station wagon and headed inside. A fire blazed in the large, stone fireplace. Big, comfortable couches and chairs were grouped on the wood floor. Here and there, small clusters of people talked and laughed.
"James!" A tall, thin man stepped out from behind a counter and came toward them.
Mr. Alden grabbed the man's hand. "Todd, it's good to see you."
Todd Mercer smiled. "I'm glad you made it before the storm," he said.
"So are we!" Benny piped up.
"This must be the famous Benny," Mr. Mercer said.
Benny blushed. He'd never been called famous before. It made him speechless.
Mr. Alden introduced his other grandchildren, and Watch, who had followed them inside. "I hope it's all right for our dog to be inside the lodge. He's very well-behaved," said Mr. Alden.
"Fine with me," Mr. Mercer said.
The door opened and a gust of snow blew in. A man and woman dressed in ski suits rushed inside. A rosy-cheeked boy about Henry's age tagged along after them.
"James, why don't you sign in," Mr. Mercer said to Mr. Alden. He turned to the children. "Help yourselves to the hot chocolate and snacks on that table over there." He pointed toward the windows.
Benny's eyes widened when he saw the table covered with plates of cookies and small sandwiches, and a large, steaming pot of hot chocolate. "What a sight!" he said.
Jessie looked out the windows. Children skated on the pond behind the lodge. Snow fell all around them. "It looks like a picture in a storybook," she said.
"Better," Benny said. "You can't eat pictures." He helped himself to a cookie.
Violet laughed. "Oh, Benny," she said. "Jessie was talking about the view."
Benny glanced out the window. "That's nice, too, but —"
"You can't eat it," Henry finished.
They carried their snacks to the couch.
Mr. Mercer brought over the young boy who'd just arrived. "I want you to meet Jimmy Phelps," he said. "He's been with us every winter vacation since he was no bigger than you, Benny."
Jimmy smiled shyly. "Hi," he said.
Henry moved over. "Sit down here," he said. "There's plenty of room."
"Get some food first," Benny suggested. "It's delicious."
Jimmy nodded. "Okay," he said. "And I have to sign in." He went to the high desk and signed the guest book.
Jimmy's parents and Mr. Mercer were talking to Grandfather.
"I wonder if Mr. and Mrs. Phelps are staying here, too," Jessie said.
"Why wouldn't they?" Henry asked.
Jessie shrugged. "Mr. Mercer said Jimmy's been here every winter; he didn't say anything about his parents."
Benny looked at the grown-ups. "Maybe they're not his parents," he said. Just then, Jimmy returned. "Are those people your parents?" Benny asked him.
Jimmy nodded. "Yes," he answered. "Why?"
"Benny asks lots of questions," Henry explained.
"That's the only way to get answers," Benny defended himself.
"Are they staying here, too?" Jessie asked Jimmy.
Jimmy glanced toward his parents. "No," he said. "They never stay." He looked glumly at his feet.
"Why not?" Violet asked. "It's such a nice place."
Before he could answer, someone called, "Jimmy!"
Jimmy popped to his feet. "Freddy!"
A girl rushed up. "I am so glad to see you," she said. "I was afraid you wouldn't be here this year."
"Freddy, meet the Aldens," Jimmy said.
"Freddy?" Benny said. "Isn't that a boy's name?"
The girl took off her green knit cap. Her short, black hair curled tightly around her face. "My name's actually Frederica," she said. "Freddy's easier."
"That's for sure," Benny agreed.
Mr. and Mrs. Phelps joined the group.
"Jimmy, we're about ready to go," Mr. Phelps said.
Mrs. Phelps hugged her son. "You're sure you have everything?"
Jimmy sighed. "Mom, how many times did we check?"
"You'll call us if you need anything?" she said.
Mr. Phelps took her arm. "Come on, Grace. With this snow, it'll take us a while to get to the airport." He put his arm around Jimmy. "Walk us out to the car, son," he said.
Freddy watched them leave. When they had gone outside, she said, "They don't know what they're missing."
"Are your parents here?" Jessie asked.
She shook her head. "They went to visit my sister. She moved to Florida last summer. But they'll be here later — for the awards dinner."
"Why didn't you go with them?" Violet wanted to know.
"And miss the snow and the fun here? No way," Freddy said. "Besides, Jimmy and I are team captains this year." She leaned close as though she were about to share a secret. "My team's going to win." She giggled with excitement. "It's going to be the best year ever."
"It'll certainly be the biggest year," Mr. Mercer said as he came up beside them. "Seems I've overbooked the lodge."
At his side, Grandfather said, "Todd's looking for volunteers to stay in one of those cabins we saw on the way in."
"Anyone interested?" Mr. Mercer asked.
Five hands shot up. Two of them belonged to Benny.
When Jimmy returned, Mr. Mercer called to him. "Jimmy," he said, "I left the team box in the equipment shop. Would you mind getting it? You know where the keys are."
"On the board behind the desk?" Jimmy asked to make sure.
Mr. Mercer nodded.
Jimmy hurried off.
"What's the team box?" Henry asked.
"Everyone signs a card and puts it in the box," Freddy explained. "Tomorrow morning, Jimmy and I will pick names out of it. That's the way we form the teams. Then we have five contests: skiing, sledding, skating, snow sculpting and ice carving."
"Mr. Mercer, I can't find the keys," Jimmy called.
Mr. Mercer went over to help him. The Aldens followed.
Mr. Mercer stepped behind the desk. He looked through the keys hanging on the board. Each one had a tag. "That's strange," he said. "The keys were here earlier today. I put them here myself."
"Maybe they fell on the floor," Jimmy suggested.
Everyone looked around, but no one saw the keys. Mr. Mercer looked upset.
"Couldn't you use another box?" Benny suggested.
"Yes," Mr. Mercer answered, "but we have to be able to get into the equipment shop."
"There're all kinds of things in there we need," Freddy added.
"Without them," Jimmy said, "we won't be able to have the games."
"It will make things very difficult." Mr. Mercer paused a moment. Then, looking around at the concerned faces of all the children he said, "I'm sure they'll turn up somewhere. "CHAPTER 3
Their Own Little Cabin
After a supper of spaghetti and salad in the lodge dining room, Grandfather drove the children to the cabin.
"This is as close as we can get," he said as he stopped the station wagon.
"We're close enough," Jessie said. "From what Mr. Mercer told me, that's our cabin just over there."
Their log house stood out from the others. It was the only one with a light on.
Everyone hopped out of the car. Watch ran, his nose to the ground. Henry unhooked the skis from the car's roof. Jessie gathered the skates from the back. Violet, Benny, and Mr. Alden carried the children's suitcases to the cabin. When Grandfather opened the door they all saw a fire dancing in the small stone fireplace with a sofa and two overstuffed chairs clustered around it. At the end of the room, near a small kitchen, stood a bare table and six plain chairs.
Jessie and Henry came in. They looked around for a place to put their skis and skates. Henry noticed a long wooden board on the wall beside the door.
"This rack must be made for skis," he said. He slipped his skis between two of the metal bands on the board.
"There are pegs here, too," Jessie said. "A perfect place to hang our skates."
"And there's still room for our coats," Violet said as she slipped out of her purple jacket.
They all took off their coats and boots while Grandfather looked around the cabin. He found two small bedrooms, each with bunk beds and a large chest of drawers.
"The beds aren't made," he said when he returned to the main room, "but there are plenty of sheets and blankets in the dresser drawers."
"Well find everything, Grandfather," Jessie assured him. She knew he wanted to get back to the lodge to visit with Mr. Mercer.
"All right then," Mr. Alden said, "I'll be on my way."
He opened the door and Watch darted in. His nose and whiskers were all white, and snow hung from his chin like a beard. He ran around the room smelling everything, leaving little puddles of melting snow wherever his nose touched.
The Aldens waved to their grandfather. Then, Henry closed and latched the door.
"Benny and I will share one bedroom," he said. "You girls take the other."
"I get the top bunk," Benny said.
"Fine with me," Henry agreed.
Benny unzipped his duffel bag. He pulled out a white box. "What should we do with this?" he asked.
"What's in it?" Jessie asked.
"The cookies we made this morning," Benny answered.
Jessie looked around the room. There was a small sink near the table. Above it was a cabinet. She opened its door. "Put them in here, Benny," she said.
Benny handed her the box. He wasn't tall enough to reach the shelf.
"There're dishes in here and paper napkins. And, look! Here's a tablecloth," Jessie said.
"Let's cover the table," Violet suggested. "It'll look more homey."
Jessie took out the red-and-white checked cloth and laid it on the tabletop.
"Now all we need's a centerpiece," Violet said.
Benny dragged his duffel bag across the room. "How about some fruit?" He put several apples and oranges on the table.
"Here's a container," Henry said. He slipped a basket off a peg beside the fireplace.
Violet arranged the fruit in the round basket and placed it in the center of the table.
Then, Benny said, "Let's eat."
"We just had supper," Henry reminded him.
"I know, but I'm getting sleepy," Benny said, "and I can't go to bed without a snack."
Jessie took down the box of cookies. "I don't suppose a cookie or two would hurt," she said.
"Too bad we don't have something to drink," Violet said.
Benny pulled several cans of juice from his bag. "Ta-da," he said.
Henry laughed. Then, he took four cups from the cabinet shelf.
"I don't need a cup," Benny told him as he fished in the duffel. "I brought my own." He held up the cracked pink cup he had found in a dump when they had lived in the boxcar.
Jessie gave each of them two cookies on a red paper napkin.
Henry poured the juice.
"The juice is warm," Benny said. "I like it cold."
"I can fix that," Henry said. He took a bowl from the cabinet and went outside. He returned with a bowlful of snow.
Benny scooped some into his cup. "It's like a snowcone without the cone," he said.
They began talking about the next day's activities.
"Whose team will we be on?" Violet wondered aloud.
"Maybe we'll be on different teams," Jessie said.
"I want to be on Freddy's team," Benny said.
Excerpted from The Mystery in the Snow by GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Charles Tang. Copyright © 1993 Albert Whitman & Company. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.