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"Is that an octopus?" asked six-year-old Benny Alden. "Or a spider?"
"I'll give you a hint," said Mrs. McGregor, the Aldens' housekeeper. She was sitting in an overstuffed chair by the front window, a basket of worn-out clothing at her feet. As she held up her colorful rag creation, eight cloth braids dangled from a roly-poly stuffed head. "The braids are supposed to be arms," she told Benny.
Benny thought for a minute. "A spider has eight legs, and an octopus has eight arms. So it must be an octopus!"
"Right!" said Mrs. McGregor. "After I finished the rug for Watch, I decided to use the leftover strips of old clothing to make a pincushion for Madeline. My sister loves to sew as much as I do."
Just then Watch padded his way over to Mrs. McGregor. With a wag of his tail, he licked her hand, making them all laugh.
It was a rainy afternoon and the four Alden children—Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny—were sitting cross-legged on the living room floor sorting through a pile of photographs. They were putting together an Alden family album to surprise their grandfather.
"I think Watch is trying to thank you for the rug, Mrs. McGregor," commented fourteen-year-old Henry, the oldest of the Aldens.
Benny nodded. "Watch is very polite."
Their little black-and-white dog pricked up his ears. He wagged his tail again, making them all laugh even harder.
Ten-year-old Violet looked over at their housekeeper. "That's a great way to recycle our old clothing, Mrs. McGregor," she said, pushing up the sleeves of her purple blouse. Purple was Violet's favorite color, and she almost always wore something purple or violet. "I'm sure your sister's going to love that octopus pincushion."
"Just like Watch loves his rag rug," said Jessie, who was two years older than Violet.
Mrs. McGregor seemed pleased. "Do you know why Watch loves that rug? Because it has something from each of the Aldens in it," she said, answering her own question. "And Madeline will love her pincushion for the same reason. After all, it was your teamwork that helped solve a mystery and save our family home from being sold."
"We are good detectives," Benny admitted proudly.
"Indeed you are!" said Mrs. McGregor, gazing fondly at each of them.
The children went back to sorting through photos. After a few minutes, Henry said, "Remember this?" He held up a snapshot of Benny hugging a rag bear.
Jessie laughed. "How can we ever forget Stockings?"
Benny took the picture from Henry and looked at it closely, smiling a little. "Violet and Jessie made him for me when we were living in the boxcar."
"From a pair of old socks," recalled Violet.
"Sometimes it seems like just yesterday when we were living in the boxcar," remarked Jessie thoughtfully. "Then other times, it feels as if it all happened a very long time ago."
"I know what you mean," said Violet. "A lot has happened since then."
After their parents died, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny had run away together. For a while, they'd made their home in an abandoned boxcar in the woods. They knew they had a grandfather, but they thought he was mean. They soon realized, though, that James Alden wasn't mean at all. When their grandfather invited them to live with him in his big white house in Greenfield, Connecticut, he surprised the children by bringing along the red boxcar, too. Now the boxcar had a very special place in the backyard.
"Some of these pictures are very old," Benny commented.
"Yes, they are," agreed Jessie. She was studying a faded photograph of a lady wearing a high-necked blouse and a long skirt that reached the floor. There was a man in the picture, too. He was dressed in a dark suit and was standing very straight and tall.
"Looks as if some of the photos were taken during the Victorian era," observed Mrs. McGregor.
Benny looked confused. "What's the Victorian era?"
"Those were the years from 1837 to 1901," explained Mrs. McGregor. "The years when Queen Victoria reigned in England."
Benny frowned. "Well, our ancestors from the Victorian era weren't very friendly."
"Why do you say that, Benny?" Henry wanted to know.
"Because nobody's smiling in any of these pictures," Benny replied.
"They do look very serious," admitted Jessie.
Violet spoke up. "There's a good reason for that. You see, it wasn't very easy getting your picture taken in the olden days." Violet knew a lot about photography. It was one of her hobbies, and she often took her camera along when they went on vacation. "People back then had to hold the same pose for almost half an hour."
Benny was surprised. "They had to sit still that long?"
"For just one picture?" Henry sounded just as surprised as Benny.
Violet nodded. "And if they moved even a little bit, the picture would turn out all blurry. They even had braces clamped to their necks to keep their heads still."
"No wonder they don't look happy," said Henry. "I bet hardly anybody wanted to get a picture taken back then."
"Oh, but they did!" corrected Violet. "It was actually a very popular thing to do."
Henry's eyebrows shot up. "Really?"
Violet nodded. "During the Civil War, there were even traveling portrait galleries that went from one army camp to another taking pictures. Soldiers liked to send photographs home to their families."
"You sure know a lot about photography, Violet," said Benny with pride in his voice.
"I do like reading about it," his sister said, her eyes shining.
Just then the phone rang and Jessie scrambled to her feet to answer it. When she came back a few minutes later, she was shaking her head.
"What's the matter?" Henry wanted to know.
Jessie didn't answer right away. She seemed to be in a daze. Finally she said,
"That was the strangest phone call."
"Who was it?" asked Violet, looking at her older sister with concern.
"It was Aunt Jane," replied Jessie. "She invited us to spend a week with her while Uncle Andy's away on business."
Benny jumped up and clapped his hands. "Yippee!"
"What's strange about that, Jessie?" Violet asked. "Uncle Andy does go away on business sometimes."
Jessie nodded. "It's not that," she said. "It's something Aunt Jane said. Something very mysterious."
Benny's eyes widened. "What did she say?"
Jessie sat on the end of the couch. "Aunt Jane said that ..." She paused as if she couldn't quite believe what she'd heard.
"That what?" asked Henry, urging his sister on.
"That we'd be taking a trip back in time!" finished Jessie.
Confused, the other Aldens looked at one another. Then they all began to speak at once.
"But what did she mean?"
"What else did she say?"
"How can we go back in time?"
Jessie couldn't help laughing as she held up a hand. "Hold on a minute," she said, "I asked Aunt Jane for more details, but she wouldn't say very much about it. Just that it was a surprise."
"That is strange," said Violet. "It's not like Aunt Jane to be mysterious."
"No, it's not," agreed Henry.
Mrs. McGregor looked over at them and smiled. "I had a feeling it was only a matter of time before another mystery came along!"
At dinner that evening, the children told their grandfather about the phone call.
"A visit to your aunt Jane is a wonderful idea," said Grandfather Alden as he helped himself to a pork chop. "In fact, I'll drive you to the bus station first thing in the morning if you like."
Kindhearted Violet couldn't help wondering if their grandfather might get lonely without them. "Are you sure you don't mind if we go away?" she asked as she passed the potatoes.
James Alden smiled. "It's been a while since you've seen your aunt Jane. And don't forget, I'll have Watch and Mrs. McGregor to keep me company."
"You'll never guess what, Grandfather!" said Benny. "Aunt Jane says we'll be going back in time."
James Alden chuckled softly. "Sounds like quite an adventure."
"You don't seem surprised, Grandfather," said Henry. "Do you know something about this trip?"
"As a matter of fact I do, Henry. But I don't want to spoil Aunt Jane's surprise."
"Maybe you could give us a hint," suggested Benny.
Grandfather laughed. "Not a chance, Benny! I know what good detectives my grandchildren are. One hint and you'll have it figured out in no time."
"But what do we pack for a trip back in time?" asked Jessie, not really expecting an answer to her question.
Benny looked worried. "On this trip, I don't want to get my picture taken."
"Why not, Benny?" Jessie asked in surprise.
"Because I can't sit still that long. Not for that old-fashioned kind of picture."
"Don't worry, Benny," said Violet. "I'll bring my camera along. It's nice and modern."
Benny nodded happily. "I like the quick-as-a-wink kind."
Violet clasped her hands. "This is so exciting! I can hardly wait for tomorrow."
The other Aldens were quick to agree.
The next morning, the skies were clear and the sun was shining. After a breakfast of pancakes, bacon, and bananas, the children hurried upstairs to pack for their trip. At the bus station, they waved good-bye to their grandfather, then filed onto the bus. Jessie and Benny sat together, with Henry and Violet right across the aisle from them.
No sooner had the bus pulled out of the station than Benny said, "I wish I'd eaten one more pancake at breakfast. My stomach's beginning to feel—"
"Empty!" finished Henry, and the others laughed. The youngest Alden was always hungry.
"I knew you'd want something to eat before we reached Elmford," Jessie said with a smile. "But I didn't think you'd get hungry this soon. Don't worry, though. I packed a little snack."
"Good thinking," said Henry, and Violet nodded. They could always count on Jessie to be organized. She often acted like a mother to her younger brother and sister.
"I brought some plums and peaches," Jessie told them as she reached into her backpack. "And there's a thermos of apple juice in case anybody gets thirsty."
Benny took a bite from one of the juicy plums Jessie handed him. "I wonder what it would be like if we lived in the olden days."
"One thing's for sure," said Henry. "It would take us a lot longer to get to Elmford."
"That's right," agreed Jessie. "There weren't any buses or cars back then."
Violet nodded. "If we lived in the olden days, we wouldn't be able to visit Aunt Jane very often."
"I wouldn't like that one little bit," said Benny.
Jessie smiled. "No, none of us would like that."
"Things were very different back then," Henry reminded them. "There were no televisions or radios. There wasn't even electricity."
Jessie spoke up. "I know one thing that would be exactly the same in the olden days."
"What's that?" asked Violet.
Jessie grinned. "Certain people would still be hungry all the time!"
At that, even Benny had to laugh.
"I guess some things never change," said Henry.CHAPTER 2
A Trip Back in Time
When they finally arrived at the Elmford station, Benny was the first to spot Aunt Jane. Bouncing from the bus, he threw his arms around her.
"We're all set for that trip back in time!" he cried.
Aunt Jane laughed as she gave each of the Aldens a warm hug. "Well, let's get your suitcases loaded into the car, and we'll be on our way!"
As they turned onto the highway and left the small town of Elmford behind, Violet rolled down her window. "The country air smells wonderful!" she said.
"Yes," agreed Jessie. "And the farms look so pretty."
When they turned onto the dirt road that led to Aunt Jane's, the car slowed to a stop beside a long gravel driveway lined with trees. Aunt Jane stared out the window, looking bewildered.
"Is anything wrong?" asked Henry, who was sitting up front.
Their aunt pointed to a post at the side of the road. "There's supposed to be a sign hanging from those hooks." After a moment's thought, Aunt Jane shrugged. "I'm sure there's a good reason for it not being there. Now hold on to your seats," she added. "You're about to take that trip back in time!"
The Aldens weren't quite sure what to expect when they drove slowly up the driveway. It wasn't long, though, before a white farmhouse peeked out through the trees and they all drew in their breath.
"Hey!" Benny almost shouted. "That lady looks like she's from that Victorian era."
It was true. Standing on the front porch of the farmhouse was a fair-haired woman dressed in a high-necked blouse and a long skirt. The children could hardly believe their eyes!
"Good for you, Benny," said Aunt Jane as she parked in front of an old barn. "The lady on the porch is supposed to look like someone from that era. As a matter of fact, that happens to be a Victorian farmhouse."
Jessie looked around as they climbed out of the car. "But where in the world are we?"
"This is the old Wagner farm," their aunt told her. "It was built in 1864 by Horace Wagner. His great-great-granddaughter, Elizabeth Pennink, couldn't afford to keep it anymore. So she gave the farm to the town of Elmford to be used as an historic site. The farmhouse has been fixed up to look exactly the way it did when it was first built. And I must say, Carl Mason has done a wonderful job supervising everything."
"Carl Mason?" echoed Henry. "Isn't he the curator of the Elmford Museum?" The Aldens had met Mr. Mason when they were tracking down their grandmother's stolen necklace.
Aunt Jane nodded. "That's right. Now he's in charge of the Historic Wagner Farmhouse as well."
Benny had a worried look on his face. "Is the lady on the porch ... a ... a ghost?"
Aunt Jane gave Benny a hug. "Absolutely not, Benny. That's Gwendolyn Corkum. Carl Mason hired her to keep things running smoothly out here. You see, the farmhouse is finally open to the public this week. Visitors can take guided tours through the house and find out what life was like during the Victorian era."
"Oh!" cried Violet. "That's what you meant about a trip back in time!"
Aunt Jane nodded and smiled. "Eventually, everything will be restored. Even this old pole barn."
As they headed across the lawn toward the farmhouse, Jessie noticed a gray-haired man in overalls weeding the flower beds.
His face was tanned and leathery from the hot sun.
Aunt Jane stopped to introduce the children to Draper Mills, the custodian of the farm. When the Aldens said how do you do, Henry reached out to shake hands. But the elderly man turned away.
Henry and Jessie exchanged a look. Why was the custodian so unfriendly?
"Draper lives right here on the farm," Aunt Jane went on. "He has his own cottage behind the orchard. As you can see, he does a great job of keeping the Victorian gardens looking beautiful."
Draper Mills frowned. "It won't be long before everything's trampled. It's just a matter of time, with so many people coming and going."
Aunt Jane glanced around. "Actually, it looks very quiet and peaceful today. Almost too quiet. I'm surprised there aren't more visitors."
"Well, I wish there weren't any visitors," grumbled Draper. Then he turned and walked away.
"I don't think he likes us very much," said Benny in a small voice.
"Oh, I'm certain he likes you just fine," Aunt Jane assured Benny. "Draper's just shy around people, and that makes him seem a bit grumpy sometimes. He's been running this farm for years, you know. It'll take time for him to get used to all the changes, now that the farm's open to the public." Aunt Jane suddenly clicked her tongue. "Oh, dear!"
Violet asked, "What is it, Aunt Jane?"
"I made a picnic lunch for us, but—"
Benny broke in, "I love picnics!"
"Well, I'm afraid I left the picnic basket in the car, Benny," said Aunt Jane. As she started to walk away, she said over her shoulder, "Why don't you wait here? I'll be right back."
While the Aldens waited, Violet couldn't help noticing that the young woman on the porch seemed rather worried. Gwendolyn Corkum kept running her fingers through her long blond hair and looking around as if she were expecting someone to step out of the house at any moment. And then a small, gray-haired man with a mustache did step out of the house.
Excerpted from The Copycat Mystery by GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Hodges Soileau. Copyright © 2001 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.
Posted May 2, 2012
Posted May 20, 2013
Henry, Jessie, Violat, and Benny are vactioning at Aunt Jane's house and get a job as tour guides in a new colonial musiem. Soon they meet a very nice lady named Gwen. Soon they find out that someone is doing pranks just like a old prankster did but the manger is very serieus and says if these pranks keep happening Gwen would lose her job! So the Aldens jump into action. The kids have a list of suspecs from Jake a locol news reaporter to Gwen's own sister. The Aldens keep looking for both more pranks and more clues. And soon they get a confession.
not a waste of money SO GET IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This review was writen by Rachel
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Posted January 26, 2013
Posted January 24, 2013