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The Mystery of the Missing Pop Idol
By GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER
ALBERT WHITMAN & CompanyCopyright © 2015 Albert Whitman & Company
All rights reserved.
A Pop Star Arrives
Be the next big pop star! Audition for Pop Star Sensation today! read the giant sign hanging over the entrance to Silver City Mall.
"Are you ready to sing, Violet?" asked twelve-year-old Jessie Alden.
Violet Alden, dressed in her best purple skirt, blushed and hid behind the oldest Alden child, fourteen-year-old Henry. "You're making me nervous," she said shyly.
"Go, Violet!" cheered her younger brother, Benny, who was six. "You can do it!"
Violet's favorite TV show, Pop Star Sensation, was holding tryouts in Silver City that day. The show's judges were looking for talented singers who might become the next big music star. Contestants had to be at least Henry's age to compete, so Violet was too young, but she was hoping for the chance to sing on the show, even if it would only be for fun.
Violet and her three siblings were going behind the scenes of Pop Star Sensation for the day. Their grandfather had an old friend who was the producer of the show, and he had invited the children to watch the filming. All four of the children were excited, especially Violet, who never missed an episode and sang along to every song.
At ten, Violet was the youngest Alden sister and the shyest of the four children. Although she was bashful—especially in situations like this—Violet was a very talented musician. She played violin, and her ear for music helped her sing very well. Even if Violet was quiet around other people, her siblings had listened to her sing for years.
"Violet," said Benny, "you're the best singer I know. You shouldn't be nervous at all!"
"That's right, Violet," said Jessie. "You're going to do really well. And we'll be here for you."
The Alden children had always supported each other. When they had become orphans, they ran away and lived in an abandoned boxcar in the woods. They had been afraid to live with their grandfather, worrying that he would be a mean man. But when the children realized what a nice man Grandfather Alden was, they were happy to live with him in his big house. He was so nice, in fact, that he had the children's boxcar moved to the backyard for a playhouse.
"And if Grandfather finishes with his business in time," said Henry, "he'll be cheering for you too."
Grandfather had dropped them off at the mall earlier that morning. He had a business meeting to attend elsewhere in Silver City, but he planned to meet up with his grandchildren later that day.
The four Alden children turned and looked behind them. The mall's vast parking lot was filling up with thousands of other people. They had all dressed up to stand out, hoping to look funny or fancy or flashy so that they would get a chance to appear on the TV show. Near the Aldens was a woman with heavy makeup and a hot-pink feather boa wrapped around her neck. Behind her stood a man in a cowboy hat, cowboy boots, and leather cowboy chaps. He twirled a lasso while singing a country-western tune. Behind the cowboy was a family with more children than the Aldens.
"Look, guys," said Benny, pointing at the children, who were all dressed in matching gray outfits and green neckties. "There are seven brothers and sisters in that family!"
"It's not polite to point, Benny," said Jessie. But Jessie was very impressed by the beautiful voices she heard as the family of five sisters and two brothers practiced singing together. The Aldens listened until they became aware of another sound.
From the back of the crowd, a murmur had begun to grow louder. Soon the murmur became a roar of cheers. The Aldens turned to see what all the fuss was about. The crowd moved out of the way for a line of big black cars driving through the mall parking lot.
The cars had black-tinted windows so no one could see inside. The cars made their way to the front entrance, coming to a stop near where the Aldens stood.
"I wonder who's inside," Jessie said.
"I bet it's someone important," said Henry.
"Do you think it might be Madlynn Rose?" Violet asked, naming her favorite singer.
The answer to Violet's question came soon enough. The door to the first black car opened. As soon as the person inside climbed out, the crowd began to boo.
"Why is everyone booing?" Benny asked. "That's not very nice." Neither he nor his siblings booed since all four of them tried to be nice to everyone.
"It's Wilfred Mayflower," said Jessie. "He's not very nice."
Wilfred Mayflower was the head judge of Pop Star Sensation. He was a short, round man, and to the Alden children, he seemed even shorter and rounder in person. He wore a spotless white suit and shining white shoes. He also had a very shiny bald head.
Wilfred Mayflower spent each episode of Pop Star Sensation hurting contestants' feelings. When many of the contestants finished singing a song, Wilfred would yell, "That was horrible!" He had a thick British accent that the Aldens thought made him sound smart and scary at the same time. Violet hoped Wilfred Mayflower would be nice if she ever got the chance to sing for him.
The crowd kept booing Wilfred Mayflower, but he didn't seem to mind. In fact, he seemed to enjoy it. He smiled as the boos grew louder and he waved to the mob of people who booed him. Wilfred reached the entrance to the Silver City Mall just as the door to the next black SUV opened.
"Is this going to be Madlynn Rose?" Violet asked.
"I bet it will be Esty Gadooj," said Henry.
Henry was right. Out of the second vehicle climbed a woman the children had seen on TV. Esty Gadooj was a famous singer and dancer. She was also famous for the crazy clothes she wore.
Jessie thought that Esty had dressed especially wild for the Pop Star Sensation auditions at the Silver City Mall. Her hair was dyed hot pink. Her clothes were puffy and the color of cotton candy—pastel pink and blue and yellow—with bright lights blinking all over the sleeves and legs. Flashy and flashing, Esty looked like a walking, talking neon sign.
"Why is everyone still booing?" Benny asked. "I thought people liked Esty Gadooj."
"They do," said Jessie. "They're just cheering 'Gadooooj!' and it sounds like they're booing."
Esty Gadooj strutted up to a microphone set up by the entrance to the mall. "Good morning, Silver City!" she said. "We are so excited to visit, darlings. We wish you all the best of luck today at the auditions. I'm sure you'll all be marvelous! Now, I'd like to introduce you to the third and final judge, who's much nicer than Mr. Mayflower—and much prettier too. My darlings, please say hello to Madlynn Rose!"
Now the crowd really began to cheer.
"Did you hear that?" Violet asked her siblings. "It's Madlynn Rose! It's really her!"
The door to the third and final black car opened and out climbed the young pop singer who was Violet's hero.
"She's wearing purple," said Violet, "just like me!"
Madlynn Rose was in a purple dress and purple shoes, and purple ribbons tied her dark-blond hair up into a tower atop her head. Violet knew the pop star wasn't much older than she was—she was just a couple years older than Henry.
"I can't believe it's her!" Violet said. "She's a real person."
When Madlynn Rose stepped up to the microphone and began to sing, Violet thought the pop star's voice sounded as amazing as it did on TV. Performing one of her latest hits, the pop star sang:
"It feels like time to say hello,
But, sorry, now I've got to go.
One last thing you've got to know,
This won't be good-bye, oh no.
This won't be good-bye.
This won't be good-bye."
Many people in the crowd were singing along. One of the loudest singers was Violet, who knew every word.
The pop star held the microphone out to the crowd to let them know she loved their singing as much as they loved hers. When she finished her song, she placed the microphone back on its stand, waved to her fans, and hurried into the Silver City Mall.
"You sounded amazing singing along with Madlynn Rose," Jessie told Violet.
"You sure did," said Henry.
"That was Madlynn Rose's new song," Violet said. "It's called 'This Won't Be Good-bye,' and it's the one I was hoping to sing in front of the judges ... if I get the chance."
The black cars pulled away and the crowd waited for the mall doors to open.
"Is it just me," said Violet, "or have we been waiting a long time?" "We have," said Jessie. "But we'll be inside soon enough. Just be patient."
Suddenly there was another roar from the crowd.
"Look! The door is opening!" shouted one of the kids in the singing group family. "I bet it's Madlynn Rose!"
"Or maybe it's Esty Gadooj!" shouted the cowboy.
"I can't see anything!" shouted the woman with the pink feather boa. "But I sure hope it's that cute, little Wilfred Mayflower!"
The thousands of people in the crowd edged closer to the mall's front doors.
The Aldens looked at the doors hopefully. "Are they going to let us in?" Benny asked.
"I don't know," said Henry, "but I see someone."
"Who is it?" Violet asked.
Someone stepped out of the mall. The crowd—and the Aldens—tried to see who it could be. Everyone pushed and murmured with excitement.CHAPTER 2
A Pop Star Disappears
The person who stepped outside wasn't Madlynn Rose or Esty Gadooj. It wasn't even Wilfred Mayflower. It was a serious-looking man in a black suit and black sunglasses. He seemed mysterious.
The crowd was pushing to get closer to the doors.
"I sure hope they let us inside soon," Jessie said. "That man's giving me the creeps!"
"Yeah," said Benny. "He's even scarier than Wilfred Mayflower."
"Let's just be patient," said Henry, "I'm sure today's action will begin sooner than any of us realize."
Like the rest of the crowd, the Aldens settled down to wait again. They waited and waited, but the doors to the mall didn't open.
"I'm getting tired," said Benny, "and hungry too."
"You're always hungry, Benny," Jessie said.
"The longer we wait, the more nervous I get," said Violet. "I really want to get inside and sing."
"Me too," said a voice from behind the Aldens.
In all of the excitement, the crowd had shifted. The woman with the pink boa, the cowboy, and the family in matching outfits were no longer nearby. Now there was a girl in line behind them a few years older than Henry.
She had long blond hair with a flower in it and wore sunglasses with lenses shaped like flowers. She had on jeans and a denim jacket, both of which were covered with flower patches. In one hand, she carried a guitar case that was covered with colorful flower stickers that looked shiny and new.
"Cool guitar case," said Benny. "What do those words say?"
"Lonny," said the girl, pointing to the letters stuck to one side of the case. "That's my name. The other side says, 'Dreams.' That's me. Lonny Dreams."
"Lonny Dreams, huh?" said Henry. "That's a different name. Pretty cool."
"Are you here to sing for Pop Star Sensation, Lonny?" asked Violet.
"Yes, I am," said the girl. "How about you?"
"We're here to watch the show," said Jessie. "But our sister is going to sing a song by Madlynn Rose."
"Madlynn Rose doesn't write the songs she sings," said Lonny. "She sings songs written for her by other people. I write my own songs. I'm going to sing one of them for the judges."
"Well, I'm sure your song will sound really good," said Violet. "Will you play it for us?"
"I guess so," said Lonny. She set her flower-covered case on the ground and was taking out her guitar when the crowd began to cheer again.
"Are they cheering for Lonny?" asked Benny.
"No," said Henry. "They're cheering because the doors are opening again."
An older man with a headset and clipboard stepped outside the doors and walked up to the crowd. On his polo shirt was the logo for Pop Star Sensation.
"Pick us! Pick us!" shouted a group of voices from somewhere farther back in the crowd.
"Yee-haw!" shouted another voice behind the Aldens. "I'm gonna be on TV!"
"I want to meet that adorable Wilfred Mayflower!" a woman's voice shouted.
The whole crowd seemed to be trying to get the man's attention—except for Lonny Dreams, who hid behind her guitar. But the man headed straight for Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden, barely noticing anyone else.
"Are you the Aldens?" the man asked.
"Yes, we are," said Henry.
"My name is Lester Freeman. I'm your grandfather's friend," the man said. He looked as old as their grandfather, with a tan and wrinkled face, but his hair was longer and curlier and dyed a bright blond.
"Are you going to let us in?" asked Benny. "Finally?"
"That's not very polite," Jessie said to her little brother. Then she turned to Lester Freeman. "Thank you so much for inviting us."
"We're really excited to watch," said Violet, "and sing."
"You must be Violet Alden," Lester said. "You're even prettier than the pictures your grandfather has showed me. Okay, children, we have to start filming the show, so we'd better hurry. Follow me inside."
The doors of the mall closed behind the producer and the children, leaving everyone else to wait outside.
The Aldens had been to the Silver City Mall many times before and knew their way around.
"There's the movie theater!" said Benny, pointing to a poster with a Tyrannosaurus Rex on it. "I want to see that new movie about dinosaurs!"
"Maybe Grandfather will take us later today," said Henry.
Lester led the children through the mall, down a long hallway, and into a large, busy studio filled with lights and cameras.
"This is where we're filming today's auditions," said Lester.
A crew of men and women wearing the same Pop Star Sensation shirts as Lester hurried around the room, plugging in cords and wires, looking into monitors, and arranging furniture. Lester pulled a couple of the workers aside and told them, "I'm hoping today's show will be a ratings bonanza!"
"A reading banana?" Benny asked Henry. "I didn't know bananas could read!"
"He said 'bonanza,'" Henry laughed. "A ratings bonanza. Ratings tell producers how many people watch a TV show. And a bonanza is something big or great. So he's hoping that lots of people will watch today's episode of Pop Star Sensation when it's on TV."
The Aldens looked past all the busy people and recognized the set from Pop Star Sensation.
On the back wall was the Pop Star Sensation logo. The lights and cameras all pointed to the long table that the Alden children knew from the TV show.
"Look!" Violet said. "It's the judges' table!"
Sitting behind the table were two of the show's famous judges—Wilfred Mayflower and Esty Gadooj.
"Those lights are really bright," Benny said. "And they're pretty warm too."
Wilfred Mayflower pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his shiny head and his wet face. "The heat is horrible!" he said. "Can we hurry this up, please? I haven't got all day."
"Yes, you do, darling," said Esty Gadooj. "Did you see how many people were outside? We'll be here until tomorrow if all of them are going to sing."
A third chair sat empty.
But before Violet could ask where her idol Madlynn Rose was, Lester spoke up. "That is why we need to get started," he said, talking into his headset. "Please have the crowd start making its way into the mall. Single-file, please. We'll be ready to start the auditions shortly."
Then Lester turned to the Aldens. "We always film a practice take before we begin recording the actual show. This is to make sure the cameras are all working and the microphones sound right," he said. "Violet, would you like to be the singer for the practice take? It will be just like performing on Pop Star Sensation."
Violet was almost too excited to say anything, but she remembered her manners. "Thank you, Mr. Freeman. I would love to sing on the show."
Leaving Violet by the judges' table, the producer showed Henry, Jessie, and Benny to a row of chairs next to one of the cameras.
A woman with a dark suntan and lots of makeup sat in a chair next to them. She was tapping away on a tablet and talking on a cell phone, paying little attention to anything else that was going on.
"You'll be able to watch from here," Lester told them. "Just be sure not to talk while we are filming."
"This is really cool," said Henry. "I've always wanted to learn how a real TV show is made."
"And Violet's always wanted to be on a real TV show," said Benny. "Just like Madlynn Rose."
"Are you fans of Madlynn Rose?" asked the woman sitting next to the children without looking up from her tablet or taking the phone from her ear.
"Our sister Violet is her biggest fan!" said Jessie.
"She's going to be singing in just a minute," said Benny. "Are you a fan of Madlynn Rose, too?"
"You could say that," said the woman. "I'm her mother."
"You must be really proud of your daughter," said Jessie.
Excerpted from The Mystery of the Missing Pop Idol by GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER. Copyright © 2015 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.
Table of Contents
Contents1. A Pop Star Arrives,
2. A Pop Star Disappears,
3. Good and Bad Voices,
4. Nobody In, Nobody Out,
5. Lunch and a Hunch,
6. Mother Knows Best?,
7. Video Evidence,
8. The Strange Man,
9. A Ratings Bonanza,
10. The Purple Guitar,
Preview: The Mystery of the Stolen Dinosaur Bones,
About the Author,