The case of the secret Santa
Identical twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are members of the Snoopers Club. They and other snoopers uncover clues to see if the new school custodian Mr. Kringle is Santa Claus.
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ISBN 0553158600 – Sweet Valley anything is, quite possibly, the only series of books that can swing from sickeningly, syrupy sweet to well-written good storytelling from book to book. This has to do, I think, with something few people realize: Francine Pascal is not the author of many of them, and the authors seem to vary on the books I come across. This one, by Molly Mia Stewart, lives up to expectations!
Seven year old twins, Jessica and Elizabeth and their friends decide to form a club, which they name the Snoopers Club. Their goal? Solving mysteries! Well, first they have to find a mystery. As luck would have it, Jessica finds one the very next day – there's a temporary janitor filling in for Jim and, crazy though it might sound, Jessica is almost certain that he's Santa Claus. Elizabeth doesn't even believe in Santa, but the club takes the case anyway. They hunt down clues to try to solve it before Christmas break starts. Will Jessica end up looking foolish, or will Elizabeth have to admit that Chris Kreeger really could, just possibly, be the jolly old man himself?
One note about an error: the back cover of my book says "She thinks Mr. Kringle, the new custodian at school..." The character's name is not Kringle, it is Kreeger. A funny note that people won't understand at all in a few years, but amuses me in light of the bizarre recent "was that fist bump between the Obamas a terrorist sign?!" hoopla - the kids need a "secret handshake" and (remember, this is copyrighted 1990) settle on one that sounds very much like a fist bump. "...making a fist and tapping each other on the knuckles." New, the book came with a flap inside the front cover that has a small cardboard Sweet Valley ornament, a cute little collectible – if your used copy comes without it, it's incomplete! You'll live, though.
Some parents will appreciate that both Christmas and Hanukkah are to be celebrated and that one new student mentions that "in Jamaica we called him Father Christmas", some will appreciate that the only real symbol of Christmas is Santa – and others will be disappointed that their god doesn't appear. Personally, I think it's a super cute story and a nice way to introduce younger readers to the Sweet Valley books. Stewart does a good job with Pascal's characters as young children. There are few illustrations by Ying-Hwa Hu and, other than the cover, all are black and white. They're all right, a tad boring, but the book is marked for ages 5 to 8, a little past the "picture book" age.