#897 The Creature in Ogopogo Lake created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Creature in Ogopogo Lake created by Gertrude Chandler WarnerThe Creature in Ogopogo Lake created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Grandfather is visiting his friend, Abby, in Canada. Of course the children are going along. Abby owns some cottages along Lake Okanagan, which she rents to cryptid hunters. Those hunters come to the lake in search of Ogopogo, the sea creature, or lake creature, as it may be. Business hasn’t been good though and Abby will probably have to sell her resort.

Some people say a good Ogopogo sighting would help business pick up. The Alden children, who are against people selling their resorts and hotels, volunteer their services to help Abby keep her resort, but strange things start happening. Can the Aldens get to the bottom of all that is strange? Will they see Ogopogo?

What I liked

Ogopogo is real, or, rather, Ogopogo is a real cryptid, which means you cannot confirm or deny that Ogopogo is real. You can Google Ogopogo and will find that he’s basically Canada’s version of the Loch Ness monster. Again, no one can prove or disprove the Loch Ness monster or Ogopogo. You’ll just have to wonder.

There are multiple Native American stories about lake and sea monsters. Ogopogo probably started as just such a thing.

What I didn’t like

I need to make a big list of all the things the Aldens get to do that I didn’t get to do as a child, or that many of us didn’t get to do as children.

Otherwise, I don’t think this one was bad, although, it’s kind of a jerk move to sabotage someone’s business, lake monster or not.

Oh, and, if the Aldens are so anti-ghost, do you think that a lake monster would ever be real in the world of the Aldens? Lake monster are not something people readily believe in.


Come and see the lake monster; you can stay at my hotel.

Weigh in

Would you ever believe in a lake monster?

If lake monsters were real, do you think it would change your view of reality?

#894 The Vampire Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Vampire Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler WarnerThe Vampire Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Aldens learn about a local author who wrote a vampire book. They get to meet him, but he’s having trouble selling his house. Things keep happening. Someone steals his for sale signs. Plants get pulled up. Strange things keep happening in general. There are whispers that it could be a vampire, as the author based the house in the book on his own home, complete with  a graveyard in the backyard. Can the Aldens get to the bottom of this undead mystery?

What I liked

This is one of The Boxcar Children books where the author tries to mix in a little “woo” to the very realistic world of the Aldens. While I appreciate the effort, because it does spice things up a bit, I don’t think it worked.

What I didn’t like

I am not a huge fan of the idea of vampires. I do not understand the obsession. The United States doesn’t have a huge history of vampires. If you visit places like New Orleans, there’s a bit more local lore about vampires than the rest of the United States. We simply don’t have that local history of vampires like Europe does, or even places besides Europe. Vampires have stories from all over the world.

The author tried to bring some “woo” into this book, but it doesn’t work because we know the Aldens are just going to figure out that it’s something logical. The same thing happens with the other Boxcar Children books that mention ghosts or banshees as possible culprits in weird goings-on. Does the author expect me, or anybody, to actually believe the Aldens are going after a real vampire, or ghost, or banshee? There is a running story element in this book series in which the phrase, “Ghosts aren’t real,” is repeated over and over again; vampires certainly aren’t going to be real if ghosts aren’t.

Unlike Scooby Doo, where there are some actual ghosts and monsters from time to time, the Aldens have regular, old human culprits all the time.


A vampire did it…oh, wait, it’s just a guy.

Weigh In

What do you think about vampires?

What do you think about series, television or book, that present themselves as logical and real that try to throw in the supernatural as an actual story element?

#892 Pop Goes the Weasel by James Patterson

Pop Goes the Weasel by James PattersonPop Goes the Weasel by James Patterson

Unfortunately, this is another James Patterson book in which I don’t have much of an idea about what’s going on. This is what I remember–there are four men, playing a deadly game. Each man has named himself after one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Murders are happening and a detective is trying to catch the men, mainly one man, playing this deadly game. That man happens to be a government official, of  some sort, and meanwhile, someone kidnaps the detective’s wife and baby. Maybe she’s a fiancée, I forget.

What I liked

I want to say something positive about this book. I’m sure there’s something positive; I just can’t put my finger on it right now.

What I didn’t like

For the life of me, I do not understand what is so difficult about James Patterson books for me. Every single book I’ve read by him has been this way. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I’m listening to them, but I’ve listened to plenty of other books and still end up with an understanding of the events that happened in the book. It seems odd that the anomaly would be from one author.

Maybe it’s because the idea of filler-thriller isn’t my thing? James is quite prolific and certainly has a formula for writing  his books. That formula enables his books to be consumed, mass-market, by many people. Maybe I tune it out because it has that feel to me? I don’t really know.

I’m sure there are lots of people who love reading James Patterson; he wouldn’t be a bestselling author if that wasn’t the case. Unfortunately, James doesn’t catch my book fancy in such a way as I would have hoped.


No nursery rhyme is safe; hide your kids; hide your wife.

Weigh In

If you were to pick a nursery rhyme to write a thriller about, which would you  choose?

What do you think about filler-thriller?

#891 The Giant Yo-yo Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Giant Yo-yo Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

 The Giant Yo-yo Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Aldens are poking their noses around again and get introduced to a furniture maker who is trying to make the world’s largest yo-yo in order to receive a world record. They put themselves to work right away. Things start happening though. Wood orders get cancelled. Plans disappear. Information about a previous attempt at the world record for largest yo-yo comes out. Turns out, someone else wanted to make a giant yo-yo and that person used to be friends with this guy. Who in the wide-world of yo-yos is sabotaging this effort to yo the largest yo?

What I liked

I liked that the author was able to create a bunch of drama surrounding a yo-yo.

What I didn’t like

I almost want to say, “Who cares?”

Sure, you can build a giant yo-yo for a world record, but don’t you have better things to do with your time? Would an object that heavy even function like a normal yo-yo? At some point, there’s going to be a trade-off between mass and the ability to yo, at least I imagine there would be. Does a furniture maker understand the physics behind this?

All of this drama seems a bit much for a darn yo-yo.


YOLO, so make a giant yo-yo.

Weigh in

Would you make a giant anything for a world record?

Has an inanimate object ever caused this much drama in your life?

#886 The Castle Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Castle Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler WarnerThe Castle Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Aldens are yet again on a vacation; this time they’ve gone to a castle, again, I think, or maybe for the first time. Who even knows when you’re not reading the books in order?

The castle the Aldens are staying in is in the midst of some cataloging. There is a desire to put some of the items in the castle, in a museum, but something very important disappears–a Stradivarius violin, worth a lot of money. The children think they hear violin music one day, but they can’t make out where it’s coming from. Meanwhile, they pitch in and help spiffy up the castle. The mystery of the missing violin remains. Who could have taken it? Maybe it was the grumpy man who thinks the Aldens shouldn’t be there. Maybe it’s the supposed castle export? Where did that haunting melody come from?

What I liked

Despite the fact that the Aldens apparently get more vacations in a few books than I’ve ever gotten in my entire life, I do like the idea of a castle mystery. Castles can be very interesting places. I’ve never been in a European style castle, but I have been in a few castles from the Ryukyu kingdom, which are still castles, but they lack some of the sophistication and purposes that European castles had. I would like to go and visit at least one European castle one day.

I don’t know if the Aldens’ castle trip was based on any real castle, but the question of whether there’s a secret room over there, where the space just doesn’t seem right, is something that actually happens in castles. People made secret rooms–maybe for a hideout, or maybe to wall someone up in, or it could have even been for just plain superstition. Maybe someone thought someone else was a witch and those rooms were that person’s rooms and when that person was burned at the stake, they walled up their rooms. Who knows why rooms became secret in the first place?

I wish I remembered the particular castle name, but there is a well-known castle over in the UK where you can walk around the outside and count the windows, then walk into every single room on the inside and count the windows, and you’ll get a different number of windows, every, single, time. There are secret rooms and no one has been able to figure out how to get into them. If you happen to buy a castle one day, there’s a good possibility that there is a secret room somewhere.

Oh and that walled up in your room bit–Elizabeth Bathory–look her up. She was not a nice person.

What I didn’t like

Here’s the thing–these books, The Boxcar Children, are presented as a reality. They’re very logical and they mimic real life to a large degree. Children can read these books and find similarities between the lives of the Aldens and their own lives. With books like this, I think the author has a responsibility to the children readers. The whimsical part of these stories is that the Aldens solve mysteries and adults let them do it. The whimsical part of the story is not supposed to be that the Aldens seemingly have never-ending money and go on vacation all the time. I think the stories would resonate so much more with children if the Aldens had similar life styles. If the Aldens came from a middle-class family, who lived in a subdivision, and solved mysteries in their community, children could relate so much more to the Aldens. Yes, all these grand adventures are wonderful, but it’s not realistic. That’s not to say children’s books can’t be fantastic and out of the realm of reality, because they certainly can be, but generally, with those books, you know it’s not supposed to be realistic.

For the large majority of us, growing up, we took vacations once a year, maybe, to Florida, or to relatives’ houses out of our own state. We didn’t go to Europe or the South Seas.


Don’t steal Stradivarius violins.

Weigh In

Would you live in a castle if you could?

In truth, do you, as a reader, tend to tune out when you can’t relate to a book character because of a severe life style difference between the character and you?