Claudia and the recipe f.., p.1
Claudia and the Recipe for Danger, p.1Ann M. Martin
About the Author
“Crayon, book, bird, candy — mmm, candy!” said Jamie, fingering each piece as he named it and then pretending to take a bite out of the tiny silver Hershey’s Kiss that dangles from my bracelet. It’s a charm bracelet, just like the ones most people wear on their wrists. I like to be a little different, so I wear mine on my ankle.
At the moment, that ankle was dangling over a foot of cool water. I was sitting on the ground, leaning back on my elbows, with both feet hanging over the edge of Jamie Newton’s Lion King wading pool.
No, Jamie isn’t my boyfriend. (I actually don’t have a boyfriend at the moment. Know any cool, single guys?) He’s cute, but he’s way, way too young for me. Jamie’s only four years old. That wading pool, while it looks the size of a puddle to me, must seem like a full-size Olympic pool to him. He was splashing happily in it, stopping every few seconds to hitch up his red-and-blue-striped bathing suit, which threatened to fall down around his ankles every time he moved.
I was baby-sitting for Jamie while his mom took his baby sister Lucy to the pediatrician. He’d been in the pool ever since she left, and I was glad to hang out and watch him, even though it meant being splashed every few minutes. Those sprays of water felt great, because it was hot outside. That’s right, hot. Not just warm. Not just hot. HOT! It was midsummer, and it was the kind of day when you work up a sweat just sitting still. So I felt happy to be hanging out under the big maple tree in the Newtons’ front yard, with my feet over the pool and a white baseball cap pulled down low over my eyes.
I guess it’s about time for me to tell you who I am. My name is Claudia Kishi, I’m thirteen years old, and my charm bracelet is my life. No, seriously. I’ve chosen the charms carefully to represent different parts of my personality. You can learn a lot about me by studying each charm in turn.
For example, the little crayon symbolizes my love for art of all kinds. I love creating art, looking at it, learning about it, and even just thinking about it. Art is a major part of my life.
The bird that Jamie was looking at is a silver crane, which represents my Japanese heritage. In Japan, the crane is a symbol of peace. I’m Japanese-American: both of my parents are, too. You’d know it if you looked at me, since I have dark, almond-shaped eyes and long, straight, shiny black hair. I look almost exactly like my grandmother Mimi did when she was my age. She came to this country from Japan when she was thirty-two years old. Mimi lived with my family until she died not long ago, and I was very close to her. Looking at the little crane on my charm bracelet always reminds me of her, and makes me feel proud of my ancestry.
The Hershey’s Kiss stands for my devotion to junk food. But that devotion is by no means limited to chocolate. No, I make it a point to eat a balanced junk-food diet, choosing each day from the four official junk-food groups: candy, chips, cookies, and soda. My parents don’t approve (they believe in those other, totally boring food groups: dairy, meat, grains, and vegetables), so I keep my addiction a secret.
The book charm reveals another of my secrets: I adore Nancy Drew mysteries. My parents would prefer that I read the literary equivalent of the four food groups, so the Nancy Drews are currently hidden in my sock drawer along with the Snickers bars and Fritos. I’m pretty good about not reading them when I should be doing other things, such as homework.
I go to Stoneybrook Middle School — when school’s in session, that is. School is my favorite thing in the whole world. Not! Truthfully, school is something I could probably live without pretty easily, except for the fact that I’d miss my friends. Well, I’d miss art class, too, I guess. But, that day by Jamie’s pool, even though I was starting to feel the tiniest bit bored with the long, hot days of summer, I definitely wasn’t eager for school to start again.
My older sister Janine, on the other hand, is one of those kids who can’t get enough school. She’s a junior in high school, but she also takes college classes. (She’s a genius, so she can handle it.) I’ve actually seen her act all mopey on the last day of school, because she hates to “bid the academic year farewell,” as she once put it. Not that summer makes much of a difference in her routine. To Janine, free time is just time to fill up with classes and seminars and reading and studying. Her boyfriend Jerry practically has to beg her to take time off for picnics and hikes.
My parents, naturally, are very proud of Janine. But you know what? Even though they have to nag me about doing my homework on time, they’re proud of me, too. They’re supportive, they’re enthusiastic about my art, and they’re impressed by the fact that I’ve been earning all my own spending money for a long time now.
I do that by baby-sitting, which is one of my other loves. (Maybe I should buy a little baby rattle or something to add to my charm bracelet.) I belong to a club — well, really, it’s more like a business — called the Baby-sitters Club, or BSC. All of us in the club love kids and love taking care of them, which is why our club has been so successful.
I had been lost in my thoughts, but Jamie’s cry made me jump to my feet just in time to avoid being completely soaked by a miniature tidal wave he had stirred up. “Yow!” I yelled, as the water sloshed over the sides of the pool.
Jamie giggled and hitched up his suit. Then, suddenly, he frowned. “I’m tired of swimming,” he announced.
Kids’ moods change so suddenly sometimes.
“Okay,” I said agreeably. “Why don’t you hop out so I can dry you off? Then we’ll think of something else to do.”
Jamie climbed out of the pool and let me wrap him up in a soft, fresh-smelling blue towel. He squirmed like a puppy while I dried his hair, and I couldn’t resist giving him a little squeeze.
Once Jamie was dry, I emptied out the pool and left it upside-down, which was what Mrs. Newton had asked me to do. I would have done it anyway, since I know that even a shallow pool full of water can be dangerous for young kids. Then we headed inside to find dry clothes (for Jamie) and a drink of water (for me).
Jamie dresses slowly. He’s at that stage when he wants to do everything himself, even though he’s not great yet at things such as buckles and buttons and shoelaces. Still, he managed to put everything on right-side out and front-side forward, while I sat on his bed, watching and thinking about what we could do next.
I toyed with my ankle bracelet while I waited, and felt one more charm I’d almost forgotten about. It was a tiny silver rectangle, a miniature replica of a credit card. My friend and fellow BSC member Stacey McGill gave it to me, and it symbolizes my love for shopping. Stacey just happens to be my number-one shopping partner. She grew up in New York City and has an incredible sense of style. We have different tastes. She’s mondo sophisticated, while I’m more into funky outfits and creative accessorizing. But when I’m ready to cruise the aisles hunting for bargains, there’s nobody I’d rather have along than Stacey.
“Stacey!” I said out loud. “That’s it.”
“What?” asked Jamie, who was trying to straighten out the pockets on his shorts.
“Stacey is sitting for Charlotte today,” I said. “Remember Stacey?”
Jamie nodded. He hadn’t seen Stacey for a while, because she hadn’t been sitting much. She was kicked out of the BSC temporarily, which is a long story, but now she’s a member again and she’s starting to take on sitting jobs once more. Actually, she never did stop sitting for Charlotte Johanssen, mainly because Charlotte and Stacey, who are both only children, are so close that they think of themselves as “almost sisters.”
Jamie was waiting for me to explain why I’d mentioned Stacey.
“How about if we go over to Charlotte’s and see if she and Stacey would like to take a walk downtown with us?” I asked him.
“Yay!” said Jamie. “Can we have an ice cream?”
“Ice cream!” I said, grinning. “Yuck! How about liver instead?”
Jamie shrieked with laughter. “No! Ice cream,” he said, jumping up and down.
“Oh, all right,” I said. “I just thought you’d rather have liver.”
Jamie laughed some more. Kids love wacky things like that. And I love to say them. Sometimes I think my sense of humor never developed much past the four-year-old stage.
Soon Jamie was all set, and after leaving a note for Mrs. Newton, we headed over to the Johannsens’ to pick up Charlotte and Stacey. (I’d called ahead to see if they were interested in coming with us, and they were.) Then the four of us started out for downtown, with Charlotte and Jamie leading the way and Stacey and I following behind.
“Charlotte adores Jamie,” Stacey said.
The two of them were walking hand in hand, and Charlotte was looking after Jamie as if she were his baby-sitter.
“He loves her, too,” I said, smiling at Stacey. It sure felt good to be hanging out with her again. Things had really cooled off between us while she was out of the BSC, but they were starting to return to normal now, and I was glad.
We chatted all the way downtown. And it seemed like old times when we went into Merry-Go-Round together, trailing after Jamie and Charlotte, who were curious about a display of teddy-bear jewelry. Merry-Go-Round is one of my favorite stores: it’s crammed with fun, inexpensive accessories and jewelry. Stacey’s always loved it, too. We browsed for fifteen minutes or so, until the kids were ready to leave. Then we strolled down the sidewalk, window-shopping, talking, and giggling. We walked past Bellair’s department store, where Stacey’s mom works, and Stacey told me about a new brand of jeans they’d be carrying soon.
Then we stopped to read the bulletin board at Pizza Express. That’s where I first learned about the Battle of the Bakers. Stacey spotted the sign, and pointed it out to me. “That looks like fun,” she said.
I looked at the sign. “Mrs. Goode’s Cookware sponsors the Battle of the Bakers,” I read out loud. “Two age groups — nine to fifteen and sixteen and over — will compete as individuals or in teams over two weekends for prizes of up to one thousand dollars!”
“Wow!” said Charlotte. “That’s a lot of money.”
“Plus, the winners are going to be in the new Mrs. Goode’s cookbook,” Stacey added, pointing to the sign.
“Cupcakes!” said Jamie. “That’s what my mommy bakes.” He rubbed his stomach and looked wistful.
That reminded me that we had promised the kids ice cream, so after I took one more look at the sign, we headed over to the Rosebud Café. There, on the counter, were yellow flyers with more information about the Battle of the Bakers. I grabbed a couple of them. As I twirled on one of the Rosebud’s high stools and polished off a strawberry cone, I dreamed about the beautiful, delicious, creative cakes I could make: cakes that would catch the judges’ eyes, delight their taste buds … and make me rich. Suddenly, any feelings I might have had about summer being boring were vanishing like an ice cube on a hot sidewalk.
“Ta-daaaa!” I cried. I held up two plates, each piled high with goodies.
My friends applauded.
“Mmm, those look good,” said Mallory, licking her lips. “Brownies?”
“Nope,” I said. “No more brownies out of a box for me. I’m practicing for the Battle of the Bakers. These are something special.” I held out the plate in my right hand to Kristy, who was leaning back in the director’s chair by my desk. “Madame President?” I said, bowing. She helped herself.
Then I went around the room, offering the plate in my right hand to Mal, Mary Anne, and Jessi. When I came to Stacey and Dawn, I offered them the plate in my left hand. “Just for you,” I said, winking at them.
The room was quiet for a second while everyone savored their first bites. Then Kristy gave a little cough. “Very good, Claud,” she said. I didn’t see her taking another bite, though. “And they’re so beautiful,” added Mary Anne. “Just look at the way this icing is dribbled. It looks like marble.”
I beamed. That was just the effect I’d been trying for. “They’re mocha-walnut fudge dream bars,” I said. “My own recipe.” I paused. “Oh — and the ones I gave you guys,” I added, turning to Dawn and Stacey, who were looking a little shocked, “were carrot walnut dream bars. Sweetened with fruit juice.” Stacey looked relieved, and so did Dawn. Neither of them eats junk food, which is why I’d made a special batch of treats just for them.
I’d rushed into the kitchen as soon as I’d arrived home from sitting for Jamie the day before. I couldn’t wait to try out some ideas I had been thinking about ever since I had seen the sign for the baking contest. I planned on having a taste test when everyone came to my house for our Wednesday BSC meeting.
But something was wrong. Nobody was scarfing down their treats. I grabbed one and sat down on the bed to eat it. As soon as I took one bite, I knew what the problem was. It tasted like salted cardboard.
The dream bars were a nightmare.
“Yuck!” I said, putting it down. “Oh, well,” I added, shrugging. “They looked great.” To me, looks mean a lot. I’d just have to work on the recipe a little, maybe pay a bit more attention to measurements and things.
“Luckily, I have back-up snacks,” I said, pulling some strawberry fruit leather out from under the bed and tossing it to Kristy. Next I poked under my pillow and found a package of Twizzlers, which I handed down to Mal. Finally, I dug around in my night table drawer until I found a bag of Smartfood I’d been saving. I passed it over to Dawn and Stacey, who were sitting next to me on the bed.
“Just in time,” said Kristy, glancing at my clock, which had just clicked over to five-thirty. “I sheerfy fall viz phweeting phoo morger,” she added.
“What?” I asked. We all started laughing.
Kristy chewed and swallowed. “Sorry,” she said. “What I meant was, I hereby call this meeting to order.”
Kristy — that’s Kristy Thomas — is president of the BSC, as you might have guessed by now. That’s because it was her idea to start with. Kristy is a real idea person, and she’s great at putting her ideas into action. The BSC is one of her simplest and best ideas. Here’s how it works: the club meets in my room three times a week, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, from five-thirty until six. I have my own phone line (that’s how I became vice-president!), and parents can call my number during those times to set up sitting jobs. Since there are seven of us, plus two associate members, someone is always available. At first we advertised, with classified ads and flyers, but now we hardly ever have to. Satisfied clients are our best advertising, as Kristy often says.
If I had a charm bracelet with charms that symbolized each of my friends in the BSC, the Kristy charm would have to be a baseball. That charm would represent Kristy’s love of sports, and also her energy and enthusiasm for organizing things. Besides running the BSC, she’s also founder and manager of Kristy’s Krushers, a softball team for little kids.
Kristy is on the short side, with brown hair and brown eyes. She doesn’t care much about fashion. Her idea of a terrific accessory is her baseball cap with the picture of a collie on it. But here’s what Kristy does care about: people. Especially kids. Kristy comes from a big, close-knit family. She has two older brothers, Charlie and Sa
Somehow, though, Kristy still manages to. Think, that is. Since she started the BSC, she’s come up with plenty of ideas that help make it the best club — and the best baby-sitting business — ever. For instance, Kid-Kits, which are portable boxes full of toys (mostly hand-me-downs, but kids love them), stickers, and art supplies. My Kid-Kit has saved my life on more than one rainy-day sitting job. Kristy also invented the club notebook, in which we each write up every job we go on. This helps us stay on top of what’s going on with our regular clients, and I think the parents appreciate that kind of special attention. Writing in the notebook is not my favorite activity — it’s a little too much like homework — but I still have to admit it’s a good idea.
Another patented Kristy invention is the club record book, in which we keep information (from addresses to allergies) on all of our clients. In it, we also keep track of our schedules, so we know who’s available for what job. Mary Anne Spier, the BSC secretary, is in charge of the record book. Mary Anne is one of my oldest friends, but she’s Kristy’s best friend, even though they’re not much alike. Kristy is level-headed and can be a little bossy, and Mary Anne is emotional and very shy. (The two of them do look a little bit alike. Mary Anne is short, with brown hair and brown eyes just like Kristy’s. But Mary Anne is more interested in fashion, plus she has a cool haircut.) Mary Anne’s charm on my BSC bracelet would have to be a kitten, which would symbolize her soft heart and sweet nature, and also her beloved pet Tigger.
Since her mom died when Mary Anne was just a baby, Mr. Spier brought Mary Anne up by himself. For years he was majorly strict, but he’s eased up lately, partly because he’s learned that Mary Anne is a responsible, mature person, and partly (we all think) because he married again not long ago. He married Sharon Schafer, his high school sweetheart, who had moved to California after graduation, and gotten married to someone else. She came back to Stoneybrook when she divorced her husband and, as Mary Anne puts it, the old flame was rekindled.
Claudia and the Recipe for Danger by Ann M. Martin / Mystery & Detective have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes