Mary Anne and the Secret in the Attic (M#5)

Original Publication Date: 1992

Ghostwriter? Yes, Ellen Miles


People in Stoneybrook are working projects for Heritage Day, tracing the histories of their families in the town. Mary Anne is forced to acknowledge how little she knows about her family. She decides to look in the attic for clues about her past and her family. To her shock, she discovers letters from her maternal grandparents: Mary Anne lived with them for a while after her mother died, and there was some sort of custody dispute. Mary Anne isn't sure who actually has legal custody (as if her dad wouldn't have taken care of that). And then her grandmother calls Richard! Now Mary Anne's REALLY worried that her grandmother (her grandfather is dead) is going to try to lay claim to her.

As it turns out, Mary Anne has nothing to worry about. Her grandmother merely wants a visit, which Mary Anne and Richard agree would be a good idea. So Mary Anne heads off to Iowa, and we learn through letters that Mary Anne has a good time getting to know her family.

Oh, the letters Mary Anne finds in the attic? Her grandparents were HORRIBLE to Richard. Stuff about not being sure they trust him to raise a daughter on his own, and wanting to check up on his progress. I can see why they didn't stay close.

Established or continued in this book:

The Girls (and Logan):

Claudia candy: bonbons

Mary Anne, on adjusting to having a stepfamily: "At first Dawn and I tried to share a room, but we soon discovered that we each needed our own space." That's not quite how I remember it happening...

Dawn likes to analyze dreams.

Dawn is now officially messy. An organized messy (she knows where everything is) but no longer is she the tidy person we met at the beginning.

Mary Anne's been to DisneyLAND. We already knew about Disneyworld.

Their Families:

Until she married Richard, Sharon had never owned a vacuum cleaner.

Mary Anne says she'll never call Sharon "Mom" ("that name is reserved for someone I lost a long, long time ago), which I absolutely respect, but it makes it even funnier that in a couple of books other characters, or Mary Anne herself, refers to her mom in the present tense. Any speculation that the character was referencing Sharon gone.

Mary Anne's mom is established as having been a good baker.

Kristy's family moved next door to Mary Anne's a little after Mary Anne was born. Kristy would have been an infant.

The Club:

The horror! Mary Anne makes a scheduling mistake! Jessi catches it before it's an issue.


School is in session again...still not sure if it was last book. But either this or the previous book marks the fourth time Mary Anne has started 8th grade.
***Commenter Laura pointed out that there is mention of Jessi's French class in the last book (Keep Out, Claudia!), so THAT was the next time the current school year had started***

PSA time:

You wouldn't think I'd have to say this, but given the events of the book: when painting life-size replicas of historical figures, do it outside or in the garage, or your barn if your have one. Not in your den on the carpet. Idiots.


This is a really hard book to read now that I have a baby girl (the same age as Mary Anne when her mother died: about six months). I think I'm still hormonal...

While researching, the Pike triplets come across some information about Old Hickory, which all lines up with what's been established before.

One of the names Mary Anne reads on a headstone that can't help giggling at is the last name of someone I graduated high school with.

A census worker comes to Mary Anne's house, but this book was published in 1992. The US census is taken every ten years in years that end in zero (1990, 2000, 2010) and as far as I can tell, Connecticut doesn't take a state census. **update: according to commenter Bazu, census workers collect other information during other times, so this is plausible**

In a letter, Mary Anne writes "awhile" when she should have written "a while."

The numbers:

Starting 8th grade: 4

Halloweens in 8th grade: 2 (plus one in seventh)

Valentine's Days in 8th grade: 2

Summers after 8th grade: 3

BSC Fights: 6

SMS Staff: 26

Students (other than the BSC): 84; 59 8th graders, 2 7th grader, 11 sixth-graders, 11 unspecified

Clients: 29

Types of candy in Claudia’s room: 62 (bonbons, bubble gum, Butterfingers, butterscotch candy, candy hearts, Cheese Doodles, Cheetos, a chocolate bar, chocolate-covered cherries, chocolate marshmallow cookies, Chunky bar, cookies, Cracker Jacks, crackers (unspecified and whole wheat), cupcakes, dark-chocolate caramels, Ding-Dongs, Doritos, Fig Newtons, Fritos, fruit pie, gumdrops, Gummi Bears (regular and sweet-n-sour), Heath bars, Hershey's kisses, Ho Hos, jawbreakers, jellybeans, Kit-Kats, licorice, licorice whips, Lifesavers, M&Ms (regular and peanut), Mallomars, malt balls, marshmallows, Mentos, Milky Ways, mini candy bars, Necco wafers, Oreos (Double Stuf and chocolate-dipped), Payday bars, Planter's Peanut bar, popcorn, potato chips, pretzels, pretzel sticks, red hots, Ring Dings, root beer barrels, salt water taffy, Snickers, taco chips, Tootsie Roll Pops, Tootsie Rolls, tortilla chips, Triscuits, Twinkies, Yodels)

Crushes: Claudia-8 (Guy, Terry, Austin Bentley, Timothy Carmody, Arthur Feingold, Woody Jefferson, Trevor Sandbourne, Will Yamakawa), Dawn-5 (Travis, Lewis Bruno, Parker Harris, Price Irving, Richie Magnesi), Mary Anne-2 (Alex, Logan Bruno), Stacey-7 (Toby, Kelsey Bauman, Pete Black, Ross Brown, Pierre D'Amboise, Scott Foley, Sam Thomas), Kristy-1 (Bart Taylor), Mallory-1 (Ben Hobart), Jessi-3 (Daniel, Curtis Shaller, Quint Walter)


Laura said...

I'm hoping that Charles and Rita (Sharon's parents) and/or Jack at least owned a vacuum cleaner. Though I don't hold out much hope for Jack because he's the one who had to hire a housekeeper when Jeff moved back in with him.

Maybe Verna and Bill's letters explain some of Richard's 'strict-ness' with Mary Anne, he was trying to prove to them he could raise a daughter on his own.

How does this book mark another re-start of 8th grade? (I'm really asking.) They were in school in both books before this one - provided that those books are RS56and MS4. (MAatSitA is Mystery Series #5, I believe.)

I know they were in school in RS56 because it's mentioned that Jessi spends 20 minutes during which she should have been doing her French homework putting together an office kit for Caitlyn in her Kid Kit.

I know they were in school during MS4 because Kristy mentions one night that she hadn't even looked at her homework that night but she didn't care because she couldn't concentrate on anything except finding Jake. Other things that say they are in school then are that they ask permission to have a sign-up sheet in the halls at lunchtime to have people sign-up to search for Jake. Also they hold Awards Night during this book and that seems to be during school (though after school hours). Oh, and MA tries really hard to pass Home Ec in MS4 as well, something I found really difficult to believe. (Not the MA would try hard in school but that she would have difficulties with HE.)

They are also in school in the two following books. RS57 is where Dawn and Stacey hold their ecology class for kids for their Science project.

And it seems that they're in school in M6 (Despite the Masters family just living in Stoneybrook when P.S. 162 is on hiatus, they seem to be there a lot when school is in session, no?) because Claudia asks Janine to help Derek with his homework - in an ultimately fruitless attempt to shame Janine into confessing her secret. (I absolutely love Janine in that scene. She was really great with Derek and I wanted to just give him a great big hug, too, though not because of Janine, jus cuz.)

So I'm just plain not seeing how this is the start of a new school year (though it does seem to be nice weather so it would seem to be near the start/end of a school year, also Awards Night seems like it would be an end-of-the-year event) and if you have proof or a well-reasoned hypothesis (or even just a wild guess) I'd love to hear it.

Great re-cap, as usual.

SJSiff said...

For counting the times starting eighth grade:

If you go through the books in the order they were printed, as I'm doing, then the book that was printed before Keep Out, Claudia! is the Super Special Baby-sitters at Shadow Lake, which is a summer book. Therefore, the next book that took place during the school year, I would count as starting the eighth grade.

Since I knew for sure this book (Mary Anne and the Secret in the Attic) was during the school year, I added +1 to that stat. I hadn't noticed that part in #56 about French. You're right, they were in school then. I hadn't been sure when I read it, so I hadn't added the +1 yet. I waited until I had confirmed it with this book. But now that I know, thanks to your keen eye, we can say that RS56 starts a "new" school year.

Does that make sense, or is it more confusing? It might be one of those things that makes sense in my head but no where else.

Regardless, yes, I agree with the vacuum concern and the probably cause of Richard's strictness. Mary Anne muses as much about the latter.

Jessie said...

In this one, Mary Anne goes to the cemetary to see where her mother is burried, and she says that her mother's name was Alma Baker. But in RS #4, when MA's father prays before they eat dinner, he asks God to watch over Abigail, which Mary Anne identify as her mother.

SJSiff said...

That's right, Jessi, every time Mary Anne's mom is mentioned by name after Mary Anne's first book it's Alma.

Laura said...

Yes, BSC AG, that absolutely makes sense about the new school years. I always forget about putting the Super Specials in the regular continuity, for some reason. You're right that the next book after their Shadow Lake vacation would begin a new eighth grade.

Jessie: I never noticed the name changes in these books right away but that may be because I started with books 39, 40 & 41, then later went back. So Abigail was already Alma, Edie was already Elizabeth, Sheila and Kendall were already Lisa and Seth, Mal's dad was John and not Daniel and Jessi's father was John Phillip instead of Alex, though, really, he ought to've been John Phillip from the start. (Kinda makes me wonder why I didn't think the original names were out of place. Maybe 9/10-year-old me was just dense?) Though I have to say that I like Daniel for Mr. Pike's name because then he and Mrs. Pike would be Daniel and Dee and I think that's really cute.

bazu said...

Hi! I just discovered your blog and am reading though all the archives. These are great! About the Census, I learned when I was working for them last summer that they are always working on collecting data and other projects, not just the big decennial one. I give a pass to a Census worker showing up here. Although Mary Anne's reaction must have really confused her!

Isabel Escalante said...

Maybe Mary Anne means she would never call Sharon 'Mom' to her face, but she might refer to her as her mom when talking to other people.

SJSiff said...

Isabel, I can see that. Sometimes I'm out with my nanny charge and my daughters, and people will think I'm the other girl's mother too, and it's just not worth it to correct them when I'll never see them again.

But in Stacey's Choice, the text reads that "Mary Anne's mother came over" and it really sounds like either the BSC refers to Sharon as Mary Anne's mother or Alma/Abigail is back from the dead. :)