Say Cheese and Die Again by R.L. Stine
Greg has to do a report in his class about something true that happened to him. He decides to tell the class about a time he and his friends found an evil camera in an old house. The teacher doesn’t even let him finish and gives him an F, but Greg needs good grades to go and visit his cousins over the summer. The teacher tells Greg that he will reconsider the F, if Greg can prove the camera was evil.
This is a bad idea, but Greg decides that he has to go and get the camera back. He goes to the old house where they found it in the first place, but it’s not there; the house has been torn down. There’s a boy there who tells Greg where the camera is and agrees to let Greg borrow it. Somehow in the middle of everything else, Greg gets his picture taken with the camera and it looks like a negative and he’s gigantic. He continues to get gigantic and his teacher isn’t at school that day. What’s going to happen to Greg? Will he ever get rid of that F?
What I liked
Again, R.L. does a good job of continuing a story without having it be out of left field. I think this continuation fits.
What I didn’t like
Why is Greg stupid enough to tell a story that no one would believe? Look, there are times when you tell people the things that happened to you, even if they don’t believe at first. Those things are times like, “Hey, good-upstanding-keys-to-the-city-for-saving-a-drowning-puppy person touched me inappropriately.” The times you don’t tell your experiences to other people are something like Greg’s experience. If some guy came up to me and said, “Hey, I found this evil camera,” I would think he was full of it. Nobody would believe it.
Maybe the thing really happened, but there is a point when you trade off sharing your story versus having people think you’re bananas. People generally don’t believe stories from other people that are about inexplicable things. “Hey, I saw a ghost,” might get you believed by some people. “Hey, I saw a UFO,” will get you believed by a few and people will think you’re one of those crazy UFO-believing, conspiracy theorists.
If it’s something illegal, you tell other people about it, even if they don’t believe you at first. If it’s about that time you, for sure, saw Bigfoot in the woods, you might have to keep it to yourself if you want people to look upon you credibly. It’s kind of sad that we have to filter what we can tell the world depending on if our situations are believable or not. If it really happened we should be able to talk about it.
You can choose to tell people anyway, not taking into account whether anyone will believe you, and maybe it will turn out ok. Greg may have been able to tell someone else all about the evil camera and just have them be like, “Oh, that’s awful! I’m so glad you’re safe now!”
Couldn’t Greg have just talked about that time he went to a water park?
Have you had something happen to you, that was really weird, and when you told people they didn’t believe you?
Do you think people are generally scared to tell society about things that happened to them because the other people will not believe?
The Haunted Mask II by R.L. Stine
Steve made the wrong choice when he chose to coach the six-year olds’ soccer team. They’re awful. They’re hellions wearing the clothes of small people instead of actual children, not really, they’re just children, very bratty children. Steve determines that he really wants to scare them for Halloween. He remembered that Carly Beth had a really scary mask last Halloween, so he asks her where she got it, but she’s reluctant to tell.
When Steve finally finds out where the mask came from, he goes and gets one, by nefarious means, only to find out that he can’t take the mask off. He feels and sounds like an old man and people aren’t scared of him at all. He has to ask Carly Beth about getting the mask off. She tries what she knows, but maybe this mask is different. Maybe they should go back to the party store.
What I liked
I liked that R.L. was able to continue this story without having it get too crazy and unbelievable, if you can believe in a haunted mask in the first place. Knowing the original story, none of what happens is too far from the events that made the first story possible. I don’t know if any of that makes sense, essentially, I’m saying that this book fits in the world of The Haunted Mask and the reader doesn’t feel like the author is reaching for extreme ideas to continue the story.
What I didn’t like
I don’t feel like this story has the same moral as the last story. Steve does become another person while wearing the mask, but he doesn’t necessarily have different motivations. He does feel different. He essentially steps into someone else’s shoes. He learns what it’s like to be an old man and scaring small children soon ends up at the bottom of his list of things to do. Maybe Steve learned that things that once seemed important, are not important at all. He wanted to be petty, but when he put himself in the shoes of someone else, he saw that it wasn’t really that big of a deal. Sometimes, we just need a change of perspective.
Don’t put on weird masks you find in basements. I feel as if I’ve said this more than once and I shouldn’t have to.
Have you ever had a moment where something you thought you cared a lot about became not a big deal when you thought of it from another person’s point of view?
Would you put on some random mask you found in a creepy basement?
The Mystery Girl created by Gertrude Chandler Warner
The Aldens are visiting with their aunt Jane who has a friend who owns a general store, but things aren’t going so well for him. A new shopping center has opened up nearby and people are going there to shop instead of his general store. His only employee also left to go and work at the shopping center. He’s desperately in need of help, so the Aldens volunteer themselves.
Another girl also comes to work at the store, but it seems like she doesn’t know how to do a darn thing. Some things also start to go missing around the store, basic things, nothing fancy. The Aldens want to get to the bottom of this strange girl and the missing items. What’s going on? Is the shopping center behind all of it?
What I liked
I like shopping well enough and general stores are kind of neat to walk around in. There’s a chain of them around here called Mast General Stores. They don’t have produce and things like that, but you can get all manner of clothes, items, and candy from their stores. It’s not exactly cheap though. They’re fun to browse through. I don’t think I’ve ever bought anything at one of them though.
What I didn’t like
First of all, the Aldens shouldn’t be working in a general store. They’re not old enough and they’re not getting paid either. Second of all, who cares if this girl doesn’t know how to do a lot of things? That’s what getting a job is about. You get a job and you learn how to do things. You may not have any experience in whatever the thing is before you get the job, but the entire point of getting the job is to get the experience. Everyone had a first job. We didn’t know how to run cash registers, or use a restaurant grill, or whatever before we took that job. Hopefully, the people who hired us were patient with us as we learned how to do those things.
It’s completely unreasonable to expect a new hire to know how to do everything on the job, especially if it’s their first job.
I’m going to the general store to get a side of bacon, a horse shoe, a vacuum, a stroller, and a sign for my yard that lets everyone know how sassy I am.
Were unreasonable expectations placed upon you at your first job?
Do you like browsing in general stores?
The Rock N Roll Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner
The Aldens are excited to help out some local musicians. They get to go behind the scenes and learn about various instruments. Some people like old instruments because they’ve been played for so long that they just sound really good. Strange things start happening though, as always. Instruments start to go missing, including a guitar with a special paint job. Who would be so dastardly as to steal someone else’s axe?
What I liked
I like instruments and I like that the Aldens are interested in them. It’s fun and stimulating to play a musical instrument. There are just all kinds of studies that say a person who plays an instrument is generally smarter in some areas than a person who doesn’t play an instrument.
I’ve found out I’m good at games involving adding numbers, apparently, like dominos(the game not the pizza, but maybe I’m good at Dominos pizza as well) and cribbage. Maybe it’s because I’ve played the piano for around nineteen years, or maybe it’s because I’ve played a lot of 2048 on my phone. I don’t know what the answer is, but something made me good at finding number combinations quickly.
What I didn’t like
Look, why would someone steal someone else’s instrument? That’s a mean move. If I had a piano right now, I’d be ticked if you came and stole it. I’d be ticked it you stole anything of mine, but my piano–that’s crossing a line.
It’s one thing if someone steals something from you that you’re kind of “meh” about. Someone stole my washing machine! *Oh, sob, oh cry* *wipes fake tears, goes to store, gets new washing machine, because laundry has to be done.* There are also laundromats so you can go and do your laundry elsewhere for a few dollars.
It’s another thing if someone steals something that is part of a hobby or profession. Someone stole my porcelain paint palette! Where am I going to put all my paints now?! This is a catastrophe! It’s not like there are places where I can go and rent porcelain paint palettes. I could get a crappy plastic substitute from Michael’s or Hobby Lobby, but that’s the best that is happening without ordering a replacement porcelain palette, on the internet, for around a hundred dollars, then waiting for it to show up. You do what you have to do, but some things aren’t easily replaceable, if they’re replaceable at all, and it would hurt if someone stole those things.
Play music and don’t steal.
What is a thing you would be really hurt over if someone stole it?
What do you think about old instruments?
The Horror at Camp Jellyjam by R.L. Stine
Wendy and her younger brother Elliot are on a boring car trip with their parents. It’s so boring that they convince their parents to let them ride in the camper trailer they’re pulling behind the car. Things are fine, for a bit, but they realize their trailer has come detached from the car and they’re rolling through the countryside. There’s a knock at the door, but it isn’t their parents; it’s a strange guy who says he’s from Camp Jellyjam, a sports camp nearby. He says they can come and stay at the camp while waiting on their parents.
The camp is very concerned with being your best. “Always the best,” that’s what everyone keeps saying while competing in events. If they win a sports event, they get a medal. If they get six medals they get to walk in the winner’s walk. Elliot is determined to get six medals right away, but Wendy encounters some weird stuff .When one of her cabin mates gets all six medals, she doesn’t come back. The counselors say she left. One girl in the woods told Wendy to leave, but Wendy didn’t listen, so Wendy decides to follow the people on the winner’s walk to see what happens to them. What she sees is horrifying. She knows she has to get her brother out, but it’s going to be smelly.
What I liked
This story makes me kind of glad I never went to summer camp as a child.
What I didn’t like
Look, I know people like sports. I know they can be fun to play sometimes. They are not the be all and end all of life though. Some people are just way to competitive, even on the child level where sports are concerned. I don’t really like team sports, at all. I’d rather see someone compete in an individual sport, skating, gymnastics, boxing, whatever. My aversion to team work probably fuels this dislike of team sports as well. There are too many people who don’t do their share of the work. Your team could suck because your teammates suck, not because you suck, and that’s just not fair. If I suck, I want to suck all on my own and not drag other people into it.
Part of me still kind of wishes I had been one of those kids that got to go to camps during the summer. It would have been a nice break away from the house.
Don’t trust a place called Jellyjam unless they’re making delicious jellies and jams.
Did you get to go to summer camps? Did you enjoy it?
What do you think of team sports?