Help! Chapt 2
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Help! I'm a Prisoner in the Library (A Jo-Beth and Mary Rose Mystery)
by Eth Clifford
Age Range: 9 - 12 years
Grade Level: 3 - 5
Series: A Jo-Beth and Mary Rose Mystery
Paperback: 112 pages
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition 2004 (first published October 24th 1979)
Mary Rose and Jo-Beth are sisters who hardly ever agree on anything, but they both feel as if this night will never end. First their car runs out of gas in an unfamiliar city and their father goes in search of a gas station. Then Jo-Beth makes Mary Rose go with her to find a bathroom and they stumble across a curious old library. And then, worst of all, they get locked in! But their troubles are just beginning. Is Jo-Beth right about the library being haunted by banshees? Or is there a logical explanation, as Mary Rose claims?
Mary Rose and Jo- Beth's dad is called Last- Minute Harry for a reason. He always waits to do everything at the last minute. However, waiting until the last minute to fill the car with gas leaves them stranded on the road in the middle of a blizzard. Jo- Beth has to go to the bathroom so they enter a library, The Finton Memorial Library, which is also a home for the librarian. After they're done, they are so interested by a display of an old school wagon, that they forgot the closing time, which was right now. The librarian, Mrs. Finton, checks the library for kids, but doesn't find Mary Rose and Jo- Beth. Harry knocks on the door and claims his daughters are in there, but Mrs. Finton doesn't believe him and closes the door. She locks Mary Rose and Jo- Beth in and goes upstairs to sleep.
At first, the sisters panic. Jo- Beth, the imaginative one, tries to make a sign. Mary Rose, the one with common sense, tries to call the police. While Mary Rose is calling the police, Jo- Beth yells in the phone and the police department hangs up. Jo- Beth screws up on the sign and spells Library Liberry. Then, all of the sudden, a blackout starts, and all the tiny lights in the library go off.
The sisters panic again, until Mary Rose turns on a flashlight key chain. They find a piece of chocolate that they share and a mynah bird that loves to say "Off with their heads!" Suddenly, the sisters hear moaning and a thump.
The two go upstairs, believing it was a monster, and find what seems like a dead body on the floor. They soon realize it's alive when it wakes up. They realized it moaned when it tripped after the lights went off, and the thump was when it fell down. They help it by keeping it warm and help themselves to the fridge. It soon wakes up and stares at the sisters eating chicken legs next to the fridge.
Mrs. Finton is furious that that the sisters were in her house. However, she soon forgives them. They look at her collection of wooden storybook characters, save a stranded cat, and set off fireworks. Jo- Beth comes up with a plan to save the wooden storybook characters when Mrs. Finton is gone. She says they can turn the museum into a storybook museum. Mrs. Finton promises them that she'll try.
Later, the power is back on. The girls call Harry and he comes to the rescue. Later, a cameraman takes a picture of the abandoned sign: Help! I'm A Prisoner of the Liberry!
Pros:Two young girls trapped in the library with Mrs. Finton-is there an escape?
Cons:Leave the realism behind but look for the message within
The Bottom Line: Two girls trapped in a spooky old mansion, in the middle of a blizzard-what MORE could happen!?
Mary Rose and Jo-Beth Onetree are two ordinary sisters with the type of normal sibling rivalry that occurs in their age group. Mary Rose, at ten, is the oldest, and carries the weight of always having to keep an eye on Jo-Beth. Jo-Beth, at seven, is indignant at the superior role that Mary Rose plays in her life-after all, she is seven, not a baby! To compound problems, Mrs. Onetree is having a new baby tonight, and Mr. Onetree, also known as "last-minute Onetree" by Mrs. Onetree, has forgotten to fill the car with gas in the middle of a snow blizzard! The girls aren't happy about the new arrival, nor the fact that they are being shipped off to Aunt Madge's house for the week.
While driving through a snowstorm, Mr. Onetree runs out of gas, and tells the girls to stay put in the car while he travels with a gas can in search of fuel. Jo-Beth, however, is having a bathroom emergency, and the girls leave the car in search of a facility, only to come across a spooky Mansion, which appears to be a library as well.
Enter if you dare
The sign on the door read "The Finton Memorial Library For Children - Hours 9 to 5 Daily." The girls enter the lower level and immediately are taken back by the spooky decor, including something called a Kid Hack located on the first floor. Meanwhile, Mrs. Finton, the elderly woman who owns the home and mansion, is busy locking up the doors in the same process she does every evening, not knowing that the girls have stowed themselves away on the first floor among the artifacts, including the Kid Hack, where life-like dolls are dressed in 1850's garb, with spookly blue lights flicking about them.
Mr. Onetree arrives at the door claiming to want entrance and asking if Mrs. Finton has seen two young girls. Mrs. Finton, however, the old-school matriarch that she is, does not allow him entrance to the Library, and slams the door on him, claiming that no one is inside.
The girls do not hear any of this transaction, but a few minutes later the lights go out, and they hear a thud and moaning on the floor above them! They also hear a voice cackling at them, asking them over and over again to "state their business." Clutching each other, they suddenly see a swoop of wings and realize there is a pet Mynah bird in the library!
Upon further investigation, the girls climb the second floor and find Mrs. Finton unconscious on the floor, tripping over a figurine in the darkness. Knowing their CPR and basic health rules, they do not move her, but place warm blankets around her and apply ice packs to her swollen hand. This is the first time the girls are forced to work together, instead of constantly arguing and bickering.
Throughout the remainder of the evening, the blizzard rages, Mrs. Finton reawakens, and they are unable to communicate with the outside world to let the Onetrees know that the girls are okay. In the meantime, the girls explore the mansion with the formidable Mrs. Onetree, who is both icy yet shows signs of thawing each time she talks about how the library is being closed because it isn't modern enough. The girls explore a floor called Story Time, where life like dolls are set up, similar to a Wax Museum mode, to symbolize famous books, such as The Wizard Of Oz. The girls are frightened as each stage setting seems macabre and dark, until the morning arrives, and the library and Mrs. Finton take on a whole new light.
Throughout the evening, the girls learn more about each other through their combined fears in the library and more about working together than they have before. Jo-Beth gets a better understanding of how difficult it is for Mary Rose to constantly be a role model for her. Mary Rose gets a better understanding of how frustrating and fearful it can be for the youngest in the family, particularly when a new child is coming along to displace you in the hierachy!
Both girls learn much about the value of History and collectables and how something old isn't necessarily something unnecessary from Mrs. Finton. In fact, they give Mrs. Finton the idea to re-establish the library as a Story-Time Museum featuring the life-sized Kid Hack and all of the collected wax creatures.
Written by Eth Clifford, this is a great book for the fourth through seventh grade genre, with just enough mystery to make it interesting, and just enough points to make it believable.
As a librarian in an older library, which indeed is part museum, I found this book on the stacks and just knew I had to read what sort of adventure was entailed within. I often wonder what would happen if I were to be locked within my library for the entire evening, up among the artifacts of my small town.
Hmm.. I think I'll take along some candles and decaf and try it out one evening. After all, I should be able to get out if I just turn the key.
Or won't I?
2. The Spooky Blue Lights
Mary Rose made a quick decision.
"I have to see that wagon," she told her sister. "Meet me in that back room."
Without waiting for a reply, she ran off.
When Jo-Beth finally joined her, Mary Rose had already examined the display.
"It's a school bus," she explained. "From long ago. Only then it was called a 'kid hack.'"
"A 'kid hack.' And those big dolls sitting up there are dressed just the way the kids dressed in olden times."
"They look more like the store dummies you see in windows. Look at the way they're arranged, Mary Rose."
Two of the dolls appeared to be leaning slightly out of the wagon, as if they were watching the road. Two had their heads turned toward each other; they almost seemed to be having a conversation. Three sat one behind another, their eyes straight ahead.
"What does the sign say?" Jo-Beth asked eagerly.
Her sister read it aloud:
Early school buses were called kid hacks. They were ordinary wagons covered with either sailcloth or canvas; the students being taken to and from school sat on hard wooden benches. In bad weather, sailcloth curtains were dropped to protect the children from rain or snow or wind.
In winter, the wagons were heated by small stoves in which coal or wood or even corncobs were burned. Sometimes the stove was fastened in place under the floor of the kid hack. In some wagons, the small black stove was placed inside.
Later models were much fancier. Rubber tires replaced the wooden wheels; real glass windows were used instead of cloth curtains. Some kid hacks even boasted carpeting on the floor and lap robes to keep the children comfortable against the wintry blasts.
As Mary Rose read, Jo-Beth went around to the back of the display. Now she called, "There's a little stove in the wagon. And more old clothes on a bench."
Mary Rose went behind the display, too. She picked up some dried corncobs from the wagon floor and put them into the claw-footed little iron stove while Jo-Beth held a dress against herself, wondering if it would fit.
Neither of the girls heard the librarian moving about. And Vilmor Finton, the librarian, didn't realize anyone else was in the library. No one had come after it had begun to snow. Miss Finton had almost decided to close up early, but the sign outside listed the hours as 9 to 5 daily. Miss Finton was a woman who believed in carrying out her duties.
There were ten rooms downstairs - Grandfather Finton had always said that when he built a house, he built it big - and Miss Finton had been going from room to room. She did this each evening at closing time to make sure everyone was out of the building. She had looked into the rest room. Now she went to the room with the kid hack display. She often found children lingering here. She didn't bother to go into the room, just stood at the doorway and glanced inside quickly. Both girls were hidden from her view by the kid hack, and since Mary Rose and Jo-Beth had stopped talking for the moment, Miss Finton didn't hear anything, either. Satisfied, she walked away, and headed for the outside front doors.
Just as she was about to lock them, a man rapped sharply on the window. Miss Finton opened the door the merest crack, but even so snow began to whirl in.
"Yes. What is it?" Miss Finton asked impatiently.
"Excuse me. Are there two little girls in here by any chance? One is ten and the other is seven ..."
"The library is closed."
"They might be in the bathroom," the man pleaded. "Please. Will you just let me come in and look?"
Miss Finton had read many stories in the newspapers about people who came to one's door and asked to use the phone or made up excuses about accidents or whatever. Once inside, they attacked anyone foolish enough to let them in.
Miss Finton lived alone and liked it. And she wasn't afraid of staying in this big old house by herself. Just the same, she wasn't going to let this man put one foot inside the door. To begin with, Miss Finton had already checked the bathroom and the other rooms downstairs. She knew the building was empty, except for herself, of course.
Furthermore, this man's eyes were wild. He was breathing hard. And his voice was shaky.
"There are no children here," Miss Finton insisted, and she closed the door firmly in Mr. Onetree's face.
Then she locked and bolted the outside front doors and did the same with the inner doors. Miss Finton didn't believe in taking unnecessary chances. The double-locked doors, both inside and out, could be opened only with her keys.
Going back to the stairway, she stepped over the sign and walked briskly up the steps. Miss Finton did everything briskly.
She was about medium height. Her lively black eyes exactly matched her black hair, which was short and thick and bristled up from her head like the fur on an angry cat. Her hands seemed almost too large for her body, but Miss Finton was proud of them. They were good strong hands, and they served her very well.
At the top of the landing. Miss Finton took one last look at the floor below. Then she turned and went up another stairway that led to the third floor.
Miss Finton always checked the windows upstairs to make sure they were locked.
Satisfied that all was well, she went down again to the second floor, where she pressed a switch that turned off the big bright lights below. She pressed another switch that turned on small dim blue lights in each of the rooms downstairs, and on the landing.
When the lights went out so suddenly, the two girls were so shocked they couldn't speak. Jo-Beth gave a small gasp. Mary Rose realized two things almost at once. They had forgotten about the time. And they had forgotten about their father, who must have come back to the car with the gas by now.
"The librarian's gone home. I'll bet she locked us in!" Mary Rose nodded her head. "And Daddy doesn't even know where we are. And all because of you and your last-minute emergencies." She glared at her sister.
"See what you've gone and done to us."
"Me? Me? Who wanted to come in and take a look at this old wagon? Who was the one that made the secret wish?"
Jo-Beth shivered. "I don't like these spooky blue lights. They make everything so weird."
Mary Rose agreed. The big dolls in their strange clothes suddenly made her feel uneasy. Were the dolls moving? Weren't they getting bigger? Mary Rose felt scared. This was exactly the way she had felt the time her father had taken them to the wax museum.
"They're creepy," Jo-Beth whispered, almost as if she could read her sister's mind. "The way they keep staring. It's like they see something we can't."
"I hate these blue lights!" Even Mary Rose's face was beginning to look spooky in the dim-colored room. "I'm getting out of here!"
Jo-Beth dropped the dress she had been holding when the lights went out. She wanted to run, but it was hard to see where she was going. She came out from behind the display and crept along to the front door, with Mary Rose right behind her. At the door, she pulled and tugged at the knob.
"What good is that? The doors are locked."
"There she goes again, Miss Know-It-All," Jo-Beth thought, irritated.
She could see now that there was no use trying to get the doors open. But it made her feel as if she was doing something. "I know they're locked," she snapped. "I thought maybe I could loosen them up or something." She was so angry she kicked the door. "Whoever heard of locking a door inside with a key?"
"Maybe she has a lot of valuable things here. I'd do the same if I had something valuable," Mary Rose said thoughtfully.
Jo-Beth turned and stood with her back up against the door. The blue lights were even worse in here because the room was so big.
Shadows crouched down from the walls and moved closer and closer. Jo-Beth swallowed hard, but the hollow sensation in her stomach refused to go away.
Outside, the wind was tearing at the house, moaning and screaming, trying to get inside.
Jo-Beth was sure the wind was calling her name in a long, drawn-out shriek ... Jo Be-e-e-eth! Jo Be-e-e-eth!
She couldn't stand it anymore.
"Oh, Mary Rose," she sobbed. "We're never going to get out of here. The librarian's gone, and Daddy doesn't know where we are. Suppose it storms for days and days? We'll starve. They'll find our poor starved bodies ... "
Jo-Beth became so interested in what she was saying that she stopped crying. Wouldn't everybody be sad? And the new baby would never know what wonderful sisters he had had, especially Jo-Beth.
"No wonder Mommy calls you 'gloomy Gus,'" said Mary Rose. "You're so silly." She started to walk away from the door.
Jo-Beth promptly followed. "I don't want to stay here by myself. Where are you going?"
"I'm going to find the phone, dummy. You said at least one sensible thing. Nobody knows we're here. So I guess it would be a good idea to call somebody on the phone and tell them where we are."