Girl-Powered Ghost-Busters: a tale of surf ghosts and sock thiefs

Surf’s undead, Bookwyrms! Gather ’round the creepy campfire! Today, we’re going to sink into two Feel Good tales of intangible tomfoolery. We have another paranormal adventure from Camp Lumberjanes and some sinister surf hijinks on the California coast!

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Rating: 5 out of 5 old-timey food swears. Or: 5 out of 5 totally tubular ear piercings.

Playlist:

Cover of The Baby-Sitters Club Mystery 12, Dawn and the Surfer Ghost.  The background is a dark sea green, with the series title and the words "Mystery #12" in red letters.

The square inset painting is a beach scene at night, with the top half of a moon peeking out from behind a cloud.  There's a blazing bonfire in the bottom left corner and two kids standing to the right of it, facing the fire.  

The younger child, closest to the fire, is wearing a pale blue jean jacket over a red-orange long-sleeved top, pale blue jeans, and white tennis shoes.  He's pointing at the horizon, where you see the glowing silhouette of a surfer.  

An older girl stands next to the boy.  She's wearing a long-sleeved white top over dark khaki pants and white tennis shoes.  She places her right hand on the boy's shoulder, staring out at the water with a surprised and concerned expression.

Like The Carnival Ghost, this one takes us to the Southern California coast in midwinter — a perfect time, according to that famous Christmas song, for ghost stories. And, like The Curse of the Golden Heart, it also involves a nautical spirit who catches the attention of an amateur teen detective. Only, this time, the mystery is much more Scooby-Doo than Pirates of the Caribbean.

Dawn Schafer, former Alternate Officer of the Baby-Sitters Club, has moved back to Palo City, California to live with her dad and younger brother. She’s living her Best Coast life, taking winter surf lessons with her best friend Sunny, engaging in lots of beachside babysitting fun, and not-quite-flirting with local surf god Thrash.

Now, Dawn claims she has no serious interest in Thrash — he’s “[t]oo wild, too old, and too — well, just too-too” (my emphasis; insert totally innocent wolf whistle) — but she also says she could spend all day listening to him talk about surfing, and she totally blushes when he nick-names her after a legendary Hawaiian princess.

Anyhoo, things get super gnarly when Thrash’s mangled surf board washes up on the beach one day, the expert surfer nowhere in sight. The authorities assume Thrash was eaten by sharks or something and leave it at that. Everyone is horrified for about a minute, but Dawn can’t bring herself to shrug this off as an ordinary surfing accident. Thrash is too dreamy hunky godly awesome! He wouldn’t wipe out in such a barney way!

But the plot really gets amped when Dawn and Sunny are supervising a nighttime beach party for the kids. As the youngest kids begin to nod off, someone sees what looks like a human silhouette riding the misty waves in the distance. But what living surfer would risk going out in such aggro conditions?

So! Since Dawn was once a member of a technically-teen babysitting/detective agency, with specific expertise in ghost stories, she immediately takes it upon herself to solve the case herself, since the local LEOs are totally uninterested in busting ghosts or avenging some “bum.” What a bunch of sketchy hodads!

Anyhoo, this is definitely a cozy mystery/beach read with a hilariously satisfying resolution. If you want to know the full story, with spoilers, I HIGHLY recommend listening to the BSCC podcast episode (it’s #163: “W ❤ KCMC: Dawn and the Surfer Ghost”). Be aware, the hosts tend to use lots of salty language and tell lots of R-rated jokes.

P.S. All teasing aside, Dawn really does just see Thrash as a friend. Honest.

P.S.2. This book also has a sub-plot involving twins!

Cover of the Lumberjanes middle-grade novel, Ghost Cabin, by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Brooklyn Allen.  The cover is violet, with a pattern of simple white ghosts all over.  They look kind of like thumbprints with bumps for arms and violet eyes and mouths.  

In the middle, taking up most of the cover, is a cut-out campfire with a bright orange border.  Inside, as though you're looking through a window, you see a dark purplish lake at nighttime, with a crescent moon shining overhead.

Stepping out of the campfire, on the left side, are two girls facing the viewer.  They're both holding flashlights -- the girl on the left is pointing hers upward while the girl on the right is pointing hers down.

The first girl has a partially shaved head, with the rest of her wavy black hair flopping over the right side of her head.  She's wearing a red plaid long-sleeved top and a grey vest over ripped grey capris and white slip-on flat shoes.

The other girl has a long blond braid draped over her left shoulder.  She has a spooked-looking brown raccoon on her head and is wearing a two-toned green long-sleeved shirt with a bright green torso and darker green sleeves.  She's also wearing knee-length dark brown cargo shorts and white high-top sneakers.

On the upper right side of the campfire are three other girls, shrunk to a smaller size because they're not the stars of this book.  There's Jo, with the shoulder-length dark brown hair; April, with the white bow in her long red hair; and Ripley, with the blue streak in her short, spiky dark brown hair.  They're all holding flashlights and looking around with scared and/or fascinated expressions.

Next up is a spooky campfire mystery starring our favorite summer camp sweethearts, Mal and Molly!

Things have been pretty peachy for Roanoke Cabin until Molly gets a very passive-aggressive package from her mother. It’s a stack of math workbooks with notes encouraging her to “concentrate” and “not get distracted, as is your habit.”

Who does that??

From that moment, Molly’s day turns into a total bummer. Everything goes wrong no matter how hard Mal tries to cheer her up. I mean, you know your day’s sunk when not even Chef Kzyzzy’s famous HOLY MOLY VEGAN GUACAMOLE does the trick.

Luckily, it’s around this time that Mal finds herself in a very intriguingly annoying situation herself: where the Gunta Stölzl have all her socks gone??

In a final attempt to bring Molly back to a math-less mood, Mal decides to make the missing socks an actual issue. This isn’t just an odd inconvenience anymore — it’s a MYSTERY! And what self-respecting Lumberjane could resist tackling the greatest mystery of the modern era??

Of course, in true Camp Lumberjanes fashion, the Roanoke scouts’ search leads them not to some boring washing machine wormhole, but to…A GHOST CABIN!!! What do these old-timey scouts want with Mal’s socks? Why do their swears all have to do with food? And can a hundred-year-old mistake actually help Mal and Molly face their greatest fears?

This is a lovely book for anyone who’s dealt with overbearing adult expectations, as well as other Real World pressures that keep one up at night. It’s about letting go and sticking together, about healing yourself by helping someone else, and about realizing that love isn’t dependent on proximity. AND (ok, slight spoiler alert)…

THERE’S AN UNDERWATER LABYRINTH INVOLVED. Tell me you’re not picturing a very glittery, mullet-ed merman singing “Splash Magic Splash” while contact-juggling bubbles.

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What are your favorite cozy mysteries, Bookwyrms? What books have helped distract you from Real Life stress (or even helped you overcome some of it)? Any fun bookish podcasts that have made 2020 more bearable?

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Credits:

I snaked the surf slang from Wave Tribe’s Glossary. Like a total quimby.

1/100th of an Altairian dollar for your thoughts?

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