Rereading My Childhood — The Baby-Sitters Club #29: Mallory and the Mystery Diary by Ann M. Martin

Amy A. Cowan
8 min readApr 8, 2024

Despite my constant attempts to do so, I cannot keep a journal or a diary. It starts the same way. A new, flawless journal with a beautiful blue flower on the cover and a silver-foiled edge. Each day dated and lined. Two weeks of consistent writing. Then the steep drop-off. Days go by without anything noteworthy. I think I can’t use the pages for different days because it’s not the correct date. The diary goes unused. I pull it apart and use the pages for notes.

Blogs are the same way for me. I just don’t think that my life is particularly interesting. This is the longest I’ve been able to do anything blog or writing wise semi-consistently, and, even then, it hasn’t been that consistent.

Mallory Pike says there’s a difference between a journal and a diary. A diary is a daily log of events. A journal is a random log of random thoughts. This definition of a journal is instantly more appealing to me, but then what would I do with my stacks and stacks of pretty note paper? A journal would be a large notepad for me, filled with the exact words I’m going to say to the lady on the phone when I order refills on my prescriptions and possible responses to questions.

Mallory Pike’s mother wants to welcome the McGills back to Stoneybrook, so she sends her oldest over with a casserole, a staple of these books and everyone’s childhood except mine. Stacey and her mother are more than happy to receive the casserole, as all they have been eating is take-out. They have been living my daily existence.

Claudia has been helping Stacey unpack and today is no different. At the request of Ms. McGill, they take some extra moving boxes into the attic. There, they find a bunch of crap left behind, including a trunk. Stacey gives Mallory the trunk and Mallory pays the triplets to lug the thing to her room.

It’s a beautiful antique trunk and while Mallory wants to get it open, she would prefer to do it without the demolition team from Property Brothers. Unfortunately, Mallory does not possess the skills necessary, so it’ll be a while before we can get to the mystery diary.

Meanwhile, Buddy Barrett is having trouble reading. He should be tested for dyslexia. He’s eight-years-old and he can’t read Green Eggs and Ham. Instead, Buddy’s mother hires Mallory, who is not a qualified specialist. She is a sixth-grader who is currently prying open a trunk out of frustration.

After all that talk about not wanting to destroy the trunk, Mallory relents and allows the triplets to smash the lock with a hammer. They find clothes and, finally, the titular mystery diary.

I sat on the edge of my bed and opened the diary. The first page read, “This is my book, by Sophie. And this is a year in my life — 1894.”

Well, the mystery diary belongs to Sophie! Sherlock Pike, your powers of deduction are impeccable!

Mallory reads Sophie’s diary until her first tutoring session with Buddy. He came home with flashcards from his teacher, whom he hates. Mallory goes over the flashcards with him and Buddy is annoyed and frustrated the whole time. She rewards him with five minutes to play with his generic, nondescript video game. Just enough time to get to the loading screen. On the way home, Mallory wonders if there’s a better way to teach reading.

Back home, Mallory dives deeper into the diary and we finally get a mystery. Basically, Sophie’s grandfather didn’t like his daughter’s no-good husband, Jared, who is also Sophie’s father. After Sophie’s mother dies in childbirth, Sophie’s grandfather disowned the family and blamed Jared for the theft of her mother’s portrait. Sophie is determined to clear her father’s name and find the portrait or else she’ll haunt Stacey’s house. The mystery is not so much about the diary, but the starter quest is in the diary itself.

Meanwhile, Kristy baby-sits for her siblings, including Emily Michelle, her adopted sister from Vietnam. The baby doesn’t do much, but I mention her only because Kristy claims that orphanages in Vietnam neglect the children, which is a rotten thing to conjecture. It already bothers me that they changed Emily Michelle’s name and this unfounded dig at Vietnam is gross and unacceptable. Anyway, not much happens, but the Thomas/Brewer clan ventures upstairs to look for treasures, only to find clothes as outdated as their beliefs.

At the BSC meeting, Mallory goes over everyone’s clothes. Kristy, Mary Anne, Jessi, and Stacey aren’t wearing anything particularly egregious, but Mallory is concerned about patterns potentially clashing.

This episode of “What’s Claudia Wearing?” is uneventful.

Claud herself was wearing jeans, a plain white blouse, a pink sweater, white socks, and loafers. She said she’s gone back to the fifties for the day.

However, this is Mallory’s outfit:

I was wearing boring old jeans, but a top that I liked a lot — a big white long-sleeved T-shirt that said I ❤️ KIDS across the front.

Mallory, honey, I don’t care if they gave you a free shirt, don’t hang out at CPAC.

Finally, Dawn is wearing pants and a sweatshirt. That’s it. That’s all.

Oh, did I forget to mention the “small straw hat?”

I insist that all Dawn cosplay must include this $1.50 hat from Party City.

They never talk about the outfits or the little hat for the rest of the book, but they do continue their conversation about the mystery in the diary. Dawn posits that Sophie’s grandfather is Old Man Hickory, the curmudgeon from The Baby-Sitters Club #17: Mary Anne’s Bad-Luck Mystery, but that would imply that everyone in Stoneybrook is connected to this old guy who didn’t want to leave his house. Jessi suggests that Sophie stole the painting, which would mean that Sophie is lying in her own diary. The BSC ends the meeting pretty damn stoked about this missing painting.

Mallory arrives at the Barretts for Buddy’s tutoring session. This time, she gives him some comic books, much to Buddy’s excitement.

Maybe Mrs. Barrett didn’t let her kids read comics. Some parents didn’t, and I can understand why. In our house we’re allowed to read comics, but only as long as we read books, too. Mom and Dad said that was fair since they read some pretty junky magazines as well as good books. But not all parents feel that way.

What’s wrong with comic books? I can think of at least five comic books off the top of my head that I would consider literary masterpieces, as well as five actual books that have no literary merit. Oh yeah, we can’t have people reading comic books like Maus by Art Spiegelman because to them, it’s schlock. Reagan’s America, everyone, where kids can’t wear palm tree earrings and green hair, and God forbid someone catches them reading Calvin & Hobbes.

Anyway, Buddy and Mallory read Archie together. Archie? Like, Riverdale? And Jughead?

Then they make comics and Mallory helps him with his spelling. Buddy has a good time and Mallory is proud of herself.

The BSC wants to solve the mystery of the diary, so they are going to do the next logical step — hold a seance. Kristy insists on being the “channeler” and she shows up at Stacey’s house dressed as if she were one of the Romani people. Martin doesn’t use the word “Romani,” but a slur. You know which one.

The girls do their little seance and Kristy pretends to be Sophie so she can tell the girls that a seance is a bad idea. They all laugh and laugh. This scene could have been cut out and nothing would change. They used a culture as a costume for nothing.

Stacey sits for Charlotte, who tells her some convoluted story about a girl who finds puppies in the forest and it’s Christmas. It’s all for her to say that things may not be what they seem. It doesn’t really help solve the mystery, but I guess there’s always a scene where the detective looks furtive and says, “There’s something we’re missing. Some piece of the puzzle that has yet to be found. We must look at this from a different angle.” And then he ponders at a tree, or flips over a card, or puts a pipe in his mouth, depending on when the movie was made and if it takes place in Monte Carlo.

During Mallory’s next session with Buddy, she shows him the diary. He reads for a while and then rummages through the rest of the trunk. Buried at the bottom, is another piece of paper — the key to the mystery.

Well, not really a key. It’s a confession from Sophie’s grandfather and it just says what happened. Basically, Dawn was correct. Old Man Hickory was Sophie’s grandfather. After his daughter died, he got big sads from looking at her portrait, so he commissioned some traveling painter to paint over it. Then when people asked about the painting, he framed his no-good son-in-law, regardless of the consequences for his grandchild.

Stacey finds another painting in the attic and Stacey’s mom, who’s got it going on (a reference that’s good in perpetuity), takes it to Stamford to restore the original painting. Stacey’s mom is able to just buy a huge house in suburban Connecticut without a job and they still have leftover money for painting restoration. White people in the ’80s had it made.

In the end, Buddy performs a magic trick for Mallory and his family because Mallory cured his dyslexia, I guess.

Buddy and Mallory claim that Buddy solved the mystery, but finding a confession at the bottom of the trunk isn’t really solving a mystery. It would be like a video game quest giver asking you to find some herbs and they’re on the table next to them. No one pieced together clues, no one noticed something interesting, no one lent their expertise to the situation. Mallory should have just dumped out the rest of the contents of the trunk at the beginning and we could have gone home early for the day.

Also, Buddy definitely has a reading disability of some kind. Either Martin didn’t intend for his journey to revolve around his obvious disability because Boomers deny the existence of neurodivergent people, or she just unloaded the responsibility of a professional onto an 11-year-old with a horse obsession. I’ll give Martin the benefit of the doubt. While Mallory gives Buddy an avenue to the wonderful world of reading, hopefully he’ll go to a professional for real assistance.

Rereading My Childhood is written by me — Amy A. Cowan. For a list of every Baby-Sitters Club, Goosebumps, and Fear Street book review I have written and to subscribe to my Substack or YouTube, go to To listen to the official podcast, visit the website or search for “Rereading My Childhood” in your favorite podcast app. For more information about me, visit



Amy A. Cowan

I am a weirdo who occasionally writes about books from my childhood.