Scared Silly by Eth Clifford, 1988.
Grandma Post has decided that Mary Rose and Jo-Beth Onetree are finally old enough and responsible enough to have an antique doll house that has been in their family for years. But Jo-Beth is irritated because her family thinks of Mary Rose as the responsible one, and Mary Rose doesn’t take her seriously. Jo-Beth is the dramatic one, a day dreamer.
Although Jo-Beth is determined to prove that she can be as practical and sensible as her older sister, neither she nor her father can resist a look at the Walk-Your-Way-Around-the-World Museum when they spot the sign for it on the way to their grandmother’s house to pick up the dollhouse. Practical Mary Rose thinks they should just continue with their journey and not get distracted, especially because the weather has turned stormy. Then, the bridge they had to cross over collapses behind them, washed away by rising river waters, so they have no choice but to keep heading toward the museum and call for help.
The Walk-Your-Way-Around-the-World Museum is a museum dedicated to shoes from different periods of history and different parts of the world. It’s owned by the eccentric Harper family, who also owns the strange house nearby called Harper’s Abode. Gus Harper made his fortune in shoes, and he’s the one who came up who built the museum. He’s also an inventor who creates magic tricks for stage magicians, and he decorated Harper’s Abode with them, almost like a funhouse. His brother, Razendale Harper, lives there, too. Razendale was an actor, and he now teaches drama and entertains children at the local hospital while wearing giant rabbit costume. Their nephew, Erik, lives with them, and Daisy Dorcet manages the family’s affairs.
While the Onetree family is visiting the museum, a pair of shoes that once belonged to a Chinese emperor disappears. Like the two Onetree sisters, Gus considers himself the sensible brother and doesn’t take Razendale, the dreamier sibling, very seriously. He thinks Razendale ran off with the shoes as a prank. But, Erik, who seems more sensible than either of his uncles, says that they can’t just accuse him without proof. Gus provides them with an invention that could settle the whole matter, but that depends on whether or not they can trust Gus.
This book is a little different from the others in the series in that there isn’t just one issue that the girls consider along with the mystery. Jo-Beth considers whether or not she’s going to remain a dreamer or try to be more sensible (at least, part of the time, like maybe once or twice a week). Mary Rose is surprised that Jo-Beth can come up with some sensible solutions when she puts her mind to it. Then, there’s the shoe thief, whose motives are more altruistic than anyone suspects and who raises the question of where certain museum artifacts actually belong.
This is part of the Mary Rose and Jo-Beth Mysteries series.