One of four books initiating a series featuring a spirited heroine, Ernie, who uses observation and innovation to solve problems. (The other titles are The Bogeyman Caper, The Campfire Ghosts, and The Tap Dance Mystery.) Initially, Ernie's move from Virginia to a small Minnesota town is not a success: the other kids make fun of her accent, and she's the prime suspect when parts of school lunches begin to disappear. In the process of solving the mystery and coming up with suitable retribution for the culprit, Ernie makes friends with the group who form a nucleus of characters for the books to come. Ernie, who seems to be about eight, is a plucky girl who makes believable mistakes but thinks for herself and comes out a winner. The plots of these stories are slight and the writing not distinguished, but on-target characterization sustains a series that is a natural for children just ready for chapter books.