Claudia and Mean Janine (GN#4)

Original Publication Date: 2008

Ghostwriter? No, the text copyright is for Ann M. Martin.

Illustrator: Raina Telgemeier


Like the others, this graphic novel version of Claudia and Mean Janine is faithful to the original book. The second Claudia-narrated book was chosen instead of Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls because it was a story that included more about Claudia's family and would also translate better to a visual medium.

Established or continued in this book:

The Girls (and Logan):

Claudia candy: M&Ms, cookies, low-carb pretzels for Stacey and Dawn, candy bars, Gummi bears, taffy, lollipops, chips, gum

No name-brand candies were harmed in the drawing of this book:

Their Families:

Claudia shows her family the portrait she painted:

Kristy, Dawn, and Jeff:

The Club (and clients):

Claudia's handwriting (and spelling):

Dawn's handwriting:

Claudia with the Newton kids:

Summer playgroup:

At the end of the book, Claudia says she'll have to cut back on baby-sitting a little. The new school is starting and she wants to be able to focus at least some on her studies. Kristy suggests they invite Mallory Pike to join, who helped then with the summer playgroup.


Some SMS teachers:

PSA Time:

Baby powder, especially the kind with talc, isn't recommended for babies anymore.


Martin dedicates this book to her "Aunt Adele and Uncle Paul," and Telgemeier gives "thanks to everyone who helped make this project a reality! Dave Roman, Marion Vitus, John Green, Ashley Button, Janna Morishima, David Saylor, David Levithan, Cassandra Pelham, Eliie Berger, Sheila Keenan, Kristina Albertson, Phil Falco, Vera Brosgol, Dr. Laurie Kane, the Green family: Bill, Martha, and MarMar, and most especially, Ann M. Martin."

The storm that opens Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls opens this book. Some other elements of that book are in here, too. For example, Kristy's mom and Watson aren't married yet.


Mary Anne Saves the Day (GN#3)

Original Publication Date: 2007

Ghostwriter? No, the text copyright is for Ann M. Martin.

Illustrator: Raina Telgemeier


This graphic novel version of Mary Anne Saves the Day is faithful to the original book. Some fun additions are Mary Anne daydreaming of wowing her classmates with a new look, and a visualization of a nightmare that the other three members of the BSC make up and shut her out. The drawings that flesh out the fights, meeting Dawn, and other events are done very well.

Established or continued in this book:

The Girls (and Logan):

Claudia candy: Ring Dings

Their Families:

It just occurred to me that Mary Anne and her father are shown praying before meals, one of the few times we see a character participating in a religious activity. And Mary Anne's father is fairly strict and controlling in the early books. Later religious characters are sometimes portrayed as straw men, like Merry Dow's censorship-crusading mother. I wonder if Martin has had some less-than-pleasant interaction with holier-than-thou types.

Richard Spier is illustrated with a beard. I've always pictured him clean-shaven, probably because my dad is a lawyer and doesn't have facial hair.

Mary Anne's internal dialogue says her mom died of cancer. Previous books had her dying of some sort of lingering illness, and cancer certainly fits the bill.

Mary Anne and her dad:

Dawn arranges a meeting for her mom and Mary Anne's dad (pretty much exactly how I pictured it):

The Club (and clients):

Mary Anne's handwriting:

Mr. Prezzioso tips Mary Anne and Dawn each $50 instead of $20.

Mary Anne with a sick Jenny:

The Pikes:

Dawn officially joins the club:


The Shillaber twins are brunettes. There were three sets of twins in my class, a total of four girls and two boys. For some reason I've been associating the set of blonde-haired fraternal sisters with the Shillabers rather than the brown-haired identical sisters (the boys were also identical). I didn't realize that until I saw the drawing and the Shillaber twins weren't blonde.

PSA Time: Nothing stood out


Martin dedicates this book to her "Beth McKeever Perkins, my old baby-sitting buddy. With Love (and years of memories)," and Telgemeier gives "thanks to David Saylor, Cassandra Pelham, Ellie Berger, Marion Vitus, Alisa Harris, Alison Wilgus, Zack Giallongo, Steve Flak, Phil Falco, Braden Lamb, and John Green. And of course, thanks to my husband, Dave Roman, for always encouraging me to do my best."


The Truth About Stacey (GN#2)

Original Publication Date: 2006

Ghostwriter? No, the text copyright is for Ann M. Martin.

Illustrator: Raina Telgemeier


Like all the graphic novels, this is a re-telling of one of the first books in a different format: The Truth About Stacey. Things are pretty much the same, even down to the fake names Kristy gives the Baby-sitters Agency. There are some more details about Stacey's diabetes (like a conversation with her parents about her blood sugar numbers) and reaction shots to things like Stacey being diagnosed with diabetes (this time in a hospital after fainting and being rushed in an ambulance) and the Baby-sitters Agency.

Established or continued in this book:

The Girls (and Logan):

Claudia candy: Lifesavers, package of cookies

The girls with their Kid-Kits (they used the same sort of boxes I did):

Their Families:

Claudia's family has lots of board games.

The McGills:

The Club (and clients):

Stacey's handwriting:

Lucy Newton weighed NINE POUNDS at birth. Terrifying. (My kids weighed 6 lb 11 oz, 7 lb 3 oz, and 7 lb 1 oz; in that order)

Stacey and Charlotte:


The drawings of the school look about how I'd pictured SMS.

PSA Time:

Stacey leaves opened scissors on the floor as she wraps Christmas presents. Looking at the picture, it's like I can hear my dad saying not to leave scissors open.


Martin dedicates this book to her "old pal, Claudia Werner," and Telgemeier gives "very big thanks to Marion Vitus, Adam Girardet, Duane Ballanger, Lisa Jonte, Arthur Levine, KC Whitehall, and Hope Larson. As always, a huge thank you to my family, my friends, and especially, Dave."

Okay, here's a big difference from the 1986 book: they play music on a CD!

Laine's wearing braces on her teeth.

Stacey and Laine in Times Square:

Stacey's dinner broken down into diabetic-relevant nutritional information:


Kristy's Great Idea (GN#1)

Original Publication Date: 2006

Ghostwriter? No, the text copyright is for Ann M. Martin.

Illustrator: Raina Telgemeier


In 2006, artist Raina Telgemeier worked with Ann M. Martin to create four graphic novel retellings of early Baby-sitters Club books. The plots and much of the dialogue are the same as the original books, with a few differences (for example, Claudia has part of her hair dyed purple). They're a fun read. I'm planning to use some of my birthday money to get my own copies--the ones I'm reading now are from the library.

Kristy's Great Idea is the natural starting point.

Established or continued in this book:

The Girls (and Logan):

Claudia candy: bag of unspecified chocolates, Gummi Bears, licorce

Kristy usually wears her hair down rather than in a ponytail.

Their Families:

David Michael is illustrated with a tooth missing. I think it's a nice touch.

The Thomas family (Sam's in the ball cap):

David Michael and Louie:

Watson, Karen, and Andrew (with Boo-Boo and Mary Anne):

The Club (and clients):

Kristy gets her great idea:

Kristy's handwriting:

Buffy and Pinky, the dogs Kristy watches, appear to be St. Bernards or Bernese mountain dogs.

Club flyer:


Kristy's essay on decorum:

PSA Time:

One child Claudia watches is recovering from the chicken pox. Fortunately, we now have a vaccine against that--which means no shingles in adulthood, either!


Martin dedicates this book to her "Beth McKeever Perkids, my old baby-sitting buddy, with love (and years of memories)," and Telgemeier thanks "Dave, Mom, Dad, Amara, Will, Grandma, Diane, Bruce, the Roman family, the Rigores family, the Cuevas family, K. C., Marisa, Jason, my editors, my friends, my co-workers, and my fellow comic artists."

The illustrations of Kristy's sitting job with the dogs are hilarious. And messy--someone else who checked the book out of the library before me must have been eating chocolate or something. But the smears are appropriate on the pictures of the dogs tearing around the yard.

There are also scribbles on the pages of Claudia watching Jamie Newton and his wild cousins. Also fitting.

Sheep are no longer in. But rainbows are:


Never Stop Singing

Published in 2016; author Denise Lewis Patrick; illustrators Michael Dwornik and Julie Kolesova


It's New Year's Eve, 1963; the day before Melody turns 10. She's finally old enough to attend Watch Night at her church, a remembrance of when free and enslaved black people waited for New Year's Day 1863, when President Lincoln would officially announce the Emancipation Proclamation. At the service, the pastor encourages his congregation to use the gifts and talents God has given them to change the world for the better. (Speaking of gifts, one important gift she gets is a pouch of heirloom seeds, from Miss Esther, an older family friend.)

Maybe Melody will have a chance to teach people about her heritage when her teacher announces they'll be celebrating Negro History Week in February (the name and duration for it at the time). Maybe she can do something related to how her cousin's family is facing discrimination in their house search. Maybe the community meeting about businesses that snub minorities will give her ideas. Then inspiration hits: fixing up a nearby playground, so it can be a gathering place for everyone.

Melody's sister Yvonne encourages her and gives her some tips, and Miss Esther helps Melody prepare a speech to give to the Block Club, a group of adults committed to advancing civil rights in their community. She ends up president of the Junior Block Club, but finds leadership more difficult than she anticipated. The opportunity to sing back-up on her big brother's singing group's first recording. And Melody's cousin and her family find a great house they can make an offer on. Things start looking up as spring marches on.

But then Melody gets a letter from the parks department: there's not enough available funds to replace the aging swingset. When Melody expresses her disappointment to Miss Esther and her parents, they discuss the possibility that the funds aren't available for parks in black neighborhoods. They also encourage her to continue making the park a beautiful place, even if she's not able to get everything she wants. After all, there are those heirloom seeds...

Just when Melody's gotten her team excited to beautify the existing playground, the parks department locks the gates. Apparently the swingset is too dangerous. The Junior Block Club composes letters to the department: they can't ignore the club forever. A letter from Melody's oldest sister inspires her to spread the word, to get even more letters sent. Melody even gets a local radio show to mention the letter-writing campaign. After a flurry of letters and phone calls, the parks department removes the broken equipment--and the lock. So summer begins with the project in full swing, Melody's sister Lila completing a year of her private school program (she won a scholarship), her oldest sister Yvonne securing a teaching job in the south during Freedom Summer, and Dwayne finally getting the official album of the song he and Melody recorded.

Melody and her parents take a summer trip with her cousin's family to her grandparents' old farm in Birmingham, for the Fourth of July holiday. Despite the shadow cast by the suspicious disappearance of three civil rights workers, celebrating freedom is extra-special for African-Americans this year, with the signing of the Civil Rights Act (one character points out that the real trick will be getting everyone to follow the law). In the midst of the festivities, the family learns that Yvonne's been arrested, for "disturbing the peace" and has broken her wrist during the arrest. Her parents are able to get her out, and while they're very worried for her safety, they agree that Yvonne's an adult who can make her own choices. Yvonne spends a little time with her family before returning to Freedom Summer.

Back at home, the seeds planted at the playground have sprouted and are mostly doing well. Melody needs to teach her team a bit about gardening (for example, the best time to water), but they've done well in her absence. A summer storm threatens a setback, but the Junior and original Block Clubs spruce it back up.

Soon the park is ready for a grand opening party. The radio show host herself shows up, with a proclamation from the mayor announcing the park reopened and named for the Junior Block Club! She also gives Melody a check to buy some new equipment ($75, almost $575 in 2016). The book ends with Melody and her brother singing the song they recorded earlier, onstage for the crowd.

Inside Melody's World

June, July, and August of 1964 came to be known as Freedom Summer for civil rights activists. Volunteers toured the country to educate about the contributions minorities had made to society and to champion equal rights, especially registering African-Americans to vote. Not everyone was welcoming of their presence. Some were heckled or arrested on false charges. Three young men, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, disappeared in late June. Their bodies were found in August. Despite the high profile of the murders and the widespread belief that the perpetrators were members of a conspiracy rooted in the KKK, only one man was ever convicted of the murders. In 2005. Forty-one years after the fact. The crime was part of a large resistance to the Civil Rights Act, a resistance which continues today.


This book is dedicated "in friendship to Sharon Shavers Gayle and in gratitude to the unforgettable Mr. Horace Julian Bond."

Melody's birthday is January first, same as my best friend. And a very convenient birthday, as I discovered when calculating the ages at date of death for several deceased family members. "19xx-18xx is--wait, had she had her birthday yet?"

So we skip not only the winter holiday story, which is always my favorite to read about, but also the assassination of JFK, a huge historical event.

Funny story related to JFK: when I was about Melody's age, my mom asked my dad where he was when Kennedy was shot. Of course, she was asking because it's one of those moments almost everyone who lived through remembers, just how people can vividly recall how they found about September 11, 2001. But I didn't get that at the time, and thought she was asking because she seeing if my dad had an alibi!

Several prominent African-American figures are name dropped. My favorite of the innovators is Charles Drew, who had a profound influence on blood transfusion. I donate blood, so that one's close to my heart (literally). (His death was not the result of discrimination, contrary to popular belief; his injuries were too severe for that to have been a factor) Jesse Owens, too; as I did track and field. Another athlete, Tommie Smith, would rise to fame for giving the black power salute at the 1968 Olympics--and I have his autograph.

The letter-writing reminds me of Andy Dufresne's strategy in The Shawshank Redemption. He writes a letter a week to secure funds for a prison library, and his persistence is eventually rewarded with some money and letter than ends, "Please stop writing."


No Ordinary Sound

Published in 2016; author Denise Lewis Patrick; illustrator Julie Kolesova


Melody Ellison is a happy nine-year-old growing up in 1965 Detroit. She's the youngest of four, with two older sisters and an older brother (Yvonne, Lila, and Dwayne). She's also close with her cousins--one of her best friend is her cousin Valerie (the other, Sharon, isn't related to her). Every Sunday after church, her parents and siblings meet at her grandmother's house for dinner. This particular Sunday in May, she can hardly wait to tell everyone that she's been picked to sing a solo for Youth Day in October. Big brother Dwayne, already 18, is more excited than she expects (he's normally hard to impress) and says she should write to Yvonne, off at college. Melody doesn't want to be a Motown star like Dwayne (the whole Ellison family is musical), but the spotlight at her church is small enough that singing there is exciting instead of scary.

The next day brings more happy news: once the school year is over, Melody's cousins are going to move from Alabama to Detroit! Yvonne's back from college, too. She's gained a lot of confidence, and a clearer understanding of how unjust segregation is. She's refused a job at a bank simply based on her skin (Melody, in a heartwarming show of solidarity, closes her account at the bank to protest), and instead of chemically straightening her hair or keeping it in tight hairstyles, wears loose and natural. When the cousins arrive on Mother's Day, Melody's hair stylist aunt, Tish, is excited to offer Yvonne's style to her future clients.

The move isn't all happy though. They were prompted to come north because of the worsening racial tension in the South. Yvonne wonders what will happen to the fight for equality if everyone leaves, but Aunt Tish and Uncle Charles argue that they can't risk losing their jobs by protesting--they have a family to support. Furthermore, the protests and counter-protests are becoming more violent. They hope to be able to enjoy less segregation and better jobs in Detroit. Right away, Melody gets to show Valerie how things are better up north: the library is for everyone, and anyone regardless of skin color can enter through the main doors.

Of course, things aren't perfect. Dwayne has a music audition coming up, and when he and Melody go shopping for the perfect suit for him to wear, they're followed by store clerks and accused of shoplifting--that's all "their kind" would be in a fancy store for anyway. Melody wonders if Dwayne would still face this sort of prejudice if he were famous. The siblings also discuss how different people fight for equality in different ways. Melody ponders this while going with Valerie and her parents on their house search--and encounters more prejudice. Some people don't want to tell them, only to whites.

Incidents like this inspire Melody's choice of song for her Youth Day solo: "Lift Every Voice and Sing" originally written by James Weldon Johnson as a poem and now a song called by many the Black American national anthem. Seeing Martin Luther King Jr speak cements the choice in her mind.

As summer continues, Melody's parents find out about Dwayne's music plans, just before his (ultimately successful) audition. They've been dreaming for him to go to college at Tuskegee like Yvonne (he was accepted for the fall term) but instead he's going to be a singer. It's hard for them to watch their son follow a different path that they worry won't open as many doors as college, but to their credit they realize he's an adult who can make his own decisions.

Soon it's almost time for school to resume. Melody's best friend Sharon returns from her summer vacation just in time to celebrate the opening of Aunt Tish's hair salon, and is pleasantly surprised to learn that Diane, the star singer who seemed stuck-up, has been helping Melody learn her song for Youth Day. A lot seems to be changing for the better, from the large-scale marches for equality in the nation's capital to small things like friendships that once seemed impossible.

And then it's September 15, 1963, the day of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. This was a real historical event, and a tragic one. Four KKK members blew up a church with dynamite. Twenty-two people were injured. Four died. They were all children: Addie Mae Collins, 14, Cynthia Wesley, 14, Carole Robertson, 14, and Carol Denise McNair, 11. No one was prosecuted for the murders until 1977, when one of the four conspirators were sentenced to life in prison. Two others were tried, convicted, and sentenced in 2001 and 2002. The fourth never faced charges. In 2013, President Obama posthumously awarded the four girls the Congressional Gold Medal, recognizing their impact in the Civil Rights movement.

Melody and her family are horrified and in shock. How could anyone have so much hatred as to murder children? At church? Melody is so affected by the news that she can't sing. Her mind is a whirl of fear and sadness and confusion. Singing at church, when four girls only a little older than her were murdered while getting ready to sing in the church choir, is just too overwhelming.

Melody's family gives her gentle encouragement though, and she finds her voice again. But she's still afraid to go inside her church, where the Youth Day concert will be. Church is supposed to be a safe and happy place, but four girls were murdered viciously in theirs. Yvonne tells her how a woman was inspired to register to vote despite pressure from racists trying to keep her away from the booths, Dwayne writes to her about being on the road and still facing prejudice but also seeing less in some areas, and the rest of her family rallies around her. Val, Sharon, and Diane help her too, and when it's time for the concert, Melody is able to sing her song--in honor of the four girls who will never sing again.

Inside Melody's World

While Melody had more freedom in 1965 than Addy did a century before, she was still denied many things available to her white contemporaries. Detroit itself was a city where many black people could find good jobs and even own their own businesses, but schools were still segregated and persons of color were denied services for no reason other than their skin. People rallied around public figures like Dr. King and other civil rights leaders. While some were able to make their voices heard on large scales, like Rosa Parks or Malcolm X, others fought the fight on personal levels. But every bit counts toward the larger whole.


This book is dedicated to "everyone who hears the call of justice, and answers."

Just before the first chapter is a note explaining that in 1965, "Negro" and "colored" were acceptable terms to describe people of African descent, but today are considered offensive. They're used in the text for authenticity. In the second chapter, Melody and her family discuss the best way to describe themselves, along with the progress her family has seen since her grandparents and parents were growing up, and how much still needs to happen (the Civil Rights Act of 1964 hasn't happened by that point in the book, and it will be enforced inconsistently).

My great-grandmother used to serve Sunday dinners too, into her nineties. Speaking of family, Melody is almost two years older than my mom.

Melody has two nicknames: Dee-dee and Little Chick.

The Ellison family has a dog named Bo.

I like how Melody's parents deal with her feeling a little put out by another girl's superior music talents. Melody's siblings start to talk about what the other girl (Diane) can't do, but her parents instead focus on what Melody can do. I like that they don't need to disparage Diane at all, but instead shift the focus on making Melody feel good about her own talents. I see this "Oh, sure, X is the popular quarterback now, but in ten years he'll be flipping burgers" a lot and...what if X ends up really successful? You don't want your happiness dependent on someone else's misfortune.

Yvonne is attending Tuskegee University in Alabama. A year after this book is set, it will be designated a national historic landmark. It was founded by Booker T. Washington in 1881.

Melody's father was a Tuskegee Airmen in World War II.

Dwayne is able to attend the Youth Day concert, and offers Melody a chance to sing some back-up vocals for his band.


The Finders-Keepers Rule

Published in 2015; author Jacqueline Debmar Greene; illustrator Julie Kolesova


Maryellen's been practicing for the annual Rock Around the Clock dance party Daytona Beach holds. She's pretty worn out from the dancing, and takes a break to go to the beach. She chats with Joan and Jerry before Jerry has to rush off to do some diving work (he trained as a Navy diver, and is now working for a demanding marine biologist with is friend, Skip). Maryellen also talks with a Mr. Buckley, who's testing out a new metal detector. He's a wealthy man, and is so convinced metal detectors are the next big thing that he bought the company. Oddly, Jerry's employer seems very suspicious of Mr. Buckley, warning Maryellen not to talk to him.

The next day, Maryellen and Davy are back at the beach. Maryellen find an old ring--very old. While they're trying to figure out where it came from, Davy spies a plaque describing a ship wreck in 1565: a whole French fleet was lost. Maybe the ring is from a sunken boat--which, naturally would hold more treasures within. Later, when Maryellen and Davy meet the man organizing the Rock Around the Clock party, he seems very interested in the ring, offering to take it to his jewelry shop to see if it's worth anything. And oddly reticent about Maryellen and Davy taking it themselves. And then the jeweler in the store, after noticing a fleur de lis engraving, seems too eager to keep the ring overnight to inspect it. Davy's able to get it back, accidentally knocking over a bottle of jewelry polish in the process.

Maryellen and Davy are more curious than ever. Why are adults so interested in the ring? And who can they trust? Even when she finds Jerry, he and his boss are talking cryptically about a woman possibly being in danger. Furthermore, when the duo goes to the library to research ship wrecks, they discover that Jerry's boss isn't a marine biologist--he's the underwater archaeologist who wrote the book they're reading!

When Maryellen and Davy talk to Jerry and Joan, things start to fall into place--sort of. Jerry is helping excavate a ship wreck, but looters have been sneaking off with little bits, like the ring. Because of the threat, Jerry and his boss have to bring the artifacts up now instead of carefully investigating it. The jeweler and the store owner are helping keep things safe--and people. Jerry is concerned that if whoever the looter is sees Maryellen with the ring, she'll be in danger, so he urges her to stop wearing it. Maryellen and Davy remember how Mr. Buckley's assistant was spying on the jeweler, and suspect him of being the looter. They investigate the building where the artifacts are being hidden.

As these mysteries tend to do, things get complicated before it's revealed that Skip and the assistant have been hired by Mr. Buckley to steal a large artifact (the "she" Jerry was referencing). Once it's in Mr. Buckley's possession, it'll be impossible to prove it's not his. Maryellen and Davy are able to stop the pair just as Jerry shows up with the police: Maryellen and Davy's families were worried when they didn't show up for dinner, and Jerry realized where they probably were and that they might be in danger.

But now Maryellen and Davy, along with the artifacts, are safe. The artifacts will go in a museum. Jerry's boss promises to add a note to the display saying that she found the ring--Maryellen decided to donate it so its historical importance could be widely enjoyed.

The book closes with the dance, where Maryellen has gotten the steps down thanks to some tips from Davy.

Inside Maryellen's World

Teenagers really got their time in the spotlight during the 1950s. Instead of being kids or adults, they enjoyed a new status as an emerging demographic, which popular culture was happy to cater to. Around the same time, scuba gear debuted, allowing people to explore natural and man-made things in the ocean. Shipwrecks from centuries ago are still being discovered today, some worth millions of dollars.


This book is dedicated to Jennifer Hirsch, "confidence booster, colleague, friend."

The song "Rock Around the Clock" came out in 1955, when this book is set.

Davy talks about memorizing complicated football plays. Reminds me of my dad talking about the thick binders of plays college football players have to memorize (he was the manager of the team in college). He reasoned that if football players can learn the plays, they have the smarts to pass their classes--maybe not straight As, but passing grades.

The advent of the teenager was part of why Back to the Future is set in 1955. Not only was the idea of Marty McFly meeting his parents as teens intriguing, but it was a time made for teenagers.


Taking Off

Published in 2015; author Valerie Tripp; illustrator Julie Kolesova


Maryellen's tenth birthday is approaching, and she wants to plan something really special. Her friends offer several ideas, but the April 12, 1955 announcement of a safe and effective polio vaccine inspires Maryellen to make her party a way to spread the word and encourage people to vaccinate. She first thinks of doing a play, but isn't able to engage her audience, so lets her friends help her with doing a variety show instead. She plans to do a shortened monologue version of her play at the end, and she'll charge ten cents admission, to donate to the March of Dimes.

However, even her short version can't hold anyone's interest. It's frustrating, because Maryellen remembers how scary polio was, and really wants to be sure people know they can avoid it. During dress rehearsal, she's encouraged that finally people seem to be paying attention. Then she realizes they're actually laughing at Wayne, Davy's friend, acting out Maryellen's speech behind her. Upset that she's being upstaged when it's her idea and her birthday, Maryellen cancels the event and storms off.

It doesn't take long for Maryellen to calm down, with her sisters' help. She swallows her pride, calls her friends, including Wayne, and apologizes to everyone. Wayne must have mentioned the call to his mother, because just before the show starts, Maryellen discovers that Wayne's mother has finished the bridesmaid dress Maryellen is to wear at Joan's wedding--that is, finished it and fixed the mistakes Maryellen's mother made. The variety show goes on as planned, except for Maryellen get a terrible case of stage fright during her portion. She ends up basically standing still while Wayne ad-libs the important details. But Maryellen chooses to focus on how they raised $3.20 for vaccine research ($28.34 in 2016). She takes the money to the Post Office, and is happy to explain to the clerk what the money is for. She also gets a phone call from a doctor's office: he just had five patients come in for their polio vaccine because they saw the posters Maryellen made to advertise her show. He commissions another poster from her!

Then a phone call comes in: the mayor wants Maryellen to ride in the Memorial Day parade. She's being honored for raising the money and awareness. The mayor received letters from the postal clerk, the doctor...and Davy. She's on the news briefly, but only giving her name--no worries about stage fright there.

Soon after the parade, school winds down for the summer. Maryellen and Davy, now good friends again, sign up for a science contest. Wayne joins too. When they go to the first meeting during the last week of school, they're discouraged at how the older students dismiss them for being young, and Maryellen for being a girl (there are only two other girls in the club). But there's not much time for Maryellen to worry about that before school starts again, because her father surprises the family with the purchase of an RV. They're going to go on a road trip to Yellowstone, one last family trip before Joan gets married. Maryellen is excited to be able to look for ideas to build a flying machine, and plans to sketch every single thing she spies in the air.

During the trip, Joan is withdrawn. Her sullenness isn't explained until she and Maryellen stay at the RV to watch Scooter during a fireworks show (he's too afraid of the noises). Scooter escapes and while they search for him, Joan trips and sprains her ankle. Maryellen is able to splint the ankle and find a suitable branch to use as a crutch, thanks to the adventure shows she watches on TV. The girls find the dog and get back to the RV, and talk. Joan is excited to be getting married to Jerry, but upset at how much Mrs. Larkin is taking over the wedding. Joan and Jerry would prefer a smaller wedding, just family and close friends in the Larkins' yard. Joan also talks about how she wants to go to college and expand her horizons. Maryellen encourages Joan to talk to her mother and her fiance about her concerns.

Not long after getting back to Florida, Joan and Jerry get their wish of a smaller wedding, and work out a plan to stay in the RV, parked near a college campus. That way they won't need to worry about paying rent, freeing up money for Joan's college tuition (Jerry is going on the G. I. Bill, since he's a veteran), and freeing up space in the Larkins' driveway.

And then it's time to get back to school, and back to the science club. Maryellen, Davy, and Wayne are still ignored, and the club is a disorganized mess. When the older boys (the other girls quit over the summer) ridicule Maryellen and try to make her secretary, despite her having terrible handwriting, and shun her ideas, Maryellen remembers how her mother quit her factory job, and quits the club. In a heartwarming show of support, Davy and Wayne follow suit. When the three explain to Angela, Karen K., and Karen S. what happened, they all form their own club.

They spend some time with the leftover wedding decorations and Maryellen's sketchbook, finally coming up with an idea involving a small kite made of toothpicks and tissue paper, boosted by a series of deflating balloons. When the day of the contest arrives, Maryellen's team doesn't win, but they do beat the original club, still bickering and disorganized. The judges are impressed enough with their design that they award them the just-created creativity prize. A news reporter is on hand for the (multi-school) event, and recognizes Maryellen from the parade. She interviews her, and this time Maryellen is able to be composed and not show even a flicker of nerves. Maryellen talks about the importance of working together and listening to everyone--working together, people can make a difference.

Inside Maryellen's World

A lot was changing in the US during the 1950s. Advances in medicine and technology provided many opportunities people hadn't had in the past. But not everyone could enjoy them fully: segregation still existed (including in Florida). Bit by bit, segregation started to get chipped away. The 1954 Supreme Court decision for Brown vs. the Board of Education overturned school segregation laws, catalyzing the coming Civil Rights movement (I'll be reviewing the first Melody Ellison book in September). While things still aren't perfect, they've come a long way from "separate but equal."


This book is dedicated to Elizabeth Jane.

Jonas Salk was an amazing man. He refused to patent his vaccine to be sure the cost would stay low. After developing the polio vaccine, he found the Salk Institute and worked to create other vaccines. He died in 1995 while researching an AIDS vaccine. The institute is still active, and a great place to think of if you feel like donating to a worthy cause.

There is a good reason not to vaccinate: medical concerns. Being allergic to the vaccine, being too young for it, having a compromised immune system--these sorts of things are good reasons to avoid certain vaccines. For most people vaccines are safe and effective. Vaccinating provides not only yourself with protection against diseases that can cause brain damage, paralysis, amputation, blindness, deafness, sterility, and death; they protect those around you who can't be vaccinated, like infants or people undergoing chemotherapy.

Vaccines do not cause autism. The link was falsified. Autistic traits can be observed in babies before they ever get a vaccine. If vaccines cause autism, then they can also time travel. Even if they did cause autism, autism is better than death.

Vaccines are safe for most people (unless you're allergic to their ingredients). They are tested for years before they reach the public. Yes, vaccines put a weakened or dead virus inside you...like how regular full-strength germs come into contact with you all the time. It's better to first train your immune system with the weak or dead germs before encountering the real deal. Side effects are rare, and usually mild, like pain at the injection site or a short-lived rash. That's even accounting for the fact that things like spraining your ankle walking out of the pharmacy or doctor office after receiving a vaccine counts as an adverse effect.

Vaccines are not a money-making venture for Big Pharma or Big Insurance or Big Medicine. Most insurance plans cover them fully, and there are many low-cost clinics available. It costs far less for an insurance company or hospital to provide a vaccine than to treat a patient for diphtheria, tetanus, or pertussis (DTaP); measles, mumps, or rubella (MMR); or cancer (HPV vaccine).

Go be sure you and your loved ones are as up-to-date as possible on your vaccines.