Original Publication Date: 1991
Ghostwriter? Yes, Peter Lerangis
Stoneybrook Elementary School has started a pen pal program with a school on a New Mexico Zuni reservation. Dawn learns about while sitting for the Pikes, and wishes she could have a pen pal. When a fire destroys the New Mexico school, Dawn has a chance to help with the program in a different way.
She organizes a food and clothing drive and the whole BSC helps the elementary students with fundraisers. It all culminates in a sleepover at the SES gym, with pizza donated from the local pizza parlor, pancakes and juice courtesy of the grocer, and prizes from a toy store. The students then get to send off all they collected, which is met with gratitude and surprise in New Mexico. The principal there writes a very gracious thank you note and mentions that the students there are now working to raise money to further help themselves, and maybe sponsor a trip to visit Stoneybrook. Sadly, we never get to see that happen. But the kids have fun with the whole thing.
Established or continued in this book:
The Girls (and Logan):
Claudia candy: dark-chocolate caramels under her pillow,
Those of you who have read Dawn Saves the Planet know how conceited Dawn got in that one. This book might shed some light on that. When Dawn mentions her idea to Kristy, Kristy starts off as if she's going to take over (but doesn't), which Dawn is internally irritated about, but decides the most important thing is that the Zunis get help. Later, she's recognized for her efforts. She must have been expecting something similar in the later book.
Still...Dawn is so judgmental in the books she narrates. There are all these parenthetical asides: (sometimes really bossy) (she said it took that long, but I think she was exaggerating) They're all over.
The Pike boys learned Op-Talk back in #40 (Claudia and the Middle School Mystery) precisely because Pig Latin is so well-known, but now they're acting like Pig Latin is their own special, secret language.
Haley Braddock somewhat lets the cat out of the bag about the donations coming to New Mexico (it's supposed to be a surprise) under the guise of a fortune teller, and gives the return address as one care of Mary Anne. She doesn't tell anyone about it, and fibs that she just forget to mention it to Mary Anne. The only reason I bring it up is later Haley starts lying to try to get out difficult situations.
SMS has the same school secretary still; good continuity.
8th grade students: Kristin Reinhardt, Jodi Reynolds, Nicole Rogers, Ray Stuckey
8th grade teachers: Mr. Blake (homeroom), Ms. Berner (math)
Speaking of thank you notes, be polite and write them. It encourages people to give you further gifts.
In general, it's best to give money to relief agencies like the Red Cross to help people. In-kind donations certainly have their place (for example, I often knit baby blankets to donate to a local crisis pregnancy center). But sending a check only costs a stamp, and not even that if you donate online, instead of the postage for large packages. Plus, a relief agency that's right in the area of the place needing help can use the money to buy things from local stores, supporting the local economy. If you're moved to donate an actual item, check with relief agencies to see what's needed. You don't want to overwhelm people who are recovering from a disaster with dozens and dozens of toys when they really need clean underwear.
Vanessa's pen pal says her teacher is "an Anglo, like you." Mallory thinks that means a Caucasian, but I'm pretty sure it means someone from England. Granted, in a later Super Special we'll learn that the Pikes are at least part English, but when that comes right after the younger Pikes hearing that their pen pals are Native Americans, not Indians, it seems like that should have been mentioned, too. Then again, considering the pen pals are from New Mexico, it could have been worse. She didn't call Vanessa a gringo.
I organized my school's first blood drive, and had a local pizza place donate pizzas for the workers' lunch break. I think I might have gotten the idea for the pizza from this book.
Starting 8th grade: 3
Halloweens in 8th grade: 2 (plus one in seventh)
Valentine's Days in 8th grade: 1
Summers after 8th grade: 2
BSC Fights: 5
SMS Staff: 19
Students (other than the BSC): 62; 39 8th graders, nine sixth-graders, nine unspecified
Types of candy in Claudia’s room: 48 (bubble gum, Butterfingers, butterscotch candy, candy hearts, Cheese Doodles, Cheetos, a chocolate bar, chocolate-covered cherries, cookies, Cracker Jacks, crackers (unspecified and whole wheat), cupcakes, dark-chocolate caramels, Ding-Dongs, Doritos, Fig Newtons, Fritos, gumdrops, Gummi Bears, Heath bars, Hershey's kisses, Ho Hos, jawbreakers, licorice, licorice whips, Lifesavers, M&Ms (regular and peanut), Mallomars, marshmallows, Mentos, mini candy bars, Necco wafers, Oreos (Double Stuf), Planter's Peanut bar, popcorn, potato chips, pretzels, pretzel sticks, red hots, Ring Dings, root beer barrels, salt water taffy, Snickers, taco chips, Tootsie Roll Pops, Tootsie Rolls, Twinkies)
Crushes: Claudia-7 (Guy, Terry, Austin Bentley, Timothy Carmody, Woody Jefferson, Trevor Sandbourne, Will Yamakawa), Dawn-3 (Travis, Lewis Bruno, Parker Harris), Mary Anne-2 (Alex, Logan Bruno), Stacey-7 (Toby, Kelsey Bauman, Pete Black, Ross Brown, Pierre D'Amboise, Scott Foley, Sam Thomas), Kristy-1 (Bart Taylor), Mallory-1 (Ben Hobart)