Mary Anne and the Memory Garden (RS#93)

Original Publication Date: 1996

Ghostwriter? Yes, Jahnna Beecham and Malcolm Hillgartner


Mary Anne's English class is divided into groups to study Shakespeare. Her group includes Gordon Brown, Amelia Freeman, and Barbara Hirsch. Theirs is one of the those rare group project where the work is actually split evenly and they all get along great.

Then, while Amelia and her family are on their way to dinner, their car is hit by a drunk driver. Amelia is killed instantly.

The rest of the book shows how different people deal with their grief. Kristy is spurred into action and organizes a chapter of SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving) for SMS. Mallory and Jessi are unsure how to act around Amelia's younger brother, who's in their grade. Stacey is similarly awkward around Amelia's friends. The death brings up painful memories for Claudia, who thinks of Mimi, and especially for Abby, whose father was killed by a drunk driver. Mary Anne returns to Dr. Reese, a therapist she's visited in the past (see the Chain Letter book). She, Gordon, and Barbara decide to dedicate their Shakespeare project to Amelia. Mary Anne's visits with her therapist also give her the idea of planting a memory garden at SMS for Amelia, which helps her come to terms with the loss. It's hard to summarize the rest of the plot, but I really do think this book does a good job showing the different ways people heal.

There's also a wholly unnecessary subplot of Dawn, the We Kids Club, and the California sitting charges cleaning up an abandoned lot and making it into a community garden. Frankly, I think it takes away from the seriousness of the main plot.

Established or continued in this book:

The Girls (and Logan):

Claudia candy: pretzels, home-made cookies

Dawn doesn't like kids using toy guns, but says nothing against toy swords.

If I were Abby, with all my allergies, I would never buy school lunch. I'm not sure if she follows Kosher, but if she does that might also make school lunches tricky.

Their Families:

Before Richard and Sharon married, Mary Anne was used to putting up the Christmas tree a week before Christmas and taking it down before the New Year. Now they put it up the day after Thanksgiving and leave it up into early January. I lean toward the latter myself: I like to get a tree at the start of Advent (four Sundays before Christmas-between November 27 and December 3) and leave it up until Epiphany (January 6). But like Richard, when I do put the ornaments away it's done very neatly: each one in a specific slot in the box. Otherwise I might leave one on the tree.

The Schafer-Spier house didn't have an adequate number of smoke detectors until Richard insisted.

Dawn visited for Christmas, but not Jeff.

Claudia's Aunt Peaches is almost six months pregnant with a healthy baby.

The Club (and clients): nothing new.


Obviously, I'll be subtracting one from my count of SMS students.

There are a lot of people mentioned from previous books, and a lot of teachers in the right classrooms. Pete Black is still eighth grade president. Good continuity.

New-to-us students: sixth-grader Josh Freeman, eighth-graders Jeff Cummings and Barbara Hirsch (no mention if she's related to Irv Hirsch)

New-to-us SMS staff: Mr. Seitz, a guidance counselor.

PSA Time:

Who hasn't had a TDaP shot in the last years? Raise your hands. Okay, GO GET THE SHOT NOW. Any doctor office or drug store will give it to you. Tetanus is all over our soil and can cause horrible life-long issues, it would be nice to keep diphtheria at bay, and there are pertussis outbreaks happening in many areas of the country because people don't vaccinate. Babies can't be fully vaccinated against pertussis (also known as whooping cough) until they're six months old at the youngest. And if they contract it, they can die from it. They, and people whose medical issues prevent them from receiving vaccines, rely on the rest of us to be vaccinated so that we don't pass it on to them. Oh, and in case you haven't heard: the study that linked autism to vaccines was faked. There is no link. Even if there were, wouldn't you rather have a child with austism than a dead one? GO GET YOUR VACCINATIONS UP-TO-DATE.

And obviously, never drive impaired. It's just selfish and stupid to not ask for a ride when you're unsafe to drive.


Hey, there's a grammar-nut bonus on page 48: "What if the dead student were Kristy?" If the situation you're posing is hypothetical, you use "were" as in "I wish I were taller." You're not, so you use were instead of was. Since Mary Anne uses were, it's a giveaway to any grammar-nut that Kristy is fine. Had she said was, then we'd still be wondering.

This book has some good points about what to say to grieving people: I'm sorry for your loss and I'll miss [the deceased] are suggestions. Abby and Claudia acknowledge that it may be awkward to say, but the person you say it to will appreciate it. Furthermore, you don't want to not say anything and give the impression that you don't care.

A good friend of mine died suddenly and unexpectedly in her early twenties. My other friends and I had a similar dilemma to Mary Anne's: do we own anything that's appropriate to wear to a funeral? I hadn't been to one in almost ten years, and only once for someone my age.

I like the idea of the memory garden. A little girl at my school (I went to a K-12 school) died of a ruptured appendix while camping. By the time she was airlifted to a hospital, it was too late. There's a little garden of flowers on the school grounds dedicated to her memory.

The numbers:

Starting 8th grade: 8

Halloweens in 8th grade: 5 (plus one in seventh)

Thanksgivings in 8th grade: 2

Winter holidays in 8th grade (that BSC members celebrate, not just reference): Christmas-2, Hanukkah-1, Kwanzaa-1

Valentine's Days in 8th grade: 2

Summers after 8th grade: 8

BSC Fights: 10

SMS Staff and Faculty: 55

Students (other than the BSC): 179; 114 8th graders (not including Amelia Freeman, who is deceased), 6 7th graders, 43 6th graders, 15 unspecified. Baby-sitters' Winter Vacation tells us that SMS has about 380 students.

Clients: 33 families

Types of candy in Claudia’s room: 117

Mary Anne-2


Anonymous said...

I liked the story but I do wish the person who died was someone we knew instead of some sudden new friend of Mary Anne's.

SJSiff said...

Amelia showed up in #57, Dawn Saves the Planet, but you're right that she wasn't a major character. One of the Shillaber twins could have made for an interesting plot. Mary Anne could have had more confused feelings about how their friendship cooled.

Donica said...

My best friend's mom died in December. I had spent Thanksgiving with her family (sometimes they feel more like family than mine. At least I'm more comfortable with a ton of them than I am with a ton of mine), and it was just a couple of weeks later that she passed. She had been going to the hospital the following week for surgery and she died a week later. I can't say it was unexpected. She had been in bad health for quite some time (Diabetes and a ton of other issues)...but it even hit ME hard. I know she had looked at me like another daughter. I didn't know what to say to my best friend. What could I say? I could just say I was sorry...but other than that, I felt like I should have been able to say something more...DO something. I wasn't even able to make it to the funeral because I was in the hospital for a Video EEG at the time. (It was a week and a half after her death). My mother did go in my place at least. I didn't see my friend for another month or two, and as I was leaving her house, we did talk about it, and I apologized because I just kept my distance, explaining to her that I didn't know what to say or do. She understood... and said, yes her mother did look at me like another daughter. (She was the one who told Athena to invite me to her brother's wedding! The brother of her two that I knew the least.) Coming up with the words to say are hard...but I know they're appreciated...whatever you say, to at least show you care.

SJSiff said...

I'm sorry for your loss, Donica. It's so hard to try to figure out how to act when you're grieving AND people close to you are grieving the same person. I've sometimes just flat-out said, "I don't know if there even are right words to say, but I want you to know that I'm thinking of you."

Assuming you're in the US and this weekend is Mother's Day for you (I know some places like England celebrate it a different Sunday), I'd suggest you reach out to your friend as she's likely to feel the loss a little more. And be kind to yourself too; you've lost someone very important as well.