Original Publication Date: 1998
Ghostwriter? Yes, Ellen Miles. Also, this book and the three remaining mysteries have a different illustrator for the cover art (at least for the US printing). Hodges Soileau did most of the series, while California Diaries has artsy photographs and the Friends Forever books have photographs of girls meant to be the title characters. I can't find information on who designed the cover in the book or online, but I know I've read it somewhere.
Valentine's Day is coming up, and Stacey is helping with a Valentine gram fundraiser: students can pay a dollar to send notes to other people in the school (the sixth grade president even sends one to a teacher). The notes will be collected for several days, then passed on Valentine's Day with candy. But someone takes the bag that they're being stored in. As if that weren't bad enough, whoever took the bag starts posting information about the stolen cards, like the fact that Cokie sent a dozen cards to her boyfriend but he sent none to her. Narrowing down a list of suspects is almost impossible, until Stacey notices a bit of sleeve on a recent photocopy of a stolen card. It has a striped pattern, and she's almost positive the copy was made that day, so the BSC starts a frantic search for stripes. Cary Retlin is wearing a shirt that matches, but he wasn't at school when the cards were stolen. However, he drops very unsubtle hints that Alan Gray took the cards and Cary did the copying. Why? Because Alan learned that several people, including the girl he actually likes a lot (it's never revealed who she is), are sending him fake cards and he's retaliating. Maybe there's a human being under that annoying exterior, one with feelings, huh? Stacey confront Alan, saying that she knows who took the cards and that she wants them back tomorrow. Sure enough, there's a box full of them outside her homeroom and the crisis is over.
Also, the BSC helps with a kids' party at the library.
Established or continued in this book:
The Girls (and Logan):
Claudia candy: fluffernutter sandwiches and sourdough pretzels (I'll take the latter, thanks)
Stacey's hair is now short and unpermed.
Mallory and Ben Hobart are still an item, but it's an on-again, off-again thing.
Stacey can't tell a robin from a sparrow. Hint: one's about two-thirds the size of the other, and has no red on it. I totally get confusing say, a marsh wren and a sparrow, or a female house finch and a sparrow, or a robin and a towhee, but robins are pretty distinct from sparrows.
Anna Stevenson loves frogs. Adam Pike thinks this is wise. Shout-out to the Wandering Frog People?
Boo Boo might no longer be with us. He's referred to as "Watson's old cat." In context it's unclear whether he's ancient or past. I know that it's not long before Karen gets a kitten in a Little Sister book.
The Club (and clients): nothing new.
Stacey's ex, Robert, has been withdrawn and sullen lately. This will be important in a few books.
I always thought it was weird that SMS had so many lunch options on a given day, but judging from the lunch menus of the kids I nanny, I guess my school was the weird one for having just one lunch a day.
Cokie has a boyfriend (Brent Jensen).
PSA Time: nothing stood out.
This book was once sold from Paperback Palace in Vienna, WV, a used bookstore which is still around today.
I don't understand the appeal of a plain cheese sandwich. Grilled cheese, yes. But a piece of cold cheese between two pieces of bread...I'll pass.
Apparently the BSC exchanges Valentines. I don't think I've ever given my friends Valentines, except for when we'd happen to be in the same class in elementary school. My husband and I do exchange small things, like candy, and I take pictures of my daughter (plus the baby bump for now) to send out as postcards to our parents, grandparents, and siblings for Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, the Fourth of July, and Halloween, with different props appropriate to the holiday. Last year we got my daughter a little fork and spoon for Valentine's Day, because a couple days before she had started to insist on using utensils. The handles were pink, so I figured it counted. She got a pink cookie this year.
Cary Retlin's dentist needs to talk with the office receptionist about HIPAA laws. She shouldn't be doling out patient information right and left. Stacey just calls and asks if Cary really did have an appointment on a certain day, and it's not okay to just give out that info on the phone.
Starting 8th grade: 10
Halloweens in 8th grade: 6 (plus one in seventh)
Thanksgivings in 8th grade: 3
Winter holidays in 8th grade (that BSC members celebrate in the plot of a book, not just reference): Christmas-5, Hanukkah-2, Kwanzaa-3
Valentine's Days in 8th grade: 4
Summers after 8th grade: 10
BSC Fights: 11
SMS Staff and Faculty: 67
Students (other than the BSC): 214: 120 8th graders (not including Amelia Freeman, who is deceased), 29 7th graders, 48 6th graders, 15 unspecified. Baby-sitters' Winter Vacation tells us that SMS has about 380 students.
Clients: 37 families
Types of candy in Claudia’s room: 137