Original Publication Date: 1999
Ghostwriter? Yes, Ellen Miles. I'm a little disappointed there's a ghost writer for the last book of the series.
The BSC decides to enter itself into a Best Sitter contest sponsored by a teen magazine. This allows them to reminisce about a lot of the adventures they've had. This plot hums along merrily until the main one comes along: Mary Anne wakes up to Tigger panicking and her dad calling for her as their house burns around them. Mary Anne, Richard, Sharon, and Tigger make it out safely, but the house is completely destroyed. (Dawn and Jeff were in California at the time; Dawn flies to Connecticut as soon as she can after hearing the news.)
The town rallies around Mary Anne's family, who will stay with Kristy's family for at least the meantime. While Mary Anne is grateful no one was hurt, it's so much to take in with everything being destroyed (like her mother's things). She feels mostly just numb, probably from such an overwhelming experience. She doesn't cry during the fire or when she's picking through the charred remains of the house, which confuses her a bit, and she's been having nightmares. Logan wisely suggests she consider talking to Dr. Reese, the therapist she's seen in the past. But Mary Anne just wants to be left alone, a difficult thing in Kristy's house. Further complicating things, Richard was recently offered a job in Philadelphia, and he and Sharon are thinking maybe they should just start over. Finally, one night Mary Anne can't sleep, and rides Kristy's bike over to the burned house, where she finally grieves for what happened. Dawn, who had followed, helps Mary Anne finally let out the emotions she didn't know she had.
The book--the series--ends without finding out if Mary Anne's family will move and without knowing who wins the best sitter contest.
Established or continued in this book:
The Girls (and Logan):
Claudia candy: brownies and nachos (for Stacey) that she made herself, Twizzlers, Reese's peanut butter cups, Frookwiches
I disagree, Mary Anne. I'd be very surprised to see Abby in the Olympics running the 100 yard dash. It's the 100 meter dash, and when the US still used the Imperial system for track and field, the race was the 110 yard dash. I know Mary Anne's not an athlete, but with Logan on the track team and US schools using the metric system for track races when this was written, I find it funny.
Tigger (you know Mary Anne considers him family) keeps jumping on the pages of the magazine Mary Anne's trying to read. This is very accurate cat behavior. If you put any sheet of paper on the ground and tell my husband's cat, "This is very important," he'll come sit on it. However, Tigger likes having his belly rubbed, which, in my admittedly limited experience with cats, I find odd.
Sharon works for a small accounting business.
Stacey's mom makes a stack of sandwiches for Mary Anner's family and the firefighters while the house burns. That's very thoughtful of her.
Again, David Michael is very sweet: he offers all his bubble bath to Mary Anne when she heads to take a shower after shoveling through the debris. He also helps Emily Michelle draw a picture and learn a song to cheer up Mary Anne's family.
The Club (and clients):
Mrs. Prezzioso lends Sharon and Richard her cell phone in the aftermath of the fire so they call the insurance agent and so on.
It's summer again. Mallory's still at boarding school, though.
There's good fire safety information in this book, like touching the back of your hand to a closed door to see if it's hot before opening it, staying low to the ground to avoid smoke, not dawdling to grab things (like Mary Anne, I'd grab pets if they were in the room with me) as you escape the fire, regularly checking your smoke detectors, and continuing to move away from the fire itself until you're sure you're far enough from it.
This is Mary Anne's last regular series book, and the last book period of the regular series.
The Prezziosos, Pikes, Braddocks, and McGills apparently live close enough to Mary Anne to wake up from the fire and come over in the middle of the night to offer help and comfort.
Starting 8th grade: 11
Halloweens in 8th grade: 6 (plus one in seventh)
Thanksgivings in 8th grade: 4
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: 5
St. Patrick's Days in 8th grade: 1
Summers after 8th grade: 12
BSC Fights: 13
SMS Staff and Faculty: 68
Students (other than the BSC): 213: 119 8th graders (not including Amelia Freeman, who is deceased), 30 7th graders, 48 6th graders, 16 unspecified. Baby-sitters' Winter Vacation tells us that SMS has about 380 students.
Clients: 38 families
Types of candy in Claudia’s room: 149