Published: 2019. Author: Jennifer Castle. Illustrator: Suzanne LaGasa
Blaire's enjoying the start of fifth grade, thinking hard about a service project (all fifth graders at her school get involved in this way). She's soon presented with a bit of a distraction: Marco Gonzalez, the host of one of her favorite shows, Room Revolutions, stopped by out of the blue to see the renovated barn, which he learned about from the magazine spread. And he ends up staying a few nights at the Wilsons' inn! He even invites Blaire and Thea (there for a sleepover) to the set of this latest project--and she gets to be on camera for part of the show (with her parents' permission)!
It isn't long before Blaire gets inspiration for her service project. It starts with donating clothes she and her brother outgrew, which is how she starts talking to Beckett's classmate Abby, about how Abby doesn't like vegetables, which gets her thinking of recipes that present vegetables in kid-friendly ways, which ends up teaching her that some families can't reliably get all the ingredients for her recipes (or food in general), which inspires her to organize her class into making healthy food kids will enjoy to donate the to food bank. But, as is common with Blaire, she doesn't quite think things through. For example, she volunteers the restaurant kitchen and ingredients from the farm without asking her parents, and doesn't know where or how to buy enough jars to keep the food in. Her parents do want Blaire to be able to see her project through, so they help her plan it out--with restrictions and limits.
Soon, Blaire has donations and a schedule sorted out. She need her classmates on board to help, though, and she's especially hoping that the new student, Eli, will cooperate. He's standoffish, but Blaire thinks that's just because he's not used to the school yet. She wants to help him feel welcomed. She's thrilled that not only is her whole class excited for her idea, but that Eli signs up to help as well. Blaire seems to have learned her lesson from the summer too; she over-commits herself one day but realizes her mistake and politely declines another commitment and is able to fully enjoy having her classmates over to harvest ingredients for the pasta sauce they're going to make a donate. Eli is there, and gets along fantastically with Beckett and Abby. The following day (Monday) Eli brings in brownies for his birthday, and quietly mentions to Blaire that they're dairy-free...and that he'll join the class that night to make the sauce. Seems he's settling in!
But when the class is busy prepping and cooking, Eli spends part of the time filming instead of helping. And he wanders by the stove where Blaire's mom is working, and as Blaire tries to get him out of the way, some of the sauce spills. Blaire is extra upset that they run out of jars before Abby can get one--if Eli hadn't been in the way, they could have had enough!
Marco reminds Blaire that even a little bit can help, and can inspire bigger things. After all, seventy-six people still got nutritious, filling, homemade food.The point really gets hammered home a few days later when Eli shows what he was filming: a video good enough to look professionally edited that ends with a call for donations to the food bank (the whole class absolutely loves it). Blaire talks things over with Eli, who reveals that his father recently died. They used to make videos together, and this is the first one Eli's made since his father got sick. It seems to have helped Eli in his grieving process. After talking and understanding each other better, Blaire and Eli are friends.
Eli's video sparks something else: Eli shares it, with the proper permissions, and donations start pouring in. The family moving into the home Marco is renovating sees it too, and wants to jump right into being part of their new community...by sponsoring a kitchen renovation at the foodbank that Marco will spearhead. Volunteers will be able to cook food there (food donations have to be from professional-level kitchens) and the food bank can offer cooking classes to help people learn efficient ways to use their food. And it all started with a chain reaction stemming from donating old clothes.
Dedicated to "my grandmother Sadye Garonzik, who showed me what it means to make a difference."
The first Blaire book was dedicated to a Sadie (and a Clea). The author has two daughters; if Sadie is one of them or another family member, I wonder if she's named for the author's grandmother.
Before Blaire donates some of her favorite-but-too-small clothes, she takes pictures of them to remember them by. That's a good solution to getting over the conflict of giving away something you enjoyed but can't use anymore.
A lot of school buses nowadays have video monitoring. Kids can report an issue to the driver (who has to pay attention to a lot of things and might not see every problem with the students) and then the video can be reviewed and appropriate disciplinary action taken.
There are a few recipes at the back of the book.