The 2nd through 5th graders at SES are involved in a program called "Pens Across America." Each student who's participating has been writing to another student at a corresponding school in New Mexico. Those students are a part of the Zuni nation, and they've been sharing information about their culture with their Stoneybrook counterparts (gotta love the educational value). Dawn is a little sad when she sees how much fun the kids are having with the program; she wishes she could have a pen pal, too (I don't blame her). She considers writing to the elementary school to see about getting her own pen pal at their middle school, which makes her feel a little better.
Over the next few days, Dawn kind of forgets about the Zunis and wanting a pen pal. That is, she forgets until Mallory arrives late at a club meeting with some bad news: there was an explosion at a gas station on the Zuni reservation, and the elementary school (plus some houses)burned down. Dawn wants to help, especially knowing how upset the Stoneybrook kids are about what happened to their friends. Later that evening, she comes up with a very Kristy-like idea: Stoneybrook will hold a food and clothing drive, plus some sort of fundraiser. Mary Anne suggests she get some teachers involved, so Dawn musters up the nerve and calls her brother's old teacher (the only SES teacher she has any remote connection with) at home the next day. Ms. Besser is thrilled with the idea, and promises to bring it up to her fellow teachers on Monday. They love the idea, and all systems are go!
Later that same Monday, the BSC meets early to discuss Dawn's idea. They love it, of course, and they all want to be involved. They decide to let the kids raise money on their own, rather than having one big fundraiser, and they also plan to throw a big sleepover party for anyone who contributes something. Later that week, the girls head to SES for an assembly to let the kids in on what they're planning.
The Schafer/Spier barn is the drop off point for the donated food and clothing. There's a pretty enthusiastic response from the kids; in some cases, it's a little too enthusiastic. Dawn and Mary Anne realize pretty quickly that some of the items that the kids are bringing aren't exactly the items that parents wanted to part with. The same think happens at a garage sale the Rodowskys hold to raise money. Watson, for instance, finds a set of rare books of his, and Mrs. Delaney finds her lamp (which she ends up letting them sell). Other fundraising efforts go a little bit better: Jessi and Mal hold a carnival (we'll just ignore the fact that Chewy gets scared of the kids' peformer and rampages through everything), and Haley Braddock dresses up as a gypsy and tells fortunes.
Sleepover day finally arrives. There are a few problems, like homesick children and issues with the pizza being delivered late, but it goes smoothly for the most part. The girls hand out prizes to the kids (donated by a local toy company), play games, and read stories. No one gets a lot of sleep that night (would you if you were stuck in a gym with 100 kids?) but it's a pretty fun end to their efforts to help the Zunis. They pack everything up and ship it off to New Mexico right after the sleepover ends, and a week later, they get a very nice letter back from the Zuni school's principal, thanking them for all their hard work.
Thoughts and Things
- Welcome to the BSC, Peter Lerangis! This is the first book he ghostwrote in the series. I'd never know if it hadn't looked; it's definitely lacking the "flavor" that his later books developed.
- They must have raised a LOT of money to be able to not only mail three minivans full of donated items to New Mexico, but to also send a large enough check to help the Zunis get financing to rebuild. I really wish they'd told us the amount!
- I always sympathized with Dawn wanting a pen pal; I had pen pals growing up, and I loved it. I'm actually still in touch with one that I started writing to more than 10 years ago.
- There is ZERO mention of Stacey having been so sick recently. You think Dawn could at least comment on the fact that one of her good friends had been in the hospital for two weeks!
- I love that the Zunis make a reappearance later in the series; too many one-book issues/projects/etc. were just dropped, so it's nice to have at least one that wasn't.
- Okay, I was totally determined NOT to comment on the food in this one. I've been doing that way too often lately, but I can't help it. The pizza with whole wheat crust? The different kinds of pancakes and juice? The vegetarian Mexican food that the Schafers and Spiers have for dinner? YUM!!! Maybe I need to stop blogging right before lunch. :D