Mary Anne is kind of depressed and lonely. She misses Mal and Dawn, who are both still absent from the club, and Logan is too busy with volleyball to have much time for her. When Mrs. Kishi asks the BSc for volunteers to help out with the Readathon that the library children's room is sponsoring, Mary Anne jumps at the chance. She loves to read, and she's really looking forward to helping other kids love it, too.
Day #1 of work goes smoothly, but it's day #2 that's more interesting. First, there are a bunch of people outside the library protesting books that they want banned. Mary Anne wants to stop and talk to them and try and figure out why they're doing what they're doing, but she doesn't want to be late for work. Then, just as she's helping Charlotte Johanssen and Rosie Wilder pick out some books, the fire alarm goes off. It isn't just a drill, either; someone set a fire in a sink in one of the bathrooms. A week later, another fire is set, in a garbage can outside the back door. It's a little more serious than the first one, since lighter fluid was used to set it off.
The BSC is, of course, on the case. Claudia discovers that the land the library sits on used to belong to a family that ran into some financial trouble. They sold the land to the town with the condition that a library be built on it, and if the library were ever to be torn down or destroyed, the land would revert back to its original owners. The family's name is Ellway, which is also the name of the new assistant children's librarian. She's not the most pleasant woman in the world, so the girls suspect that she could be behind the fires. The club gets their second suspect a few days later, when Mary Anne is helping Nicky Pike find some books. They're sitting down at a table to look over his selections when Nicky knocks his jacket over. What falls out of his jacket? A book of matches. Nicky insists that they aren't his, and that he doesn't know how they got there. Mary Anne actually believes him, and her belief in his innocence is confirmed during another visit to the library, when the fire alarm goes off again without Nicky ever leaving her sight. This one was set in a trash can outside another door to the children's room, and another book was used. That's when Mary Anne realizes something: each and every book that was use to start one of the fires is on the list of books that the protestors are trying to get banned. Suspesct(s) #3...
Mary Anne and Kristy decide to interview one or more of the wannabe book banners, pretending that they're from the SMS newspaper. Kristy comes right out and asks one of them (Bertha Dow...she reappears later in the series) if she'd ever burned books. Ms. Dow admits that she has, but that the publicity was so bad that she figured it wasn't the best way to get her message out there. Mary Anne isn't so sure anymore that the banners are also responsible for the fires. She does, however, come up with another clue: each book, in addition to be one that the protestors wants banned, is also on the 5th grade reading list for the Readathon. The girls figure out that there's only one location left for the guilty party left to use to burn a book, and that's a trash can near the reference area. There's a biography about Lincoln on the list which is shelved nearby, so the girls decide to stake out the area the next time they're at the library. Their efforts are rewarded: they catch Sean Addison in the act. He confesses, and says he did it because he didn't want to be in the Readathon even though his parents are forcing him to. He doesn't like the way they always try to get him and Corrie out of the way by pushing them into so many activities. The whole family ends in counseling. Also, when the prizes for most books read in each grade are announced, Mathew Arnold, Sarah Hill, Marilyn Arnold, and Nicky Pike all win in their grades.
Thoughts and Things
- That smoke on the cover looks more like a ghost than smoke.
- I know the kid on the cover is supposed to be Rosie Wilder, but she could easily pass for Mallory. Not only does she have the red hair and glasses thing going on, but she actually looks 11.
- The girls seem surprised that Sean Addison feels neglected by his parents, and that the Addisons are always sending their kids off to lessons and activities. Didn't they deal with this exact issue in #26?
- Mary Anne quote: "I had been having bad dreams lately. Dreams about fires burning out of control." Just wait, Mary Anne....
- Heh...they were still using card catalogs in this book. :) I remember those days....
- The Outsiders, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Diary of Anne Frank were all on the list of books that the protestors wanted banned, and they're all books that actually have been banned in some places. They were also all required reading for me in either middle or high school. Did I just go to a really progressive school or something?
- I would LOVE it if the BSC had gotten into a discussion as to exactly why Deenie (one of the books that was burned) is often banned. :D