The first time I read this book, I had no recollection of who the kid that starts the fires was. I knew that we had seen him before, but I didn’t really remember him specifically. However, since I’ve started this blog, I’ve reread enough books to recall who his family is – the Addisons. I think we only saw them when they were having problems, but I guess that makes sense. They couldn’t make a regular client the firebug without having to deal with it in future books.
I also remember liking this book, just because it had so many references to real life books that I liked. However, I did think it was ridiculous that 13-year-olds were investigating arson.
Mary Anne has been bored and is missing Dawn (in CA), Logan (busy with Volleyball practice), and Mallory (has Mono), so she ends up volunteering to help at a kids read-a-thon that the library is sponsoring.
Fairly quickly, Kristy gets a job helping Rosie Wilder participate in the read-a-thon (taking her to the library, going with her to get sponsors, etc), so she and Mary Anne are both hanging out at the library. Things are good, until a small fire breaks out. Mrs. Kishi (the librarian) puts it out quickly, but the fire department suspects arson. A week later, the same thing happens. Of course, the BSC wants to solve the case. First, because they like mysteries, and second because they (specifically Mary Anne), like the library.
One of the first clues they find is a pack of matches….in Nicky Pike’s jacket pocket. He denies starting the fires, and the girls believe him (mostly), but he wants to help solve the case. Since Rosie has been at the library a lot as well, she volunteers to help too. So, now there are junior “junior detectives” involved. And when there’s yet another fire, they double up their efforts.
Mary Anne finds out that the fires were started with a book burning in a trashcan. This horrifies her, because Ann M. Martin thinks burning books sucks. However, it does give the BSC their main suspects – a group of protestors that want to ban books. The second suspect is a library employee, whose family may get the land the library’s on if it’s ever destroyed. Both these suspects lead to dead ends. Eventually, Mary Anne notices a pattern to the fires, and figures out when the next one’s happening. So, the BSC has a stakeout and catches Sean Addison in the act. He was doing it because he resented his parents for not paying attention to him and for making him participate in the read-a-thon. And they tell Mrs. Kishi, who talks to his parents, etc, etc.
- Mary Anne’s reading the paper and wonders why someone would write a letter to “Dear Abby” about bad breath in coworkers – she says, “what’s the big deal?” While I agree it seems silly to write to an advice column about it, I can tell her that working with someone who has any kind of odor issue can get really, annoying.
- Mary Anne’s bored after school, and watches the movie Roman Holiday. She had time to watch it and then read the paper before arriving EARLY and for a BSC meeting. According to Netflix, that movie is 118 minutes long. How early do these kids get out of school that she’s got that much time in the afternoon?
- When Mary Anne describes Rosie, she says that she dances and is in commercials and stuff. But the entire plot of her original book was about how she actually hated all that stuff, and she got her parents to stop forcing her into it. So, WTF?
- Rosie laughs because Kristy didn’t know stage directions should be in parenthesis, and Kristy comments that she should know that from reading plays in English class. But shouldn’t Kristy REALLY know that from being in the lead character in a play?
- We find out that the matches ended up in Nicky’s jacket because Sean needed to hide them somewhere at the last minute, and he just shoved them in. I’m almost positive that was a plot on the Brady Bunch.
- The whole issue with the library employee suspect makes no sense. It’s kind of convoluted, but basically, a rich guy (Mr. Ellway) donated some land to the town with the stipulation that a library be built on it. But if anything ever happened to the library, the land would go back to the town. And in the years since then, the family lost money. So the girls think that Miss Ellway (the current employee) is working at the library to get access, and is starting fires because she wants the land back. Because libraries have such great security that you need to pass yourself off as an employee to get into one. It’s all so ridiculous, it feels stupid to even describe it. Couldn’t they have come up with a better red herring? It was so obvious she wasn’t the culprit that it felt like a waste of time.
- Someone needs to tell Mary Anne, you don’t actually need to be polite to everyone you meet…like say, protestors that want books banned.
- I’ve read almost every book the banners want banned (a list that includes To Kill a Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn, A Wrinkle in Time, and How to Eat Fried Worms (which seems a little random). I’m kind of proud of that.
- The girls keep saying Nicky’s “off the suspect list,” but he clearly isn’t, since they say the same thing after each new clue. If he was really off the suspect list when you found clue X, then clue Y isn’t also needed to clear him.
- I think a lot of this book is used as a public service announcement on why banning books is wrong. I don’t totally mind here, because I agree with it, and it isn’t TOO heavy handed. If they made the protestors the firebugs it would have been more annoying.
- Nicky Pike wins the prize for reading the most books in his grade. He did most of the reading at home so that he could surprise Mary Anne, since she inspired him to read. Which is sort of sweet.
- Mallory has to beg her parents for a week to go to the read-a-thon awards ceremony (due to the mono thing). Of all the things she could be asking her parents for…
- One of the fires was started in the bathroom, so Claudia, Kristy, and Mary Anne investigate to try and figure out which one it was (mens, womens, staff). However, after the first fire, the library’s keeping the bathrooms locked, so they need to get keys from the librarian. Claudia gets the staff key by telling the children’s librarian she can’t wait until Mary Anne and Kristy are finished in the regular ladies room. But couldn’t Mary Anne have just asked for the staff key since she’s basically working there?
- The BSC decides not to tell the Pikes about finding the matches in Nicky’s jacket. Of course, they do tell Mallory, who’s practically an adult. But it seems like they are breaking the BSC by-laws or something.
- Claudia actually trashes outfits the book banners wearing by saying that what they wore clashes and/or doesn’t match. I feel like I’ve stepped through the looking glass or something. I mean, I remember Claudia wearing checkered pants with a stripped shirt and all sorts of weird color combinations. How can she judge anyone’s fashion sense?
- There’s an (unrelated) fire at the middle school, so the school closes early for the day. After they leave the building, the students all walk to the high school, and then just call their parents from a pay phone and go home (well, to Claud’s home). But wouldn’t the school insist on parents picking kids up?
- Outfit time. “Claudia was wearing a big white shirt over a bright pink jumpsuit. Her earrings, which were also bright pink, were in the shape of flamingoes. On her feet were pink high-tops.” Don’t you normally wear shirts under jumpsuits? Otherwise, how can you see it’s a jumpsuit? Not that you'd want to see a jumpsuit...
- “Stacey was wearing a red miniskirt, a red-and-white striped shirt, red heart shaped earrings, and short black boots.” That sounds like something a little kid would wear on Valentines Day.
- The book doesn’t really resolve what happens to Sean. They talk about how the police are involved, and that he’ll probably get counseling, but they also say that Sean’s just a little kid, so who knows what will happen to him (in terms of a penalty). But, the kid’s ten, and that’s old enough to know not to start fires.
- The BSC talks about how surprised they are that Sean felt ignored. But, wasn’t the sub-plot of Claudia and the Sad Good-Bye about how the Addisons ignored his sister Corrie?