‘Tis the season for the Christmas special. Its Melanie’s turn and she’ll just die – she’s so melodramatic it’s kinda cute – if she doesn’t get a puppy for Christmas. I can sympathize one year I shocked my parents by wanting/demanding a pet rat. Fortunately, I have pet liberal parents – I got my rat ( he was a wonderful pet! I called him Tucker after the mouse in Tucker’s Countryside. ) He was very cute, dark-gray fur, eyes like little black sequins and he was pretty clever. I taught him several tricks one of which was to jump from a table onto my chest.
Okay, back to the fab five. They’re sitting at Bumpers mulling Melanie’s problem – how to convince her parents. Beth is wearing miniature Christmas tree earrings. Did anyone out there wear tacky holiday jewelry? I remember wearing little fuzzy bear pins, and a brass wreath pin, and one of those Avon Snowman pins with the cream perfume in the back it was the height of fashion on a puffy ski coat!
I’ll try and hold back the interruptions – The girls suggest Melanie talk to Mona who frequents an animal shelter to play with the animals. Cause after all – good ole’ fashioned guilt doesn’t hurt as in who wouldn’t want to help a poor, little homeless animal.
With Mona leading the way they go to the animal shelter and are shocked to learn that the sweet, older animals will be put to sleep on Christmas Eve. Melanie is so over come she pulls a Stephanie ( from the Sleepover Friends ) speaking for everyone she insists they’ll find a way to keep the animals from being destroyed. The others though admiring her conviction think it’s impossible. They’ll have to raise $375 in ten days. Melanie suggests they ask the boys to help out, Katie wryly points out what about their friends who are girls. Melanie being Melanie says – she just thought of people who’d be the most fun!
I’m always amazed at how kids in fiction can get so organized with no adult making suggestions. I was never this organized, neither were my friends, those animals wouldn’t have stood a chance with us. Melanie tries talking to her mother about going to the animal shelter but her mother is firm about the no-dog issue. Meanwhile, her neighbor’s dog has gone missing.
The next day at school the girls set up a donation table to nab some change from the kids and wouldn’t you know it, even the Fantastic Four can sympathize and drop in some change – a true Christmas miracle! Their first haul is $40.31. Not bad but they figure they still won’t have time to make up the total. Then Melanie reminds them that they don’t need to count on the students, the article will be in the paper and she’s sure donations will pour in. Well, actually she’s not so sure, because she suggests instead of buying each other presents they donate the money to the cause. The others think that’s a wonderful idea. But they’re still stalling out on what to do with all these dogs and cats when they save them – 15 all in need of homes before Christmas.
To drive home that they have a person in need of a dog, is Melanie’s neighbor Mrs. Miller whose dog Duchess is still missing. The kids, boys too, form a puppy posse to find him but no luck. Love this foreshadowing, it’s non-to-subtle.
Melanie is confronted by her parents about the article in the paper stating the donations are to be sent to their house. She tries to hold back her tears waiting their decision – meanwhile I like Jeffy ( her littler brother’s attitude ) he shouts – “We’ll take one each!” ( Cat and dog. ) Even Melanie even has to admire his gumption. The parents cave allowing her to continue so long as she finds all the cats and dogs a good home. And her father even donates ten bucks. Old softie.
There’s the occasional mention of snowflakes to remind us this is a wintery tale but Christmas seems to have been hijacked. Where’s the Christmas caroling? Decorating the school? Christmas concerts? Candy grams? Even complaints about soggy mittens. But their minds are clearly focused on the task at hand. Notice that every Melanie book has her worried about something? From flirting tips to mono to adoption to what her friends will think about her mom’s teen taxi – in this one, she’s worried that even if they raise the money can they still find homes for all the animals. Thankfully, they’re planning is up to par or better than most grown ups, Garrett takes pictures of the animals – which definitely works. Melanie’s fallen head over heels, it must be true love for rather than being fickle and playing between three dogs, it’s just one. Rainbow. Don’t you just love that name? I love Betsy Haynes for her ability to be unusual in the face of familiar.
Just as everything seems to go smooth, a little bump comes along. This bump happens to be that a grown up must sign for each animal. She tries to talk Shane into taking them – but he needs to confer with Igor – his lizard. Seriously. After getting off the phone to ‘talk’ with Igor, he finally agrees to allow some cats if his parents are okay with it. Then she tries to talk with her parents who are wrapping presents – 58 pages in and some Christmas activity!, but balks and asks for a sleep-over instead. Oh, how I loved Christmas vacation sleep-overs! Snowfights, sledding, hot chocolate.
Melanie is devious! The friends are smuggling old rags and blankets because Melanie has decided to keep the dogs in her father’s old workshop.
At school the kids rally for more donations but most kids are tapped out. And then Katie conveniently mentions she’s going to the mall to buy sneakers – 4 days before Christmas? Sneakers in Winter – new mitts I could see, or even Christmas shopping but this seemed so weird. It’s one of those moments when it’s the set up for Melanie to say Gosh, the mall why didn’t I think of that. But I thought it could’ve been better handled. Maybe, it’s all this personal writing I’ve been doing. It’s bringing out the sharp critique in me. But at the mall they realize that they’re soliciting which is a no-no and are stopped by a security guard. To make matters worse, Mrs. Miller gets a call that Duchess is a few blocks away, dead. Mr. Edwards and Melanie collect her and they bury the little dog. Melanie feels the pressure of the situation and knows an ad in the paper isn’t enough, she needs better contacts like television.
Calling Jon Smith.
His mother agrees to do a segment for the news. And they are a hit. So much so that Melanie’s mom thinks that Mrs. Miller could use a new dog to take her mind off the loss of Duchess.
As the family goes to the shelter to look for a dog for Mrs. Miller, Melanie can’t help whipping out a Christmas bow, tying it around Rainbow to show her off. Very subtle Melanie!
But as the parents agree to adopt Rainbow, the woman who runs the shelter says Rainbow is getting a good home with someone else!
But they’ve found a nice little white dog for Mrs. Miller, Jo-Jo and the next day the family takes him over to her. Haynes creates a nice, sweet scene of Mrs. Miller getting her present and for a moment Melanie doesn’t feel so bad about Rainbow. The nurse that’s taking care of Mrs. Miller ( after she twisted her ankle ) mentions that old people would benefit from pets, and Melanie quickly asks if she knows about thirteen people who could use a pet.
Not only does the nurse come through, but her and her nurse friends make the final donation.
And the good news just keeps coming…
The family that was going to adopt Rainbow backed out because she was pregnant. Mrs. Edward sighs knowing having agreed to adopt her before can’t back out now – as Melanie says when she needs us the most.
They deliver the pets to the grateful old folks, Christmas eye comes and presents are unwrapped – are you a Christmas eve unwrapper? I was only allowed to unwrap socks on Christmas eve. I had to wait till Christmas Day. And there was a lot of – It’s six can we open them now? No! It’s six-thirty..Go to bed. It’s seven, now can we open them?
Of course Rainbow had her puppies. But the biggest surprise is when Mrs. Edwards snuggles one and declares she wouldn’t dream of giving them away!
Cute but unusual entry for Christmas fare. I mean it’s basically like a prisoner’s countdown to an execution, there’s no time for wrapping presents or any of the usual ho-ho-holiday stuff. But I guess it beats yet another commercialized Santa Claus movie.
* Love the cover but I doubt Melanie would be caught dead in that outfit. I like Beth’s cool fuchsia cardigan and Jana looks rather foxy in her oversized sweater, mini skirt and leggings!
Have a MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY HOLIDAYS !