While sitting for the Pikes, Dawn learns all about their Zuni pen pals in New Mexico. She and Mallory help the kids decide what they should send their friends, and then she heads home feeling a little depressed. She wishes that there was a similar program for middle school kids, and Mary Anne suggests that she write to the school.
A few days later, Mal shows up late for a meeting and announces that the Zuni school caught fire and burned down. Dawn comes up with a plan to help the school by hosting a fundraiser and charity drive. She calls Mrs. Besser, Jeff's former teacher, and she agrees to help. She also calls Kristy, who arranges for an emergency meeting the next day. The only thing they can't decide on is how to tell the kids.
Charlotte says they should do an assembly at school, which is the perfect plan. They all get to leave school to go to SES and tell the kids about the program. They decide to have kids donate things by dropping boxes off at the barn, they ask the kids to raise money any way they can, and they'll be rewarded with a huge sleepover at school.
Kids immediately start bringing over stuff to the barn. Dawn and Mary Anne are so busy collecting that they don't stop and look at what's there. Dawn finally notices some unusual stuff like a brand new tailored suit, and Mary Anne mentions that she noticed the same things. They call one kid out on it in front of his parents, and they decide that everyone should have a permission slip before donating from now on.
The Rodowsky kids decide to hold a garage sale and hire Claudia to help. They keep bringing things outside that their parents take back, and Jackie manages to break some glass bowls. When the sale starts, parents find a bunch of their own things. Winston finds some books David Michael donated, and Mrs. Addison finds her anniversary clock. The parents end up either donating the items or buying them back from the sale.
Haley comes up with her own unique way of making money. She dresses up like a gypsy and tells fortunes outside her house. Alan Gray and some friends stop by and make fun of her, but she fleeces them for some money by telling them exactly what they want to hear. The Pike kids throw their own miniature carnival to raise money too.
The day of the sleepover finally arrives. The toy store donated a bunch of toys, which the girls use for prizes, and they play a bunch of games too. A few kids end up leaving before it even starts, and a few other kids leave in the middle of the night. The next morning, the BSC helps a few teachers serve breakfast and get the kids ready to go home. The book ends with Haley's pen pal writing a letter to the psychic. It turns out that Haley sent her a "fortune" about what would happen, but she forgot to disguise her handwriting. Oops.
*You have to love that the only reason they knew something was wrong when Mal walked in was because she was late to a club meeting.
*Dawn gets irritated because Mr. Besser thinks she sounds like a kid on the phone. I hate to break it to you, but you are a kid.
*Dawn wonders why the triplets call their stand a free throw contest when they charge a quarter and they roll their eyes at her. Yeah, me too.
*The pan pal letters are hysterical. Charlotte's girl writes her a letter that's like, "Hey thanks for writing back. Oh, those books you mentioned? Yeah, I've never read them but I should. And oh by the way, guess what? Our school burned down!"
*The pizza guy calls Dawn at like 8 pm to tell her that he doesn't have enough flour to make the pizzas and he has to send his guys home because they don't have anything to do. She then asks him if he has the number for the late night pizza place the next town over and he suddenly figures out a way to get flour. Seriously? What kind of pizza place runs out of flour on a Friday night? On top of that, they need the pizzas at 9 pm. Is that really late?
*The grocery store donates FOUR kinds of pancakes, syrups and other toppings, three kinds of juice, and coffee, and three cafeteria workers come in to help the next morning at 5 am. Really?
*Claudia outfit time: yellow men's jacket with rolled up sleeves, ankle boots, big hoop earrings, orange stirrup pants, and a 1960's era paisley tie. Yup, that sounds totally normal.
*In junior high/high school, we actually had parties like this called a lock in, but it was nothing like this. We had lots and lots of supervision (not just a few kids and teachers), and we were allowed to do anything we wanted all night. We had rooms for playing games and watching movies, and kids could sleep in the gym. The next morning, we just got our asses out of there.
*Dawn worries that Kristy might steal her idea and completely take over. I can see that happening, but she turns it over to Dawn.
*Dawn never says how much money they raised, but people gasp and applaud. They also have enough to send multiple vans of stuff plus make a huge donation. The principal even says that it was big enough that it inspired the government to donate funds.
*I wonder if Dawn demanded that the pizza place make at least one pie with whole wheat crust and broccoli?
*It seems so random that this is a Dawn book. She has zero connection to the Zuni kids, while Mallory has multiple siblings with pen pals. It would make more sense if the fire damaged a community vegetable garden or something.