By Ann M. Martin. Published August 1990.
Jessi gets picked up from ballet by her dad, who says they have a surprise to celebrate that night. Jessi is convinced it’s another baby, and tells Becca. They get all sorts of excited. That’s not it, though. Mama Ramsey is going back to work. And Aunt Cecelia will be moving in to take care of Squirt and the house. Jessi and Becca are less than thrilled, and decide they’ll need to play some pranks on her.
Jessi sits for Jackie, and pretty much bullies him into entering the science fair. He wants to make a volcano. They go to the library, and find books on volcanoes, and even directions on how to make one. Jackie thinks it sounds complicated, but Jessi assures him they can do it. Mrs. Rodowsky is proud of Jackie, and asks Jessi to be their only baby-sitter, and continue to help Jackie.
Mal and Dawn sit for the Pikes, and they have the idea to turn their house into a library. They certainly have enough books, and kids actually come to use it. Margo is the first customer, looking for the science books. She’s going to enter the science fair, too, and decides to make a shadow box.
The dreaded day has come. Aunt Cecelia is moving in. And she brings a whole lot of shit with her. It doesn’t all fit in her room, so she spreads it out throughout the house, including Jessi’s room. It pisses her off. The next day, Aunt Cecelia sends Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey out to brunch alone, while she baby-sits. She won’t let Jessi do anything, like take Squirt for a walk or go over to Mallory’s. Jessi and Becca start calling her Aunt Dictator, and decide it’s time to put their plan into action. They short-sheet her bed, put shaving cream in her slipper, and put a rubber spider on her pillow. Yes, Jessi, you’re totally showing you were mature enough to sit for an entire weekend. Aunt Cecelia just ignores everything, though.
The next day, Aunt Cecelia almost doesn’t let Jessi go for her sitting job and BSC meeting, because she doesn’t know those people. Ya know, just a little bit of communication between Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey and Aunt Cecelia really would have solved a lot of problems. But she finally lets Jessi go, and she goes to the Rodowsky’s to work on the volcano. Jackie mainly just makes a mess with papier-mâché, though.
Kristy sits for David Michael and Emily Michelle. David Michael decides to enter the science fair, too, and now Kristy sees it as a competition between her, Jessi, and Mal. But she makes it a point to say she’ll help, but won’t do it for him. He decides to make a solar system mobile.
Charlotte is also entering the science fair. She is playing different kids of music for plants. Stacey is very impressed. Then Becca comes over to bitch about Aunt Cecelia.
At the next BSC meeting, the girls discuss the science fair. Jessi thinks the others aren’t doing enough to help the kids, but the others suggest she’s actually doing the work for Jackie. She just brushes that off, though. Then she gets into bitching about Aunt Cecelia, and the others try telling her to simply talk to her parents. She won’t though, because they just seem so happy with Aunt Cecelia, and she also doesn’t want to get in trouble for all the tricks she and Becca have played.
A couple of days before the fair, Jessi completely takes over Jackie. She makes a sign for him, and makes up a speech and hand gestures for him. He’s excited about it, though.
Jessi is ten minutes late getting home from her job, and Aunt Cecelia loses her shit. She forbids Jessi from going to the BSC meeting. She does allow her to call Kristy and let her know. Jessi has the girls call her fourteen times during the meeting. Aunt Cecelia doesn’t like that one bit, and gets her revenge by giving Jessi some ridiculous hairstyle.
It’s the evening of the science fair, and Jessi’s as excited as if she had entered. She admits she kind of did. When the judges come around, Jackie’s volcano explodes perfectly, and his speech goes well. But then he gets into trouble when the judges start asking questions, and he can’t answer any of them. He doesn’t win. Charlotte gets third place, though. And Jackie does impress some mean guys in his class, so it wasn’t a total loss. Jessi finally realizes what she did, and apologizes to the Rodowskys. They’re really nice about it. But Jackie doesn’t want her help next year.
Jessi decides it’s freaking finally time to talk to her parents about Aunt Cecelia. She tells them about her experience with Jackie first, and then tells them about Aunt Cecelia not letting them have simple responsibilities and treating them like babies. They ask Aunt Cecelia and Becca to come in, and they get it all hashed out. Jessi realizes she treated Jackie the same way Aunt Cecelia treats them, so she kind of understands her. But Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey let Aunt Cecelia know that the girls can handle some things on their own. Aunt Cecelia agrees, but tells on the girls about the pranks. They don’t get into too much trouble, though. Aunt Cecelia just gives them a taste of their own medicine. They apologize to each other, and it’s all good.
o I always loved the Pike Library. I wanted to do it myself, but my little brother was my only customer. He didn’t want to check out my BSC books.
o Rereading this as an adult, I feel bad for Aunt Cecelia. She was a bit overbearing and unfair, but her husband, like, JUST died. There’s no sympathy for her at all.