Can anything save Annie’s BFF, Jason, from having to move away?
The 10-year-old friends play at being spies in their PB&J Society, even using their Spy Bud 2000 (a baby monitor) to listen in on their parents. They are horrified to learn that Jason’s out-of-work father is about to lose the house and plans to move the family from their Utah suburb to California. The duo come up with plans to get Jason’s parents enough money to stay: getting dad a job, winning the lottery, having a bake sale, and even talking to the bank themselves. Enter Mrs. Schuster, a formerly crabby neighbor, and her stories of pirate Black Marge and her treasure—which could be hidden locally! Is Mrs. Schuster joking? Why is she suddenly so nice? Will Annie’s good-intentioned bumbling just doom the friends to a life apart? Johnson’s well-meaning but meandering morass of coincidence and cliché is never as amusing or endearing as it tries to be. While Mrs. Schuster’s secret is interesting, the PB&J Society, with its rules for burying damaged sandwiches, is neither believable nor amusing. The tale’s theme of neighbor helping neighbor is positive, but there is little else to like here.
Unfortunately, digging up something better won’t be hard. (Fiction. 7-11)