Old Mrs. Dean next door really is a pain: officiously, she interferes when the kids slide on an ice patch, causing the fall she meant to prevent; she's a boring, TV-watching babysitter; worst, she's always complaining about Samantha's dog. When Sam and her friend make a grumpy-looking snow person and label it "Mrs. Mean," it's understandable. But Sam's not malicious. During the night (Christmas Eve), she's conscience-stricken; and her happiness at finding that rain has obliterated her mischief before Mrs. Dean's feelings are hurt prompts a friendlier exchange, in the spirit of the season. This third book about a realistic yet exemplary neighborhood is blessed as usual with Hughes's masterful compositions and characterizations and her warmhearted humor--note, especially, a rhythmic sequence of pictures of the precariously balanced kids on ice. Delightful.