Mary Anne and the Library Mystery

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Mary Anne and the Library Mystery
Author Ellen Miles
Series Mystery
Tagline Someone's playing with fire - for real.
Number of Pages 143
Date Published February 1994
Number in Series M13

Mary Anne and the Library Mystery is the thirteenth book in the Baby-sitters Club Mystery series.


Plot synopsis


Mary Anne has been feeling bored lately, and when Mrs. Kishi asks the BSC if any of them would like to volunteer to help with the Readathon at the Stoneybrook Library, she jumps at the chance. Mary Anne begins working in the children's reading room a few afternoons a week; meanwhile, Kristy takes a regular job helping Rosie Wilder with the Readathon, and Jessi gets a job bringing Nicky Pike to the library.

On Mary Anne's second day of work, a fire is set in one of the library bathrooms. It might have been a fluke, but two more fires are started in the following weeks. The BSC is determined to find the "firebug" before the library burns to the ground.

Clues and evidence

  • The first fire is in a sink in a bathroom near the children's room.
  • The second fire is in a garbage can on a hallway outside the back door of the children's room. It's larger than the first one, because lighter fluid is used.
  • Claudia tells the club that her mother told her that the land where the library is built was donated to the town by a family named Ellway, the same last name as the new librarian working there. When they donated the land, there was a stipulation that the land would return to the family if the library was ever destroyed.
  • Claudia finds out from her mother that the first fire was started with a paperback book.
  • The club checks the staff bathroom and women's room and don't see signs of a fire there, leading them to think the fire may have been in the men's room.
  • Mary Anne calls the fire department and finds out that the book burned in the first fire was Deenie, and that another book, A Light in the Attic, was burned in the second fire.
  • A pack of matches falls out of Nicky's jacket at the library, but he swears he doesn't know where they came from.
  • Rosie and Nicky decide to help with the investigation; while inspecting the scene of the crime, Nicky finds a pack of matches (from Chez Maurice, unlike the ones in his pocket) near the trash can where the first fire was set. They go to Chez Maurice with Kristy and Jessi but don't see anything helpful.
  • A third fire is set in a trash can outside the bathrooms and children's room. The book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is burned.
  • Mary Anne sees Miss Ellway running to put out the fire and decides she's probably innocent.
  • Mary Anne realizes that all three of the burned books is on a list being distributed by a group of demonstrators outside of the library, of books that the demonstrators want banned. She and Kristy interview one of the demonstrators, Bertha Dow, who admits that she burned books in the past but would never do it again.
  • Claudia, Shannon, Nicky and Rosie go around town investigating the other members of the Ellway family and find that they're all wonderful people who would probably not set fire to a library.
  • A fire is started in a classroom at Stoneybrook Middle School, but could be unrelated to the library fires.
  • Mary Anne realizes that all the burned books were burned near the places where they were shelved.
  • Claudia asks her mom and finds that the first fire was started in the men's room.
  • Mary Anne realizes all the burned books are on the fifth-grade reading list for the Readathon.
  • Stacey realizes that all the library fires were set on Wednesday afternoons.


  • Miss Ellway: Could she be attempting to destroy the library in order to reclaim her family's donated land?
  • Nicky Pike: Why did he have those matches in his pocket?
  • The book-banning demonstrators: All the burned books are on the list of books they're demonstrating against.


The next Wednesday, the BSC stakes out the library. They determine that there's only one spot left near the children's room for a fire to be set, in a trash can near the reference books, and that a biography of Abraham Lincoln is the most likely book to be burned.

They hide and wait for the firebug to appear. Sean Addison comes and takes the Abraham Lincoln book from the shelf, carries it to the trash can and places it inside. He squirts lighter fluid on the book and pulls out a pack of matches, one of which he strikes. Kristy stops him before he can light the book on fire, and they all go to Mrs. Kishi's office. Sean confesses starting all the fires, saying he did it because he hated that his parents were forcing him to participate in the Readathon along with a million other activities.

Other plot information

Clients in this book

Other characters

Places in this book

Things in this book

Notable fashion

  • Kristy is mad at Claudia and Stacey because she thinks their outfits for the stake-outs are too obtrusive. Claudia is wearing "a big white shirt over a bright pink jumpsuit" with matching flamingo earrings and pink high-top shoes. Stacey is wearing "a red miniskirt, a red-and-white striped shirt, red heart-shaped earrings, and short black boots." Stacey and Claudia agree with each other that they both look awesome.


  • After Sean is apprehended, Mary Anne and Kristy both say that they thought Mr. and Mrs. Addison always seemed like good parents who didn't ignore their kids; both sitters have apparently forgotten how Sean's sister Corrie was totally and consistently neglected throughout 26 (a situation well-known to the club at the time).

Back Cover

The Stoneybrook Library children's room is holding a Readathon to raise money for new books. And Mary Anne, who loves to read, is helping out by finding good books for the kids to read.

But things and the library get really scary when small fires break out. The police know the fires have been set. But by whom? And why would someone want to burn down Stoneybrook's library---especially when there are tons of kids around for the Readathon?

This is one serious mystery that Mary Anne's not going to let go unsolved!

The Baby-sitters Club
Preceded by
Dawn and the Surfer Ghost

Mary Anne and the Library Mystery Followed by
Stacey and the Mystery at the Mall
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