- See Also: Minor Characters in Chrissa's Stories
- Chrissa Maxwell
- Gwen Thompson
- Sonali Matthews
- Louise "Nana" Hanlon: Chrissa's grandmother. Raises mini-llamas.
- Meg Maxwell: Chrissa's mother, a doctor.
- Paul Maxwell: Chrissa's father, a potter who runs Maxwell Pottery.
- Tyler Maxwell: Chrissa's brother, who is older by eleven months.
- Tara James: the leader of the Mean Bees.
- Jadyn Johnson: one of the Mean Bees.
- Mr. Beck: Chrissa's teacher.
- Ms. Rundell: the art teacher.
- Mrs. Ziminsky: The principal of Edgewater Elementary.
- Tara's mother: believes Tara can do no wrong; owns three hair salons.
- Jadyn's father: A large-necked, bald man.
- Mrs. Matthews: Sonali's mother, whose parents immigrated from India.
- Mr. Matthews: Sonali's father.
- Janine Thompson: Gwen's mother, who is trying to get her and Gwen's life back together.
- Amanda: Chrissa's best friend from Iowa.
- Haley: One of Chrissa's friends from Iowa.
- Checkers: One of Nana's mini llamas.
- Cosmos: Nana's other mini llama, who is pregnant.
- Keefer: Nana's pet Siamese cat, who likes to take faucet-drip baths.
- Tofu: Sonali's dog, who likes to eat toilet paper rolls.
Chapter By Chapter Summary
Chapter One: Parallel Universe
The Maxwell family relocates to Minnesota from Iowa to be with Nana following the death of Chrissa's grandfather. Chrissa hates moving and misses her friends, but likes her grandparents' home near Lake Chandler. Chrissa meets Cosmos and Checkers, Nana's two pet mini llamas. It is revealed that Chrissa's grandparents used to raise full-sized llamas until Chrissa's grandfather's health began to fail. Mr. Beck, Chrissa's new teacher, gives her a valentine's list and Chrissa spends time hand-making valentines for her classmates. On her first day of school Chrissa is put in Cluster 4, with Tara, Jadyn and Sonali, who don't like Chrissa and are very mean to her.
Chapter Two: Valentine Troubles
Chrissa wakes up excited for Valentine's Day and delivers her Valentines to her classmates. She witnesses Tara, Jadyn, and Sonali write a mean valentine for "Loser Girl" Gwen Thompson but ignores their actions. Chrissa nicknames the girls the Mean Bees. They cut a hole into Chrissa's valentines box and steal all of the valentines Chrissa got from her classmates but one, the one from Gwen Thompson.
Chapter Three: Unexpected Call
Mr. Beck announces that the registration forms are almost due for swimming and tries to calm the class down. Chrissa boards the school bus and sits with her brother, and then the Mean Bees come and say hi to her brother for no apparent reason. Chrissa warns Tyler not to listen to them, telling him that they are not as nice as they seem. Once at home, Chrissa and her brother meet up with Chrissa's father, who is driving Chrissa's grandfather's tractor. Chrissa describes Nana's home, with its "gingerbread trim" and "wrap around porch with its sloping green floor, white railings, and wicker furniture now covered in canvas for the winter." While checking up on Nana's cat, Keefer, Chrissa receives a call.
Chapter Four: A Bad Joke
The call turns out to be from Sonali, one of the Mean Bees, who wants to come by Chrissa's home. Chrissa cleans up her home in anticipation that Sonali might want to be a friend, and waits for Sonali to show up. When Sonali and her mother do show up, Mrs. Matthews prods Sonali into talking to Chrissa and Sonali has a red shopping bag in hand. Sonali confesses to Chrissa that she was told by Tara to take all of Chrissa's valentines home with her, but that her mother caught her with valentines that were not hers and made her give them back to Chrissa. When pressed, Sonali reveals that her mother made her come, otherwise she would not have come. Chrissa doesn't want to cause a stir with her family, so when Nana asks her who came over Chrissa replies that she forgot her valentines at school and that a friend brought them over for her. Nana gives Chrissa permission to call her friend Amanda in Iowa. Chrissa calls Amanda but Amanda is away for the weekend with Haley, another one of Chrissa's friends, in Des Moines.
Chapter Five: Llamas and Girls
Nana invites Chrissa to breakfast the next morning with Cosmos and Checkers. Chrissa decides that maybe she can convince her father and Nana to homeschool her, since some of her cousins in Texas are homeschooled. Chrissa helps Nana move Cosmos and Checkers to the van. Chrissa is afraid that they would kick Nana, but Nana explains that llamas don't kick or hurt people, just each other because they want to show who is boss. For the first time Chrissa brings up the Mean Bees, but just mentions that they are a group of girls from school. Nana mentions that she and Chrissa's grandfather used to take llamas to nursing homes as the animals would cheer people up. Nana pulls into a drive thru and orders food for her and Chrissa while the workers at the drive through look at and ask questions about llamas. Once they've got their food Nana and Chrissa get ready to leave but then are stopped by two pedestrians who turn out to be Tara and Jadyn, who ask Nana about Checkers and Cosmos. When they ask if the animals are house trained, Nana mentions that they don't go in the car at all, she has them trained so well. She lets Cosmos and Checkers know where its appropriate to go to the bathroom by leaving "llama beans" on the ground. Nana then tells Tara and Jadyn that she always keeps a can of "llama beans" on her person.
Nana and Chrissa come back home after breakfast and Tyler complains of not being allowed to come along. Chrissa mentions the mean bees to her parents very briefly but feels daunted when her mother responds by saying "give them time." Chrissa's father reveals that he needs help if he is going to get 200 bowls ready for a fundraiser. Tyler brings up the idea to have the 4th and 5th graders at Edgewater Elementary help put glaze on the bowls. While working on crafts with Nana, Chrissa thinks of the Mean Bees and Gwen some more, and determines to try to be nice to Gwen.
Chapter Six: Monday Mess
The Mean Bees continue to say hello to Tyler on the school bus in an effort to get to Chrissa. Chrissa walks up to Gwen and talks to her, telling her she should do swimming. Gwen says that she can't swim really well and Chrissa tells her that she'll pick it up quickly. In art class Ms. Rundell and Chrissa's father explain the fundraiser for Sunrise House and how the bowls need to have glaze put on them and that they will be filled with soup for the donors and each donor will take home a bowl as a souvenir. Chrissa's father announces that he will let the 4th and 5th graders visit his studio on Saturday to help him make more bowls, and Chrissa becomes nervous that the Mean Bees will come over and pick on her in her own home, since her dad's studio is at the house. Back in class Mr. Beck asks Chrissa to deliver the permission slips for the swim class. The Mean Bees attempt to cause a stir and get Mr. Beck to pick them, but he says no. He lets the class go at the same time as Chrissa to take a bathroom break. Chrissa takes a bathroom break herself and has to put the envelope on the floor and while she is using the restroom the Mean Bees come in and steal the envelope with the permission slips. Tara teases Chrissa and tells her that she won't say anything to Mr. Beck. Chrissa hopes that the permission slips made it to the office, but she has a feeling that something is up.
Chapter Seven: Bzzz
At swim class at the end of the day Chrissa figures out exactly what Tara did when the coach can't find her permission slip and won't let her swim. From the sidelines Chrissa frantically calls her father to get him to come and fill out another permission slip. In the meantime the Mean Bees lure Gwen into the deep end of the pool with a game of catch and Gwen nearly drowns. When caught the Mean Bees say that they did not mean it at all and it was all harmless fun. The Mean Bees then call Gwen an attention seeker, saying that she went under just to get people's attention. Chrissa offers Gwen a ride home and Gwen refuses. Upset Chrissa says that she's just trying to help.
Chapter Eight: Magic Wand
Chrissa's class is putting glaze on the bowls for Sunrise House when Gwen says she is sick and wants to go to the bathroom. The Mean Bees accuse her of being an attention seeker again, saying she lied about being sick. Chrissa stands up for Gwen and Tara and Jadyn fight back. Chrissa wonders how it can be so fun to break other people and then invites Gwen to her home. Gwen says no and Sonali makes a surprise break from Tara and Jadyn and tells Gwen about how nice Chrissa's house is. Later, in swim practice Chrissa shows Gwen how to do a dead man's float. Then Chrissa's brother Tyler swims up to Chrissa and snaps her swim goggles. Chrissa looks and sees the Mean Bees laughing at their own prank and how they used Chrissa's own brother. Chrissa imagines dropping her brother's unfired bowl, which he decorated with the solar system, onto the ground, but decides it would be a mean thing to do.
Chapter Nine: S'mores
Chrissa continues to be mad at her brother for being a pawn of the Mean Bees, and decides not to speak to him. Chrissa has a moment, while on her way home from school, where she looks back and her grandfather's last days and she remarks about him talking to his dead parents and how she was told that sometimes people start to go onto the next world before they leave this one. Later on Chrissa is doing her homework with Nana in the sunroom. Her father and brother are firing the glazed bowls in the kiln for the fundraiser. Nana announces that she'd like the family to get together and make s'mores, which are made with graham crackers, bananas, marshmallows, and chocolate in this case. In the middle of the family gathering, the phone rings and Tyler gets it. It turns out to be Sonali again, and Chrissa is somewhat annoyed that Sonali keeps calling because they are not friends. Sonali apologizes for all that has happened since the two last talked, and Chrissa asks Sonali if her mother put her up to it. Sonali says that the change of heart was all her own, and now she would like to come over and have a sleepover at Chrissa's. Chrissa decides to think on it and goes back to the fireplace with her family. Tyler apologizes for what he did in the pool, and Chrissa accepts.
Chapter Ten: Secret Notes
Chrissa and Sonali begin to pass notes under the desks to each other. Chrissa decides to invite Sonali over for a sleepover. Sonali comes over on Friday and remarks that she likes Chrissa's house. Chrissa teaches Sonali how to knit and Sonali eats with the family. A phone call interrupts the family dinner, and when Sonali comes back, she announces that she has to leave immediately. Her cover story is that family is coming over for pizza, but Sonali is a poor liar and Chrissa figures out that something is up. The sleepover is canceled, and Chrissa figures out that Tara more than likely called Sonali and Sonali did not want to get caught hanging out with Chrissa.
Chapter Eleven: Disaster
Saturday, the day when Chrissa's class came over to help make more bowls, comes and goes. Chrissa ignores Sonali. Upset and hurt, Chrissa spends a lot of time in her room, avoiding everyone. Nana tells Chrissa to give it some more time and Tyler tries to cheer Chrissa up. In art class on Monday, Ms. Rundell tells the class that all the bowls are now done and ready to go and that only two were lost. The new project for art class is to find some magazine clippings of things that interest them. Chrissa finds one of a model who looks a lot like Gwen and uses the image to talk to Gwen. Chrissa mentions that she has some hair clips Gwen can borrow if she wants to grow her bangs out and Gwen mentions that she wants to keep her bangs and has been asking her mom for a haircut. Chrissa responds that Gwen can come over and get a hair cut. Gwen responds by saying that Chrissa can cut her hair now, in the bathroom. Gwen and Chrissa go to the bathroom and Chrissa tries to cut Gwen's hair but doesn't get very far before the Mean Bees show up. Tara mentions that her mother owns three salons and that Tara has seen her cut tons of hair and knows how to do it herself. Chrissa trusts her for the most part and Tara at first cuts Gwen's hair just fine—and then decides that she wants to get back at Chrissa again and ruins Gwen's bangs. The Mean Bees then flee and Ms. Rundell catches Chrissa with the scissors in hand and Gwen with ruined bangs.
Chapter Twelve: Principal's Office
Chrissa and the Mean Bees are hauled to the principal's office and their parents are all called. The testimonies of everyone make it seem that Chrissa was the one who ruined Gwen's hair. Tara's mother is convinced that Tara is incapable of doing wrong. The next day Chrissa asks her mom if it would be okay to stay home. Chrissa's mother understands and finally Chrissa gathers up the courage to tell her mother everything that has happened since the day Chrissa showed up at Edgewater Elementary. Chrissa's mother and father are sympathetic to what Chrissa is going through and mention that even adults bully each other. Then Chrissa's mom explains the difference between telling and tattling; that telling is speaking up to protect oneself and others; tattling is bringing someone down out of meanness.
Chapter Thirteen: A Good Cause
Chrissa and her parents meet with Mrs. Ziminsky to talk about the bullying that has happened to Chrissa and to Gwen. Mrs. Ziminsky applauds Chrissa for having the courage to speak up. After school the Maxwell family heads to the benefit for Sunrise House and even Cosmos and Checkers make an appearance. At the conclusion of the fundraiser dinner, Janine Thompson comes forward and shares her story with the audience, albeit reluctantly. Chrissa puts two and two together and realizes what Gwen has been going through over the last several months and why she didn't want to come to Chrissa's home after she figures out that Janine is Gwen's mother. Gwen's father lost his job and left Gwen and her mom with no place to go because they had lost their home. Gwen and her mother then survived by living in their car until it got too cold, then they moved to Sunrise House, which helped them get back on their feet. Not wanting Gwen to sit alone, Chrissa goes to sit with Gwen, and is joined by Sonali, who sends Gwen an apology note. After Ms. Thompson's speech, Gwen, Sonali and Chrissa clean up tables together and Sonali confesses to Gwen that it was Tara who ruined her bangs, and that Chrissa would never do such a thing. Sonali also confesses that Tara and Jadyn are no longer her friends. Chrissa invites both Gwen and Sonali over and Gwen accepts, stating that now she has a home of her own so she will gladly come over.
Chapter Fourteen: Solidarity
Chrissa, Sonali and Gwen make headbands to celebrate their new friendship together. Sonali has to make her final stand against Jadyn and Tara when they confront her. Chrissa asks Mr. Beck if she and Gwen can be moved around in lieu of all that has happened to the two of them, and Mr.Beck moves Gwen and a boy named Joel into cluster 4. Tara makes a threat that she will get back at Chrissa for "stealing Sonali." Chrissa ends with Chrissa adjusting fully and happily into her new home, and into her new life at Edgewater Elementary—complete with new friends.
Since Chrissa's book deals with the issue of bullying, American Girl added a letter to the end of her book stating that Chrissa's books exist to help girls stand up to bullies and that American Girl receives hundreds of letters from girls all across the country who encounter bullies. The remainder of this section includes six individual letters, which American Girl had experts answer, as well as discussion questions addressing issues faced in the book.
- ↑ February 13th is on a Friday, corresponding to the correct date of the year.