Sleepover Friends #11 Stephanie’s Family Secret Susan Saunders – the girls play Harriet the Spy and wind up with a surprising new ‘friend’


  Sleepover Friends #11 Stephanie's Family Secret - Susan Saunders

  Susan Saunders was (is) a pro! Though Sleepover Friends plots could tread familiar ground there was always one unpredictable gopher hole along the trail! Though , strangely enough I’ve heard more complaints from this series than any other. Even Sweet Valley twins escapes real criticism ( other than snarking ) which , even though I love them – even I can admit their plots can be more predictable than the Sleepover Friends. Case in point #22 Out of Place ( a cool mashup of heehaw , The Beverly Hillbillies and Blubber ) But …Once you know Ellen’s horse is pregnant you know that Ginny Sue’s talent with animals is going to save the foal and endear her to Ellen. The only hiccup in the smoothly told tale is Jessica’s scheme to find a way of making money from Ginny Sue’s talent – for a small agents fee. But even that in itself is typical.
    But nobody could predict the loop SF throws you in this edition in which the new member of the Sleepover Friends is a real …. ack! I won’t spoil it! ( not yet anyhow *spoilers coming! )                

    The tale ( heh heh ) begins with Lauren sneak reading a movie magazine hidden in her desk at school but is so startled when Stephanie volunteers the Sleepover Friends to participate in the class amateur night – the magazine slips off her lap. She’s saved by the bell. But Stephanie’s not – as they all take turns blasting her – Kate who’d already kicked her chair to stop her- hisses are you out of your gourd?! Lauren meanwhile is worried about stage fright – and though Patti battles stage fright numerous times in SF, is too busily dreaming about the cause behind the Talent show ( a class trip to Washington)  to care. ( – whoops – member this weeks point about authors mentioning stuff that isn’t followed through on – we never do get to see the class trip to Washington! )
    Stephanie breezily announces it’ll be fun we’ll do something easy like lip sync -[“ this gets worse and worse”] Kate laments – [ the four of us standing on stage moving our mouths like dummies.] Lauren doesn’t want to chicken out knowing she’d have to endure Jenny’s smirky face for weeks , agrees to Steph’s plan knowing that the rest will follow – after all – their motto is all for one and one for all – like the Four Muskateers.
    There’s only three Kate gripes. I’ve seen the movie hundreds of times. But she caves – Stephanie even has a name for their act the Four Aces!
    The First sleepover is at Kate’s with yum,  Mexican Take-out – Steph’s late and Kate can barely keep up defending the food against the Bottomless Pit ( a.k.a Lauren ) they’re talking ( to speed up the plot ) about how Stephanie has been mentioning that her parents have been acting weird , whispering and stuff. Each one has their suspicions – Patti worries that it could be a move
recalling her scary brush with Alaska , but Kate is more hopeful that maybe ( as usual ) Steph’s wealthy parents are springing a surprise on her then adds being an only child has it’s advantages – dreaming about Stephanie own personal VCR
    Enter the reason for Kate’s animosity – little sister Melissa who announces Stephanie’s arrival by pounding on Kate’s door. They have the typical rocky sibling relationship – Kate yells GET OUT OF HERE – Melissa calls her a Creep-o.
    Stephanie has no real update on her parents behavior – maybe they should have run it by Lauren’s body talk know-how – but I guess they’ve forgotten all about that. Oh well. From the clues she’s gathered Stephanie thinks that her lawyer father has lost his job but to make sure – she wants to pull a Harriet the spy – and follow him on Monday. Most of her suspicions mimic that of a t.v. movie the girls have watched. ( Oddly enough no one ever thought the Green’s might be
divorcing! ) The girls agree to help out Steph even though it could mean being late for school which to Kate is like a capital crime. But she’s willing to risk it.
    With their future plans settled Stephanie sets about choreographing their lip syncing routine to a fake song – I wanna be your Girl by the Polka Dots. [ Only three minutes and ten seconds of fatal embarrassment – Kate murmurs ] which has Mrs. Beekman coming to beg they change the song as is she’ll already be singing it in her sleep. The girls giggle and agree to a break turning the radio to requests and heading to the kitchen for more snacks. Mmmm! Microwaved fruit bars , Dr. Pepper and Lauren who loves digging through the Beekman leftovers starts in on some stuffed clams?! And starts taking spoonfuls of this and that and assumes she’s
got a mouthful of mashed potatoes when Melissa screams STOP , you’re eating my map. Say what?! Lauren clutches her gut. Don’t panic it turns out it’s some dough map for a school project and everyone giggles that Lauren’s gobbled up several states. Very funny! She mutters.
    Then the girls hear the tail end of a request for Steve Gitten from a secret admirer and suspecting their nemesis Jenny they pool – whoever has the youngest sounding voice can call up pretending to be Steve’s sister and ask her. Lauren would never have suggested this is she’d known all her friends would turn to her. Okay she has to admit she does sound like a six year old and caves when Stephanie throws in a bribe of allowing her to wear her new leather jacket for a week. ( I remember borrowing my friends clothes all the time! ) Lauren calls and though tries to sound like a third grader admits all she sounds like is a dork. But at the sight of the others trying not to laugh makes Lauren giggle before she can verify whether or not Jenny did request the song. Hurriedly hanging up , the phone quickly rings again it’s Jenny who knows it’s them and vows revenge. Notice how Jenny is so into their business she knew whose house the sleepover was at that night!
    The spy ring goes into effect Monday morning with their bikes stashed down the street and an assortment of weird hats – Patti’s knitted cap , Lauren’s baseball cap , Kate’s father’s fisherman hat covered with lures and Stephanie’s questionable disguise – a red beret to match her red , black and white outfit. That’s a disguise? Lauren thinks. It’s a little like Where’s Waldo wearing a red and white striped hat for a disguise rather than a white and red striped hat. But then again whose to say Steph owns any other colors….. Only on the covers.
    As they’re hiding in a lilac bush waiting,  hunky seventh grader Donald ( a bit of a pompous flirt ) shows up wondering what they’re up to – I love Lauren’s subtle razz [ Donald was showing no signs of leaving. I think he just can’t believe there are any girls in the world who wouldn’t rather gaze into his big blue eyes than do anything else. ] They manage to ditch him – and zip off after Mr. Green though wonder if in fact they should be ditching Steph. Detention is looming and Steph offers to let them back out but they’re still all for one , one for all. Even as they stream past their school , with the last bell ringing and tattletale Jenny pointing them out to a teacher.
    Lauren and Patti who both have the longest legs manage to keep up with Mr. Green , Steph and Kate both shorties – lag behind. Lauren follows Mr. Green into a bank- and discovers he’s talking to – a loan officer. Stephanie now glum believing her suspicion has just been confirmed wonders what to do. Lauren suggest they raise some money and tosses out ideas – enter contests – a yard sale. Kate however is anxious to get back to school. Her day has already taken a wrong turn when her dad’s fishing hat flew off her head.
     The girls however , ignore Kate excited about Lauren’s ideas and start making plans.
              By the time they get to school the morning is half over and they have to eat a fast lunch before reporting to the principal’s office – but Jenny’s smug look dissolves when all the boys sit with the girls impressed with their tarnished status.
     Patti spends the evening with Lauren munching cookies and clipping contest forms from old magazines – old ones so that the prizes will only be weeks away. Meanwhile Kate’s gone over to Steph’s to help her sort through her stuff to sell. But when Lauren sees some of the goodies – like Steph’s new leather jacket can’t help but blurt – how much? She buys it and Patti buys her silver conch belt and Kate buys a black and white sweatshirt. Stephanie executes a braveness at selling some of her most precious items though has to admit she’d rather see them in the family so to speak.
    To tone down the reason for the yard sale and keep the parents in the dark , the girls have done a lot of sneaking around and Kate’s holding a lot of the items at her place. 
    They spend the next day putting up Yard sale posters which have the added appeal of mentioning the location is next door to Donald Foster’s, an added incentive , Steph’s idea which the others can only shrug – can’t hurt! Pinning up posters can be hungry work so the girls stop off at the mall for double dip pistachio ice cream cones , chocolate covered almonds and to cut the sweetness Lauren wants a slice of Pizza – Look out Rhode Island – Kate quips still thinking about Lauren gobbling up her sisters map! They meet boys at the Pizza Palace ( one of their usual hangouts ) who want to sell some stuff at the garage sale. 
    Even Donald wants to sell some stuff. [ fair is fair – Stephanie says ( thinking about how they used his name in their advertising )  besides Donald is kinda cute. All this worry has clouded her mind – Kate ] More sellers have made Kate grumpy –  It’s not a garage sale it’s a flea market – but Steph is hopeful – more sellers more customers. The sleepover is at Lauren’s and as Kate goes to get more slices of pie made from a recipe found in one of the old magazines- Strawberry ice cream and cookie crumb crust  – yum! – she sees that across the way that her bedroom light is on ( Lauren and Kate are next door neighbors ) – Melissa’s in her room!
    Famous last words – “You don’t know how lucky you are, Stephanie,  to be an only child.”
    The garage sale is a swinging success until Mrs. Beekman comes over to browse with Mrs. Hunter and notices some of the things Stephanie’s selling still have tags on them. The woman go inside under the guise of coffee with Kate assuming they’ll start talking and forget all about us – ha!
    Moments later a tipped and ticked off Mrs. Green arrives ( a new one because the girls had never seen her annoyed much less angry ) Stephanie whose ready to cry blurts out her suspicions and Mrs. Green is both touched and surprised. She was going to tell Stephanie at dinner but since the girls are practically family she announces to all she’s going to have a baby.
    And the mystery of the loan was for an addition to the house. The garage sale is halted at least where Steph’s things are concerned and they manage to buy back most of her stuff even Lauren admits ‘her’ jacket was nabbed. And it’s Kate’s lucky day too when a trucker in overalls and the missing-fishing-lure hat agrees to a trade – a rusty rake and two pairs of Steph’s jean for his daughter,  for the hat. Sold.
    Even with the buy back of Steph’s clothes they’ve netted 102 dollars. Kate suggests because her mom’s on a hospital committee that since they no longer need the money why not help out some babies that do need it. Everyone agrees. Nice – but I always question the accuracy of this selfless deed- but given their financial backgrounds ( doctor , lawyer , real estate agent , professors ) and the fact that these girls always have spending money – I guess I could buy it.
    Stephanie is jazzed up about the news and dreaming up names for a girl – You could be stuck with a brother who loves creepy crawlies they warn. [ Not if I train the kid from an early age to do as I tell him. Stephanie says breezily ] The others think Steph’s got a lot to learn.
    Ack! Amateur night – did you forget? They almost did. Arriving in their costumes – crop tops , tights , denim minis , bangles and their hair pulled into matching side ponytails just like the Polka Dots they gather backstage. Karla is doing a long , very looooong ballet number in a brown leotard ( she’s the class grind and brown is to Karla what red , black and white is to Steph ) And who knew – Jenny plays the clarinet?! But doesn’t get a chance to when she razzes Larry for his big ears saying I can see the family resemblance between him and the rabbit in his magic act. He stuffs up her clarinet with a silk scarf so that Jenny is stuck honking on stage trying to blast out her song before realizing what’s the hold-up and pulls out the silk scarf.
     Unfortunately the only ones she sees as culprits are the sleepover friends who happen to be in her line of fire and knowing it mouth wildly it wasn’t us. Not very smart of you – she sizzles coming off stage.
    What’s her revenge?
    Well the four aces get out their to do their routine only instead of the Polka Dot’s wailing I wanna be your girl – Karla’s flowery ballet number comes up. Instead of panicking Steph says follow my lead and starts up their dance routine! The audience practically rolls in the aisles and Jenny has inadvertently made them the hit of amateur night. Since it’s Friday the parents to celebrate their success take them out for pizzas and a butterscotch sundae Lauren adds – oh – now I’m in the mood for a McDonalds hot caramel sundae.
    You would think this would be it but have you forgotten something – the contests – right!
Mrs. Green rushes into Stephanie’s room the next morning to wake up the girls – did you enter any contests lately. Lauren perks up Did we actually win something – I guess you could say that Mrs. Green says. And the girls hear an ear splitting noise. Rushing downstairs they see a truck and trailer with a donkey being lead out of it. Lauren is trying to wrack her brain as to whether she really filled out a contest entitled Friends of the Burros , and Patti a wiz at info says that the organization is to save the wild animals from being turned into dog food. This settles it for Steph , but not for her parents – What am I going to do with a burro – her father complains – even as the donkey is eating their petunias. The baby will love him – Stephanie says cagily. She’s a tricky one! And they give up agreeing only to keep him until they can find him a new home. And what else would they call him but Sleepover!

– Great Sleepover Friends episode though not quite as good as #10 – my main beef with this story was we didn’t get to see Bullwinkle’s reaction to Sleepover!  but ****!

– So-So  cover although and I have to admit it was hard keeping the characters straight when I first read the series and got into numerous arguments with my friends over who was who on the cover – For instance if you read the book you might assume – the one in the baseball cap is Lauren , the purple knitted cap Patti – but it’s of course Steph and Lauren. Though Steph always wore red , black and white was seldom drawn in outfits with those colors.

For my 80’s nostalgia – I have to admit the booby prize Lauren and the girls win totally reminds me of another 80’s show that gave away the most frightening prizes Let’s Make a Deal – remember that game show. So hilarious! the audience would dress in ridiculous costumes and the host Monty Hall would usually ask for weird items a pack of bobby pins , some knitting , a bottle of Asprin in order to pick out who got to play. The most sage woman brought shopping bags instead of purses! If you lasted long enough you got to choose between curtain number 1 or 2. But sometimes there was a zonk prize – a crushed car , a gigantic rocking horse …. perhaps even an unwanted burro!

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