Well here’s the sequel to the Sleepover Exchange mentioned in book #10. Can you believe it a series actually follows through on an idea! Though in all fairness I’ve come across between the three books within this mini trilogy that two ideas arose and were ditched! Oh well you can’t win ‘em all. If you missed out on the prior two book reviews you might want to check them out – Lauren’s Sleepover Exchange , and Stephanie’s Family Secret. Here’s a little catch up however if you want to skip ‘em. In book #10 the sleepover friend’s fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Mead organizes with a friend ( another teacher in a distant farm town – Walden ) an exchange program. Students from Walden will come and stay with students for a week and now it’s Riverhurst’s chance to visit Walden. ( I love how Saunder’s likes to slip in things like Walden as in Walden’s pond. That went right over my head the first time I read it. ) As for #11 Stephanie’s family Secret – Steph worries that her father may have gotten fired and uses several schemes in order to make some money. One of which is filling out contest blanks – however their were so many of them Lauren doesn’t recall entering the Friends of the Burro’s contest until saddled with the proof a real jack-ass prize – a donkey. The truth behind her parents secret is a baby.
This SF adventure starts off with an unusual placement the girls maybe together but it’s not at school , and it’s not during one of their sleepovers. It’s Wednesday and the girls have gathered after school at Steph’s to watch her pack things for their upcoming trip to Walden. This is to condense everything that must be learned without playing phone tag. When Stephanie holds up an outfit for approval – a black and white sweatshirt with red stretch pants though Patti says you look great in those colors – Kate wonders if it’s appropriate for a farm – cue Steph to remind Kate and us the readers that now every place in Walden will be a farm.
An argument sparks up between Kate and Stephanie when Kate is explaining that Melissa was messing up her packing by wearing her things – Steph says you’re being too hard on her -imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Kate then explains that since Melissa had her glasses on upside down , the shoes on the wrong feet and was walking like a geek it was hardly flattering. This bone of contention will flare up throughout this episode – as Stephanie who has just learned she is going to become a big sister is swelled with a sense of know-it-all child psychology – partially because she’s been reading up – meanwhile cynical Kate is a living case study.
The first of the phone calls begins with Molly Jones – Steph’s Walden visitor and to assure us they haven’t forgotten one another ( though after this book we’ll never hear from her or the Walden crew again ) have been talking once a week on the phone since the visit. Stephanie learns she’ll be staying at Annette’s ( Lauren’s visitor ) and grins because they’ll be no sloppy farm work at her place. Lauren will be staying at Rebecca’s ( Jenny Carlin’s visitor ) to which Steph goes ‘Awe right’ thinking of Rebecca’s gorgeous cousin, Reggie and gives Lauren a poke. Patti is staying with Molly , and Kate gets some girl named Wanda Barnes who didn’t participate the last time ‘round. And though the girls think the Barnes’ sheep farm could be darling – Kate is gloomy at the prospect of Wanda’s four siblings.
Stephanie’s got some pop psychology tidbits to hand out like most important have a sense of humor. Kate suggests wanna trade , hot shot. But Stephanie stands by the diplomatic fall back of she wouldn’t want anyone to feel unwanted. Whew – that was a close one Steph!
Before Kate can argue this point they get another phone call from Mr. Rhodes a man looking after their burro, Sleepover. You read right , that’s not a typo – in their last adventure the Sleepover Friends were saddled ( heehee couldn’t resist ) with a donkey via an accidental contest entry. The burro had been shipped off to Happy Trails stables and though the girls had plans of adding him to their party service ( that’s an another plot line altogether ) , Mr. Rhodes is demanding they find a new home for Sleepover. They should’ve named him Houdini as he keeps crashing out of his paddock and eating prize flowers and cooling cakes
Before they can cook up a scheme to keep this from Stephanie’s parents the last of the phone calls arrives as a solution. This time Walden girl , Rebecca invites them to come to a sleepover on Saturday one day early and if they want why not bring the donkey along – not to the sleepover , but to her families farm they have so many cows one more animal to feed wouldn’t make a difference. Stephanie is ecstatic , they can borrow the trailer from Mr. Rhodes – because he’s anxious to get rid of him and her dad won’t mind the long ride cause it’s solves all their problems – done deal.
The next day the girls – Lauren and Kate are waiting to be picked up and as ususal Donald Foster sticks his head out his bedroom window in time to catch the girls at their most embarrassing – isn’t that just like a hunk , to catch a girl at her worst?! Lauren attempts to avoid the incident by telling him to go back to his beauty sleep. Too late Kate groans as Mr. Green arrives towing a trailer – rocking and bumping with the braying donkey. Now Donald knows why the luggage – you’re running away to join the circus.
Kate with always the best and brittlest humor mutters Cute , very cute.
While the others are wearing embarrassment – Stephanie is trendy and affable in her red and black checkered jumpsuit and black boots.
They pick up Patti and are barely on their journey before the snacks come out -all that’s missing from this mobile sleepover is a game of Mad Libs. Instead Lauren has one of her surreal food moments – dreaming that all the wonderful farm food has made her blow up like a goodyear blimp brought on by one of Steph’s how-do-you-pack-it-away comments.
After a while they stop at Woodsy’s bait gas and food for a pit stop and while the girls
grab Dr. Pepper’s and for some reason a fudge ripple ice cream cone for Patti they hear the counter girl exclaiming that there’s a donkey at the gas pumps – no he didn’t notice the gas gadge was low. They dash outside to find Sleepover nibbling on the gas pump hose. He’s fullfilling the goofy Bullwinkle element missing from the last few books. Using strategy – after all they don’t want to rush him and send him out onto the busy highway , they lure him into the trailer with Patti’s ice cream cone- but in their excitement almost lock up the trailer with Patti still inside.
The rest of the trip is rather calm with a short drive through the town of Walden which like Riverhurst has plenty of food places – The Doughnut Hole and Star Confectionary before arriving at Rebecca’s.
They meet the family – the family meets Sleepover and the little girls go ga-ga over him feeding him sugar cubes – Stephanie is pleased and thinks he’ll be happy here. Someone offers help with suitcases , not just anyone – Stephanie jabs Lauren hard with her elbow – it’s Reggie also known as the HUNK! But Reggie is the barer of bad news – Will Barnes is wild. But Rebecca assures Kate don’t worry Mrs. Barnes keeps them in line… but we know it won’t be as simple as that. ( did any of you out there read the back covers or the month-ahead sample page? I read the page sometimes, never the back cover. )
Speak of the devils – Mr. Barnes shows up with Wanda and the little ones in a truck. Lauren can’t help but mutter they look like the Children of the Damned ( well actually in SF world Saunders loves a phony film and calls it Alien Village but we get it! ) Rebecca tries not to giggle at this and introduces Wanda to the girls. She’s shy and tops Reggie’s bad news – due to an emergency her mother won’t be home during the exchange. Meanwhile as the girls nervously exchange looks they get a sample of Mr. Barnes parenting technique which is to yell and then ignore as he chats with Mrs. Newman – the younger children deliberately hack and stomp through a flower bed. And as Wanda searches for Will the youngest troublemaker , the others follow and discover him writing his name in enormous magic marker letters on a freshly painted barn wall. Wanda’s technique is no better – though grabbing him to stop , he whines she lets go only to be made a fool when he triumphantly dots the I with a star and runs off. Wanda apologizes but Rebecca’s mad and storms off – meanwhile Stephanie tries to brighten the mood by chirping so Will’s artistic. Groan! Nice try Steph.
Wanda skips out on the sleepover but Kate stays wishing it could be for the entire week. The dinner at the farm house is fun and lively with two combined families eating together with the guests sitting according to conversation interests – Sci fi freaks at one end – the shopaholics together and Lauren near a grandmother who keeps refilling her plate.
After coconut cake – groan – these books are seriously mouth watering! The girls head outside to check out Sleepover’s new home but he’s unimpressed and turns his back on them – Glad to see you too. Steph says.
The girls talk about being in the hated-by-Jenny club , though it’s interesting to note Lauren doesn’t really like the idea of having an enemy , and has never encouraged Pete in order to unnerve Jenny – a series first?! Even after their huge supper they’re heading downstairs for some snacks ( honestly the food situation is a salacious junk food dream my Friday sleepovers include – chips if we were lucky , pop if there was any left , Chef Boy-ar-dee – not pizza )
and don’t you just love Lauren gall – she asks to scrounge in their fridge! Rebecca says help yourself – careful Becky you’re talking to the Bottomless pit – Lauren rates their leftovers at about a 9 after tasting this and that. Stephanie complains how can you think about eating after that dinner – but sticks her finger into the icing on the cake sitting near by. Considering their loading up trays with chips and Dr. Pepper they’ll be some serious munching to be done anyhow.
Truth or dare gets up Steph’s hackles over being excluded on the knowledge of Kate’s latest crush – she dares Lauren who knew but didn’t tell , to walk out in the dark and stand in the spooky old shed. But agrees to go with her to ensure she does it. Lauren is woebegone Kate swore her to secrecy – whoops. But Stephanie doesn’t want to back out. Rebecca goes with them. As the girls stand in the shed a tapping outside freaks them out – or rather freaks out Lauren and Rebecca – Stephanie marches outside and discovers it’s only Sleepover but the other two get the last laugh when Steph seeing figures move towards her in the dark screeches wolves and runs straight into the pond screaming the joint down. Or awake anyhow. The wolves , Lauren and Rebecca laugh are only the Newman’s collies. The parents are good sports. In fact I’ve only run across a couple of incidents in the SF where the parents weren’t good sports!
The next morning Kate is hauled off to the Barnes’ as if she were being taken to jail and when school starts Lauren and Rebecca who see Kate and the Barnes brood on the bus wonders what’s the big deal they look well behaved. Cue the harridan bus driver who threatens to hog tie Will if he doesn’t smarten up. Aha. Meanwhile Angela ( Jenny’s cohort ) actually smiles at Lauren and Rebecca freaking both of them out. But’s it’s all part of this weird episode -in which Kate’s swamped in a house of disorder , Angela is acting human and Lauren who tries out the fancy scale at the Barnes’ household discovers she’s gained six pounds in three days and goes on a crash diet. Lauren minus her junk food it’s a SF heresy!
When Stephanie offers to help Kate out of her nightmare – the kids are throwing their things around , trashing Kate and Wanda’s stuff and overall being a loud nuisance – Kate snaps what you know about kids , Stephanie , could fit on the head of a pin. Stephanie is fuming.
Meanwhile Sleepover continues to break free , and from several farm kids the general consensus is that Sleepover is bored. Whatever they do please don’t throw Sleepover a sleepover – which I think if this had been a BSC book that probably would’ve happened even though those girls are eighth graders. Please – they discussed the love lives of the triplets which was a pretty low moment for us readers. Now that they have all the problems they can handle – chatty Angela , starved Lauren , Kate drowning in disorder they start to solve each one. Lauren takes up morning jogging which turns into a boyfest as- Reggie , Tommy and Pete join her. As for Kate she gives in and asks for Stephanie’s help – making the reader wonder – have the rules of the SF universe flipped even Stephanie can’t help milking it a bit knowing the chance will never come again.
Every series book has it’s pattern and even this edition of SF can’t escape it’s mall moment. Even if there is no mall. The girls bike to the string of stores downtown to browse , shop and snack – just like when they do in Riverhurst. Lauren turns down gooey jelly donuts and hot butterscotch sundaes and sucks on a diet Dr. Pepper. But her skills of observation have improved apparently over Kate’s she and Rebecca notice that Stephanie’s so-called child management skills are sheer bribery when they spot the Barnes’ children wearing very familiar red , black and white clothing. Kate didn’t notice but grins ( as if to think maybe she did ) whatever works. Even Wanda is dreamy eyed at how peaceful things are now. But Lauren doubts this can last – and she’s right not two pages later – Will is missing after an argument with Steph and found again at the traveling circus in town , along with Sleepover – a.k.a Houdini.
The scene than cuts to the girls sitting under the bigtop waiting for the show to start and bringing the reader up to date. Wanda was so furious at Will’s disappearing act her genuine yelling had him apologizing. The others hope she can keep this new assertive personality if only to save her peace of mind. Lauren admits her weight issue but Wanda giggles that her brothers always tamper with the scales. Not one to hold a grudge Lauren merely makes up for lost time by flagging down the vender for popcorn peanuts – jumbo bucket of Dr. Pepper. Although she mourns the loss of all that fabulous farm food the jogging made up for it.
And what was Will’s problem – he got too expensive Steph complains – he wanted a canoe! As for Angela they believe her new personality will dissolve the second they get off the return bus home and Sleepover – well in the foreshadowing statement of Donald – that they’re off to join the circus – one of them does Sleepover! Crazy
Who would’ve thought a series book could’ve ever happily ended with the word Hee-haw.
Only a Sleepover Friends.
– Conrad ( the cover artist missed a rare opportunity ) – no Sleepover ( the donkey ) on the cover! How cute would’ve that been, had he been peeking in the window?!
But to show you this onomatopoeia didn’t just end an episode in the 80’s here’s something in which it started with –
T.v’s bizarre variety show – HEE HAW