Sleepover Friends, The Babysitters Club

Sleepover Friends #19 The Great Kate and The Babysitter’s Club #32 The Secret of Susan – Analyzing bad series books by going over my least faves

Sleepover Friends #19

             I’ve decided to analysis what makes a bad book by reviewing two books which I think deserve this title. My least favorite Sleepover Friends book and my least favorite BSC book (my apologies to both readers and authors if these are your favorites.) I wondered how to go about slanting the review – do the terms of story, plot and character fall under the generic rules of fiction? Or under the sub-heading such as teen series fiction as in – is this a good series book or more specifically under their own heading such as is this a good book in the Sleepover Friends series.
Let’s start with the Great Kate #19 in the Sleepover Friends, which, coming off the heels of a rather perky adventure – #18’s Stephanie and the Magician, is a dreadful mess. The trouble with the story is that it stalls, right at the gate with false suspense. (Opening any story in which the outcome of the action can already be guessed is a shot in the foot. ) And unfortunately this story shoots itself in the foot but rather than lie down dead, it limps along for another 80 pages.
I am however thankful for the fact that this is one of SF shorter adventures – 85 pages, but not the shortest – #3 clocks out at 73 pages.
The book begins with the girls – Kate, Stephanie, Lauren and Patti, sitting around attempting to mystically bend spoons with the power of their mind. Now if this were a fantasy novel who knows where this might have lead to, but this being a series about four typical girls – you know darn well, no spoons will bend. Hence the paragraph fizzles. Why not have something almost happen – Kate’s kitten, Fredericka, darting under a table, rocking it, causing the spoons to move and the girls to gasp, or a misplaced magnet starts a spoon to jerk – does Stephanie have the power? Nope, nothing. Well, not exactly nothing, it does kick off another typical-of-the-series argument between Kate’s stoic defense of her beliefs – mysticism is hogwash vs everyone else’s opinion – not all science has been discovered or explained. The trouble with the plot that follows this argument; Stephanie, in attempting to teach Kate a lesson, gets the wool pulled over her eyes – is a hard sell, not only for a fan of the series, but even for a first timer. For every fan knows Kate is a lost cause – it would be easier to dress Stephanie in yellow ( everyone knows she’s a red, black and white freak) than convince Kate of an unexplained phenomenon.

              With such an inflexible character as Kate where does the writer think she’s going with this?  Especially when Kate starts off by bashing the writers nerve for having her involved with such malarky as spoon bending in the first place – I feel like an idiot! Kate bemoans in the opening sentence.
For a first timer to the series the idea can also seem a little self sabotaging – let me explain – if Stephanie and the others trick Kate into believing magical things can happen with smoke and mirrors they’ve just blown their argument by proving Kate’s opinion is factual that nothing magical can happen without smoke and mirrors.

           This is Stephanie’s plan – in an effort to broaden Kate’s mind-over-matter philosophy, Patti suggests a science/sociology experiment involving talking nicely to plant a and negatively to plant b. Stephanie wanting to speed things along decides to enlist Lauren’s aid to switch plant a with a slightly bigger spider plant to show Kate that it really does work. Now how can Kate dismiss her own psychic powers with the evidence right in front of her? Though it’s an interesting trick – and Kate can be so stuffy ( ‘some people’, she crabs, ‘have minds so open they’re as full of holes as Swiss cheese!’ ) that she has it coming but the argument again will not be solved eventually Kate will learn of their deception and can still back up her own opinion. No magic without slight-of-hand. However, the writer knowing that this is going down too predictable a path, twists it away from the desirable position of having Kate put on the hot seat to having Stephanie put there – after sneaking into Kate’s house to plant the charlatan plant and  lose her distinctive rhinestone pin. By this moment if you don’t know what’s going to happen you should have the book yanked from your hand and be slapped upside the head with it. Everyone knows this is the clue that gives Kate the heads up and that she’s going to turn the tables on the girls – so when the girls are faced with an even larger plant than they brought in and Kate’s solemn announcement that she has the power – they may gasp but you’re going to yawn.
The plot has ditched it’s original idea of the reader waiting to see how Kate reacts to her suddenly larger plant to how the girls will react to Kate’s sudden ‘powers’ and not one suspects they’re being had! What follows is an extremely boring chapter of Kate explaining her technique to the girls – breathing lessons and talk of plant growth which is about as exciting as watching grass grow which this plot is a mere extension of! Kate then uses her ‘skills’ to get a boy to call, and to find Stephanie’s lost pin which when they go outside to hunt for it – Donald, next door hunk, and ever watchful spy blabs Kate’s not-so-secret, secret . Patti’s involvement was a bit of a surprise but necessary.
Oddly enough the side plot of Roger’s love life is equally dismal. Roger’s character is a little like Kristy’s older brother Charlie in BSC one part – solid older brother, but mostly – chauffeur, a much needed formula to deposit Kristy at the weekday BSC meetings and the Sleepover friends at the mall. At best both are side characters of no consequence, there for an occasional quip – at worse Roger is given his own side story – like now. Because of the age difference the girls can only play secret fix-it cupids to Roger’s love life resulting in the predictable backfire, that Linda mistakenly believes a slick new suitor is sending her roses and candy and not an apologetic Roger. I would’ve preferred a meddling love story involving Bullwinkle and a posh poodle rather than this (only because it might not have been original but definitely more humorous) Because this is so cliche and Kate’s plot so flimsy the overall story has few redeeming moments.

         The book fumbles due to unoriginality, the patching up a friends/siblings romance and nearly wrecking it by having someone else take the credit for the sudden deluge of gifts is so cliche that it could only be redeemed if the couple was not predictably reunited at the end. The fact that any eleven year old would spend all their extra money to ensure this scheme worked is a another flight of fantasy. Speaking of which – in a story that hinges on the paranormal, when it’s not of the fantasy genre, one has to look for the obvious logical outcome- which kills the suspense – in each instance we were waiting to see how Kate would react and when that was yanked away, how the girls would react. But we didn’t for once believe in the events taking shape. Had the author wanted to do something genuinely spooky or test Kate’s mind over matter theory why not have something that at least has a moment of credibility, if not a good spook factor – have the girls spend Halloween night at the McBride house!  P.S. – for more reasons why this episode failed read on till the end summary.

Here’s what I’d have rather read –

Sleepover Friends Phony Book - Kate's Halloween Dare_edited-1

    BSC #32 THE SECRET OF SUSAN

Babysitters Club #32
– like the Sleepover Friends #19 The Great Kate – This BSC ‘special’ book wallows in an attempt to build suspense that can go no where.

       The premise is simple – faced with the task of babysitting a young autistic girl (Susan of the title), Kristy is so blown away, by her beauty and talent (playing the piano), knows that she, above all experts, can reach her. By the time this point becomes clear any reader that has ever watched Rain Man would expect, that, no matter the outcome, Kristy and Susan will at least find some clever, heartwarming way to communicate. However the more sophisticated reader who has had a school integrated with special-ed students might understand that Kristy’s go get-um attitude is about to deflate faster than a popped balloon.
Although I don’t like to check out other people’s opinions on books too much, especially before writing my own, I decided to go to several book sites and check out what others thought about this BSC offering. The readers were definitely split some cheered Ann M Martin for bringing the important issue of autism to their attention, some loved the addition of the Hobart family and the fact that for once Kristy couldn’t solve it all. Others were more critical about the way the autism was handled calling it inaccurate especially when Kristy is lead to a dictionary which mentions childhood schizophrenia, acting out and withdrawing from reality – but even Kristy finds this vague and confusing. At best the issue is brought to children – at worst – yes, it’s rather inaccurate – and considering a lot of Susan’s characteristics only effect a very low percentage of those having autism, Susan becomes a rarity not a spokesperson. But we are told that Susan is savant as well as autistic which allows for her amazing ability with memory and music.                                                                                              

                  But the suspense formed by the back blurb – of Kristy’s quest to prove that Susan Felder is a ‘regular’ kid is prematurely snuffed out when we are told on pg 37, as if a warning, that some experts believe if an autistic child has no meaningful language by the time she or he is five, there will be little progress. Since Susan is eight Mrs. Felder isn’t too hopeful. So what exactly fuels Kristy’s hope
probably her inability to listen instead of hearing – to borrow Kristy’s dictionary terms that means though Kristy’s is hearing the words coming out of Mrs. Felder’s mouth, she’s not actually attending to what is being said (even not being said.) Though Mrs. Felder is hopeful that the team of professionals might be able to reach Susan, she’s not naive and though proud of her daughter’s special abilities would rather she be able to simply communicate, something she never does. And that phrase is apparently lost on Kristy who is usually better at keeping facts about her charges straight! Because on the very next page Kristy puffs herself up with some sort of self-righteous anger at the purposed injustices heaped upon Susan – that no one understands her, that they’ve made her some sort of outcast shipping her from school to school. All this after seeing Susan for five minutes? She asks – ‘why didn’t her parents try to help Susan make friends? She couldn’t talk, but neither could Matt, and he has plenty of friends.’  Matt Braddock is of course (if you’re a fan of BSC) a hearing impaired character who uses sign language. Kristy has just boiled communication down to mere speech not presence. That’s like saying a coma victim can’t talk – it’s redundant – he can talk – but he can’t reach you. She’s also boiling friendship down to the fact that Susan should be friends with ‘normal’ kids. But nothing can stop Kristy now as the closing lines of Chapter four tell us – nobody can say I don’t stand up for what I believe in. And for now Kristy believes Susan is in need of someone to fight her battles.
Unfortunately Kristy stays uncomfortably in this unwanted activist role for most of the book without getting an inkling of progress out of Susan. And though Kristy mistakenly believes Susan has a friend in James Hobart, one of the boys from the Australian family that just moved in, the only reason the boy claimed her friendship was the rush of sympathy he felt when he saw her being teased by the same bully who’d been teasing him. The bullies even turn to Susan when she becomes a novelty and Kristy still blinded in her quest wields Susan’s talents as though they are ways of getting to know Susan, rather than what they’ve become in the story – mere parlor tricks, done by an uninterested performer. At one point the bullies sells tickets as though Susan is a side show attraction, with one girl writing the bill as – the incredible retard, the amazing dumbo, and finally Kristy’s naive outlook is lifted. After taking Susan over to Claudia’s whose babysitting at the Hobarts, she discusses the incident in front of Susan admitting, when Claudia is chagrin, that she doubts Susan hears anything or rather she is so disconnected that nothing appears to matter to her. She stops pushing the relationship between James Hobart and Susan – doing James a favor who has found a friend (the reformed bully) who better suits his needs. Standing by while someone twirls and flaps and ignores all attempts at conversation – would be difficult for a mother let alone an eight year old boy.
You would think this revelation would scrap Kristy’s mission but no. Hired to help pack Susan’s belongings, Kristy feels like a failure because she still believes, Susan should be at home.  Deciding to confess this to Mr. Felder who finally generates some sympathy for the parents as we learn this hasn’t been an easy or thoughtless decision he eases some of her guilt. I say some sympathy because Kristy or writer, never allows much sympathy for the parents. Just when they seem clear of Kristy’s thundercloud of suspicion another raindrop falls – like Mr. Felder still hoping that one day Susan will play in a concert. Which, contrasted with Kristy’s wondering if her parents ever pinned wish fulfillments on her or her siblings comes across as either normal, or depressingly sacrificial. Despite the beauty of Susan’s music with her inability to communicate she has the awful impression of a mere songbird.      

           Here’s another dilly – baby Hope. Now there is some controversy in the silver-lining that is Baby Hope. For those of you who have forgotten this part, Mr. And Mrs. Felder confide to Kristy that they’re going to have a baby, and are going to call the baby Hope in honor of Susan. Now we could assume this is meant to be our silver-lining for the usually overcast Mr. And Mrs. Felder, that, for their courage , perseverance, and patience they’ve been gifted this baby. However we could also see this gift as a ‘pimple demolished’ – the ‘marred’ child is sent off under the guise of a wonderland – a place where she can play music uninterrupted – while the parents enjoy their ‘whole’ child undisturbed and free of guilt. Though this is a harsh theory it’s almost bellied by Kristy whose beside herself with the thought of a new baby client. Susan has been clearly forgotten. And further reinforced by the fact that we never hear from the Felder’s again.

           There’s a few laws that evolve in a series, laws unto themselves – one for the BSC is that if you never hear from a client again there is usually a reason for it. Number one was that there were creeps or predators for the Mysteries, or had some unsavory conflict with the BSC. Since there is no real ‘conflict’ with the Felder’s one wonders why did we never hear from them again? Was Kristy right? But in following the rule that all clients who are never mentioned again must be creeps, you find if a reader carefully digs it can be canceled out by a basic BSC phenomenon. Since the Secret of Susan is written after the girls have entered the eighth grade – a year which they will stagnate in – Hope can never be born! Mrs. Felder would stay eternally pregnant which is probably why they were never heard from again. Of course this time rule does flex to allow – Jenny Prezziosos to have sister Andrea be born and snap back to keep Mary Anne’s Tigger a kitten. So who knows.
There are a lot of undercurrents in this book that never get resolved. It’s probably Ann M Martin’s most ambitious plot but fails to do the trick mainly because it’s motto ‘certain problems can’t be solved’ bows out to – ‘every cloud has a silver lining’
This slim book seems to be a paradox until you decide to do a little math. From the line up of spines, on any shelf, the first edition of BSC’s the Secret of Susan looks to be the obvious choice for shortest BSC read however the number of pages sets your brain in a whirl – 145 when most books stop short at 132. So lets do the math – I counted an average of seven words on each line and counted up the lines on an average page (no fair starting on Chapter starts or ends) then times them. For BSC book #80 Mallory Pike’s #1 Fan – here’s the results – aprox 7 words per line – 30 lines per page – that’s a 210 word count per page. So for it’s 146 pages that comes to 30, 660 words. (Member this is all just averages!) Let’s compare #32 The Secret of Susan which is only 27 lines per page (rather than 30) it averages about 7 words per line – that’s 196 word count per page. Times that plus their page amount – 145 and you come up with 28, 420.  Now if you subtract the amount between both books and divide by the page number – even though The Secret of Susan appears to be only 1 page shorter than book #80 – word wise it’s probably 15 pages shorter! 18 of which are used up introducing the characters and their jobs within the club!
Ever wonder if this might’ve been a better book had Kristy not been the babysitter? I do – unfortunately I’m not sure who I’d pick. Though Kristy appears not to save the day in this book, I think that’s a fallacy, I believe she is responsible for the miracle of baby Hope. I’ve mentioned before in a review (see Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls review) that each member of the club had certain expectations to fulfill and Kristy was a wish fulfillment character. She’s got the dream house, rich step dad, things go Kristy’s way – she might not have been able to solve the secret of Susan but she placed in the empty Felder’s household the most precious of all the BSC creatures – a new baby.

           Although one can’t really slight a ‘happy ending’ I do find fault with the almost memory game match up’s that take place in this story. When I was eleven the side story made me want to tear out my then super-red hair.  Mallory’s ‘romance’ with another redhead Ben Hobart reminded me of my own classmates always trying to set me up with the other redheaded boy as though we were perfect for each other, yeah, like Raggedy Ann and Andy. Had Ben been a redheaded troublemaker, maybe that would’ve helped but being that he’s an older brother, kind, helpful, supportive he became a total Logan-clone. This embarrassing discovery sabotages any joy one could find in the side story.
Series fiction loves to sum up a new character by slipping on a cliche usually involving a place – a fashionable New Yorker, a healthy Californian, a hillbilly from West Virginny or an accent (which gee whiz implies place) now mind you, it’s easy to immediately curl a girls toes with a sexy accented foreigner think Jude Law. But give me a character with bite! The Hobarts are toothless characters merely capitalizing on the Crocodile Dundee trend something the writer never bothers to hide – but other then their accents &  their shyness they are a bundle of names and cliches. Totally one dimensional. The other cliche of this memory game match-up is to turn the bully into James’ new bf. So far no one is out their pair up. Mallory scores a boyfriend, the Felders have the promise of a new baby, even Susan could be linked to her great love – the music school. And the book does end with an upbeat albiet hokey note when Kristy in her new found empathy for the handicap thinks maybe, someday she’ll become a teacher and work with them which however, sounds a little self-serving because there is no follow up.

       All in all not my favorite BSC book – I found that Dawn and Whitney Friends Forever was easier to swallow whereas Secret of Susan seemed concocted of hit movie ingredients; Rain man and Crocodile Dundee. At least Dawn and Whitney Friends Forever kept everything simple. It too, dealt with a ‘handicap’ client, Whitney who has Downs Syndrome and her parents hire Dawn to impersonate a friend, rather than officially hire her as a sitter in order to spare Whitney’s pride. Clever but simple.
So how did each book fail – as a book in general? A series book? Or under their own terms as a SF or BSC book? I think both failed number 1 – as a book in general when each author failed to plot a story in which the outcome wasn’t already known. It was predictable even by predictability standards! And 3 under their own headings. A good Sleepover Friends book involves – one good pig out – and there are no fantastic food orgies in this episode, and a funny Bullwinkle moment – alas, I don’t even think Bullwinkle makes an appearance – not a grand one anyway. There are also no real great clothing descriptions or Jenny sabotages, in fact everything has been pared down to the paranormal. A complete wash out on it’s own level. To discover Secret of Susan isn’t the best BSC book one must take a different angle – unlike Sleepover Friends The Babysitters club changed viewpoints for each book. *However Sleepover Friends changed it’s format with # 30 Big Sister Stephanie and in a twist from the BSC the title didn’t always imply who was narrating – Big Sister Stephanie was taken from the viewpoint of Kate.*
BSC books therefore must be noted as to how good they are with the character piloting them – for instance it’s perfect that Mallory deals with the twins identity crisis in book #21 because with her seven siblings she knows all about wanting to be your own person! Other plots aren’t as easy to pigeonhole – why give Stacey a haunted house in book #35 , why is the Stoneybrook pageant told from Dawn’s eyes. Other’s however offer their own solutions – Claudia is given the phantom phone calls because at the time, book #2 , it seemed obvious to give her the first official boy-girl date that ends the plot. Secret of Susan seems to fall under this idea helmed by Kristy it’s outcome is assured a magical ending – the punchline appears to be Kristy can’t solve it all – yet – Kristy has an affinity with the author or vice versa in which things, life’s hiccups, are rewarded with big bonus’s – when a beloved dog dies – Kristy gains a friendship and a new puppy.

            Even Kristy’s feelings of failure are erased with the book’s ending that Kristy not only feels competent but enough so that she could possibly grow up to take on a class of Susans’. The book would’ve been better helmed by Dawn who had a good rapport with adults therefore Baby Hope might not have been a necessary twist to bring about a happy ending. I also think that had Dawn discovered an urge to help handicap kids that might’ve given Dawn a whole new direction of side stories – rather than reserve her to the mere stepsister zzzz subplots she was forced to endure.

          Description of how I made the fantasy Sleepover Friends cover will be up the Cliquey Pizza facebook page!

Abracadabra, Bad News Ballet, Best Friends, Camp Sunnyside Friends, Cheerleaders, Couples, Cranberry Cousins, Fabulous Five, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Sleepover Friends, Sorority Girls, Sweet Valley High, Sweet Valley Twins, The Babysitters Club, The Party Line, Zodiac Club

COOKING UP FUN WITH 70’S BETTY CROCKER RECIPE CARDS – COME TO THE PARTY – SVH , BSC , Sleepover Friends and more!

When I was little, I recall my mom having a plastic
container – pumpkin orange or was it avocado green? filled with
Betty Crocker Recipe cards – Not that my mom ever used th
em – I think it was one of those wedding presents that gets put in
the closet of no return. Any way I loved them – the food was often
bizarre the props kitschy – and when I was playing stuffed animals
– a cuddlier version of dolls, I would pretend the cards were meals
at a fancy restaurant and deal my pals a treat. Fishing them out
of storage, I found my favorite section was the colorful children’s
parties and decided for a hoot to match up a recipe with some
of the characters from the 80’s teen series. There’s also
some Mcalls recipe cards mixed in – they were a ripoff off
the Betty Crocker cards.


1. Sparkling Grape Soda’s – Sweet Valley Twins – It’s the
Unicorn’s first boy / girl party and purple is the ‘it’ color and
even Bruce Patman has agreed to grace them with his
magnificent Presence. ( Due to the time bending of SVH
and sister- series SVT, though they appear to be
twelve in 1986, it’s more accurate that they are twelve in 1979 )
– hence Bruce’s psychedelic threads – but don’t feel sorry for him
– he was the dreamiest , grooviest guy there. He even dug Janet’s
– err- Jessica’s – ( she really thought them up but Janet took the
credit ) Sparkling purple sodas. Jessica was so furious with Janet
that she spiked her glorious leader’s soda with prune juice and
Janet was mysteriously indisposed for the rest of the historic
party. Jessica managed to disco the day away with Bruce Patman
who knew all the latest steps to Johnny Bucks newest album –
Feel the Funk!


2. Paintbrush cookies -BSC – At Claudia’s fifth birthday party Kristy ,
Mary Anne and especially Claudia’s mom took notice of Claudia’s
artistic mania when Claudia couldn’t stop from digging out her
tempera paints and painting the guests cookies – Mary Anne
was too polite as usual and forced herself to gobble down three before
getting a severe stomach ache while Kristy used to the garbage
they severed in the cafeteria , ate six of them and even asked
for the recipe. Alan Gray , who, though a creep is somehow
always invited to parties, attempted to get his mother to sue for food
poisoning – the case fell through after he was caught eating
the chicken leg from his Play doh Make- a- meal set. And
Pete Black got his food creations start by dancing his t rex cookie
into his glass of milk which he claimed was the La Brea Tar pits
and he couldn’t fish it out.


3. Whistles in frozen desserts – BSC – Kristy’s anal repulsive,
bossiness shines through when her mother passes out the
party favors at her sixth birthday party – annoyingly harsh
whistles , that mysteriously enough only hers manages to
toot aloud ( Kristy it seems has plugged up the others with the
leftover gooey, chocolate ingredients of the mystery fudge
dish.) Smug smile in place – whistle blasts frequent – Kristy
wields her guests into an endless game of Kristy says but
when Claudia can’t take any more Kristy caves
starting another game – what else but- follow the leader.


4. African safari party cake – BSC –
The cake that almost unhinged Jessi when she first came to
Stoneybrook. Nobody could tell her it wasn’t a racist slur ,
even though the icing spelled out Karen who was dressed
as a lion tamer for her sixth birthday , and the other kids who
were disguised as animals or poachers , even though Jessi showed
up at Kristy’s on the wrong day for her and Mallory’s Welcome
to the Club party and Jessi stiffly informed everyone
she wasn’t African , she had never been to Africa and
she really didn’t appreciate the racist jube-jubes on the cake
before huffily slamming out the front door. Well on a brighter
note none of the kids wanted to eat a racist cake , leaving
the big scrumptious thing for Claudia to devour in one sitting.
( Who happened to be present mainly so that she could rehash
it in future books on the first few description pages – starting
with Jessi can find racism in even a birthday cake! – But
we love her anyway. )

5. Tell me a story – BSC –
Mallory is tired of constantly being thought of as a nerd ,
what is she doing wrong? Didn’t she get her ears pierced, just like
Stacey and Claudia and the big girls? – I mean they’re not triple
pierced but still. Didn’t she manage to pick up some cool items
like push down socks , and really fresh jeans ? ( though she
would love to sue the t.v. executives for constantly putting
nerdy wardrobes on her character – jeepers in one she looked like
Buster Keaton! Totally uncool ) Since she had just caught Claudia
wearing a totally rad pair of chicken barrettes she was positive
Chickens were totally in , same goes with nursey rhymes – last
week on her spying – ahem- what she calls zeroing in on the cool
radar – she caught Stacey buying a mother goose book – okay, Mal
was so dazzled by Stacey’s awesome outfit, which featured jelly shoes
over to die for socks ,with little bitty bunnies munching carrots – it
had to be a sign – she forgot it was probably for the Kid Kits and,
frazzled Mallory, compiled a birthday party swirling with ‘in’ items like
a chicken cake featuring spearmint stick legs and tiny picture books
that doubled as jumbo earrings – the Baby Sitter’s club was rather
unsympathetic – while Stacey and Claudia practically died from the
uncoolness of it , Kristy thought Mallory had lost it – maybe she was
sick and ought to lie down. Dawn freaked out over the sugar
abundance of jellied fruit slices while Alan Gray , Who invited him again?
took flight with a pinwheel the most exciting
event of an otherwise uneventful day.


6. Paper bag party with pink popcorn balls – SVH-
Liz has had it with everyone making fun of her for her brand new
perm! In fact she wishes it would grow out, like in the next few
books, rather than endure this torment – first the insinuations
that she is not daring didn’t she hang-ten? and now this party
with the ridiculous center piece – Liz just knows the pink popcorn
balls are meant to mean her hair, she can see Jessica snickering over
there with Lila and it was after all Jessica’s centerpiece. Well Liz knew
what that bag meant she’d heard it often enough – “can’t you wear
a bag over your head till that grows out , I don’t want anyone to
think we’re related.” And then Jessica saunters over wearing Liz’s brand
new expensive from Bebe’s dress and says oh you can keep the
centerpiece if you want to Liz with a teasing smile. That does it –
Liz takes a firecracker ,from Lila’s elaborate set up in the back yard
( 250 fireworks to celebrate Lila’s A on a test that she’d only
managed cheating via walkie talkie ) and sticks it in the cute
centerpiece bag and lights it up ( but the real event was not
that poor Todd got shot in the butt with the firework and Liz
agonized through two books over whether to tell him, and
when she did, he, fickle boy dated gorgeous, nubile new girl
Gretchen, that nobody ever heard of, and when he came to
his senses and sauntered back to grateful Liz,nobody ever
heard from again, was, what was Liz doing
with a lighter?! )


7. Ho-Ho Chocolate Pudding – Cranberry Cousins – It’s Kathy’s
turn to make a dessert for the new guests at the Cranberry
Inn and she doesn’t really have time – instead of hauling out all
the blenders and cook books she dumps pudding over ho-ho’s voila
, dessert! Of course to keep things running smoothly she sneaks
out her Deena voo-doo doll , just in case , sneaky old Deena wants
to reveal her secret. But Deena seeing the too cute doll sappily
thinks , Kathy has turned over a new leaf – how touching and
creates a Kathy doll for Kathy. As both dolls sit side by side
on their shared dresser a curious incident occurs as the girls sit down
with the guests for dinner. Little Johnny having found the dolls –
first decided to rip their tops off. Which created a strange amount
of screaming from the dining room.


8. Patriotic birthday party -SVH – Rick Anderson’s fifth birthday
turned a little eerie when he pooh-pooh his mother’s plans
of a wimpy Big Bird cake and insisted on real he-man
stuff – like these axes in logs. Elizabeth knew that Rick was
always going to be too much for her , ( politely put, in reality she
thought he was a real poo-poo head ) but Jessica in her
Alice headband was thrilled – axes in cupcakes showed the
first true signs of a demented rebel ( who loved corny
playing with fire metaphors as pickups ) – She just knew
he’d grow up to be a put-out-or-get-out, Trans Am driving ,
hot-stuff , dirt bag. She sighed in true pleasure and flirted
outrageously. Or as outrageously as a five year old could , offering
him a glimpse into her Mary Janes and giggling, look hard! do you
see the frills?


9. Flower Pot Sundaes – Camp Sunnyside Friends – Sarah Fine
is tired of crafts ( she is not crafty ) , and tired of sports
( she’s not sporty ) , ( what she’s doing at camp is an
entirely other story) and she decides to take a stand ,
nobody is going to force her to do any boring crafts like
paint your own sneakers ( couldn’t they come up with
something really exciting like lanyards? ) Instead Sarah raids
her arsenal of snacks, swipes her cabin mates ice cream coupons
and voila makes Flower pot sundaes to dazzle the residents slaving
over puff paint in the Arts n’ crafts cabin – however before she can
unveil her masterpieces she is distracted by a varied plot maneuver
to get her away from her treats ( from helping a limping caterpillar
who may have broken legs ) to changing out of a wet bathing suit
( that she was never in , in the first place ) no matter – the
terrible Maura Kingsley takes advantage to replace the ice cream
with dirt – so that the first gloppy mouthful ensures that Sarah
will never live this humiliation down until of course Katie can plot
a like revenge to the girls from Cabin Nine. Something about fire
breathing hair dryers?


10. Be a clown party & Cupcake Faces – The Fabulous Five –
The Fabulous Five have sent out handmade invitations for their
totally excellent party on the weekend celebrating Wacko’s latest
football win. Yikes! those rats, The Fantastic Four have
done the same thing. What are they going to do? Katie thinks
her recipe will save the day – everyone will want to try my
cupcakes wait till you see them – yes , Melanie says dreamily
they’re too cute. But on the night of the big party Christie is
quick to notice Alexis hasn’t arrived , that traitor Beth growls,
and vows to confront her. But Alexis shows up late and sheepish –
she did go to the Fantastic Four’s party, and tells the girls ,
Laura is serving cupcakes too only hers has ice cream and
little hats , their faces are mean though. With faces! Katie
yelps thinking she’d cornered the market on that idea. Gosh ,
Melanie says, this is serious -why didn’t we think of ice cream? or
hats. Katie says gloomily, noting that could be why
the guest percentage seems to be a little low ( she doesn’t even question
wether her decision to show all her feminist Donahue clips might’ve
swayed the numbers ) Nobody panic Beth barks , we won’t know
till tomorrow whose cupcakes were better. Melanie practically
swoons – she won’t sleep a wink with her social life hanging
in the balance like this!


11. I love a balloon cake – SVH – Todd decides to surprise Liz
with an upcoming anniversary that Liz is scrambling in
dismay to remember – is it the day before they very
nearly kissed? no that was last week, when he brings
out the balloon cake and nuzzles her ear encouragingly
– Liz don’t you remember that day? He says breathlessly ,
that day last Summer edition we took the hot air balloon
ride ( cause you took those hot air balloon lessons and
won that competition ) and we were making ou- kissing
and you said my Karate perfume was driving you wild and
you wore that sweater with the buttons down your back –
then, well ,you know – I still got your bra. Liz suddenly did
know and went stiff – whoever Todd was
with it wasn’t her!


12. Peanut Butter Cake – Peanut Butter & Jelly – Peanut has
had it with Peanut and Jilly this and Peanut and Jilly that – this
year the cake is hers and hers alone. It’s rather lonely though
and that monkey is kind of a downer.


13. Spooks and goblins party – Bad News Ballet – In honor
of the Girls upcoming Dracula themed Halloween concert, Hi-Lo
has decided to produce some very special cupcakes with a few
of his secret ingredients – Forgoing the recipes advice to use
gumdrops for the black cats on top of the cupcakes, besides he
doesn’t have gumdrops in his Pizza & Chines Food store,
he improvises with anchovies & black olives which isn’t
half as bad as the cake part which included both mozzarella
and pumpkin guts. After a couple of bites the girls decide
that maybe cutesy hangouts with inept cooks are
best left to the movies, besides has Hi-lo lost it? Are we expected
to pay for this? The girls head post hast to the nearest
McDonalds!


14. Slumber Party – Sleepover Friends –
It’s Stephanie’s fourth grade party natch, and she has just
developed her love for red black and white much to her
parents relief – Such a coordinated child! Her extensive
wardrobe is so interchangeable – think of all those 80’s
twits who buy shoes with magenta trim that matches only
one outfit. Mr. Green pats his wallet think of the money we’ll
save ( forgetting that Stephanie can find a major haul of red ,
black & white things ) Although there was a momentary
snag on what cake to give a color- challenged girl –
bunnies?- no way so babyish! And then it hit the Sleepover
Friends, who came to Mrs. Green’s ( who was culinary
backward anyway ) rescue – a Panda bear cake that was
just too darling and to combat the black and white icing –
all red decorations -The party was a total hit! ( Although
Jenny tried to sabotage the fun by altering the Panda bears
eyes so that it was always admiring her and Stephanie
had her suspicions that Jenny had also smuggled in the
offensive yellow gum drop) No matter, Lauren reassured
Stephanie that she was the hostest with the mostest in her
to die for black denim outfit with red sneaks. Too , true
Steph agreed – Sleepover Friends Forever.


15. North Pole Party – SVH – Bruce Patman is stunned
and momentarily touched by a sudden surprise party. It’s not
his birthday so what’s the occasion? The hallowed Sweet
Valley High gym is festooned with ice bergs , faux snow ,
fierce polar bears and an igloo cake. Starting to feel this
was a long time coming , he swaggers around his guests ,
scoffing the presence of Winston , Lois , and other lowlies
with a – this is for friends only sneer- his swagger loses
some panache however as he begins to get woozy. Is it
just him or does this punch taste an awful lot like the bang-up
mixture he softened easy Annie up with? It does – the mighty
Patman has been slipped a mickey by all his ‘friends’ and shipped
off to the north pole where Santa backlogged by his naughty
or nice list ( it’s hush hush but one of the reindeers
ate it – Donner but he’s pointing the antler at Rudolph ) has
finally discovered Bruce has been long over due a punishment.
On Christmas day – Winston receives in his stocking, a gnome
whose pleading eyes look suspiciously like Bruce’s and there,
on the bottom – the truth – 1BRUCE1.


16. Rag doll Tea Party – SVH –
Enid’s mother was a little pushy , a little distracted , hostile
even during the divorce – Enid had to be perfect – Mommy’s
little Angel. And for her upcoming birthday, Mother, once
again planned the festivities – Enid was horrified – did her mother
want her to be a nerd forever? – no jeans , no records , no
balloons. Her hair was curled to perfection, anchored by
barrettes that not only dangled oodles of streamers but
annoying plastic little teddy-weddy bears that kept slapping
her cheek. The sentence was carried out in yards of lace and
spit shined Mary Janes – a formal tea with rag doll salad to
eat. Only Enid’s mother was on the phone shouting at her
husband all morning that he was definitely not getting their
brand new Monte Carlo , and had messed up the recipe –
instead of a head made of a marshmallow their were raisin’s
stuck in a hard cooked egg! To Enid it’s a hazy memory
pushed into the recesses of her mind by the descent into
drugs and a wild crowd the following month – but she still
gets a faint chill at the sight of a hard cooked egg staring
blindly at her waiting for the insertion of eyes.


17. Have a ball glove cake – The Party Line –
The Party Line’s first attempt at obnoxious jerk Casey Wyatt’s
party cake before writer Carrie Austen stepped in and altered
reality, for a happy go lucky ending. Burning up that he lost ,
yes in reality the brat lost the baseball game to the lowly girls ,
a wicked grin curls across his lips when the girls smirkily approach
with his glove cat and baseball cupcakes. It really is too tempting
and suddenly the Party Line is diving under the picnic table as
the cupcake baseballs flew through the air. The sight of licorice
stitching dripping down Allie’s face was a major humiliation ( right
in front of Dylan Matthews – who in this version was present. ) The
girls solemnly agreed never to use the recipe again ( especially for
beastly boys ) or do parties for kids their own age – but that
of course didn’t, I repeat didn’t, happen because in book Four,
Rosie has roped them into doing Jennifer’s party.


18. Animal Friends birthday party – Best Friends –
Before Dawn Selby rallied herself a group of Best Friends her
parties consisted of her and her many stuffed toys – their was
Winky , and Snuffles , and Snowball and Phazz , and Pookie ,
and Funshine and Toodles and Barkley and MiMi and well,
actually, Funshine was not invited that year because she
spoiled the fun by actually eating her own slice of cake!
( How she managed that is a mystery Dawn keeps entirely
to herself. She also keeps Funshine under lock and key )


19. Princess Party – SVH –
– Mrs. Wakefield trucked out this princess party cake for her
precious princesses every year – each year two cakes –
that was until Jessica didn’t like sharing the title of Princess
and Mrs. Wakefield walked in to find that Elizabeth had been
crowned with her cake. Unfortunately Mrs. Wakefield found
the sight of toddler Liz wearing her cake too adorable and
snapped a picture that won Elizabeth the title of cutest baby ,
a ride on the Santa Claus float in the upcoming Winter Carnival
and a cash prize, that scored Liz a brand new winking Fisher
Price doll. Jessica was furious and ever since has tried to
upstage Liz every chance she could get ,
only to have each and every plan mysteriously foiled.


20. Train party – Couples – Before the couples actually became Couples
the crafty girls of Kennedy Middle school were a step ahead
of their would-be suitors and before any kissing games were
played at a birthday party , every boy had to have a slice
of train cake which was cleverly adorned with certs wheels
for fresh breath!


21. Pirate Party – Sorority Girls – buried treasure cake – Never
mind the Scott wording on the cake that was a boo boo but the
Pearls sorority are already behind schedule and they’ve left the
whole thing up to diabolical Paula Parker who has decided to
make the new pledges earn their exquisite peal bracelet by
diving face-first into the buried treasure cake – only one bracelet
and four pledges! Watch the icing fly!


22. Lolligog party – SVH – Winston’s party went unnoticed -again –
the kids might think it’s okay for him to tag along at school
and provide laughs at their parties but pu-leaze go to his house
fer-get it. His mother had high hopes and bags of lollipops but
Winston bounces back by incorporating a humourous revenge.
Taking the lollipops, Winston uses them for his upcoming social
studies project in which he has grafted them together to show
the ever evolving diagram of Jessica’s love life – complete with
goofy pictures of each victim icinged on , yes that does kinda
look like Aaron Dallas! Jessica is humiliated – the sucker model
is huge! Even easy Annie can gaily wave past her with a suckers-
to-be-you cry of slut!


23. Far away places – Charisma Inc.-
The girls at Charisma Inc were covertly shown their next
assignment via this globe cake with strategically placed flags
and exploding wooden dolls hiding topnotch information, until
of course the flag is wrongly placed by an fussily artistic baker
and Kelly Ryan finds herself trying to romance the goods out of
one lucky Eskimo!


24. Age of Aquarius cake – The Zodiac Club who can’t get
enough of what sign are you ordered up this cake to go with
their swinging seventies party. However the harmony abruptly
ends when ,ahem, Scorpio demands a slice of cake larger than
her symbol and thus begins yet another boring discussion on
their symbolic traits ( how like an , ahem, Scorpio ) until new
member , ahem, Saggitarius cried out I can’t stand it – I’m in
on false impressions I am not , ahem, Sagittarius! leaving the
other girls speechless and the needle to atmosphericaly
scratch over their precious Fifth Dimension record until
they, mulling it over, tried to decided which sign would
encompass such a liar.


25. Adventures in Space -Abracadabra – Dawn’s spell
casting has gotten out of control! During a dull home economics
class , where her and Jennifer’s attempt at pretzels becomes
a class joke , Jennifer abandons the tasks and forms her pretzels
into the shapes of mischievous Martians with a sly joke of
teaching the others a lesson but a hiccup from Dawn
inadvertently brings them to life! The one with the
jellybean antenna has become the groups nonofficial
leader Zyme ( who elected him?! ) and has taken over
home ec. which is fine with the students who are
missing a math quiz. While Zyme is trying to get his
jelly jiggler craft to fly , Mrs. Simone the home ec.
Teacher raises a coo to reclaim her kitchen.


26. Rodeo Roundup – The Girls of Canby Hall – The cooks
at Canby Hall in particular Miss MacGregor whose hairnet
has always been latched a little too tight, have had it with
all the complaints. Miss MacGregor is especially furious with
the trio in room 407 – what makes them so special? Drinking
their Tab soda and their three boyfriends ( well of course that
seems just average – but it’s three more than Miss MacGregor
ever had in high school – back when she was know as
Hurl-me-Gertie ) Cackling to herself she plots a diabolical scheme
pouring pancake batter onto a hot skillet, she forms a letter,
the letter K and as she stacks up four pancakes high on each
plate the dire messages are sent out in the form of a stack
of steaming flapjacks – K-I-L-L. Of which , goes completely
unnoticed by Faith , Shelley and Dana who devour every
bite and say – Good , for a change.


27. Arty Party – Sleepover Friends – For Patti’s upcoming
birthday party the girls have come to a standstill – with
Stephanie begging for a too cool black and white cake –
perhaps like my panda bear? and Kate not too kindly
reminding her it’s Patti’s birthday – Lauren saves the day
by solving both problems – a cake scientific- minded Patti
would love and it’s all red , black and white – An adorable
Ladybug – remember that day in the life of report she did
of a ladybug? Unfortunately Stephanie was showing them
the latest dance moves from the Hot Tamales while baking
the awesome cake , and some of the ingredients got
mixed up with the art project they were working on that
included painted rocks and everyone looks to the brave
Kate to take the first bite. Think of it as a dare Stephanie
says , Kate holds her nose – I’m going to get you for
this Stephanie.


28. Circus Jelly bean Cake – Babysitter’s club – The evidence
of how Dawn became a sugar-hater. Stacey needed an injection
just looking at it.


29. Corndogs & Crunchy Peanut Butter Balls – Cheerleaders –
From Misunderstandings – #12 3/4 Mary Ellen & Olivia are not
speaking to the boys – Pres and Walt, ever since that disastrous
party when they asked them to take care of the refreshments.
Pres doesn’t know what that priss Mary Ellen’s problem is, the
party was a smashing success – sort of. Now both he and Walt
are bewildered as too why, the girls suddenly want them off the
team. Pres is being hissed at in class, by strange girls with
murderous looks in their eye – sex maniac they say –
well , well , well – not the worst thing that could happen
to his reputation. How did it all start? The party. Did he even
talk to Mary Ellen at the party? oh yes, he offered her one
of his corn dogs ( pushing she later called it describing the
horrible incident to Ardith – in a definite, lewd manor ) , and Walt
who had talked about his speciality, so much, in school
…something about – peanut butter balls… in the back of
his truck – some of the girls never even showed up –
Can the boys clear up this misunderstanding in time
for the big game?

30. Button Cookies – SVH – Things were getting psychadelic
at the SVH party last Friday, especially when everyone
grabbed for the button cookies. Winston , ever the clown,
showed Jessica his Hot Stuff cookie and waggled his eye
brows hopefully. Jessica’s look was as frosty as her icing
reading out – Cool It. She was waiting for the hunky new
exchange student , who didn’t speak a word of English ,
to flash her his Do you dig it? Cookie ( For which she would
lunge for Lila’s Go For it Cookie ) however Bruce in the
way got the now questionable message resulting in a
fist fight and Bruce’s I’m Super ( he altered the script )
cookie was trampled underfoot. Into this melee cookie
messages were thrust into the air – Groovy from Todd
( who noted Bruce was getting his pampered butt
kicked ) , Hot Dog from Ken , Smile from Liz who
was sympathetic to Jessica’s plight and Sucker from
Enid ( not pictured ) who was not.