Monday, December 15, 2008

Shimmering , Glimmering - FIFTH GRADE STARS!

Fifth Grade Stars is a fun little series about feuding clubs , friendship , contrasting households , blended up with loads of competition. Though Fifth Grade Stars was published by Bullseye ( Knopf ) in 1989 , it has the feeling of being an appetizer to Sleepover Friends published from 1987 - 1991. It’s a short series - 6 books long , 2 of which are written by Susan Saunders who also wrote the Sleepover Friends books. The books feature five girls who become fast friends , feeling like misfits for living in the suburbs, compared to the estates of the snobby , rich girls in their class who have formed an exclusive club called the Clovers. They dub their club the Stars , after their bus route ( Sugar Tree Acre Route ) which draws the most ridicule , for being on the edge of town on what used to be farmland. There is no main character , each of the stories shift to show you the behind the scenes look at their home life , though the view point is always omnipresent. Jan Bateman is the average girl who feels overlooked in a household where her brother is a star athlete , and loves to cook attempting in book #5 to make meringues , Amy Danner is the fashion risk taker whose favorite color is Day-glo orange. Karen Fisher is the organizer and book worm of the group , enthusiastically spouting off about sci-fi plots. Last but not least are the identical twins , outspoken Beth who adores animals and Sara who writes everything down in a notebook ala Harriet the Spy while plotting a romance novel that never gets off the ground. They spend most of their time reminding us how different they are from each other. The Clovers are your typical series villains with one hilarious twist - to be a Clover you had to have a side ponytail! That was their signature. ( I wonder if someone working on 13 going on 30 had read one of these books?) The head Clover was rich , blonde , blue eyed , dimpled Holly Hudnut. ( can you believe that name? It sounds like your trying to hoark a lugie. , i.e. spit ) every class has a Holly Hudnut - the annoying smart , kiss-up who can do no wrong in the teachers eyes. Her cohorts are Brenda Wallace , horse crazy and horsey looking with a sassy mouth , and smart-ass comebacks. Mary Rose Gallagher is the athlete , whose immaculate look and mannerisms were once the envy of Jan. Roxanne Sachs , the one Clover who sneaks wearing make-up to school every day and Sue Pinson - small and mousey she only got in cause she’s cousin’s with Brenda. There are a few boy characters , Pete McBride short but handsome with spiky blonde hair and a rebellious nature , Matthew Ellis tall and gangly saved from being a nerd by collecting and knowing all about golden oldies , and collecting ‘45's? Say what? I don’t think this would’ve stopped any boy in my class from being a nerd , I think the girls just decided he was less nerdy than say Cliff Hargrove who , though was handsome also knew it. The stories revolved around face-offs between the two clubs , the stars trying to achieve some level of status the Clovers , already had or were striving for themselves.
One of the most interesting points for me was this was one of the only series that included girls , twins as main characters who were not blonde haired and blue eyed , they were redheads with freckles. Redheads were rare in any series , be it teen or preteen fiction. Katie from the Fabulous Five comes immediately to mind and even Melanie was said to have reddish brown hair but other than those two I’m drawing a blank. Mallory? From the Babysitters club but she was added in later. I sometimes think nobody picks redheads on purpose because redheads are more stereotyped than blondes. For instance a redhead either had a fiery disposition to match her hair - Katie , and ( for those who read other teen fiction besides series -The Secret diary of Katie Dinkerhoff by Linda Perl ) , or they’re shy and bookish - Mallory. ( this is not just book stereotype it’s also movie stereotype! ) Both of the twins in the Fifth Grade Stars series rather than live up to those two stereotypes meld after the other popular 80's redheads of spunky and solemn.

Bring on the redheads!
The 80's were chock full of spunky redheads and though blondes were often number one ( Michelle Pfeffier , Ellen Barkin , Daryl Hannah , Kelly McGillis ) there was a moment that flaming , florid tresses were all the rage. Sparked perhaps by the beautiful confident Molly Ringwald , whose cherry red locks and freckles were a bold , fresh stand out among the numerous , platinum blonde starlets only to be reignited in 1990 by Julia Roberts unobtainable mane. In the Pick Up Artist Robert Downey Jr. compares Molly to a work of art - Did anyone ever tell you that you have the face of a Botticelli and the body of a Degas? She had numerous imitators and even a few predecessors. Others in the decade made a definite pro redhead stamp! Megan Follows and Melissa Gilbert became famous playing period piece redheads. Bringing the beloved characters of , Anne of Green Gables , and Laura Ingalls from the Little House books to life with scintillating charm. Though their hair was often in braids and wearing repeat pinafores and high button boots , they were called Half-pint and Carrots and felt as plain as the calico they wore , Laura envied her sisters blonde haired , blue eyed beauty and Anne , her friend’s Gibson girl features it was both girls who were more memorable and snagged the most dashing mates. Movie stars like Kerri Green who created a mild sensation as the beautiful teenage cheerleader in both The Goonies and Lucas and as the nubile daughter of John Candy in Summer Rental who asks her in dismay , upon viewing her ruffly bikini and braided side ponytail - Who’re you Lolita? And then as the troubled daughter of an abusive politician in Three for The Road , she chews ice in a posh restaurant and shows the boys how to eat their pasta with their toes. Aileen Quinn was all boisterous cheer in Annie with a ball of red hair that sat on her head like the top of a lollipop as she belted out the upbeat Tomorrow. Fanny Lauzier is a little known french Canadian actress who starred in two, Rock Demers productions , both characters exuding an effervescent charm that gave her a fairy-tale aura - In Bye Bye Red Riding hood , she bewitched a love struck wolf and in Tadpole and the Whale , she talked to a winsome dolphin named Elvar. Lea Thompson wavered between brown and red hair , much like her look alike Mare Winningham , in Some Kind of Wonderful she was the school princess whose popularity hinged on dating sly , skunk Hardy. And on t.v. in the late 80's two teen knockouts on top rated sitcoms made the color red desirable , Khystyne Haye on Head of the Class had a streaming mane of crinkly, gorgeous red hair while on Just the Ten of Us , curvy Jamie Lerner was a ditzy redhead with freckles and a cute giggle who managed to snare every boy with a simple , promising Hi-yee! , Jenny Lewis had a flash in the pan career as a freewheeling preteen , sweet and popular in Troop Beverly Hills she’s torn between her flashy mom and practical father during their turbulent divorce , while in The Wizard she plays a plucky independent young girl named Hayley who forges a financial partnership with Fred Savage and his brother a wizard at Nintendo games. Robyn Lively whose hair also fluctuated between red and brown went to extremes in Wildcats by dying it a punk- florescent red , and in Teen Witch her frizzy locks and spiky bangs are transformed by a spell into the perfect (i.e. impossible - because nobody could accomplish this perm without careful curling every day! ) perm.
Some even went red for a moment - Melanie Griffith, at first poster glance could be mistaken for the title’s model - Cherry 2000 but she plays a rough hewn tracker in a distant future competing for a man whose off to find a replacement love-bot. Eventually he comes to find Melanie’s red head is a darn sight better than any flaky , empty headed robot’s.
Oh! And let’s not forget! A couple of faux stars of the 80's both red heads the beautiful Cheryl Blossom from the Archie comics who seems a perfect foil for Veronica being richer and nastier bragging that she not only paints her car to match her nails but also will cut up a mink coat for carpeting. The other scarlet princess of celluloid is Kimber from Jem and The Holograms , the younger sister of Jem/ Jerrica and like Daphne in Scooby Doo always seems to be in need of rescuing.

Fifth Grade Stars - a little about the artwork. I don’t think Bullseye did much other than Fifth Grade Stars - maybe younger fiction but I don’t have them listed in any of the hundreds of series I picked out. The series logo graphic is fair but a little obscure what is that box supposed to be? A stomped on diamond? The side view of a pencil? It doesn’t compete well against Sleepover Friends plumped up pillow , or Fabulous Five’s coiled notebook , or even the simplicity of the Taffy Books with their over sized cover art and plain author band. The first cover art is done by Vince Natale , and the rest ( of my copies at least ) are done by Susan Tang. Though the first cover is pretty good the expressions of agony on the Stars listening to Holly sing is well done with one of the twins in back hiding her face and cringing with disbelief. But the front part of Amy? Jan? Karen’s? Cotton pants look so baggy you’d think she was wearing diapers! Though I love Holly’s tiered white skirt and turned up collar on her pink top. I found one of these vintage tiered skirts , black lace it was fabulous! Susan Tang does a bit of a better job book number 2 has the girls hammering in a yard sale sign with two cute dogs on a leash , one dog has a bit of torn paper in his mouth from the book just under his feet - this cover however looks posed - all three girls are smiling out at the reader as if they were having their picture taken. Fashion wise - Beth’s outfit is super bizarre & super cool! A pink and orange striped sweater vest with a thick cinched part at the bottom. ( I remember these it was sort of like a sack dress you could push it up and kind of poof out your sweater though thinking back now I’m not really sure why looking like a balloon was in!) Orange leggings , pink and orange layered slouch socks. Mismatched pink and orange high tops. Two long necklaces one dangling a gold heart the other an enormous red star. Embarrassing to admit but I too , did what Jan did - check out Jan’s jeans - she’s tucked them into her slouch socks , yes I admit it , this was actually a style! It was horrible , your ankles looked like they had the mumps and you panicked whenever your jean cuffs had escaped quickly cramming them back in until your slouch socks had no more staying power , what’s left of their elastic was shot and they’d slither off your feet at the most impractical moment - running to spike a volley ball and by the end of the game your socks were jammed in one tiny section of empty shoe space in front of your big toe! #4 - Barrettes and big bangs and extra long t shirts! #5 My favorite cover. I’m assuming the one in the turquoise is the infamous Amy with the wild wardrobe - That whale-spout ponytail! That took some finesse to accomplish first if you’re hair wasn’t layered it didn’t work , which is why whenever you see this style in older 80's movies it’s usually with someone who has a perm. Amy’s outfit is way cool - printed turquoise top over black turtleneck , blue pedal pushers cuffed , ankle socks and squiggle earrings. I’m not quite sure of the other characters in the picture are - from the look of despair clasping her cheeks pre-Home Alone style - I’ll take a stab that it’s Karen , get a load of that sweater - Black with sleeves that from half way down the arms turn into black and white stripes! I think Sara , one of the twins, is the one with her hand on her hip - her finger is too long it looks like she’s holding a carrot! Check it out. What gets me most about these covers is they didn’t even try to do anything eye catching why didn’t they stick their series logo in a big bright star - who knows , a jazzier cover might have made the series last longer the stories were just as interesting as any of the books that hung on past six books.

FIFTH GRADE STARS #1 - The Holly Hudnut Admiration Society.
Jan Bateman who loves to cook and lives under the shadow of her allstar older brother hopes upon hope that at her new at school , which she takes the Sugar Tree Acre’s Route school bus to, that she’ll make some friends. She meets the redheaded twins Beth and Sara Greenfield and Amy Danner whose first outfit - A day-glo orange t-shirt with a turquoise blouse over it , a short black skirt , turquoise socks , black hightops and a plastic earring shaped like a banana dangling from one ear - is enough to make Jan question wether or not she wants this possibly color blind girl as her new friend. Not five minutes into her school Jan finds herself at odds over a reserved seat for the all important Holly Hudnut - leader of the Clovers a rich clique of girls who all wear their hair in side ponytails- Ever wear one of these? Now mind you I’m not sure I like the side ponytail slur these books tend to give , I always thought it looked stylish for a while , wearing them was another issue , it made you not only feel lopsided but as if the invisible man was trying to yank your head to one side. I could only last long enough to make an entrance than pull it out. - Jan feels miserable that she’d already made enemies of all the most popular kids. But she earns some points with the boys who call Holly - Holly Hitler. One funny spot is when their nervous art teacher tells them to draw a picture that reveals something about themselves - Jan decides to draw a food dish?! Chef Hubert’s shrimp and rice casserole?! but the girls think it looks like a dish full of fingers. Amy on the other hand has a very cool art concept called LIPSTICKS IN SPACE! Like a lipstick advertisement which doesn’t sit well with Mrs. Crossley.( Great name for a cross teacher - like Mrs. Crabapple!) Though Jan admires Amy’s bizarreness she can’t help but ask the obvious - Aren’t you worried what the others will think of you? To which Amy answers ‘Why should I care what some girl who wears plaid skirts and penny loafers think.’ - Right on! I always despised that whole preppy look I tried it once cause one of my friends got into it and she always looked super neat , my hair would never stay untangled for two seconds - I’m not sure what I thought wearing preppy clothes would do to my hair but I though maybe my hair could I don’t know be tricked into cooperating once it seen me in my skirt and blouse and
penny loafers maybe it would just calm down with defeat and say we’re not going to be having any fun around her , she looks studious. I lasted about one week in my penny loafers before chucking them to the back of my closet. Isn’t it awful what you do to fit in - I mean I loathed the look of them , they looked like men’s funeral shoes and yet girls were supposed to clump around in them and then supposedly smart girls , these were the ones wearing this junk, decided to leave off wearing socks with them , dumb! Because of course you bought them wearing socks so they never quite fit right and they not only gave you all sorts of blisters they made your feet sweat eventually making your shoes smell! And those awful pennies! What was worse then asinine atrocity , other penny-loafer wearing clones and even the non-penny-loafer-wearing clones ( of the jelly shoe & flip flop club - of which I am a proud long standing member ) shook their head cause they thought their was nothing sadder than a dull penny stuck in your slot. I made a quick recovery back to jellies which by the way some say are no better than penny loafers , they made your feet sweat , they gave blisters and would break two days after you bought them - I didn’t care you got to wear socks with them great , kooky socks! - Where was I oh yes - Jan then gets a note tossed onto her desk that isn’t meant for her - why is it no matter who hates who we’re supposed to deliver notes in school like we’re suddenly some sort of neutral zone? The note mentions a party and for one glorious second Jan assumes she’s been invited only to realize she’s to pass it on. Major embarrassing. After gathering to talk about it with her new found ( hesitant to be ) friends , Jan marvels at Karen’s beige colored house , and matching dog called Oatmeal , while Amy steams at the thought of not being invited , ‘Who does she think she is , Little Miss Preppy?’Though they decide to start their own club Jan is reluctant to make a commitment. One of the name suggestions is get this - The Fabulous Five - think the girls are fans of the Taffy Sinclair books? As their meeting gets sidetracked they mention a rock star called King Zero which I couldn’t help but think was a subtle Prince slam , and can’t come up with a reason for their club they do what most clubs do and cut-up Holly and the rest of the Clovers. The side story begins to unravel at the twins house were identical redheads Beth and Sara live with younger siblings Amanda & Jeffery , dogs - Skippy & Emmaline , guinea pigs - Arthur & Guinevere , an old toothless cat named Clementine , a turtle named Herkie who spends most of his time hogging the tub , and two goldfish Martha and George. Beth is the animal lover , Sara is more content to jot down things in a notebook - namely a story she’s been having more fun saying she’s writing than actually writing ( happens to a lot of writers ) it’s about Tiffany Vandermere and reformed pirate Sean MacNeill. ( I tried this in school once managing to complete two whole pages about a torrid love scene between a busty red head , I can’t remember her name and a hunk whose name I can never forget Sebastian - I always thought Sebastian was the most dashing name in the world. ) , Sara with her Harriet the Spy- like notebook it’s not a wonder that she doesn’t start imagining the next door neighbor with the bad toupee is some sort of vampire , especially when he carries groceries into his garage and she spots a coffin. Faster then you can say Ala Peanut Butter Sandwiches - sorry - flashback from Sesame Street - It’s later discovered by her sister who reads her notes that he’s a magician. One of the neat parts of the story is how when Jan after making an impression on the athletic Mary Rose , she manages to wrangle an invite to Holly coveted birthday party and though her friends are upset that she’s going , they don’t turn it into an ultimatum - drag out the old - if-you-were-my-friend-you-wouldn’t-go , dust off the moth balls and throw in a - it’s-either-us-or-them instead they have to admit they all would like to go and probably would if they’d been invited. But Jan realizes that not only is the party a snooze , the boys are uncooperative , but that her real friends aren’t there or are they? The magician shows up with a disguised Beth as his assistant , who met Beth when she snuck into his garage to release his rabbits back into the wild! Who does that? The highlight of the party was when Holly’s present from Pete , a big fat snail gets loose - 'Jan noticed that Pete’s snail had escaped and was happily forging a highway through the pink and white icing atop the remains of the cake. It was in snail heaven.’ I love that line forging a highway! The book ends with a talent show in which Beth is a hit , showing off some of the tricks the magician showed her while Holly sings a song that inadvertently makes her sound totally arrogant. Good guys win , villainess is made a fool , all's right in preteen fiction.

FIFTH GRADE STARS #2 - Rent-a-Star
While the girls complain about fish again in the cafeteria - I’ll have to write something about cafeteria it fascinates me - was it really that awful? There was no cafeteria in any of my grade schools everyone either walked home for lunch which for a lot of grades I did , or brought a lunch , we get an update on what Amy’s got on and in her purse today. First off everyone knows what’s in Amy’s purse cause it’s a see-thru plastic pocketbook! Does anyone out there know the difference between a purse and a pocketbook - I’m assuming they’re one and the same the only difference being that the person who calls it a pocketbook is only slightly older than the
one who calls it a purse but still younger than one calling it a handbag. Sometimes I think though , that pocketbook could be exactly the right term for an 80's purse cause those flat color
coordinated things looked like giant envelopes on thing little straps. This is the contents of Amy’s purse /pocket book ‘ , change , a purple styling brush , a pin that said BUMMER , a pink flamingo hair clip like the one already in her brown curls , and a key chain with I ( heart ) chocolate stamped on it.’ This is what Amy is wearing a cartoon printed jumpsuit with the cuffs rolled up to the tops of her AllStar Converse. Groan! Name brand! This is the one name brand that really bugged me in the 80's , while others can moan about not getting Chic jeans or not
having Jordache or Levis’ AllStar Coverse hightops were one of those trends that brought out the ugly in well just about everyone. They were nice shoes , I loved the colors - banana yellow , bright green ( in one book it was described as poison green ) , turquoise , hot pink , red , orange , but they were so expensive - for a canvas shoe. And like most trends the kids had to bump it up a notch - okay you were cool if you had a pair but if you had two and three pairs and wore them mismatched you were considered awesome. Awesome? Over a pair of shoes. One of the low moments of childhood is actually trying to scramble to measure up under this fascist mentality. I didn’t beg for a pair of converse , I just liked the color and brand name meant nothing to me ( or so I thought ) so I bought a pair of rip off’s called Panthers , they were essentially the same shoe
except for the little black silhouette of the panther on the side and the same hot pink color. Whew! Those panthers might as well have been bullseyes , kids I didn’t even know would come up to me just to sneer Panthers what are those? (Well , duh , they’re these animals see- ) , can’t you afford Converse , no I should’ve replied and neither can you , your mommy and dadums bought them. Ugh! There was nothing quite as annoying in grade school as a kid acting like he was rich! Something like that usually sent me on some panicky spiral wondering if I should ditch them and just return to ordinary sneakers but no , I liked them and used them till they wore out. They were my favorite sneakers - even if they were rip-offs. - Back to Fifth Grade - the girls are eating in the cafeteria Beth brought peanut butter and jelly on rye?! And as they overhear Holly telling her cohorts that her mother allowed them to turn the room over the garage into a clubhouse , the Stars start fuming that they should have a clubhouse. Amy compares Holly to something out of Leave it to Beaver with her preppy ensemble , pleated plaid skirt , fuzzy sweater , penny loafers. Amy still can’t believe she isn’t popular at this school since her club the go-go’s! ( I can’t get too worked up over that for a while some girls in my class started a would-you-believe a Unicorn club! ) ruled the school. Amy is famous for her mismatched high tops ( I forgive you ) , personally designed glitter t-shirts and necklaces spray painted gold - this must have been in a magazine some where cause Beth does the very same thing in the Fabulous Five - mall madness. During chorus Pete the resident troublemaker passes out lyrics to the Beastie boys , fight for your right to party! Beats what was mandatory - we are the world?! Holly despises both Pete and his friend Matthew and calls them Rocky and Bullwinkle ( Mattthew’s ears do stick out.) But it’s Matthew who tells the Stars of a cabin near their suburb that might make a good club house , but his slight compliment to Amy that she would be handy fixing it up rubs her the wrong way and Amy has it out for him the rest of the book declaring that if a boy who thinks the one eyed one horn flying purple people eater song is the best ever written he has no taste. This said before she can even get a clue that he’s crushing on her. The hundred year old cabin turns out to be a great little building and the girls decide to put up flyers - Rent-a-Star offering to do odd jobs to pay to fix it up. ( Anyone out there ever do that? Put up flyers with friends offering to do odd jobs - I did , twice , my friends got called to house clean and haul beach rocks to a garden and then in grade six we tried it again unfortunately we included our names on the add - now my friends and I didn’t have the plain Jane Mary names in a list they look pretty seductive like an escort list and it must have got some fella’s mouth watering because my mom who didn’t know we’d put up the flyer came up to me all amused saying you got a job. I was pretty excited until my mom , rather grim faced went on he requested me and my friend ( a pause , you put your names on the flyer? ) to clean his apartment and he said he would pick us up in his red corvette( say what how does that even enter the conversation - what an operator! ) - and that afterwards he would take us out for drinks , my mother than informed him we were eleven years old , he fumed all those imaginary plans spoiled , I of course was begging mom why not , why couldn’t we clean his apartment and ride in his red corvette , he hung up and that ended our short business venture. I was quite sulky , so was my best friend , we reasoned he could’ve taken us out for Pepsi! ) As the Stars are putting up their flyers they run into Holly at the library who is going to help out at the book fair , sounding like such a sainted giver that Amy blurts out that they’re there to sign up for the book fair too , say what?! Her friends do a double take since it’s news to them. Then regaining their fighting stance they brag that they’ve got their own clubhouse with a fireplace , Holly agog recovers to deliver this last zinger eyeing their flyers - Do you do bathrooms? ( only if you’re the toilet brush. Well of course they didn’t say that. But I couldn’t resist. ) Their first job is cleaning the attic , Kowabunga! Beth cries when she sees all the junk , of a bristly old woman named Mrs. Ross ( why is it in stories bristly old women always turn out to be kindhearted underneath their grumpy crust , I knew several crotchety old woman who underneath had onion layers of grumpiness. ) the junk is to be thrown out so Mrs. Ross can get rid of the mice , but Beth decides to do it safely bringing a safe mouse trap to school to bring to Mrs. Ross’s , spotting it , Holly manages a clever jibe - trying to get new members for your club? Matthew tells them not to throw out the stuff they have a gold mine sell it , the girls ask Mrs. Ross if it’s okay , she says yes. Jan’s hunky Uncle Robert comes to access the repairs to the clubhouse and offer to fix it up for them. At the garage sale the girls make over three hundred dollars managing to just juggle it and the book fair , baking brownies only to discover the land on which their clubhouse is sitting is being surveyed. All that ends well - you just know the girls will get to keep the clubhouse and it’s not a shocker when you come find out it belongs to Mrs. Ross who was going to sell it but decided after meeting the girls to donate the land as a park after the girls finish using it. Oh - one laugh out loud scene is when Matthew buys a moth eaten moose head at the yard sale and the next day in school , Holly is screaming take that down! Take that down , the Stars look up and see that Matthew has put the moose head high above the chalkboard. And the moose is wearing a blonde wig in a side ponytail!

FIFTH GRADE STARS #3 - Crazy Campout ( don't have yet )

FIFTH GRADE STARS #4 - Twin Trouble
Sara is going through an identity crisis when both twins are forced to abandoned their room to accommodate an upcoming baby and move into the den downstairs. Beth assures her mother it’s okay looking on the bright side they’ll have the entire downstairs to themselves thought Sara clutches her stuffed unicorn and wishes her twin wouldn’t speak for her as if they were one person. Amy’s wildest outfit yet - An orange jumpsuit made out of parachute cloth , and her hair was tied up with five neon green pipe cleaners - Claudia Kishi eat your heart out! A Sesquicentennial is coming up that will include the grade schools which includes among a fair , a boat competition that the girls want to enter. The school librarian informs them they will have to write an essay on What River Grove means to me and the student with the best paper will be made honorary mayor of the Sesquicentennial - to which the boys promptly offer what they would do if they were mayor , Anyone with a side ponytail goes straight to jail! I like their attitude! Holly gets her revenge as only a teacher’s pet can - wait till Teach , isn’t looking trip the boy and get him sent to the principals office for creating a disturbance - ‘Holly could commit the perfect crime - the girls say , ‘no adult would ever believe she’d done it.’ Then as the girls are working on their raft , Mrs. Hudnut phones but Beth thinks it’s a prank and quickly replies ‘Sure it is , Matthew you Turkey!’ of course after that Beth can barely get her composure back after realizing it is Mrs. Hudnut asking out of desperation for the twins to replace another set who’ve come down with chicken pox , for her pageant. Beth agrees for both her and Sara thinking of the trophy they’ll win , ( the Sesquicentennial quickly turns into a competition of how many trophies they can win away from the Clovers ) , but Sara is furious , she doesn’t want to be on stage and Beth’s dismissal of her feelings is the last straw. Sara gets up in the middle of the night and dyes her hair pitch black! Only a rinse but the side effects of being forced to wash it out turn her hair slightly green - ( how does this always happen with redheads in movie's or books - my hair was red and I dyed my at least five different shades - black , brown , light brown , blonde , blondissima , sun-in and nothing ever happened like that - in fact nothing ever happened my hair up until I turned twenty was absolutely immune to dye , it was like trying to dye copper wire!) - Which at least gets her out of the pageant. Without the help of any adults their raft sinks to the bottom of the river , but not before dunking - Amy , Jan and Beth into the water right in front of the Clover’s of course. Holly cracks ‘I’ll bet I can guess your theme 20,000 leagues under the sea'. Since it’s too late to build a new raft they take one look at the boys raft and manage to finagle riding with them. Knowing they need a theme they decide to use Holly’s idea of 20,000 leagues under the sea knowing it will infuriate Holly if they win with her idea. Beth with her still green hair is transformed into a mermaid and the girls make fun pirate clothes by cutting the edges of their jeans and wearing striped tops. Part of the fun of the boat tour is launching water balloons at the other boaters. Though the book doesn’t say - it’s impossible to stack water balloons on top of each other without them breaking they have to be sitting in a water cooler or some sort of tub filled with water to keep them intact. - Beth’s mother has her baby - baby Jessica and Sara wins the composition competition to represent the school. And while the girls stop to watch a pie eating contest ( how to Lauren Hunter from Sleepover Friends miss out on one of these ) , Jeffery the five year old wanders off with the baby carriage and enters Jessica in a beautiful baby contest under the name of G.I. Joe! And wins! As for the girls they have fun launching water balloons at the Clovers whose raft’s prissy theme is bicycle built for five! I often wondered sometimes knowing girls like this if they weren’t influenced more by the adults around them they by their own creative power - In the story the raft is being designed for them which sort of gives away to the too-cuteness of it. Of course the Clover’s have a trick up their sleeve they don’t have water balloon they have a water cannon. But in typical Susan Saunders fashion the girls don’t exactly win but they don’t exactly loose either.

FIFTH GRADE STARS #5 - Star Reporter
When the teacher asks them to do a group project that represents cooperation , the girls are stumped by this but Amy in her hot pink rain slicker does a cartwheel having come up with a winning idea - A newspaper. Though the others think it’s a good idea Karen is reluctant , she’s been through this before and doesn’t want to get stuck doing the work for everyone or being called bossy when she wants to keep on schedule.( Anyone remember this component to school group projects? - unfortunately while I can sympathize with Karen I know at the same time I was one of the shirkers , always trying to cut corners , and especially falling off topic - which the girls do - They start talking about Brenda the horse lover whose wardrobe includes: horseshoe earrings , a belt with a brass horsehead buckle , and pony patterned socks. Even the girls say her plaid skirt looked like a horse blanket. ( I do remember the 80's being pony / horse crazy - not just with the pastel-tattooed My Little Ponies , but with those flocked plastic model horses every serious horse lover had sitting on their desk! Horse books , ) As they agree not to make the paper about cutting up the Clover’s ( Awww! ) they decide it’ll be about serious stories.( Zzzzz! ) Karen goes over to the twins house early in the morning to walk them to the bus , loving the chaos of their busy household. When she comes in , Beth calls from the shower asking Karen to bring her , her robe while Herkie the turtle is nearby swimming in a saucer. Karen catches Beth accidently washing her hair with dog shampoo who laughs about it , Karen says you’re outrageous. ( Of course anyone who has a pet can sympathize with this On the field trip to the t.v. station they meet a makeup lady who volunteers to do someone’s face Roxanne who is ‘makeup mad’ vaults into the chair , among the highlights of the trip are Holly yanking the microphone away from the host and singing the theme song of a cheesy fake t.v. show that one of the guests star on , causing fellow guest a monkey to clasps his hands over his ears! Holly fumes ‘did you see that monkey - he acted just like an - an animal!’ After Karen meets poised reporter Stacey Chandler she decides that she would like to be a reporter causing all sorts of problems when she suspects their teacher Mr. Carson is dating Stacey Chandler after a rumor and coincidences pile up. When Mr. Carson asks them to tell them their thoughts about the show the monkey is brought up and one boys says his cousin Linda had a monkey that got into her makeup and put on gobs of purple eyeshadow causing Matthew to turn and look at Roxanne also wearing gobs of purple eyeshadow - looks like that monkey was smart enough to be a Clover. Other scenes include the Clovers project which is being cheerleaders for the soccer team. The girls bored with waiting their turn at the word processor decide to help Amy make meringues?! ( who at 11 years old ever attempts anything gourmet? Me and my friends were lucky if box mix cake batter made it into the oven! ) Amy chases her friends with egg yolks getting silly - now that I can relate to! - Karen is stuck typing out the articles while her friends ‘punk out on her’ for Invasion of the Body snatchers. Karen adds some ‘funny things’ to the paper such as Beth using dog shampoo and Jan admitting she hates football ( her father is a coach and her brother a star player! That’s the type of info that good really make things uncomfortable at home.) Mr. Carson talks to her and gently tells her she followed rumors that he and Stacey graduated together and are on the same reunion committee. Stacey calls to tell her , she sort of feels responsible for not telling her how a good reporter should act. They are invited on the show - causing the girls to forgive Karen fast , Beth brings two of her pets Herkie and the mouse Harold who runs up Brian Jones’s sleeve. Beth gives Harold to Karen - who calls him Snowball knowing it’s a pet her mother won’t mind. The end - is That’s why we’re stars , stars till the end. Though Susan Saunders didn't write this book it reminds me of the Sleepover Friends motto - Sleepover Friends Forever!

I don’t have books #3 & #6 to rate though they look & sound interesting - #3 -Crazy Campout is fairly obvious ( I love Camp books! Though I think this one is merely a camp out not a going to camp book - I would’ve loved A Sleepover Friends Super Edition on a Camp theme story maybe even a crossover book would've been fun if you can even do that in series fiction - Sleepover Friends go to Camp Sunnyside!) #6 - The Goofy Gamble - I’m not sure what it’s about but the girls are seen on the cover struggling in a tug of war so I'm just guessing it's probably some town picnic or something.

This series was one part Fabulous Five - two opposing clubs constantly clashing ( in fact in book 1 they consider the name Fabulous Five for their club ) , and two parts Sleepover Friends with which it bore several similarities - see for yourself.
- River Grove - Riverhurst
- A Sesquicentennial - a Bicentennial
- twins Beth & Sara Greenfield - twins Emma & Jeremy Green ( babies ) main character is Stephanie Green
- Side Ponytails ( the clovers ) - side ponytails appear twice ( the polka dots music group which the girls Lip sync , and a make over by Christy )
- Eliminated by chicken pox #4 - # 29 - Kate The Boss ( Ginger comes down with the dreaded pox )
- humiliated by water - #4 - #6 - Kate’s Campout ( The creepy Norwood boys strike! )
- Pete McBride - the old McBride house & Pete Stone
- Helping boys out in a competition allowing them the prize #4- #27 - Where’s Patti
- Mother’s have babies before important events #4 - # 17 - Patti Get’s Even
- Comparing babies to wrinkled up monkey’s #2- #18 - Stephanie and the
- same sly wit - when they spot Holly without her side ponytail Amy mutters , ‘And I always thought that rubber band was holding her head on.’ & Ginger glancing at the Sleepover Friends
‘Now we know bowling is way uncool.’
‘Only if your way bad’ Lauren mumbled loud enough for her to hear.
- The main prize escapes them #4 -#20 - Lauren in the Middle. ( Karla gets the beautiful denim jacket.)
- Jan’s older brother is a basketball star - Lauren’s brother plays basketball
- Holly calls Pete & Matthew - Rocky & Bullwinkle - Lauren’s dog is called
Bullwinkle & her cat , Rocky
- Olsen’s store - Michelle Olsen
- Karen has a lamp that beams the constellation onto her ceiling -#26 - The New Kate - Bitsy has a makeshift lamp that beams the constellation on the ceiling.
- Karen a sci-fi freak often brings up plots as weird parallels to situations - Kate does the same
thing occasionally with movie plots.
- A hunky Uncle Robert ( both with moustaches) - a hunky Uncle Nick
- Karen cleans Jan’s brother’s room for $ - the girls clean Roger’s room for $
- A weenie roast in a fire place #2 - #6 - Kate’s Campout
- Holly is petite and pretty with an occasionally annoying voice - Jenny is petite and pretty with
An annoying voice

If you're feeling nostalgic for the fifth grade sneak read these books , only a hundred and so odd pages , breezy fun , and can be found if your diligent on Ebay , or especially Abe.

The real Bruce Patman

The real Bruce Patman
For more 'real' Sweet valley comparisons click here it'll take you to Cliquey Pizza 2

The Real Lila

The Real Lila
Same soft , dreamy look!