Wednesday, June 8, 2011

All About the Sleepover Squad Series

The Sleepover Squad series is a set of seven titles for new chapter book readers. It began publication in 2007 and finished in 2008. The same series was published in the UK as both The Pyjama Gang and The Sleepover Gang. (Though my understanding is that Americanisms were left in, causing some possible confusion.)

The books focus on four diverse second-grade girls:

  • Emily is smart, sensitive and shy. She is an only child, and her gardener mother and high school teacher father are somewhat overprotective parents.
  • Taylor comes from a wealthy family, and her household has hired help. She is a fearless, impatient, and outspoken kid.
  • Kara is African-American and comes from a family filled with rambunctious (and obnoxious) boys.
  • Jo speaks Spanish as well as English, and her calm, logical approach often helps the squad get through tough situations.

Though the books are told in the third person, each one sticks mainly with the point of view of one girl.

These are the three that I've read:
  • #1 Sleeping Over (2007), focuses on Emily's point of view as she tries to convince her parents that she is old enough for slumber parties.
  • #2 Camping Out (2007), deals with Taylor's insect phobia, which makes her hesitant about camping out in a tent.
  • #3 Trouble with Brothers (2007), sees Kara dealing with her four brothers'
    plans to sabotage the sleepover she plans to host at her house.
There are four others:
  • #4 Keeping Secrets (2008) is about Jo's spelling bee victory and her concerns that her friends are keeping things from her.
  • #5 Pony Party (2008) is about Emily's pony-themed sleepover featuring a real live pony.
  • #6 The New Girl (2008) introduces Jo's cousin Ceci into the group, and questions whether the Sleepover Squad has room for one more member.
  • #7 Girls vs. Boys (2009) seems to be unavailable at this time, and I wasn't able to locate the physical book or a summary. I'm honestly not sure whether it was even published.
These books are very gentle, tame reads that reflect day to day life for many average second grade girls. The girls' personalities are different enough from one another that any girl reading the books will find something to relate to, and though the parents are present in each story, it is the Squad itself that comes together to help one another with any problems that arise.

The series reminds me a little bit of the Baby-sitters Club Little Sister books from my own childhood, as well as the newer Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew series (minus the mystery elements.) The writing is probably on par with something like Rainbow Magic  - that is, formulaic, predictable, and at times, just plain boring - but the notion of a sleepover club has definite appeal to the target age group, and the black and white illustrations by Julia Denos really stand out in their depictions of each girl's exact appearance and personality. Each book also includes slumber party activity suggestions - most of them are pretty easy to come up with on your own, but it's still a nice added feature.

Overall, I think these books are okay, but not great. There are other chapter book series for this age group that I like better - A to Z MysteriesIvy & BeanClementineJudy MoodyHorrible Harry, even Magic Treehouse - but girls who have run out of things to read will probably enjoy these, even if the quality of writing is only so-so. I'm not saying little girls should skip them altogether, but I think it's safe to say your young chapter book reader's not missing anything important if she hasn't discovered them yet.

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