Like many kids of the 90s, my first favorite series of books was Ann M. Martin’s The Babysitter’s Club. For my 6th birthday, a friend gave me three books from the companion series, Babysitter’s Little Sister, about Kristy’s younger stepsister Karen. At first look, I didn’t think I would enjoy the series but I was soon reading them religiously before bed. I loved the Little Sister books and decided to try the original series. The Babysitter’s Club #1: Kristy’s Great Idea, the first book of the series, introduces the characters and shows the creation of the eponymous Babysitter’s Club.
Eventually I became obsessed and amassed a decent portion of the series, including an awesome book of letters, lists, and postcards the sitters sent to each other. You could open up the envelopes and take out the notes and it was FREAKIN COOL. I also had some of the special edition books, which had themes like mysteries, trips, or focused on just one Babysitter.
I haven’t read these books since early middle school and have forgotten most of what happened. I remember I LOVED Stacy because she was from the city and I was having a post-Home Alone II love affair with New York City, I was jealous of Claudia because she could eat anything she wanted without gaining weight, admired Dawn’s eco-friendliness, felt distant from tomboy Kristy, and…I don’t remember the rest. I really hope there are super-dated references to 80s/90s life.
Childhood Rating: 5 out of 5 scrunchies
I’m honestly surprised at how much I enjoyed reading this book again. I thought it would be too boring and cheesy. Some of it was a little cheesy, but most children’s books are. This was cheesy in all the right ways.
Kristy Thomas gets the idea to start the Babysitter’s Club when she sees her little brother David Michael feeling like a nuisance because their mom can’t find him a sitter. Kristy recruits her best friend, Mary Ann, and her neighbor, Claudia, to join the club with her. Claudia asks if her new friend, Stacey, can join as well. The girls meet and plan their advertising strategy (fliers), make a logo, and elect each other into positions (Kristy is President, Claudia is Vice President, Mary Ann is Secretary, and Stacey is Treasurer). After their first few jobs, the girls decide to keep a log of their experiences with different clients so they have background knowledge of their clients in the future and can avoid unpleasant experiences, like when Kristy winds up dog-sitting two rowdy St. Bernards.
The girls each have their personal issues to deal with as well. Kristy’s parents are divorced and her mom is dating a man named Watson. Kristy rarely sees her dad because he lives in California and she lives in Connecticut. Kristy is hesitant to warm up to Watson and doesn’t care to get to know his two young children. Claudia is an artistic soul with little interest in school. She feels like her parents might think less of her because her sister is a genius and Claudia can’t match her sister’s book smarts. Mary Ann lives with a strict single father because her mom died of cancer when Mary Ann was a baby. Mary Ann is painfully shy and gets emotional easily, and has trouble sticking up for herself. Stacey recently moved to Stoneybrook from New York City and is really cool and fashionable, but gets weird every time Claudia offers the girls some of the candy she has stashed around her room. The girls work through these issues with the help of their friends and the club.
This book is such a great read for young girls, even today. Some of the book is outdated, like the girls having meetings in Claudia’s room because she’s the only one with a phone in her room. The fashion is gloriously 80s (a “baggy yellow- and black-checked shirt”, a “pink sweat shirt with sequins and a large purple parrot on the front”, and a “skirt made of gray sweat shirt material with big yellow number tens all over it” are considered the height of fashion). However, seeing girls with goals and entrepreneurship is inspiring. The way the girls develop their business, problem-solve, and take leadership roles without an adult telling them to do any of this is motivating. Kristy and Mary Ann aren’t obsessed with boys, and although Stacey and Claudia are described as boy-crazy, they only mention boys once or twice throughout the book. Crushes and boys are not their main priority. They deal with having their first blowout fight as a club and realizing how important their friendships are. These messages are important for girls at any age, and that message transcends the few dated references in the book. I almost wish I had a daughter to pass this book on to. I might even continue to Reread the series, I mean…
Adulthood Rating: 5 out of 5 telephone cord bracelets