In October, Quirk Books is releasing Paperback Crush by Gabrielle Moss – a celebration of the teenage books we all loved in the 1980s and 1990s. It is nostalgia at its best and I cannot wait. To celebrate the release of the book, I am attempting to reread some of these books. I will try to get to a book a week, if I can. Recently, my son had to have hip surgery. I took a little break from the blog for a bit. But I am back, bitches!
For my teenage reread this week: Kristy’s Great Idea. This is the first book in the amazing The Babysitters Club series, written by Ann. M Martin (well, the first 35 books were at least). Besides Sweet Valley High (reviewed several weeks ago), I do not think that there is another series of books as beloved at The Babysitters Club (or BSC). Spanning over 100 books, and numerous Super Specials and Mystery books, the series explored the lives of (eventually) seven teenage babysitters – all with unique personalities and styles.
When I was 11 or 12, this was THE series that every girl was reading. We all had the babysitter that we connected with the most. Mine was Stacy McGill. The ultra cool new girl from New York City, she had style and was also smart and not afraid to stand up for herself and her friends. She was nice – but not too nice (that would be Mary Ann) – and assertive, but not too assertive (that was Kristy). Stacy was best friends with Claudia, the Vice President of the BSC because she was the one with the phone in her room.
Each book in the series is told from the point of view of one of the babysitters – there were originally five: Kristy (president), Claudia (Vice President), Mary Ann (secretary), Stacy (treasurer), and Dawn (alternate officer). Eventually, the series would expand to include two younger members: Mallory and Jessie. However, by that time the series was no longer written by Martin and had lost a lot of its magic. I kept reading to the very end, but the club would always be those original five girls.
The first book in the series, Kristy’s Great Idea, is told from the perspective of Kristy Thomas. We meet Kristy on the hottest day of school, just as the bell is about to ring. Kristy speaks her mind about being excited that school is over, and ends up with a homework assignment to write an essay on the meaning of the word “decorum.” There are a lot of instances in the series where the girls are confronted with explicit vocabulary lessons, and the theme of decorum seems to plague Kristy for the majority of the book.
One night at dinner, Kristy watches as her mom frantically calls around for a babysitter. A lightbulb pops in Kristy’s head, and the basic idea for the club begins to take shape. From a business standpoint, the idea is a genius one: parents can make one phone call during certain times in the week and reach four (eventually five when Dawn moves to town from California) experienced babysitters.
The series works because in the town of Stoneybrooke, CT there is an amazing need for babysitters. The club is always busy, and the parents seem to have robust social lives. I noticed in the first book, that most of the sitting jobs were to allow the parent (usually the mom) a couple hours to run errands. Umm, they couldn’t just take their kids with them? I remember going to the grocery store with my mom all the time when I was growing up. I mean, it is awesome to go grocery shopping without a whining five year old in tow but I also enjoy saving $10 – $20.
Kristy’s Great Idea is not just a book about a babysitters club and the kids they sit for. It is about that – but there is also a lot of drama that happens in the scant 128 pages of the book.
Drama #1: The major drama of the book is that Kristy’s mom is dating a rich guy named Watson. We know Watson sucks because Kristy describes him as old and bald – which sounds simply awful *eye roll*. He also sucks because he is super nice to Kristy and her brothers, and really sweet to her mom. He definitely comes off as a total loser. Kristy spends most of the book being rude to Watson and refusing to watch his two kids. Her friend Mary Anne ends up watching them and tells Kristy that the kids are actually really adorable and awesome. Kristy remains skeptical.
The drama is resolved after Watson’s ex-wife breaks her arm and Watson has to take her to the emergency room (what a total jerk!) – forcing Kristy to be the only one available to watch his kids. The kids turn out to be adorable and Kristy finds herself really enjoying watching them. She apologizes to Watson. Watson and Kristy’s mom reveal that they are engaged to be married.
Drama #2: Kristy’s first job with the club is to watch some twins named Buffy and Muffy (I think, I don’t remember the names only that they are obviously the names of dogs). The twins turn out to be dogs that terrorize the neighborhood. Kristy has an awful time baby-sitting the “twins” and after the job ends makes a rule that there will be no more petsitting jobs in the BSC.
Drama #3: Mary Anne lives with her dad (her mom died) and her dad is super strict. The babysitters club wants to pool their money and have a celebratory pizza party. Mary Anne is not allowed to go because her dad doesn’t want her to blow $6 on pizza and sugary drinks. Mary Anne works out a savings plan with her dad, and is allowed to attend the pizza party/slumber party at Kristy’s house.
Drama #4: The new girl in town, Stacy, becomes the original 4th member of the BSC. Only she has a dark secret that she can’t reveal. Kristy ends up catching her in a big lie and confronts her – thinking that Stacy has anorexia. Stacy gets upset and reveals that she has diabetes. Kristy shrugs that off like its no big deal – and they all become friends again.
Its amazing to me that Martin is able to pack all that in to just 128 pages of pure awesome.
The second book in the series is a little more noir.