One of the most beloved book series of the late '80s and '90s was by far The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin. Kristy's Great Idea was the first in a long line of books that turned so many of us into life-long readers. It was the beginning of a childhood full of reading about the girls who made babysitting into a business — in middle school. I devoured these books when I was growing up, but I don't think I realized just how young the BSC gang was throughout the series.
But if I was oblivious to their ages, I definitely didn't pick up on just how serious some of the books were. Sure, they had their silly moments: fights with friends, boyfriend drama, and threats to — GASP — leave the club! But many of the books actually tackled some pretty serious issues, and taught us important life lessons along the way. (And not just how to be an amazing entrepreneur at age 13!) From dealing with long-term illnesses, to coping with loss and racism, Ann M. Martin wasn't just giving us our first favorite book series, but preparing us for the future.
If you were like me and missed some of the more serious moments in all of the babysitting drama, here are six of the most intense issues we encountered throughout The Baby-Sitters Club.
1. Loss: Claudia and the Sad Goodbye & Kristy and the Snobs
Claudia loses her beloved grandmother in Claudia and the Sad Good-bye, which was one of the saddest books in the series. Her grandmother was the one person who seemed to understand Claudia's outgoing, quirky personality, and she feels incredibly alone after the loss.
The title gave us no warning of the heartbreak to come. Kristy and the Snobs, no big deal, she stands up to some girls who are rude to her, right? Wrong! What the cover subtly hints at is the loss of Kristy's beloved collie, Louie. You might notice in the rest of the series Kristy wears a hat with a collie on it, in his memory. I'm not crying, you are!
2. Illness: The Truth About Stacey & Jessi's Wish
In The Truth About Stacey, we learned that Stacey was dealing with diabetes, and she attempts to hide it from her friends in the BSC. It turns out, when she lived in New York, she was teased about it, so it became a touchy subject for her. I mean, I know kids can be pretty brutal, but making fun of someone for an actual sickness? Way harsh, Tai. Stacey is hospitalized a few times over the years because of it, something that always brought the typically light-hearted books right back to reality.
Jessi joins a group called Kids Can Do Anything, where she meets a 9-year old named Danielle. She's full of personality and great to be around, but she has cancer. Jessi does everything in her power to make Danielle's two wishes come true. Jessi' Wish had a lot of serious stuff going on, which a lot of us might not have picked up on back in the day. Jessi's hopes for Danielle were pretty huge and incredible, considering she was only in middle school herself.
3. Racism: Keep Out, Claudia!
A new family doesn't want Claudia to babysit for them because she's Asian. I mean, Claudia was one of the best characters of the series: she did and wore what she wanted, and didn't care what anyone thought. She's great with kids! But alas, the Lowell family wants nothing to do with Claudia, and tell the other members that. When Jessi shows up in Claudia's place, she, too is turned away. This is pretty heavy stuff for a middle grade novel.
4. Eating Disorders: Jessi and the Awful Secret
Jessi dealt with more than most of the other baby-sitters combined, if you ask me. In Jessi and the Awful Secret, she realizes that one of the young girls in her dance class might have an eating disorder and isn't sure what to do with her newfound secret. Should she tell? Talk to the girl on her own? This one was full of body positivity, and at a young age, girls definitely needed it.
5. Stalking: Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls
Claudia starts receiving mysterious phone calls while babysitting, and she worries they're malicious. It ended up being a guy who liked her and was too nervous to say anything, but seriously, this was super creepy, especially because Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls was published in 1986, long before your iPhone could tell you exactly who called and when.
6. Catastrophe: The Fire at Mary Anne's House
One of the major details abut Mary Anne and her family was that she lived in an old farmhouse. This detail was mentioned in the majority of the books, so it was especially shocking and sad (especially for kids) to learn that Mary Anne's infamous farm house had been destroyed in a major fire.