You had them. I had them. We all had them. Ann M. Martin's Baby-sitters Club books were a staple for girls growing up in the late-'80s and '90s. With 131 regular novels and multiple spinoffs (including super specials and mysteries, which we all read, too), the series kept us coming back throughout our childhood. We didn't care that most of the books were ghostwritten. We loved following Mary Anne, Kristy, Claudia, Stacey, and their friends as they navigated the world of middle school, gossip, first kisses, and babysitting challenges. And of course, even though they fought sometimes, their friendship with each other always got them through the hard times. *nostalgic sigh*
Looking back on the series, I'm full of fuzzy feelings... and, OK, a little bit of confusion. By now I know that most babysitting jobs involve watching TV while the kids are asleep, and also that handing out fliers doesn't really generate any business (or it didn't for 14-year-old me, at least). The more I think about my beloved childhood books, the less I know for sure.
Why won't Mary Anne's strict, single-parent dad let her take her braids out? Why is The Truth About Stacey such an ominous title? (The truth about Stacey is that she has juvenile diabetes.) Who lets her 13-year-old daughter babysit for strangers? And for that matter, who lets a 13-year-old stranger babysit their kids? Here are some other moments in BSC history that will make you wonder just what's going on in Stoneybrook:
The Time When They Gave All Moms the Day Off
For Mother's Day, Kristy decides the BSC should give the moms of Stoneybrook a day off from taking care of their children. So they're going to babysit the kids ALL AT ONCE. Everyone else thinks this is a great idea. Guess they don't want to spend the day with their own moms. (Sorry, Mary Anne.) They send out invitations and 21 kids sign up, so the sitters divide them into groups and make color-coded necklaces for them. They're going to take them all to a carnival. What 13-year-old wants to do this? When I was 13 I wanted to listen to Fall Out Boy alone in my room and read Gossip Girl.
The BSC was weirdly organized and prepared for regular babysitting jobs, too. Remember how they used to bring Kid Kits full of coloring books and games to their charges' houses? And they used to make the kids clean up before moving to a new activity? (I tried that once and the kid cried. I had to clean up by myself.)
The Time When the BSC Got Preemptive Revenge
New girl Tess gets asked out by a guy called King (ugh). Stacey thinks it's a joke and tells Tess, who agrees because King never called her when was in the hospital earlier in the novel. Ouch. So Tess and King get to the restaurant, where Claudia dumps ketchup on him and Stacey wipes it off with a paint-soaked rag. Then Tess sprays him in the face with whipped cream and they take a picture. If he doesn't leave them all alone, they'll publish it in the school newspaper, because Claudia says she writes for it now. Um, what? Claudia can't spell. This whole thing is dumb, but King agrees, so I guess the BSC wins this one.
The Time When Stacey Met Kristy's Older Brother
As narrated by Kristy:
“Hel-lo,” said Sam. He put his books and glove on the table, leaned against the counter, and crossed his legs, running his fingers through his hair. I’ve seen him do that. He thinks it makes him look cool and casual.
Ah, the joys of 15-year-old boys flirting. But wait, it gets even better!
According to Sam, Stacey was a foxy chick. According to Stacey, Sam was a gorgeous hunk.
The '80s were clearly a better time for compliments.
The Time When Dawn Had No School Spirit
So, Stoneybrook Middle School has an entire month of mandatory school spirit activities (makes Crazy Hat Day at work not seem so bad), which includes fun things like wearing your pajamas to school and school clean up day! Dawn doesn't really care about spirit month — she wears yellow socks for color day but doesn't have anything else yellow, which I think is totally fair. But she gets interviewed by the local news and they make her out to be a total hater, so she starts a petition to ban spirit month.
The pro-spirit kids are PISSED. Someone writes "Go back to California" on her locker. Is this what it's like to go to a school that has spirit? Parents, students, and administrators all join the debate, and it is heated. Apparently you're a bad parent if your kid doesn't want to wear their PJs to school. Eventually spirit month is made optional... the way it should have been from the start.
The Time When Logan and Mary Anne Broke Up
Logan's been a little douchey and controlling lately and Mary Anne sooooo not having it. For example, he takes her out to a restaurant and orders for her. Ick. What is this, 1840? She tells him they should slow things down a little but not break up. Logan calls the BSC and requests Mary Anne to babysit his siblings on Valentine's Day, but when she shows up to the house he's wearing a tux and has dinner for two set up. And he gives her a bracelet with a bunch of linked hearts. Why does Logan have a tux? He's 13. I hope he rented it, 'cause he's gonna grow out of that thing in a year. Mary Anne ends up breaking up with him anyway. Yikes.
Anyway, this is all just pretty intense for a middle school relationship. Seriously, where did he get that tux?
The Time When Logan Joined a Gang
The tagline to Logan Bruno, Boy Baby-sitter reads, "Is Logan too cool for baby-sitting?" Evidently yes. After tripping and falling during a track meet, Logan feels the need to reaffirm his masculinity by joining the "Badd Boyz"... of Stoneybrook Middle School. I know. They mostly just smoke cigarettes and commit petty theft, so I guess they're not really a gang. They're like a mini-gang. Oh, and they all wear matching black jackets with their names stitched on the back, custom-made by the gang leader's mom. The Badd Boyz are disbanded when Logan goes to the police about their shoplifting, and everything returns to normal.
The Time When Claudia Wore Anything Ever
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Claudia Kishi, iconic fashion figure of my childhood:
That afternoon, for instance, I was wearing a man's paisley vest I'd found at a yard sale, over a striped button-down shirt with tuxedo-stripe black Spandex stirrup pants, held up with pink-flecked black suspenders. My hair was pulled straight back with a paisley comb, and I was wearing electric-pink ankle boots.
There's so much going on here and it's giving me a headache. At least she's consistent with her paisley.
The Time When Dawn Convinced Mary Anne the Room was Haunted
Brand new besties-turned-stepsisters Mary Anne and Dawn are having some difficulty sharing a room. Dawn likes to study with music, Mary Anne doesn't. Dawn's room is also just too small for both of them and all their stuff. Having a roommate sucks, so Dawn convinces Mary Anne that the room is haunted. Mary Anne freaks out and moves into the guest room, which is actually a way better arrangement for both of them. Yeah, I know — there was another room this whole time! No offense, but who needs a guest room anyway? I can't believe nobody suggested that in the first place.
The Time When Mallory and Ben Got Thrown Out of the Library
Is it faster to search by for a book author or by subject? I don't care, but apparently Mallory and Ben do and it's hilarious. The two are at the library on a study date and they get into a huge argument over it by the card catalog... which really just shows how old these books are. Anyway, they end up getting kicked out of the library because neither one will shut up about the best way to find a book. Incredible. (Also, search by author for fiction and by subject for nonfiction. Duh.)
The Time When Mary Anne Got a Makeover
...and her friends hated it. OK, so maybe the makeover isn't that outrageous, but it does cause a fight between her and the rest of the club. She cuts her hair short and everyone WILL NOT SHUT UP about how it "doesn't suit her," even though the rest of the world seems to think differently. Rumor has it that some high school boys are even thinking about inviting her to the winter dance. Eventually Mary Anne apologizes for ignoring the BSC even though she was only ignoring them because they were being assholes, and they apologize for being bitter and pressed. All good.
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