The Baby-Sitters Club. I spent many and many an hour and coin on these books when I was young. Even when I was seeking more adult fare (NO, not like that). In our tiny elementary school, we traded these books back and forth like kids of an earlier generation traded baseball cards.
I started wondering if these books are totally ridiculous now from my early-thirties standpoint, so I thought I would take a look, and of course, share with you, reader. Let’s go!
Kristy’s Great Idea is the very first in the original series. Published in 1986, they printed a new edition in 2010. Instead of featuring the girls on the cover, like they used to, this cover is a spiral notebook and a pencil. LAME. I suppose the original cover was too dated to reprint today; I do recall some of the awful clothing descriptions, especially from Claudia’s and Stacey’s closets.
Chapter 1. Kristy narrates the first one for us and tells us that the Baby-Sitters Club was totally her idea. Yes, no one else ever thought of an agency to watch kids before you; let us all bow down before the great Kristy Thomas.
Kristy is in seventh grade, which makes her . . . thirteen? I’m not sure that’s really old enough for that type of responsibility. I was fairly level-headed at that age, and I still only watched my brother, who is four years my junior, for very brief intervals at that time. Anyway. Kristy tells us that it’s very hot in her social studies class, so her teacher let them take ten minutes to make paper fans. I don’t remember if any teacher ever gave us a break like that when I was in seventh grade, but it certainly wouldn’t fly now!
So, Kristy is bored, and when is class is over, cheers too loudly and gets in trouble with her teacher. The teacher tells her that she needs to learn about decorum, the meaning of which Kristy has no idea; oh well, she better learn because now she has to write a hundred words about it!!
Kristy meets MaryAnne outside the classroom; MA is biting her nails. Kristy asks her about nail polish, and I thought Kristy was a tomboy? So why would she care? Anyway, I think it’s just a vehicle to let MA reply so that we get Kristy in VoiceOver mode telling us that MA’s father is super-strict. MA is not allowed to wear her hair down, only in braids, which makes me think of pedophiles.
Then Kristy runs home to watch her younger brother, David Michael. He’s crying because he is locked out of the house and he has to use the bathroom. So, Kristy saves the day by unlocking the door and making lemonade from a mix; she tells us she’s good with children. How about you microwave some hot dogs, too?
Kristy is so popular, she had to turn down a paying gig so she could watch her brother. Mrs. Newton didn’t call MA, either, so maybe she called Claudia, who is also Kristy’s neighbor (how convenient). Kristy VOs that Claudia doesn’t spend as much time with them as Kristy and MA do with each other, because she likes art, and mystery stories, and stuff. So Kristy feels she’s been drifting apart from the rest of them. Because now she’s into BOYS. Icky.
MA and Kristy have a flashlight code they use after nine pm to talk to each other, because, of course, MA is not allowed on the phone. I don’t remember if this flashlight code was ever fully explained. Is it like Morse code? Or letter tracing? Or what?
So, then Kristy’s mom brings home a pizza, which apparently, she only does when she wants something. She needs one of the kids to watch David Michael, but they are all busy, and so is pretty much everyone else. Which leads to . . . Kristy’s Great Idea. Which is that, pizza is tasty. The end. No, I wish. Her idea is SO great that she almost chokes on her pizza. Whoa, there, whipsmart, it’s not THAT fabulous.
Chapter 2. Kristy writes her essay on decorum, but has to look up words like “etiquette” and such first before she understands that the thrust of the teacher’s comment was that she had been rude. She only has ninety-eight words, so she adds “The End” to make a hundred. Heh.
Next she starts writing down her ideas for the baby-sitting club. She is impatient that she can’t call MaryAnne, because her father would just say she (Kristy) could talk to her at school tomorrow. Which, actually, is true. It’s not like you can do anything about your idea at nine pm, anyway . . .
Then Kristy’s mom comes in. Kristy VOs that her mom tries to spend a little time with each of the Thomas kids each day, because she feels guilty that she is a single mom. Kristy’s dad ran off to California and never contacts them, and it is here that I learn that Kristy just turned twelve last month. Wow, that is really young.
After she leaves, Kristy gets out her flashlight and tells MA about the club idea. MA has never gotten caught and they intend to keep it that way. So, her super-strict father, who keeps a constant eye on her, never comes in her room to “check up” on her? I find that hard to believe.
Kristy’s mom comes back in just as she’s finishing up her light tricks. Her mom tells her that she is going out with Watson again on Saturday night. Kristy is not thrilled. She tells us that Watson is also divorced, has two little kids, and is getting bald. Yes, Kristy, he sounds absolutely horrid! She admits that she doesn’t like giving any of the men her mom has dated a chance, because then, they might get married, and Kristy believes that everything is fine the way it is. I guess I can’t fault the story for this, as I’m sure many divorced kids feel this way. Even if your real father is an asshole, he’s still your dad, and that’s hard to really ignore.
But then Kristy becomes a brat because she refuses, once again, to sit for Watson. Um, aren’t you forming a baby-sitting club? Wouldn’t it be a good idea to start near home? Eh, she’s twelve, what does she know?
Chapter 3. Even though it’s hot, Kristy and MaryAnne decide that it is a good idea to run at the end of the school day. MaryAnne also has a sitting job today, so she decides to bring the kids over to the Newtons’ house, where Kristy will be sitting, so that Kristy can tell her about the club. Wait a minute. They were just in school. Does Stoneybrook Middle not have recess or lunch or break periods where Kristy could have told MA in all of five minutes about the damned club?
Kristy drags her little brother to her babysitting job, where her bro is skeptical of the three-year-old boy until he reveals he has GI Joe dolls. Mrs. Newton is pregnant, and Kristy wishes the baby would hurry up. Yes, so she can get her talons into another gig. I get it. Mrs. Newton either doesn’t see how transparent this little girl is, or she is good at pretending.
MaryAnne brings over the kids she’s watching, and is this a good idea? No one cleared this with either of the parents, so if something happens on the Newtons’ property to the stranger kids . . . I guess nothing bad happens in Stoneybrook. Oh, wait, one of the kids falls off the swings as Kristy is FINALLY getting to tell MA about the club. So MA leaves and they agree to go over to Claudia’s house after they’re done sitting.
Kristy VOs as she heads over there that she hasn’t felt as comfortable around Claudia this year, as now she’s wearing a bra and interested in boys. Proto-lesbian Kristy doesn’t really see any change in these boys since last year, so cannot understand what Claudia sees in them.
Claudia answers the door in a hideous outfit (purple plaid and a black fedora and other weird shit) and makeup that makes Kristy think of a clown, apparently; she tells Claudia that she’s made up for the circus (because Kristy lacks decorum; getit?) and is it any wonder that Kristy has any friends?
We find out that Janine, Claudia’s older sister, is not at home, which is relieving to the girls, because Janine is a pill. Jeanine thinks she knows everything, because, as Kristy tells us, she does. She is a “real live genius,” as opposed to a fake dead one, I suppose, and sounds like a textbook,” and out of everyone in all of these books, she’s the one I identified with the most, and that is probably sad, but true. Hurrah for caricatures.
So, Kristy tells Claudia and MaryAnne about the club idea, and Claudia suggests they hold the meetings at her house, because she has her own phone. Kristy tells us that she was hoping Claudia would suggest that. But a few pages ago, you said you weren’t really as close or comfortable with her this year. Oh, I get it! Manipulating people for your own purposes already, eh, Kristy?
Claudia also suggests Stacey as a fourth member, because she’s really cool and she’s from New York City. This awes MaryAnne, because why would anyone move from there to come to little fictional Stoneybrook? Especially 1980s New York City, with its extreme homeless problem and massive amounts of drugs and crime, amIrite?
Chapter 4. The girls meet at Claudia’s house the next day and encounter Janine, who corrects Kristy on her use of the word “hopefully.” Hah. The girls meet Stacey, who dresses just as weird and 1980s as Claudia. Sequins and jeans with zippers, oh my! MaryAnne is shy in front of the new girl, and very easy to impress. Stacey used to babysit in NYC all the time, and can stay out until ten pm on Friday and Saturday nights. MA can’t understand why someone would want to leave NYC, so Stacey tells her that her dad got a new job, and then immediately changes the subject.
They accept Stacey into the club, and Claudia pulls out some of her stash of candy to celebrate. She offers M&Ms to Stacey, who first begs off because they are only a few left, but then says that she’s on a diet. This makes Kristy incredulous, and she starts asking her all sorts of impertinent questions. Then MaryAnne has to go home, and Kristy realizes that they didn’t finish making their plans, so they agree to meet up at recess. Oh, so they DO get recess? Why couldn’t Kristy have told MA about this shit days ago at school, then?
At school the next day, the girls meet on the playground and discuss advertising, as you do. Claudia comes up with the alphabet block logo that used to be on the original covers. Hooray, they accomplished something? They agree to meet on the weekend and work more on the club.
Chapter 5. The girls nominate officers for the club. Kristy is president as it was her idea; Claudia is vice-president, as it is her phone and room that they are using; MaryAnne is secretary because she’s good at writing things down; and Stacey become treasurer as she’s good with numbers and stuff. Claudia passes around more sugary shit she has stockpiled, which makes Stacey jump up and announce that she forgot something, so she’ll be right back. She comes back in a little bit and is weird about what she forgot – she meant she forgot to DO something. Whatever. The girls make their flyer, where they put their club officer titles on it. Would anyone really care about that besides them?
Kristy goes home and is annoyed that her mother makes her come out of her room to say hi to Watson. Um, because that’s rude? She comes downstairs and Watson has brought over Chinese food, as a surprise. So that they can all eat together before Watson takes Mrs. Thomas on their date. Which is kind of weird, but then, I guess it’s nice, because it does look like Watson is making an attempt to get to know the kids. Most of the Thomas kids seem receptive, except Kristy, who just asks who’s watching Watson’s kids, and assumes that they are probably brats.
Speaking of brats, instead of partaking in the Chinese food, Kristy decides to make herself a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, and then berate Watson about what he doesn’t know about his children, such as what toys they might play with. Her mother gets really steamed, and makes her apologize to Watson and then send her to her room. Kristy apologizes, and then halfway up the stairs, says, “I’m sorry you’re such a terrible father!” Damn, girl, rein it in. She VOs that Watson actually is a good father, and hers is shitty by comparison, but still, she doesn’t want him with their family, so nyah. She does write an apologetic note to her mother, though, but really, she should have had more DECORUM in the first place.