A series in re-review: The Baby-Sitter’s Club, the books that made me love reading
If I had to pick a single person to credit for my love of reading, it would be Anne M. Martin. I remember coming home from second grade and reading two Baby-Sitter’s Little Sister books at a go. Karen Brewer had a crazy imagination like me, and she had two very good friends. I pretended they were my friends to make up for the fact that I didn’t really have any of my own. It worked. I had a wonderful childhood in the company of my pseudo-imaginary playmates.
When I got a little bit older, I naturally turned to The Baby-Sitter’s Club to read about Karen’s big stepsister Kristy and all her friends; she had at least 11! I had a little white bookshelf lined with the BSC. I would beg my parents to take me to the bookstore to get the latest volume in the series, and oh the joy, when a new one came out!
Flashback moment: Once my older sister and I cut out hundreds of squares and rectangles from paper, stapled them together to make little envelope pockets, inserted carefully measured slips of lined paper, and turned my BSC collection into a play library. We spent hours on the project, showing yet another way these books enriched my young life. I still find these play library slips in my old books too!
Are you noticing how nostalgic this review has been so far? Imagine my delight, when I found a copy of “Dawn and the Older Boy” at my local thrift store. I remembered the cover and knew that meant I had loved this particular volume. Re-reading it, there were several things I liked about the book, and in turn, the series:
- The writing was fresh, and it felt like Dawn was talking directly to me
- The characterization was great; I felt like I know each of these girls
- Multiculturalism – yay!
- It’s super cool that 13 year-old Christy started such an amazing business
- The trials of the BSC member in profile lined up with the trials of the kids being babysat
- There were important lessons to be learned
Things I didn’t like so much:
- About 1/3 of the book was devoted to explaining who everyone was, how they met, where they fit into the BSC, and the like. No wonder Anne M. Martin could crank these out so fast! Each book catches the reader up on everything. I don’t remember this bothering me as a child, but it would drive me nuts now (it was fine this time around since I was reading for nostalgia’s sake).
- There were a lot of parenthetical asides and sometimes sloppy jumps into the back story. I just wanted to know what was going to happen with Dawn and Travis, but then I had to listen to how Dawn’s mom met Mary Anne’s dad. The transition felt forced. And yes, the author literally uses a lot of parentheses too.
In the end though, the Baby-Sitter’s Club isn’t meant to entertain adults. It’s targeted at eager middle grade readers, and if memory serves me correctly, the series does a great job of reaching its target audience. I learned a really important message too…
Luckily, the message is repeated point-blank at least 4 times in the story, then recapped in a note from the author in the end, so I think I REALLY understand it. Allow me to quote the author:
“If someone is interested in you, then he or she is interested in you–not in somebody you’re pretending to be. Remember, if you pretend to be somebody you’re not, you’ll be unhappy, and the other person won’t know who you are. The best kind of relationship is one that’s honest, in which the people involved are open with each other and truly know each other.”
Touche, Anne M. Martin, touche.