Welcome back to another installment of Nostalgic Reads! Today we are back in Stoneybrook with Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne, Dawn – the Baby-sitters Club! Now featuring Mallory! And Jessi!
About the Book
Title: Hello, Mallory
Author: Ann M. Martin
Series: The Baby-Sitters Club #14
First Published: June 1, 1988
Blurb: Mallory Pike has always wanted to be a member of the Baby-sitters Club–they’re so much fun to be around, and she’s practically a baby-sitter already. Now the club members have invited Mallory to a meeting. This might be her big chance!
But the BSC isn’t making it easy–they make Mal feel like a baby on a job, and make her take an impossible written test. Mallory’s beginning to think she doesn’t want to be a part of the BSC . . . or maybe she and her new friend Jessi should start a club of their own. It’s time to show those Baby-sitters what a couple of new girls can do!
This book has a lot to unpack. But hey, first book from Mallory’s point of view, so yay!
Poor Mallory. I can feel her pain. She feels like she doesn’t quite fit in anywhere, she’s quiet and bookish, she reminds me sooooo much of myself at that age. Minus the seven younger siblings. Sheesh, that sounds like a lot! How on earth do you ever have a moment to yourself in that house!?!? Still, when Mallory gets invited to take Stacey’s place in the Baby-sitters Club, she is really excited. She knows all the girls and will now be on more equal footing with them. Right? Friends?
Well, not exactly, and this is the first time in the series that I really didn’t like the other BSC members. They are so mean to Mallory! They want to put her through all these tests to prove herself and end up making her so flustered and nervous when she probably knows more about kids than all of them combined. Having seven younger siblings can do that. In the end, Mallory decides to walk, and I don’t blame her. It was completely unfair and insulting the way they treated her at first.
The other big thing that happens with Mallory is that she finds a best friend. While she got on well with the other kids at school, she didn’t have a BEST friend, and that is a whole other ballgame. A new girl moves into town, Jessi Ramsey, and Mallory immediately takes to her. They have a lot in common – love reading books about horses, love babysitting, help take care of younger siblings. Jessi also takes ballet and wants to be a professional dancer someday, which Mallory thinks is really cool. Jessi is also having trouble making friends because . . . she is Black, and a lot of Stoneybrook is pretty racist.
From other girls at school making jokes about Jessi moving from Africa to a mom on their street not wanting her daughter to come over and play at Jessi’s house, it’s pretty upsetting. According to Mallory, there are maybe two or three other black students at their entire middle school. It was a pretty stark contrast though. Up until now, Stoneybrook seems like a pretty nice and idyllic place to live. Cute houses, friendly people, the whole nine yards. But this shows another side of it that people (i.e white people) may not realize.
This is probably one of the first books I read that talked about racism, or at least the first one that really stuck with me. As a young white girl growing up in south Florida, I grew up in a fairly diverse area. My elementary school and middle school were both very diverse, with large populations of Black, Hispanic and Native American students and it seemed like most people got along. It’s not that I didn’t know racism existed. I just didn’t see much of it. And yes, I realize that this is a very privileged thing to say, and that it probably did happen, it just wasn’t directed at me so I didn’t know. That’s why I think seeing Jessi’s story was important. Jessi seemed so cool and so nice – I immediately hated how other people were treating her.
I think I remember things getting a bit better for Jessi in later books, and things do look up towards the end of this one. Jessi’s sister makes friends with Charlotte, another little girl that the BSC watches. The Pikes invite the Ramseys over for dinner. The girls at school find something else to gossip about. And . . . both Mallory and Jessi are invited to join the BSC! When Jessi brings up her worry that some of the customers may not want her to sit for their kids because she is Black, the other sitters basically say that if any of their customers feel that way, then they don’t want them as customers. Period.
Honestly, they go from being terrible to Mallory to being champions for Jessi. It’s a roller coaster, for sure.
Anyway, this is a really good book. Welcome, Mallory and Jessi, to the Baby-sitters Club! Can’t wait to see what adventures you get to go on!
Categories: nostalgic reads