nostalgic reads

NOSTALGIC READS: Claudia and Mean Janine

Claudia and Mean JanineTitle: Claudia and Mean Janine

Author: Ann M. Martin

Series: The Baby-Sitters Club #7

Blurb: Janine is mean! Claudia had been looking forward to running the summer play group with the rest of the Babysitters Club but everything changes when her grandmother, Mimi, is taken ill. Now instead of helping her friends, Claudia has to spend the summer Mimi-sitting. Things wouldnt be so bad if Claudia could only get some help from her sister, Janine.

Review: I remember feeling very conflicted when I read this one back when I was a kid. I was jealous because I had always wanted a sister, but I also saw how difficult Claudia and Janine had it. Still, after reading it again, it’s nice to see a sister relationship in a kids/MG book that reads very realistic. Claudia and Janine are total opposites. Claudia is artsy and creative, just not very good at school. Janine is a high school sophomore who is taking college classes for fun. Because they are so different, they have a very hard time communicating. Misunderstanding abound. In the end, they do learn to appreciate each other. It’s not a complete fix of everything, but it’s a start.

These two are sisters that will be good friends later in life as adults, but probably not until then.

The other part of the story really hit me hard: Mimi’s illness. She had a stroke. When I was a kid, from the time I was about five or so, I had at least one of my grandmas living with me and my parents (I actually had both of them there for a while). When I first read the books, I hadn’t really seen either of them too sick, but re-reading this as an adult brings back lots of memories. Both of my grandmas are gone now, but I did spend a lot of time with my maternal grandma when she was sick helping her do things that she couldn’t do on her own anymore. It was a difficult time, but special too.

The other story for this book is that the BSC decides to run a morning day camp thing three days a week during the month of July. Shenanigans ensue!

nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads – Kristy’s Big Day

Nostalgic Reads

Kristy's Big DayTitle: Kristy’s Big Day

Author: Ann M. Martin

Series: The Baby-Sitters Club #6

Blurb: Kristy’s mom is getting married, and Kristy’s a bridesmaid. The only trouble is, fourteen little kids are coming to the wedding, and they all need a baby-sitter. Here comes the Baby-sitters Club!

Stacey, Claudia, Mary Anne, Dawn and Kristy think they can handle fourteen little kids. But that’s before they spend five days changing diapers, stopping fights, solving mix-ups, righting wrongs…and getting sick and tired of baby-sitting!

One things for sure: This is a crazy way to have a wedding. But it’s a great way to have lots of fun!

Review: This book is so stressful! A wedding to plan where the date gets moved up to only two and a half weeks away! Lots of family coming into town. FOURTEEN LITTLE KIDS TO DEAL WITH!!!

I don’t think I would have made it.

I’ve been through having to reschedule and change plans around a wedding, which is what happens here. They have a date which is several months away, but between a work related trip plus a house getting sold way faster than expected, the date gets moved up dramatically. There’s so much to do! All that needs to get done much, much sooner! Fortunately, they have a lot of family and friends to help out, including the Baby-Sitters Club!

It’s Kristy’s idea to offer the BSC as a solution to having so many kids around. The adults don’t want the kids getting in the way of all the wedding plans, so Kristy offers the BSC for the entire week. All day long. Fourteen kids spread out between five sitters. It works out so well because they are all so good with them. And organized! They split them into groups by age and assign a sitter to each group. They come up with activities both for the groups individually and separately. It’s not easy and there are always going to be ups and downs when children are involved, but still – it’s relatively painless.

Kristy spends the first part of the book sad that she is leaving the only home she has ever known. She likes her house, her room, being so close to her friends. With the chaos of all the kids around, she does forget about some of that, and likes her new, larger room at Watson’s house once she gets situated. She even comes up with a beautiful wedding present for them – a family tree showing their two families becoming one.

I like that this book shares this particular struggle. I didn’t go through this, but I had a few friends growing up who were children of divorce and saw their parent(s) get remarried. It’s always a tricky situation, and I’m glad that books like this one might help them feel a bit better about it.

nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads – Dawn and the Impossible Three

Nostalgic Reads

Title: Dawn and the Impossible Three

Author: Ann M. Martin

Series: The Baby-Sitters Club #5

Blurb: Dawn’s the newest member of the Baby-Sitters Club and everybody’s glad – except Kristy. Kristy thinks things were better without Dawn around. That’s why Dawn’s eager to take on a big baby-sitting job. It’s her chance to show Kristy what she’s made of.

Review: We finally get to Dawn, the fifth member of the BSC. Dawn is from California and, as such, eats a lot of tofu, granola, and wheat germ. She made friends with Mary Anne during the big BSC fight in the last book and her friendship with Mary Anne is making Kristy jealous. Kristy is used to having Mary Anne pretty much all to herself. Couple that with the fact that Kristy will be moving across town after her mom marries Watson ( and won’t live next door to Mary Anne anymore), and it’s a recipe for disaster and lots of hurt feelings. Luckily, Dawn realizes this and reaches out to Kristy, and by the middle of the book they are friends and everything is cool.

The “impossible three” are the Barrett kids: Buddy, Suzi and Marnie. They aren’t bad kids, but their parents are going through a divorce and it’s making their mom get a little spacy. The house is always a mess (which Dawn cleans up), she forgets to tell Dawn about one of the kid’s allergies, and leaves the wrong phone numbers to contact her while she’s gone. She also strictly forbids Dawn to let her kids talk to their father when he calls. The culmination of all this is that one day while sitting, Buddy disappears. Dawn can’t get in touch with Mrs. Barrett so she calls the other parents she knows in the neighborhood to form a search party. One of the other kids says he saw Buddy getting into a strange car and that’s when they call the police.

Buddy is fine. Turns out the strange car belonged to his dad, and his dad was supposed to have that weekend with the kids, but Mrs. Barrett forgot. So he drove by, saw Buddy in the yard, and decided to take him to the amusement park. Dawn stands up to Mrs. Barrett and says that she can’t continue sitting for them if things keep going the way they are. They work things out and everybody is happy by the end.

While not my favorite of the series (I never related to Dawn very much), this is still a solid read. I do feel bad for the Barretts – they are definitely going through a rough time – but hopefully this situation will lead to at least some improved communication.

nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads: Mary Anne Saves the Day

Nostalgic Reads

Mary Anne Saves the DayTitle: Mary Anne Saves the Day

Author: Ann M. Martin

Series: The Baby-Sitters Club #4

Blurb: Mary Anne has never been a leader of the Baby-sitters Club. She’s left that up to Kristy… or Claudia… or Stacey. But now there’s a big fight among the four friends, and Mary Anne doesn’t have them to depend on anymore.

It’s bad enough when she’s left alone at the lunch table at school. But when she has to baby-sit a sick child without any help from the club members, Mary Anne knows it’s time to take charge.

The Baby-sitters Club is going to fall apart unless somebody does something – fast. Maybe it’s time for Mary Anne to step in and save the day!

Review: Of all the members of the Baby-Sitters Club, the one I identified most with was Mary Anne. Like her, I always felt shy and my parents were very protective of me. There were quite a few rules in my house growing up, although not quite as restrictive as Mary Anne’s dad. I didn’t have to keep my hair in braids or only wear skirts and penny loafers.

I also was never, ever interested in baby-sitting. Except vicariously through books, of course.

This book shows that the BSC is definitely not perfect. They spend most of this book barely speaking to each other due to a misunderstanding that blows up into a pretty big fight. The “sick child” in the blurb actually had a really high fever – 104 degrees. I have to admit, I would be really scared if a kid in my care was that sick and I couldn’t reach anyone. Mary Anne keeps pretty calm and is able to take care of the situation, calling 911 and getting Jenny some help.

Also, this is the book where we meet Dawn! Dawn has just moved from California due to her parents’ divorce and becomes Mary Anne’s friend while she is not speaking to the other BSC members. We also find out that Dawn’s mom and Mary Anne’s dad knew each other when they were in high school – and even dated! How cool is that!

nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads – The Truth About Stacey

img_0039Title: The Truth About Stacey

Author: Ann M. Martin

Series: The Baby-Sitters Club #3

Blurb: The truth about Stacey is that she has diabetes. Nobody knows . . . except her friends in the Baby-Sitters Club. But even they don’t know the real truth about Stacey. Stacey’s problem is her parents. They won’t admit she has the disease, and they drag her to practically every doctor in America! Seeing so many doctors made Stacey lose one friend, and she won’t let it happen again. Especially now — when the Baby-Sitters Club needs her more than ever.

Review: In this book, we get to know our third BSC member, Stacey McGill. She is new to Stoneybrook, is the same fashion forward sort like Claudia is. She grew up in New York City and was fairly recently diagnosed with diabetes. She was afraid to tell anyone what was going on at her old school in the City, so all her old friends thought she was being a drama queen and a liar when she was having all her health issues, especially her ex-best friend Laine.

Which, I’m sorry, is a really crappy thing to do. If my best friend was fainting at school, going to the doctor a lot, even getting taken to the hospital, I wouldn’t get mad at them. I’d be worried. I’d be checking in on them all the time to make sure they were okay. Ugh! The problem is that Laine was never told what was going on, and without Stacey being honest about it, it created a huge misunderstanding. The girls get to reconcile when Stacey has to go to the City to visit yet another doctor, this one who happens to be a quack.

The big problem that the BCS faces in this book is competition. A new group called the Baby-Sitters Agency is advertising older sitters, being able to stay out later, and have cheaper prices. They start edging in on the BCS’s territory. The two girls that run it are awful and the sitters they get are not much better. Stacey and the others start hearing from the kids they sit for that they are not happy. The new sitters don’t play with them, some of them invite their boyfriends to come over, and one burned a hole in a couch with a cigarette. Eventually, after the BCS finds one of their three year old charges playing in the street by himself, they are able to reveal just how lousy the Agency is. The Agency doesn’t care about the kids — they are only in it for the money. The Baby-Sitters Club is far superior, and now everyone knows it. Huzzah!

nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads – Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls

Nostalgic Reads

Claudia and the Phantom Phone CallsTitle: Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls

Author: Ann M. Martin

Series: The Baby-Sitters Club #2

Blurb: Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne and Stacey have had some strange adventures since they started the Baby-sitters Club. But nothing’s been as spooky as what’s going on right now. The baby-sitters have been getting mysterious phone calls when they’re out on their jobs. When a phone rings and they pick up, there’s no one on the other end of the line.

Claudia’s sure it’s the Phantom Caller, a jewel thief who’s been operating in the area. Claudia has always liked reading mysteries, but she doesn’t like it when they happen to her. So she and the baby-sitters decide to take action – with some very mixed results!

Review: These books are such time capsules! So many things could be averted if only they had cell phones!

The whole mystery in this story is the Phantom Caller, who breaks into houses after calling to see if anyone is home and then hanging up. Oh, landline telephones. Who has those anymore? Not many folks, that’s for sure. The girls are sure that the thief is getting closer and closer to Stoneybrook, especially after there are several hang up calls at the houses where they are baby-sitting. Of course, the thief is caught in another town, and the person (or people) calling Claudia and her friends turns out to be boys at school who want to ask her and Kristy out to the Halloween dance.

This book, told from Claudia’s point of view obviously, really helps you see that while Claudia acts confident, she has a lot of insecurities. She is not good in school, unlike her genius sister and as such, gets down on herself sometimes. It was nice to see that she was working towards making progress, both in school and with her sister, at least by the end of the book. Another thing that this book captures is how it is a little spooky when you are home alone at night, especially when you are the age of these girls – not little kids, but not grown up either. Wanting to be mature and take care of things, but also being really glad when the parents get home. I remember that feeling, and Ann M. Martin definitely captures it perfectly.

I am finding that I don’t remember The Baby-Sitters Club books as vividly as I do the Sweet Valley High ones. Maybe I stopped reading them earlier, since they were aimed towards a slightly younger demographic? Who knows. I am enjoying re-reading them so far though.

nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads – Kristy’s Great Idea

Originally I had planned to feature the next Fear Street book today, title The Surprise Party, but unfortunately I am having a hard time finding it. So instead, to mix things up a bit, we’re going to move on to another series that shaped my adolescence: The Baby-Sitters Club.

Nostalgic Reads

Kristy's Great IdeaTitle: Kristy’s Great Idea

Author: Ann M. Martin

Series: The Baby-Sitters Club

Blurb: Kristy thinks the Baby-sitters Club is a great idea. She and her friends Claudia, Stacey, and Mary Anne all love taking care of kids. A club will give them the chance to have lots of fun – and make tons of money.

But nobody counted on crank calls, uncontrollable two-year-olds, wild pets, and parents who don’t always tell the truth. And then there’s Stacey, who’s acting more and more mysterious. Having a baby-sitters club isn’t easy, but Kristy and her friends aren’t giving up until they get it right!

Review: I had forgotten just how good these books really are.

First, a little bit of history, since I did this with the first Sweet Valley High post. The Baby-Sitters Club first came out in 1986. The first 35 books were written by Ann M. Martin, the later books written by ghostwriters. There are 131 books in the original series, with spin-offs like the Super Editions, Mysteries, and the Little Sister series that focuses on Kristy’s stepsister, Karen.

This first book, Kristy’s Great Idea, sets everything up for our series. A group of friends come together to form a club in order to get baby-sitting jobs. Sure, there is the typical 80s thing where each character has their defining characteristic: Kristy is the outgoing tomboy, Mary Anne is the quiet bookworm, Claudia is the artsy fashionista, and Stacey is the fun city girl. Each book is told from the point of view of one of the girls, but we also get some stories from the other girls due to their notebook where they write down the details of their baby-sitting jobs.

So let’s talk about Kristy. She gets in trouble sometimes because she is very outspoken and doesn’t really have a filter. She is going through a but of a tough time. Her parents are divorced, her father is not really in her life, and her mother is dating another man, Watson. Kristy doesn’t want to accept another man in her mom’s life and avoids anything to do with him as much as she can, including refusing to baby-sit for his two kids.

Kristy gets the idea to start the Club after watching her mother try to find a baby-sitter for her little brother, David Michael. She was busy, her two friends Mary Anne and Claudia were also busy, her older brothers were busy, and their other baby-sitter was sick. Kristy felt bad that her mom had to waste time trying to track down someone and also that David Michael had to feel like a burden for her having to do so. The idea, that parents could make one call and reach a group of sitters, was actually a very good one and starts out pretty successful. Sure, they have some hiccups. Prank calls by Kristy’s older brother. Someone calling them for dog-sitting. They ended up at jobs with extra children they didn’t count on, who were all unruly brats.

The book ends with Kristy coming to terms with Watson and his kids, which is good since now Watson and Kristy’s mom are engaged. We also find out that Stacey, who has been acting odd about food all book, actually has diabetes and was afraid to tell anyone. The girls all get in a big fight, but are able to work things out. What I like best about this series is that even though the girls are stereotypes, like I mentioned above, they also feel very real. None of them are perfect, they have definite flaws, but they also sound like kids that I went to middle school with. That’s refreshing.

My plan is to flip back and forth between The Baby-Sitters Club and Sweet Valley High ever ten books or so, with some Fear Street thrown in as I can find them. That will keep this feature from getting too stale.