Ah, The Baby-Sitters Club. Some of our readers may be too young to remember the series, and some may be too old, but I have a feeling a good chunk of you read these books when you were little. I bet some of you even started your own babysitting club with your friends. I bet some of you wished you could be as stylish as Claudia or as free-spirited as Dawn. Admit it.
A few months ago I stumbled upon a blog post about the books, and ever since then I’ve been obsessing over Kristy, Claudia, Stacey, Mary Anne, and Dawn, the fictitious girls I hung out with in middle school.
I read my first Baby-Sitters Club book toward the end of fifth grade and was immediately hooked. The series was still relatively new back then, so I read all of the books that existed until that point, then stalked the bookstore waiting for new releases, begging my mom to buy them as soon as they hit the shelves.
I moved after that school year, which meant a new school in sixth grade. Because I had a lot of free time (for some reason I had two study halls) and no new friends, I read voraciously. That year my genre of choice was realistic fiction about abused children and kids with terminal diseases, but in between those depressing books, The Baby-Sitters Club was always there.
I also went to new schools in both seventh and eighth grades, and the girls from the Baby-Sitters Club kept me company, at least on the page, while I struggled with my new environments. By that point I was kind of jealous of those girls at Stoneybrook Middle School, mainly because they didn’t keep getting uprooted.
At some point I outgrew The Baby-Sitters Club. I can’t quite say when, but judging from the release dates on Wikipedia, it must have been sometime toward the end of eighth grade. (I had no idea that new books continued to be published for another 10 years after I stopped reading.)
Anyway, because The Baby-Sitters Club had been on my mind so much, I inevitably wound up on eBay, where I purchased books 1-25 plus the first Super Special for about $30, which is way less than I paid for them back in the late ’80s and early ’90s. I had planned on reading the Super Special and maybe one of the other books, then putting them away until my daughter was ready for them. But once I realized I could knock out a book in about an hour, I decided I might as well re-read all of them. So far I’ve only read books 1-6 plus the Super Special where they all go on a cruise to the Caribbean and then to Disney World…back when Disney World only had two parks and one of them was called EPCOT Center.
It’s funny to see how much has changed since I was in middle school. The biggest, of course, is the idea that so many people would hire 12-year-olds to babysit their children. I mean, yeah, they were really responsible and resourceful, but that just seems so young now. (I’m not really sure why, especially since I babysat when I was 12 and did a pretty good job, thanks largely to the tips I received from The Baby-Sitters Club books.)
That was also back in the day before cell phones, when you’d have to call the restaurant or the theater to get in touch with parents if something went wrong. That’s why Claudia got to be the vice-president of the club: She had her very own phone in her room!
It was also a time when you could buy snacks at the movie theater for a dollar. (Stacey was shocked to find that a soda and popcorn cost $1.25 in New York City—so much more than she paid in little Stoneybrook, Connecticut.)
Finally in Book 6 (Kristy’s Big Day), I encountered some Child-Passenger-Safety moments. One was mostly good: Some of Kristy’s relatives arrive, and she goes to the car to unfasten “about a million straps and buckles” to remove a 1-year-old from her car seat (probably not rear-facing, but still.) Another was not so good: Kristy’s grandma drives Kristy, Stacey, and three kids (ages 8, 9, and 10) downtown. The 9-year-old rides up front in the center, certainly in a lap-only belt, if anything at all. There’s no mention of booster seats for the others. But such was life back in 1987.
So, let’s talk about it. Did you have a babysitting notebook to keep track of jobs? Did you start stashing junk food all over your room like Claudia? Which characters did you like and dislike the most, and which were most like you? Do you still have your books? (And if so, can I have any beyond #25?)