BSC#3- The Truth About Stacey.
A rival babysitting club, The Babysitters Agency, starts up in Stoneybrook and tries to take the BSC down. Stacey’s parents are a bit hysterical about her diabetes and determined to find a cure, but Stacey just wants to be a normal teenager rather than a medical guinea pig.
Really, what else is there to say but WHAT ARE YOU THINKING STACEY??? THAT SHIRT!!!!!!!!!! There are just no redeeming features, even if I look at it through the eyes of a 9 year old in the 80’s (which I was when I first read this book) it’s still horrendous. Really Stacey, even with your fluffy blonde perm and cool sunglasses perched on top of your head, I think you’ve let us down with this ensemble.
- What does Claudia have to say about their rival babysitters? “They have smart mouths, they sass the teachers, they hate school, they hang around at the mall. You know, THAT kind of kid.” They probably smoke in the toilets too. And I don’t think Claudia of all people should be casting stones at people because they hate school.
- Kristy rings up the Agency pretending to want a sitter, and uses the alias ‘Candy Kane’. Although that name makes it sound like she goes out pole dancing, she claims she wants a sitter because she has a date with Winston Churchill.
- Stacey lost all her city friends because of her diabetes, since they all thought she was contagious or a hypochondriac. It really does sound pretty crappy actually- I don’t know that I’d be all forgiving of my so-called friends for abandoning me in my hour of need.
- Kristy thought up Kid Kits to make them look like more fun than Agency Babysitters. She also wants them to do housework while they’re babysitting and take on late jobs by giving them away to their older brothers and sisters. Which the other refuse to do, although I have to say it would probably have worked, since hiring a babysitter who needs you to get back by 9.30pm isn’t all that conducive to having a hot date. You couldn’t even do dinner and movie unless you ate at like 4pm.
- Kristy won’t let them discuss club business at school because “It’s too risky…for all we know the Agency has spies watching us.” Hmm, touch paranoid perhaps? It’s babysitting, not international espionage.
- Stacey’s parents tell her they’re taking her to another doctor, an ‘holistic doctor’ and Stacey freaks out that holistic=holy and they’re taking her to a faith healer, hee hee hee. That line always cracked me up. And what kid complains about having to miss a couple of days of school to go stay in the city and (in between doctor appointments) go shopping and to Broadway shows?
- No good outfits in this book, but Stacey does describe a few of her more ‘unusual’ fashion choices. “The dinosaur on my beret, red sneakers covered with beads and glitter, leg warmers covered with footprints, plastic butterflies in my hair. For two weeks in New York I even wore red lace gloves with no fingertips.” You wild woman Stacey. I actually owned a pair of grey fingerless gloves myself, as was the trend of the time…they don’t sound as saucy as Stacey’s lace ones.
- Kristy makes them wear sandwich boards advertising their club to attract some new members who can stay out later. Everyone but Kristy is embarrassed by this, and quite frankly Kristy SHOULD be embarrassed, because how stupid would you look wearing a sandwich board around school?
- Kristy found two new members, Janet and Leslie. They both wear make up and chew gum, which is clearly a sign of their irresponsibility and bad attitudes.
- Turns out Janet and Leslie were spies sent by the Agency to ruin the BSC’s reputation. Apparently Kristy’s paranoia was actually justified. Who’d have thought it?
- However, the Agency gets it in the back because the sitters they send out are neglectful and mean to the kids, so the BSC dobs them into the parents and the Agency collapses in a pile of accusations and lectures on responsibility. That’ll teach them to mess with the BSC.
- Stacey goes to the quack doctor, gets herself an appointment with some other diabetes specialist, and manages to convince her parents that her disease is under control. Mostly I think they just didn’t want to pay to send her to private school like the quack doctor recommended.
- And if you think that’s the last bit of good news for Stacey, you’d be wrong. She goes to the movies with Laine (who used to be her bestie, but is now her mortal enemy) and Laine buys her a soda and popcorn and they make up and gossip instead of watching the movie, and all ends happily ever after. For everyone- even the bad babysitting bunch have a new business giving people makeovers and being personal stylists to the Stoneybrook Middle School glitterati.
BSC#2- Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls.
Recap- the babysitters read about a burglar who’s robbed houses a few towns away. He makes phone calls to find out if people are home, but doesn’t speak. The girls freak out, and then start getting these phone calls! Terror and funny burglar alarms and code words ensue, but in the end it turns out to be some boys wanting to ask Kristy and Claudia to the school dance.
The cover- How cute is that little girl? I want to babysit her myself. And Claudia looks like quite the little mother holding a toddler with the phone jammed in her shoulder. (And notice the retro wall mounted dialling phone!) Claudia’s outfit looks pretty ordinary here actually- bright colours, but it was the 80’s. I wish I could tell what her earrings were though.
I found this alternate cover on the web. Claudia’s outfit is a bit more Claudia-ish, and she’s wearing a funky off centre ponytail, but frankly I’m less scared of the Phantom Phone Caller than I am of that child in her arms! She looks like she’s about to plunge a knife into Claudia’s heart!
-Claudia’s family have to babysit her while she does her homework. I get that she’s not all that bright, but surely a twelve year old doesn’t need someone to sit beside them and make them read the instructions?
- I never did understand Claudia’s parents’ ban on Nancy Drew. A resourceful girl detective solving mysteries with her buddies and very asexual boyfriend…what’s not to approve of? You’d think, as a librarian, Claudia’s mother would appreciate that any reading is reading. But I digress from the more important issues of the book…
- a Claudia outfit! “Today, for instance, I’m wearing purple pants that stop just below my knees and are held up with suspenders, white tights with clocks on them, a purple plaid shirt with matching hat, my high-top sneakers, and lobster earrings. Clothes like these are my trademark.”
-Apparently Claudia (and Stacey) believe that interest in boys and clothes are the hallmarks of maturity. I think I’m in trouble. (But then, I’m an adult writing reviews of BSC books…perhaps I’m not the foremost expert on maturity. Maybe if I’d paid more attention to clothes and boys as a pre-teen???)
- The babysitters freak out over some robberies in nearby towns. Because of course the Phantom Phone Caller who steals valuable jewellery is just going to happen to rob a house where they’re babysitting. Because the kind of people who hire 12 year olds at $2.50 an hour have extensive collections of jewels. (So what’s Watson Brewer’s excuse then?)
- They make up all these code words about ribbons and barrettes and…it’s confusing to read it, how they expected to remember and utilise it is beyond me.
- Claudia and Janine keep fighting. The way Janine is characterised in these books makes me think Ann M Martin has a grudge against smart people- bad clothes, boring haircuts, excruciating conversational skills…
- Kristy gets the joy of babysitting for Karen and Andrew Brewer. Apparently Morbidda Destiny has put a spell on Karen to give her freckles. I think a real witch, when faced with Karen, would use a spell that’s slightly more destructive. Like turning her into a cockroach. Something that can’t talk, anyway.
- Oh, one of the classic sitting experiences- MaryAnne babysat for David Michael Thomas and was so scared of burglars that she set up alarms. I loved that one. Marbles that would fall if the front door was opened, cans against the garage door, and a tape deck that would start playing if the back door was opened. I’m impressed by her ingenuity actually, even if I think she was more than a touch paranoid! I wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d turned up wearing a tinfoil hat in later books.
- Claudia’s neighbours are robbed, and MaryAnne’s dad bans her from babysitting until the Phantom Phone Caller is caught. Who knew that paranoia was an inherited trait?
- Kristy and Claudia have a job babysitting for Jamie Newton and his cousins, the wild animal Feldman trio. The kids misbehave and how does Kristy, the babysitting paragon, deal with this? “No yelling, no running, and no jumping inside this house…one false move and I’ll punch your lights out.” Yep. Threatening violence against an eight year old. Nominee for babysitter of the year, right there.
- They get more phantom phone calls, Claudia spots a prowler and calls the police. The prowler turns out to be Alan Gray, the pest of
- It works on Kristy anyhow, because despite spending the whole book bitching about how much she hates Alan Gray and how annoying he is, she says yes, she’ll go the dance with him.
-Claudia’s phantom phone caller turned out to be Trevor Sandbourne, the eighth grade poet (ok, I’m mean, but can you imagine the kind of poetry a twelve year old boy would write???) she’s been crushing on. How convenient.
- School dance outfits! Well, big disappointment here. “Stacey and I ended up with baggy jeans and new bulky sweaters.” Hello! You’re not doing yard work, it’s a dance! Where’s the effort??? The funk? The crazy earrings? Really girls, you’ve let us down.
- As for Kristy, “We couldn’t talk Kristy out of a plaid jumper and red turtleneck.” Yeah, because Kristy should take fashion advice from the baggy jeans and bulky sweater crew. And assuming that jumper=pinafore, then she’s more dressed up than they are. Which just turns the babysitters club world upside down, and leaves me needing rest in order to cope with the shock.
Times celebrating Halloween- 1
Times celebrating Christmas-0
Times celebrating Thanksgiving-0
Number of school dances- 1
Number of summer vacations- 0
BSC#1- Kristy’s Great Idea.
The first book, the beginning of the Babysitters Club legend…back in the day when the club consisted of four members and time actually moved on. One of my favourite books from the series- written before it became a formulaic publishing juggernaut.
I bought this book in 1987 from the Scholastic Book Club catalogue, when I was nine years old. I believe it cost me $4.50. (Yes, I really do have a bizarrely accurate memory for such useless information. Remembering things like signing school notes and sending them back and getting food out of the freezer for tea…not so good.) Anyway, moving on to the cover.
This was probably my favourite cover of all time. I mean, didn’t we all want to be Stacey, with her oversized, big patterned jumper and checked leggings? They’re tucked into her socks- maybe they were even stirrup pants? Hello, it was the 80’s and she was HOT! Claudia’s outfit is a bit…odd. Are they overalls or pants with matching suspenders? Doesn’t really matter, it’s just whacky Claudia’s fashion sense! I did always feel a bit sorry for Mary Anne here, wearing what can only be described as a blouse (which makes it a thousand times worse than a ‘shirt’) and plaits when they were the height of unfashionableness. Kristy has on a dress (!) and I always thought she looked totally pretty here. I hope she enjoyed the moment, because the illustrations of her went severely downhill after this book.
As to the storyline, well it’s all about Kristy’s Great Idea- the Babysitters Club! I have to admit, even when I first read the book at nine, I was somewhat sceptical of twelve year olds being considered responsible enough to babysit, but whatever. And it’s not as though I have to actually give a rundown of the plot here, because the inspired genesis of the club is rehashed in EVERY SINGLE OTHER BOOK.
· So instead we’ll move on to what we all really loved about these books- the outfits! Claudia was wearing “short, very baggy lavender plaid overalls, a white lacy blouse, a black fedora, and red high top sneakers without socks. Her black hair was carefully arranged in four braids.” I can’t help thinking that baggy short overalls with a lacy blouse is going to make even eats-junk-food-but-stays-skinny Claudia look like as short and squat as a gnome.
· Stacey had on “a pink sweatshirt with sequins and a large purple parrot on the front; short, tight fitting jeans with zippers up the outside of the legs; and pink plastic shoes.” My sister had jeans with zippers and I was jealous. But the parrot doesn’t seem to scream ‘sophisticated New Yorker’ to me. Actually it sounds a bit like something you’d make with a Bedazzler beading tool.
· Stacey is also allowed to perm her hair. As opposed to MaryAnne who is only allowed to do hers in braids. Which I never really understood. Why would her father chose that style as the be all and end all of hair for her? I make my daughter wear her hair up to school so that she doesn’t get nits, maybe Mr Spier was just looking out for MaryAnne since she spent so much time hanging around with kids?
· Claudia’s hidden junk food…I thought that was so cool. And her own phone number. Although I always thought it was incredibly stale* that the other club members came round three times a week and ate their own weight in candy without contributing a red cent. I mean, Claudia even bought snacks she didn’t like (ie- healthy snacks) for Stacey and Dawn!
· So convenient the way there were four offices to fill, and everyone’s particular talents could be catered for. Except that I never did think MaryAnne’s handwriting was so neat.
· Kristy babysat for dogs, ha ha ha. This experience so scarred her that she banned dog sitting for the following 130 books. Except the others must just have been better with animals than Kristy, because they did anyway and were much more successful at it.
· Stacey babysat for Kristy’s brother David Michael (and honestly, who calls their kid David Michael all the time? What boy would put up with a name like that and not demand to be called Dave or Thommo or Moose or something?) and met Kristy’s other brother Sam, just to add a bit of romantic spice to the series.
· And what was this “foxy chick” wearing when she met “the gorgeous hunk”? “matching top and skirt made out of grey sweatshirt material with big yellow number tens all over it…hair pinned back with clips shaped like rainbows…little silver whistles were dangling from her ears.” I don’t get the number tens all over this outfit. But I do love the way Stacey and Claudia so often have earrings to match the theme of their outfits.
· MaryAnne babysat for Karen ‘the brat’ Brewer and Andrew ‘the weenie’ Brewer. And met Morbidda Destiny, the witch next door. I have to say, if you believe a six year old who tells you their neighbour is a witch, maybe you’re not mature enough to babysit. Just saying.
· They’re planning a pizza party, and with $12 they’re going to get pizza, Coke, M&Ms and “all the junk food they can eat”. I guess it was the 80’s and US dollars, but that twelve bucks is stretching a long way.
· Kristy’s mum gets engaged to Watson. I never realised until I read this years later, that she’d only been dating him “off and on for about four months.” Which is a bit of a whirlwind romance. Or else Kristy’s mum really was a gold digger, out to snare the balding millionaire. Although taking Karen Brewer on really sours that deal.
· Their pizza party implodes when Stacey lies to get out of it so she doesn’t have to confess her terrible diabetic secret (did she honestly think Claudia would care? That’s one less person to eat her candy stash!), Claudia’s parents ground her from it because she flunked some homework, and MaryAnne’s dad won’t let her spend $3 on it because she’s supposed to be saving for college. They all fight (cool girls Claudia and Stacey against babies Kristy and MaryAnne) and flounce off. Then they make up, Kristy is all sensitive to Stacey’s food issues (after she accuses her of being anorexic that is) and Stacey confesses that she’s diabetic and no one cares.
· “The Baby-sitters Club was a success. I, Kristen Amanda Thomas had made it work, or helped to make it work. I hoped that MaryAnne, Claudia, Stacey and I- the Babysitters Club- would stay together for a long time.” About the only time Kristy the Idea Machine ever gives anyone else any credit for making the club work. And although they may never leave 8th grade, they get to stay together through several Halloweens, multiple Christmases and about ten summer vacations, not to mention hundreds of thousands of hours of kid wrangling. Seems like a long time to me.
*stale a super cool baby sitters club word meaning…lame? Bad? Not dibbly fresh?