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Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Baby-Sitters Club

When I first began writing this blog almost three years ago, there were a couple of personal goals that I had in mind when coming up with suitable topics for discussion.

First, to come up with topics that could appeal to both genders. In fact, most of the topics have been suitable for both genders, though I have done topics that were suited for mostly males, and topics that were geared towards females. After all, I always wanted this blog to be for everyone and for people of all ages.

And, secondly, I wanted to come up with topics that were extremely challenging. In a lot of cases (particularly during the brief time in which I accepted reader requests), I was challenged to write about a topic that I knew nothing about, and I had to really dig deep to be able to find enough information about it so that I could come up with an informative, but fun piece. And, certainly I've challenged myself and have become a better writer and researcher as a result.

(I suppose it's only a shame that I'm using these skills for pop culture references and not for medical sciences, but hey, I suppose we all have our strengths, right?)

Well, as it so happens, today's blog entry happens to have both of these things. It's a topic in which the target audience is pre-teen girls – something that I myself am not. And, it is also a topic that I have no experience in as I have never so much as read one book in this book series that would eventually last well over one hundred novels that were published between 1986 and 2000.

But, hey...I always said that I love a challenge, so I'm going with it.

So, here's a question for all of you out there. How many of you actually ran a babysitting service for a little extra cash? I imagine that most of us have tried this at some point in our lives. I mean, many sitcom plot lines revolve around babysitting. D.J. Tanner and Kimmy Gibbler had to deal with a kid who got his head stuck in the staircase banister on “Full House”, and Lisa Simpson was inspired to start up her own babysitting service...with disasterous results.

I'll be the first one to admit that I've done the babysitting thing when I was a teenager. But to me, it didn't seem like it was really babysitting, as the kids I babysat were family members. Mostly it was with my niece and three nephews, but I do also remember looking after some of my younger cousins. Hey, it gave me extra cash for video game rentals from the video store. Why wouldn't I have taken the opportunity to make a few extra bucks on the side?

Well, today's edition of the blog has to do with babysitting. In fact, it has to do with several teenage girls in junior high school who start up a club in the fictional community of Stoneybrook, Connecticut as a way to make extra money, but also to make sure that the group corners the market on the babysitting services in the community.

Wow...I just kind of made it look like the Baby-Sitters Club were a group of thirteen-year-old capitalists, didn't I?

Whatever the case, today we're going to have a look at the popular novel series, which in turn was inspired by an idea by Scholastic editor Jean Feiwel. Feiwel had noticed the popularity of another book that was written about babysitting called “Ginny's Babysitting Job”, and she thought that it would be a good idea to create a series of books that had to do with babysitting. After all, I know from my own experiences just how unpredictable babysitting jobs can be. The story possibilities were endless.

But Jean Feiwel was not a writer by any means. However, she had connections with writers being an editor for Scholastic books. And, as it happened, one of those writer friends, Ann M. Martin, took the idea and ran with it, creating “The Baby-Sitters Club” book series in 1986.

Initially, the book series only contained four books. “Kristy's Great Idea”, “Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls”, “The Truth About Stacey”, and “Mary Anne Saves The Day”. But when all four books began to sell well through Scholastic book clubs and in bookstores, another fourteen books were commissioned. By the end of the 1980s, the first book in the series had surpassed 100,000 copies sold, and by the time the series wrapped up in 2000, there were a total of 213 novels published – with an estimated eighty of those penned by Ann M. Martin herself.

(The other 120 books or so were written by a team of ghostwriters.)

So, who are the girls in the Baby-Sitters Club? Well, when the series began in 1986, there were only four girls in the club. But by 1995, that number had grown to seven main characters. The club members are...

KRISTY THOMAS – Club President

It is Kristy who comes up with the idea to start the babysitting club and it is Kristy who acts as club president throughout the entire series. Kristy certainly had a lot of experience with babysitting. She is after all one of six children!

Well, okay, technically those six kids include two step-siblings and an adopted sibling. Still, she probably has the most experience babysitting, starting her “career” at the age of twelve when she offered to look after her brother David Michael when her mother was having difficulty finding a babysitter. She realized that by starting up the club, she could help out not just her mother, but all the parents in Stoneybrook. It could easily be considered the best of Kristy's great ideas.

As the President of the club, tomboy Kristy is a natural leader, and the other girls respect her a lot...but sometimes her leadership skills can turn into bossiness, and she admittedly has gotten into trouble with speaking when she probably should have kept quiet. But ultimately, she is definitely someone you want on your side when times are tough.

NOTE: Kristy's step-sister Karen was spun-off into her own series entitled “Baby-Sitters Little Sister”.

CLAUDIA KISHI – Club Vice-President

Japanese-American Claudia Kishi is the Vice-President of the club, and the main reason why Kristy appoints her club vice-president is because of all the girls, she is the only one who has her own phone line, and therefore can take all the calls for the club and even takes after-hours calls. So, I suppose you could say that Claudia is the one who books most of the jobs for the other girls. But Claudia is also very creative and trendy, and her fashion sense is probably one of the most unusual, but admired of all the girls at her school. She is also addicted to candy and Nancy Drew mysteries – neither of which her family approves of. In fact, Claudia has a difficult time relating to her family because they seem so incredibly different compared to her, and is devastated when her grandmother passes away. It is through the support of her friends that Claudia finds a sense of belonging through the work she does with the club.

MARY ANNE SPIER – Club Secretary

With her perfect handwriting and wonderful organizational skills, it was a no-brainer to make Mary Anne Spier the secretary of the club. In actuality, I think that Mary Anne was Ann M. Martin's favourite character to create – with good reason. After all, it was reported that Mary Anne was based on Ann M. Martin herself! Mary Anne is not one who likes to stand out and be the center of attention, but ironically she was the one who had storylines that made her get noticed! She was after all the first member of the club to become involved in a relationship with a boy. She ended up getting a makeover which set her apart from her near lookalike best friend, Kristy. And, she actually discovered a secret about herself in her grandparents' attic which completely changed everything she thought about herself. (Don't worry though...the secret wasn't that big.) She also happens to be the step-sister of Baby-Sitters Club member, Dawn.

STACEY MCGILL – Club Treasurer

Stacey is one of the four original members of the club, and also the only member to leave the club, come back, leave, and come back once more. Born in New York City, Stacey is the new girl in school when the Baby-Sitters Club first begins, and thanks to her New York upbringing, she is easily one of the most sophisticated dressers in her whole school – allowing her to share a deep friendship with Claudia. Stacey is extremely skilled in mathematics, making her the top pick for club treasurer. But Stacey is also battling diabetes and has several instances in which her diabetes has forced her to spend some time in hospital. Because she was picked on by her peers in New York about her diabetes, she is reluctant to tell the club about her disease, but when she finally does, Kristy, Claudia, and Mary Anne want her in the club anyway.

DAWN SCHAFER – Jill-of-all-trades

There's a reason why I put Dawn in as Jill-of-all-trades. She is basically the person that fills in for other roles when people leave the club. When Stacey moved away temporarily, she became the treasurer. And, she became an honourary member of the club when she herself temporarily moved back to California (where she was born). But she came back and found herself doing a whole lot of different tasks for the club.

I mean, when you consider that Mary Anne is her step-sister (Dawn's mother married Mary Anne's father), I suppose that there would always be a place for Dawn in the club regardless.

Not much else is mentioned about Dawn except that she is a vegetarian, addicted to health food (which I'm guessing must have caused a minor conflict with junk food obsessed Claudia), and is really committed to saving the environment.

MALLORY PIKE – Junior Officer/Honourary Member

I suppose if there were someone who could rival Kristy's experience with babysitting, it would be Mallory, who happens to be the oldest of EIGHT kids! But despite the birth order of the children, Mallory feels as though her parents still treat her as a child. She is also the only member of the Baby-Sitters club who is forced to wear glasses and braces, which makes her a little more self-conscious about her appearance than the other girls in the club. Her ultimate goal in life is to write and illustrate books for children, as she loves writing and art.


Initially when Jessi and her family moved to Stoneybrook, she wasn't exactly welcomed with the warmest wishes. In fact, in her first book appearance when she moved to town, some people were making racist comments towards her and her family because she was African-American, which sadly proves that sometimes racism can exist anywhere in the world. However, her friends in the Baby-Sitters Club welcomed her with open arms, and soon after, the rest of the community did too. Jessi's interests include horse stories (which bond her forever with Mallory), and ballet dancing. And Jessi is also fluent in American sign language, which helped her become the Braddock family's premier babysitter (as Matt Braddock was born deaf and can only communicate through sign language).

ABBY STEVENSON – Alternate Officer

The last of the girls to join the BSC, Abby moved to Stoneybrook just after Dawn moved back to California. She moved from Long Island with her mother and sister after her father's death in a car crash. An asthmatic, Abby is forced to carry inhalers and medication with her at all times to control her asthma, and while she and Kristy form a solid friendship, they also have a competitive spirit, with both of them wanting to be the best at everything! She and her sister Anna are both invited to join the club, but Abby is the only one who takes the BSC up on their offer.

And, there you have it. The eight girls that made up Stoneybrook's most successful babysitting club.

And, did you know that in 1995, the books were made into a film starring Schuyler Fisk, Larisa Oleynik, Rachael Leigh Cook, Bre Blair, Tricia Joe, Stacy Linn Ramsower, and Zelda Harris as Kristy, Dawn, Mary Anne, Stacey, Claudia, Mallory, and Jessi respectively? Here's the trailer below!


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