Thirty years ago this month, Ann M. Martin launched The Baby-sitters Club series and I can safely say that no book or book series has had a greater impact on my life. I am a writer and librarian; I wouldn’t be either without developing a love of reading through the BSC. Even as a pseudo-adult (and very real nerd), I enjoy imagining what the girls are up to these days and what they might be reading. So here are my book recommendations for the babysitters from Stoneybrook, Connecticut.
For every Sitter (what?! That’s what they call themselves), I can imagine two possible scenarios for how they turn out: the good version and the bad version. If Kristy does everything right and maximizes her awesomeness, I can see her being much like Rachel Maddow: a funny, smart, political nerd, and history buff.
If the BSC’s fearless leader and Club President leans in to her more tyrannical instincts, I really hope she reads Drift. Yes, Maddow’s book is about the U.S. Military, but more broadly it’s about ego and what happens when powerful people make rash, poorly planned decisions. Plus, it’s smart and funny and makes an otherwise unpalatable subject entertaining. Godspeed, Kristy! May you steer the ship in the direction our Founding Fathers intended!
I KNOW, I KNOW, Claudia loves Nancy Drew! But Claud’s been hiding mystery novels under her mattress with smooshed Twinkies since 1986, so I figure she knows how to find a good mystery novel. I want to give Claudia, my hero, my fellow creative-but-bad-at-school-with-a-super-smart-older-sister something that would inspire and amuse her. I believe Hot Dog Taste Test is that book. Lisa Hanawalt’s illustrations are much like Claudia herself: bright, quirky, smart, and silly. Claudia has long illustrated the absurdities in the world around her and Hanawalt does the same: from reimagined corporate slogans to the joys of food on a stick. I expect Twinkie Taste Test by Claudia Kishi will be hitting bookstores sometime next fall.
I mean…tell me you can’t see Mary-Anne making finger puppets out of Tigger’s fur.
OK, if I’m not being a jerk, I’ll recommend Toni Morrison’s Sula. Everyone should read Toni Morrison and the focus on female friendship would resonate with Mary-Anne.
But I think we all know that Mary-Anne is just going to make those cat-hair picture frames to give everyone at the next sleepover.
Stacey is smart, cool, from New York City, and her mom lets her get perms that make her hair smell like rotten eggs. She’s basically perfect. Like all of us, however, Stacey has one significant weakness. To find it, one need look no further than the title of many of her books: Boy Crazy Stacey, Stacey’s Big Crush, Stacey’s Ex-Boyfriend, Stacey’s Broken Heart, Stacey Needs to Chill about the F’ing Dudes Already (okay, I made that last one up). You get the idea.
There’s nothing wrong with Stacey’s love of boys, of course, but she has a tendency to completely lose herself in a crush. I’d like to see adult Stacey pick up one of the greatest books of all time, The Handmaid’s Tale, and spend some time in that oppressive dystopia. If she can keep her head on straight, I believe the real world is Stacey’s oyster. Let’s just make sure she doesn’t end up Ofrobertbrewster.
Kate Zambreno’s Green Girl is a wonderful, weird book and I very much hope Dawn turns out to be a wonderful, weird person. At first blush, Dawn seems to be different from the other Sitters only in her “California casual” attire and vegetarianism, I believe Dawn’s counterculture streak runs deeper. Is Dawn and the School Spirit War—in which she refuses to dress in all yellow to show “school spirit” simply because her classmates are—an indication that she’ll grow up to be critical of the male gaze and rampant consumerism? I like to think so and I hope Zambreno’s Green Girl can help her get there.
Shondra Rimes spent her youth wearing coke bottle glasses, hiding in the pantry, and making up stories instead of dealing with reality. I don’t know if Mallory’s hiding place was the pantry or not, but the rest of the description fits her well. Like Shondra, Mallory has some shyness and confidence issues to overcome (remember Mallory and the Dream Horse when, after being obsessed with horses for years, she finally gets a chance to ride one, falls off and is so traumatized that she refuses to get back on? Girl, you need The Year of Yes.) While I believe that we ALL have something we can learn from The Great Shondra Rimes, Mallory can have first dibs on my copy of TYOY.
I don’t know exactly how Jessi Ramsey felt moving to Stoneybrook, where it turns out that pretty much everyone except for the Baby-sitter’s Club and their families are fairly of racist, but I imagine it sucked. Perhaps she felt a little like Ifemelu did when she first moved to Princeton, New Jersey: a similarly white, suburban enclave on the East Coast. Ifemelu is able to articulate both the absurdities and indignities of racial constructs in a way Jessi might appreciate. Further, Jessi would likely see her ill-fated long distance relationship with Quint in Ifemelu’s relationship with Obinze (because to an eleven year-old, New York City and Connecticut might as well be as far away from each other as Nigeria and North America are). Mostly, I’m recommending Americanah because it is one of my all-time favorite books. So I am offering it to Jessi Ramsey: a smart, talented, underappreciated Junior Member of the BSC. I hope she read it while she’s backstage at Juilliard or wherever fancy ballet dancers go.