The Baby-Sitters Club is iconic, a long-running series that was an integral part of childhood for many growing up in the ’90s. I read my first BSC book when I was 11. My school library had a lot of them, but I ignored them until one fateful day during reading time when I picked up Jessi’s Secret Language from the classroom library. I didn’t (and still don’t) even like it that much, but somehow I was sucked in. Now, over twenty years later, BSC remains an important part of my life (I own the entire collection and this is one of the prouder achievements of my life) and it is something I hold dear to my heart.
However, in saying all that, I recognise that there are some truly ridiculous moments in the series. These didn’t seem particularly outlandish when I first read them (maybe children are better at accepting ‘ridiculous’ as ‘realistic’?) but now, with the benefit of an adult perspective, there are a few things about the series that make me think, ‘what the…?’
- The entire Super Special #4, Baby-Sitters’ Island Adventure. Dawn and Claudia learn to sail and decide to race each other to a little island near Stoneybrook. They pack a picnic and take a few kids with them (including four-year-old Jamie Newton), but on their way to the island, a sudden storm hits. One of the boats capsizes and they all end up off course and on a different island where they are stranded for a few days. My husband, who knows just enough about the BSC to mock me about it, loves to use this as an example of why I shouldn’t base major life decisions on what happens in the BSC. Would you really let your four-year-old go sailing with two thirteen-year-olds?!
- Not so much a moment, but a fact that is brought up in every chapter two: There are eight Pike kids. Not only are there eight Pike kids, they are all quite close in age. And three of the oldest are identical triplets. Mr and Mrs Pike had Mallory and the triplets (so four babies!) and decided to have Vanessa basically straight away.
This is actually one of my favourite mysteries: Mystery #10, Stacey and the Mystery Money. Counterfeit money shows up in Stoneybrook. Stacey innocently tries to use a counterfeit bill when she is shopping with Charlotte, gets arrested (not really), and then she and Charlotte and the BSC get on the case. The mystery is solved when one of the bad guys drops a bag full of counterfeit bills in a carpark where Stacey and Charlotte just happen to be.
- A bunch of eight graders from SMS go to Hawaii on a school trip in Super Special #13, Aloha, Baby-sitters!, including Stacey. One of the activities some of the students partake in is a helicopter tour. The helicopter Stacey is in crashes. ‘The chopper’s engine was groaning. The blades sounded as if they were cutting through mud. The wind howled and rain slapped against the windows. Mr. Fredericks was yelling into the mike. Now we were all shrieking. Clutching at one another. And then we plunged. Straight down.’
- The BSC world is stuck in a timewarp. Over the course of seventh grade (which goes for the first 16 books) and eighth grade (the remaining 115 books of the regular series), they experience Halloween eight times, Christmas eight times, Thanksgiving six times, and Valentine’s Day six times. How do I know this? In my infinite BSC nerdiness, I made a spreadsheet where I recorded the writer, the season/month, the holiday/occasion, and the special event of every book in the series, as well as where it fit in relation to other books in the series. My love for this series is real, guys.
- In the last Super Special, Baby-Sitters’ European Vacation, a few BSC members go to Paris and London on a school trip. Stacey’s luggage gets mixed up with someone else’s, and the suitcase she opens when she gets to her hotel room happens to belong to an old man. And there are ashes inside. Of someone that man fought a war with. And he’s going to scatter the ashes at a beach in Normandy. (Is it just me, or do a lot of the ridiculous things seem to happen to Stacey?)
- There are a few occasions where the Baby-Sitters Club members look after babies. And fine, they have taken a course in looking after babies (Kristy and the Baby Parade, regular series #45, and I have previously written about the extensive baby knowledge possessed by the baby-sitters). But now as a parent and primary caregiver of a ten-month-old, there are a couple of times in Mary Anne + 2 Many Babies that makes me think: ‘noooope’. Mrs Salem hires a BSC member to look after her twin babies, Ricky and Rose. Mary Anne says in the book that the Salems wouldn’t let them baby-sit until the twins reached six months but that now they call them fairly regularly. This isn’t as outlandish as helicopters crashing and experiencing Halloween eight times in one year, but I can’t imagine leaving a thirteen-year-old entirely responsible for two babies at the same time. Maybe I’m being overprotective.
- Jessi dancing the lead role in multiple productions (dancing in Swan Lake; playing Swanhilda in Coppelia; and being Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty in Jessi and the Dance School Phantom, regular series #42) at the ripe old age of 11. I didn’t realise how unrealistic this was until my Pilates teacher (a former ballet dancer) told me that eleven-year-olds usually aren’t even dancing en pointe because their bones aren’t developed enough. (I am told by fellow Rioters that eleven-year-olds CAN be dancing en pointe and it depends on the child, but I still think Jessi dancing all these leads is unrealistic. Discuss.)
- This is actually one of my favourite books, but I’m including it anyway, Mallory’s Christmas Wish, regular series #92: the Pikes won a contest to have their old-fashioned Christmas captured on film. They would be the focus of the gala winter special of the Values AmericanStyle television show. They won $10,000 and a camera crew followed them around for all of their Christmas preparations (until, spoiler alert, they realised the cameras were ruining Christmas and kicked them out, forfeiting the $10,000).
- I tried really hard to think of a ridiculous Kristy moment but all I managed was another Stacey one. This one is courtesy of SS #12, Here Come the Bridesmaids! In this one, Mrs Barrett is getting married and she asks Stacey to be one of her bridesmaids. She explains in the book that Stacey has been spending so much time with them that she feels like part of the family. I suppose this is plausible but this still feels strange to me because historically, Dawn is the baby-sitter with the close relationship with the Barretts (see, Dawn and the Impossible Three, regular series #5). Dawn is in California for her dad’s wedding so couldn’t be in Mrs Barrett’s wedding even if she were asked, but…Really? Asking a thirteen-year-old baby-sitter to be one of your bridesmaids? It seems a little far-fetched, but I guess Stoneybrook is a pretty tight-knit neighbourhood and the BSC is an important pillar of the community.
There are many more moments of incredulousness in this great series, primarily the plot lines of most of the mystery books. There are 36 regular mysteries and four super mysteries. There are problems like babies abandoned on door steps, sabotage at a fashion parade, stolen jewellery, secret societies, museum robberies, bank robberies—all of which are solved by an enterprising group of eleven- and thirteen-year-olds.
The series is (obviously) a work of fiction, but for such a small, sleepy town, an awful lot seems to happen (especially in one single year of the baby-sitters’ eighth grade)—and the baby-sitters often get caught up in it. As a child, the ridiculousness didn’t seem ridiculous, and as an adult, it’s part of what makes revisiting the series so much fun. What are your favourite ridiculous moments from the BSC that didn’t make the list?
If you need more BSC love, here is some great BSC swag, a quiz that will tell you which BSC member you are based on how you would plan your wedding, you can order a vintage set of the first six BSC books, plan a BSC pilgrimage tour, and read about the life-changing effects of the BSC. And if you’re in need of new BSC to read, the newest graphic novel, Kristy’s Big Day, is now available!