Val Reads Baby-Sitters Club #3: Tricks, Tourists, and Tantrums
(or, 50 Shades of Baby Sitting)
I’ll admit, I started reading the book once before. I’d found a copy on a take one leave one shelf in a Medellin hostel and grabbed it without replacing it. I got maybe 100 pages in before giving up and the paperback spent the next six months buried at the bottom of my backpack.
About a month ago, I dug it out, determined to finally finish. It was taxing, though. The writing was so trite, grade-school level vocabulary with interspersed big words that had to have been copied straight from the thesaurus. On every single page someone gasped or gaped or had their jaw drop open. Sometimes phrases were repeated multiple times per page. And the main character was so juvenile that she painfully, repeatedly, referred to her lady parts as “my sex” and “down there.”
After I suffered through to the end of Fifty Shades of Grey, I was ready for some better writing. Bring on The Baby-Sitters Club!
Disclosure: I actually didn’t read this until after I finished book 18. But in book 18 Stacey, for the first time, brings up a trip all of her and her friends took to the Bahamas and Disney World and I thought, “Oh crap! That’s the Super Special! I was supposed to have read that!” So this probably goes just before book ten. But anyways…
I was super excited to finally start reading the Super Specials! These books are separate from the main series, are about twice as long and, unlike the normal books that are told from one sitter’s perspective, are written from a lot of different perspectives. The Super Specials also usually revolve around some big exciting trip. Because, you know, all 13 year olds take big trips with all their friends. These were always my favorite books.
In this edition, Mary Anne and Stacey are hired to help a family of 10 on a cruise. Kristy’s step-dad then finds out that she’s never left Connecticut… the family decides to tag along and invite the other sitters along as guests. Personally, if I was one of the kids who had to work while my friends were on a free ride and not on the clock, I’d be a bit pissed…
Of course, there’s lots of drama. Dawn and Kristy can’t get along because Dawn is uber neat and Kristy is a slob. Mallory is trying to be all Harriet the Spy and writes down boring observations in a notebook and sees a celebrity that no one else ever sees (maybe she’s going to go straight out crazy later in the series? Lets hope.). Dawn meets a super cute boy. Claudia has a secret admirer. Kristy meets an old man friend. Stacey meets a boy in a wheelchair friend. Mary Anne meets a orphaned actress liar friend. As things often go on a cruise.
Claudia’s secret admirer is kind of creepy. He keeps paying for all her stuff without showing his face and leaves her expensive gifts. Which is fine. I guess. But I don’t know if I trust a guy who doesn’t talk to a girl and thinks he has to buy her love.
Dawn is hanging out with a cute boy. But he seems like kind of a tool. He hates his stepsiblings even though she later meets them and they seem fine. At one point Dawn buys a new unicorn charm for her bracelet. She then loses her bracelet. Later the boy surprises her with new unicorn charm. Later one of the BCS kids finds the bracelet without the new charm. WHY IS NO ONE ELSE SUSPICIOUS!?!?
I don’t trust this boy at all.
Also, does no one else find it creepy that thirteen year old Kristy spends an entire cruise hanging out with an old man?
And don’t even get me started on the fact that Mary Anne was totally checking out a slightly older chick in a bikini…
Truthfully, Baby-sitters on Board! didn’t really live up to my Super Special expectations. Sure it was totally awesome that they got to travel to the exotic worlds of the Bahamas and Disney, but I think that because the book was told from so many different perspectives, I didn’t get my fill of any of the story lines. Like, come on, I wanted to play out the fact that Dawn’s boycrush was a total kleptomaniac. I really hope California Girls and New York, New York! live up to my memories…
Kristy Thomas’s mom did an awful thing: she married a millionaire and made Kristy move to a mansion in a neighborhood full of rich kids. And all of those rich kids are snobs. Especially Shannon Kilbourne. Because she’s rich and lives in this rich neighborhood. Total snob.
If there is one thing Kristy hates, it’s a snob.
Not only are the kids her own age, who judge her for her ailing dog and boring clothes, snobs, but so are the kids she is hired to baby sit. They do nothing but order her around or brag about their $400 dogs! It doesn’t help that while she’s baby sitting Shannon keeps tricking her by sending over pizzas and telling her that there’s a fire. (Kristy gets her back though by hiring a diaper service to deliver to Shannon. Because you can hire diaper services over the phone and you don’t even need a credit card or deposit! Oh the 80s!)
But Shannon and the snobs are the least of her worries. The Thomas’s beloved collie, Louie, isn’t doing so well. He’s lost his hearing. He’s lost his eyesight. He’s lost control of himself. He’s just getting old. And there’s nothing they can do. They have to put him down. (Side note: I totally cried on the el while reading this book.)
It’s a sad day for everyone in the family.
In the end, Kristy and Shannon come together. As it turns out Shannon isn’t so bad at all. She was just jealous that Kristy and The Baby-Sitters Club had taken away her sitting jobs. She even gives Kristy a purebred puppy to replace her dead dog. So, obviously, they name the bitch Shannon after her. Burn.
And then they induct Shannon (girl not puppy) into the Baby-Sitters Club as an associate member who they don’t actually have to see ever again but can give jobs they don’t want to take to.
Claudia Kishi’s life revolves around junk food, baby-sitting, and art. In no particular order.
But new girl in school Ashley Wyeth’s life revolves around art. And only art.
Ashley is different than everyone else. She dresses like a hippie and had studied at an exclusive art school in Chicago before her family relocated.
Her and Claudia become fast friends, after all Claudia is the only other talented artist in Stoneybrook. And Claudia can’t help but feel flattered that Ashley thinks she is talented.
But Ashley thinks that Claudia spends way too much time baby sitting and should concentrate on her art. And only her art. She convinces her to skip club meetings to go to galleries or wander around town for “inspiration.” She convinces Claudia that she has to do a sculpture of an inanimate object and make it animate. SHe’s deep for a 13 year old. That’s what Chicago does to a girl.
Ashley was going to sculpt a fire hydrant (despite the teacher thinking it was weird) and wanted Claudia to sculpt a traffic light (because it had so much power).
Claudia didn’t know what to do. She wanted to be an artist but she also loved baby sitting. And, truthfully, she thought sculpting a traffic light was a little cuckoo.
In the end Claudia realized that Ashley wasn’t a true friend: she just loved art and nothing else. She didn’t really care about Claudia for Claudia. But now Claudia was left with no friends (they all were mad that she’s skipped so many meetings) and no sculpture (she’d given up on the traffic light and tried to sculpt one of the kids she sits for, but ran out of time.)
But of course the club forgave her. And of course her unfinished sculpture got an honorable mention in Stoneybrook’s sculpture contest. And, of course, Ashley’s animate fire hydrant won the art show. Because life is both unfair and fair like that.
Stacey McGill is the New Yorker who moved to Stoneybrook, became Claudia’s best friend, charmed the shy little Charlotte Johanssen, oh yeah has diabetes, and is treasurer of The Baby-Sitters Club…but not for much longer.
Stacey’s dad got transferred back to New York and they are moving back within the month! Stacey doesn’t know how to feel. She loves her new friends and her new club but also loves her old friends (well, not all of them, some of them were jerks to her when she got sick) and the thrill of New York City.
But there’s nothing she can do. The McGills sell their house, hold a garage sale, pack up everything that’s left, and leave Stoneybrook…but not before the Baby-Sitters Club takes all the garage sale money, invites all the kids in the neighborhood, and throws a giant going away party.
Tears guys. Tears.
Stacey is gone and the Baby-Sitters Club is down one member. Alternate officer Dawn steps in as treasurer, but they are still one-girl down on the baby-sitting front. Despite the fact that there are surely tons of other girls in their grade or in Kristy’s new neighborhood, they look to 11-year old Mallory Pike. She’s younger than the girls, but oldest child of eight kids. I mean, she must be responsible if her parents let her wander Disney World by herself at 11: I’m pretty sure my mom still wouldn’t let me do that. (Seriously, who are these parents?) But still, the BSC isn’t sure she can handle being a real baby sitter.
I mean, her brother just broke his arm while she was watching him. She can’t be that good.
So they give her a test. A really hard test. In which she has to draw the digestive system and explain how to use a tourniquet and other such things that no sensible person actually knows.
And then they watch her babysit. And watch her so closely and tell her so much what she’s doing wrong that she’s so nervous that everything goes wrong.
Mallory is pretty pissed. So pissed that she doesn’t even want to associate with these girls anymore.
So she starts her own club. Since she can’t do it herself, she enlists her new BFF: Jessi. Jessi is just like Mallory in that she is 11 and likes to read horse stories and needs braces and glasses. She is unlike Mallory in that she is a ballet dancer and she is black (hey, these books were written in the 80s, they didn’t feel the need to be so PC back then…).
Jessi just moved to Stoneybrook (into Stacey’s old house!) and is having a tough time adjusting. There are very few black families in Stoneybrook and she is the only black kid in her grade. She doesn’t feel very welcomed.
But Mallory and Jessi become fast BFFs and start their new baby sitting club where they get tons of jobs. And by tons I mean a couple. And by a couple I mean Jessi and Mallory’s families hire them.
Because they’re 11. And because the Baby-Sitters Club already owns a monopoly on the town.
But still, the BSC feels threatened and eventually realize that they were too hard on Mallory. So they call her up and offer to let her try again — without any unfair tests. And Mallory says yes, but only if Jessi can join too.
So the Baby-Sitters Club is two junior members stronger and have once again kept their Stoneybrook babysitting monopoly by destroying another club.
A beauty pageant is coming to Stoneybrook and most of the BSC is disgusted by it…but that doesn’t stop them from becoming stage-baby-sitters. Everyone in the club has a kid to coach through it (except Jessi and Mallory who still have their integrity, I guess you lose that somewhere between age 11 and 13).
It’s every baby-sitter for herself as they prepare their untalented kids to compete. (They really should have put their foot down when little Margo decided that she was going to recite The House That Jack Built while peeling a banana with her toes…) But don’t worry, no one seems to be building these kids up too much. “You might be a loser,” one mom says in a pep talk and, “being pretty isn’t the point,” Claudia tells a kid who thinks she’s ugly.
Way to boost their confidence there.
Really, though, most of the kids in Stoneybrook aren’t very talented. And apparently they’re so ugly that no one tries to reassure them that they’re not. And some are so shy that they run off stage crying. I’m looking at you Charlotte Johanssen.
Only Mary Anne’s prodigy, Myriah Perkins, has any bit of a chance. She ends up placing in second, with a prize of a Toy City shopping spree.
Sabrina Bouvier, who no one has ever seen before because she’s probably too good for BSC, wins. Obviously. Because everything about her screams Toddlers & Tiaras.
The Baby-sitters are pissed but Myriah is happy because she won toys and all the winner got was a savings bond and a chance to do another pageant. And why would any kid want money they can’t spend now over toys?
Jessi takes on a new regular sitting job and gets cast in her new ballet school’s ballet production. Because apparently the kids have time to go to school, dance lessons, rehearsals, regular sitting jobs, and attend three meetings a week. (Side note: why do none of these parents ever need sitters on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 5:30 to six?)
I don’t even have time to write this blog post.
This isn’t just a normal baby-sitting job (then again, when is it ever?), there’s a new family in town and their son, Matt, is deaf and can only speak in sign language.
And it’s not just any role in the ballet, Jessi is cast as the lead.
Both prove to be difficult, and not for the reasons you’d expect. In ballet class the other girls are jealous and mean because Jessi is new. And while baby-sitting, the deaf kid’s sister, Haley, is worried that all the kids will think her brother and her are weird.
But Jessi helps Matt and Haley fit in by…introducing them to the other kids…
And Jessi overcomes her dancing woahs by…dancing well…and talking to one of the other dancers’ deaf sisters.
She even brings all of her worlds together by inviting all the kids in Matt’s class to her show. Which for some reason had to be kept totally secret.
Mary Anne loves mail. These were the days before email existed so 1) I guess people were still excited to get physical pieces of paper they had to make room for in the recycling bin (recycling probably didn’t even exist) and 2) people were still excited to be contacted by the outside world.
So, needless to say, she is super excited when she actually finds a letter addressed to her! But she’s not so thrilled after she opens it and finds that it is a chain letter. It’s probably the single worst thing that’s ever happened to an eighth grader.
Mary Anne tears up the letter though and throws it in the trash. (See, trash, if recycling existed the BSC would be the type to recycle). What’s the worst that can happen?
The answer: everything.
The next day Mary Anne gets a bad luck charm in the mail that she’s told she has to wear. And then all of the baby sitters get bad luck: awful sitting jobs, spilled food, bad grades, scared kittens.
Everything goes wrong and the BSC has no idea what to do. They even go to the library to check out witch spell books but they don’t have all the ingredients.
Later, at the school’s Halloween Hop dance (side note: Mary Anne notes that her and her boyfriend Logan have been to several dances together…it’s October, how many dances does this school have?) even the annoying girl at school who watches Mary Anne and her friends at lunch laughing at them and cuts on her dance with Logan mocks her bad luck charm.
Wait a minute…
After the dance Mary Anne finds another note. This one tells her and her friends to meet at a cemetery at midnight the next night. The girls devise a plan that they will all tell their parents they are sleeping at Kristy’s house and have her brother drive them there… what Kristy told her parents I’m not sure… Of course, when they’re baby sitting, random four year olds are always showing up at houses by themselves, so I guess no one in Stoneybrook really cares what their kids are doing.
In the meantime Mary Anne finally puts two and two together and realized that the bitch that cut in on her date at the dance had to be behind it.
So the Baby-Sitters Club decide to show up early and set up some ghosts to scare the girls. Which, as it turns out, was exactly what they had planned to do themselves.
When the chicks show up, they are scared and have to admit they were behind the bad luck charm…but not the chain letter. (ooooo….)
Why did they do it? Because they were mad that Logan spent all his time with Mary Anne: “there are other girls at Stoneybrook Middle School, you know.”
And then Logan replies, “when I see anyone I like as much as Mary Anne…maybe I’ll do something.” Then he says that she is his girlfriend “right now” without actually saying girlfriend because he’s a 13-year-old boy.
Is it just me or was that kind of a douchey, un-southernly response? “Oh hey, I’m just with Mary Anne until I find something better.” But at least he isn’t into those girls. Unless he’s secretly hooking up with them in the boiler room behind MA’s back.
This may be why 33 years olds shouldn’t read the Baby-Sitters Club…
Stacey invites her Stoneybrook friends to visit her in New York City. Because she has a big sitting job she needs help with. I mean, because she misses them. Yeah, that’s it.
But when they get in she almost immediately regrets it. Mary Anne is a walking encyclopedia of boring facts about NYC. Claudia brings her entire closet worth of clothes. Dawn is scared of everything. And they are all acting like total tourists in “one of of the coolest restaurants in New York City” — The Hard Rock Cafe…
Stacey throws a party to introduce her Connecticut and NYC friends and everything goes wrong. Her two BFFs from different worlds are jealous and it’s hate at first site. Mary Anne is annoyingly reciting facts no one cares about to bored New Yorkers and then makes fun of Dawn. And when Kristy dances…with a boy…who likes sports…Claudia cuts in. (Side note: really, Kristy, it’s not so hard to find a boy who is into sports.)
It’s a mess.
But when baby sitting the next day everyone comes together. Stacey realizes that it’s OK to be touristy in New York and that she’s been a total bitch to her friends and the rest of the club realizes that they’ve been annoying idiots. All it took was a walk through Central Park, losing a kid, and a ride on a Merry Go Round to bring them back together. BSC style.
“Babysitting seemed like a risky business. Maybe, just maybe, babysitting was a risky business. Maybe I shouldn’t do it anymore.”
That was Claudia getting deep. Let’s hope BSC #400 isn’t about her alcoholism and meth addiction because who knows what kind of deep thoughts she might have then.
But anyways. In book 19, Claudia breaks her leg because some asshole kid lets her swing really high on a swing that she knows is broken sending the baby sitter flying through the air to crack in half on the driveway.
The kid, nor any of the kids in the neighborhood, doesn’t learn a lesson though and keeps pranking and pranking. The BCS tries to teach her a lesson by pranking her back. But that just backfires when they too learn that pranking is fun.
They could just, you know, tell the mom so she can ground the kid from TV or something. Or not let a child order prank toys from a catalog. But I guess that’s too easy.
Meanwhile Claudia is bedlocked in the hospital for weeks leaving her with nothing but terrifying thoughts on the dangerous world of looking after kids (I can’t blame her). She has no other option: she has to quit the Baby-Sitters Club.
Her friends are devastated because if Claudia quits they’ll have to find a new meeting spot and get a new phone number. I mean, because they care about their friend.
But in the end, back home, back at school, Claudia realizes something important: she’ll probably get hurt or die at some point no matter what, baby-sitting or not, so she might as well get hurt or die doing something she loves! She doesn’t quit the BSC after all. Her friends are so relieved that they don’t have to find a new place to meet and get a new phone number. I mean, that their friend is still in the club. Yeah, that.
Kristy decides to start a softball team for all the loser kids she babysits for. They are all too young for Little League (um, don’t they probably have those age rules for a reason?) or just so awful that Little League doesn’t want them.
But that doesn’t stop Kristy. After all, being a softball couch perfectly mixes her main hobbies of sports and being a boss.
Plus she can use it as an excuse to talk to someone else who is couching another local team: Bart. A boy. A cute boy. KRISTY HAS A CRUSH? Is she finally into boys? (Side note: see, boys like sports!)
Their teams face off against each other. Blahblahblah sports. Then Bart walks Kristy home and kind of asks her out. Nothing else that happens in this book matters. Kristy. has. a. date. Maybe. We’ll see if this gets talked about ever again…
Disclosure: There are so many Baby-Sitters Club books to read I had to hire an assistant to take care of them.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links from which I might make a small commission at no cost to you other than the money you wasted if you actually clicked through and bought that copy of 50 Shades of Grey.
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