The Baby-Sitters Club
graphic novel by Raina Telgemeier
original series by Ann M. Martin
The fact that I am recommending this series makes me smile — right from the inside out.
As a child, books defined my days. They were an escape from a reality of my parents fighting and my brother and I being shuffled from family member to family member. To combat loneliness and insecurity, I began reading at a very young age. If you can believe it, I taught myself to read, using some old schoolbooks my grandmother had (for whatever reason) saved from my father’s childhood. I still own the book I used to teach myself – What’s Next? was a Dick and Jane inspired book bound in blue canvas, and it’s currently sitting on my bookshelf barely held together from over 65 years of handling. I spent a full summer struggling through the stories in that book, desperate to know what adventures the boys and girls were off to next, and grateful for full-color illustrations that helped to guide me on my path to phonics. I eventually moved on to such thrilling and sometimes frustrating literary attempts Fox in Socks by Dr. Suess (this book caused MANY tears to fall, as I fought through the tongue twisters) and the Golden Book series that were passed down to me from a distant relative.
By the time I was 8 or 9, my love for reading was insatiable. I wonder now, as an adult, if I yearned so fervently for books because I was virtually denied them. My mother was usually too lazy to take me to the library, and on those rare trips that we did make, I would load up my library card (and her card, and my brother’s card) with the max number of books allowed for borrowing. My mother would always delay and delay on getting me back to the library to return them, and my card was eventually revoked due to fines. I would beg my mother to take me to the grocery store with her so I could sit in the solitary book aisle, pressing forward on the seemingly endless array of novels displayed in bright end-caps and clustered on shelves. I have vivid memories of hiding the book I was reading behind the others with my place carefully marked, so I could come back the next week and pick up where I left off. My mother never bought them for me, no matter how much I begged, and I can’t blame her all that much. . . we were poor.
But I could always convince my aunts or my grandparents to buy me a book, and at that age, my eye was on the prize — The Baby-Sitters Club. You can ask any of my family members about it to this day, and they will all agree, I was obsessed. From the debut of Kristy’s Great Idea to the Super Specials and Super Mysteries, all the way to the Little Sisters Club that came after, I could not get enough. I devoured the books like some kids binge on junk food, not-so-patiently waiting for each new volume of the expansive series to come out. When it was all said and done, there were 209 Baby-Sitters Club books, along with a handful of special edition titles like a postcard book and a notebook giving tips on baby-sitting. And I am proud to say that yes, I have read Every. Single. One.
So when I saw that the incredibly talented Raina Telgemeier, author and illustrator of the (absolutely wonderful) mid-grade books Smile and Sisters, was taking on the task of putting the Ann M. Martin books I so loved and adored into a graphic novel format, I was equal parts thrilled and skeptical. Could someone come in and rearrange these stories into a series of comic book slides, or would the magic of these 7th-grade girls who were so talented and wonderful and REAL, slip through the cracks?
Not one part of me was disappointed. Telgemeier approached this project from Scholastic with reverence and the respect shows in the work. None of the story is lost and in fact, is enhanced by the original images drawn by artist Telgemeier, a noted and accomplished cartoonist and graphic novel designer. The little girl in me was beyond ecstatic when my own daughter, who is an avid fan of Telgemeier’s other works, picked Kristy’s Great Idea up and gave it a try. She loved it and since then,h as picked up the other graphic novels in the series.
The Baby-Sitters Club chronicles the life and times of a group of 7th-grade girls as they embark upon a business adventure – mainstreaming the baby-sitting duties in their little town of Stoneybrook, Connecticut. Each girl in the club is assigned a specific role (President, Secretary, Junior Officer, etc.) that has their own duties and requirements. They all pay in dues from their respective baby-sitting jobs to help fund endeavors and trips, as well as keeping the boxes they tote from job to job full of stickers and Crayons and board games. As the series progresses, readers learn more and more about each young lady on an individual basis. Claudia deals with an aggressive older sister, shy Mary Anne wonders how to juggle having a steady boyfriend while staying on top of school and working, Stacey comes to grips with her diabetes. Everything is, of course, kept Rated G and perfectly acceptable for any girl or boy of virtually any age.
If readers are interested in a fresh new way to get their younger child reading, I encourage them to pick up one of Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novels. Her writing style is relatable, quirky, and full of comedy, and it’s a great way to grab a younger child’s interest — especially those who claim that they “hate to read.” The fun illustrations don’t hurt and in fact, lend a helping hand to those young readers who are struggling with their words. Telgemeier’s acclaimed graphic novel, Smile, is the real-life story of how she lost some teeth and gained a whole lot of insecurities, and is perfect for readers in those awkward pre-teen years.
I give the new take on an old classic and the original The Baby-Sitters Club, a solid 5 out of 5 stars. This series will forever have my heart, and I have thoroughly enjoyed scouring the used book stores to find old and discarded copies of these books. I will always have a place for them on my bookshelf.