I’m really not sure how I remember all of the following, and I’m really, really
not sure why anyone would want to know this much about the Baby Sitters Club. But, for some reason, I’ve got this all in my head. And it’s my first node! So here goes:
In 1986, Scholastic Inc. published Ann M. Martin’s first book of a ridiculously huge series of books for pre-teens known as The Baby-Sitters Club. This first book – Kristy’s Great Idea – kicked off the seemingly never ending story of a group of eleven to thirteen year old girls and their adventures in life, love, learning, and what they do best – babysitting, of course! All of this takes place in the fictional town of Stoneybrook, Connecticut. The girls all attend Stoneybrook Middle School.
In Chapter 1 of Kristy’s Great Idea, the reader follows Kristy Thomas, founder and president of the Baby-Sitters Club (although she doesn’t know that until chapter 2, muah ha!), as she watches her mother struggle to find a baby-sitter for her younger brother, David Michael. And then, suddenly, as Kristy is eating pizza with her family in her kitchen, her first of many “brilliant ideas” (as they’re called often in the series) strikes her:
“I chewed away at a gloppy mouthful of cheese and pepperoni and thought it was too bad that Mom’s pizza had to get cold while she made all those phone calls. I thought it was too bad that David Michael had to sit there and feel like he was causing a lot of trouble just because he was only six years old and couldn’t take care of himself yet.
Then the idea for the Baby-sitters Club came to me and I almost choked.”
Pgs 11 and 12, Kristy’s Great Idea, Ann M. Martin
And that’s where it began.
The original four members of the Baby-Sitters Club are introduced in this book. They are:
Kristy (Kristin) Amanda Thomas, President – The only girl in her household besides her single mother. Her father left about six years prior; no one’s really sure where he is, probably in California somewhere (he rarely communicates with the family). She has three brothers – Sam, Charlie, who are in high school (ages 15 and 17, I think), and little brother David Michael, who’s six (oh, she’s also got a collie named Louie). Being surrounded by all these boys, she’s a big tomboy (loves sports; she eventually starts a softball team – Kristy’s Krushers. Kristy’s Krusher’s often play Bart’s Bashers . . . although she doesn’t like to admit it, there’s always this little romance going on between Kristy and Bart . . . but that’s another story). She often wears jeans, a sweater with a turtleneck underneath (how 1990!), and her brown, shoulder length hair is pulled through the back of a baseball cap with a picture of a collie on it. She is shorter than the average seventh grader, but makes up for with it with her loud mouth and bossy demeanor. Besides that, she’s a task master, very organized, and really strict about punctuality at BSC meetings. If a member isn’t in that room by the time the clock flicks to 5:30, she’ll flash her a “Look,” but really, that’s about it. Like all protagonists in young adult novels, she’s lovable all the same.
Claudia Lynn Kishi, Vice President – Claudia, a friend of Kristy’s prior to the formation of the club, became Vice President of the BSC because she has her own phone line; so they hold meetings in her bedroom (Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays, from 5:30 to 6:00 PM – that’s when prospective clients can call and reach “four (or seven, later on) experienced baby-sitters!”). She is an Asian beauty – long, jet black hair, with a perfect complexion and figure despite her love of all food that is junk (she hides Mallomars, Twinkies, and Ho-Ho's all around her room since her parents disapprove of her eating habits, as well as her love for Nancy Drew mysteries . . . also hidden throughout her bedroom). She is an artist, and it shows in her home-made clothing and jewelry, which never really seems to match and is totally over the top and very 80’s (“a baggy yellow-and black-checkered shirt, black pants, red jazz shoes, and a bracelet that looked like it was made from a telephone cord. Her earrings were dangling jointed skeletons . . .” Pg 30, Kristy’s Great Idea) but “always looks good on Claude.” She definitely has a style of her own. (Side note: as I’ve read these books, it almost seems standard protocol that anytime someone enters a scene for the first time, Ann Martin spends a significant amount of time describing what that girl is wearing that day). Now, the big deal with Claudia is that she’s got this genius sister: Janine. Janine is your stereotypical whiz kid, reading the dictionary, sitting at her computer, and correcting people’s grammar. Her IQ is 196, and even though she’s only fifteen, she takes college courses at Stoneybrook University. Anyway, Claudia, on the other hand, is not too hot on schoolwork. She gets mostly C’s, and is a terrible speller (as the reader can tell through each characters’ writing excerpts from the BSC notebook provided at the beginning of some chapters). Her parents, predictably enough, pressure her to do better in school, which often poses traumatic problems i.e. threats of withdrawal from art or art classes and even (gasp!) removal from the Baby-Sitters Club. For these situations, Claudia turns to her kind and understanding Grandmother, Mimi (who dies later in the series, and it’s all very sad, but again, another story).
Mary-Anne Spier, Secretary – Mary Anne is Kristy’s best friend and next-door neighbor. She became secretary because she has the best handwriting (it really is nice, this neatly slanted cursive . . . yep). She’s very, very shy, even though she’s friends with loudmouth Kristy (how many TIMES in this series is it mentioned that opposites attract?). Some say that Kristy and Mary Anne at least look alike. Her mother died shortly after she was born, so Mary Anne lives alone with her ridiculously strict father, who besides being wary of letting her go out and other normal strict parent stuff, makes her wear plaid skirts and such, and her hair in braided pigtails. Later in the series we see Mr. Richard Spier (a lawyer, by the way) loosen the reigns on Mary Anne a little after he meets his future second wife and loosens up himself. Mary Anne becomes, ironically, the first club member with a steady boyfriend (Logan Bruno, but we’ll talk about him later), and in the book Mary Anne’s Makeover, ends up cutting her hair short and buying new clothes and all those rebellious things.
Stacey (Anastasia) Elizabeth McGill, Treasurer – The only one of the original four members that doesn’t live on Bradford Court. Stacey moved with her mom and dad (she’s an only child) to Stoneybrook from New York City at the beginning of the first book (a few streets away from the other three girls, on Fawcett Avenue, for the record). Just like Claudia, she’s extremely fashionable, but in a more City Street Trendy Buy My Clothes at the Hottest Boutiques and Department Stores kind of way. This is cited as one reason Claudia and Stacey become best friends. Stacey’s got blonde hair that’s always freshly permed, big blue eyes, she’s tall, pretty, yadda yadda. That’s probably why she’s always attracting the most boys (namely Kristy’s big brother, Sam! It’s quite the scandal, really). But she’s not all looks, oh no! Stacey’s real good at math, and actually likes it a lot (that’s why they named her treasurer). One more thing – she’s diabetic, and not so proud of it. When she meets people, she likes to hide her sickness because she says that after others find out, they treat her differently (like a baby), or get weirded out and stuff. Kids at her old school teased her about it. But of course, no one in this book series really does.
Each book is narrated by a different member of the group, not just Kristy. I believe Claudia narrates the second book (Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls), Stacey the third (The Truth About Stacey), and Mary Anne the fourth (Mary Anne Saves the Day). But, surprise! Book #5 introduces a new narrator, and a fifth member of the BSC:
Dawn Read Schafer, Alternate Officer – Dawn is the alternate officer of the club, which means she fills in for whatever office can’t be filled by its normal officer for one reason or another. Dawn hails from California. Like any stereotypical Californian, she’s tall, slender, with long, LONG blonde hair and ex-hippies for parents (who are divorced). She’s a health food nut (she likes tofu and joins diabetic Stacey in eating soy chips at the otherwise junk-food dominated club meetings), is crazy about protecting the environment, and is all in all a liberal thirteen year old. She, her ten year old brother Jeff, and her mom move into an old, old house (built in the 1800’s), oft believed to be haunted and the subject of a couple of books. A trap door (in Dawn’s room?) provides for a few adventures and such throughout the series. Anyway. Little brother Jeff actually ends up moving back to California with dad; mom thought he’d be more comfortable there (he was getting in fights at school in Connecticut). Oh, one thing that’s always stressed about Dawn’s mom is that she’s totally absentminded: leaving keys in the refrigerator, wearing two different shoes. But, of course, since Dawn’s a very, very “with it” person, she’s always kindly correcting her mother. Again, anyway. The interesting thing about the Coming of Dawn is that her mother and Mary Anne’s father were high school sweethearts. Of course, sparks fly when they meet once again, and they end up getting married; Mary Anne and Dawn become stepsisters. Cute, eh? Eventually Dawn moves back to California, around book sixty something, I believe.
Eventually, the club adopts two junior officers. These girls are junior officers because they are younger (eleven years old) and can’t baby-sit as late as the other girls. They are:
Mallory Pike – An awkward girl with reddish brownish hair, braces (the clear plastic kind, though!) and glasses. Oh, and seven siblings (she’s the oldest). Her brothers and sisters were actually clients of the BSC before Mallory was asked to join. These siblings are: triplets Byron, Adam, and Jordon (10), Vanessa (9), Nicky (8), Margo (7), and little Claire, who’s five. Indeed. She wants to write and illustrate children’s books when she grows up. She likes reading and horses. She wants contacts. She’s unrealistically responsible for an eleven year old, just like her best friend . . .
Jessi (Jessica) Davis Ramsey – Jessi is black! (but the girls hardly even notice anymore). Jessi moved to Stoneybrook from Oakley, New Jersey, after her father had been transferred to Stamford (Stamford is a nearby larger “city” that is close to Stoneybrook but still a little too far for the girls to ride bikes to). Her family consists of her mom and dad, her eight-year-old sister Becca, and a baby brother named Squirt (actually John Philip Ramsey, Jr., but he was so small when he was born the nurses nicknamed him). Eventually Jessi’s crazy Aunt Cecilia moves in to help take care of the family; there’s a book about it. Jessi’s big thing is ballet: she’s very good at it and studies at a nearby studio; she’s had leads in a few ballets at her school (which is hard to imagine for someone under the age of eleven, but whatever . . . it’s young adult fiction land!), and, of course, hopes to become a ballerina at ABT someday. She and Mallory are best friends because a) they both love to read b) both love horse books c) both love horse movies d) they’re both eleven and e) they both LOVE to baby-sit, of course! Talk about a recipe for a perfect friendship.
Now, those are the seven most constant members throughout the series. But, of course, when there’s trouble in dreamland, what do we do? Add MORE members!
Logan Bruno, Associate member – This basically means he’s too busy playing football or running track to actually be in the club and go to meetings, but still gets jobs here and there. Logan, as I mentioned earlier, is Mary Anne’s boyfriend. They split up and got back together a couple of times, I think, as most junior high relationships go. Logan is a handsome young fellow with sandy blond hair and a dreamy southern drawl – he’s from Louisville, Kentucky. There are actually a couple books centered on him, like Logan Bruno, Boy Baby-Sitter. I think I started reading it once, and it’s all about how all the other guys at school make fun of him because he’s part if the Baby Sitters Club, so he starts hanging around with this new guy, Jam. Jam’s not a good kid. Jam runs with the wrong crowd. Logan finds himself in a jam . . . with Jam.
Shannon Kilbourne, Associate member – Shannon doesn’t go to school with the other members, she goes to a private school (Stoneybrook Academy, I believe). She’s also too busy to actually do club stuff (she tap dances and takes acting and singing lessons and such), so she too is an associate member. At one point Stacey moved back to New York, so Dawn took her place as treasurer and Shannon then became the alternate officer. But then Stacey moved back, and Shannon got bumped down once again. I think she’s got blonde hair, and I think she’s usually wearing a school uniform.
Later on in the series, after Dawn moves back to California, yet another new member joins the team. I believe her name is Abby Stevenson, and she has asthma and a twin sister named Anna. . . but I stopped reading the books before she came. I just remember that she has long, curly dark hair . . . or something.
In addition to the regular old Baby-Sitters Club books, there are a few spin-off series. There were the Baby-Sitters Club Mysteries (which I personally never found interesting), Super Mysteries, The Baby-Sitters Club Super Specials (much longer than the normal books, always centered around a big special event such as going on a Disney cruise, or everyone going to summer camp, or everyone going to New Jersey for the summer, or everyone being involved in the musical Peter Pan. Narrators alternated between chapters, so we get about 7 viewpoints on the same story), the BSC Friends Forever and Friends Forever Super Specials (these are newer, I never really knew what these were about . . . I think the idea is that they all have a central relationship/friendship theme . . . or something.), and then, of course, the Baby Sitters Little Sister. These books are very, VERY easy to read and center around the character of Karen Brewer, Kristy’s little stepsister.
*A little bit more family background real quick: At the beginning of the Baby Sitters Club series, Kristy’s mom is dating Watson Brewer, a “real-life millionaire!” and a fellow divorcee with two kids of his own, Karen and Andrew. They end up getting married, and Kristy, her mom, and her brothers all move across town into Watson’s mansion. They live wealthily ever after.
Anyway, the Little Sister and Little Sister Super Specials don’t have much to do with babysitting, as I remember. They’re more about the trials and tribulations of a six- year-old girl, if there is such a thing (getting glasses, picture day at school, a witch next door, all that). Karen is a sort of bossy little blonde girl with TWO pairs of glasses! Oh yes, one is pink and the other is blue, one is for reading and other is for plain old everyday sight.
In addition to these books, they’ve also got:
BSC Guide to Baby-Sitting - teaches you CPR, how to make Monster Toast, how to put kids to bed, how to make the infamous BSC Kid Kit (a box full of crayons, puzzles, stickers, etc.
The BSC Notebook – for you to log your own baby-sitting experiences, I think.
BSC Chain Letter – I think I remember this. It’s basically self-explanatory . . . a chain letter that passes through all the members. I think it had real pullout letters and stuff in there.
The BSC Trivia and Puzzle Book
The BSC Postcard Book
The Complete Guide to the Baby-sitters Club
A biography about Ann M. Martin
There’s also another series by Ann M. Martin called the California Diaries, which chronicles the lives of four of Dawn’s friends in California, journal-style. I read the “Sunny” one; it was a bit (a BIT) “edgier” than the other books. Sunny’s got her naval pierced, Sunny reads Jack Kerouac, Sunny runs away from home and spends her days at the beach trying to pursue this nineteen-year-old guy. I bet she even watched Dawson’s Creek.
Besides books, I know there were dolls and a board game, and probably a bunch of other stuff.
Some of us may remember the television series played on HBO . . . shudder. Does anyone remember the theme song?
Say hello to your friends (Baby-sitters Club)
Say hello to the people who care
Nothin’s better than friends (Baby-sitters Club)
‘Cause you know that your friends are always there
I remember renting individual episodes at my local video store. Not sure if you still can. Not sure if anyone would ever want to.
A little more memorable is the full-length motion picture, aptly titled The Baby-sitters Club. To stay together over the summer, Kristy has a “brilliant idea” to open a summer camp for BSC clients in Dawn and Mary Anne’s backyard. Of course this leads to trouble with the neighbors, trouble with Kristy’s long time archenemy Cokie Mason (played by Marla Sokoloff, you might recognize her from Full House). Other side dramas include Claudia’s struggle with science (if she doesn’t pass summer school, her parents will force her to quit the club!), and a romance between Stacey and one of her charges’ older European cousin, Luca (played by Christian Oliver; he’s been in a bunch of German movies and I once saw him as the object of many scantily clad girls’ desire on MTV’s Singled Out. On top of it all, Kristy’s dad comes back, and Kristy has to keep it a secret from everyone – except Mary Anne. Some semi-recognizable names and faces in this film: Larisa Oleynik (The Secret World of Alex Mac, 10 Things I Hate About You) as Dawn, Rachael Leigh Cook (most notably She’s All That and Josie and the Pussycats) as Mary Anne, Schuyler Fisk as Kristy (most recently in Orange County), Bre Blair (she was on MTV’s Undressed!) as Stacey (figures), Austin O’Brien (My Girl 2) as Logan Bruno, Bruce Davison as Watson, Ellyn Burstyn (Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood) as Dawn’s crazy neighbor, Mrs. Haberman, and a bunch of other actors and actresses that really did nothing after this film. The soundtrack to this movie isn’t too bad, with artists like Letters to Cleo, Ben Lee, and Matthew Sweet.
After 131 Baby-Sitters Club Books, 12 Super Specials, 12 Friends Forever, 2 Friends Forever Super Specials, 36 BSC Mysteries, 4 BSC Super Mysteries, 76 BSC Little Sisters, and 6 Little Sister Super Specials, Ann M. and little girls all over finally said their finals goodbyes to the Baby Sitters Club series. Sniff.