I am the author of three middle-grade children's books, and I blog on the side. My favorite topics are movies, writing, and pop culture.
Book series are a great way to get kids into reading. Attaching to an ongoing storyline with familiar characters keeps you reading to find out what’s going to happen next. Series make reading bearable for those who hate to read and make choosing a book easy for those who love to read. One particular book series that I got into as a middle grade reader was The Baby-Sitter’s Club. It was a series that I discovered while scanning the junior reader section of my local library. An entire shelf was devoted to the series. I picked up #21, Mallory and the Trouble with Twins. After that, I was hooked. The books were identifiable, informative, and appealing to a girl my age on the cusp of my own, long babysitting career. Below are some facts about the series, its characters, its author, and what makes it a great middle grade series for young girls.
Theme Song to 'The Baby-Sitter's Club' TV Show
The first Baby-Sitter’s Club book was published in August 1986. There are roughly 250 books in the series which were published until October 2000. They actually include five smaller series within the larger series: the regular BSC series, the Super Specials (where the club goes on trips to places like New York City or to the beach), the Mystery series, the Little Sister series, and the Friends Forever series. They have sold over 170 million copies and inspired a TV show, a movie, a music album, and a graphic novel series.
Someone unfamiliar to the series may question how 250 stories can be told about babysitting, but its simple, concentrated premise and numerous diverse characters have prompted a demand for more stories years after the series has ended. The first book, Kristy’s Great Idea, set up the entire premise. Four seventh grade girls living in the fictional suburban town of Stoneybrook, CT decide to form a babysitting club/business in order to make money, pass time, and help out their neighbors who are on the constant search for sitters.
Headed by Kristy Thomas, the girls meet three times a week to take calls for sitting jobs, discuss business matters, and just hang out with each other. Each book is told in the first person from one of the sitter’s perspectives. Every girl has their own distinct look, background, personality, and every reader has their favorite babysitter. They all take their roles in the club very seriously, heightening the drama and creating mini-adventures as the girls go on sitting jobs and face personal issues at home, at school, and within the club itself.
As the series progresses, new characters are introduced, and more girls join the club as others leave. The basic outline of each book is the same. The girls face normal pre-teen challenges at home or school, go on baby-sitting appointments, and solve a conflict by the end of the book (usually referenced within that book’s title). Readers get to know the sitters, their families, other kids at school who are not in the club, and their regular sitting charges. Some are siblings of the club’s members, some are high maintenance neighborhood kids, and others are one time appointments that are only chronicled in one particular book. You don't have to read the entire series in order, but when a significant event happens in one of the books, it will be brought up again in future books in the series.
My Top 12 Favorite Books in 'The Baby-Sitter’s Club' Series (Original Series)
|Title||Number in Series||Description|
Kristy's Great Idea
Kristy and her friends start the club.
The Truth about Stacey
Stacey’s parents decide to divorce while Stacey battles her diabetes.
Mary Anne Saves the Day
Mary Anne saves the club from ending while the members fight.
The Ghost at Dawn’s House
Dawn’s farmhouse appears to be haunted.
Good-bye Stacey, Good-bye
Stacey moves back to New York, leaving the BSC in the process.
Mallory and the Trouble with Twins
Mallory has trouble sitting for twin girls who are desperate to express their individual identities.
Mary Anne and the Search for Tigger
Mary Anne’s cat goes missing, and the club helps to find him.
Claudia and the Sad Goodbye
Claudia copes with the death of her grandmother.
Jessi and the Superbrat
Jessi has problems sitting for a TV star.
Dawn’s Wicked Stepsister
Kristy and the Secret of Susan After their parents marry, Dawn and Mary A
Kristy and the Secret of Susan
Kristy sits for an autistic girl and helps her to make friends in the neighborhood.
Stacey rebels against managing her diabetes which lands her in the hospital.
The BSC Movie Trailer
The Club Members
There are anywhere from four to eight members in the Baby-Sitter’s Club at one time, including officers, junior officers, and alternate officers. Below is a description of each of the main characters.
Kristy Thomas – Kristy is the president of the club and the one who came up with the idea after watching her mom struggle to track down a sitter for her brother one afternoon. She is small, loud, and sporty which makes her a great leader. She reminds everyone that they are running a business and tries to maintain professionalism at all times. Sometimes the other members have to call her out on her bossiness, and then she complies. Her parents are divorced, and her mom remarries a wealthy man named Watson Brewer later in the series, making it difficult for her to get rides to her meetings after moving into his large mansion across town. She ends up with a younger stepsister named Karen and an adopted sister named Emily Michelle Brewer on top of her three brothers: two older and one younger.
Claudia Kishi – Claudia is the vice president of The Baby-Sitter’s Club, mostly because it is her room that they use to hold meetings (she is the only one with her own phone line). Claudia is of Japanese descent who lives with her parents, grandmother, and older sister, Janine. She is a talented artist with a unique fashion sense and a weakness for junk food which she stashes all around her room and shares with her friends during meetings. She struggles in school and is always butting heads with her genius older sister, Janine, who is her complete opposite.
Mary Anne Spier – Mary Anne is the secretary of the meeting who is in charge of scheduling appointments as people call in during meetings. She must also keep track of the girls’ extra curricular activities, such as dentist appointments and dance lessons, so that schedules don’t clash. She is quiet and shy, despite being the only member who has a boyfriend, Logan. She is the polar opposite of her best friend, Kristy. She initially lived with her widowed father until he was introduced to their friend, Dawn Schaefer’s, divorced mother, and the two were married in book 31. Mary Anne was not much of a dresser or opinionated due to her father’s strict rules which relaxed a bit after he remarried.
Stacey McGill – Stacey has just moved to Stoneybrook from New York City at the beginning of the first BSC book. She lives with her parents and was named treasurer of the club at their first meeting. She collects dues from the members each month which the club uses to buy materials for the “kid kits” they make to take to their appointments and spring for occasional parties. She has Type 1 diabetes which she hid from the other members for the first two books, and many of her stories show her taking care of herself, eating right, and giving herself insulin shots. In book 13, she and her parents move back to New York City, but Stacey returns several books later when her parents divorce and she moves back to Stoneybrook with her mom. Stacey loves fashion and is a bit boy crazy, though she doesn't have a boyfriend of her own like Mary Anne.
Dawn Schaefer – Dawn joined the BSC in book 4 after befriending Mary Anne while the club members were fighting. She was made an alternate officer, taking over the responsibilities of any of the members who couldn’t make it to a meeting. She moved to Stoneybrook from California with her Mom and younger brother after her parents divorced, and she goes back to California often to visit her father and later her younger brother who moved back to California after deciding that he didn’t like living in Connecticut. Dawn’s mother and Mary Anne’s father marry later in the series, and the two become step-sisters which causes some friction between Kristy and Mary Anne and later between Mary Anne and Dawn who discover that living together is not as fun as they initially thought. The two reconnect, however, and Dawn remains a crucial member of the club, even after moving back to California herself.
Mallory Pike – Mallory becomes a junior officer of the club in book 14 at the age of 11. She is an aspiring writer who comes from a large family and has a love of horses which she shares with her best friend, Jessi Ramsey, another junior officer of the club. Her seven brothers and sisters gave her a lot of practice babysitting, and the club found that they needed her after Stacey moved back to New York City in book 13. The family is made up of red haired kids with freckles, and Mallory is no exception. Because she is only in the sixth grade, she can’t go out on late appointments and has no additional duties in the club.
Jessi Ramsey – Jessi joins the club as a junior officer at the same time as Mallory. She is a slim, graceful ballerina who also loves horses. Her African American heritage makes her subject to prejudice from time to time, causing the other members to have to defend her and her babysitting skills. She lives with her parents and younger brother and sister.
Abby Stevenson – Abby becomes an alternate officer of the BSC well into the series. She is 13 and has a twin sister named Anna who is a great musician. They live with their widowed mother who had moved the girls to Stoneybrook from Long Island, NY. Their father died in a car accident when they were nine. She is the only Jewish member of the club and suffers from many allergies.
Logan Bruno – Logan is an associate member of the club (meaning he takes on babysitting jobs when no one else is available but typically does not attend meetings) and Mary Anne’s boyfriend. He’s a mild-mannered, fair-haired southern boy with a good sense of humor.
Shannon Kilbourne – Shannon is Kristy’s neighbor and another associate member of the club who didn’t get along with Kristy at first, but then the two became friends. She helps out when no one else is available to take on a job.
While aimed at young, female readers, the series does not try to be overly girlie by concentrating mostly about boys and clothes and make up. Still, it is not a series that the average middle grade boy reader would likely enjoy. These girls are technically small business owners and have a wide variety of interests and problems. The babysitting stories are not just about cleaning up spills or dealing with rowdy kids. Serious issues are explored, including charges who have mental or physical disabilities, like a young boy who is deaf and a young girl who is autistic. They have sat for TV stars, royalty, and large groups of kids at a time. Personally, the girls have dealt with divorce, death, bullies, and health issues among their many conflicts.
The first two chapters of each book quickly introduce each girl and retells the history of the club and its members, catching up any new readers who are just being introduced to the series. Regular readers can usually skip this section of the book, which can become redundant the more books they read in the series. Being created in the 80’s and having been written through the 90’s, the world and characters can seem dated to a modern, young reader. These days, girls would not have to use a friend’s phone line in order to conduct business. They would give out their own cell phones and wouldn’t need to keep regular business hours in order to take appointments. They wouldn’t post fliers around school. They would create social media accounts to advertise their business. Still, these technological and historical challenges can be endearing, and to older readers, they are nostalgic details that help establish time and place.
Without seeming instructional or preachy, the books also serve as a helpful guide to the job of babysitting itself. Pre-teen girls of any era are desperate to earn money to pursue their interests or hang out with friends, and babysitting is a great way for young teenagers to earn money. Still, earning money is not the main focus of the club so much as spending time with each other and helping out in their community. The books definitely gave me some pointers that I used in my own babysitting adventures. The girls use tricks like the kid kits to keep kids occupied, describe games that they play, and offer ways of dealing with misbehaving or special needs kids who need extra attention and are extra challenging.
Despite having distinct personalities, the girls are not one-dimensional. They are not perfect. They get frustrated, fight, and even have their mean and vengeful streaks, and this makes them relatable and real. Each of them has their personal vices and tragedies to get over. Many of the girls come from single parent families, via divorce or death. Some of them move around a lot. Some of them are frustrated by the monotony of their stable families, such as Mallory living with so many brothers and sisters. Some have been the new girl at school, such as Jessi, who had the added challenge of facing prejudice in Stoneybrook.
In book 26, Claudia deals with the death of her grandmother. Stacey has struggled with maintaining her diabetes from time to time. Kristy, Mary Anne, and Dawn have had to adapt to a new home life after their parents remarried. These are real situations that anyone would face, and those who won’t or haven’t yet faced them can still be exposed to these situations and learn from them. Each story can be funny, sad, thrilling, or mysterious. An entire spinoff series is dedicated to the girls solving mysteries, like Stacey trying to figure out who is sabotaging a fashion show in which she is participating or who left a young baby on Abby’s doorstep. Another spin off series, the Little Sister series, is for younger readers and features Kristy’s little step-sister, Karen, and her little adventures in school and with her friends. Again, she has everyday adventures that are relatable and still interesting from her bubbly point of view in the vein of a 90's family sitcom.
Babysitting Tips That I Learned from The BSC
Try to understand why difficult kids are acting out. Find out what is bothering them to make them upset or argumentative.
Never be afraid to call parents or give a bad report.
Know the household rules ahead of time. Use your best judgment if an unexpected situation comes up. Typically, the answer is “no.”
Never lose your authority. Remain in charge at all times.
Try not to lose your temper.
Stay engaged with the kids. Don’t just plop down in front of the TV and check on them every once in awhile. Always be in a room with at least one of them.
Know their eating habits/restrictions/allergies.
Don’t let them trick you in breaking a rule or getting over on you.
Bring a second sitter along if you’re watching more kids than you can handle.
Bring something from home for the kids to watch or play with, like a book or movie.
The author of The Baby-Sitter’s Club series is Ann M. Martin (the M stands for Matthews, her mother’s maiden name). She was born in Princeton, New Jersey on August 12, 1955. Martin attended Smith College and earned her degrees in education and psychology. She published her first novel in 1983 at the age of 27. The novel is called Bummer Summer, about a girl who is sent to summer camp after her father remarries and she causes trouble at home. Three more books were published until she was asked by Scholastic to write a four novel series for girls about babysitting. The books were so successful that more titles were ordered. She ended up writing the first 35 books in the series. After that, ghostwriters took over to write the rest of the series. She has stated that her favorite character is Kristy, who was modeled after her best friend growing up, a girl named Beth. The character of Mary Anne is modeled after herself.
Martin now lives in upstate New York with her dog and three cats. She never married and has no children. Her younger sister, Jane, has a son named Henry. When she is not writing, Martin enjoys sewing and typically makes clothes for children. Besides the BSC series and others that she has penned (including the Main Street, Doll People, and Family Tree series along with the BSC spinoff books), she has written several more novels including, A Corner of the Universe, about a girl who befriends her mentally ill uncle over the course of a summer. This book won the Newbery Medal in 2003.
Ann mainly writes her books on the computer and takes notes and edits by hand, typically writing in the mornings. It takes about a year for her to finish a novel. Her favorite Baby-Sitter’s Club books are the first (Kristy’s Great Idea) and the last (Graduation Day). There are no plans for a new BSC book any time soon, though prequels have been written chronicling the year before the first book begins. However, that doesn’t keep fans from asking when the series will make a comeback.
10 Words, Terms, and Concepts That I Learned from The Baby-Sitter’s Club
1. Casseroles – I never knew what a casserole was. It wasn’t a term that I heard in my family, but the girls mention them all the time. Mary Anne usually cooks dinner for she and her father, and in one book, she explains making a casserole before her father comes home.
2. Lox – When the girls visit Stacey in New York City, she introduces them to this strange, New York breakfast. It’s basically a piece of salmon on top of a bagel with cream cheese. The girls are leery to try it at first, but once they do, they love it.
3. Letters in phone numbers - On the BSC’s fliers, they list two phone numbers, starting with KL5. I had never heard of phone numbers starting with letters, but apparently, this is a thing.
4. Dens – When I heard of the sitters going to a house and finding the kids playing in their den, I imagined a dark, rocky cave, not a spare room in the back of the house. It took awhile for me to figure that out.
5. Californians Eat Healthy – While Stacey’s junk food intake is restricted due to her diabetes, having Dawn around makes her feel less awkward during meetings when Claudia busts out the chips and cookies. Dawn is very health conscious and doesn’t like to eat a lot of junk food. Living on the east coast my entire life, I had never heard of this lifestyle before.
6. Pig Latin – In the book Mallory and the Trouble With Twins, the difficult twins hide their wicked plans from Mallory by using a made up language. So, Mallory retaliates with pig latin, a more well known made up language that was new to me at the time. It’s simple to learn but takes some practice to communicate, moving the first letter of each word to the end and adding the sound “ay” after each word. The idea intrigues the girls and gives them a secret language that the three of them can speak together.
7. Pierced Ears – I didn’t get my ears pierced until the fifth grade, and I started reading the BSC books the year before. So, when Mary Anne is finally allowed to get her ears pierced, the experience is chronicled in the book. Step-by-step, the procedure is explained along with Mary Anne’s feelings and relatable personality, and it really helped calm my fears about the pain involved in getting holes punched through your skin.
8. Fliers – To promote their club, the girls post fliers at school and around the neighborhood. This technique inspired me to create my own clubs (all of which failed miserably) by creating my own fliers and posting them around my neighborhood. It made the idea feel real and helped get the word out about my services (yard work, selling junk, etc.).
9. IQ’s – Claudia’s sister, Janine, is a genius, and Martin writes that Janine has an IQ of 196. It also explains that the average person has an IQ of around 100. The concept of an IQ was unknown to me, and using those numbers really helped me to understand how smart Claudia’s older sister really is.
10. Diabetes – I had already known about diabetes through acquaintances who had the disease, but I didn’t know what was involved with maintaining the disease. Stacey’s books explain how she needs to eat balanced meals every day, give herself blood tests and insulin shots, and stay away from sugary foods. When she gets frustrated with her illness in book 43, the results land her in the hospital with diabetic shock. While this is scary, understanding her disease has helped someone like me, who knows nothing about it, understand its severity along with its ability to be managed and those who have it to live normal, everyday lives.
The first six books in the series encased in a retro tin to relive your 90's years.
Because it is a chapter book series for preteen girls, The Babysitter's Club series is typically not illustrated, but the original books do feature highly detailed and colorful covers featuring the main character dealing with the conflict that is taking place in that particular story. The first three original covers were created by an artist named Dale Dyer. These covers include: Kristy's Great Idea, Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls, and The Truth About Stacey. The rest of the original series covers were created by Hodges Soileau. Susan Tang illustrated the Little Sisters series.
Some of the special edition books, such as the Portrait Collection series and Super Specials books are illustrated with black and white illustrations meant to resemble scrapbook photos. These were created by artist, Angelo Tillery and feature moments that are described in the book. Their style is very close to the images presented in the covers and brings a sense of realism to the story, as if these are real girls whose lives you are following as if they were real friends.
The cover art is very eye-catching along with the pastel backgrounds in shades of pinks, yellows, oranges, greens, and blues. The more dramatic the situation on the cover, the more likely I was to pick it up, though the actual events that take place are not nearly as intense as the title and cover let on. Still, the realism of the covers and their colorfulness really makes them stand out on the shelves and cause young readers to gravitate toward them as a potential next read.
The series’ success is a testament to its ability to entertain and enlighten its audience. It’s a simple premise with regular characters dealing with normal, though often important, situations. There are no supernatural elements, risqué content, or gender-neutral appeal. The characters are stuck in a time warp of two years in an outdated era not yet overrun by technology and the fast-paced world of today. Still, that does not make the lives of these characters any less complicated. There is still a world full of lessons to be learned and plenty of junior high experiences to have over the course of 250 books. That's why fans are still asking for more stories about these girls and their babysitting adventures so that in our minds, we can all be 13 again.
Poll: Favorite Character
Jill Moore on April 01, 2015:
My sister adored these - I think I was a little too old for them by the time they were published here in the UK. That said, I remember reading one or two and my sister gave them to my daughter recently and they're on her bookshelf. I think she'd love them - I must remind her about them!
Lynn Savitzky from New Jersey on March 13, 2015:
This is a great article, really informative. I had...I think four of the dolls growing up, I saw the movie and the TV series, and I used to read the books religiously. I stopped around the #90s, though, and found out about Abby and Dawn going back to California and the Friends Forever series years later. I still love these books, I don't care how old I am. They were my childhood!
FlourishAnyway from USA on March 12, 2015:
I have a niece who would love this series. You did an impressive job profiling it from so many different angles.
Hannah David Cini from Nottingham on March 08, 2015:
I remember these, wow that really takes me back, it was the babysitter books, the naughty school boy and the pony club. Great article. :)