I’ve uncovered a great deal of nostalgia for these books among my peers, so when I decided to start the blog, I was thrilled for the excuse to reread and snark them. I snark with love, friends–I’m still a total fangirl. So let’s drop what we’re doing, put on our nostalgia goggles, and pretend it’s Monday, Wednesday or Friday at 5:30pm.
Snarking Nostaligic: The Baby-sitters Club #1-Kristy’s Great Idea Chapters 1-3 can be read here.
Original Publication Date-August 1986
Written by Ann M. Martin (we know she wrote the first 36)
Chapter 4 (aka the longest chapter EVER)
The next day at 5:30 Claudia (baggy yellow and checked mark shirt, black pants, red jazz shoes, bracelet that looked like it was made of telephone cord, dangling skeleton earrings) answers the door. Kristy
seems relieved notices Claud isn’t wearing makeup. Claudia blamed her strict ASIAN STEREOTYPE parents. Claudia then teaches us all the secret to getting away with daring fashion choices like skeleton earrings…
I didn’t put those on until I got to school.
A generation of girls learns to smuggle contraband fashion to school. THANKS CLAUDIA!
Claudia tells Kristy that Stacey is upstairs, but first they’ll have to go by Janine’s room. NERD is home and has her door open. There’s no escape! Janine lectures K about misusing the word “hopefully.” See–NERD.
“I really cannot take much of Janine.”–Kristy (of course)
This is why NERDS have no friends, Janine. No one will love you if you’re too smart. Maybe all those gender gap studies should’ve considered the BSC as a reason why so few of us grew up to take AP Calc in high school?
Kristy and Claudia escape the Vocabulary Police’s clutches and are about to open the door and unveil Stacey (from NEW YORK CITY) when the door bell rings. Kristy runs down to get Mary Anne (warning her about Janine). K and MA are “careful not to look at Janine as we ran by her open door” because if Janine makes eye contact your IQ will go up 10 points. Seriously–as an adult I feel for Janine who only exists to embody all the ASIAN STEREOTYPES that Claudia falls short of.
Finally we meet Stacey and her outfit (pink sweatshirt with a picture of a parrot and sequins on the front, skinny jeans with zippers on the sides of the legs, pink jelly shoes and she’s blonde). Kristy notes that she’s wearing jeans, sneakers and a blue hairband, but doesn’t mention a top. Mary Anne is wearing a skirt, saddle shoes and is sporting (natch) braids, but is also apparently topless.
Uncomfortable silence until Kristy starts ask Stacey about her baby-sitting history.
Stacey told us she baby-sat in her building in NEW YORK CITY which has over 200 apartments. Mary Anne gapes at the idea of such size and grandeur while Singaporean children reading the book are less than whelmed. Stacey can stay out until 10 O’clock. She’s just so damn sophisticated.
Mary Anne begins her interrogation, asking why Stacey left NEW YORK CITY. Because 12 year olds clearly get to dictate where they live. Stacey says her dad recently changed jobs and then changes the subject to Claudia’s bitchin’ wall posters. Claudia tells us she painted them herself because of course she did.
Little miss braids can’t take a hint and tells us that if she lived in NEW YORK CITY she’d never leave it for anything. She seems to believe that if your parents leave, all you have to do in NYC to survive is go down to the playground where Mr. Drummond will show up and adopt you. Everybody sing–Now, the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum…
Mary Anne pleads with Stacey to tell her more so she can live vicariously through her. Stacey proceeds to tell us that she went to a private school without uniforms (At which point every New Yorker laughs. The uniform is how we know if you’re at some pretender private school that only feeds to non-Ivies or if you’re at a REAL private school that requires you to commit hara kiri if you don’t get into Harvard.) Stace has taken the subway and taxis by herself!! Mary Anne’s mouth is hanging open and Stacey is starting to wonder exactly how she ended up here. To be fair, if you’ve seen pictures of Times Square pre-Disneyfication, this is perhaps a bit more impressive.
Kristy hasn’t heard the sound of her own voice in at least 5 minutes so she cuts Stacey off. Stacey interrupts right back to ask if she’s in or if she should go back to bedazzling her sweatshirts. Claudia wants Stacey in the club because someone else in this club needs to be wearing a bra. Mary Anne wants her in because NEW YORK CITY.
Kristy shrugs and says sure, whatever. Who cares who joins this totally professional baby-sitting club?
Claudia pulls out celebratory junk food, which everyone but Stacey partakes of. The other girls apply peer pressure because what freak of nature doesn’t like junk food? Stacey claims she’s dieting. The girls all channel their inner grandma and tell S she’s too thin and should eat, eat. It’s almost like she has a SECRET (This will make you want to scream by the end of the book)
Mary Anne’s Dad calls the house and demands she return home from across the street because it’s six ten. Now we all get why Mary Anne has vapors at the idea of a 10pm curfew.
We get a paragraph about lunch the next day and how Stacey and Claudia sit at the cool table at lunch. Well, of course they do. Have you looked at yourselves, Kristy and Mary Anne? Where are your bras? Your earrings? Between the two of you, do own anything with fringe or sequins? If this were set in the 90’s instead of the 80’s, this is the moment Cher Horowitz would’ve swooped in and given them a makeover montage.
Dudes–There are even boys at the table! Stacey and Claudia, don’t you know that’s how you’ll get
an STD cooties? The four girls meet up outside and go someplace quiet, where the popular kids won’t see Stacey and Claudia hanging out with their social inferiors. Kristy says they need to advertise. Claudia’s truly truly truly outrageous red felt hat agrees with Kristy. Kristy opens a major plot hole by asking Mary Anne if her dad will let her ride her bike around help hang up the flyers, and Mary Anne looks uncomfortable. Because a dad who will let you baby-sit in a stranger’s house is totally not going to let you ride your bike around the same neighborhood because….? Kristy says the club needs a symbol and asks Claudia to create one. Claudia widens the plot hole by acting unsure about her ability to do so because she sucks so hard at art.
“I know I can draw, but I’m not good at…symbols and stuff. Janine’s better at those things” (Claudia)
I’m sorry, but WHUT? Janine? NERD? The one you all hate and try to avoid at all costs? That’s who you think we should be asking for help?
Then Claudia and her hat come up with a logo and they all gasp in awe at the complexity of her design.
On Saturday, the girls call all the families they baby-sit for and place an ad in a newspaper. If Elanor or Rhi ever read this book, there is so much I’m going to have to explain like physical newspapers, why they didn’t do an email blast, and just what a stationary telephone is. Apparently in the 90’s there was a reboot of the books, trying to update the books to hip things those newfangled children can understand–cassettes become headphones and such. Which was the worst idea ever, and thankfully it died a quick death. In the 2000’s they did graphic novels of books 1, 3, 4 and 7 that also died a quick death, but have at least made for some great illustrations for my snark.
Stacey suggests they should have officers. Kristy is elected President because it was her idea (and they all know that the hell she’d put them through if she isn’t President just isn’t worth it). Claudia gets VP because it’s her room and her phone. Mary Anne gets Secretary because she has neat handwriting. Stacey gets Treasurer because she’s good with Math and money, teaching us all that you can be good at Math as long as you’re pretty.
Claudia gets out Gummi Bears because it’s been at least five minutes and she’s jonesing for her next sugar high (Claudia is going to smoke hella weed at art school) and Stacey runs out of the room because even looking at candy is bad (bad enough that she needs to inject some insulin, apparently).
They create the flyer. Kristy says her mom will copy it for them on Monday. Her mom will absolutely want to help her out after Kristy refused to do her a solid by babysitting Watson’s kids back in Chapter 2.
Speaking of Watson, Kristy has to go home so her mom can go out on her hot date. Stacey asks who Watson is. Kristy explains, noting that her parents are divorced. Stacey looks uncomfortable, but shares that her parents have been married for 15 years (raise your hand if you can smell the foreshadowing). Claudia outdoes her because her parents have been married twenty years–Asian’s don’t get divorced because divorce is a Western problem. Mary Anne reminds us that her Mom is Dead Dead Dead.
Watson arrives. David Michael is super excited to see him. Mrs. Thomas yells at Kristy to come down and act like a human being who can be polite for five seconds. Mrs. Thomas clearly cherishes some illusions about Kristy.
Kristy trudges downstairs as if she’s about to face the firing squad.
SURPRISE! Watson has brought over Chinese Takeout! They’re all going to eat together! Isn’t that exciting?!
Kristy is annoyed that Watson is always bringing food over, as if he wants to develop a relationship with Mrs. Thomas’ kids instead of just taking their mom to a cheap hotel for a quick bang like a normal man. Kristy pointedly asks who’s watching his kids, and Watson says he found a nice baby-sitter (could this be where the mysterious Kathy has disappeared to?) We find out that Sam and Charlie also like Watson, who seems like a decent guy. Charlie eats, but notes that he’s taking his girlfriend Carole (who I’m pretty sure we never hear from again because the BSC needs a hot older brother or two to crush on from time to time) later. But he’s a boy, which means he can eat second dinner and seventh dinner on any given night.
Kristy decides to be a bitch and asks her mom if they have leftover chili. She’s not going to eat Watson’s charity Chinese food! What if he put drugs into it that would turn her into a nice person? (Seriously, why is she who I wanted to be when I was a kid? I have to imagine it’s because she gets a fairly big attitude adjustment in the near future). Watson looks hurt because DUH. What does he have to do to get her to give him a chance–tell her he’s a MILLIONAIRE (something we’ll be told multiple times a book in every single book from the reveal until the end of time)? Kristy confesses to us that she’s starving for Chinese food, but makes a pbj because eating the Chinese food would be equivalent to surrendering Europe to the Nazi’s.
Watson, who is clearly a masochist, tries to ask Kristy about school and her life and gets monosyllabic replies. Sam gives her a death glare and jumps in to tell Watson about his Math Team meet (another exception to the Math makes you a NERD rule–you can also like Math if you’re a boy). David Michael shares that he’s getting a new GI Joe. Watson confesses he doesn’t know much about that cartoon and Kristy implies he’s a deadbeat dad because ALL boys like GI Joe. Anyone else up for tying Kristy to a chair and playing “Free to Be You and Me?” She then asks if Karen has a My Little Pony because ALL girls like those, or is he ignorant of those too? Mrs. Thomas demands an apology. Kristy says her mouth is much to full of delicious PBJ to do that, and is summarily kicked out of the room.
“I’m sorry Watson,” I mumbled. I walked out the kitchen and started up the stairs. When I was halfway up, I yelled over my shoulder, “I’m sorry you’re such a terrible father!”
The thing is that Kristy knows she’s being a complete asshole. She admits that Watson’s actually a good dad. Especially compared to her absent deadbeat jackass of a dad. But she’s not going to admit it. All joking aside, I think that Martin’s portrayal here is actually pretty honest. My mom was a single mom and I made a point of being as awful as I could to any date I ever met, hoping that the prospect of dealing with me would make them dump my mom. My mom never did marry, which was actually her choice, but as an adult I feel pretty terrible about being such a brat. Kristy feels bad for being a brat too, and puts an apology note on her mom’s door.
Dear Mom, I’m sorry I was so rude. I guess I haven’t learned much about decorum yet. I hope you had fun on your date. I love you. Kristy
DECORUM! The last gasp of that subplot.
In the morning there’s a note saying “I love you too” from her mom because Mrs. Thomas is the best mom ever.
Kristy runs home and gapes at their beautiful three line ad in the newspaper. They’re sure to be drowning in sitting jobs! Claudia, Kristy and Mary Anne are going to go hang flyers. Stacey is mysteriously busy. (Note from the future-she’s probably at an endocrinologist appointment because her life is all about baby-sitting, clothes, and diabetes).
Kristy has to check to see if Kathy is there before she can leave. Kathy is alive! She’s still baby-sitting David Michael! For now.
You won’t have a job for much longer if Kristy and the BSC have anything to say about it. You did cancel that one time, so clearly a group of 12 year olds are a better choice for baby-sitting than a 15 year old. Cheaper? LOL—Kristy isn’t the type to give a family discount to her mom.
On Friday the baby-sitters gather early, eagerly waiting for the phone to ring. Janine is a killjoy as she waxes poetic about whether there should be an apostrophe in babysitters or not. Why does she have to be so fucking SMART and BORING? Smart people suck. Stacey, having learned the fine art of being rude and not giving any fucks about it from her upbringing in NYC, comes through the door and shuts it in Janine’s face. Score one for that NYC upbringing, amirite BSC?
They watch the clock tick toward 5:30, and Claudia hands around the candy. NEW GAME-every time Claud hands around the candy, take a shot. It would explain a lot if that was how Martin and Lerangis got through writing the books. Also how they came up with some of Claudia/Stacey’s outfits.
5:30. THE PHONE RINGS! OMFG! THEY ARE GOING TO MAKE SO MUCH BANK!
It’s Kristy’s mom. Kathy can’t come next Wednesday (see, I told you Kathy wouldn’t be around much longer). As a mom, I’m betting Mrs. T asked Kathy not to come so she could give the BSC a pity job to make them feel like special snowflakes. I know she’s knows that the phone wasn’t going to ring much that afternoon. Mary Anne checks the schedule and Stacey and Kristy are available. Kristy is underwhelmed at the idea of her first BSC job being for her own brother.
Kristy mentions her two older brothers. Stacey’s eyes bug out of her head–who knew she’d get to meet older brothers on the job?! She accepts the job and immediately begins shopping for a new older-brother-impressing outfit in her head–maybe something she could pair with neon plastic geometric earrings?
THE PHONE RINGS AGAIN! Wrong number for a Jim Bartolini. Oh.
5:42 Some strange lady none of them know called Mrs. McKeever calls for a sitter for Buffy and Pinky. Look, ladies, I know this is Connecticut in the 80’s, and it’s so preppy that you all shit pink cashmere sweater sets and argyle socks, but maybe something is up with that? They’re three. Oh, so they’re twins? Maybe while Mrs. McKeever is asking you a zillion questions, you could ask one or two more? Nope? Yay for Kristy’s first sitting job? Wow, I hope that hijinks don’t ensue.
TWO MORE CALLS for Jim Bartolini. Sad face.
5:55. Mary-Anne is totally ready to leave because this was a total waste of time. If you don’t have a rip-roaring success in the first meeting ever, then you’ll never have one. She might as well go back to knitting and dreaming about NEW YORK CITY.
BUT WAIT! THE PHONE RINGS.
It’s Kristy’s mom again.
I rolled my eyes. “Mom?” I said. “Did Kathy back out of her other afternoon, too? …Oh….Oh…Oh, no. Not me. I am not baby-sitting for them. You know how I feel. Okay, but hold on… Watson needs a baby-sitter for his kids again on Saturday morning. Not tomorrow, but next Saturday,” I told the others. “I’m not doing it.”
MO-OM, haven’t we covered that I totally hate baby-sitting, which is why I started a baby-sitting club? Mary-Anne takes the job and asks Kristy if she isn’t the least be curious what Karen and Andrew are like? Kristy is, but will never ever ever meet them, which will totally derail everything between her mom and Watson.
5:30 THE PHONE RINGS.
“It’s some boy on the phone,” she told us. “He says his name is Jim Bartolini. He wants to know if there have been any calls for him.”
Kristy is totally justified in threatening her brother Sam’s life for doing this to them. Kristy goes home and tattles on Sam. He starts repeating everything she says. Mrs. T tells him he can’t use the phone for an hour, which seems like a totally legit thing to threaten a teenage boy with since they’re known for being on the phone all the time and we’ve seen Sam on the phone exactly zero times in this book. Then she sends Kristy to her room.
Mrs. T has had a long day because those are the kind of consequences moms come up with when our head hurts too much and we’re too tired to enforce anything else.
Kristy is thrilled to be sent to her room because Watson is coming over again.
Watson takes Mrs. Thomas out, hopefully for a dinner that includes a big tall glass of wine.
Claudia calls to let Kristy know that Mrs. Newton called for a sitter for Jamie and that she took it since she was free. Kristy gets emo that Claudia took it, even though it’s her room and her phone and she was free. Ms. Poutypants goes to bed with Louie the dog at her feet wondering what Buffy and Pinky would be like (FORESHADOWING).
Baby-sitting Day! So exciting! Kristy arrives at the house, and notices a distinct lack of kid stuff outside for a family with twin three year olds. Hmmmm…. Mrs. McKeever answers the door and lets Kristy in. The house is really clean, and full of really nice stuff like glass vases and oriental rugs. The only sign of kids are baby gates at the kitchen door. It’s also pretty quiet. RUN AWAY, KRISTY! Kristy asks where the twins are.
“Oh, they’re in the laundry room.”
RUN AWAY NOW BEFORE SHE GOES ALL HANNIBAL LECTER ON YOUR ASS! Then the woman says her name is Mrs. Hargreaves, and she’s Mrs. McKeever’s niece–dude, this is sketchier by the minute, get out NOW.
The job is only going to last a few hours, and Kristy is feeling pretty bad for these poor little kids, so she offers to take them for a walk. Mrs. Hargreaves is doubtful.
“Are Pinky and Buffy boys or girls?” I asked.
“Well, it doesn’t much matter–”
“–but Buffy’s a boy and Pinky’s a girl.”
Kristy is rightfully finally getting the creeps when they reach the Laundry Room door. Mrs. H warns Kristy that the monsters will knock her over.
The door opens…..Two massive St. Bernards knock Kristy to the ground. LOL.
Kristy, not being the brightest crayon in the box asks if she has to baby-sit them too.Mrs. H looks at her doubtfully. Did the dogs of doom concuss her or something? Or is she just stupid? Whatevs. She needs to go. She zooms through some instructions and leaves Kristy alone with two massive drooling hairballs.
You’ve got to give Kristy credit. She gamely takes them into the backyard and tries to play fetch with them. Which works for about five seconds before one of them runs her down and they escape. She finds them next door where they’ve knocked down some laundry. Poor Kristy tries to hang the laundry back up while keeping the dogs interested in their footballs and not other people’s yards. She realizes that no good deed goes unpunished and takes them back inside.At the end of the babysitting job, Kristy decides they should keep a journal of all their sitting jobs so that they could learn from each other’s mistakes. Like hers.
We get our first BSC notebook entry. This is a bizarre plot device in that it tells you what’s going to happen before it tells you what happened. These are done in a different handwriting style and voice for each character, and is a nice way to allow someone besides the narrator to speak, if only for a page. Claudia, whose personality is art, clothes, and sucks at school, will eventually come to write journal entries that border on illegible due to spelling mistakes. This one isn’t too bad compared to the others that will come in the future (see below).
Apparently Mrs. Newton pulled a dirty trick on the BSC, too. Instead of it just being Jamie, there were three other kids, which is seriously bullshit. Kristy is nice about it because it’s not Watson who screwed up, and says that it’s probably because Mrs. Newton has serious pregnancy brain. To make things more fun, Jamie and Rosie have a private war going, Brenda was just getting over chicken pox (here’s where you know I’ve had two kids-I actually got shocked because pregnant women are supposed to stay the hell away from chicken pox at that stage of pregnancy-it’s a bfd—and then I had to remind myself FICTION), and Rob hated girls including girl baby-sitters.
Claudia is in for a super fun time.The kids proceed to freak the hell out and cry and fight until the adults just throw their hands up and abandon the kids with Claudia. Because if four adults can’t deal with them, the twelve year old will be TOTALLY FINE.
Rosie began running around and around the room, yelling at the top of her lungs. She wasn’t yelling words; she was just making noise. Brenda leaped onto the Newton’s couch and jumped up and down on it as if it were a trampoline. And Rob turned his fingers into a gun and aimed them at Claudia. “Pow! Pow! Pow-Pow-Pow! You’re a dead man!…I mean a dead lady!” Jamie looked on dazedly.
Claudia proves she’s smarter than Kristy who would’ve been screaming louder than the kids. Claud sits down with Jamie and starts quietly reading to him, ignoring the other kids. As any parent knows, this will work some large percentage of the time, and one by one the kids came over and quieted down.
Claudia wins at baby-sitting.