Thank god it’s a BSC week. I need to get the taste of that horrible Sweet Valley book out of my mouth. Say what you will about the BSC (and we can and will say plenty) at least there was never this horrible level of fat shaming and manipulation that we saw in SVH.
Ann M. Martin
Originally Published December 1986
After being super pregnant for two books, Mrs. Newton is about to pop. Kristy, being the forward thinker that she is, assumes that Mrs. Newton has no plans for Jamie when she goes into labor. Obviously, the baby will be born during sanctioned sitting hours so they can ride to the rescue. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see the phone call where Kristy tells Mrs. Newton all of this because Janine bursts in, and is all a-tizzy. This is out of character, but I think this is supposed to be an extension of her and Claudia’s bonding moment in book 2. Janine found a flyer for the “The Baby-sitters Agency.” OH NOES! Their sitters are age 13 and up and can babysit MUCH later than the BSC girls can!
Kristy converts the BSC meeting to an EMERGENCY meeting (they have a lot of emergency meetings in these early books—If I recall that slows down pretty quickly-maybe because soon we have Dawn’s California zen attitude calming them down…or the reefer fumes coming off her hippie clothes do).
Who ARE these Baby-sitters Agency girls?
“Those two aren’t babysitters any more than I’m the Queen of France. … They have smart mouths, they sass the teachers, they hate school, they hang around at the mall. You know, that kind of kid.”
I’m impressed that Claudia managed to effectively slutshame them without ever actually mentioning boys. These are BAD GIRLS. You just know how this is going to go down.
Kristy calls the BSA, pretending to be a seventh grader named Candy Kane, who needs a sitter for her little brother Harry because she has a date with her boyfriend Winston Churchill. She’s offered three sitters, one of whom is a HIGH SCHOOL GIRL. I’m dying of laughter over here.
Kristy is like the Don Corleone of Stoneybook. This second babysitting organization can’t be allowed to survive. After all there’s only like 10 families with kids (apparently) and the nearest town next to Stoneybrook is 20 miles away. Clearly, there isn’t enough business to go around.
Stacey goes home and feels depressed. To pass the time, she gives a lengthy exposition about the last year of her life. How her diabetes was discovered, what diabetes is, and how it wrecked her life.
Before diabetes, Stacey lived on the Upper West Side of NYC with a view of Central Park from her bedroom. I hate to bring realism into this, but her parents have to be millionaires for that to be true (especially as she also attended a private school—which is good for 30+K USD a year on its own). I think Martin just wanted to paint all of us the ideal NYC life—because she knows that just like Mary Anne, we’re all dreaming of living in NYC. I’d love to know what a real New Yorker thought of the huge disconnect between Stacey’s NYC life and real NYC life—or if they just shrugged it off because it’s fiction?
After the diagnosis (which came after several embarrassing things, including wetting the bed at a sleepover—which would absolutely be mortifying for a tweenager), her parents morph into psychotic helicopter parents. At first Stacey doesn’t necessarily manage the diabetes well, fainting at school and getting hospitalized a few times. They also don’t want anyone to know that Stacey has diabetes. The way they handle this makes me think they’d be best buddies with Elsa and Anna’s parents.
(watch all the way, including past the credits)
Stacey and her bff go from friends to enemies overnight. In part, obviously because Stacey has cut her out and is lying. Stacey was thrilled to move to CT and get a fresh start. Now she has friends because of the BSC and she’ll be damned if she loses them because of a competing babysitting agency. Which is incredibly flawed logic from the 35 year old perspective, but makes sense from a 12 year old.
The next day there is yet another emergency BSC meeting. This is the first appearance of Kristy in the chair with the visor and clipboard that becomes iconic within the series. However, Kristy is uncharacteristically hysterical and says they should do free housework, drop their rates and bring kid-kits to every appointment. AND they will hire some older kids, too. The only idea any of them like is the kid-kits (which also become iconic), but they reluctantly agree to bring in older kids.
Stacey babysits Charlotte Johanssen. On the way to the playground, they stop at a candy store. In what I think is a really wonderful and genuine moment, Stacey is tempted to buy some. Her diabetes is new, after all, and she remembers candy vividly. As they’re walking, they run into Liz Lewis who hands them a balloon advertising The Baby-sitters Agency.
Kristy was worried. She took the balloons as a personal insult. It turned out that she’d run into Liz that afternoon herself. Only Kristy had had the nerve to tell Liz who she was–president of the Baby-sitters Club, and therefore Liz’s number one rival.
Upon reading this, I hope against hope that Kristy is about to break out the Jets jackets and Liz the Sharks and that they’ll break into some kind of snazzy dance based gang fight. JAZZ HANDS!
One day after school Kristy and Stacey go to Kristy’s house to find Jamie Newton eating cookies with Mrs. Thomas. Mrs. Newton had a game plan! Score one for responsible adults! This of course leads to discussions about how long babies take to be born and what time each of the BSC girls were born. We get the reminder that Mary Anne’s mom is dead dead dead. Thus she can’t find out what time she was born because obviously her dad wouldn’t know? (Luckily Mimi knows and tells her, circumventing her having a conversation with her father.)
Jamie feels a sense of camaraderie with Honest Toddler, and is pissed off that his parents have afflicted him with Infant Sibling Disease. Kristy decides to throw him a big brother party and invite neighborhood kids. We get our first appearance of Mallory Pike, who can’t seem to decide if she belongs with the little kids or the baby-sitters because she is destined to spend the series not fitting in with either. Mrs. Newton calls during the festivities to tell them it’s a girl. Jamie is not whelmed.
But it isn’t just the appearance of a baby sister that has Jamie Newton upset.
“Something else will be different. There will be lots of changes.”
“What else will be different?” I asked.
“Kristy can’t baby-sit me anymore.”
“What do you mean?” That cold feeling crept into my stomach again.
“Mommy called a girl and said ‘We need an older sitter for the new baby.'”
Look, I’m all for 13 year old sitters for my 2 and 5 year olds, but a newborn? Nope, you’re going to have to be 17/18 at the very youngest and 22+ by preference. How much you want to bet this entirely rational, responsible, good choice is going to blow up in Mrs. Newton’s face? Any takers?
Stacey tells Kristy what Jamie had said. Kristy narrows her eyes and says “this means war.”
At school they see the BSA girls handing out flyers and they snag one from a boy (because boys don’t babysit, duh). Kristy calls a triple-emergency meeting at her house after school because it’s her day with David Michael. For now–what if her mom turns traitor like Mrs. Newton? It’s TOO RISKY to talk about things at school. Kristy would make a great drug kingpin. Queenpin. Whatever.
Stacey’s parents are going to take her to go see some new holistic new-agey doctor who will cure her diabetes through nonsense. She tries to tell her parents she thinks the idea is full of shit and gets a stonewall of “we’re your parents and we want what’s best for you.” Stacey is rightfully skeptical of this, and asks Charlotte’s mom about this Dr. Barnes character and has her worst fears confirmed–Her idiot parents are taking her to a quack.
If the BSA is going to use flyers to advertise for new members, then the BSC members are going to wear sandwich boards to advertise for new members. As they do, they learn that they are the only baby-sitters worth a damn in the town. Everyone else watches tv and is horrified at interacting with children. UGH, children. Everyone but Kristy fails…but she has two new members.
That these two new members are pals of Liz? No problem! They had a falling out! THIS IS NOT SUSPICIOUS AT ALL.
But before the next BSC meeting, the girls go over to visit the Newtons. They all have presents for the baby and Jamie. However, Kristy uses this as an excuse to call out Mrs. Newton for being a traitor. Mrs. Newton gives a reasonable explanation for why this is her choice for now. She’ll get hers.
At the BSC meeting, the two new girls get assigned jobs for that weekend.
Shocking news. The new girls don’t show up to the meeting on Monday. Kristy gets irate phone calls to ask why the hell the girls didn’t show up at their jobs. Kristy decides to confront the girls at school the next day–and gets upset when they laugh in her face. I never saw that coming.
A few days later Stacey sees Jamie Newton and he’s mopey. His sitters neglect him and worse.
Jamie nodded. “With a–a cigarette.” He said “cigarette” as if it were a dirty word. Neither of his parents is a smoker.
“Gosh,” I said. “Anything else?”
“Sometimes they talk on the phone. They talk longer than Mommy and Daddy do…Stacey?”
“What’s a boyfriend?”
Ann M. Martin left no bad babysitter stereotype untouched, did she? There are NO sitters worth a damn in Stoneybrook except the BSC. (And maybe Kathy, if she’s still watching David Michael two days a week…unless she turned traitor and joined the BSA? This is never addressed. I don’t know if we ever see Kathy again.)
Then Stacey babysits Charlotte and finds out that she’s been getting babysat by bad girls too. Who only babysit her for the money! Stacey is indignant at the idea, forgetting that she babysits in part to buy clothes. With cuddles and kisses, apparently because stores don’t take money. While Dr. Johanssen is a traitor who hires BSA girls, she does come through for Stacey with a letter for her parents.
What (Stacey) told us got the club ready for the final battle in the war against the Baby-sitters Agency (entry in BSC notebook by Mary Anne)
The BSC girls are walking home and find Jamie Newton on the sidewalk outside his house with no coat and no supervision. The girls tell him to go back inside and only play in the fenced in backyard, and to wear his coat and mittens. See, I told you Mrs. Newton would get what was coming to her.
When Mrs. Newton comes home, they go over and tell her what happened. They’re scared of being seen as tattletales, but are relieved when Mrs. Newton believes them.
“Mrs. Newton,” Kristy said suddenly, “I know you’ll want to call Cathy about this afternoon yourself, but could you let us talk to Liz and Michelle? We have a score to settle with them.”
I’m so disappointed to tell you that there is no dance fighting. The girls defeat the BSA with trivia. What’s Jamie Newton’s favorite sandwich? What’s Charlotte Johanssen’s favorite game? What does it mean when Nina Marshall rubs her ears? What is Nina allergic to? SEE? They’re better babysitters and now Liz knows it, too.
Stacey and her parents leave for New York. Oh noes! They’re going to stay with Laine’s family. Stacey will have to face off against her frenemy.
Stace has to go to the witch doctor and get endless, expensive tests. After a day of this, she sits her parents down and introduces them to reality. She likes real doctors and has made her own appointment with the help of Dr. Johanssen. Her parents agree to meet with him, who explains to them that Stacey already has good doctors and is doing a great job of managing her diabetes. Her biggest problem is her parents (revisit the “How Frozen Should Have Ended” video above again). At least they agree to back off.
Stacey, flush with triumph at taking control of her health issues confronts Laine. Laine didn’t know what was going on, was upset at being blocked out, and when another kid suggested Stacey was contagious she believed him. Stacey explains that she almost had to stay back and that the attention she was getting wasn’t exactly positive. They make up and all is right with the world.
However, in obsessing over her relationship with Laine, Stacey never once talks to Claudia as a BFF. This is particularly interesting as it is a HUGE plot point throughout the books that Stacey and Claudia are best friends. This strikes me as weird.
Once back in Stoneybrook, Stacey learns that the parents have taken down the BSA. Apparently they had this crazy idea of asking their kids about what the new sitters were like, and once they found out, they started calling one another. Everyone, mark it on your calendar–this may be one of the only moments adults in Stoneybrook act like adults.
I’m torn on this book. The BSA/BSC war is hilarious. The way that Stacey’s parents treat diabetes like HIV is just stupid. However, the way that Stacey advocates for herself is really admirable, and I think that’s what a lot of people respond to. On one hand, this article discusses this book as an important part of the author’s journey of acceptance with his own diabetes. On the other, I asked my friend S, who is also a type 1 diabetic about the book and she said “However my vague recollection is of scary view of diabetes that would freak me out if I read it again now and based on those memories the girls won’t be reading them.” You’ll have to decide for yourself.
Next week: Prom Dress by Lael Littke.