Monday, December 6, 2010

Lessons I Learned from the Babysitters Club, Part I

I've told you guys all the important things I learned from Goosebumps and The Twilight Zone. Now, I'm tackling the BSC!

Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls

Synopsis: Something scary is going on in Stoneybrook. A criminal is robbing houses but considerately calling to make sure that no one's home when he comes over. The girls panic--what if the Phantom Phone Caller strikes when they're babysitting?

Lessons Learned: You can tell that Scholastic really cared about putting in back when these books came out. Even though BSC mania hadn't yet hit America, whoever came up with this title managed an alliteration even with the "ph" prefix to both words. Kudos to you, phantom book title writer!

The Truth About Stacey

Synopsis: Stacey (still) has diabetes but her parents are having a hard time dealing with it. Also, the BSC gets some competition.

Lessons Learned: Since Ann M. already told us that Stacey had diabetes in book one, there's not much "truth" to be revealed in this book. I think this is what's known as tipping your hand too soon. That also explains why Ellen, Suzanne, Peter and the other ghostwriters are always so eager for Ann M. to take part in the weekly Scholastic poker game.

Mary Anne Saves the Day

Synopsis: Mary Anne's father is overprotective of her: she can't stay out as late to babysit as her friends, she has to wear her hair in pigtails, and she can't even pick out her own clothes or decorate her room. But when Mary Anne shows she's matured, her father finally decides to give her the freedom she's been wanting for so long.

Lessons Learned: Much like Warren Jeffs of the FLDS, Richard Spier knew that the secret to keeping a woman oppressed lay in ensuring that she wore a humiliatingly out of place hairdo. After Mary Anne gained control over her hair, it was all over: boyfriends and the freedom to adorn her bedroom walls with all the cute kitten pictures she could lay her hands on.

Jessi's Babysitter

Synopsis: Jessi's mother decides to go back to work so Jessi's overbearing Aunt Cecilia moves in to help out. Will Jessi and Becca be able to cope?

Lessons Learned: The tagline for the book is Jessi doesn't need a babysitter--she is one! Apparently, Liesel Von Trapp steered me wrong when she haughtily informed Maria that at sixteen she did not require a governess. In actuality, it was thirteen year old Brigitta and twelve year old Kurt who should have been the most offended.

Stacey's Emergency

Synopsis: Stacey isn't feeling well. Is it her diabetes?

Lessons Learned: If things don't go well with this Scholastic gig, illustrator Hodges Soileau could do great things in the advertising sphere specializing in products for the stressed out working mom on the go.

Welcome Back, Stacey!

Synopsis: Stacey's parents get a divorce. Her mother decides to return to Stoneybrook, and Stacey has to choose which parent she wants to live with. This book sets up the big question: will she return to Stoneybrook--and the BSC?

Lessons Learned: The good people at Scholastic may have had the art of L33t speak down well before the Internet came along. (Mary Anne + 2 Many Babies? Kristy + Bart = ? Truly ahead of their time!) But they really needed to work on their sense of suspense.

Keep Out, Claudia!

Synopsis: Claudia babysits for a new family. The children's mother dislikes Claudia but seems to like most of the other sitters. The BSC soon suspects that their new clients are racist.

Lessons Learned: For all her love of adolescents with blonde hair and blue eyes, deep down, I think Ann M. never much cared for Flowers in the Attic. I like to think that this book, in which a bunch of Dollanganger dopplegangers exhibit bigotry, is her little V.C. Andrews send up.

Mallory Hates Boys (and Gym)

Synopsis: Mallory hates boys. And gym. No false advertising here, folks.

Lessons Learned: Scholastic's mastery of punctuation leaves something to be desired. Sorry, Scholastic. Putting in a parenthetical phrase doesn't make this title cute or whimsical. Now, consider a strike through or an exclamation mark, and this might become a little more marketable.