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The Baby-Sitters Club: Kristy's Great Idea
posted April 7, 2006
Raina Telgemeier (from the work of Ann M. Martin)
Scholastic, 192 pages, 2006, $8.99
I rather liked the first volume of Scholastic's Baby-Sitter Club
trade paperbacks, which may or may not be a good thing for the series. I used to read comics in the way I read this one all the time, by which I mean my friends and I at summer camp or at the lakes or waiting for little league practice could sit around for hours reading Harveys or Archies or any comic with a strong visual component that proved to be pleasant, distracting company. That's the great surprise of Telgemeier's effort, that while you could fault her on a technical issue here and there and the art isn't quite lovely to look at in the way the best comics art is, it's genuine and consistent and reflects a worldview that allows full immersion into the very slight story. It's easy to look at her comics and imagine the world that goes with them, if that makes any sense. That's a great quality to have for a series like this one, and it shows that Scholastic made a smart choice.
That story dives into the formation of a baby-sitters club by four girls -- Mary Anne, Kristy, Stacey and Claudia -- none of whom I could tell from the other by name except for protagonist Kristy. The club helps them take better advantage of their neighborhood's baby-sitting needs. Various soap opera-type plots develop giving this first work a structure a more open-ended concept wouldn't allow. Kristy's mom is in the process of dating and becoming engaged to another man. There exists some friction between Claudia and Kristy over Kristy's relative lack of interest in girly-girl things. Stacey may have some sort of afterschool special-type problem at home. That's pretty much all I remember. The story seems narrative- rather than idea-focused in that the stories don't naturally connect one to the other but work together to provide a level of drama.
The manner in which the plot threads resolve lets you know you're square in a work that I usually call a "decency fantasy." No one here is psychologically scarred or really messed up or likely to do something shockingly aberrant; in addition, the application of positive values leads to positive outcomes. That kind of theme work I'm thinking makes this a book for very small children, the kind that look at kids in the BSC age brackett and try to use these stories to figure out what life might be like as you start to claim more of that world for your own. They could no much worse than spending some time with Telgemeier's stories.