Saturday, December 8, 2012

Kristy's Great Idea (Baby-sitters Club #1)

Kristy's Great Idea (Baby-sitters Club #1)
Ann M. Martin
Apple, 1986

Genre: Realistic


On the second Tuesday of seventh grade, Kristy Thomas comes up with a life-changing idea for her friends. That night her mom brings home a pizza. She only does this when she wants something. It turns out that David Michael's Wednesday babysitter can't make it so she wanted to know if Kristy, Charlie, or Sam could watch him but all of them already have after school plans. Her mom calls Mary Anne, Claudia, and two other high school girls but they all also have plans. Finally, she calls Mrs. Newton, who Kristy is babysitting for the next day, to ask if it would be all right for David Michael to come to. Kristy feels bad that her mom now has a cold dinner because she had to call a bunch of people just to find a sitter and it is from this that she gets her idea for the babysitter club. 

She thinks about possible members, advertising, meeting times, and weekly dues. Her idea is that at certain times of the week people could call one number to get a hold of a number of babysitters. She hopes that Claudia would be able to make some awesome advertising flyers with her art skills to attract clients. Claudia says that they can hold meetings in her room because she has her own telephone and that she knows someone who might want to join the club. She just moved to Stoneybrook, a girl named Stacey McGill. She moved from New York City and is really cool. They all agreed to meet the next afternoon.

Stacey tells them that she used to live in a big apartment complex with more than 200 apartments and used to babysit all the time. She can also stay out of 10 on Friday and Saturday nights. When Mary Anne asks Stacey why they moved, she looks embarrassed and says that her dad changed jobs. The girls set about making rules when Claudia gets some candy and Stacey tries to politely refuse (we later find out she's diabetic). At recess the next day the girls get together and Claudia draws up a logo—the words the “babysitters club” drawn up as children’s alphabet blocks.

Meanwhile, we learn that Kristy’s parents are divorced and her mother is dating a man named Watson. He has two children—Karen and Andrew. Whenever he comes over to the house, Kristy is pretty rude to him and refuses to babysit his kids. On the other hand, her brothers David Michael, Charlie, and Sam all like Watson.

Soon the girls are in business getting calls from all over the neighborhood to babysit. They decide to start a sort of babysitting journal of their experiences so if they each have to babysit certain kids they can read up on each other’s experiences and know what to expect. Kristy’s first club assignment is at a Mrs. McKeever's house where she notices something odd. There are absolutely no signs of children. It turns out that the children, Buffy and Pinky, are two gigantic St. Bernards. Kristy is flabbergasted at the fact that she's been hired to take care of two dogs. Claudia writes her entry about babysitting for the Newtons. It turns out she wasn't babysitting just Jamie but his three cousins too. They were a completely rambunctious lot. Stacey babysat for David Michael and had absolutely no trouble but Kristy thinks that it was mainly because Stacey's boy crazy and her brother Sam is girl crazy. Sam later told Kristy that he thought Stacey was a foxy chick while Stacey later told Kristy that she thought Sam was a gorgeous hunk. Mary Anne's first job was babysitting Watson’s kids, Andrew and Karen. She thought they were cute. Karen is five and Andrew is three and she thinks Kristy would like them if she babysat them. The biggest problem she had with them where with Boo-Boo, an evil cat, and Mrs. Porter, the next-door neighbor Karen is convinced is a witch.

As the book continues, the girls get more and more jobs. One evening she finds her mother and Watson in the living room and the kids are asked to go and dress up nicely. It turns out that they have some news—Watson has asked Kristy’s mom if she would consider getting engaged to him. This news really upsets Kristy.

The girls had planned a club pizza party but it never happens. David Michael wakes up sick, their cat hurts his paw, their mom is grouchy, Charlie is missing things, and Sam almost misses his math club meeting. Kristy gets a phone call from Mary Anne saying that her father won't let her spend money on a pizza party. Mary Anne can't even come to the party. Kristy then gets a phone call from Claudia. Her parents got a letter in the mail from school stating that she doesn't try hard enough and doesn't pay attention. Her parents won’t let her have the pizza party. Around noon, Kristy decides to try and call Stacey to see if she's home yet. Stacey's mom answers the phone, pauses awkwardly, and then tells Kristy that Stacey is not home. Soon thereafter Mary Anne calls to say that Stacey was just getting back home. Mary Anne and Kristy realize that someone is lying. Kristy finally gets one last phone call that she really doesn't want to get—Watson needs an emergency babysitter and Kristy is the only one available.

The kids turn out to be all right. Later that night Kristy and her mom talk about the babysitting and what would happen if her mom and Watson got married. First of all, the custody arrangements wouldn't change so wherever they live Andrew and Karen would only visit them. Second, it would look like they would have to move to Watson's because his house has more space.

By Monday’s club meeting everyone has news. Mary Anne talked to her father and they came to an agreement that half of her money would go in the bank and the other half she could spend however she liked. Claudia has caught up with most of her homework and had a talk with her parents. She told them that she wasn't Janine and would never be her. Her father says that she has to set aside time every day for her homework but that everyone would try to help her and she wouldn’t have to give up babysitting. Stacey said she had a fun time visiting in New York and Kristy, barely containing it, asks her point blank how come she made her mom say that she stayed in New York when she was clearly home. Unfortunately, this leads to a big fight. Stacey can believe that Kristy just called her and her mother liars. Kristy says that she doesn't appreciate being lied to because it makes her feel like a little kid and Claudia calls her a little kid and points out how Kristy dresses. Mary Anne starts crying and Claudia calls her crybaby. They are interrupted by a phone call for a job that all of them are available for and all of them want. Claudia calls the club stupid and Kristy says since the idea was her stupid idea she would take the stupid job. Later that night, Kristy's mom and Watson come home early from a date announcing that they are engaged. Kristy is neither happy nor upset but is glad to hear that the wedding won’t be for a long time.

Not having any friends to talk to, for once Kristy and her family go over to Watson's house for dinner and Kristy actually has a good time. She leaves Watson a note that says she'll babysit for Andrew and Karen anytime.

When Wednesday comes around, the girls still meet at Claudia’s. Claudia apologizes first for being so mean. Stacey apologizes for lying. Kristy then volunteers her house for Saturday to try to make up for the pizza party and possibly have a slumber party as well. Kristy's mom agrees to a slumber party because the club brought Kristy and Watson closer together. Kristy tells her that the club has been good for everyone as it has helped Stacey make friends, gave Mary Anne the courage to stand up to her father, and showed Claudia that she can be good at something besides art.

During the slumber party the girls have lots of fun and Stacey comes clean with her secret. She tells the girls that the diet she is on is a special one and her trips to New York are because she goes to a special doctor there. Last year, she was diagnosed with diabetes. Stacey can't believe that the girls take the news so well. At her old school kids started making fun of her about her diet and because she fainted a couple times. Her mother acts like this is a curse and they moved to a peaceful little town.

The girls are back to being best friends.

Thoughts and Nuggets of Wisdom for Research

The Baby-sitters Club consists of four members: Kristy Thomas, president; Claudia Kishi, vice president; Mary Anne Spier, secretary; and Stacey McGill, treasurer.

Kristy is very impulsive which tends to get her in trouble a lot. Mary Anne is very quiet and shy and lives with a strict father. Claudia is a very artistic and individual soul who comes from a Japanese family that expects her to be a good student. Claudia, unfortunately, doesn’t care much for school mainly because there is no way for her to compete with her older sister who is a certified genius. Stacey is the new girl in town who comes from the Big Apple. She is fashionable and is also diabetic.

The thing that was most striking about this first book in the series was the look at divorce in a positive light. Usually divorce was a topic that was avoided in youth fiction.

Kristy says, “Mom tries to spend a little time alone with each of us kids every day. She feels guilty that she and my father are divorced and that she has to work full-time to support us. She's told us so. I wish she wouldn't feel guilty. It's not her fault that dad ran off to California and got married again and doesn't send mom much child support money. Mom says that she doesn't want more money, though. She has a terrific job at this big company in Stamford, and she likes the fact that she can support us so well. It makes her feel proud and independent but she still feels guilty. My father can be sort of a jerk sometimes. He hasn't called us in over a year. And he even forgot my 12th birthday last month.”
She goes on to discuss her very realistic emotions in regards to her mother dating again: “Mom has been seeing this guy, Watson, off and on for about four months. She likes him a lot, but I don't like him much at all. He's divorced from his wife and has two little kids. Plus, he's getting bald. . . . The truth is, I haven't given any of the men mom has dated a chance. I'm afraid that if I break down and treat them nicely, one of them might marry mom. Think what could happen then. We were happy the way we are.” Her mother wants to know if she would babysit for Watson's kids, but Kristy refuses: “I don't want to have anything to do with him or his family. I make up an excuse or else I flatly refuse.”

When Mary Anne accepts a babysitting job for Watson she tells Kristy that they live in a pretty big house. Kristy thinks to herself, “I guess he has a lot of money. He’d have to, the way he throws it around, Chinese food right and left, and taking my mom out on dates almost every night.” The house is large, and Andrew and Karen have neat rooms. And the toys. Mary Anne had never seen so many—talking stuffed animals, dolls, cars, bikes, a playhouse, costumes to dress up in. She said it was incredible, kind of like being in Toys “R” Us.

When Kristy comes home from a club meeting one night to discover Watson in her living room and that he is there to stay for dinner and eat leftovers, she thinks, “That was definitely not a good sign. It meant Watson was through trying to impress us, and that mom didn't feel she had to impress Watson anymore, either. It meant they were getting more comfortable with each other. And it meant that Watson probably felt pretty comfortable with my brothers and me. Not a good sign at all.” Kristy's mother tells her to go and dress up and she finds her brothers getting dressed up as well. Her mother only says cryptically that they're celebrating. Then her mom breaks the news: Watson has asked if she would consider getting engaged. Kristy thinks, “Why would she want to risk getting married again? I only hope was that she'd see the light before it was too late, and that our family returns to normal.”

When Kristy is finally forced into babysitting for Karen and Andrew, Karen asks Kristy if her mommy is Edie Thomas. When she says yes, Karen informs her that her daddy loves Kristy's mommy and if they get married Karen's new mommy will be Kristy's mommy. Karen tells her that their mom is getting remarried but they're not too happy about that because they really just want their mommy and daddy on one house. Kristy can totally agree.

Mary Anne has the typical series child background of the girl being raised by a single father because her mother is dead. Unlike the fathers of the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew, however, Mary Anne’s dad doesn’t give her much freedom. Kristy says, “Mary Anne's father is the only family she's got. Her mother is dead, and she has no brothers or sisters. Unfortunately, her father is pretty strict. My mother says it's just because Mr. Spier is nervous since Mary Anne is all he's got. You think, though, that he could let her wear her hair down instead of always in braids, or give her permission to ride her bike to the mall with Claudia and me once in a while. But, no. At Mr. Spier's house it's rules, rules, rules. It's a miracle that Mary Anne was even allowed to become a member of the Baby-sitter's Club.”

Claudia is a great representation of a minority in an (still relatively) early series for youth. She lives on the same street as Kristy and Mary Anne but they haven't spent as much time together with each other. This could be because Claudia is really into art and is often art classes or is holed up in her room painting or drawing or reading mysteries. Mr. Kishi can be strict about her homework but isn't strict about hanging out. “Kristy is, at the beginning of the book, worried that they are drifting apart: “Still, Claudia has never been a close friend, and this year, the gap between us seemed to widen just since school started. Even though were all seventh graders, Claudia suddenly seemed  . . . Older. She got into boys, and spends most of her time adding to her wardrobe and talking on the phone. In the short time since school started, she's become a different person.” Kristy actually doesn’t feel all that comfortable going to Claudia’s house as “she had to go and start going up faster than us. She's wearing a bra, and the way she talks, you’d think boys have just been invented. She acts like all the guys in seventh grade aren't the same goony boys they were last year. Last year, the boys were saying, 'Want some ABC gum?' and then handing us the gum out of their mouths, saying, 'It's Already-Been-Chewed, get it?' and laughing hysterically. Last year, the boys were giving us noogies on our arms and throwing spitballs at us. Last year, the boys were pulling our chairs out from under us when we stood up to answer questions. This year (if you listen to Claudia), the boys are heroes. Personally, I don't see any change.”

Claudia's parents are very conservative. They don't understand her taste in clothes at all. They're pretty nice about her fedoras and stuff, although they won't buy any of those things for her, which is why she has to babysit—to earn money for her own stuff.

Claudia also lives with her grandma, Mimi, and her sister Janine who is 15 and a sophomore in high school but is taking classes at Stoneybrook University. Janine is a real-life genius. Kristy says, “An average person has an IQ of 100. An above average person has an IQ of 120 to 140. A person with an IQ of 150 is considered a genius. Janine's IQ is 196. She thinks she knows everything and is forever correcting [us].” She also says that “Janine sounds like a textbook. Her best friend is this 14-year-old math nerd who is going to graduate from high school in the spring. Her second best friend is her computer. I'm sure it's because of Janine that Claudia concentrates on art and is a terrible student.”

When the girls meet Stacey they feel inadequate next to her. She shares the same fashion sense as Claudia. She's very pretty, tall, and with blue eyes and fluffy blonde hair. Mary Anne and Kristy think they look like second graders compared to Claudia and Stacey who look like models.

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