Throwback Thursday: Review of Baby-Sitters on Board! by Ann M. Martin

A cruise ship.  The Bahamas.  Disney.  Extremely detailed descriptions of Claudia Kishi’s elaborate outfits.

Ann M. Martin.  The woman knew how to sell books to 1980s tweens.

I cannot forget how excited my friends and I were when this book came out.  Before websites and Youtube channels dedicated to following the every minute detail of a topic, the girls of Mrs. Sommer’s 3rd/4th grade class learned of this book (whose title has an exclamation point in it!) when one  girl came in with her copy that she had come across at the bookstore.  It was thick.  It was the first BSC book to tell switch narratives from chapter to chapter and we were getting to hear chapters through Mallory Pike (before she joined the club and had her own book), Byron Pike and Karen Brewer (before the Little Sister series).  And they were going on a cruise.  And to Disney World.  It was the must read of the book of Central Elementary School.

My parents never saved up and carefully planned out the all-American Disney World trip.  My dad, the history buff, orchestrated a trip to Washington, DC instead, so I vicariously lived through the adventures of Kristy and the gang through this book, staring longingly at the cover so many times that I am pretty sure that one of the staples of my elementary school wardrobe: shorts with sweaters, was inspired by who I think is Dawn in the middle of the cover in her white shorts and white sweater.

All these years later, I have thankfully given up the sweater/shorts combo, but as I re-read, I realized I must have read this book so many times because the plot, some of the lines, came back so familiarly and I quickly got caught up in the story of the girls from Stoneybrook and their first Super Special.

The plot: Mr. Pike wins some contest at work and the prize is an all-expenses paid trip for him and his family to the Bahamas and Disney World.  I am sure after Mr. Pike won, the owner of the company was like, what?  He has 8 kids?  Seriously? Who’s dumb idea was this contest? Anyway, the Pikes invite Stacy and Mary Anne to come along to help them with the kids, since they also accompanied the Pikes on the trip to Sea City (Book #8).  Watson, Kristy’s millionaire stepfather, hears about this and decides to take the family along and of course, he has to invite Claudia and Dawn, because this is no babysitter left behind, and the adventure begins.

This is still a sweet, innocent book that should appeal to young girls even today.  It is a series that I will be excited to pass on to my daughter.  I just hope that today’s fourth graders are not so jaded and still innocent enough to find this as amazing as we did.

As an adult though, I get to be a little jaded–so here’s my take on some things a little later in life when I am not as in awe of the awesomeness of going to Disney World…

Kristy-okay, the storyline of her making friends with an old man who lost his wife is kind of sweet, but the slob story line?  We get it, Ann M. Martin.  Kristy is messy.  But purposely throwing wrappers on the floor, refusing to wipe off a milk mustache–a little too passive aggressive.  Although when they get to the hotel at Disney and Kristy gets excited about all the free stuff in the hotel room, this image has always stuck with me, and to this day whenever I stay in a hotel and look at the little collection of soaps and lotions in the hotel room, I think, great free stuff! just like the Baby Sitter’s Club.

Maryanne–kind of giving me the Gene/Finny/Separate Peace vibe with her strangely detailed and glowing descriptions of Alexandra Carmody’s body.  Hmm…

Claudia-her story has her trying to find the identity of a secret admirer who keeps leaving her little gifts, paying for her food, etc.  Okay, a little stalker-ish, but this was my favorite story line as a kid, still my favorite story line.  Love Claudia Kishi.

Mallory-after reading Harriet the Spy, Mallory decides to spy on people and keep a notebook of all their activities.  Okay, I did the same thing.  In second grade.  Since in two books Mallory is going to be able to be baby sitting and join the club, isn’t she a little old for this?  I think this would have been a more appropriate storyline for younger Pike sibling, would-be poet, Vanessa.  And I might have enjoyed reading it more.  Mallory = least favorite BSC member ever.  I actually enjoyed BSC #14 when the girls more or less bullied her with that b.s. baby-sitting test they gave her.  Plus, the Pikes let Mallory go off on her own at Disney World.  I know the late 1980s might have been a more innocent time, but who says to an 11-year-old, yeah, sure, go through Disney World on your own?  I am a huge introvert and even I can not think of anything more depressing than going to Disney on your own at 11 years old.  Maybe with all those kids the Pikes were just hoping for one of them to get abducted–might be why they let those triplets go off on on their own so much too.

Karen-The HBIC of Stoneybrook charges a manicure and a snack to her room without asking permission, lies to get a breakfast with the Disney characters, and does what Karen does best-bosses her way through her chapters.  I imagine that Karen grew up to steal Kristy’s Great Idea and modernize it for the Internet age, starting  Shannon Kilbourne was one of the early investors.   Kristy is always calling the office or cornering Karen at the few family holidays she attends and says things like, “That was my idea, Karen, my great idea.  Cut me in on this.”  and Karen has to cuss out her secretary, Hannie, for putting Kristy’s calls through.

At the rate kids are going today, my daughter will probably be cynical enough at 12 for me to discuss these ideas with her and hear her sarcastic views as well, but when she is eight or nine years old, I hope she is still innocent enough to get lost in the adventures of The BSC gang (and smart enough to already realize Mallory is weird).



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