My love of reading was very much influenced by The Babysitters Club books and when I learned the series would be returning with a new modernized story I was immediately very excited. Growing up my parents frequently took me and my siblings, once they were born, to used bookstores. Typically we would travel to Columbus, Ohio from Lima and spend the day going to multiple Half Price Books and in my earliest years of used book shopping this meant spending my time in the children’s clearance section. For whatever reason The Babysitters Club books were always there and always within my little kid book budget. I would stock up on them and while they were a bit mature for me at the time, I was under 6 when I started reading the books, my dad would read them to me and then I would go on to also read them myself.
My love for these books turned into a love of the television series, which helped me see the characters I had always imagined. I found discounted videos and even ones to rent at our local library. When I wasn’t watching the show or reading the books, I was playing the many board games my parents somehow tracked down with a Claudia doll as my companion. My siblings were too little to play the games and as an only child I sometimes had to make due with playing games with dolls or stuffed animals as the other players. My younger siblings were also pulled into my mild BSC obsession. Born roughly 6 years after I was my siblings, William and Mary, were always available for me to test out my own skills. Now most of these involved me just sort of watching them while my parents were elsewhere in the house so don’t think I was left to monitor infants on my own. I though created kid kits and tried to be the best babysitter I could be. Later I would eventually graduate to solo babysitting while my parents were out and I tried to make it as fun as the BSC did, though there were a couple misses. If you ask my sister about cinnamon polenta she will tell you a tale about possibly the grossest food moment ever.
What the books showed me were friends who made time for each other and cared for each other. As an only child, and then an oldest child who did not have a lot of friends, this was the sort of community that I wanted. By reading the books I could become part of that world and find ways to relate to each of the characters. Claudia was always my favorite, though I will admit I was probably more of a Kristy in my attitude. What Claudia was for me was a sort of dream existence. She was creative and artistic. She could create outfits that seemed just on the verge of outlandish. My Claudia doll came in a frilly white shirt with purple overalls, pink tights, and purple cowboy boots, which I added a plastic art deco parrot button to. She just seemed like the best sitter with her vibrant personality and her desire to help the kids she sat create. Looking back now I maybe also had a crush on her because she was so creative and cool, but at that time in my life I had not yet put together that I was bisexual.
What the new series on Netflix did with the characters and the stories that I remembered just made me so happy. While the characters felt younger, I always pictured the BSC girls as in high school when I was growing up, Claudia seemed to be even more mature in this series. She was more outspoken about her love for art and didn’t let her parents make her uncomfortable about that. Also she was going to life drawing classes and made a sculpture inspired by menstruation so Netflix’s Claudia is even more amazing I think. Beyond just make my favorite character even cooler, they diversified the cast with Mary Anne being played by Malia Baker, who is African born and Canadian raised, and Xochitl Gomez as Dawn.
One of my favorite stories of the entire first season included Mary Anne. In Mary Anne Saves the Day, the often quiet Mary Anne finds herself taking a stand to ensure that the child she is sitting is respected. The child Mary Anne is watching previously wore boys clothes and now wears girl clothes. She also has a girl’s name and using she/her pronouns. Without saying this specifically I viewed the child as transgender. When she gets sick, Mary Anne cannot reach an adult and ultimately calls 911. When they arrive at the hospital the medical personnel come into the room and use he/him pronouns and use the child’s former name. While keeping her calm Mary Anne insists to speak with the adults in this situation outside of the room. When she does she point out that while the chart they have lists certain information if they had looked at the child and listed to her they would have realized she was a girl and they were harming her by using the incorrect pronouns and name. Mary Anne’s father sees this happen and is instantly proud of his daughter. I loved this episode and actually teared up when Mary Anne spoke up for the child she was caring for.
There were also discussions of important political and societal issues including internment camps in our country’s past and present, societal stratification and protesting for equal rights, and also the idea of varied family types, which was also part of the original series. There are single mothers, divorced parents, widowed parents, and even remarried families. We even get to see some attempts by the girls to try and do some parental matchmaking, which was sweet. I am really hoping that this series gets renewed for many more seasons to come because I want to see the current sitters as well as the new members who were added in the final two episodes, Mallory and Jessi. I also found myself weirdly captivated by the character of Karen. Now in this series I feel like they’ve made her a little bit more complex. In the original books and in her spin-off series I don’t remember her being as dramatic or as mildly death obsessed. This Karen though is a delight and I hope that we see more babysitting adventures with her, I really want a Halloween episode with her as sort of our central character. If you loved The Babysitters Club at any point in your life this new series is something that elevates and re-imagines the original character is a way that stays true to what feels like the spirit of the series. These are young women finding their way and creating a community that supports their passions and interests, while also providing them that room to grow.
If you are looking for even more BSC content I did an article about the Audible debut of The Babysitters Club last year. I personally will be checking out more of these and I’m thinking of digging around for the original television series and the movie so I can do a bit more nostalgia listening and watching. Now if only I knew what I did with my old board games and my very cool Claudia Kishi doll I’d be able to do a full BSC walk down memory lane.