More Baby-Sitters Club: The Truth About Stacey, Mary Anne Saves the Day
I’ve been remiss in keeping up with this young adult series, adapted and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier based on the books by Ann M. Martin. I very much enjoyed the first book, and now the third’s already been out for two months and I haven’t talked about it.
The first volume featured the founder of the baby-sitters club, Kristy, and each subsequent book focuses on another of the girls, which is a nice way to get to know the characters in more depth. (Especially for those of us who never read the books this series is based on.)
The true appeal for me is, as always, Raina Telgemeier’s skilled and talented art. Her cartoony exaggeration brings home the emotion needed, no matter the tenor of the scene, and her characters are people I want to know better.
Book two, The Truth About Stacey is, obviously, Stacey’s story. She’s newer in town than the others, having moved to the suburbs from New York City. More importantly, she’s been diagnosed with diabetes, which requires lifestyle changes from her, her friends, and her parents.
There’s also an external conflict for more plot twists: a competing baby-sitting company has opened up with older girls allowed to stay up later. That particular element surprised me, since it’s been a long time since curfew’s been a problem, but it’s a reasonable complication that the book’s audience can relate to.
And that’s another big factor I like about this series: the problems are distinctive, plausible, and creatively solved. There are lots of books about teens out there where the conflict is “how do I get him to notice me?” In this one, it’s “how do you keep a business going in the face of increased competition?” Sure, it’s not presented that bluntly, but that’s what it is. And I like it! It treats girls as people with a wide range of skills and interests beyond the romantic.
And in amongst the big picture, there are individual problems whose resolutions provide satisfying chapters, as when the girls create a unique feature to attract kids to their babysitting service, or deal with whether to expand their staff and how to market themselves. Readers will learn creative tips for dealing with younger kids, too.
The girls learn to stand up for themselves in responsible ways (a good quality in a teen taking care of younger children), including Stacey taking responsibility for her body and her health in the face of her parents’ overwhelming concern. That’s a terrific message for young women, even though the book is a lot more entertaining than many message-based tracts.
Enjoyable as that one was, I liked the third book, Mary Anne Saves the Day even better. I didn’t expect to at first because its main character, Mary Anne, is something of your classic drip. Dad’s over-protective and strict (but loving), so she dresses very conservatively and has the earliest bedtime and so on.
As the book opens, the club’s breaking up, with the girls fighting over desirable jobs. Mary Anne, forced away from her only friends, who are giving her the silent treatment, finds herself thrown together with a new girl in school. This book’s a lovely portrait of how friendship develops. It’s the details that make it a solid read, like an apology letter taking several drafts with different tones, instead of being right the first time through.
It’s still rare to see women in comics who have relationships with each other that don’t revolve around the men in the lives. I loved this story for reminding me of how many more options there are, good and bad. And much of what happens, especially when babysitting, is an argument for how much of a virtue patience is, another good reminder.
Previews are available at the publisher’s website.