The Baby-Sitter’s Club: The Summer Before by Ann M. Martin
Told through the eyes of Kristy, Claudia, Mary Ann and Stacey, we get a look into the lives of the four girls who would later form The Baby-Sitter’s Club. Kristy is unhappy that her mom is dating again. Mary Ann is constantly struggling to prove to her father that she is responsible and is no longer a baby. Claudia is making some tough decision about growing up and growing away from two of her best friends. Stacey is new to Stoneybrook and trying to find a place to fit in, despite her diabetes.
Although this book was written years after the Baby-Sitter’s Club series ended, I thought that the stories held true to each of the four girls and their friendships. At times the narration felt more like a flashback, an adult Kristy or Stacey recapping that summer in their lives. The voices and conversations were far more mature than what I would expect an 11 year old to say.
For those that read through the entire series and the spin-off stores like I did, this book doesn’t really supply you with any new information about the girls. I did like reading from all four perspectives, especially about the same events that happened during the course of their summer break. It was also the perfect length, in total pages and per chapter. There was an even number of chapters for each girl, but I did feel that Kristy took center stage a lot. That’s probably because quite a few of the Mary Ann chapters were about Kristy. I thought the Mary Ann chapters were fairly boring, and the Claudia chapters about growing up and having a first boyfriend were the most entertaining. This is fairly odd for me, because reading the series I loved the Mary Ann books and usually skipped over the Claudia titles. The conflict and drama is pretty low on the richter scale, so it might come off as too slow for kids 11 and up, but the younger crowd will enjoy it.
Older Baby-Sitter’s Club fans will appreciate the book for its nostlagia and younger readers will enjoy it for a peak into the lives of the girls before the club.
I also heard that Scholastic began reissuing the series in April this year (hence the timing of The Summer Before). I’m not sure how many libraries will reinvest in this series, since it is nearly extinct in most library systems in the US. I’d like to see the BSC series make a comeback though. It was one of my absolute favorites growing up and one of the main reasons I was such a book nerd.