As promised, my review of Netflix’s The Baby-Sitters Club series continues with episodes four through six. If you missed Part 1, you can find it here. Social issues abound as the show takes the beloved plot lines and personalities from the books and deepens them for this new generation of BSC fans.
Episode 4, Mary Anne Saves the Day (Book #4, 1987) I thought this one was the most brilliantly done episode. In the book, timid Mary Anne, constantly reprimanding herself for not being more assertive, saves the day by being brave enough to make a call to 911 when one of her charges runs a dangerously high fever and she can’t get ahold of any adults. The rest of the club is mad at her for not standing up to a client which of course isn’t helpful. But works out well as it forces her to meet Dawn, the new girl from California.
The episode takes this and runs with it. In the show, the child is trans. We see this when Mary Anne opens a closet door to get more tea party dresses and sees only boy clothes. Not only is Mary Anne brave enough to call 911, she also stands up to the doctors who insist on calling the child a he, when the child identifies as a she. It was a tear-up moment for me when our brave Mary Anne chastises the doctors for demeaning and belittling the child by refusing to acknowledge how she identifies. In the end, Claudia explains it as being left-handed and forced to express yourself with your right-hand, which is a definite oversimplification but something my kids could understand and internalize.
Episode 5, Dawn and the Impossible Three (Book #5, 1987) In the book, new girl Dawn has to prove to Kristy that she has what it takes to be in the BSC. So Kristy has her sit the Barrett kids, wild and out-of-control due to their parent’s recent divorce. Which Dawn would call reductive. And she’s right, when Kristy pigeon-holes the mom’s spiral.
Instead of the quintessential California beach-blonde in the books, this Dawn is Latinx, a free-thinking spiritual social activist, level-headed enough to reign in her own recently-divorced mom who brings them back to Stoneybrook where she grew up and oh, dated Mary Anne’s dad in high school. Commence the awkward flirting Gen X’ers will get a kick out of.
Episode 6, Claudia and Mean Janine (Book #7, 1987) Another episode full of moments and feels. The troubles in book/episode 2 between Claudia and her big sister escalate in this one especially when beloved Mimi has a stroke. For the first time in her life, Claudia feels adrift from the grandmother who always understood her. Janine who of course knows everything about strokes is actually helpful when she encourages Claudia to draw something to communicate, since images can be helpful to people with aphasia. Claudia grows frustrated when Mimi can only get out peaches, horses, and Manzanar, then lapses into Japanese which Claudia never learned.
Janine explains that the oldest memories are the easiest for stroke patients to access as the brain heals. She tells her about Mimi being taken from her home by the U.S. government as a child and put into internment camps, Manzanar specifically, during WWII. It’s a tough bit of history come alive for a twelve year old and Claudia says “I don’t understand how someone could do that to a family” and y’all I was tearing up (and again now as I type this) when Janine quietly responds with “I don’t understand why they still do.” Such a powerful sentence that invites conversations of a complicated, messed up world into an idyllic kid’s series.
The original Ann M. Martin books are busy getting new covers but the Haunted Book Shop has the new graphic novels and used copies, both of The Baby-Sitters Club and Karen’s chapter book series, Baby-Sitters Little Sister.
To keep everyone safe, we’re open by appointment (you can book your time slot here), as well as curbside pickup and shipping options. We also use bookshop.org if we don’t have the book you need in stock.
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