Candice Reviews: The Baby-Sitters Club, Part 3

We continue with Part 3 of my review of Netflix’s take on the iconic series from our childhood, The Baby-Sitters Club. Check out Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed them.

Episode 7, Boy-Crazy Stacey (Book #8, 1987): This episode stays pretty close to the book. Stacey and Mary Anne accompany the Pike family on a Spring Break beach vacation where Stacey falls for a much older lifeguard. She has to figure out how to heal her broken heart which she does when one of the Pike children admits he has a crush on her and she sees the situation from a different perspective. The main difference between book and show is when one of Mary Anne’s new friends, a local who helps her when Stacey all but abandons her and their eight charges, helps her understand what Stacey is going through as he tells her about a boy he was crushing on. It’s a great way to incorporate queer inclusion and representation without affecting the book series’ story line.

Episode 8, Kristy’s Big Day (Book #6, 1987): In the book, Kristy’s big dilemma is balancing her duties as both bridesmaid to her mom and super-rich Watson’s wedding and babysitting duties. The show takes the feminist threads presented in the first episode and lays them out as Kristy comes to terms with her fiercely independent mom and the “tiara-wearing princess” she becomes as she prepares for her wedding. Watson buys Kristy’s oldest brother a luxury SUV but the straw that breaks the camel’s back is when he buys an $800 designer dress for Kristy. Her mom tells her “I didn’t raise you to be someone who doesn’t check price tags.” It’s a moment full of tension that is resolved when Kristy and her mom realize how important they are to each other, and that a person can be a feminist and a princess. The two don’t have to be exclusive. As I mentioned earlier, Kristy comes into womanhood and as her friends are there for her, Claudia says “no period shaming here.” It’s a great scene for tween girls.

My absolute favorite scene in this episode is when Morbidda Destiny, aka Dawn’s eccentric Aunt Esme and the spooky next door neighbor of the Watsons, is the officiant for the wedding. Flower girl (and morbidly curious) Karen screams her head off and in response, Aunt Esme makes the coolest speech ever. “This little girl thinks I’m a witch. So, in front of this room full of witnesses, I’d like to say that she’s right. I am a spiritual practitioner. Now, historically the term ‘witch’ has been used to describe people, primarily women, who refuse to conform to society’s expectations of who they should be… When children tell you something, believe them.” I was snapping in solidarity right along with her.

Episodes 9 & 10, Baby-Sitters’ Summer Vacation (Super Special #2, 1989): This book is a Super Special which means it’s longer and has all the girl’s point-of-views as they write in a diary while Stacey is away in New York.

The show changes the name from Camp Mohawk to Camp Moosehead in respect to Native Americans and is all about revolution. First off, the girls of BSC are split up into different cabins, shattering their idea of a summer of togetherness. Kristy is frustrated by the camp owner, Meany, thwarting her plans to wrest control from the counselors who aren’t doing their jobs and connecting with the kids. Mary Anne meets a girl from New York (this ties back into book/episode 3, The Truth About Stacey) who likes Broadway shows as much as she does and they put together a play, Paris Magic, about a girl who time travels to the French Revolution.

In art class, Dawn and Claudia overhear the art director tell a child who doesn’t have commissary money to purchase overpriced shirts for tie-dying that she can’t participate. This bothers Claudia who says “art should be free and available to everyone” and Dawn who sees it as creating haves and have-nots. So they stage a lie-in when Claudia is remanded to her cabin for holding unsanctioned free wildlife art classes. Things escalate to an activity strike which messes up Mary Anne’s play (which is already cursed according to Karen). Striking campers make a picket line and the noise disrupts Mary Anne’s opening. She rushes outside to confront Dawn who says something like “You’ll change the world your way. I’ll change the world my way. And we’ll be best friends.” And that y’all, is why the BSC rocks. Mary Anne has a pause where she makes the connection of her play being about a revolution, but an actual revolution taking place outside the theatre door—such a powerful moment.

The last episode brings in Junior BSC members Mallory Pike and Jessi Ramsey earlier than the books but it makes me so hopeful for a next season. I’m crossing my fingers to see one of my favorites–book #47 Mallory on Strike when she wants to win The Young Authors Day Award. I can dream. Or just reread my copy.

While there’s no confirmation on Season 2, the showrunners have hinted about it on social media. So if you want to get a heads up on what could possibly be next season, I fully recommend dusting off your Scholastic Fair copies boxed up in your attic or checking out the forthcoming new recovers and graphic novels out now to share with a whole new generation of tweens.

Now, for the big question…how do you think Netflix treated the BSC member YOU relate to the most?

The original Ann M. Martin books are busy getting all 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 just announced new hours! Check out the terms and conditions. We also use if we don’t have the book you need in stock.

Happy reading!

Candice Reviews: The Baby-Sitters Club, Part 1

I’m a Mary Anne with the candy-swilling creativity of Claudia, the environmentalism of Dawn, with a little Mallory on top. This group of girls showed preteen-me than anything is possible with a good support group and determination. The book series is near perfection to my tween-recollection but I couldn’t help but be excited and hopeful when I heard about Netflix’s version of the BSC.

Ya’ll. They absolutely rocked it. Proof that the Baby-Sitters Club is timeless.

Netflix’s twist on the iconic Baby-Sitters Club from our childhood has taken the adventures in friendship and babysitting and given it a 21st century shine. It’s written for both the now grown-up OGs and their children, a whole new generation. The sharp writing, edgy quips, and all the nods to now are done in perfect harmony to the personalities Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, Stacey, and Dawn are known and adored for. Social issues play a big part and they’re presented in wholesome ways that allow for further conversations. It was a great series to watch with my six and nine year old (though it did take some delicate explaining when Kristy gets her period for the first time in Episode #8.)

The first season is the first eight books in the series, just a smidge out of order and includes one book out of the Super Specials as well. Because I have so much to say about these books and the show, we divided my post into three installments. I’ll talk about books 1-3 in this post, and the rest in two others so be on the lookout for those.

Episode 1, Kristy’s Big Idea (Book #1, 1986): Just like in the first book, the ever resourceful, ever in charge, Kristy comes up with the novel idea of one phone call to reach a handful of reliable sitters. In the show, they do a great job of keeping it in this decade while sticking to the mid-eighties and nineties air of the books. Kristy’s mom, perfectly cast as Alicia Silverstone, bemoans the fact that no one picks up their phone and no one uses landlines anymore when she can’t find a sitter for Kristy’s little brother, David Michael. Cue the BSC.

As they hash out marketing plans, Stacey, sophisticated and newly arrived from New York, suggests cross referencing their Instagram accounts for clients and calculating clickthrough ratios, while the others grimace. Claudia’s genius sister Janine, pops in and in her droll, Daria way, suggests they stick to something they know. So they pass out flyers and Claudia gets a vintage phone from Etsy, (yes, it wouldn’t be BSC without that see-thru corded phone). As secretary, Mary Anne, who is biracial in the show, uses Google docs to organize all their jobs and schedules.

There is a beautiful bit of feminism, which there of course should be in a series about empowered young women entrepreneurs when Kristy complains about her teacher making her write a paper on decorum, telling her mom that a boy would never be made to write a paper like that. Her mom says “You’re absolutely right.” The way she stopped and acknowledged the gender inequality was a moment for me and I definitely teared up (Okay, I teared up in pretty much every episode, let me get that out of the way right now.) The paper Kristy wrote in response was glorious.

Episode 2, Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls (Book #2, 1986): In the book, the whole town of Stoneybrook, Connecticut are up in arms over home invasions and phantom phone calls which Claudia believes stems from a jewel thief. The show deepens this a step further when the “phantom calls” are the not-good-enough thoughts Claudia grapples with. Just like in the books, she’s a Japanese-American who breaks stereotype with her bad grades. Her parents mean well, but they’re only focused on good grades equal good colleges. Claudia’s actual genius of a sister, Janine, attempts to “help” by offering parenting advice, setting up impossible goals. Thank goodness for Mimi, Claudia’s grandmother, who is steadfastly there for her. The internalization of the “phantom calls” really brought home the idea how what’s good for one person, isn’t always good for another. It’s a great illustration that education isn’t one size fits all.

In keeping with the spooky, Halloween-esque tone of this episode, we also get to meet Karen Brewer, Kristy’s soon-to-be stepsister who is delightfully morbid (her character spoke to my six year old’s soul). At one point, when burying her doll, she tells Kristy “there’s no point in praying over her. She’s an atheist.” The unexpected straightforwardness of it made me laugh and sets the stage for an interesting character who comes to terms with changing family dynamics in her own special way.

Episode 3, The Truth About Stacey (Book #3, 1986): Just like in the book, in this one we learn the secret that’s been hinted at in the first two: where does Stacey go on these last minute weekend trips? Why doesn’t she eat any of Claudia’s glorious candy stash?

The BSC start losing clients to the Baby-Sitter’s Agency, a group of high schoolers who are able to drive, stay later than our twelve year-olds, and implement all the social media marketing ideas Stacey had. One tells Mary Anne, “It’s a free market. Deal with it.” It seems the BSC might collapse. (Not in the third book–we need over a hundred more of these!) But then the girls spot one of their kids playing in the street, his high school sitter snuggled on the couch with her boyfriend. When Stacey calls the parent, the sitter tells Stacey she’ll regret that.

The episode turns to cyberbullying when the agency sitter unearths a video of Stacey going into insulin shock and start seizing and sends it to all their clients. The parents are concerned about her ability to watch their kids but Stacey assures them her condition is now under control. A parent, who is also a doctor, steps in and says she noticed the insulin pump from the beginning and was impressed with how Stacey managed her sugar levels without missing a beat playing with the child. The show takes the book’s message of normalizing type 1 diabetes and furthers it when, in the end, Stacey stops hiding her pump in shame and bedazzles it instead.

Now, for the big question…which BSC member did YOU relate to the most?

The original Ann M. Martin books are busy getting all 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, The Baby-Sitters Club 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 if we don’t have the book you need in stock.

Happy reading!


Summer Reading Recommendations: Middle Grade

If your 8-12 year old is chafing at staying home over the summer, we recommend traveling the world through folklores and fairytales. Colombian, Panamanian, Dutch, Appalachian, Malaysian, and Irish-inspired, these tales show the truth behind the stories that helps the characters, and the readers, discover and learn about themselves, their families, and the universality of friendships. Here are my summer middle grade suggestions: 


Curse of the Night Witch by Alex Aster (6/9) In this fast-paced adventure filled with mythology, mayhem, and peril, Tor must travel to a witch to save himself from a curse.

On Emblem Island all are born knowing their fate. Their lifelines show the course of their life and an emblem dictates how they will spend it.

Twelve-year-old Tor Luna was born with a leadership emblem, just like his mother. But he hates his mark and is determined to choose a different path for himself. So, on the annual New Year’s Eve celebration, where Emblemites throw their wishes into a bonfire in the hopes of having them granted, Tor wishes for a different power.

The next morning Tor wakes up to discover a mark symbolizing a curse is imprinted on his arm and his hand’s lifeline is cut short. There is only one way to break the curse—and it requires a trip to the notorious Night Witch.

With only his village’s terrifying, ancient stories as a guide, and his two friends Engle and Melda by his side, Tor must travel across unpredictable Emblem Island, filled with wicked creatures he only knows through myths, in a race against his dwindling lifeline.

Why I liked it: Emblem Island is such a cool setting with a unique origin story. Tor and his friends realize that all the scary childhood stories in the Book of Cuentos are actually a roadmap to the witch. That’s my favorite part–the truth of humanity that hides in every fairytale emerges fully formed in this novel. Some terrifying like the faceless vanor to the peaceful descendants of the Giantess of Nar, sent by the wish-gods to protect humans. What makes this novel stand out is that the tales are inspired by the Latin American stories the author’s Colombian abuela would tell her as a child.

Be careful what you wish for–the twists on this echoed throughout the book and it was interesting how it affected the plot. The ending was great. Everything felt resolved but it definitely leaves you anticipating the sequel.


The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez by Adrianna Cuevas (7/21) In this magical middle-grade debut novel, a Cuban American boy must use his secret ability to communicate with animals to save the inhabitants of his town when they are threatened by a tule vieja, a witch that transforms into animals.

All twelve-year-old Nestor Lopez wants is to live in one place for more than a few months and have dinner with his dad, an Army sergeant deployed in Afghanistan. When he and his mother move to a new town to live with his grandmother, Nestor plans to lay low, and he certainly has no intention of letting anyone find out his deepest secret—that he can talk to animals. But when the animals in town start disappearing, and Nestor’s grandmother is spotted in the woods where they were last seen, suspicion mounts against her. Nestor learns that they are being taken by a tule vieja, a witch who bites animals to gain their power, and his extraordinary ability is put front and center as he tries to catch the real culprit and clear his grandmother’s name.

Why I liked it: Um, what kid hasn’t wished they could talk to animals?! Add a raven that drops “white lightning” on your bullies and tons of animal Quiz Bowl fun facts and you get a sense of Nestor’s new life in New Haven, the town where his dad grew up. It’s a fun read with a lot of heart as Nestor copes with a dad overseas, risking his life for our country, as well as moving constantly and navigating the minefield that is middle school friendships. Don’t read this hungry because between Nestor’s appetite and his abuela’s Cuban cooking, food is described so deliciously you can almost taste the cinnamon and sugar on a piping hot churro.

The Unadoptables by Hana Tooke (7/21) Neil Gaiman meets Hans Christian Andersen in this delicious fairy tale full of mysterious spirits, daring escapes, and a beautiful message about the power of found families.

In all the years that Elinora Gassbeek has been matron of the Little Tulip Orphanage, not once have the Rules for Baby Abandonment been broken. Until the autumn of 1880, when five babies are left in outrageous circumstances; one in a tin toolbox, one in a coal bucket, one in a picnic hamper, one in a wheat sack, and finally, one in a coffin-shaped basket.

Those babies were Lotta, Egg, Fenna, Sem, and Milou. And although their cruel matron might think they’re “unadoptable,” they know their individuality is what makes them special—and so determined to stay together.

When a most sinister gentleman appears and threatens to tear them apart, the gang make a daring escape across the frozen canals of Amsterdam. But is their real home—and their real family—already closer than they realize?

Why I liked it: Set in late 19th century Holland, The Unadoptables has the classic feel of a Hans Christian Andersen fairy-tale with the creepy magic and sinister mystery of a Neil Gaiman story. So of course I loved it.

It’s really Milou’s story the most but the way all five orphans pool their strengths and come together is heartwarming. Lotta, the mathematician and scientific one who wears a waistcoat and has six fingers on each hand; Sem, the sewist and costume designer; Egg, the artist and cartographer; and Fenna, the mute animal whisperer. They’re on the run from the mysterious stranger Rotman who wants to adopt them and so follow coordinates that might belong to Milou’s family–the Poppenmakers.

With Eyebrows of Curiosity, Milou’s Book of Theories, tingling ears that sense danger, Puppet Papa that thwarts nosy adults, an evil orphanage matron cut from the same cloth as Umbridge and Trunchbull, and a spooky abandoned theater, this book twists and turns in ways that make it un-put-downable.


Cattywampus by Ash Van Otterloo (8/4) The magical story of a hex that goes haywire, and the power of friendship to set things right!

In the town of Howler’s Hollow, conjuring magic is strictly off-limits. Only nothing makes Delpha McGill’s skin crawl more than rules. So when she finds her family’s secret book of hexes, she’s itching to use it to banish her mama’s money troubles. She just has to keep it quieter than a church mouse — not exactly Delpha’s specialty.

Trouble is, Katybird Hearn is hankering to get her hands on the spell book, too. The daughter of a rival witching family, Katy has reasons of her own for wanting to learn forbidden magic, and she’s not going to let an age-old feud or Delpha’s contrary ways stop her. But their quarrel accidentally unleashes a hex so heinous it resurrects a graveyard full of angry Hearn and McGill ancestors bent on total destruction. If Delpha and Katy want to reverse the spell in time to save everyone in the Hollow from rampaging zombies, they’ll need to mend fences and work together.

Fans of A Snicker of Magic and The Witch Boy will love this funny, folksy, fresh debut from Ash Van Otterloo that proves sometimes it takes two witches to make the strongest magic happen.

Why I liked it: First off, the title. It’s one of my favorite words so it immediately captured my attention. I adored this magical and folksy middle grade with fabulous voice that had me chuckling at the unique similes. Delpha and Katybird have wonderful character arcs that felt real. I also learned a lot about androgen insensitivity. It was presented in a way that I wasn’t hit over the head with facts but wove in nicely with the magic plotline. Katybird’s pet racoon, Podge, and Delpha’s resurrected outhouse/mode of transportation she calls Puppet makes for a truly cattywampus, and heart-warming, cast of characters.

The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf (8/4) A Malaysian folk tale comes to life in this emotionally layered, chilling middle grade debut, perfect for fans of The Book of Boy and The Jumbies.

I am a dark spirit, the ghost announced grandly. I am your inheritance, your grandmother’s legacy. I am yours to command.

Suraya is delighted when her witch grandmother gifts her a pelesit. She names her ghostly companion Pink and the two quickly become inseparable. But Suraya doesn’t know that pelesits have a dark side—and when Pink’s shadows threaten to consume them both, they must find enough light to survive . . . before they are lost to the darkness.

Perfect for fans of Holly Black’s Doll Bones and Tahereh Mafi’s Furthermore series, this ghostly middle grade debut explores jealousy, love, and the extraordinary power of friendship.

Why I liked it: What kid hasn’t wished a swarm of mosquitos on the group of kids that make fun off their too-short pants or holey shoes? Suraya actually, when Pink feels the need to protect her from schoolhouse taunts. What starts off innocent enough turns scary as Suraya quickly sees how dangerous a pelesit can be and how dark jealousy can twist. When Pink goes too far, Suraya goes to her mother for help and help arrives in the form of the pawang, eager to add a pelesit to his command. So Suraya, her Star Wars-loving bestie Jing, and Pink start off on a journey to discover how her grandmother actually created Pink and it’s an ending I did not see coming, it was so absolutely perfect.

Kiki MacAdoo and the Graveyard Ballerinas by Colette Sewall (8/4) When eleven-year-old Kiki MacAdoo and her talented older sister go to Mount Faylinn Dance Conservatory for the summer, they ignore the brochure’s mysterious warning that “ballets come alive” in the nearby forest.

But after her sister disappears, it’s up to Kiki to brave the woods and save her sister from the ghost sylphs that dance young girls to their deaths. As Kiki unlocks the mysteries of Mount Faylinn, the ballet of the ghost sylphs, Giselle, simultaneously unfolds, sending Kiki on the adventure of a lifetime.

Why I liked it: Another book with a fabulous title, ‘graveyard ballerinas’ immediately caught my attention. Kiki and her sister Alison travel to this creepy old mansion in the middle of nowhere for summer dance camp and are immediately told the woods and being out after dark is off-limits. Kiki needs glasses to see clearly, but oddly, sees things that shouldn’t be there when she’s not wearing them. She learns she has ‘ghost eyes’ and is able to see the ghostly realm, something that comes in handy when her broken-hearted sister disappears over the Forbidden Lake into the Wilis Mound graveyard. It’s a great mix of the Giselle ballet, Irish folklore, and the power of sisters.

(All summaries are from the publishers.) 

What books are you or your tween looking forward to reading over the summer? Is your favorite not on this list? Tell us about it!

Want us to pre-order any of these books for you? We’re offering no-contact curbside pickups, porch drop-offs in select neighborhoods, and we’re open by appointment. Book your time slot here. If we don’t have the book that you’re looking for in stock, use our affiliate link with

Happy summer reading!


Let me tell you, so much amazing happens in this middle grade novel by local author, Emily Blejwas. Reading the back blurb, I initially wondered if this book might be too sad for me with the death of a father (who suffered from PTSD) and the main character, seventh-grader Justin,who is trying to put his life back together. But Mrs. Blejwas is one of those glorious authors who finds the cracks of light in the darkness and opens it up for the rest of us.

This book is about the strength of community which is so important in our own lives right now. I was quickly absorbed into Justin’s world, interestingly set during the Gulf War era. The supporting characters are well-developed and fleshed out from his big brother, Murphy, who is refreshingly not a sulky teen but someone who is trying their best to be their own hero, Justin’s best friend Phuc (pronounced Fo) who has fabulous ideas on sunsets and string theory, to homeless-not-homeless Benny H and his stories of the Dakota, the Indigenous people who used to live in Wicapi, Minnesota—the small-town setting of this novel.

They all come together to create a beautiful story where amazing things happen when we look out for each other and not take the things around us at face value–to look deeper.

LIKE NOTHING AMAZING EVER HAPPENED releases today! Pick up your copy at our no-contact curb or have it delivered, either porch-side in select neighborhoods or shipped.

Need more books to tug on your community-love heartstrings while being socially responsible and staying home?

Other books of Mrs. Blejwas I highly recommend are ONCE YOU KNOW THIS, a middle grade story about going through hard times but having faith in your own strengths and dreams that things will get better by making a plan and sticking to it (even if it quickly goes to Plan B.)

And for adults, THE STORY OF ALABAMA IN FOURTEEN FOODS delves into the history and culture of Alabama by examining the foods, dishes, and beverages we love. It’s part travelogue, part cookbook, and part community and heritage celebration.


Local author Watt Key combines vivid descriptions of being out in the woods along with the grit and self-reliance we expect and appreciate from his books, though this time he twists the story by sending readers on a wild chase after the elusive cryptid, Bigfoot.

His thirteen-year-old protagonist, Adam Parks, is reeling after the unexpected death of his parents and the knowledge that the creature that caused the deadly car crash isn’t supposed to exist. He has to find a way to live in a world that suddenly feels foreign. Once he meets Stanley, another broken Bigfoot eyewitness, he decides to go off in search of the swamp-ape for desperate answers and to rediscover himself.

I thoroughly enjoyed this middle grade, even more so when I read in the author’s note about the unsettling event that inspired Mr. Key to write this story. The idea of infrasound is new to me but fascinating. Why wouldn’t a species so similar to us develop a different way of using their brain? Maybe early humans had this telepathic ability too and we lost it. It definitely makes you think.

Fabulous descriptions of North Florida forests and springs added an eerie familiarity to the story. I got a kick out of recognizing one of his vignettes from BAY BOY woven into the backstory. I highly recommend this for anyone who likes outdoor adventure stories, cryptid/Bigfoot legends, and survival stories.

BEAST releases today! Pick up your copy at our no-contact curb or have it delivered, either porch-side in select neighborhoods or shipped.

Need more books to go on adventures while being socially responsible and staying home?

I also recommend Watt Key’s other middle grade books including ALABAMA MOON and TERROR AT BOTTLE CREEK.

For adults, be sure to read his short story collections, AMONG THE SWAMP PEOPLE and BAY BOY.

And for other local author cryptid stories, check out MeLeesa Swann’s Legendary Lex series.