You know how some things from your childhood stick with you forever? The Baby-Sitter’s Club is definitely one of those things for many of us Millennial/GenX girls.
Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne, Stacey, Dawn, Mallory, Jessi and Abby were eight of the best friends anyone could have. From the tiny town of Stoneybrook, Connecticut, we all felt like we had characters we could connect to. These girls were shockingly normal — they went through the same things we did. And yet, they were always so bold. They gave an entire generation of girls people to look up to and emulate.
I can’t remember how old I was when I read my first BSC book, but I’d guess I was probably about seven. My introduction to the series was actually through the Little Sister books, which focused on Kristy’s step-sister Karen. I’m pretty sure I’m the only person on the internet who loved Karen. She was a loveable asshole, which is pretty much my brand, even though I didn’t know it back then.
Books have always been my thing. So, a book series was right up my alley at that age. As a voracious reader, I could devour the BSC books like potato chips — and I did.
Every time there was a Scholastic book fair at school, my mom knew that 75% of my book haul were going to be The Baby-Sitter’s Club. My parents never complained — even when I stashed books all over the house. I would tuck them behind the radiator in the bathroom, between the mattress and the box spring and under my pillow.
There was something about The Baby-Sitter’s Club that just brought me — and so many others — so much joy. They were dealing with real issues that tweens deal with. Those books covered pretty much any topic you could imagine: racism, eating disorders, death, various kid with special needs, and an obscene amount of mysteries. Seriously, no wonder our generation is obsessed with murder podcasts and ghost shows on Netflix.
And pretty much everyone could find a girl to relate to, which, at a young age, was so important to me. I had three favorites: Claudia, Stacey, and Jessi. Claudia was the coolest dresser and she loved junk food, which made her perfect in my book. I still wish I could dress as fearlessly as she did back then! I loved Stacey because she was from New York City, and I was growing up on Staten Island, though we spent a ton of time in the city. But, I had the most in common with Jessi — we were both black and we both were dancers.
In the ’90s, there weren’t many contemporary books that featured black girls as a main character. Jessi made me feel seen in a way that most of the media I consumed as a kid didn’t. She wasn’t just a supporting character — she had entire books focused around her and what was happening in her life. Like me, she often found herself moving through largely white spaces, and even then, she still wasn’t tokenized; she was treated like everyone else.
Jessi was an icon, even if we weren’t perceiving her that way at the time. Because before her, any black girl in a story was always suffering. A lot of the books written before The Baby-Sitter’s Club featuring a black main character were “issue” books — mainly books that focused on things like the racism and segregation of the 1960s. Those books were important, but for a kid, they got old. I didn’t want to read about black girls who lived when my mom was a kid; I wanted someone who looked like me and acted like me. Jessi Ramsey gave black girls the chance to see themselves as just one of the crew.
But the biggest thing about The Baby-Sitter’s Club is friendship. At the core of the series, the girls are all best friends. It’s hard to have that many close friends when you’re a tween. So many things could have broken up their friendships. And sometimes they almost did. New friends coming and old ones leaving, growing up and finding your own interests — and most often, boys would come between the girls of the BSC. But by the end of the book, they were usually all friends again.
Even now, there are few stories out there for young girls that depict that level of friendship. And even if their issues were resolved by the end of those 100 or so pages, what happened in the story always felt so real. Like Kristy’s jealousy when Mary Anne and Dawn become friends. Or Stacey thinking that maybe her friends weren’t cool because she was hanging out with the cheerleaders. Or Mary Anne being annoyed at how flighty Stacey becomes when there are cute boys around. All of those plots are true to the ins and outs of tween/teen friendships.
So, when I heard that Netflix was rebooting The Baby-Sitter’s Club as a contemporary update of the old TV show, I was excited. Since the early ’00s, most of the series has been out of print. New versions of the first 15 or so books in the series have popped up over the years, but on a whole, there are several generations of young girls out there who never knew the pleasure of knowing the BSC.
While there are a lot more shows and books out there for young girls that deal with contemporary struggles they face, The Baby-Sitter’s Club is a classic. These girls were businesswomen before there were female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Sure, they got themselves into some questionable situations, but they always managed to get themselves out of them with little help from adults.
In their way, The Baby-Sitter’s Club books were good, clean fun. But they still managed to keep things fresh and relevant. I learned what autism was because there was a character with autism in Stoneybrook. The Pikes were like the non-magical version of the Weasleys while JK Rowling was still writing the first Harry Potter book. The BSC was one of the first contemporary books series to be adapted for TV and film.
There’s a reason why so many of us fondly remember The Baby-Sitter’s Club. For many of us, it was the first time we felt truly seen. We felt that there was someone out there who understood what was happening in our lives and put it in the pages of a book. And when you’re a teenager, especially a girl, you just want to find someone to relate to. I can’t think of anyone better than the girls (and boy!) of The Baby-Sitter’s Club.