The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S. – David Levithan

It was a game of hide and seek that got old after five minutes, alarming after an hour, and the scariest thing that had ever happened to any of us after that.

Aidan couldn’t be found.

Lucas’ older brother, Aidan, disappeared without a trace for six days. Now he’s returned home and the story he tells about the time he was missing seems too strange to be true.

Where were you?

Nobody’s going to believe me.

I’ll believe you.

I don’t think you can.

I loved the interactions between the brothers as they navigated the suspicion surrounding Aidan’s story and the people who felt they deserved an explanation because they’d helped search for him. Lucas’ initial disbelief and his subsequent wavering between thinking Aidan’s story is impossible and wondering if it actually could be true was realistic, especially given Aidan’s propensity for telling his younger brother some far-fetched things in the past.

I liked Lucas, especially appreciating how much he wanted to believe what his brother was telling him and doing his best to protect him. I thought it was particularly appropriate that Lucas was studying Roanoke at school during the time immediately after Aidan’s return.

My favourite character was Aunt Brandi, whose wisdom and compassion made me wish she was my Aunt. I definitely wanted to spend more time with her. She managed to snag the best lines. I loved this one:

“It stretches credibility – but life stretches credibility all the time, to the point that credibility doesn’t have much credibility left, you know?”

I really wanted to learn more about the place Aidan spent his time while he was missing. Previous books I’ve read that feature portals spend a significant amount of time world building and oftentimes I’ve been able to travel to far flung worlds with the main character. But that’s not what this book is about; Aidan’s story is about the after.

Aidan was no longer missing, but now it was like the answers to his disappearance were missing instead.

What happens when you return from a place that others find unbelievable? How will your family, friends and the wider community respond to you? How will you adapt once again to this world, knowing you can’t return to the one you’ve so recently lived in? How do you do this life after experiencing another?

The entire time I was reading I kept thinking this is the perfect gateway book to Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series. As Aidan attempted to reacclimate himself to his life at home, I found myself wanting to refer him to Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children, a place where his experience would be believed and the complicated feelings he had about his return validated.

I only had a couple of nitpicks, but none of them prevented me from loving this book. While Lucas and Aidan’s relationship was both endearing and believable, they tended to speak as though they were older than 11 and 12. There was never any explanation provided for why Aidan described the maddoxes differently throughout the book.

While I understood his reasons for doing so, I was disappointed when Lucas made a decision on Aidan’s behalf towards the end of the book. I’d love to say more, but spoilers. I wanted Aidan to make that decision for himself, though.

Food I craved while reading: cinnamon rolls.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Text Publishing for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Aidan disappeared for six days. Six agonising days of searches and police and questions and constant vigils. Then, just as suddenly as he vanished, Aidan reappears. Where has he been? The story he tells is simply … impossible. But it’s the story Aidan is sticking to.

His brother, Lucas, wants to believe him. But Lucas is aware of what other people, including their parents, are saying: that Aidan is making it all up to disguise the fact that he ran away.

When the kids in school hear Aidan’s story, they taunt him. But still Aidan clings to his story. And as he becomes more of an outcast, Lucas becomes more and more concerned. Being on Aidan’s side would mean believing in the impossible. But how can you believe in the impossible when everything and everybody is telling you not to?

Committed – Adam Stern

“Patients are people. We are people. Be a person with your patients, and you are already halfway there.”

Committed provides an overview of what it’s like to be a resident psychiatrist, from imposter syndrome to applying textbook knowledge to patients’ lives. Dr Stern was one of 15 residents in “The Golden Class” at Harvard Medical School, the “highest ranked class in the history of the program”. In this book, he explores the highs and lows of these four years in three Parts (years three and four are combined).

There was a greater focus on the other members of the class than I had expected. I loved Feelings class, where the residents were able to bond, process the emotions they experienced as interns and learn to “never worry alone”. I also hadn’t anticipated the amount of time dedicated to Dr Stern’s dating experiences during his internship. It was probably because of her name but it started to feel like I was in an episode of Friends when Dr Stern was figuring out if he should ever kiss Rachel. I did eventually get sucked into the ‘will they or won’t they?’ though.

“Always find out about the people behind your diagnoses. That’s the most important part of this whole deal.”

I enjoyed Dr Stern’s writing style and would be interested in reading about patients he treated after his time as an intern. I felt I got to know Jane reasonably well and loved her, although I’m not sure if it was because of or despite her constantly challenging Dr Stern.

When I read Lori Gottlieb’s Maybe You Should Talk to Someone I couldn’t help becoming emotionally invested in the lives of her patients. While I was interested in Dr Stern’s other patients’ stories, I didn’t become invested in most of them. Much of this could be put down to the transitory nature of residency; oftentimes Dr Stern would be introduced to a patient, start to treat them and then move on to a new rotation, not knowing how the patient fared over the long term himself.

Content warnings include bullying, child abuse, death by suicide, eating disorders and mental health.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Grey’s Anatomy meets One L in this psychiatrist’s charming and poignant memoir about his residency at Harvard.

Adam Stern was a student at a state medical school before being selected to train as a psychiatry resident at one of the most prestigious programs in the country. His new and initially intimidating classmates were high achievers from the Ivy League and other elite universities around the nation. Faculty raved about the group as though the residency program had won the lottery, nicknaming them “The Golden Class,” but would Stern ever prove that he belonged?

In his memoir, Stern pulls back the curtain on the intense and emotionally challenging lessons he and his fellow doctors learned while studying the human condition, and ultimately, the value of connection. The narrative focuses on these residents, their growth as doctors, and the life choices they make as they try to survive their grueling four-year residency. Rich with drama, insight, and emotion, Stern shares engrossing stories of life on the psychiatric wards, as well as the group’s experiences as they grapple with impostor syndrome and learn about love and loss. Most importantly, as they study how to help distressed patients in search of a better life, they discover the meaning of failure and the preciousness of success. 

Stern’s growth as a doctor, and as a man, have readers rooting for him and his patients, and ultimately find their own hearts fuller for having taken this journey with him. 

The Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novels #6: Kristy’s Big Day – Gale Galligan

Text – Ann M. Martin

Colour – Braden Lamb

This is my first Gale Galligan BSC graphic novel adaptation. I’ve already read three of Raina Telgemeier’s adaptations so it was almost impossible not to compare the two. I love Raina’s style and had wanted her to continue adapting the entire series.

I like Gale’s style as well so it was more a matter of me getting used to seeing the babysitters looking different. Gale dyes a section of Claudia’s hair, just like Raina did. However, Gale has also given Stacey a haircut, which didn’t sit with me as a BSC purist that well, even though it looks cute.

While the plot remains the same, I noticed many more minor differences between the book and this graphic novel than I have with Raina’s adaptations. I’m not mentioning all of the differences here as there are too many, but here are some of them.

Book: Watson’s mansion has three floors and an attic.
Graphic novel: The illustration of Watson’s mansion shows two floors and an attic.

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Book: Mallory isn’t a member of the BSC yet.
Graphic novel: Mallory is mentioned as the sixth member of the BSC.

Book: Watson’s parents being religious is not mentioned.
Graphic novel: Kristy’s mother talks about Watson’s parents being religious as one of the reasons why she and Watson need to get married before the Thomas’ move to the Brewer mansion.

Book: Kristy mentions having two windows in her childhood bedroom.
Graphic novel: I can only see one window in Kristy’s childhood bedroom in the illustrations.

Kristy arrives late to a BSC meeting and asks if there are any calls.
Book: Sam’s prank call was, ‘Hello, this is Marmee March. I need a sitter for Amy tonight, someone who has experience with little women.’
Graphic novel: Sam asks for a sitter with ‘experience with lots of smelly farts.’
The book version was better.

Book: Claudia searches for junk food under her bed.
Graphic novel: Claudia finds some junk food on a shelf in her closet.

Book: Claudia says Trevor is probably dating his poetry by now.
Graphic novel: Claudia says Trevor is probably dating his guitar by now.

Book: Sam and Kristy have their talk about David Michael’s Citizenship Award on the back porch.
Graphic novel: Sam and Kristy have their talk about David Michael’s Citizenship Award in the kitchen.

Book: Mallory isn’t a member of the BSC yet so she’s not babysitting with them.
Graphic novel: Mallory gets put in Kristy’s babysitting group.

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Book: Nannie’s Pink Clinker has a pink plastic flower attached to the antenna and a stuffed koala hanging from the rearview mirror.
Graphic novel: The pink plastic flower and the antenna are missing and stuffed koala is now some fuzzy dice. There’s a heart on the bonnet that I liked. The Pink Clinker looks closer to red than pink to me.

Book: When they’re cleaning the house, Charlie has the floor cleaner, Sam has the vacuum cleaner, Kristy has paper towels and Windex, and David Michael has rags and furniture polish.
Graphic novel: When they’re cleaning the house, Charlie is vacuuming, Sam is cleaning the windows, Kristy is tidying, and David Michael is dusting.

Book: Stacey calls Mary Anne from the movies using a pay phone.
Graphic novel: Stacey calls Mary Anne from the movies using her own phone.

Book: David Michael gets his hair cut by Mr Pratt.
Graphic novel: David Michael gets his hair cut by Mr Gates, the one who’s previously made him look like an owl.

Book: In the practice wedding performed by the kids, ‘holy matrimony’ becomes ‘holy moly’.
Graphic novel: In the practice wedding performed by the kids, ‘holy matrimony’ becomes ‘holy guacamole’.

Book: When Karen explains why having white flowers at the wedding are a disaster, it’s because white magic will mix with Morbidda Destiny’s black magic.
Graphic novel: When Karen explains why having white flowers at the wedding are a disaster, it’s because evil witches use white flowers in their magic and Morbidda Destiny will be able to sense them from next door.

Book: Kristy’s rehearsal dinner dress is white with woven silver designs.
Graphic novel: Kristy’s rehearsal dinner dress is green and blue.

Book: Kristy’s bridesmaid shoes are yellow.
Graphic novel: Kristy’s bridesmaid shoes are white.

Also, the clothes the kids wear in their practice wedding are different and the kids are positioned differently in the photo that’s taken of them on the couch. Karen freaks out at the wedding a little later than she did in the book and it’s Karen who accepts Mrs Porter’s present, not Watson. I can’t imagine Karen touching anything Morbidda Destiny has touched for fear of her magic.

I liked Claudia’s drawing lesson, where she explains how to draw simple roses, although I haven’t attempted them myself because I’m extremely artistically challenged. My stick men don’t even consistently look like stick men.

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My favourite illustration shows some of the wedding scenes.

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Kristy’s mum is getting married, and Kristy is going to be a bridesmaid! The only problem? Fourteen kids are coming to town for the wedding. Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne, Stacey, Dawn and Mallory think they can handle it, but that’s before they spend a week changing diapers, stopping arguments, solving mix-ups, and planning activities. It’s the biggest job the BSC has ever had, but they’ll work together to make sure Kristy’s big day is a success!

The Baby-Sitters Club #6: Kristy’s Big Day – Ann M. Martin

It’s the first second BSC book! Okay, that sounds really awkward. What I’m trying to say is that each of the five current members of the BSC have told their story in one book and Kristy is the first member to tell the second part of her story. It’s also one of Ann M. Martin’s favourite books of the series.

While this wasn’t one of my absolute favourites growing up, I did love it, mostly because it introduced me to Nannie. I love the grandmothers in this series. Nannie is Kristy’s maternal grandmother and she’s so much fun.

We meet her when she shows up in her car, the Pink Clinker. I’d never heard of anyone naming their car before and thought it was brilliant. Nannie is the reason I name my own cars and one of Ann M. Martin’s other books, Ten Kids, No Pets, is the reason my first car’s name started with an A, my second car’s name started with a B and my current car’s name starts with a C. Wow, this author has shaped my life in so many ways …

This is a happy-sad book. It’s a joyous occasion because Kristy’s mother and Watson are getting married. In the process, Kristy gets a new stepsister (Karen) and stepbrother (Andrew). She adores them. Watson is a good guy, he’s a millionaire and he makes Mrs Brewer happy.

It’s sad as well because the new blended family will be living in Watson’s mansion. Don’t get me wrong; the mansion itself is not a bad thing, unless you think living next door to a rumoured witch is a problem.

No, the reason it’s sad is that for her entire life Kristy has lived next door to her best friend, Mary Anne, on Bradford Court, and Claudia has always lived across the street. Kristy and Mary Anne’s bedrooms even have windows that face each other so they can communicate by torchlight at night and pull faces at one another when they’re in a fight. Understandably, Kristy doesn’t want to leave her childhood home.

It’s also bad news because in order for Kristy to attend BSC meetings once she’s living at Watson’s, she’ll need to pay her brother, Charlie, to drive her. Charlie’s a great guy and we assume he will be a safe driver so he’s not the problem. It does mean that the BSC members will need to pay more club dues each week. So far, so good. No one is whinging about having to pay them yet but if memory serves me, the obligatory groaning whenever Stacey collects the dues is coming fairly soon.

I’m liking Kristy more as an adult so far than I ever did as a kid. In this book she does do a few decidedly un-Kristy-like things, though.

  • She arrives at a BSC meeting at 5:36pm. That’s almost as bad as not attending at all, like she did in book #4. She did have a good excuse for being late so we’ll forgive her this time.
  • She gets excited at the thought of wearing a bridesmaid dress. Kristy, excited about a dress? I never thought I’d see the day.
  • She’s also happy about wearing heels. Okay, that’s just wrong. You can’t play baseball in heels, Kristy.

We babysit for Jenny (our angel) Prezzioso, Claire and Margo Pike and David Michael Thomas.

Then, in the lead up to the wedding, we babysit for 14 kids at once: Karen and Andrew Brewer, David Michael Thomas, Ashley, Berk, Grace and Peter (Aunt Colleen and Uncle Wallace’s kids), Emma, Beth and Luke (Aunt Theo and Uncle Neal’s kids), and Katherine, Patrick, Maura and Tony Fielding (their father, Tom, is Watson’s best friend). Jamie (Hi-hi!) Newton also drops by one day but, hey, what’s one more at this point.

Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. 14 kids. 5 babysitters. I could easily imagine a room in hell looking just like this. It must be time for an emergency BSC meeting. We haven’t had one of those in a while.

In 1987 I couldn’t fathom the Thomas’ living in a house that had three bathrooms, and that was before they all go across town to live in a mansion with nine bedrooms!

In the kids’ practice wedding, “holy matrimony” accidentally becomes “holy moly”. I loved that as a kid and it still got a chuckle out of me during my reread.

This book’s school dance: the Final Fling, the last school dance of the year.

Movie in a book: Mary Poppins, which I decided I liked even more as a kid when I learned it was sophisticated, former New Yorker Stacey’s favourite movie. Actually, I seem to remember finding parts of it fairly boring before Stacey convinced me to fall in love with the entire movie, not just the dancing penguins, chalk paintings and catchy tunes. (I was so proud when I learned how to spell supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. It’s one of those really useful things that’s burned into my brain.)

Stoneybrook Central Time: It’s June when we join Kristy on this adventure. Kristy’s mother and Watson are getting married in two and a half weeks. The Thomas’ need to have moved into Watson’s mansion before 15 July because the people who bought their house need to move in by then. We began this entire adventure on the first Tuesday of seventh grade. Google tells me that this is probably in August or early September.

About the cover: The shoes Kristy and Karen will be wearing to the wedding are special because you can dye them to match your dress. On the original cover, Karen’s shoes are black, not yellow.

Up next: Claudia and Janine came to an understanding during the whole Phantom Phone Call jump scare. Something tells me it’s not going to last.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Kristy’s mum is getting married, and Kristy’s a bridesmaid. The only trouble is, fourteen little kids are coming to the wedding, and they all need babysitters. Here comes the Baby-Sitters Club!

Stacey, Claudia, Mary Anne, Dawn, and Kristy think they can handle fourteen kids. But that’s before they spend five days changing diapers, stopping fights, solving mix-ups, righting wrongs … and getting sick and tried of babysitting!

One thing’s for sure: This is a crazy way to have a wedding. But it’s a great way to have a lot of fun!

The Baby-Sitters Club #5: Dawn and the Impossible Three – Ann M. Martin

It’s our California girl’s first BSC book! Dawn, whose hair I wanted when I was growing up and whose potentially haunted 1795 farmhouse I still want to live in, or at least have a chance to explore, is the BSC’s Alternate Officer.

So, what’s an Alternate Officer? Well, basically Dawn’s the understudy for all of the other roles and she’s ready to jump right in there and fill in if any of the other members can’t perform her duty for whatever reason. Or you could say that Dawn’s mother moved her and her brother to Stoneybrook a few months too late for her to get a real job title and now Kristy’s struggling to come up with a name that sounds super important but on most days means diddly-squat.

I connected with Dawn when I was growing up because I spent a great deal of my childhood soaking up the sun at the beach as well. Come to think of it, though, that’s about all we have in common. She’s neat; I’m messy. She loves tofu; I’m more interested in raiding Claudia’s junk food stash. Dawn and I do both enjoy ghost stories but we don’t know that about Dawn yet.

When I was a kid I truly believed the Barrett kids were impossible. Why? Because the title and blurb told me they were. Now that I am an adult and can actually think for myself, they seem like pretty ordinary kids. Sure, they’re upset about their parents’ divorce (Dawn bonds with them over that) but that’s to be expected. If there’s anything a little odd about them, it’s that Dawn could so easily convince them that cleaning the house is a fun game. It is not!

In this book, we babysit for all eight of the Pike kids, Jenny (our angel) Prezzioso, Jamie (Hi-hi!) Newton, Karen and Andrew Brewer, Buddy, Suzi and Marnie (who makes the ham face when she’s happy) Barrett, David Michael Thomas, Charlotte Johansenn and Jeff Schafer (Dawn’s younger brother).

We meet and babysit the Barrett kids and Jeff Schafer for the first time, and we play ‘Let’s All Come In’ with Hannie Papadakis, one of Karen Brewer’s friends. Dawn’s California best friend, Sunny Winslow, is also mentioned.

The green eyed monster is hanging out with Kristy who, until book #4, was Mary Anne’s only best friend. Now Mary Anne has two best friends and Kristy isn’t keen on sharing.

We get to explore the Dawn’s new-old home’s barn but we don’t find out anything more exciting about the house. Yet. Creepy, quirky stuff is coming soon. Please be as creepy and quirky as I remember …

Dawn misses a BSC meeting but, unlike Kristy’s dummy spit related no-show in book #4, Dawn can’t get away from a babysitting job because Mrs Barrett is late. Again.

We’re introduced to the Pike kids’ Bizzer Sign. I can’t believe I’d forgotten all about this.

Bzzz.

Dawn predicts Mallory’s BSC membership.

Random thoughts:

The Pike family have eight kids. At one point the triplets are at ice hockey practice and Vanessa is at a violin lesson. Another time Jordan, one of the triplets, is at a piano lesson. How can these parents afford to feed and clothe eight kids plus pay for them to do activities? Is everyone in Stoneybrook millionaires?

I called Dawn’s home her ‘new-old’ one in my review of book #4, forgetting that that’s what Mallory Pike calls it in book #5. Did this series become part of my DNA or something? Also, what really important information has my brain discarded to hold onto BSC trivia?

The Pike family have Band-Aids with dinosaurs on them! Is this why I am incapable of buying a Band-Aid that doesn’t have a fun design on it?

Dating Dawn’s mother really agrees with Mary Anne’s father. She’s allowed to wear jeans now, for the first time in her twelve years. I’m hoping this means Mr Spier’s rule that says Mary Anne isn’t allowed to wear pants to school might not be set in stone anymore. Mary Anne also gets to redecorate her pink room.

When I read this book as a kid I had no idea what Doritos were. I also had never heard of tofu, granola, Pop Tarts, saltwater taffy or Ho-Hos. There were so many BSC foods I didn’t encounter in Australia as a kid. I’ll never forget the day I first saw a Hershey’s bar in real life (actually, I haven’t tried one yet). I still don’t know what Ho-Hos are but if junk food addict Claudia likes them, there’s a pretty good chance I will too.

When I was a kid I read lots of words I’d never heard of before. I thought Connecticut was pronounced ‘connect-e-cut’. Why am I telling you embarrassing childhood memories?

Watson’s mansion has nine bedrooms! I would not want to clean that house! Maybe the Barrett kids would do it for me …

As a kid I thought the babysitters were really mature at twelve years old. Perhaps, overall, they are. But these girls you’re trusting your kids with are the same girls who have been convinced (by a six year old, no less) that Watson’s next door neighbour is a scary witch.

Stoneybrook Central Time: Dawn and her family moved to Stoneybrook in book #4. Mary Anne met her the day after the big BSC barney; that was Dawn’s second day at school and fourth day living in Stoneybrook. In the beginning of this book Dawn has lived in Stoneybrook for a few months.

Best insult: Dawn calls the weatherman on the radio a “cheesebrain”. I’m going to try to find a good time to use that one.

Up next: Do you hear wedding bells?

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Dawn’s the newest member of the Baby-sitters Club and everybody’s glad – except Kristy. Kristy thinks things were better without Dawn around. That’s why Dawn’s eager to take on a big babysitting job: It’s her chance to show Kristy what she’s made of.

What a mistake! Taking care of the three Barrett kids is too much for any babysitter. The house is in chaos, the kids are impossible, and Mrs. Barrett never does any of the things she promises. Dawn’s got more trouble than she bargained for. But she’s not going to give up until all four Barretts are under control and she’s friends with Kristy.

The Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novels #3: Mary Anne Saves the Day – Raina Telgemeier

Text – Ann M. Martin

This is the first of Raina’s BSC graphic novel adaptations that I’ve seen in their full technicolor glory. I’m so in love with it, not that I didn’t enjoy the black and white illustrations in the versions I read of the first two graphic novels in the series.

Raina has once again captured the original story so well. Her illustrations are always amazing, with giggle-worthy exaggerated expressions.

I have so many favourites in this graphic novel, but check out Kristy’s face when she realises she’s broken one of her own BSC rules! Priceless!

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The differences in the story, which were all only minor, that stood out to me as I was reading were:

Book: Mary Anne’s mother’s name is not mentioned.
Graphic novel: Mary Anne’s mother’s name is Alma. I don’t remember ever knowing this before.

Book: Mary Anne wishes Humpty Dumpty and two Alice in Wonderland pictures weren’t on her bedroom wall.
Graphic novel: Mary Anne wishes Humpty Dumpty and Mother Goose pictures weren’t on her bedroom wall.

Book: When Mary Anne looks around the cafeteria the day after the BSC’s fight, the fourth chair at her usual table has been removed.
Graphic novel: When Mary Anne looks around the cafeteria the day after the BSC’s fight, the fourth chair at her usual table has Kristy’s backpack and hoodie on it.

Book: Dawn temporarily has the family’s VCR in her room. Her mother taped The Parent Trap.
Graphic novel: Dawn temporarily has the family’s DVD player in her room. Her mother bought The Parent Trap.

Book: Mary Anne babysits for Jenny Prezzioso both times.
Graphic novel: Stacey babysits for Jenny Prezzioso the first time.

Book: Mary Anne gives her note to Mimi to pass along to Claudia later in the story.
Graphic novel: Mary Anne gives Claudia her note at the end of the first BSC meeting after the fight.

Book: We attend the first Prezzioso job with Mary Anne but we don’t read about it in the BSC notebook.
Graphic novel: Stacey writes up the first Prezzioso job in the BSC notebook. We also attend the job with her.

Book: Claudia blasts music on her tape deck when it’s Mary Anne’s turn to answer the BSC calls.
Graphic novel: Claudia blasts music on her CD player when it’s Mary Anne’s turn to answer the BSC calls.

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Book: When Mary Anne and Kristy babysit together, the eight Pike kids put on two plays.
Graphic novel: When Mary Anne and Kristy babysit together, Mary Anne only reads to the younger Pike kids upstairs before bedtime. There are no plays.

Book: The second time the BSC babysit for Jenny, she’s wearing a pale blue dress with a white collar and cuffs, and white tights, shoes and hair ribbon.
Graphic novel: The second time the BSC babysit for Jenny, she’s wearing a white dress, a short sleeve black cardigan, white socks, black and white shoes and a red hair ribbon.

Book: Mary Anne has Blueberries For Sal, The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin and Caps For Sale in her Kid-Kit.
Graphic novel: Mary Anne has Princess Gwynn and Hats for Bats in her Kid-Kit.

Book: Mr Prezzioso gives Mary Anne and Dawn $10 each after they take care of Jenny when she’s sick.
Graphic novel: Mr Prezzioso gives Mary Anne and Dawn $50 each after they take care of Jenny when she’s sick.

Book: Mary Anne doesn’t visit her mother’s grave.
Graphic novel: Mary Anne visits her mother’s grave after her fight with Dawn. I thought this was a really good addition, especially given how lonely and upset Mary Anne is at this point in the story.

Book: At Jamie (Hi-hi!) Newton’s birthday party, Kristy is the one that suggests the kids sit around the couch and gloats when Mrs Newton agrees with her.
Graphic novel: At Jamie (Hi-hi!) Newton’s birthday party, we don’t see which babysitter suggests the kids sit around the couch but Claudia is the one who gloats, so I guess it was her.

Book: At the end, Dawn says, “To me!” I prefer this version; it made me smile when I read it.
Graphic novel: At the end, Dawn says, “To us!!

Random thoughts:

Mary Anne’s room is just as pink as I imagined it would be. Humpty Dumpty is even on the wall.

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Mary Anne’s dad is kinda cute, in a dad way, of course. When I’ve I imagined him previously, he’s been exclusively dour until the very end of the story and sort of bland looking.

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Mimi looks more adorable that I’d even hoped. I love Mimi! I know she’s not a BSC member but I’d love to read her memoirs.

Also, Claudia’s response to the “my Mary Anne” incident is brilliant!

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I love that we get to see Mary Anne give her father the scarf she’s been working on with Mimi’s help for a couple of books. That was my favourite illustration.

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About the cover: Love it! Love the colours. Love the expressions. My only nitpicks are that Mary Anne’s skirt is clearly above her knees and I’m certain that her dad, Richie, would never have allowed Mary Anne to leave the house looking like that. Why, that would almost be as scandalous as giving her permission to wear pants to school! Also, is it just me or at a quick glance, does it look as though Claudia doesn’t have pupils, giving her a bit of a zombie vibe?

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When The Baby-sitters Club gets into a huge fight, Mary Anne is left to her own devices. She has to eat by herself in the school cafeteria, figure out how to make new friends and deal with her overprotective father. But the worst happens when she finds herself in a babysitting emergency and can’t turn to her friends for help. Will Mary Anne solve her problems and save The Baby-sitters Club from falling apart?

The Baby-Sitters Club #4: Mary Anne Saves the Day – Ann M. Martin

Only three books after Kristy had her great idea, it’s time for The BSC and the Great Dummy Spit, A.K.A., Welcome to the Party, Dawn! Kristy, Claudia, Stacey and Mary Anne have a doozy of a fight during a BSC meeting after Kristy breaks one of the most important BSC rules: When you answer a call for a babysitting job you must offer the job to everyone else, not simply take it yourself. Or else!

Having just reread the first three books, I found it quite interesting that it’s Kristy accidentally breaking this rule that’s the precursor for all of the drama that follows. Claudia and Stacey have both been guilty of exactly the same infraction (Mary Anne wouldn’t dare break a rule at this point so we won’t point any fingers at her). The other BSC members have been various shades of peeved because of these BSC blunders but nothing like the argument that follows Kristy’s mistake.

But, hey, let’s look at the bright side. At least we now know what the BSC really think of each other:

  • Kristy is the “biggest, bossiest know-it-all in the world”
  • Claudia is a “stuck-up job-hog”
  • Stacey is a “conceited snob”
  • Mary Anne is a shy little baby.

Actually, given the amount of conflict in this book, it surprises adult me that this was the book that sucked me in. Sure, it was the first one I read so it’s always going to hold a special place in my heart, but I’m the type of person who avoids conflict as much as possible. On the surface it doesn’t seem like the type of book kid me would have loved but I know I did. I’ve read it so many times!

I think what sealed the deal for me was Mary Anne herself. I saw shy, sensitive me in her and the fact that she stood up to people in this book, despite this, made her kind of heroic in my eyes. She had the courage that I wanted and the backbone I hoped was growing in me. And we both love The Parent Trap (the original Hayley Mills version), except I can’t remember now if I fell in love with it before I met Mary Anne or because of her.

Besides all of the time we spend watching our favourite babysitters pretty much hating each others’ guts, we are also introduced to our California girl. Mary Anne meets Dawn on her second day at Stoneybrook Middle School. The start of their friendship is somewhat dodgy, though, with Mary Anne lying to her off the bat.

While the four current BSC members are shooting daggers across the cafeteria at each other with every glance, Mary Anne (in her infinite wisdom) decides that rather than telling Dawn the truth about their bust up, she’ll say her friends are absent from school that day. And the day after. And the day after …

In this book it’s alleged that we babysit for David Michael Thomas, Karen and Andrew Brewer, Jamie (Hi-hi!) and Lucy Newton, Charlotte Johansenn, Nina and Eleanor Marshall, all eight Pike kids at once (😱) and a new girl, Jenny Prezzioso. However, we don’t get to attend most of these jobs with the girls because apparently they’re all too mad to even talk about them.

So, the random bits and pieces that stood out to me during this reread:

Mary Anne is in battle mode for much of the book, also engaging in some traditionally un-Mary Anne-like behaviour with Dawn and her super strict father. This is the man whose rules include not allowing his twelve year old daughter to wear pants to school because, um, reasons?

Kristy misses a BSC meeting. Did you ever think you’d live to see the day?

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Dawn has a VCR at her house, which was a pretty big deal in the 80’s. For those of you who are too young to know what a VCR is, they’re how we watched movies at home in the olden days, before DVD’s, Blu-rays or streaming were invented. If you rented a movie, you absolutely had to rewind the video cassette before returning it to the video store, lest you incur the wrath of the teenager working there.

My Mimi commits a cardinal sin: she calls Mary Anne “my Mary Anne”. Claudia is decidedly unimpressed.

NO FAIR. So there.

Tales from Stoneybrook Central Time: Lucy Newton, who was born during book #3, isn’t two months old yet but at least it proves that Stoneybrook Central Time isn’t slowing down a great deal yet. I wonder how many years these girls remain roughly the same age for.

Further proof that time is in fact still moving forward: The BSC members are invited to Jamie (Hi-hi!) Newton’s fourth birthday party.

Movie in a book: Mary Anne and Dawn watch The Parent Trap. Come to think of it, Mary Anne and Dawn pull a bit of a Parent Trap move on their parents.

Books in a book:

  • Mary Anne reads A Wrinkle in Time.
  • Vanessa Pike reads The Phantom Tollbooth.
  • The younger Pike kids put on a Peter Rabbit play.
  • Nicky and Vanessa Pike are reading Pippi Longstocking.
  • Mary Anne has Blueberries For Sal, The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin and Caps For Sale in her Kid-Kit.

About the cover: Jenny’s hair ribbons are supposed to be white, not blue. She is also supposed to be asleep when Mary Anne takes her temperature. Close enough, though. I love the original covers!

Next BSC read: Our newest member, Dawn, makes her mark. I loved Dawn’s new-old home when I was growing up. I hope it’s as creepy and quirky as I remember.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Mary Anne has never been a leader of the Baby-sitters Club. She’s left that up to Kristy … or Claudia … or Stacey. But now there’s a big fight among the four friends, and Mary Anne doesn’t have them to depend on anymore.

It’s bad enough when she’s left alone at the lunch table at school. But when she has to babysit a sick child without any help from her friends, Mary Anne knows it’s time to take charge.

The Baby-sitters Club is going to fall apart unless somebody does something – fast. Maybe it’s time for Mary Anne to step in and save the day!

The Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novels #2: The Truth About Stacey – Raina Telgemeier

Text – Ann M. Martin

Raina did such a fantastic job translating the third BSC book into a graphic novel. But was there ever any doubt? I’d be on board if she made the entire series into graphic novels.

Given that I’ve read both the book and graphic novel today and because the graphic novel remains so true to the source material, there’s not a lot I can say that I didn’t already say in my review of the book.

Instead I’ll mention some of the changes I noticed between the two. I loved that all of the changes were minor, so the story you’ve known for over three decades is the story you’ll find here.

Book: Everyone goes home to get their own box before returning to Claudia’s house to decorate the Kid-Kits.
Graphic Novel: Claudia gets empty boxes for everyone from her basement.

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Book: Kristy is usually sprawled out on Claudia’s floor during meetings. This changes for the emergency meeting, when she’s all official with her clipboard, visor and pencil over her ear.
Graphic Novel: Kristy begins the story sitting in a chair during BSC meetings. She does hang out on Claudia’s bed later in the story.

Book: Stacey gets her money out before deciding not to buy anything at the candy store.
Graphic Novel: Stacey doesn’t get her money out at all. She simply thinks about it and tells Charlotte she shouldn’t have any sweets.

Book: The babysitters put on a record for Jamie’s Big Brother Party.
Graphic Novel: The babysitters put on a CD for Jamie’s Big Brother Party.

The Baby-sitters Agency set up a recruitment table inside the school. The babysitters head to the school bathroom to strategise.
Book: The babysitters talk in the bathroom, then decide to hold a meeting at Kristy’s house after school.
Graphic Novel: The entire conversation takes place in the school bathroom.

Book: Stacey and Dr Johansenn have their talk about the new doctor Stacey’s parents want to take her to in the den.
Graphic Novel: Stacey and Dr Johansenn have their talk about the new doctor Stacey’s parents want to take her to in the kitchen.

Book: Pete asks Stacey to the Snowflake Dance when they’re in the cafeteria.
Graphic Novel: Pete asks Stacey to the Snowflake Dance when they’re in the hallway in front of the lockers..

Book: Mary Anne answers the phone call from Mr Kelly and then hands the phone to Kristy once she finds out why he’s calling.
Graphic Novel: Kristy answers the call.

Book: Stacey babysits for Jamie (Hi-hi!) Newton and he tells her about his other babysitters.
Graphic Novel: Mary Anne babysits for Jamie (Hi-hi!) Newton and he tells her about his other babysitters.

Book: Stacey talks to Dr Johansenn a second time in the Johansenn’s home.
Graphic Novel: Stacey talks to Dr Johansenn a second time while Dr Johansenn is driving her home.

Book: The babysitters discuss their concerns about Jamie with their parents before talking to Mrs Newton.
Graphic Novel: The babysitters wait out in the snow until Cathy has left and then go talk to Mrs Newton.

The babysitters quiz members of The Baby-sitters Agency about the kids they babysit.
Book: They ask what Charlotte’s favourite TV show is.
Graphic Novel: They ask what Charlotte’s favourite game is.

Book: When Stacey and her parents arrive at Laine’s family’s apartment, Laine is in her bedroom.
Graphic Novel: When Stacey and her parents arrive at Laine’s family’s apartment, Laine is in the same room as her parents.

Book: The popcorn and diet soda Stacey buys at the movies costs $1.75.
Graphic Novel: The popcorn and diet soda Stacey buys at the movies costs $9.25.

Book: Makeovers Inc. sounds as though it’s going to be a moneymaker.
Graphic Novel: Makeovers Inc. sounds as though it’s going to be a flop.

The illustrations are the usual Raina awesomeness, with characters whose expressions tell the story just as well as the words. One of my favourite scenes was when Kristy calls The Baby-sitters Agency to find out how they operate and says she has a date with Winston Churchill.

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I really enjoyed the flashback scenes in the graphic novel that give you an idea of what Stacey’s life in New York was like. The text that’s added to those panels felt like it belonged in the story. I loved Stacey and Laine’s ideas for the apartment they planned to get together when they were in the fifth grade.

I read the black and white version of this graphic novel. Sorry about the dodgy photos I took of it. To give you an idea of what the colour version looks like, here are the first three pages:

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Poor Stacey. She just moved to a new town, is still coming to terms with her diabetes, and is facing baby-sitting problems left and right. Fortunately, Stacey has three new friends – Kristy, Claudia, and Mary Anne. Together they’re the BSC, and they will deal with whatever’s thrown their way … even if it’s a rival baby-sitting club!

The Baby-Sitters Club #3: The Truth About Stacey – Ann M. Martin

Welcome to the book that made me think being diagnosed with diabetes was one of the scariest things that could happen to me as a kid. It’s talked about as if it’s a shameful secret for both Stacey and her parents, giving yourself insulin injections is labelled “gross” and there are multiple references to how Stacey could die if she doesn’t manage her diabetes. No wonder I was scared.

We’ve already read Kristy and Claudia’s first BSC books. Now it’s Stacey’s turn. Stacey was the babysitter who made me want to be sophisticated long before I’d wrapped my head around what sophistication meant. She was also the one who added an extended visit to Central Park and clothes shopping in New York to my bucket list before I knew what one was.

In the beginning of book #3 we learn it’s been two months since Kristy had her great idea. I guess Stoneybrook Central Time must slow down rapidly after this book if the babysitters stay roughly the same age during the next 128 regular series books and all of the Super Specials, Mysteries, Super Mysteries, Friends Forever and Portrait Collection. Wow, that’s a lot of books to have to spend being frozen in time at the most awkward age ever.

In what is the BSC’s biggest existential crisis since Mary Anne almost had to leave the club because of the Phantom Caller in book #2, they have to deal with copycats. Their rivals are The Baby-sitters Agency (because apparently no one in Stoneybrook can think of an original or catchy name). The BSA have older babysitters who are allowed to babysit later than the BSC club members can. They don’t advertise business hours so it’s okay to call them during the hours of the week when it’s not Monday, Wednesday or Friday from 5:30pm to 6pm. They even have balloons!

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Okay, maybe that last one could have a downside.

“I hereby change this meeting of the Baby-sitters Club to an emergency meeting,” she announced.

Sidebar: Why is the first ‘s’ in sitters always capitalised on the BSC logo but never in the book’s text?

Pretty soon after we all decide, “We’re doomed”, it’s time to get into the trash talk.

“They have smart mouths, they sass the teachers, they hate school, they hang around at the mall. You know, that kind of kid.”

Oh, dear, my Claudia. Pull up a chair and let me explain to you how trash talk is actually supposed to go.

It’s even possible the BSA might have spies listening in on the BSC’s conversations. Not that we’re getting dramatic about this or anything.

Besides the expected two emergency meetings, there’s also a special planning session. There’s even a triple-emergency club meeting; this is when you know things are super duper serious. What’s the bet Kristy grew up to become one of those annoying people who loves team meetings and is solely responsible for them dragging on long after they’re supposed to end …

But it’s not all bad news. It’s the Crisis of the Competing Clubs that leads Kristy to come up with her Kid-Kit idea, after all.

We babysit for Charlotte Johansenn, who’s having trouble at school but at least she has the honour of being the first kid to explore a Kid-Kit. We also find Jamie (Hi-hi!) Newton in our kitchen after school because his mother is in hospital giving birth to his brand new baby sister, Lucy. Aww! The girls also book a job babysitting for Nina and Eleanor Marshall but didn’t think to invite me along.

I never really thought about how wealthy Stacey’s family must have been before now. Her bedroom in their New York apartment overlooked Central Park, their apartment building had its own doorman and she attended a private school. That all sounds pretty fancy to me.

I’d completely forgotten that Mary Anne wears reading glasses.

I realised that Kristy’s mother works in Stamford. I had always read that as Stanford. Huh.

We’ve heard of the eight Pike kids already but this is the first time we meet Mallory, future BSC Junior Officer. Sort of. She’s in the room but doesn’t get a speaking role.

Stacey and Charlotte visit Polly’s Fine Candy so prepare to hear all about the chocolate and other sugar filled delicacies. It felt really mean of Stacey to pull out money in front of Charlotte, who’s practically drooling at this point, only to change her mind and tell poor Charlotte she can’t have anything. Charlotte is a lot more forgiving than I would have been. I bet Claudia would have bought one of everything for her. This scene reminded me that it was Stacey gazing longingly at the white chocolate that prompted me to ask my parents to buy me some.

Word of the book: traitor. Various people are called traitors at least three times.

This book’s school dance: Snowflake Dance.

It’s almost time for Mary Anne to save the day! Yay! The book that initiated me into the BSC!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The truth about Stacey is that she has diabetes. Nobody knows … except her friends in the Baby-sitters Club.

But even they don’t know the real truth about Stacey. Stacey’s problem is her parents. They won’t admit she has the disease, and they drag her to practically every doctor in America!

Seeing so many doctors made Stacey lose one friend, and she won’t let it happen again. Especially now – when the Baby-sitters Club needs her more than ever.

The Baby-Sitters Club #2: Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls – Ann M. Martin

Claudia, I blame you for my obsession with getting a phone in my bedroom as a kid, along with my own private phone number. You’re also responsible for me making sure there’s always some junk food hidden in my bedroom, in case of emergency.

Claudia’s fashion choices also started my love of all things quirky, something that’s followed me into my adult life. I still buy weird and wonderful earrings because of Claudia, coming up with combinations that make other people look at me like I’m weird but not always wonderful. My current favourite pairing is a shark in one ear and a human skeleton in the other (the shark won).

This is the first BSC mystery and, given Claudia’s love of all things Nancy Drew, it’s only fitting that she’s the one to tell it. A jewel thief, known as the Phantom Caller, has been getting closer and closer to Stoneybrook. This book seems so tame as an adult but I remember it scared me as a kid.

It’s time for some emergency BSC meetings. Our favourite babysitters, who are always prepared, come up with codes to use if they find themselves at a babysitting job when the house is being robbed. Now, if only they can remember what words they’re supposed to say.

“Have you found my b- I mean, did you see my – Have you found my … my …”

In between all of the phone calls where the caller doesn’t speak (what is it with creepy phone calls and babysitters?), we’re also watching boys make food sculptures from their cafeteria food and preparing for the first school dance of the year, the Halloween Hop. Claudia is pining over Trevor Sandbourne, resident poet and cute shy guy, but is sitting back hoping and waiting because a girl can’t possibly ask a boy to a dance. The world as we know it would end!

We also tag along for babysitting jobs with Jamie (Hi-hi!) Newton (along with his cousins Rob, Brenda and Rosie Feldman), Nina and Eleanor Marshall, Karen and Andrew Brewer, Charlotte Johanssen, David Michael Thomas, and Claire and Margo Pike (although we only hear that this job has been scheduled; we don’t actually get to hang out with the Pike girls).

Watson has bought Karen a book called The Witch Next Door. This kid does not need this sort of encouragement. She already believes Morbidda Destiny Mrs Porter next door is a witch. In this book the curse Karen is obsessed with is the multiplication of her freckles.

Kristy reminds up she’s a professional babysitter:

“One false move and I’ll punch your lights out.”

Mary Anne sets prowler traps, Home Alone style. She also reads The Secret Garden. BSC books informed a lot of my own choices growing up. I read The Secret Garden for the first time because Mary Anne did and it ended up becoming one of my favourite books.

Stacey uses a TV remote control when she’s babysitting Charlotte. When this book was published, remote controls were a revolutionary idea for me. If we wanted to change the channel we had to get up off the lounge, walk across the room and turn the dial on the TV. I’d also never heard of cable TV before I read this book. Then, when Stacey turned on Channel 47, my mind was blown. We had 5 TV stations in Australia at the time.

Claudia has an actual conversation with Janine, who doesn’t annoy me anymore. She also spends time with her grandmother, Mimi, one of my favourite fictional characters of all time. I adored Mimi. Even now, she melts my heart every time she says, “my Claudia” and her wisdom stands the test of time.

“You know, my Claudia, that in order for things to change, you must change them. You will grow to be an old woman like me, if you wait for others to change things that do not please you.”

My biggest revelation, rereading this book after so many years, was discovering that “no problem” was considered slang in 1986. Go figure!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne, and Stacey try to be prepared for anything when they babysit. So when they hear about the Phantom Caller, a jewel thief who’s been breaking into nearby homes, they come up with a plan to keep their kids safe.

But when Claudia and the other girls start receiving creepy phone calls while they’re out on jobs, they start to get really spooked. Will the mystery caller scare off the BSC?