The first comic of 2008 is brought by Jessica Plummer, GW Board member, and one of the writers of the new GW blog Sequential Smarts, a resource on comics used in the classroom.
Well, it’s a new year, and what better way to kick it off than with a blast from the past? January’s book of the month is The Baby-sitters Club Graphix, a series of four graphic novels based on Ann M. Martin’s hit kids’ series (specifically, Kristy’s Great Idea, The Truth About Stacey, Mary Anne Saves the Day, and Claudia and Mean Janine). Adapted and drawn by Raina Telgmeier, the books center around a group of tween girls and their babysitting business.
If you’re a typical child of the 80s and early 90s, you remember the setup of the series: when Kristy sees how hard it is for her mom to find a sitter for Kristy’s little brother, she organizes her friends Mary Anne, Claudia, and Stacey (and later Dawn) into a babysitting club to enable parents to reach a whole bunch of sitters with one phone call. Babysitting forms the background to all of the books, but these four graphic novels, taken from the earlier and less ridiculous volumes of the original series, are really about Kristy learning to deal accept her single mother dating and her family changing, Stacey coping with diabetes, Mary Anne finding her own hidden strength, Claudia forging a stronger relationship with her sister as their grandmother falls ill, and, above all, friendship.
I was a big BSC fan as a kid, and these books retain everything good about them (except, alas, for the ludicrous 80s fashions) while jettisoning some of the goofier aspects of the series. The first is rather awkwardly paced, but by the second seems to have found her rhythm. And the art! It’s cute, and energetic, and distinctive. The characters are all easily distinguishable – a sadly rare feat in a book starring all girls! – and dress with their own distinct senses of style, which I’m sure all grown-up fans of the series remember as a major draw. Everything about it, from the expressions to the layouts, is fantastic. It takes me twice as long to read these books as it normally would because I’m spending so much time gazing rapturously at the art. All in all, these are great, fun reads for both adult fans of the old series and kids meeting the Baby-sitters Club for the first time.
Sexualised Violence: None.
Gender: All four protagonists are girls with distinct personalities, and none of the plotlines revolve around boys.
The Bechdel-Wallace Test: Passes with flying colors!
Minorities: Claudia, one of the four protagonists, is Japanese-American, as is her entire family. The original series consisted of almost entirely white characters, so Telgemeier replaced a couple of white babysitting clients with new black characters to make the series a little more diverse.