Thursday, March 20, 2014

Throwback Thursday: The Babysitters Club #1: Kristy's Great Idea


Recently I did a little excitement wee dance when the first 20 Babysitters Club books made their way to my Kobo. I've been digging around the internet for years looking for them, and safe to say with the aid of a few bookfinding sites, my day - well folks, it's been made.

The Babysitters Club was a series of books originally written by Ann M. Martin that focused on a group of young friends who set up a babysitting club in their Connecticut neighbourhood. This was so exciting to me because we have family friends in Connecticut, and also because I had an unhealthy obsession with all things American and the fact that there may have been the slightest connection there was the coolest thing ever.

#1: Kristy's Great Idea (Published August 1986)
The books are written from the POV of the person in the title, so this one's from Kristy. We learn that she is 12, she likes sports and thinks she's really good at them, that boys are yuck, and that her parents are divorced. She has a little brother (David Michael, 6) and two older brothers (Sam, 14 and Charlie, 16). Kristy's mother is having trouble finding a babysitter for David Michael despite the fact that she has three older children and a partner (Watson), so Kristy decides to enlist her friends and start a Babysitting Club. Her friends are Mary Anne Spier (based on Ann M. Martin herself), who lives with her uber strict father (her mother died of cancer when she was young), Claudia Kishi, who is the token creative/quirky person and lives with her parents, her totes adorbs (yeah I said it) Grandmother Mimi, and her genius sister Janine (more about her in a minute) and Stacey McGill, who recently moved to Stoneybrook from New York City and has all the glamour one would expect from someone who a) isn't a tomboy, and b) doesn't have a really strict Dad. Stacey can stay up until 10pm on the weekends and has caught cabs on her own. She also has a perm and is super thin. Claudia is really arty, cool and unique despite an obvious hoarding/junk food addiction, and is wearing this outfit at the beginning of the story.

All images credits can be found on Polyvore

Stacey is also pretty slick when it comes to fashion. The first time Kristy meets her, she's wearing this. Well actually, not exactly this, because I couldn't find a pink sweatshirt with sequins AND a parrot on it, so I gave her a brooch instead.


There's an almost obvious divide between the girls - Claudia & Stacey on the cool, boy-obsessed side, and Kristy & Mary Anne on the young, just-quit-playing-with-dolls side. Stacey won't accept any of the junk food Claudia inexplicably hides around her room which must mean she's on a diet, right? Wrong. She's actually diabetic but the whole thing is concealed because it's so awkward for her being a diabetic that her entire family had to move. Or something. The diet is mentioned to the point where I want to move just to get away from it, even when Kristy's horny brother Sam meets "foxy chick" Stacey for the first time, he refers to her as "the one on the diet". Here's Kristy's take on the whole mutual attraction between Sam & Stacey: "Most High School boys wouldn't be caught dead with a lowly junior high girl - unless the girl was a knockout." Luckily, Stacey isn't hideous and therefore is free to enjoy an hour of Sam being a total dick to his little brother in order to impress Stacey. Score, dude.

Back to the enigma that is Janine Kishi - she's 15, she's supposed to be a genius, and she's obsessed with grammar. To the point where she's creepily hanging around outside Claudia's room waiting to correct her friends. She chastises Kristy for using the word "hopefully" wrong and later is found just standing there, puzzled over whether or not there should be an apostrophe in the words "Babysitters Club". Janine. Please.


In fairness, Kristy is a bit of a bitch. Her mother's boyfriend Watson is lovely, and brings home chinese food for them. Kristy refuses to eat it and sits eating a peanut butter & jelly sandwich in rebellion. A sandwich that she has cut into the shape of a snowman. Very mature, Kristy. Please mind my children.

She also has a seriously smart mouth - she asks Watson who's minding his kids while he's bringing chinese food over, and when David Michael mentions a G.I. Joe toy and Watson says his son Andrew isn't into them, Kristy responds with "Oh, all the boys play with them. You just don't know because you're not around. And I bet Karen has a Rainbow Brite too, do you know what that is?." BIIITTCH!!

Kristy's first babysitting assignment doesn't go to plan - she takes a call to sit for twins, Pinky and Buffy (see where this is going?) but oh! Hilarity! They are dogs, they run away for a few minutes and then she puts them back inside and all is okay. Mary Anne sits for Watson's children, Karen and Andrew, who are nice enough but have an irrational fear of the woman next door. They've nicknamed her Morbidda Destiny, a name that I would rob in later years at Halloween. They also have a very large cat named Boo-Boo, who bites. Nice.

Watson and Edie (Kristy's mother) make Kristy wear a dress and they all sit down to fondue (well this IS the 80s) and announce their plans to get engaged. Kristy is a bit of a cow about it but soon sees the error of her ways after dinner. During dinner, Watson "came up with a rule that if your bread fell off your fork and landed in the cheese, you had to kiss the person on your right." Dafuq, Watson? You're sitting beside a TWELVE YEAR OLD GIRL. Naturally, Kristy's bread falls off and she gives Watson a peck on the cheek to the not-at-all-creepy soundtrack of the two Brewer children chanting "Kiss Daddy! Kiss Daddy!". Jesus.

So - the babysitting is off to a great start, we've established Claudia and Stacey are into fashion, Kristy is a tomboy, and Mary Anne has cried about nine times for many varying reasons including "my Dad won't let me spend $3 on pizza". Watson & Edie are sorted, so that just leaves the issue of Stacey's diabetes, which she's kinda forced into revealing at a sleepover because Kristy just can't mind her own goddamn business and had earlier accused Stacey and her mother of keeping secrets. She just met you Kristy, you nosy bitch. Everything is perfect because Kristy has a cousin with diabetes and knows all about it. Of course she does.

QOTD: [Kristy while minding Pinky & Buffy]: "You really haven't lived until a dog has stepped on your face."

Thursday, March 6, 2014

World Book Day 2014 - Recently Read and Childhood Favourites


I actually forgot all about World Book Day until my son asked for some old books to do a book swap at school (he picked excellent ones to take home - books by Roald Dahl, David Walliams and a Dog Encylopedia). I was going to do some nail art but I had some already done for another occasion so I decided instead to show you a few of my recent reads (or 2014 reads so far) and talk about a few of my favourite childhood books.

Recently Loved

  • The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood This is the second novel by Alex. Her first novel, The Wicked Girls was one of my favourite reads of 2013. This one was just as good - a group of people who seemingly have nothing in common end up, for various reasons, living in an apartment complex owned by an absolute pig of a landlord. He's lecherous, greedy, mean, and inappropriate. One night, a terrible accident happens and the gang have to decide what they're going to do - oh, and did I mention that one of them is a particularly deranged serial killer? Couldn't put it down. I found myself looking forward to night feeds just so I'd get another chapter in!
  • The Real Mrs. Brown - Brendan O'Carroll, The Authorised Biography by Brian Beacom I wouldn't be the hugest fan of Mrs. Brown or her boys (though I have on occasion almost wet myself laughing at it, but I have to be in particularly silly humour) but I'm a big fan of Brendan O'Carroll. He's a remarkable man who has maintained a positive outlook on life despite being thrown some huge curve balls in his time. He's witty, hard-working, and has had some ingenious ideas. This biography was sweet, it was heartwarming, and it was funny. A really, really nice read.
  • Doctor Sleep - Stephen King One of my favourite things about this was that it prompted me to re-read The Shining before I started it. I'd forgotten how amazing a book it was, and it was brilliant to revisit the world of the Torrances (and indeed Tony). We meet Abra Stone, who also has an amazing gift - and we get to find out what became of young Danny Torrance. A definite must-read!
  • The Sugar Queen - Sarah Addison Allen This isn't a new book by any means. I'd read Sarah's book Garden Spells a few years ago and I'd frequently wanted to re-read it, it had a serious Practical Magic vibe to it. Her books all have a somewhat magical quality to them, this one included. Josey lives for romance novels, secret stashes of chocolate and sweets, and has been in love with her mailman from afar for as long as she can remember. One morning she wakes to discover local ex-lady of the night/waitress Della Lee in her closet. Della Lee has escaped a bad relationship and while she's hiding out at Josey's, she helps her to find herself and question what she's doing with her life. It's a really sweet read, it's never going to win an award but you know what? I've read some heinously crap award-winners, so give it a chance if you like your fiction with a healthy dose of magic.

Recently Hated

  • Saving Rachel by John Locke The only reason I bought this was because it was really cheap on the Kobo website and I was sick of converting things I'd bought for Kindle. I wish I'd saved myself the bother of even downloading it - it's absolutely one of the worst "books" I've ever, ever read. The main character is disgusting, a real misogynistic ass. He's cheating on his wife and constantly makes references to how brilliant he is and how clever he is. He refers to the women in his life as if they were pieces of meat with breasts attached. The premise reeled me in - man cheats on wife, wife is kidnapped, man panics and gets involved with criminals - I think John Locke is incredibly good at writing a synopsis. He's a genius at it, because he made this sound like a Harlan Coben or Andrew Gross novel when really - it reads like nothing more than the ramblings of a horny, hyperactive, oversexed pre-pubescent teenage boy obsessed with breasts. Oh no, sorry, not breasts. "Titties". Seriously... I struggled to finish it, even though the chapters were 1-3 pages each of snappy, short dialogue. Awful beyond belief. 
Currently Reading

  • The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides I'm reading this as part of my 1001 Books Challenge. Honesty Corner - I haven't touched it yet. I'm behind on all my reading challenges, but I will catch up!!
  • If You Lived Here, You'd Be Perfect By Now by Robin Hardwick Essentially a book-by-book pisstake of the first 100 Sweet Valley High books. Not half as entertaining as Kitty's particular brand of actual-laugh-out-loud sarcasm, but still very funny.
  • The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison This is a thriller written from both the perspective of the murderer and victim - we're told at the very beginning that the wife is going to kill her husband, so it's not a spoiler - but it's so mind-numbingly boring and mundane that I'm looking for excuses to put it away. I do want to give it a chance, but I'm struggling with it. Harrison is one of a number of people who have sadly found fame posthumously - she passed away before she could see the success of her work.
  • Carrie by Stephen King Having read The Shining and Doctor Sleep, I got a grá for Mr. King again after many years. He was always my favourite author as a teen, so it's been a hell of a long time since I've read any of his better known works. I'm revisiting Carrie at the moment and loving every minute of it, and I plan to re-read as many of his books as I can over the coming months.
Childhood Favourites

Leaving aside acres of Sweet Valley High books, Malory Towers, St. Claire's and Point Romance, here are 6 of my all-time favourites from my pre-teen years.

  • What Katy Did by Susan M. Coolidge I re-read this a thousand times - Katy was warned by her father not to play on the swing in the shed because it wasn't set up properly. Boisterous Katy defies him, falls off, and ends up temporarily paralyzed. Her beautiful wheelchair-bound cousin comes to visit her and helps her to appreciate what she has in life. In this book they play a game called Kikeri that I've never forgotten - I'm sure it's what we called Murder in the Dark
  • The Faraway Tree Stories by Enid Blyton This series was the ultimate in fantasy reading - imagine a magical tree filled with all kinds of interesting unusual folk. That in itself is a great story, but add in a couple of regular children who befriend them and get to visit the different lands that appear at the top of the tree and you have a series that's magnetic even as an adult. I'll be buying this for my eldest son's next birthday. 
  • The Babysitter by R.L. Stine I loved all the Point Horror books but this one was my favourite - it's basically When a Stranger Calls but much milder on the graphic violence and general ick-ness. Other favourites are April Fools, The Cheerleader, Prom Date.
  • Sam, Bangs and Moonshine by Evaline Ness I'd forgotten all about this book until I stumbled across it again a few years ago. It's just really enchanting - Sam is a little girl who has a cat (bangs) and has a bit of a problem with telling lies, or making up fantastical stories (her father calls them Moonshine). She ends up in serious trouble when a friend is in danger, but she eventually realises that while the truth is best, we all need a little bit of Moonshine in our lives.
  • Goosebumps: The Haunted Mask by R.L. Stine I pretty much read the entire Goosebumps series, but this is the one that has stayed with me. It's genuinely creepy - Carly Beth wants to scare her friends at Halloween and comes across the scariest, most gross mask she can find. Unfortunately, when she puts it on - it becomes her face. 
  • The Secret Island by Enid Blyton This is one of the first books I remember keeping in my bedside locker to re-read over and over again. A group of children escape to an island and have to basically do a Tom Hanks on it and get inventive to survive - even sneaking back on to the mainland at one point and managing to manoeuver a cow out by boat to get milk! It's absolutely brilliant. 

I'm happy to see my eldest boy reading books - at the moment he's loving The Twits by Roald Dahl, The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney, and Gangsta Gran by David Walliams.

Read anything good lately?