Remember “The Baby-Sitters Club” series? Me too! Baby sitters! A club! A girl named Stacey! The very essence of ‘90s childhood.
Okay, fine, I never read “The Baby-Sitters Club.” Somehow, in all my Scholastic Book Fair–attending, middle-grade library section-rummaging, Barnes and Noble gift card–using adolescence, it never occurred to me to crack one of those babies open. And now, when I see “Baby-Sitters Club” cover outfits ranked, or speculation on where the gals would be now, I feel like a real chump.
Fortunately it’s way easy to fake having read the books. Look at those covers! A picture is worth a thousand words, and a “Baby-Sitters Club” cover design might be worth 10,000 words, so meaningful is every detail. (I assume.)
This week, in celebration of the series’ 30th anniversary, I finally committed to catching up with all of my generational lady cohort. That’s right: I looked at every single cover of the original 35 books penned by Ann M. Martin herself, and guessed each plot. I now feel confident that I can hold my own with the biggest “BSC” superfan out there.
Looking for a cheat sheet? Read on for the plot of every original “Baby-Sitters Club” book, based solely on their covers:
Plot: Kristy has a ~super great~ idea to turn all of her friends’ chill group hangs into work instead. Everyone plays along because tbh, Kristy is the Blair Waldorf of this book cover (I think) and no one wants to piss off a chick with that level of headband game.
Plot: To cope with the crushing emotional burden of acting as a mother figure to an apple-cheeked toddler who would definitely be the focus of a national news frenzy if she left the stroller in Blockbuster by accident, Claudia starts calling into a singles phone line called GhostLines. She develops a huge crush on the mysterious boy on the other end of the call — but she has a sneaking suspicion that he for real is a ghost! Uh oh. Hijinks ensue.
Plot: Stacey seems like a nice golden-haired girl who doesn’t remotely require the flesh of prepubescent children to nourish her ravenous body and her wicked, wicked soul. But actually, she has been fattening up unsuspecting kids on bonbons and cinnamon rolls before devouring them to satisfy a cannibalistic hunger she alone can understand. It’s a very lonely life.
Plot: Mary Anne wanders in from an American Girl book, specifically Molly Saves the Day. In “BSC” world, she has to win the Camp Gowonagin Color War without the benefit of her prescription glasses. She has to squint real hard to see anything, even objects right in front of her.
Plot: Dawn thought she’d be baby-sitting, but instead she’s taking care of three young kids who present her with challenges like “having facial expressions” and “standing next to her.” Finally, realizing only inhuman monsters would do such things, she bravely slaughters them and restores the world’s equilibrium.
Plot: Someone is getting married, maybe, but no one cares because the only reason anyone even wanted to have a wedding is so Kristy could wear a bridesmaid dress and a flower crown. Everyone wants to grow up to be just like Kristy, especially the bride.
Plot: Claudia cusses out her sister Janine in front of a small boy, but it’s totally her sister’s fault because Janine was being so, like ugh, am I right?
Plot: Stacey will do anything to get boys to notice her ― even kidnap small children she’s supposed to be baby-sitting to offer to the cutest boys as tribute. It totally works. Aww!
Plot: There’s a ghost at Dawn’s house.
Plot: Mary Anne is into a guy who ... dun dun DUNNN ... is somehow a baby sitter himself, a super-suspicious choice of male after-school jobs. She ignores the red flag because he’s got the fluffiest hair, but he turns out to be a total perv. I mean, just look at what he’s doing to that poor kid.
Plot: There are girls with even sweeter headbands than Kristy, and they own the sidewalks every day when they take their noble hound and their fluffy cat (hmm) for a stroll. Kristy needs to walk her dog too. FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!
Plot: There’s a new girl in town, and she doesn’t allow baby-sitting. Claudia defies this decree, but the new girl’s threat of painful arm twists are too much.
Plot: Stacey is leaving forever, but also she’ll be back soon. Everyone is super bummed and smiling. This book is very, very short.
Plot: Baby sitters have a private club, and for some reason a girl named Mallory wants in. They try to pull her hair out. Middle-schoolers are little sociopaths.
Plot: A bunch of little girls have gathered for some innocent, if gender-normative, fun by dressing up in tiaras and pretending to be beauty queens. But an ominous figure lurks behind the curtain ... ready to strike. A little trivia: This book was later adapted into a movie called “Drop Dead Gorgeous”!
Plot: Jessi is a secret agent, and she’s learning a secret language to secretly report back to other operatives about the very important little boy she’s baby-sitting. Why? IT’S A SECRET.
Plot: Mary Anne is a mysterious curse on helpless people around her, who are mysteriously injured in her presence. Why? IT’S A MYSTERY. And maybe she’s not a very good baby sitter.
Plot: Before the big museum field trip, Stacey has been telling everyone that her favorite dinosaur is the triceratops. When she finally arrives at what she thinks is the triceratops exhibit, the sign says that it’s a brontosaurus. YIKES. Stacey is humiliated in front of all her friends.
Plot: Oops! Claudia breaks her own leg to make her friends LOL, but in the process she makes herself vulnerable to velociraptor attacks after a nearby “Jurassic Park”-style laboratory suffers a security breach.
Plot: This instructional book helps young readers learn about “walking disasters” by quizzing them on which person in a series of tableaux is the “walking disaster.” Which one is the walking disaster on the cover scene? You’ll have to read the book to find out!
Plot: Mallory has twins. Her life becomes a hellscape of vomit, soiled diapers, tantrums and regret.
Plot: A day in the life of a pet sitter, who cares for pets such as dogs, fish, bunny rabbits, human toddlers, ferrets and cats while their owners are out of town.
Plot: Being at the beach has changed Dawn. Sun-kissed skin so hot, she’ll melt your popsicle, especially after she becomes best friends with Snoop Dogg!!
Plot: Kristy forgot about Mother’s Day and goes to a carnival instead.
Plot: Mary Anne is close friends with Tigger from Winnie the Pooh. When he runs away, Mary Anne leads the search party until Tigger is found in a big city flophouse, high on cocaine. That’s just the kind of friend she is.
Plot: Claudia is halfway to being an adult and no one has told her about death yet, nor has she managed to figure it out on her own. This is pretty embarrassing. Fortunately Claudia’s grandma, probably, is able to sit her down and say “goodbye forever” before she dies. Warning for sad emotions!
Plot: Eek! Jessi’s perfectly nice game of badminton is ruined when a TV star comes to town and she’s distracted by swooning over his hot bod. Thanks to the resulting leadership void, her badminton team falls into utter disarray, and they lose the tournament. Having caught the eye of the TV star, Jessi realizes too late that he’s a total narcissist ― after she’s run away with him to Thailand. How’s she gonna get out of this mess?
Plot: Stacey has returned home to die.
Plot: Mallory and the other baby sitters show a total lack of respect for other people’s privacy: A cautionary tale.
Plot: Someone is getting married, maybe, but no one cares because this is Mary Anne’s big day.
Plot: This book was later adapted into a Disney animated film, “Cinderella.”
Plot: Susan plays piano. What a dweeb.
Plot: Claudia suffers a delusive break from reality in which she becomes convinced she is the biological descendent of a wealthy and powerful royal family. Her parents are forced to send her to an in-patient psychiatric center for intensive treatment. It’s very painful for everyone.
Plot: Mary Anne knows a place where the grass is really greener. Warm, wet and wild, there must be something in the water ... and all the boys are trying to sneak a peek at her. Except for the two very young boys she is acting as a primary caretaker for. Mary Anne has a crazy and sexually liberated spring break, which IS NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF, but her employers do relieve her of her baby-sitting duties for making out with too many dudes while she’s supposed to be on amateur lifeguard duty.
Plot: Stacey has been Nancy Drew this whole goddamn time.
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