The Babysitters Club: The Summer Before. Ann M. Martin. 2010. Scholastic. 224 pages.
The Baby-sitter's Club. I'm proud to say it was totally my idea, even though the four of us worked it out together. "Us" is Mary Ann Spier, Claudia Kishi, Stacey McGill, and me--Kristy Thomas. But that was at the beginning of seventh grade, after the summer in which my friendship with Claudia nearly fell apart, Mary Anne began to find out who she was, Claudia experienced her first love, and an unhappy girl left New York City and moved to our town. It was quite a summer.
I liked this one. I even liked it more than I thought I would. What should you know about this one? Well, it's a prequel to Kristy's Great Idea, and it's narrated by the four original babysitters: Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, and Stacey. What did I like about this one? It was just nostalgic enough to refresh my memory, and original enough that it added some depth to the series.
Kristy is feeling out of sorts because she doesn't have a relationship with her dad. Watson, her mom's new boyfriend, is someone she doesn't want to know, doesn't want to have a relationship with. As far as Kristy is concerned, he can go far, far away and stay there. So what Kristy is hoping for this summer--what she would love more than anything--is to reconnect with her dad.
Claudia. Where to start. Is just a couple of days over twelve really old enough to start dating? And shouldn't Claudia know better than to start dating the boy her older sister brought home? This is Claudia we're talking about, so perhaps some weirdness is expected. (Maybe this guy seems himself reflected in Claudia's adoring eyes??? I don't know.)
Mary Anne. I love Mary Anne I do. I don't know that I'd agree with Kristy completely in saying that this is the summer that Mary Anne "began to find out who she was." Is realizing that you'd like a kitten poster really that life-changing? It's not like she gets her dad to buy the kitten poster? But I suppose Kristy was being generous. Maybe this is the summer where Mary Anne finally got to start babysitting--even if she did mainly need a buddy to do it with--didn't sound as nice. I also liked the fact that Mary Anne was brave enough to get down her mom's dolls. And I liked the fact that Mary Anne wanted to sew doll clothes for them. It led to one of the funniest scenes of the book for me. Kristy and Mary Anne are preparing to cross the street to visit Claudia. Kristy thought Claudia could give some fashion advice to the dolls (don't ask).
"Wow, look at Claudia," said Kristy breathily.Stacey. As she's preparing to move, she's excited but nervous. Her chapters aren't quite as thrilling as the others because they don't really connect just yet with the other girls.
Claudia was wearing willowy black pants, cinched at the waist with a drawstring, and a boldly patterned summer shirt with ties that she was adjusting around her midriff. Her midriff would have been bare, but Claud had slithered into a lacy black tank top before she'd put on the shirt. On her feet were delicate silvery sandals, and her hair, which was long and thick, was held away from her face with two silver combs.
"Wow" I echoed. "I don't think the dolls should dress like that."
If there is a star in this one, it would be Mary Anne. Yes, all four girls narrate. But I think Mary Anne goes above and beyond in this one. She gets the being-the-best-friend-a-girl-could-have award.
I liked that The Summer Before showed that being twelve means something different to every girl. For a few, it may mean noticing boys, experimenting with clothes and makeup, etc. But it doesn't have to mean just that. It is okay to still be a kid, to still want to be a kid. It is okay to be yourself.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews