The Best Moments to Expect From Netflix's 'Baby-Sitters Club' Reboot
Say hello to your friends! "The Baby-Sitters Club" is back, and they're coming to a screen near you! In February, Netflix announced plans to bring a reboot of everyone's favorite group of babysitters to the streaming service. And the best news? “GLOW” and “Supergirl” alumnus Rachel Shukert has been tasked with writing the series, while “Broad City’s” Lucia Aniello will be directing.
Can you think of a better way to bring back the babysitting group that first found a rabid fan base in Ann M. Martin's book series of the same name?
The Book Series
The book series, which debuted in 1986 with “Kristy’s Great Idea,” follows seven best friends in middle school as they experience the ups and downs of running their own babysitting business. Even though it’s been more than 30 years since that first book, “The Baby-Sitters Club” (BSC) remains the perfect example of the power of young adult (YA) fiction and the characters we all grew to love.
And by “we,” I mean both parents and children alike. The stories and characters have the unique ability to bridge the generational divide, providing the perfect opportunity for some quality family bonding and helping to spark much-needed conversations about difficult topics.
Lessons for the Next Generation
The lessons they teach are just as relevant today as they were in the ’80s and then again in the TV series that aired on HBO for one season in 1990. And we have no doubt that the 10-episode revival will bring many words of wisdom to this new generation.
In honor of the revival, here are 12 lessons that we expect will be shared between this next generation of parents and children.
Lesson #1: Family Bonding Starts Before You Even Begin the Series
Growing up, the series was such a defining part of my childhood, and it was the first series I remember that got my whole family involved, even before we started the first chapter. I’d bond with my father as he'd spend time with me at the library, helping me reach the BSC books and listening as I carefully debated the merits of each one to decide which one to check out.
I’d also bond with my mom every night, as I'd huddle under the covers and listen in wonder as she read each book aloud, usually asking her if we could read “just one more chapter” night after night.
Lesson #2: It’s Cool to Be an Individual
It’s no coincidence that the series takes place in middle school. The middle school years are notoriously difficult, filled with confusing changes and trying to find your footing. Martin showed readers that it’s OK to be an individual and that your uniqueness is your strength.
No one in the group is the same, and there was a character for every personality type: There’s Kristy, whose bossy leadership skills helped The Baby-Sitters Club become the go-to sitting service in fictional Stoneybrook, Connecticut. There’s artistic Claudia and fashion-loving Stacey. Mary Anne is shy and reserved, while cool, California-bred Dawn is outgoing. And while Mallory prefers to spend the day reading, Jessi loves practicing her ballet routines.
Lesson #3: Everyone Has Something Worthwhile to Contribute
Part of the reason that The Baby-Sitters Club was so successful was because of everyone’s different abilities. Kristy and company each brought something unique to the club that helped make it successful, whether it was Stacey’s math skills as club treasurer or Claudia’s artistic eye when planning fun activities for their charges.
It’s important to encourage young people to identify what they do best (and also what they like to do) and then use those talents to make a positive impact on the world around them. And an added bonus: They’ll probably make lots of new friends in the process!
Lesson #4: Friendships Are Powerful
Female friendships are particularly powerful during those tough middle school years. The books are the perfect how-to guide on being a good friend, from the characters rallying around Stacey during her struggles with diabetes to comforting Claudia, following the death of Mimi, her beloved grandmother.
The storylines show just how important it is to have people in your life who understand you and are there for you when you need them, who will always listen and offer support. Plus, the babysitters also enjoy going on lots of adventures and having fun together, especially when it comes to babysitting!
Lesson #5: Women Can Be Leaders
The BSC series is perhaps the most female-centered series in YA fiction. In fact, dare I say that they led the way with their inspiring brand of Girl Power in the ’80s, at a time when women were still struggling to break the glass ceiling in the corporate world?
Thanks to Kristy, readers saw that it’s OK for women to be in-charge entrepreneurs. They can be leaders and CEOs, and in 2019, a series aimed at young women is still just as relevant — young women need these sorts of role models in their life to say, “You can do it!”
Lesson #6: Reading Is Cool — And Gives You a Sense of Belonging
The enduring legacy of “The Baby-Sitters Club” is more than just a paperback series for young readers. It’s a world all its own that has built a cult following the series’ more than 150 books. These books weren’t just something fun to read to pass the time.
They were fun, yes, but they also showed me a world I could join. For the first time, I felt like I was part of something — a cool group of young women who were making a difference and who I aspired to be like. The characters may have been fiction, but it all felt very real to me, especially since I was a pretty shy child. I had friends, but wasn’t very outgoing. I was also born with Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome, which is a bone and muscular disorder that required several surgeries and meant a lot of time in the hospital away from my friends. The babysitters were a few years older than I was, which made them seem like the cool older sisters I never had.
Lesson #7: Young Adult Fiction Isn’t Just for Kids
Translation: The series is a hit with adults, too! Gabrielle Moss, a Bustle editor in her mid-30s wrote “Paperback Crush” as a love letter to the enduring legacy of “The Baby-Sitters Club” and other young adult fiction books after she realized that she was still obsessed with the books of her youth — and so were lots of other people!
The emotional cores of the characters allow readers to connect deeply, she says. “The characters were crafted with so much care and are so well-developed emotionally — there's nothing disposable about them; it makes sense that new young readers would keep coming to the books. Books that nail the emotional experience of being young stay relevant for a long time,” she says.
Lesson #8: Family Is Important
Just as I bonded with my family as we read the books together, the books showed us how important family is to the characters. Claudia’s grandmother lives with her family and the two spent a lot of time together, as her grandmother taught her about Japanese culture.
And although Stacey’s parents are divorced, she regularly visits her dad in New York. We learn from the babysitters that the bonds of family are strong. After all, your family is there for you through good times and bad, through triumph and tragedy, showing us that the support of our loved ones is a powerful thing.
Lesson #9: It’s Important to Embrace Diversity
For other fans, it was their connection to a character’s culture that they cherished the most — connections that have stayed with them into adulthood. Los Angeles-based writer Bernadette Machard de Gramont doesn’t remember many mentions of Asian characters like Claudia in other books. The books have a unique way of making readers feel seen, sometimes for the first time in life.
“I was a creative Asian kid, and I loved feeling like I could relate,” she says. “There were a lot of similarities between Claudia and me, including an incredibly close grandparent who lived with us, which is very typical in an Asian household.”
Lesson #10: The Themes Can Help Bring Up Difficult Conversations With Kids
For Emily F. Popek, a public information specialist in Oneonta, New York, who discovered the books in the ’80s, the quality writing and storytelling has made the books ideal to share with her own daughter. Reading them is a pleasure, she says, and the world-building and character-building are great, making it easy to get caught up in the story Martin is telling.
“Now my daughter is 7, and she's reading the original chapter books on her own,” Popek says. “Most recently, she read ‘Keep Out, Claudia!,’ which gave me the opportunity to talk to her about racism; I found it helpful as a jumping-off point for a conversation with my daughter.”
Lesson #11: The Characters’ Lives Can Help You Make Sense of Your Own
Experts agree: So many things happen when parents read with their kids.
“The stories that these books tell are also endlessly relatable, since they deal with navigating everyday life and finding solutions to common problems,” says Deena Weisberg, professor of psychological and brain sciences at Villanova University. “Both parents and children can find ways to connect to those lessons. One of the best things that parents can do is to get them thinking about similarities between the events in the books and real life. Sometimes, children need a little help in making those connections and understanding that the characters' experiences can help them think through aspects of their own lives.”
When I was growing up and spending so much time in the hospital after surgery, I’d think of Stacey and her struggle with diabetes. She knew what it felt like to be different and have to contend with medical issues just like me. Seeing how she still managed to have a normal life despite her medical challenges was so inspiring to me!
Lesson #12: Sometimes, Friends Fight — And That’s OK
The HBO TV show, especially, did a great job of showing that not everything in the characters’ world was happy all the time. The friends had their fair share of fights and squabbles, like when Claudia was being secretive about meeting with a tutor or when a misunderstanding with a boy comes between Dawn and Mary Anne.
Yes, they fought, but they always resolved their differences and made up, which shows that even if you argue with your friends, they’re still on your side. Sometimes, disagreements can even bring you closer together — and that is something worth celebrating!