For readers of a certain age, at one point in our youth, there was absolutely nothing better than Ann M. Martin’s The Baby-Sitters Club. The books followed the story of a group of preteen girls who start a babysitting business together and while there are plenty of tales of unruly kids and overbearing parents, at its heart, this is a series about the bonds of female friendship. The BSC is comprised of girls from a variety of backgrounds who all bring unique points-of-view to the group, but who support and uplift each other whenever possible. (It’s basically shine theory, before shine theory was cool.)
Martin’s series, which is comprised of over one hundred and thirty books, plus ancillary supersized “Super Special” or “Mystery” editions, represented a first exposure to feminism and diversity for many young readers, and it sounds like the upcoming TV series of the same name will embrace that same progressive and inclusive spirit. And with so many stories to pick from, the possibilities are fairly endless, from serious to silly and everything in between.
Here are fifteen of our picks for classic Baby-Sitters Club stories we’d love to see play out onscreen.
Kristy’s Great Idea
There’s no way that the Baby-Sitters Club Netflix series won’t adapt this story, but it still deserves a spot on this list because it’s the book that starts it all. Kristy’s Great Idea details Kristy Thomas’ brilliant notion to open a babysitting business and tells the story of how she brings a group of very different girls together to help her run it. It’s an adorable story of female entrepreneurism, and a great reminder that at the heart of this friendship tale is a pretty amazing fact: These girls open a wildly successful business! In the seventh grade! If Leslie Knope were a pre-teen girl, she would be Kristy, essentially.
And the novels never let you forget it either. From expanding so rapidly they have to tap associate sitters, to coming up with fun additional benefits for their charges (the Kid-Kit is really a pretty useful idea) and staging special parties and events, Kristy and her crew are constantly reevaluating how the club is working and whether they’re doing the best jobs they can be. How many of us wanted to start clubs of our own after this?
Editor’s note: This is adapted in the first season!
The Truth About Stacey
While this may be just the third installment in the Baby-Sitters Club book series, it’s still one of its most memorable. This is the story that reveals cool former city girl Stacey McGill’s life isn’t as perfect as it seems – she has diabetes and often struggles with her treatment, largely thanks to her intense helicopter parents who keep dragging her to doctors in search of a miracle cure and don’t give her a voice in the health care decisions that impact her life.
Over the course of this particular story, we see Stacey claim some much-needed agency over her own health and future, but this is hardly the last time her diabetes comes up as a narrative issue in the series. From making distinct choices about what she eats to monitoring her health, her condition is a lived-in fact of her character. (There’s even a story later on – Stacey’s Emergency – in which she ends up in the hospital because of it and has to figure out how to adjust her treatment.)
Editor’s note: This is adapted in the first season!
The Ghost at Dawn’s House
As stories go, this particular The Baby-Sitters Club installment isn’t exactly groundbreaking. There are no big social lessons involved and no one has a personal crisis or gets a boyfriend. But it is a story that feels made for a television series, a teen-sized adventure with a creepy flair.
The gist of it is basically what the title says: recent California transplant Dawn Schafer thinks the eighteenth-century house she and her family have moved into is haunted. She’s hearing weird noises and even discovers a secret passageway in one of the walls of her room. (Seriously, didn’t we all want to live this story as teens?) The story involves everything from a mysterious legend of a local missing historical figure to a sitting charge that keeps disappearing, and honestly if there’s a more perfect story for a Halloween episode, I don’t know what it is.
Logan Likes Mary Anne!
At its heart, The Baby-Sitters Club is a story about the friendship between a diverse group of girls from a variety of backgrounds who all have different perspectives and experiences to share. But that doesn’t mean that boys aren’t—or shouldn’t be—involved. Nerdy Mary Anne Spier and sweet Logan Bruno are basically the OTP of The Baby-Sitters Club, and this is the novel in which they first admit that they, you know, like like each other.
Naturally, when one of the gang gets a steady boyfriend that’s more serious than just another entry than Stacey’s myriad list of crushes, things change a bit. Yet, the story of Logan Likes Mary Anne! Is really a lesson in how your life can have room for many things in it at the same time. Mary Anne doesn’t push her friends away, they all go to the school dance together. Logan’s even allowed to become an associate member of the BSC that they assign jobs to in emergencies. And this book isn’t just about Mary Anne’s new boyfriend – it’s also a story about her experiencing growing up, and pushing back against her father’s need to keep her a child forever. (She doesn’t have to wear his chosen outfits or put her hair in braids anymore.) And she even gets a kitten! Everyone wins!
Jessi’s Secret Language
After Stacey McGill moves back to New York, The Baby-Sitters Club series welcomes two new regular sitters to the team – Mallory Pike and Jessi Ramsey. Jessi’s the group’s first African American member and Jessi’s Secret Language is the first story that features her character as its lead. (It’s hard to overstate how impactful her character is either, as one of the few mainstream Black girls in YA literature at the time.) It’s occasionally an almost saccharinely sweet tale: Jessi becomes a regular babysitter for a client with a deaf child and subsequently ends up teaching her friends and half the school sign language. But it’s still an important one.
The Baby-Sitters Club book series does a wonderful job telling stories about different kinds of families and children, even those with more specialized needs. Jessi’s love of sign language is both cool and admirable, but so is the series’ willingness to make space for a story about deaf kids. There’s also an interesting parallel here that it’s Jessi, who has barely been accepted by the community she and her family live in, who fights so hard to make sure another marginalized child feels welcome there as well.
One of the best things about the Baby-Sitters Club series is its realistic portrayal of how friendships can change over the course of our lives. Friends move. They come back. They become different people in the meantime. But it doesn’t mean the friendships have to end. It just means that sometimes, they have to change, too.
As the BSC’s resident New Yorker, Stacey’s one of the series’ characters who moves between homes the most often. (Dawn is the other, as we’ll get to elsewhere on this list.) But that doesn’t mean that she leaves her Stoneybrook friends behind. But the way they all relate to each other does necessarily have to adapt to their new circumstances and that can be challenging.
When the babysitters visit NYC, things get awkward fast. The Stoneybrook girls feel out of their element in the big city, Claudia gets jealous of Stacey’s NYC BFF Laine, and Stacey’s suddenly feeling embarrassed over things she used to love about her Connecticut friends. All eventually ends well – thanks to the magic of Broadway – but the fact that this series doesn’t pretend that being best friends doesn’t mean you don’t have to face problems is refreshing.
Dawn on the Coast
In the Baby-Sitters Club book series, Dawn’s relationship to her California home and upbringing is constantly referenced, much like Stacey’s connection with New York. And, also like Stacey, Dawn visits her home state fairly regularly and gets involved in stories of her own while there. (She even moves back at one point, later on in the series.) Netflix should take advantage of this second local and show us some of the adventures she has while there. (A new setting, a new slate of characters – what’s not to love?)
In Dawn on the Coast, she’s particularly excited about her California trip because it’s her first one since her brother moved back across the country to live with their father. Dawn spends a wonderful week with her dad and brother, going to Disneyland and hanging out with her California BFF Sunny. And Sunny, as it turns out, has even opened her own version of the Baby-Sitters Club called the We Love Kids Club. Everything’s so great, Dawn actually considers whether she should move home too. And she spends a couple of chapters weighing the pros and cons of this decision and trying to factor in both her own desires and what her family and friends expect from her. This one is another example of a BSC story that really represents what it’s like to be a child of divorce – which, let’s remember, was a much rarer thing back in the late 1980s.
Mary Anne and the Search for Tigger
Another Baby-Sitters Club installment that isn’t particularly groundbreaking in terms of its story, but one that features precisely the sort of adventure that would make for an ideal Netflix episode. When Mary Anne’s kitten Tigger goes missing, she’s frantic to find him and enlists the help of the BSC. The girls make posters even pool their cash to offer a reward for his safe return. But when a ransom note shows up – does that mean Tigger’s been cat-napped?
The story is entertaining enough on its merits, and while they’re searching for Tigger, the babysitters get to both be sneaky and pull off a complicated scheme together to try and catch the potential cat-nappers in the act. (I was obsessed with Tigger when I was younger and so worried about whether he would turn out to be okay, so let me tell you all that Mary Anne gets her precious fur baby back just fine.)
But this book is also about Mary Anne’s often controlling nature – she recognizes that she’s being overprotective of the cat the way that her dad used to be over her – as well as the first problems in her relationship with her boyfriend Logan, who turns out to be involved in the story in an unexpected way. Actually, he’s kind of a jerk, here, which is a new and potentially troubling development, and lays the groundwork for the two to break up for a bit later on in the series.
Claudia and the Sad Goodbye
Claudia Kishi’s grandmother Mimi has been an important part of the Baby-Sitters Club story since the series began. And, naturally, you can tell right away from the title and cover image that this is going to be the Mimi Dies book, and it is and it’s as heart-wrenching as you might expect.
Despite the fact that her grandmother’s health has been in decline for some time, Mimi’s passing still comes as a shock to Claudia. But the story’s presentation of grief is nuanced and well-rounded, showing how the death of their loved one impacts everyone in the Kishi family and not just Claudia herself. The whole thing is emotional, heartfelt and really honest about how difficult and confusing death can be, especially when you’re young. Claudia’s vacillating between various stages of mourning is so well done.
There’s even a sweet subplot involving Claudia and Mary Anne, perhaps the most polar opposite of our babysitting heroines, being paired together to start an art class for kids and helping a new kid named Corrie Addison, whose mother is always late to pick her up.
Dawn’s Wicked Stepsister
Blended families are a reality of many teenagers’ lives. And even if you get your dream – that one of your best friends becomes your stepsister – things can be a lot more difficult than you ever expected. When Dawn’s mom and Mary Anne’s dad get married, they think everything will be great. They’re finally sisters, they live together now, and even share a room. But unfortunately, things don’t go well at all. Dawn’s annoyed with all the changes the Spier family has brought into her home. The two girls have different study habits, can’t stand sharing a room, and are often at each other’s throats over small and stupid things.
Dawn’s Wicked Stepsister is such an entertaining tale precisely because it thoroughly allows both its leads to be generally terrible toward one another. Mary Anne’s constantly criticizing people, Dawn’s always annoyed, and it turns out that Mr. Spier and the Schafers are extremely opposites attract types. The solution to this madness is straight-up ridiculous and actually downright cruel in some ways, but it would make for an amazing Netflix installment. It involves Dawn faking that her room is haunted and scaring Mary Anne out of it and then just never telling her it wasn’t true. At least everyone learns to compromise by the end, I guess.
Kristy and the Secret of Susan
Yes, yes, Kristy and the Secret of Susan is another sort of message-based book, but it’s one that could be vastly improved through a proper television adaptation that delves into the complex issues that a YA book from the 1980s was deeply unaware of or simply ready to tackle. In the novel, Kristy gets a month-long sitting assignment for eight-year-old Susan, who usually attends a special school outside Stoneybrook because she’s autistic. While on the job, Kristy becomes convinced that she can not only help Susan make friends but that she can help Susan’s parents decide to keep her at home and send her to school with the “regular” kids. The bulk of this story is Kristy coming to understand that the specialized help for Susan’s condition is necessary, but basically, it’s also supposed to teach kids about being kind to those that are different from them.
The downside of course is that multiple important elements of this story feel extremely dated now. Author Ann M. Martin’s knowledge of autism is rudimentary at best and, of course, this book existed long before doctors had established anything like the spectrum as we understand it today. Kristy and the Secret of Susan represents a perfect opportunity for the Netflix series to take the bones of one of the series’ lesser stories and remake it for a modern audience.
The Baby-Sitters Club series was honestly so ahead of its time when it came to telling different kinds of realistic stories about its central group of characters. Poor Mallory! not only acknowledges that money is a thing that exists in this universe, but attempts to tackle the ways that not having any – or simply having less than your friends do – can present real and complex problems for our heroines.
When Mallory’s dad loses his job, it’s naturally a big deal in the Pike household. It’s sort of generally been implied that the family has been living pretty frugally already due to the fact that they have a lot of kids, and everyone does their best to pitch in when disaster strikes. The adorable ways the other Pike kids help out—Vanessa styles hair on the playground!—are charming, but the story doesn’t shy away from illustrating the ways in which their lives are negatively impacted by Mr. Pike’s job loss. From being made fun of by other kids to Mallory’s complicated feelings about working for the rich Delaney family, this BSC book is an honest look at how money impacts life.
Keep Out, Claudia!
Yes, this is The Baby-Sitters Club faces racism book. But, honestly, is there a timelier moment for this story than right now? The club picks up a new client, the Lowells, and everything seems normal. Mary Anne has an easy time sitting for them, but when Claudia gets the same assignment things don’t go nearly so well. The kids are rude, and Mrs. Lowell barely acknowledges her. In fact, when she calls the club again, she specifically requests that anyone but Claudia watch her children.
It’s sort of heartbreaking watching Claudia think that she doesn’t dress conservatively enough for this family and try to figure out what she did wrong, when the reality of the situation is that they’re just incredibly, openly racist. (They won’t even allow Jessi into their house!) It’s a deeply uncomfortable installment of this normally fun and fluffy series, and exactly the kind of story that the Netflix could lend a bit more nuance and impact to.
In the book, the Lowells are racist to the point of caricature—at one point they even seem to dislike Catholics?—and while that may be an understandable teaching tool for young readers, a TV series would be able to tell a much better and more realistic version of this story. After all, a family simply refusing to allow a black teen into their home isn’t the sort of racism most viewers would encounter today. But there are still worthwhile discussions to be had within and about this story – is it the BSC’s job to teach their charges to be better people? To stand up for what’s right, even if it means speaking out against adults?
Baby Sitters On Board!
Each of the regular The Baby-Sitters Club novels was centered around a particular character and followed her journey for the entirety of the book. But, for a treat, a few times a year “super special” editions of the novels were released. They were always quite a bit longer than a regular Baby-Sitters Club book and featured stories that allowed all the girls to take part equally. (They even had alternating POV chapters from each of them.)
The first of these super specials is entitled Baby-Sitters On Board and chronicles the entire group’s trip to Florida, which includes a cruise around the Bahamas and then three days at Disney World. Epic, right? Well, sort of.
The plots in this story are actually nothing special, but they’re still so much fun. Dawn and Kristy fight about how messy Kristy is. Mallory decides to spy on everyone and make observations because she just read Harriet the Spy. (We stan a relatable queen.) Claudia gets notes from a secret admirer. The kids they’re sitting for are kind of monsters, particularly Karen who lies all the time. Plus, they go to Disney World! It’s all just a ton of fun, and a nice change of pace from the traditional series formula. It has a great season-finale-of-the-TV-show feel.
Baby-Sitters’ Summer Vacation
Another Super Special installment that would translate perfectly to the small screen is Baby-Sitters’ Summer Vacation, an installment that sees all the girls and the regular kids they sit for spend a summer together at Camp Mohawk. The babysitters are counselors in training, the kids are campers and basically, it’s all supposed to be like regular sitting, just happening in the woods instead of their own neighborhood. Spoiler alert: It’s not. At all. But that’s what makes it fun.
In true Super Special style, this story involves the girls in lots of different sorts of adventures and summer camp hijinks from Stacey falling in poison ivy to Mary Anne attempting to sneak into the boys’ side of camp to Dawn and her campers getting lost in the woods. And, of course, there are new friends, new crushes and lots of babysitting. A truly charming and adorable story that’s just the right mix of fun and serious. Another perfect contender for a season finale.
Editor’s note: This is adapted in the first season!
The new Baby-Sitters Club TV series will be available in its entirety July 3rd on Netflix.