Disability and The Baby-Sitters Club (Graphic Novels)

My fourth-grade daughter’s teacher’s Book Fair wish list requested ANY of the Baby-Sitters Club graphic novel remix series. As an 80s/90s kid, I was the BSC’s bigest fan, everyone said so. And so… I had to see if Bookfinder.com could deliver.

Mostly, it could. 🙂 But I had to read two before I turned them over to the classroom library for… you know, research. And quality control. You can’t give just any book to innocent children.

Let’s just say some things hit a little differently in 25+ years away from the BSC universe. There is so much dialogue today about how the books I absolutely loved as a child, were products of their time but still problematic through 2021’s lens.

THE TRUTH ABOUT STACY does capture the OG book well (although she gets tempted by white chocolate, not candy sticks, in the original!). These books are set in an analog world, where having a twelve-year-old babysitter isn’t child neglect, and… it shows in more than the corded phones. But major kudos to Scholastic for having the (apparently) guts to keep a classic book set when it was written. I love the window into the world of my childhood it gives my daughter and her friends.

Like Stacey in fictional NYC 6th grade, I’ve definitely run into discrimination as a young T2 diabetic adult even in a very liberal area of the country. (PSA to my old DHS client: Even if being fat really caused diabetes… this is not something you and your beer gut say to a size four FFS). Don’t get me started on the “pray the disease away” mentality apparently popular in FL.

Ahem.

So Stacey’s fight with Laine (LANE? LAIN-ey? how DO you pronounce her name? Asking for 1992 me and my best friend) and Mr/Mrs McGill’s frantic reaction to Stacey’s diagnosis both ring true. As an adult, I’ve lost very treasured friendships and family relationships over both others’ ableism and/or their jealousy over accommodations, surgery, etc.

In ANY form, conflict and damaged relationships after a serious medical diagnosis is a mirror/window/sliding glass door we need.

I’d have loved to see backmatter about how diabetes look$ today – under the right circum$tance$, diabete$ $eem$ like le$$ a death $ententce than it wa$ in the 80’$. But even though BSC didn’t shy away from social issues discussed in the day, it was always more “a fun read” than educational.

DAWN AND THE IMPOSSIBLE THREE is also pretty true to the original. Martin and Galligan do a superb job of capturing the kids’ feelings around divorce/remarriage; as well as the “your BFF makes a new friend that you hate” trope that happens constantly IRL and never in books.

Kid me and her almost-MENSA IQ read Mrs. Barrett as a ditzy, funny foil to Type A Dawn. Adult me with a TBI & resultant executive dysfunction reads her as neurodiverse – probably ADHD. I also read Stonybrook as an epicenter of white privilege in a time when adults were still put before children.

Dawn was my absolute favorite Babysitter, but seeing Mrs. Barrett be supported by her community as a neurodiverse person (and the Stoneybrook police rallying to help her during a crisis!)… let’s just say that experience absolutely doesn’t ring true in present-day Florida. At all. And unlike me, Mrs. Barrett’s cognitive defects put her kids in repeated danger. (Mine just annoy people).

Part of being neurodiverse is knowing you’re not really accepted or welcome in most communities/families/workplaces. So I could see an ND kid also feeing a little stung by her privilege.

Of course the disgruntled activist in me would love to see backmatter stating, “if you’re ND or have EF issues, just spare yourself the heartache/ your kids the risk; keep a pitbull attorney on retainer because the police are not there to protect you.”

And I say this as an affluent white woman and as a Federal Agent’s wife.*

But again – that wouldn’t be the spirit of the BSC books, and that’s OK.

Verdict

I have to keep my word and hand these over to my daughter’s classroom. (Right?)

It’s The Babysitters’ Club. They were light reads with a new book in the Scholastic forms each month and need to be enjoyed as such. It’s OK for good, clean, fun not to educate you.

(Shoots dirty look at early-90s Mom & Dad).

And as someone who works in tech, I am encouraged to see educators taking visual literacy/graphic novels seriously.

And I love, love, love, when a book written before smartphones is just left in its original time. (Whomever keeps awkwardly jamming iphones into amazing stories Lois Duncan wrote in the 50s/60s, I’m talking to you.)

I like consistency and routine so my only beef is the change in artists. Both are fabulous. But not identical. And you need that when creating a fabulous new remake for die hard BSC fans, now in our 30s/40s. That said – this series is so iconic, so full of positive messages about friendship, family, and emotional intelligence (in both forms). Also the graphic novels are so true to the original I highly recommend them to the most die-hard fans anyway.

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In both iterations of these books, Dawn and Stacey leverage their grit to take back their power in a bad situation, supported by their unlikely cast of friends. (Hey, this is an 80s/90s preteen series…)

But, I am excited to share these books with my daughter and her class.

I’d also be here for it if THE GHOST AT DAWN’S HOUSE joined this series.


*Somehow, every time they are short volunteers at my kids’ school (and this is frequently) somebody finds my number knowing that I’ll take PTO from my high-stress, “highly compensated” (says the IRS) job to step up to the plate. Almost like they know deep down that despite having a TBI, I still can/do contribute a great deal to society.

Sips coffee.

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