Ann M. Martin

The Summer Before by Ann M. Martin

This has to be one of the most embarrassing books I’ve read lately.  More so than the Kendra Wilkinson biography.  It’s embarrassing because it’s something that I would have read in 4th grade.  And I’m 27.  But I am a proud former Babysitters Club fan, so I couldn’t resist.  And I know that all of you other BSC-ers want to know.

The Summer Before” is the recently released prequel to the Babysitters Club series.  Were you always curious about how the Babysitters Club came to be?  Kristy Thomas, Mary Ann Spier, and Claudia Kishi are neighbors in the small town of Stonybrook, Connecticut.  During the summer before 7th grade, the tweens are keeping themselves busy but are noticing that they are growing apart.  Claudia is into art and fashion and most recently, boys, after her pool party birthday where she meets a boy who is a few years older than her.  Kristy thinks that boys have cooties and is mostly focused on sports.  Mary Anne is shy and is still treated like a baby by her widowed father.

In typical BSC book fashion, each chapter is told in the perspective of a different girl.  Kristy’s birthday is coming up, and more than anything, she wants to hear from her father.  She is also unhappy about her mother’s relationship with Watson (the father of Karen, of the “Babysitters Little Sister” series).  Mary Anne is also thinking about a lost parent, her mother, who passed away when Mary Anne was young.  She finds a box of her belongings in the attic and frequently looks through to learn about her mother.  She’s also realizing that she’s no longer a child, even though her father still treats her like one, and she is tries to show him that she is growing up.  Claudia gets her first boyfriend, Frankie, an almost-9th grader, but learns that maybe her feelings were stronger than his.  She also recognizes that maybe she’s growing up faster than Kristy and Mary Anne and perhaps they don’t have as much in common as they used to.  Stacey McGill is also introduced in this book, although just in a couple chapters.  Stacey’s family relocates to Stonybrook from New York City.  Stacey had problems at her old school after being diagnosed with diabetes.  Her family hopes to start her life over in a new town.

The three girls make attempts to spend time together over the summer, but there is a clear separation between Claudia and the other two.  Right before school starts back up, Kristy comes up with an idea to start a club where the local parents can call and reach a group of babysitters to book someone without making call after call when people aren’t available.  Mary Anne’s father finally is convinced to let her babysit alone, which is perfect timing.  After Claudia’s breakup with Frankie, all three girls talk and realize that maybe they are growing up at different rates, but they will still always be friends, no matter what.

I’m wondering if this book was written for the 10-year old crowd, or for someone like me in their late 20′s who wanted a walk down memory lane.  Either way, it definitely brought me back!  I didn’t remember a ton about the series, but as I was reading, I recognized names and things that happened.  Stacey wasn’t exactly incorporated into the story, just briefly introduced, and I can’t remember how she’s incorporated into the first book.  Dawn was nowhere to be seen either, but I think she comes in a few books into the series (I vividly remember “The Ghost at Dawn’s House” about the Underground Railroad secret passage!).

I actually purchased the UK version of the book (it was the cheapest one on Alibris) so there were some random British references thrown in (lots of extra U’s, “lantern” instead of flashlight, a few other things that I thought were funny).  There were a few other things that I thought were weird – the cover of mine had a picture of what looks like a cell phone?

The series ended in 2000 (I’m sure the girls were still 13 years old) after a 14-year run, but were being rereleased starting in April 2010.  I wonder if the books were being modernized, hence the cell phone on the cover.  Email or computers weren’t mentioned at all in this one.  Who knows.

There is SO much more that I could talk about regarding the BSC, but maybe I’ll save that for another post.  But I’ll just ask this: what was YOUR favorite book of the series?  I don’t know if I could pick a single book that was my favorite, but I know I always loved the Super Specials!

2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge
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