Saying Hello to Our Friends: Remembering 'The Babysitter's Club'

Years later, "The Babysitter's Club" still resonates with readers, millennials, and newcomers alike. Members of the SLJ and Horn Book team fondly look back on these books, which made us the readers we are today.

Mention “The Babysitter’s Club” to a group of millennials and just wait for the responses: “I was such a Mary Anne!” “OMG, Claudia’s wardrobe!” “Logan Bruno, swoon!” Though it’s been decades since Ann M. Martin launched the Scholastic series (back in 1986, with Kristy’s Great Idea), the books still occupy a place in our hearts. They’re also continuing to resonate with a new generation of readers; Scholastic has released graphic novel versions of the books as well as reissues of the original prose books with new covers. And a Netflix series, set in present day with more inclusive casting, promises to entice a new generation of BSC lovers.

Like many who grew up on the BSC, members of the SLJ and Horn Book team are watching the new series and fondly looking back on the books. These stories made us the readers and writers we are, allowed us to envision our future adolescent (and adult) lives, and gave us friendships that we still treasure years later.

Babysitters Club book covers


Mahnaz Dar, Reference & Professional Reading Editor, SLJ & Library Journal

Long before I became a Sex and the City fan and declared to anyone who would listen that I was a Carrie/Miranda hybrid, I couldn’t help but wonder: Which BSC member am I? At heart, I was, and still am, Mary Anne, the shy, seemingly babyish member of the BSC who surprises everyone by coming out of her shell. But I also loved bossy Kristy, who, like me, adored animals. I longed to be more like fashionable, artsy Claudia. Sophisticated, mature, and, yes, “boy-crazy” Stacey’s stories let me walk on the wild side. And though I devoured junk food, I thought health food–loving Dawn was the coolest, and I shared her passion for ghost stories. (I’ve got to confess to having a strain of Janine, Claudia’s brainy and pedantic older sister, too, as I often wonder about the placement of the apostrophe in “Babysitter’s Club.”)

Every time I picked up a new book, I got to inhabit someone else’s life, to try on a new identity, and, ultimately, to think about the kind of teenager I wanted to be. I learned about experiences different from my own—diabetes, divorce, relocation, even death. And the books left me with a habit; when I’m reading a novel written in first person, or watching a TV show with a clear hero, I wonder what the side characters are thinking. In the BSC, every character had a voice, and the Super Specials even allowed minor characters to narrate now and then. The series has made me a more sensitive reader and helped me realize that everyone’s got their own take on the narrative.

Shelley Diaz, Youth Selector and Supervising Librarian, BookOps: New York Public Library & Brooklyn Public Library; formerly Reviews Manager, SLJ

My sister and I were voracious BSC readers in elementary school. Every month we couldn't wait to receive our Scholastic flyer in order to purchase the next installments of the series. These were the only books we could afford, so we treasured the opportunity to buy our very own books. We were part of the BSC Collector's Club, owned the board game, and watched the TV show on cable.

I think what appealed to me the most was the tight-knit friendships that the girls had. I was super shy as a kid. My only friend growing up was my twin sister. So, reading the adventures of Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, Stacey, and Dawn gave me something to aspire to—a circle of friends who understood me. I obviously connected with Mary Anne because of her shyness, but wished I had a little bit of Kristy in me.

This series made me a reader that I am today. When I worked with Ann M. Martin for a School Library Journal project a few years ago, I honestly teared up. I'll always be super grateful.

Kimberly Olson Fakih, Senior Editor, Picture Books, SLJ

Ann had published a few books with Holiday House, another great name in publishing, and was a book club editor at Scholastic, where I worked on YAs, mostly romances! She, Brenda Bowen (who was at Four Winds, also owned by Scholastic, before becoming Ann’s editor), and I called ourselves the Teepee Club, for supporting one another through the revelations and ravages of our early 20s. When Ann knew she wanted to write the BSC, I think just one book and then four, no one who knew about the Stratemeyer Syndicate (who used ghostwriters for the bulk of the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Bobbsey Twins books) could imagine her doing all the writing herself. But she did most of it, and I believe her continued oversight of the series was one of the things young readers felt, more than knew. It was her world-building and characters they loved, book after book after book.

Shoshana Flax, Assistant Editor, the Horn Book

For me—and, I suspect, for a lot of us—the BSC books were a chance to take ownership of reading. These were the books I chose for myself, the ones I saved for last in each batch of library books. I knew every member’s position in the club; I knew their middle names and their siblings’ names; I knew how many times they’d moved to and from New York (Stacey) or California (Dawn); I had a handle on all the subseries and spin-off series. When my dad, bless him, got into the habit of reading the books with me on Friday nights, I knew what was coming, and could decide whether or not to dole out spoilers.

At an age when I didn’t often get to be the one in the know, reading the BSC books gave me a chance to be an expert on something. Call them brain candy all you want; I think that’s pretty healthy.

Babysitters Club graphic novel covers

Katy Hershberger, Senior Editor, YA, SLJ

Last week while I was sitting outside with friends and their kids, two young teens walked up to us. “We are very experienced babysitters,” they began, before handing us a flyer for their business. It was a total Kristy move.

In the early Nineties, I received monthly updates in the mail from the BSC Fan Club, played the overly complicated Baby-Sitter’s Club Mystery Game on the kitchen table, and saw the Rachael Leigh Cook–Larisa Oleynik movie adaptation the weekend it came out. I was jealous that my best friend wore the friendship bracelet that came in the interactive Chain Letter book; when I bought my copy, the cellophane—and trinkets—had already been removed.

While I related to the babysitters’ suburban hometown and friendship struggles, none of them seemed like me. I was shyer than Kristy but goofier than Mary Ann, more anxious than Dawn, and woefully less cool than Claudia and Stacey, though I idolized them. Now, I remember almost nothing about individual books, but as I watched the Netflix adaptation, the familiarity of the world brought me to tears. And I’m amazed to realize that—while I’m chronologically closer to Kristy’s mom—somehow, I’ve become a Stacey. I live in New York, boast the treasurer’s organizational skills, and wear a lot of black. My life is cooler than I ever expected. And I love seeing a new generation of Kristies carrying the babysitting torch. (Maybe I’m actually Kristy’s mom after all…)

Kiera Parrott, Reviews & Production Director, SLJ & Library Journal

Like so many tweens in the early Nineties, I was a rabid consumer of Ann M. Martin’s BSC series. Even after I began reading much longer, darker, and more complex novels, I lovingly tended my collection of pastel-colored titles, often rereading favorites for comfort.

In many ways, the girls of the BSC were nothing like me. They lived in the suburbs of Connecticut, in sprawling homes. I grew up in a small, multi-family house in Queens. They carpooled and attended soccer games and went to sleepaway camp. I took a city bus to the local library. Their world was mostly white and upper-middle class. My neighborhood and school were located in one of the most diverse places in the country, made up primarily of working-class families. But I loved the idea of these young women starting a business, supporting one another, recognizing each other’s strengths and weaknesses, solving problems together.

I admired studious, neat, and quiet Mary Anne. I longed, desperately, to be as chic as Stacey or as fashion-forward and creative as Claudia. I identified with take-charge Kristy and appreciated Dawn’s tendency to see the sunny side of any situation. As tweens figuring out who we wanted to be, Martin’s characters allowed young people in our generation to try on these different personalities. I think that’s why, more than 30 years later, we’re still taking quizzes about “Which BSC Character Are YOU?”

The new Netflix adaptation is much more inclusive than the original novels, featuring many more characters of color, a young trans girl, and same-sex parents. All just matter-of-factly presented as regular parts of the girls’ world—which is exactly as it should be. I’m grateful for the many hours of reading and escapism that the BSC books brought to my own childhood, and I’m heartened that this new iteration is bringing that world firmly into the 21st century. So much media portrays female friendships as competitive and undermining—“mean girl stories.” It’s just as refreshing in 2020 as it was in 1990 to see young women forging their own path, finding their voices, and doing it as a team. 

Author Image
Mahnaz Dar

Mahnaz Dar ( is Reference and Professional Reading Editor for Library Journal and School Library Journal and can be found on Twitter @DibblyFresh.

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