Greatest Summer of All Time?

For a large part of my childhood, it was just my dad and I.  I mean, I spent the afternoons with my Nan until my dad got off of work, but I lived with my dad and only occasionally saw my mom (I learned later that the fact that I was being raised by my dad was one of the reasons I didn’t have many friends in elementary school, but that’s a story that can be told another time, if at all).  Anyway, when I DID see my mom, I was usually bitter and resentful and would spend most of the time with a nose in a book so that I didn’t have to pay attention to her or her current boyfriend.

I have a very strong memory of being 7 years old and wandering off in a Gemco to find the books section.  My mom dragged me there because they were under liquidation and it was an EVERYTHING MUST GO ZOMG THE DEALS! sale.  I don’t even remember if she was panicked or mad or whatever, I just remember that I read Kristy’s Great Idea and Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls sitting on the lowest book shelf while I waited for her to finish, then I made her buy me The Truth About Stacey before I’d even agree to leave the store.  Dude.  I’ve always been a fast reader, don’t judge.

babysitter-banner2

The best thing about long running kids’ series like The Baby-Sitters Club is that when you’re young, it’s almost instant gratification.  If you’re reading them as they come out, you never have to wait more than a month or two for the next book. They never end on cliffhangers, and even if you miss a book (or ten), you can pick up anywhere in the series and know exactly what’s going on.

Because after the first few books where the girls of the BSC are in the 7th grade, they’re forever 13 and in the 8th grade, having summer vacation after summer vacation (filled with being the best baby-sitters ever, natch), but constantly cycling back through the 8th grade again (except for that one later book where Claudia is [gasp] sent back to the 7th grade…don’t worry, though, it was only temporary).

Stoneybrook, Connecticut (and even the surrounding area) seems to be stuck in some sort of temporal vortex where no one really ages or changes.  When you’re a kid, you notice this shit.  It always bugged me that I was getting to be older than the BSC, and I still carry a little bit of that bitterness.

I’m talking about this now because a few weeks ago I discovered the gloriousness that is openlibrary.org, and found that they have ELEVENTY BILLION BSC PDFs (not exaggerating too much here, there are a ton of these books) that I am able to check out and read on my nifty new Nook HD.

bsc nook

I had no idea where to start, though.  I didn’t want to start at the beginning, because I don’t have the time or the patience to wade through all the fake preteen/teen dramz that took up over 100 books with tons of spin-offs.

So I went to my childhood standby, the Super Special.

The Super Specials are especially fabulous because they’re not full of the day-to-day mundanities of being a suburban teen baby-sitter.  They are ADVENTURES!  And TRIPS!  And…well, okay – I’m making them sound like they’re more exciting than they actually are, really they were just twice as long and didn’t have much actual baby-sitting.

This shit is still pretty awesome, even more than 25 years later.  And by awesome I mean cringingly bad, but in the best possible way.

Because the girls never age, if you ONLY read the Super Specials, it’s like you’re  reading about the greatest summer of all time.  Seriously, THE BEST.

Only reading the Super Specials, you have:

  1. A cruise to the Caribbean and DisneyWorld!
  2. Summer Camp!  Being Counsellors in Training!  No, that’s not really a thing, but ZOMG how I wanted it to be after reading this book. It IS  a thing!  See the comments!
  3. A Winter getaway with an overturned school bus and skiing and all kinds of other outrageous shenanigans.
  4. BEING SHIPWRECKED ON AN ISLAND OFF THE COAST OF CONNECTICUT!  (no, really)
  5. A trip to California to meet movie stars and learn to surf and drive too fast with boys that are too old!
  6. A trip to New York to babysit foreign children!
  7. Another Winter storm (because Stoneybrook has the WORST WINTERS EVER, apparently) where a bunch of the BSC are trapped while on their babysitting gigs, and Stacey and her mom almost die in their car when it runs out of gas.
  8. Another summer, this time at Shadow Lake, where Kristy’s incredibly rich step-father has been left a cabin…there’s also a mystery to be solved (of course).
  9. A school production of Peter Pan!  And of course the leads are ALL GIVEN TO the BSC and their friends/families/boyfriends/sitting charges.  Of course.
  10. Another trip to Sea City, NJ (there was one early in the series, but we’re supposed to ignore that no one ages), but this time there’s A HURRICANE!  Who knows if the BSC will even make it out alive?!  (hint:  this girl did)
  11. A summer slumber party where everyone reminisces about their “most vivid memories,” most of which have something to do with baby-sitting, but surprisingly not all of them do.
  12. THE BSC IN A WEDDING IN CALIFORNIA!
  13. A TRIP TO HAWAII (note:  I didn’t get to read this one, it’s not at openlibrary :( )
  14. A ROAD TRIP ACROSS THE USA!
  15. A trip to YERP! And brushes with royalty! And ROMANCE!  And other stuff, I just finished it two days ago, but I’ve already forgotten.

Obviously, there’s nothing these girls can’t do (except for Stacey, she can’t have sweets…and Claudia, who can’t spell), and they did more in their 8th grade year (and the following summer) than I’ve done in my entire life.

Someone remind me why I re-read these, because now I kind of hate these girls.

YoRWtFIW

45 thoughts on “Greatest Summer of All Time?

    • Seconding this. I ran the C.I.T. program at camp for a summer too. I loved my C.I.T.s. I taught them bad words in Sign but didn’t tell them the meaning and then sent them to go talk to the Deaf counselor. But when I say it now, it makes me sound like a bad person.

          • We totally weren’t, since we were a dedicated fine-arts camp, but who needs pranks when you have the legit opportunity to use a blowtorch, and when the “team building activities” involve pouring chocolate syrup on the counselors?

                  • I was teaching golf. We set the kids up in two rows at the driving range – one row in front, actually driving, and one row in back that was supposed to be watching, waiting, and practicing their chip swing if they did anything.

                    One of the little bastards in the back row got the bright idea to use one broken tee he found to tee up ANOTHER broken tee, took a swing at it, and hit it. Directly into my leg. I thought I’d been stung by a bee until I looked down.

  1. Now I have this image of you when you were young, climbing inside books to be swept off on adventures and taken to magical places, and I wish Norman Rockwell could paint that image so we could both have a copy… I get the original because that sucker would be worth some big bucks, not because I am a creepy dude who wants a picture of you as a little girl…

  2. Hee. Now you’ve got me in a BSC re-aquaintance phase. The only Super Special I remember reading as a kid was the USA road trip, and it was pretty awesome. Did you watch the TV show and the movie? I don’t know if I’ve already mentioned this (srsly, I have Dori-the-Finding-Nemo-Fish Syndrome or something), but this girl did a really funny review of the movie a couple years ago.

    I also read the first five or six California Diaries, and felt so grown-up reading about Dawn and her friends crashing a high-school party and Sunny getting trashed, or Amalia trying to shake off a stalkery boyfriend. Good times ^_^;;

      • P.S. I’ll have you know that ever since your Trashy Tuesday of Sweet Valley Confidential, I can’t not imagine Kristy and MaryAnne secretly being in love. Although the movie makes it seem more like Kristy and Claudia are in love, what with those awkwardly long looks… :)

        I actually just re-watched the whole movie on YouTube the other day (apparently you can fit an entire movie into one video now!), and I have to say, I like its versions of the characters way better than the TV show (except for the fact that I sometimes couldn’t tell Dawn and Stacey apart) — they actually look like 11-13-year-olds in the movie.

        • I don’t know why I didn’t get any notification about this comment!

          Anyway, I actually kind of like the movie for what it is. I LOVED Cokie, she was hilariously “evil.”

          All through my re-reads, I keep wondering which of her best friends Kristy is secretly in love with COS IT SURE ISN’T BART!

  3. I’m too old. I have never read any of these books.

    I also never got to be a Counselor in Training, because I didn’t want to go back to camp anymore the year I was old enough to start training to be a counselor. In my defense, that camp sucked royally.

    These children sound spoiled. Why did they even have to babysit? It seems like they didn’t need the money if they were being jetted off to Yerp and Disney and such. I think young Amy would have scowled at these rich children.

    • Only one of them was really rich, and it was through marriage. Kristy’s stepdad paid for the major trips, and others were through the school.

      Upper middle class, I think.

      • I think Kristy was kind of on the poor side before her mom married Watson, but I can’t remember. I know Mr Spier and the Kishis did well, and I guess probably Stacey’s mom.. of course, Mr Spier probably gave Mary Anne the allowance that everyone else got when they were five, because, yeah. Mallory’s family wasn’t poor, but SO MANY CHILDREN ZOMG, I think it stretched their funds a tad.

  4. Yessss! Love it. I know I’ve told you before that I also read those books religiously and that they’re in a trash bag at my parents’ house (I was always so excited when the cardboard box with the next 2 came in the mail, addressed to my mom. ha).

    One of the books I LOVED was the chain letter one. It had books marks, and envelopes built into the pages so you could actually take the letter out and read it. It was awesome because it was “interactive” in that there were pockets, letters and randoms all included. (check it out on amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Chain-Letter-Baby-Sitters-Club-Martin/dp/0590471511)

    • Please note: when I say in a trashbag, it’s not for lack of loving the books; it was the only container I had years ago when I was re-doing my bedroom and I never did anything with them after that… whoops.

  5. I’ll keep an eye out for a hard copy of the Hawaiian adventure, if you want.

    I have never read a single one of these, although there are tons of books from my childhood that I revisit when I can.

    • I’m probably going to be doing a few more nostalgia posts for YoRWtFIW. I can’t guarantee that EVERYONE will feel about them the same way I do, but I hope so.

  6. I’ve read a few of these books, along with the Sweet Valley ones. They always seemed to be in the bargain bin at the local bookstore and my mom would get a few every time she went there. I don’t think I’d like to read them now, though. Even as a kid I couldn’t quite care about the girls. (Awful mean, but true. I just couldn’t connect.) But this post has got me thinking. Maybe I should revisit my childhood favourites like Nancy Drew and those Enid Blyton books.

    • No, I couldn’t really identify with any of the girls either (they all had A LOT more money than my family did, even the “poorer” families), but for some reason, these books were like CRACK.

  7. It’s the comic book thing again, isn’t it? Batman is still thirty years old despite Dick Grayson now being about the same age. Enid Blyton more or less does the same thing with The Famous Five, who stay at their current ages for about a decade’s worth of school holiday adventures, until one of the later books – in which Julian, having spent about nine years being twelve, finally reaches thirteen…

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