Monday, February 11, 2019

MMGM- Bad Babysitters

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Always in the Middle and #IMWAYR day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

Cala, Caroline. Bad Babysitters
February 9th 2019 by HMH
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Malia finds a battered copy of a Baby-Sitters Club book in a giveaway pile, and decides to put the idea into action with her best friends Bree and Dot because "seventh grade was turning out to be all kinds of meh" (from E ARC). She and her friends don't have money to buy anything at the mall, and her long time crush still doesn't know she exists. Some of the people who go to her school are mind-bogglingly rich, and throw epic birthday parties, and she's hoping that if she can put together such a party, her life will improve. Malia has two supportive parents, but her older sister is much more successful than Malia feels she is. Bree has a complicated step-family, and often feels lost in the shuffle. Dot has a hippie-dippie mother who doesn't let her wear deodorant and has a cupboard full of "hemp flakes (scary), cashew spirulina algae balls (so scary),[and] sugar-free, vegan peanut butter cookies", and is counting the days until she can move to New York and live her own entrepreneurial life while wearing all black. They think Malia's idea has some merit, so set up their company, put something on the PTA list-serv, and sit back to wait for the calls to come in. They get one job that pays quite a bit, but they blow all of their money at the mall. They have another job lined up, though, so look forward to saving for their party. When they show up, however, they are met at the door by Malia's sister Chelsea and the bad news that she has set up a rival company, Seaside Sitters, and has stolen their jobs! It doesn't help that the website Bree has set up is poorly done, but the girls regroup and take any job they can get, from watering plants to feeding cats. Eventually, Chelsea becomes evil enough that the girls feel they need to retaliate, and put together footage of the Seaside Sitters being less than exemplary caretakers. Even though they've missed the chance for an epic pizza party, they still manage to have a birthday party, and their 7th grade year starts to look up.
Strengths: Like Mancusi's Princesses, Inc., this is the sort of light, amusing book I would have adored (and purchased for myself in paperback) when I was in middle school. I love that the starting place is the Baby-Sitters Club, which readers at my school know about because of the Raina Telgemeier graphic novel. The characters are all interestingly flawed but well-meaning, and encompass so many of the characteristics of tween girls. It's also great that the parents are present and supportive, with the exception of Dot's dad, who is realistically not in the picture. This just made my day and restored my faith in middle grade literature!
Weaknesses: While the reason for some of the girls to be very wealthy and others to be on the struggling side makes sense, I still had trouble believing that anyone would pay "stacks of twenties" for tween babysitters. Or hire three of them to watch over thirty children at a wedding. And do tweens still go to the mall? I thought the problem was that NO ONE went to the mall, which is why they are all closing down. I enjoyed the retro feel, but worry that this might not resonate with my students.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing and using to wean readers off of Babymouse and Dork Diaries.

The sequel comes out in August 2019.

Mann, J. Albert. (AKA Mann, Jennifer Ann. )What Every Girl Should Know
February 12th 2019 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Netgalley

Has anyone read this? I feel I have to mention this because I am a big proponent of the right to legal abortions existing, but the book just didn't accomplish what I wanted. It is a fictionalized biography of Margaret Sanger's early life. This is great. I was a huge fan of the Childhood of Famous Americans series. This is well researched, and describes in great detail how horrible the conditions for women could be in the 1800s. Sanger certainly had every reason to work to change the conditions for women like her  mother, who suffered from tuberculosis but was constantly pregnant.

Having read some biographies of Sanger, I knew a lot of the basic background information, but I felt the book didn't necessarily explain everything that a young reader who didn't know this information might need to know. Sanger's father rubbed elbows with many progressive thinkers of the time, but there isn't much context for how important they were. We see a little of Sanger's attempts to get an education and leave home, but not enough. The afterword explains some, but more details would have been useful in the narrative.

This isn't really useful for research, since it takes place before Sanger began the reproductive rights work for which she is famous, so the book ends up being an extremely bleak picture of one family's existence in the late 1800s. I'm just not quite sure what to think of this one. I'd love to be able to have a middle grade appropriate book about Sanger, but I'm not sure this one is as informative as I would like one to be.


"This compelling historical novel spans the early and very formative years of feminist and women’s health activist Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, as she struggles to find her way amidst the harsh realities of poverty.

Margaret was determined to get out. She didn’t want to clean the dirty dishes and soiled diapers that piled up day in and day out in her large family’s small home. She didn’t want to disappoint her ailing mother, who cared tirelessly for an ever-growing number of children despite her incessant cough. And Margaret certainly didn’t want to be labeled a girl of “promise,” destined to become either a teacher or a mother—which seemed to be a woman’s only options.
As a feisty and opinionated young woman, Margaret Higgins Sanger witnessed and experienced incredible hardships, which led to her groundbreaking work as an advocate for women’s rights and the founder of Planned Parenthood. This fiery novel of Margaret’s early life paints the portrait of a young woman with the passion and courage to change the world."


  1. My goodness, Babysitters Club takes me back. My daughter used to love these!! I'm so glad to hear that parents are present and supportive in Bad Babysitters -- this is one sticking point for me in MGlit as they're so often written as the opponent. And YES on your mall comment. The only mall I'm aware of in my area is closing down because NO ONE goes anymore. Everything's available online and they can easily shop for deals in their PJs. Still, this leaves issues for our modern teens who don't seem to ever know where to meet up. Ugh. Have a great week!

  2. Both sound interesting in very different ways. Thanks for telling me about these.

  3. Oooh! Our upcoming reading theme has to do with sisterhood and female bonds in literature - the baby sitter book looks just like the thing! :)
    Have a great reading week!

  4. Bad Babysitters sounds cute. Seems like Every Girl spotlights an important figure in history but the execution could be better--such a shame.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction