Kristy’s Great Idea
Posted by Tracy Poff on September 5, 2011
Kristy, Mary Anne, and Claudia are twelve years old, and each of them baby-sits for pocket money. After her mother calls many people, trying to find a baby-sitter, Kristy has a great idea. They should form a baby-sitters club, so that people can just call one number to get access to three baby-sitters.
Claudia invites Stacey, a girl who just moved from New York, to join them, and they set up meeting times, post flyers, and even take out an ad in the newspaper. Calls start coming in, and things are looking up, but there are troubles, too: Kristy’s first job is baby-sitting a pair of dogs, Stacey seems to be hiding something, and to top it all off, Kristy’s mother might be getting remarried! Will the club stay together, or will they be torn apart?
Kristy’s Great Idea is the first book in the Baby-Sitters Club series by Ann M. Martin. A middle grade novel, it focuses on the characters and their relationships, as they’re forming a club.
The characters are really well done. The (one-sided) cold war between Kristy and Watson, her mother’s boyfriend, is an excellent B-plot for the novel, both keeping things moving between club meetings and filling out Kristy’s character. Since the book is told from Kristy’s point of view, Stacy, Claudia, and Mary Anne don’t get as much development, but we still see enough to get a feel for them, and I’m sure we’ll get much more in-depth pictures of them in future books in the series.
I called Watson’s plotline the B-plot, but it really gets about equal time with the establishment of the club and the girls’ interactions. And it works well, that way. When Kristy is interacting with Watson, of course that’s what’s foremost in her mind, so it gets center stage, and so it never feels like Kristy’s a one-trick pony, a babysitter foremost and everything else a distant second, as it can feel when books focus too much on a single aspect of a character. Instead, Kristy seems like a real person, with the several concerns that one would expect of someone in her situation.
As for the club and the girls’ interactions: also great. When Kristy hit on the idea, near the beginning, to establish the club, I realized I’d already begun to become invested in her character, because I felt a little sense of accomplishment on her behalf, for the idea. The relationships between the four girls aren’t identical, either, which is good: Mary Anne and Kristy are closer to one another than to Claudia, and only Claudia is acquainted with Stacey, initially, so there’s a much more interesting dynamic between the four than would be the case if Martin had (lazily) just said that they were all four best friends, and left it at that, as some books tend to do.
The girls are quite self-reliant, for twelve-year-olds. They draw up and distribute flyers for themselves, only relying on an adult to photocopy them, and they (apparently) place the ad in the newspaper on their own, as well. That’s not to say that they have no adult supervision. Actually, the struggles between parent and child form a much larger part of these books than is usual–often, parents are quite absent in middle grade fiction, in order to let the children take center stage, but in Kristy’s Great Idea, the girls must take into account their parents’ wishes when making plans, and the differing rules and expectation their parents have of them. It all comes together to create a set of fairly realistic, admirably self-reliant twelve-year-olds, and their families with them.
I could say much more about the book’s wit or how particular interactions between the characters are well done, but in the interest of brevity, let me say only this: Kristy’s Great Idea is a great book. If you’re interested in a book with well-realized characters and a character-driven story, read this.
Kristy’s Great Idea is also available as an ebook for the Kindle.