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Posts Tagged ‘Ann M. Martin’

The Truth About Stacey

Posted by Tracy Poff on October 12, 2011

Stacey moved to Stoneybrook, Connecticut from New York City. Her friends in New York abandoned her when she discovered that she had diabetes, and until she met Claudia, she didn’t have any friends in Stoneybrook, either. But, she was invited to the Baby-Sitters Club, and now she’s friends with Kristy and Mary Anne, too.

Life’s settled into a pleasant pattern of baby-sitting and hanging out with her friends, when the members of the Baby-Sitters Club learn that a new group, the Baby-Sitters Agency, are moving in on their territory. On top of that, Stacey’s parents want to take her to yet another doctor, hoping for a miracle cure to her diabetes, when all she wants is to go to school and stay with her friends. What’s Stacey to do?

The Truth About Stacey is the third book in Ann M. Martin’s The Baby-Sitters Club series. This time, the story is told from Stacey’s point of view.

I like the story in this one very much–both major plotlines are well-done and have good messages. The Baby-Sitters Agency, in the persons of Liz and Michelle, provides a good ‘villain’ for the story, and when the members of the Baby-Sitters Club begin to suspect that their rivals may not be such responsible baby-sitters as they make themselves out to be, it provides a good lesson about what’s really important: to be responsible and ethical, even in the face of a challenge. To beat their rivals not through trickery, but by being better baby-sitters. Of course, the lesson in corporate espionage writ small is probably useful, too.

The second plotline, with Stacey’s parents dragging her about the country in search of a cure for diabetes is well done, too. As Dr. Graham points out at the end: “Stacey seems incredibly healthy . . . and that comes from one thing only: regulating the amount of insulin in her body.” Seeking miracle cures for diseases is not productive, and I hope that children who read this book will grow up to be skeptical of such things. If everyone were as sensible as Stacey, the world would be a better (and healthier) place.

I must say, I really like the technique of writing each of these books from a different character’s point of view. It both gives us insight into how the characters feel about themselves and one another, and prevents the repetition of the premise in each book from getting too stale. Rather than Kristy telling us three times that she had the great idea for the Baby-Sitters Club, we get to hear instead how the formation of the club affected each of the members. Very well done, indeed.

The Truth About Stacey is, like the other books in the series, a great middle grade book, with both excellent story and characterization, and I’d recommend it without reservation to anyone looking for middle grade fiction.

Also like the other books in the series, The Truth About Stacey is now available as an ebook for the Kindle, so ebook readers can join in the fun, too.

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Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls

Posted by Tracy Poff on September 7, 2011

Claudia, Stacey, Kristy, and Mary Anne formed the Baby-sitters Club a few weeks ago, and since then, things have been going well: they’ve had plenty of business, and no big trouble with the kids they’re baby-sitting. Lately, though, there’s been news of a thief, dubbed the Phantom Caller, who calls people, hangs up, and then later steals their jewelry. And he seems to be moving closer to Stoneybrook, where the girls live.

On top of all this, the boy Claudia likes, Trevor Sandbourne, doesn’t seem to know she exists, and the school dance, the Halloween Hop, is coming up. Claudia’s sister, Janine, is as unbearable as usual, and although Claudia tries to work on their relationship, like her grandmother suggested, there’s just not enough time!

Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls is a middle-grade novel, the second in the Baby-Sitters Club series by Ann M. Martin. It’s told from Claudia’s point of view.

The change from Kristy’s point of view in Kristy’s Great Idea to Claudia’s in this book is good. Despite Claudia repeating a lot of events that happened in the previous book, it’s still interesting, since we get to heat her perspective on the events and on her friends. It might get a little old if there’s that much repetition in future books, but it’s not too bad, this time.

The story is great. There are several plotlines going at once. Primarily, the girls are trying to be brave and babysit while they’re worried about the Phantom Caller, and this just intensifies when they start getting mysterious phone calls, with the caller hanging up without speaking. This plotline is great, and there’s some real suspense when they’re babysitting and they hear strange noises and receive phone calls like those from the Phantom Caller. You know that they’re bound to be all right in the end, but could there be a thief, waiting to break into the homes, while they’re babysitting?

The second plotline, with Claudia hoping that Trevor will ask her to the dance, gives us plenty of opportunity to see how all the girls feel about the subject of boys, and is a good secondary plot for the novel.

Finally, Claudia’s desire to improve her relationship with her sister, though showing up rarely throughout the book, provides a good reminder that these characters have more going on in their lives than just the main events of the book, and gives a sense that they’re real people with real relationships, rather than just characters in a story, serving only the purpose of furthering the plot.

Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls is another great middle-grade novel, and a good followup to Kristy’s Great Idea. It’s definitely worth reading, and, like the previous book in the series, will be available as an ebook for the Kindle starting October 1, 2011.

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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.

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