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A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting, Book 1

Book review by
Mandie Caroll, Common Sense Media
A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Babysitters fight monsters in fun horror-lite tale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Fantasy meant to entertain. 

Positive Messages

What makes you weird is what also makes you cool. Friends protect each other. Doing the right thing isn't always easy, but it is important. Take risks: You may surprise yourself with your own awesomeness.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Relatable main character Kelly is charmingly awkward, has loads of personality, doubts herself, is responsible. She proves to be a fierce fighter in the face of danger. Supporting characters are creative, brave, and quick thinkers. All are also thoughtless, mean or rude, at times. Kelly and most of the characters are white, save for a black girl and a boy who's Kelly's crush, who's mostly absent from the action and regrettably exoticized. Girls are strong and fearless, while the boys are more or less sidelined and ineffective.

Violence & Scariness

Kid's nightmares are creepy and come to life. Young children are taken by the Boogeyman and his minions, and they face (sometimes) serious peril, as do the babysitters trying to save them. Fighting with weapons are mostly magical in nature and there's very little blood (scratches) and no gore.

Language

No swear words. Regular insults like "freak show," "idiot," and "weird."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Joe Ballarini's A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting the first book in a trilogy, and it's being adapted for a Netflix movie. It tells the story of Kelly, an average 13-year old, who fails to prevent the kid she's babysitting from being abducted by monsters. A secret society of monster-butt-kicking babysitters converge on the case, and Kelly discovers her own demon-fighting powers as she tags along. Positive messages of being true to yourself and doing what's right shine brighter than the doubts and meanness characters occasionally share (with insults like "idiot," "weird"). There's mostly tame fantasy violence with little to no blood. Relatable main and supporting characters show courage in the face of danger. Most characters are white; a black girl is described a bit stereotypically, and the other, from Guatemala, is largely objectified as Kelly's crush. They almost kiss but are interrupted. There are scary and suspenseful scenes, so it's best for tweens who don't frighten easily and enjoy these kinds of stories. 

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What's the story?

In A BABYSITTER'S GUIDE TO MONSTER HUNTING, first-time babysitter Kelly fails to stop monstrous Toadies from kidnapping little Jacob, whose nightmares are so strong they come to life. In desperation, she calls Jacob's regular babysitter, Liz, who turns out to be a part of a secret society of monster-hunting babysitters. Liz lets Kelly tag along as the local babysitters crew search for him. They discover that the Toadies are in league with the Boogeyman, who plans to harness the power of kids like Jacob to turn the world into a never-ending, monster-populated living nightmare. All seems lost when Liz is carried away into the night sky by the Boogeyman and the other babysitters fall into the mouth of a giant octopus. Kelly must face her fear and self-doubt to have any hope of saving little Jacob, her friends, and really, the world.

Is it any good?

This funny and creepy book has all the elements of a great Halloween read for older kids. Kelly and the monster-hunting babysitters are all impressive in their own right, and have moments of fear and doubt like real people. And illustrations by Vivienne To add to the fun. The scary scenes in A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting are quite scary -- with monsters abducting terrified children and trying to kill the babysitters -- but also pretty tame in their fantasy violence with little blood or gore. Most appealing to middle grade readers, perhaps, is that really young kids, tweens, and teens are the only hope for saving the world.

Yet, Kelly falls flat at times, reverting to boy crazy and self-interested when it's not appropriate. And the story fails its two characters of color, who seem like they are there to check the diversity box. While one is more developed and complex than the other, neither ends up feeling fully realized or authentic. Excessive product mentions (including Jansport, Facebook, Uggs, Instagram, Amazon, Reef sandals, Sponge Bob Square Pants, and more) mar what is otherwise a fun and spooky read.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the scariness of A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting. Why do you think many kids like scary stories? How did the scary scenes affect you? What can you do to avoid being too scared while reading or watching TV or movies?

  • Kelly has a lot of doubts about herself and has negative thoughts about herself on occasion. How does she manage to feel better about herself? What can readers learn from Kelly about believing in yourself and your abilities?

  • Do the kids in the Princess Pack seem like realistic middle schoolers? What can you do to stop bullying behaviors at your school?

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