Marge in Charge

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Marge in Charge Book Poster Image
Babysitter stories are wacky but weird.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Some foreign words translated: bonjour, buon giorno, crêpes, merci. Ingredients to make pancakes.

Positive Messages

It can be fun to have a babysitter, someone caring for you who's not your parent. First impressions can be deceiving, and you can end up liking and enjoying someone you were skeptical about.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Though Jemima's sometimes exasperated at her little brother's behavior, she loves him. Jemima worries about her parents' reaction, and about getting places on time, and tries to keep things on track.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Marge in Charge by actress Isla Fisher is the first book in a projected series featuring a kooky babysitter in the tradition of Mary Poppins, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, and Amelia Bedelia. Fisher includes three stories in the first book, which she says were inspired by ones she told her own kids at bedtime. Each story's a bit over 50 pages, and since they aren't divided into chapters, they may feel a bit long for young readers. The family, with a mom, dad, older sister, and younger brother, is white and well-off -- the babysitter drives a Mini Cooper -- and there are kids of color pictured in the art. The story's thin, but the text has a bouncy feel, and some kids may find it a breezy read.

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What's the story?

In MARGE IN CHARGE, 7-year-old Jemima Button and her  4-year-old brother, Jakeypants, are skeptical about their new babysitter, Marge, who's unusually short and oddly dressed, and confesses she's never babysat before. Marge claims to be from royalty, dispenses with the stuffy to-do list Jemima's mom has left, which involves broccoli and hair washing, and substitutes her own to-dos, which include decorating the living room, dressing for dinner, and inviting guests. They make a huge mess, but just as their parents are about to come home, the kids clean up. In the second story, when Marge is charged with taking the kids to a birthday party, she opens the present and plays with it, filling the toy water gun with apple juice. But she saves the rainy birthday by making a balloon canopy and performing magic. And in the third story, Marge accompanies the kids to school, where she's left in charge of various classes, with predictably silly results.

Is it any good?

This amiable book about a wacky, unpredictable babysitter feels like something we've read before, and Mary Poppins is a hard act to follow. The action in Marge in Charge feels more random than forward moving, and some of the scenarios seem improbable. For instance, Marge smears brown hair dye on her face, thinking it's a mudpack, but how does it wash off? And she encourages the kids to fill a water gun with apple juice, but isn't the house then covered in sticky juice? Later, when a pancake falls on her head, she pours syrup all over her hair, and the kids dig in and eat the pancake. There doesn't seem to be much method to Marge's madness, and her behavior usually doesn't seem charming or slyly savvy. While we might expect her to find wacky ways to get the kids to do their chores, or present a free-spirited alternative to drab and dull routine, she often just seems unbalanced.

Isla Fisher's a talented and accomplished comic actress, and her book is lively, with a spirit of fun, so kids may enjoy it. But the humor and focus could be sharper. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the babysitter in Marge in Charge. What does she do that's odd? Have you ever had a babysitter who did things you thought were funny?

  • Do your babysitters or other adults ever disagree with your parents about how to take care of you?

  • Have you read Mary Poppins, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, or Amelia Bedelia? Does this book remind you of those in any ways? How  is it different?

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