Want personalized picks that fit your family?
Set preferences to see our top age-appropriate picks for your kids.
The Baby-Sitters Club: The Summer Before
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this slow-paced prequel spinoff series remains true to the old Baby-sitter's Club series with its innocent tone, and since the girls are younger there are no real teen "problems." The girls at 11 years old and moving away from slumber parties to fashion and boys. Stacey's diabetes is dealt with in a straightforward manner, as is the divorce between Kristy's parents. Parents who were fans of Martin's earlier series may enjoy sharing this book with their kids, but it's not essential to read this prequel in order to enjoy the original series.
What's the story?
Once upon a time there were three 11-year-old girls who lived Stoneyville, Connecticut. During the summer before seventh grade, Kristy longs for her father to come and visit and teaches Mary Anne how to babysit; their other best friend Claudia spends most of her time with a ninth grade boy who might be her first boyfriend. And far away, Stacey is getting ready to leave NYC and her lonely life behind. Even though Mary Anne still enjoys making doll clothes and Kristy prefers sports, they try to include Claudia in their plans until it's clear she has more important things to do. And of course, all the girls do a lot of babysitting, even though they are only 11. Picnics, bike rides, and birthdays make the summer fly by, and by the time school starts again Claudia knows a little more about boys, Stacey has moved cross the street, and Kristy has a great idea for a brand-new baby-sitters club.
Is it any good?
This is a sweet, slightly dated story about friendship and how it can smooth the bumpy road to growing up. The friendship between Kristy and overprotected Mary Anne is the strongest, and they support and love each other like sisters. The classic dilemma of growing up faster (or more slowly) than your friends is dealt with in a believable and natural story arc and may be reassuring to girls who are noticing that their friends are changing. The cruelty of girls this age who willingly torment other girls or stand by and watch it happen is depicted with a stark awareness of the damage it can do, and Stacey is lucky she is moving to a new town where she can make new friends and leave the cruelty behind. For girls stuck in that situation, it may not reveal many coping strategies, though they may find solace in reading about someone else going through the same thing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how all kids mature at different rates: some grow tall earlier than others, some lose interest in dolls or imaginary play later than others. How can friends deal with these issues?
What kind of disease is diabetes? How did Stacey know she had it, and what does she have to do to take care of herself? Would it be hard?
Stacey's friends are very mean to her during sixth grade. How would it feel to be excluded like Stacey was? What would you do? Have you ever treated someone that way?