Book Review: The Baby-Sitters Club: Claudia and Mean Janine
Publication Date: November 1, 2008
· Ann M. Martin
· Raina Telgemeier
by R.J. Carter
Published: October 18, 2008
Ann M. Martin's The Baby-Sitters Club is back in graphic action thanks to Raina Telgemeier and the folks at Graphix. This time the focus of attention is on Claudia, the artistic girl with a flair for making jewelry and a real talent at painting. Academically, however, Claudia is less than impressive -- certainly to her parents, who seem to have more admiration for Claudia's straight-A older sister, Janine, chiding Claudia for her lack of responsibility as they don't see her participation in the Baby-Sitters Club as all that important. The differences beween the girls almost always lead to bitter arguments, with Janine retreating further into her computer studies and Claudia to her cache of forbidden reading materials -- Nancy Drew novels.
All this is put behind them, temporarily, however, when their grandmother Mimi suffers a stroke while their parents are out for the night. Both sisters work together to get her the immediate help she needs, but when Mimi comes home several weeks later and needs extensive speech and physical therapy, it's Claudia who shows just how responsible she really can be, while Janine learns that there are still a lot of things she needs to learn. Claudia also develops a fresh understanding of sibling bonds when she's able to see the situation between her and Janine from the outside when she's forced to take care of a pre-schooler's growing jealousy over the attention given his new sister's christening party.
Amidst all the family turmoil, the Baby-Sitters Club is working to keep busy during the summer vacation. Club President Kristy has come up with a plan to run a playgroup, which turns out to be a welcome idea by the local parents. However, Kristy is still somewhat put out by the club's newest member, Dawn, who somehow always manages -- without intention or trying -- to outshine Kristy's planning skills. Fortunately for both girls, the tale of Claudia and Mean Janine gives both girls a moment where they find themselves apart from the rest of the club so that they are forced to get to know each other better. The bonds formed give Kristy an idea for a new officer position within the Baby-Sitters Club to take advantage of Dawn's skills.
Fans of Martin's popular series will enjoy reliving the stories play out literally before their eyes in the new graphic novel format. Additionally, fans of graphic novels who have begun reading since The Baby-Sitters Club series debuted will develop an appreciation for the characters and the dynamics between them. Either way, Martin and Telgemeier have delivered a winner. The situations and resolutions are completely believable and relatable, and Telgemeier's style is abstract enough to be cartoony but realistic enough so as not to draw attention away from the action. In fact, it's the perfect style for newspaper strips, and I shouldn't be surprised if the two collaborated in the future to produce just such a work -- a daily comic based on The Baby-Sitters Club.