When I went to the library to pick out a book to read this week, I honestly had a hard time choosing one! Looking at all those spines instantly gave me memories from elementary school (and, I’ll admit, middle school even) when I was obsessed with this series and read every single one of these books multiple times. I settled on these two books because I think they both teach important lessons to kids.
Kristy and the Secret of Susan is about a new baby-sitting charge of Kristy’s, Susan Fowler, who has autism. In the beginning of the book, Kristy discovers that the reason Susan is “new” to the BSC is that she spends most of the year away from her parents, being educated at a special school. Kristy’s main goal is to show Susan’s parents that she is capable of making friends and living a semi-normal life, and she should be educated at home, in a regular public school. Kristy learns, though, that Susan’s autism is not something that Kristy can fix, and that her parents probably understand why she needs to be away and are doing it for a reason.
What I love about this book is that it’s very realistic. Of course, all of the books have that happy-go-lucky, everything-is-going-to-be-okay feel to them, but Kristy and the Secret of Susan shows that not all kids are perfect, not all days end with everyone laughing and hugging, etc. I have to admit that when I read this book as a child, it was probably the first time I’d heard or read anything about autism, and it definitely educated me. Most kids don’t know anything about this, unless they know someone with autism, so I think it’s great that these books can be a platform to teach kids about other kids who may be different from them, and how they should befriend them and love them anyway. This book is the only one that I remember ending on a semi-sad note. Susan has to go back to her special school, and Kristy has a difficult time seeing her leave. Most of the BSC books that I remember end with everyone happy about something, and it’s comforting to know that there’s a little more realism to this one.
Claudia and the Terrible Truth is about the Nicholls family, new to the BSC, and they have two young boys, Joey and Nate. After sitting for the boys a few times, Claudia starts to suspect that something sinister is going on in their home – that Mr. Nicholls is verbally and maybe even physically abusive to them. Eventually, Claudia tells her mom (who works with Mrs. Nicholls) about her suspicions, and she eventually leaves her husband to seek safety at a family member’s house.
What I love about this book is that, again, it teaches kids a lesson. It’s a hard thing to learn, if you live in a happy home environment, but there are plenty of kids for which this situation is their regular, daily life. I think this book handles the abuse in an age-appropriate way without glossing over the reality of how scary it is for the kids who are being abused. The ending is definitely way too neatly wrapped up (no way would the ending happen in real life), but it does offer hope and teach potential baby-sitters how to handle this situation should they encounter it in their own baby-sitting experiences. I also think that at the age these books are written for, it’s important to wrap this story up nicely for the readers’ peace of mind.
I’m so thankful to Amy for hosting this awesome Baby-Sitter’s Club week! I loved reading these two books, they totally brought me back to my childhood… I almost want to read MORE of them! 🙂 Hopefully when I have kids I’ll get a chance to share these books with them, since they were such an instrumental part of my reading when I was younger.