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Monday, January 25, 2016

Things I've Recently (25): Baby-Sitting Books

If you're new around here or I haven't done one in a while, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason.

Sometimes I do themes!

Sometimes I think of themes AFTER I've posted one with a book that would fit perfectly with three others I have!

Sometimes I say heck with it and recycle a book from a previous post because it bugs me that I did that, and I don't have any other books that fit!

So, um. If you did read that post (and I will try and schedule this for pretty far in the future so it's been a while), skip the first book. The rest will be new ones.

It's now been well over six months, so it should be okay, right? And I want to link to this post in a future post, and I just started a new baby-sitting job, so let's do this thing.

Warning: Baby-Sitting May Be Hazardous to Your Health by Cynthia Blair

Published: January 23rd, 1993 by Fawett
Genre: YA/Upper MG Mystery
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 118
Part of a series? Yes, this is like 3 out of 5 of this "A Bubble Gum Gang Mystery" series.
Got via: It's a weeded library book, so a library sale.
Amazon / Abebooks

Summary (from goodreads): As far as Samantha is concerned, there are all kinds of mysteres. Can she handle baby-sitting as an after-school job? And why does the most popular girl in school actually want to be her friend? But the scariest mystery of all is also the most dangerous: someone is selling secrets at her dad's computer firm - and his business is in trouble. It's definitely a case for Samantha and her two other Bubble Gum Gang pals, but the price of finding the spy may be way too high...

Thoughts: Apologies for the awful picture. The biggest thing that annoyed me in this one is that one of the characters, Carla, is apparently fat and is dieting throughout the book to lose five pounds so her parents will throw her a frozen yogurt party. She's twelve. No one needs to be dieting at twelve. She's probably about to go through puberty! And seriously, look at the girl on the cover (the one with dark hair). She's tiny. Old YA books were awful to fat, or even chubby characters.

That was annoying, but luckily it didn't dominate the story, so I didn't have a stroke from the stress. Otherwise, I liked it alright. It's pretty dated (twelve year olds carrying purses!) and the plot is not nearly as dramatic as the summary, but I like mysteries, I like the "Girl gangs doing stuff" genre, and the baby-sitting angle is always pleasing to me, so in general, this one will probably keep its shelf space. I just wish it hadn't had the dieting subplot!

Katie's Baby-Sitting Job by Martha Tolles

Published: October 1st, 1985 by Apple Paperbacks which is (or was) a division of Scholastic
Genre: MG Contemporary/Mystery
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 124
Part of a series? Apparently there are two other books about Katie, but I only found that out looking at the author's books on goodreads. It functions as a standalone book.
Got via: It's a weeded library book, although I don't think it was from my library.
Amazon / AbeBooks

Summary (from goodreads): Katie was thrilled when Mrs. Stellan called and asked her to baby-sit for the evening. She had never done any baby-sitting before, but she was sure she could take care of four-year-old Annie. After all, Katie had watched her brother plenty of times. This would give her some real job experience - and she'd be paid for it, too!

But Katie's first baby-sitting job doesn't turn out the way she'd planned. Something is missing from the Stellans' house, and though it isn't her fault, Katie's sure everybody's blaming her.

It's bad enough that hardly anyone believes her - but now mean Michelle is telling everyone at school what happened. Katie knows she's got to get to the bottom of the mystery soon. Because if she doesn't, she may never be hired as a baby-sitter again!

Thoughts: Apologies for the pictures in this post, by the way. These old covers are hard to find good pictures of. While the last one is more unrealistic in plot (middle-schoolers finding actual criminals), this plot is actually pretty realistic. The steps taken by the characters are realistic to the age, with nothing they do really being beyond reality, and Katie's age of 12 or 13 isn't outrageous that she couldn't be baby-sitting a three year old on weekends and afternoons. Especially not considering they live very close to her own house, and her mother has just had a baby, and is therefore home most of the time, in case anything happened.

The writing has aged pretty well for a thirty year old book, and the writing itself has a lot of energy. It's easy to read, not a struggle or anything. Honestly, I don't feel bad about keeping this one in my collection. It was entertaining, and I think kids today could still enjoy it.

Baby-Sitting Is a Dangerous Job by Willo Davis Roberts

Published: First published in 1985, this edition was published in 1996, I believe. And there's going to be a new edition in April!
Genre: MG Contemporary/Mystery
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 161
Part of a series? Nope. Davis has another book with a character named Darcy, the View from the Cherry Tree, but I'm pretty sure they're unrelated.
Got via: Some yard sale, probably. There aren't any library marks.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): From the moment she set eyes on the three Foster kids, Darcy knew being their baby-sitter would be no picnic. But the pay was twice her usual rate, and the job was only for a few hours a day - surely an experienced baby-sitter like her could handle it.

But Darcy hadn't counted on the mysterious things that started happening at the Fosters' home after she took the job. She did everything a good baby-sitter was supposed to do: she didn't let the stranger claiming to be from the gas company into the house and she called the police when the burglar alarm went off in the middle of the afternoon. But that wasn't enough to prevent a baby-sitter's worst nightmare from coming true. Now it's up to Darcy to rescue the Foster kids - and herself - from three ruthless kidnappers.

Thoughts: First, check out this cover! It's actually pretty true to the descriptions of Darcy and the kids, especially Jeremy's shirt, but look at the littlest girls' dress. Who dresses a two and a half year old like that on a normal summer day?? She's going to be covered in dirt, grass stains, and mysterious stickiness in half an hour.

I recently talked about a Willo Davis Roberts book I reread and really enjoyed, and I don't think this one has aged quite as well. Like, Darcy's family doesn't have a microwave, and there's no particular reason for that. That made me giggle a little. One thing that didn't have me laughing was the child abuse plotline. Not of Darcy's charges, but of another girl. Darcy mentions that Dr. Foster, the childrens' mother, doesn't believe in corporal punishment, preferring psychology. She then says, "My folks used psychology on us, when they thought about it, but when that didn't work they reverted to old-fashioned methods of discipline, which had included paddling when we were smaller."

Meanwhile, there's another girl whose known to frequently run away because her father hits her, often leaving bruises. She says she's talked to the police before and her father says she's "incorrigible" and he only hit her when she "sassed him back", lying to the police also that the bruises were because she was clumsy. I realize this book was written a long time ago, but can we just talk about the total disconnect, that "old-fashioned methods" like "paddling" are okay on small kids, but hitting an older girl isn't okay? He told the police he hits his kid, and they believe him over her. Basically that boils down to, it's okay to hit your kids as long as you don't leave marks, but only until they get big enough to leave.

That's just... really messed up.

Otherwise, I enjoyed the writing. Roberts has a really good style of writing that I always enjoy, and while the plot is a little outrageous, it's fun for that. The reactions and behaviours of the kids is also fairly realistic, which helps. I will probably keep this one, because I like the author, but I wouldn't be so quick to let kids under my care read it, or to recommend it to others these days.

Maybe I need to start sticking notes in books like this with "not cool!" written on them, or something, lol. I hope if they released this today they'd edit that part so it was different. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it at all if they did, because the plot is quite clever, and Darcy is a really good main character. I know I would have loved this as a kid. I'm probably a worry-wart, but I do notice and think about things like that.

Edit: I wrote this about six months ago, and at the time I was unaware there is going to be a re-release of this book in April. It looks like several of Roberts' books are being given new covers and re-releases, and I am totally happy about that! I do wonder about those things, though, especially the child abuse plot. A re-release really changes this from talking about old book for nostalgia purposes to a modern book that kids will likely have in libraries and such again, and I wonder what message we send with this kind of thing if we present it without criticism. I'm not pro-banning, just pro-conversation. Food for thought.

Taking Care of Terrific by Lois Lowry

Published: First published in 1983, this edition was probably released sometime in 1984.
Genre: Contemporary MG, but upper MG riding the line between that and YA. If published today, it may be classified as YA.
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 168
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: It was weeded from the library, and I bought it.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound / AbeBooks

Summary (from goodreads): Fourteen-year-old Enid Crowley can't stand her name. When she takes a summer job baby-sitting young Joshua W. Cameron IV, Enid decides it's time for a change: she calls herself Cynthia, and Joshua becomes Tom Terrific. Every day they're off to Boston's Public Garden, where Enid hopes to meet people and find excitement.

It doesn't take long before Enid and her new park friends - Hawk, the saxophone player, and the old bag lady - are involved in the wildest adventure the park has ever seen. Their project is top secret. Nothing can go wrong. Or can it?

Thoughts: This is another one that I really enjoy, but I wouldn't recommend to kids under my care. The voice is lovely, because it is Lois Lowry, but some of the subject matter has not aged very well. For example, Enid signs a petition denouncing trans people, and although she doesn't understand it, there is a slur used. There are also mentions of "preverts" (spelled that way, don't look at me, spellcheck), diet talk that I'm really not fond of, fat camp for two children which makes my head want to explode. They are things that the acceptability has changed on over the years (over thirty!) and therefore, they'd probably be better read together with a child, taking time to explain how things have changed, and the attitudes people used to have, and how these things affect people today.

You know, responsible media stuff. However, not possible for children you simply care for, but don't get to keep, you know?

At the same time as there's the rather dated things, there are some things that are very truthful even thirty years later. One of the characters, Hawk, is black and when something happens with police, he's the one treated the worst, despite and this is a spoiler but it is a thirty year old book, people, despite being a Harvard professor. His very prescence in an old car in Tom's well-off neighbourhood is mentioned to be something that could cause people to be suspicious. It's horrible how thirty years later, those parts are still incredibly relevant and true to what people experience.

All in all, I really do like this one, both as looking back and as an adult, but I recognize the things that have changed that make me uncomfortable. It willl keep its shelf space, but will not be recommended to children today. Does any of that make sense??

Let's talk about the cover real quick instead.

(Image courtesy of Cliquey Pizza, which is a super cool blog, and hopefully they don't mind me borrowing the picture, because it's like the only one out there of it.)

Okay, so that thing where covers start yellow and then turn pink with age is totally a thing. This one has faded and gone pink, too, but you can kind of see how the back was this orangey-yellow colour. What's with that? I've totally got another one that did that in an upcoming post, too. Why do they go pink?

Have you read any of these? What do you think of the Willo Davis Roberts reprints?

Peace and cookies (but not before lunch),

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