Did I expect to spend the weekend sobbing over a bunch of middle school characters as they explored everything from friendship to budding romance and even death? Maybe not, but since I’m the one who chose to binge the second season of The Baby-Sitters Club on Netflix in one weekend, I really should have seen this coming.
I devoured season one of The Baby-Sitters Club last July. I had just moved to a new apartment in the middle of the first pandemic summer, and as much as I loved my new neighborhood and my morning exploratory walks, I missed, well, life. I thought the first season of the series, which adapts Ann M. Martin’s sprawling empire of novels, was perfect in almost every way: a sweet, uplifting show that nevertheless tackled big conversations in the world today. And importantly, it was one that allowed me to forget the pandemic.
The Baby-Sitters Club season two hit Netflix on Oct. 11, 2021, and built upon the solid foundation of its first season. It offers a lot of the same things the first season does, while deepening storylines, character lives, and conversations. In case you’re unfamiliar with the show, it stars a group of middle school girls, led by the entrepreneurial spirit of Kristy Thomas, who start a club/business: in exchange for money, they will babysit neighborhood kids. Along the way, they learn important lessons about family, standing up for yourself, pursuing your dreams, and so so much more.
I spoke with Jen Petro-Roy, who is a former teen librarian and also the author of a few middle-grade novels, including P.S. I Miss You. She pointed out something I loved about the show myself: how modern it is. It’s set in a pandemic-free alternate universe version of contemporary times, and the showrunners did an excellent job modernizing the cast, the storylines, even the props.
“All of these updates seem so natural, too,” Petro-Roy said. “Of course it makes sense for MaryAnne to find her strength standing up for a trans girl she’s babysitting. Of course, the cast is more diverse. It makes sense, and that’s all because of how accepting, loving, and inclusive the world of Stoneybrook and the Baby-Sitters Club are.”
The beauty of the show, of course, is that it deals with such real-world topics through the framework of a middle-grade media property, and every episode ends on an uplifting note. The characters may go through hell over the course of the episode, but they’re going to end up stronger, happier, and better off than they started.
As a kidlit writer myself, one of the things I try to remember in penning my young adult novels is that they need hope. That’s not to say that everything needs to be hunky-dory throughout the story, or even that everything wraps up in a bow neatly for the characters. The Hunger Games is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Those characters go Through It over the course of the trilogy, but the ending is meant to show up that there is hope despite this. Katniss makes some choices at the end of Mockingjay that I hate, but they are accurate reflections of her trauma, and the ending is ultimately hopeful for a better day.
The Baby-Sitters Club is a shining example of middle-grade media because it’s enjoyable to people of all ages (I’m 28 and obsessed with it, but the focus is squarely on the middle school-aged characters — and their real-world counterparts, the viewers. The struggles the girls face are relevant to their age. This season, MaryAnne had her first boyfriend, and an episode’s plotline was about her trying to figure out what that meant for her. Whereas maybe a young adult audience would have wanted to see the story revolve around a first kiss or even first time having sex, for middle-graders it’s perfect that it just revolves around taking the relationship from “friends” to “more than friend.”
Petro-Roy thinks the show is a “perfect example” of media for middle grade.
“The main cast are actually real kids and the BSC themselves are dealing with classic issues of growing up (making new friends, first boyfriends, a loss in the family),” she said. “Middle grade is that strange time when kids are starting to solidify who they are in the world and wanting to have adventures on their own while still being called back into the fold of their family pretty strongly. This show exemplifies that so perfectly in its storyline and its talented child and adult cast.”
There is so much, so very very much, to love about The Baby-Sitters Club. It hooks in adults, teens, and tweens alike, telling the stories that we can all relate to: middle school drama and trauma. Both seasons are available now on Netflix, and I highly recommend the show.
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