The Glue Holding Us Together, and Other Cheesiness

Here's a double-whammy for ya: This is my 100th post AND I'm writing about the Baby-sitters Club prequel. Life in blog-land can't get much better than that.

The Summer Before is Ann M. Martin's (and Scholastic's, and probably David Levithan's) gift to us, the old-school fans. It's written in a reflective style, as if the girls are much older and looking back on that summer before seventh grade, before forming the Baby-sitters Club—which, according to Kristy, was "something we would belong to, in one sense or another, for the rest of our lives."

In the spirit of a Super Special, the chapters alternate between Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne, and Stacey's point of views, and each girl has her own sub-plot. Kristy misses her dad and is not so into her mom dating Watson. Mary Anne starts baby-sitting, but of course her super-strict father has a bunch of rules about that. Claudia has her first sort-of boyfriend and feels herself drifting away from Kristy and Mary Anne. And Stacey moves to Stoneybrook, away from NYC and all her bad memories of the last year (including "Her Royal Meanness" Laine).

The book is not exactly action-packed, so I don't want to give away too much of the plot. But if you haven't read it yet, you can look forward to a fun pool party scene, flashes of Mary Anne's bitchy side, and even a little bit of pre-stroke Mimi. I also enjoyed a lot of the character continuity; Mary Anne is into sewing outfits for dolls, Claudia tears her room apart putting together the perfect outfit, and sophisticated Stacey luvs pigs. (Plus, Kristy gets to say, "I love being in charge.") Questions left unanswered: Did Mary Anne invent the Pike smorgasbord? If Jenny Prezzioso was a new client in book #4, what's she doing in the prequel? And just how does the Kristy/Mary Anne flashlight code work, anyway?

Conclusion: Eight- and nine-year-old girls of today would probably be better introduced to the series with the graphic novels or the re-releases. Children of the '80s and early '90s may not feel that all of their hopes and dreams for a BSC prequel have been fulfilled by The Summer Before. I don't think our hopes and dreams for the BSC ever can be. But the book does serve as a nice bookend to the series, with Graduation Day on the other side. You should read it.

Reviewed from my personal copy, purchased at the elementary school book fair!


Jen said...

I LOVE that you purchased this at an elementary school book fair. Those were possibly my favorite days of school, along with getting the Scholastic book ad.

I can't wait to get this. I'm so glad you did a review and liked it!

Sadako said...

Pre stroke Mimi?! Awesomeness.

Huzzah for Mary Anne's bitchery!

Hey, just thought of something. If this takes place the summer before, that means no Watson. And no Karen!

andrea jean said...

Well, you're right about no Karen. But Watson is already in the picture! I think Kristy says her mom started dating him in May? Can't remember how that lines up with the facts from Kristy's Great Idea...

Sadako said...

Weird. I suppose it makes more sense this way. B/c if her mom did start dating him in May and then they got married six books later...most rushed marriage ever!