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The second season of the Netflix adaptation of The Baby-Sitters Club (respect the hyphen!) is upon us. Perhaps you’ve watched it, and now you’re in the mood to read. And maybe you have read everything BSC. The originals, the Super Specials, the Super Mysteries, the Little Sisters, the California Diaries. (And yes, there’s more.) You’ve made your ranking and compared it to ours. Maybe you’ve even been picking up the recent graphic novel adaptations. And still you want more. Are there other books like The Baby-Sitters Club? I’m here to help.
Finding readalikes to The Baby-Sitters Club is a tougher task now than in the 1980s and 1990s when there were plenty of paperback pretenders to the BSC throne: Sleepover Friends, Sunset Island, Saddle Club. However, none of them have had the same impact or the longevity, though I will happily grant Saddle Club its own Horse Girl vibe. Moreover, maybe you’re looking for something with Big BSC Energy but set in contemporary times.
The Baby-Sitters Club series is singular in some ways. No other current series that centers the realistic lives of tween and teen girls is being published with firehose intensity of the BSC books. So we have to read wide instead of deep. The good news is that there are a lot of books and series that have some of the same appeal as The Baby-Sitters Club.
What is the appeal of the BSC?
Part of Ann M. Martin’s genius was allowing the main characters of The Baby-Sitters Club to share the stage. With multiple true main characters, there were potential favorites for every reader. There were a variety of life experiences to distribute among them. Big issues, like divorce and chronic illness, permeate the books. Littler issues, like annoying siblings, provide realism and levity. And to me, the real gift of the Baby-Sitters Club books is the way they take the lives of these girls seriously. Their conflicts play out in ways that show readers what real friendship can look like. Their business, goofy as it is to a contemporary reader, brings the girls together again and again. They earn money, they problem solve, they have fun.
So these are the things I’ve tried to honor in these recommendations. Books that follow a group. Adventures that are realistic (mostly). Perhaps a little entrepreneurial spirit. Lastly, friendship as a theme above all. And if it’s babysitting you want, we’ve got a little of that too.
Books Like The Baby-Sitters Club
Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham
Shannon Hale, known for The Princess Academy and the Books of Bayern, has launched a series of graphic novels, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, about friendship. The first book in the series follows the tempestuous time when one friend out of a pair, Adrienne, begins hanging out with a popular new group. It leaves the other friend, Shannon, on an emotional rollercoaster. Is she still best friends with Adrienne? Where is her place in all of this? The books in this series aren’t afraid to get a little messy. Friendship can be messy! And anyone who’s ever overanalyzed their friendships will be able to relate.
Best Babysitters Ever by Caroline Cala
I love when books get metatextual. Best Babysitters Ever (no hyphen), the first in the series by the same name, features Malia Twiggs. After finding an old copy of BSC, she takes a page out of Kristy Thomas’s book. She enlists her friends Dot and Bree to start a babysitting club so they can earn some cash to throw a birthday party. The series is packed with humor, and readers of the BSC will appreciate the homage to the original. While these books may aim to be funnier than their predecessors, they still contain rich characters in both the babysitters and the adults in their lives.
Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers by Celia C. Pérez
Summertime in the BSC universe is the stuff of legends. Time out from the routines of school and babysitting creates space for adventures, like summer camp. Strange Birds is a summertime-set story following four girls on a quest for justice. When they discover the local girls’ troop is using egret and flamingo feathers in a hat for a competition winner, they form an alternative group aiming to stop this outdated practice. Readers will enjoy the varied passions of the girls in the group. Also fantastic is how their approach to activism is grounded in the wisdom of a family elder.
Click by Kayla Miller
Where do you fit in at school? This question is one for the ages. Olive, the main character in Click, is the kind of girl who gets along with everyone decently well. So finding her spot is not an easy task. This situation becomes starkly defined when the school variety show approaches and groups coalesce. Olive finds herself outside all of them. Luckily for her, she has a wonderful adult in her life to discuss this struggle with. The subsequent books in the series follow Olive and new situations, like summer camp and a school trip, where friendships form, deepen, and change.
Brooke’s Not-So-Perfect Plan by Jo Whittemore
This first title in the Confidentially Yours series is a nod to The Baby-Sitters Club debut, Kristy’s Great Idea. Instead of babysitting, this group of enterprising friends takes on their school newspaper’s advice column. This series has seven books, a prodigious number by contemporary standards, centering the friendships of Brooke, Vanessa, and Heather. The advice column glues the girls together, but challenging scenarios like crushes, new students, and bullies keep the series bobbing along.
The Friendship Code by Stacia Deutsch
It’s impossible to ignore gender dynamics when it comes to girls’ career aspirations. There’s nothing wrong with girls aspiring to careers in care work that have historically been the realm of girls and women, as babysitting is. However, girls should ideally see a variety of options before them, and the Girls Who Code series does exactly that. While the series wears its aim to close the gender gap in technology on its sleeve — Reshma Saujani, the founder of the nonprofit Girls Who Code writes the foreword — the books in the series do blend heartfelt friendship narratives with coding-related adventures for a group of girls.
Gabby Duran and the Unsittables by Elise Allen and Daryle Conners
If the foibles of babysitting are an essential part of the BSC appeal for you, here’s the next series to read. Gabby Duran, an extraordinary babysitter, is tapped for a top secret mission: to babysit an alien living among humans on earth. Her first charge is a little girl from the planet Flarknartia. While this series blends The Baby-Sitters Club with Men in Black, it’s not all absurdism. At the heart of the story is the empathy Gabby can cultivate with people and aliens. Her lovely worldview shines through the comedic setup.
TBH, This Is So Awkward by Lisa Greenwald
If the biggest disconnect for contemporary readers of The Baby-Sitters Club books is the lack of technology, the TBH series is for you. Told in texts, emails, and notes, the book tracks the friendship of Cecily, Prianka, and Gabby. A new girl in school, who hasn’t exactly been welcomed by the group known as CPG4Eva, accidentally receives a hurtful message. A school-wide campaign against bullying ensues, testing the girls’ friendship. The eight book series continues with a variety of delightful drama stirred up via smartphone.
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! by Sumito Oowara
Manga readers looking for BSC vibes will appreciate this series featuring high school girls teaming up to produce their own anime series. They’ve got what it takes: Midori can design the world. Tsubame can do the animation. And Sayaka can track the budget. What’s great about this series is its celebration of creativity. If you or someone you love always walks around with a notebook to doodle in when inspiration strikes, you’ll feel seen. This series has also been adapted into an anime if you love the page-to-screen path The Baby-Sitters Club has taken.
Project Startup #1 by Laura D’Asaro, Rose Wang, and Heather Alexander
If you admire the entrepreneurial spirit of Kristy and company, you’ll enjoy this series about friends who go into the business of selling insect-based snacks. It’s even inspired by a true story. Hallie and Jaye are 6th graders paired up for a school project. Hallie’s a bit of an odd duck who thinks cricket-based crackers will go over big. Jaye, a Chinese immigrant navigating complex social waters, isn’t initially thrilled about being associated with Bug Girl. But they’re stuck together, and luckily they get a friendship and a business out of the assignment.
President of the Whole Fifth Grade by Sherri Winston
Ambition is certainly a part of the appeal of the Baby-Sitter’s Club. Brianna Justice, the main character of President of the Whole Fifth Grade, knows what she wants. She sees winning the race for 5th grade president as the first domino needing to fall in her plan for total domination. Of the culinary world, that is — she wants to build a cupcake empire. As is the case for anyone going into politics, she has to figure out how to rely on friends and she has to discover the strategy she can feel good about. And unlike a series like The Baby-Sitters Club that is caught in an eternal time loop, Brianna Justice continues to middle school in future books. There she continues to follow her ambitions and learn about friendship along the way.
The Baby-Sitters Club, at its best, represents what fiction can do for young readers. I hope some books on the list might do the same for today’s readers. These are the books that become companions in life, reflecting our realities back to us or offering glimpses into lives we can dream about. And they remind us to never underestimate the power of a group of girls with a great idea and a little dedication (and maybe a dedicated phone line, too).
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