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Review: Claudia and Mean Janine

The first time I ever read a Baby-Sitter’s Club book was during my Young Adult Literature class in library school.  Sure, I’d known about the series for years, but I was already too old for them when they were first released in 1986, so I never had a reason to pick one up.  I’d made plenty of assumptions about the books over the years, though, so when I my professor assigned the class to read a book from the series, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of literature.  To my surprise, I enjoyed the book and found it easy to understand why the series had become a favorite with upper elementary and middle school-aged girls.  So, years later, I wasn’t surprised at all to find myself enjoying Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novel adaptation of the seventh book in the series.

The Baby-sitter’s Club: Claudia and Mean Janine
By Raina Telgemeier
Graphix, 176 pp
Ages 9-12

Claudia is tired of always being compared to her brainy older sister Janine.  While Janine is lauded by her parents for working on her computer, taking extra classes, and getting straight As, Claudia struggles to stay afloat in every subject except art.  The two girls are barely civil with each other and Claudia often feels like her grandmother Mimi is her only ally in the house.  But when Mimi has a stroke, the sisters are forced to confront their jealousies and learn to work together in order to make sure Mimi gets the care she needs.

Of course, while all the drama is going on at Claudia’s house, the Baby-sitter’s Club is facing its own challenges, as summer vacation begins and the girls start a morning playgroup for the neighborhood children.  But with a new member in the club, Kristy feels left out when Dawn and Mary Ann start spending more time with each other than they do with her. 

This is the fourth, and from what I understand, the last in the Baby-sitter’s Club graphic novel series.  As with the prose versions, the graphic novel has just enough character development to progress the story.  Kristy, Claudia, Mary Ann, Dawn and Stacy act more as place holders than as real people, allowing the reader to insert herself into the story, wherever she most easily fits.  The clean, expressive artwork, the easily recognizable characters, and the updated stories honor the original version of the book without duplicating it word for word or scene for scene.  Fans of the prose editions can pick up the graphic novels and not feel betrayed, while newcomers will find it easy to follow what is going on, even if the graphic novels are not read in order — just like with the prose books.

Eva Volin About Eva Volin

Eva Volin is the Supervising Children's Librarian for the Alameda Free Library in California. She has written about graphic novels for such publications as Booklist, Library Journal, ICv2, Graphic Novel Reporter, and Children & Libraries. She has served on several awards committees including the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the Michael L. Printz Award, and the Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics. She served on YALSA's Great Graphic Novels for Teens committee for three years and is currently serving on ALSC's Notable Books for Children committee.

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