Review by Frank Plowright
Of the four twelve year olds in the Baby-Sitters Club, the shyest and most awkward is Mary Anne. Her mother died when she was a baby, and her father is far stricter than the other girls’ parents. As was the case with The Truth About Stacey, this third Baby-Sitters Club adaptation spotlights the life of one girl amid a bigger story, and we learn a lot more about Mary Anne’s home life after a massive row and some home truths split the club in the opening chapter.
Ann M. Martin gradually expands the cast in the original novels, and ensures each set of home circumstances is different. She also ensures the parents are different. A message she reinforces here through Claudia’s mother, is that there’s always more than one approach to anything. That includes parenting, the differences extended to the parents the girls’ babysit for. We actually meet Mary Anne’s father for the first time, and while Martin’s already provided the background to his parenting methods, it’s down to Raina Telgemeier to bring him to life, which she does perfectly. He’s no ogre, quite kindly-looking actually, as exaggerating him would undermine the subtlety of Martin’s story. She’s really good at slipping in advice, which can be something obvious like how to organise a babysitting club, or less obvious, something that might not occur to readers, like chatting with another parent, or grandparent in this case.
The row that starts the book continues through most of it, and while Martin supplies the twists, Telgemeier’s succession of grumpy faces are great. A party where two girls have to get along despite not talking to each other is creative, as is a reprise near the end, but much of the emotional content is down to Telgemeier’s skill. The constant tension of the argument, a really good sub-plot about Mary Anne’s father, Mary Anne’s determination, and the introduction of Dawn, who’ll become a regular character, make this the best Baby-Sitter’s Club graphic novel to date, and ideal young adult reading. Even adults ought to find themselves holding a gulp back.
Mary Anne Saves the Day and the following Claudia and Mean Janine are both among the opening four Baby-Sitters Club graphic novels, so were first issued in black and white. Whereas the colour was an added extra in the earlier books, it makes a difference here as in black and white Dawn could be mistaken for Stacey in some scenes as only her straighter hair really differentiates her.