Review by Frank Plowright
When the Baby-Sitters Club began, Kristy, Claudia and Mary Anne had known each other as friends and classmates for years, but Stacey was the new girl in town. As seen in Kristy’s Great Idea, Stacey has only just moved from New York, her parents having divorced, and she was reluctant to admit being diabetic, but she’s fitted in well with the other twelve year olds, and she’s likeable, so the title’s ominous.
It doesn’t actually come into play until a fair way through the book, as the early part is taken up with a rival babysitting agency, a group that bit older, so able to stay out later, and better at designing flyers as well. Kristy, however, is just the type to make lemonade when life throws lemons, and before long she’s come up with a bunch of ideas as to how they can improve their babysitting service. Will it be enough?
Raina Telgemeier was little known when she began adapting Ann M. Martin’s The Baby-Sitters Club as graphic novels, but every aspect of what made her later books so attractive to the young adult market is already present in these stories. The characters shine, the storytelling is really clear, and she’s able to visually telegraph when something isn’t quite right, so younger readers will be able to make that connection.
Martin’s original stories set viable problems to create tension, and just as importantly provide solutions where possible. Stacey is seen slightly more the other girls, as she has an unhappy young child to deal with, while her wider story slots in between the girls attempting to keep their business going. Her parents are naturally concerned about Stacey’s diabetes, and while they want the best for her they’re overly influenced by any mention of a breakthrough, whether or not it has medical validity. We also see some of Stacey’s sad New York past.
Neither Martin nor Telgemeier is in the business in confronting their readers with the fact that sometimes things don’t work out, so happy endings are standard, yet within that there’s plenty of room for some truths. It’s clear from the beginning, for instance, that Stacey’s diabetes is a lifelong condition, but one that can be managed if some limitations are accepted, and it’s used to highlight the nonsense some children believe. The consideration and softly sold advice makes The Truth About Stacey another winner, and there’s Mary Anne Saves the Day up next.
As this is among the first four Baby-Sitters Club graphic novels, it’s been available in two editions. The original black and white version was published in 2006, and an updated version in a slightly smaller format added Braden Lamb’s colour ten years later. Not only is it now more widely available, the colour version is probably the version the target readership will prefer.
Anyone familiar with the series will realise that for some reason the second novel, Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls has been skipped to reach this story.