There’s always an adjustment period when you hire a new babysitter, and there’s an adjustment period when you hire a new artist to follow Raina Telgemeier’s delicious graphic novel adaptations of the iconic Babysitters Club books that many current librarians and teachers read and loved as kids. Gale Galligan’s contribution to the series, Dawn and the Impossible Three, continues Raina’s strong start.
The series follows a group of friends who share capital, clients, and junk food to form the Babysitters Club. The BSC has physical meetings in Kristy’s house, and it’s somewhat a quaint notion to remember that in the original books Kristy was the only member with a private telephone line and that was partly the reason she became president of the club. Readers don’t need to read the series in order, but there is some satisfaction for the faithful.
In this volume, new member Dawn acquires the Barrett family as clients. Mrs. Barrett is perennially busy and running out the door to job interviews. The house is a mess, and Mrs. Barrett is irresponsible in providing Dawn with crucial information about her children. Soon enough, the three Barrett children are beginning to treat Dawn like a mother, and she is going over to babysit three times a week. The other club members take note of this troubling pattern. Meanwhile, neighbor Mallory Pike is attempting to prove her mettle to the other Babysitters Club members. Other subplots include Dawn’s mother starting to seriously date Mary Anne’s father, and Dawn trying to figure out why Kristy seems so upset at her.
This briskly paced story balances the lives we all secretly wish we had led with some of the darker and more emotional elements of divorce. Yes, this story intentionally romanticizes the joys of babysitting and the possibility of your mother remarrying a wealthy widow so that your friend becomes your stepsister, but it doesn’t romanticize every aspect of life. This balance of romance and realism is perfect for elementary and middle school readers, as it engages them in imaginative work about what life could be like as well as emotional work about what their life might be like.
My one qualm with these stories is that the subplots can be unnecessarily melodramatic. Kristy’s big bugaboo is that she might move two miles away when her mom marries Watson, and she’s afraid she’ll lose contact with the Babysitters Club. Mary Anne’s life seems to get instantly better when her father finally lets her redecorate her room. These “issues” detract from the more serious issues in this story about children of divorce, the challenge of shared custody, and the struggles of well-intentioned single parents.
Whereas Raina Telgemeier’s artistic talent in bringing this series to life was always in her facial expressions, Gale Galligan’s talents are in attention to form and figure. Galligan follows a model that will be familiar to readers of the other books in the series, including a vivid, colorful pastel palette and paneling that is easy on the eyes yet contains some motion and texture. Galligan often uses of two slightly different tones and curving lines on backgrounds instead of solids, and she also uses some irregularly sized and overlapping panels.
I was complaining to a friend that my one problem with graphic novels like these is that supply doesn’t meet demand. My students can finish this book in a day and could finish the entire graphic novel series of the Babysitters Club in a week. I’m not sure that’s a valid complaint, though; it’s more like a ringing endorsement for the series.
The Babysitters Club, vol. 5: Dawn and the Impossible Three
by Ann M. Martin
Art by Gale Galligan
Scholastic, Graphix, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12