Netflix Baby-Sitters Clubs

Why the Baby-Sitters Club is what you should be watching, no matter who you are.

I was a late reader. I know it is shocking since I was a teacher, managed a bookstore and I’m currently a professional writer, but it’s true. My remedial reading skills quickly improved after a third grade sleepover where my two best friends told me all about the Baby-Sitters Club (BSC) books by Ann M. Martin.

From then through the end of fifth grade, we read and exchanged books in school, at sleepovers, and at Girl Scouts. The three of us soon read all of Baby-Sitters Little Sister, The Kids in Ms. Coleman’s Class then all of BSC, and the BSC Super Specials, Mysteries, Super Mysteries, Portraits, BSC Friends Forever and California Diaries; that is hundreds of chapter books!

In addition to this series (along with Judy Blume books) sparking my love of reading, it also inspired me to start my own babysitting business. I created a website, made flyers, created business cards, took training classes with the Red Cross in babysitting and first aid/CPR. I quickly developed a list of other trained babysitters to share the long rooster of clients I had over the next few years. My business helped me raise money to travel outside the US, buy my own cell phone, and every glittery hair clip at Claire’s and Icings. When I moved across the country several times and when I was between traditional jobs, I always had my babysitting skills. The down-payment for my first car, babysitting money, my first semester of college, babysitting money. To me these were more than books, these were a gateway to adulthood and responsibilities I never knew I wanted.

Film depictions help readers. 

When I worked in a bookstore and parents worried about their young readers struggling, I would recommend the BSC graphic novels as an entry point to chapter books. Graphic novels are a great way to inspire young readers because strong images help young readers stay motivated about an interesting story. I often talked with parents about finding the right series for your child to fall in love with whether; that’s Percy Jackson, My Little Pony or Spirit Animals. Once a kid clicks with a series you will have a reader that wants to struggle through difficult words to finish a great story.

When beginner chapter books (like Baby-Sitters Little Sister) or graphic novels are not available and/or the child is struggling to stay motivated, I recommend film. Movies and TV shows are a great way to get a child excited about a story. I also recommend using closed captioning. Even if a child does not know all the words their eyes are drawn to them and they will naturally pick-up some new words.

Films not only spark interest in stories but they can reignite interest when a child is bored or not sure what to read next. When my friends and I found out there was a Baby-Sitters Club movie we had one of our parents get it from the library (movie checkouts were for adults only). Ok, I’m a 90’s kid but I was too young to have seen it in the cinema and by the early 2000s I was spending more time at the library than blockbuster, and we still totally watched it on VHS tape. We loved it, in fact this was when I finished reading Super Special books, prior to that I was scared…they were so long (to my 10-year-old self), but the movie made me excited about the books again and ready to give the ‘big chapter books’ a try.

When we went to the library to return the tape before our next sleepover, the librarians told us there was also an old TV show! Of course we binged that way before bingeing was a thing. After that I finally tried the ‘scary’ mystery series and Super Special Mysteries. At this point I was 11-year-olds, starting sixth grade, while I was sad I had finished the books, I so thrilled to be old enough to actually babysit!

The Netflix show is not a real reboot, it’s a reincarnation.

Flash-forward to 2020, when I heard there was going to be a remake of the BSC tv show I was there for it, 100%, without even seeing a preview. While everyone else was bingeing Hamilton (probably even fictional BSC member Mary Anne) I was watching BSC on Netflix. Ok, I watch Hamilton a couple of times first, but then BSC all the way.

To start with the casting is great. For most of the leading girls this is their first big role. But some of the faces may seem a bit familiar, Claudia Kishi is played by Momona Tamada played young Lara Jean in the To All the Boys Netflix movie series, Dawn Schafner is played by Xochitl Gomez who played young Anna in Gentefied (which if you haven’t seen Gentefied stop now and add that to your Netflix queue), Karen Brewer (my childhood favorite character) is played by Sophia Reid-Gantzert who play young Anastasia in Once Upon a Time. The adults are also amazing and give grown-up viewers something to enjoy too with Alicia Silverston and Mark Feurstein leading an amazing adult ensemble cast. My favorite thing about the adults is they all have storylines of their own that heavily draw on the ones in the original book series, plus as an adult viewer these plotlines make the show much more engaging.

Reboots should not just be the same story as told with better equipment, they should add something, build on the original and this certainly does. The writing and directing work together to fairly seamlessly show the modern society we live in. To start with Mary Anne is bi-racial, Dawn is latina and has a dad that is gay, and Watson is a one-percenter but only the latter is a plotline. Much like in real-life 90% of the time race just is and it is not explored in conversationals of 13-year-olds, with one exception: Claudia Kishi.

In every incarnation of the BSC Claudia is Japanese. This series really lets the reader see her race be directly addressed in a meaningful way that helps her grow as an individual and connect to her family. In an episode about where her grandmother Mimi has a stroke the audience learns Mimi was interned at a U.S. camp for Japanese Americans when she was a small child. At this vulnerable moment she speaks Japanese for the first time in years and vocalizes to her family about the childhood trauma that haunts her. This was not in the books. Inequality and racism were only directly discussed in two of the many, many books, most notably BSC 56: “Keep out, Claudia.” In that book Trump look-alikes make racism comments and the family refuses to have Claudia babysit for them.

Of course Netflix Is not naive about the power of Claudia. One July 10th Netflix re-released the South by Southwest award-winning documentary The Claudia Kishi Club, which about Claudia in all her wondrous forms. The documentary sheds some light on how loved Claudia and by extension the Kishi family are. This is mainly because Asian Americans in a less stereotypical fashion are rarely seen in any form of media. This reboot is an opportunity to change that.

This wasn’t the only hot button issue highlighted in the Netflix series. The other adults have storylines with subject matter including divorce, remarrying, dating, sexuality and financial struggles are touched on to varying degrees. Nothing is over-the-top, everything has a realism to it, just like the original books. In the Netflix how, we learn Dawn’s dad is gay but its not directly discussed, because it is just part of life not form of tokenism or a ‘very special episode’ of BSC. What is directly discussed is divorce and to a lesser but no less important extent, classism.

The classism storylines perfectly follow the authorial intent of the novels. Martin’s books often focused on the wealth disparities between both the girls and their families. Stacey comes from an upper class family from New York City and her high-end fashion and tech savviness in the show perfectly matches the way the book character would be in 2020. Watson Brewer is described in the book as a man in his late-thirties and balding so the show is a departure with the appearance of the character  but he is also described as living in a mansion on McLelland Road and is CEO of Unity Insurance. These latter character traits are absolutely seen in the Netflix show, but are taken to a new level when Brewer buys his future stepson a Mercedes SUV and his wife-to-be confronts him about it. That confrontation between adults is not seen too often in the books, because as in most children’s novels the parents are often a backdrop to the children’s stories and the adults’ storylines only come up when they affect the children. This is very true in the show but the way it is done adds layers and depth to a greater conversation on wealth disparity.

What’s a babysitter without clients?

The babysitting clients aren’t seen that often with a few exceptions being Karen Brewer, the Barrett family that Dawn sits for, and Bailey who Mary Anne sits for.

Karen Brewer is just as wonderfully written as the eccentric child in the books, and I hope she gets a spin off in this format too. I won’t tell you too much about her since this sort of character needs to be observed in the wild.

Dawn’s storyline with the Barretts is also taken from the source material but the writing, directing, sets and props add more layers to the difficulties of sitting for a larger number of children with parents who are going through a divorce. Dawn’s storyline also really deals with burnout and being taken advantage of. Her situation is unfortunately very common for domestic workers and younger employers in general. The show notes how third parties often have to intervene on the workers behalf to enact real change.  To no lesser extent, it also depicts how people who work hard and are good at their job are often mistreated, which is a valuable lesson for viewers of all ages.

Finally, there is Bailey, who Mary Anne sits for. Throughout the episode the directing, costumes and props cue the viewer into knowing that the child is transgender, without having to direclty say it. When Bailey becomes ill and is taken to the hospital, staff members do not use the correct pronoun, heightening the child’s fear. The writing here is expertly done showing Mary Anne respecting authority, calling out misgendering, and knowing when to ask for help. As a sitter who has experienced similar situations I was thrilled to see this executed so well.

What the future could hold for the BSC 

Historically this series was pretty popular. The later editions of the original books included flyers and postcards to join the fanclub and later the collectors club to get exclusive BSC merch, that gets into bidding wars to this day on eBay. Not to mention multiple doll lines.

As this series develops a new fan base and the existing loyal fanbase has their interest renewed, crafters are posting unique items on Etsy and designing and selling cool merch. on websites like Redbubble. At first I thought all the items were pre-dating the news of the new show, but then I found face masks for BSC and some other creative merch. you can see in the gallery below.

This show is already gaining a massive youth following and hopefully will grow like Stranger Things, Kissing Booth, Sabrina and To All the Boys series. Maybe this means there will be an officially produced merchandise line as well, at this time there are no reports of that happening.  What we do know for sure is that there will be at least one more season, but when it will start filming is unknown.

There is so much room for this show to grow. It would be great to follow the girls as they age and complete some of the plot lines from the spin-off series, showing them grow up in a way the books were unable to. This series could really expand the space it takes up in terms of expressing issues that affect young people. Both the cast and crew have both expressed in media coverage that they already have some ideas in mind. What I really want, which probably won’t surprise you, is that Karen Brewer  has a Baby-Sitters Little Sister spin-off. I’m putting that out in the universe for the Netflix gods to create.

These past few months of staying home and this summer without traditional camps is an opportunity to give children the time to read, play and discover new interests. Shows like this might introduce them to a whole new world. That world could be art, a business, or you never know, maybe your child will just love the BSC books as much as me.

A Non-Spoiler Review of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

Friday Netflix premiered Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. I laughed, cried, was surprised, shocked, and tickled by the numerous forms of wish fulfillment.

I’ve been watching Gilmore Girls since 6th grade, but it’s only since my recent career shift to writing that I have truly felt a kinship with the characters. This reboot didn’t fail to enhance the warm and fuzzies I have for the Lorelais, I mean Gilmore Girls. Early this morning between Thursday’s Parade, Christmas Classics and Hallmark Holiday Movie Marathons (not so different from Lorelai’s Lifetime Movie obsession) I squeezed in around 7 hours for my Girls. 

When the story begins in Winter 2015 without the Carol King theme song, which does not play until the end off the final episode. Fall). Rory is still struggling with poor relationship chooses and where she wants her career to go. Lorelai is managing the Dragonfly Inn, living with Luke (who is still managing the dinner). The biggest character change is for Emily Gilmore. She is struggling to find her place in the world without her husband of 50 years Richard. It is that plot point that has me pondering what show creator Amy Sherman-Palladino would have written if Ed Herrmann hadn’t died in real life.

The entire Emily story line is based on the passing of her husband. The Lorelai-Emily dynamic revolves around this tragic event. Rory finds herself pondering her grandfather’s opinions on her life choices. Luke is even having his life affected by the passing in ways many audience members might find surprising. With all those factors, it is clear we’d be watching an entirely different show if Herrmann was still here. May he rest in peace.

Don’t worry it is not all doom and gloom followed by Eat, Pray,  Love style self rediscovery. The cameos of best friends and boyfriends past actually move the plot along and several characters are central to the women’s lives. This is most prominently seen in Rory’s story line. Her high school friends and her boyfriends from her 15, 17, and 20 year old self. In term of her friends, Lane is unfortunately a very small part, but there is a healthy dose of Paris and her lovers. Unfortunately, Tristan is played by a stand-in because Chad Michael Murray had scheduling conflicts, but otherwise the Paris thread is woven in delightfully well. In terms of boyfriends, Logan gets the most screen time, followed by Jess but both are bitter sweet due to continuing to fail at having a relationship with Rory. There is a cute bit with Dean towards the end but otherwise he is not in the show.

Lorelai’s friends and former boyfriends also make cameos but they have very little screen time, except Michel who is still rocking at life at the Dragonfly Inn. Sookie is played by Melissa McCarthy, one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood, so one scene is all we get. It is a wonderful scene and they do build up to it from the opening of Winter (episode one). In terms of Lorelai’s boyfriends, Max Medina is 100% missing in action. There are scenes they could have inserted him into at Clinton and elsewhere in the show but he is sadly left out. We do get a bit of Christopher but it is again one short scene. His second daughter, Rory’s half sister is merely mentioned although there was real potential for a plot line there.

Luke’s daughter April is also mentioned, but only twice and has one short scene. She was a great part of the end of the original series she is barely a footnote in this reboot. She is not mentioned, invited, or shown in the big ending in Fall. Again this was a plot development that would have been enjoyable to watch unfold and she should have been in many since with Jess in the final episode. It actually felt awkward to not have her there.

Spring and Summer are full of awkwardness due to edits and directory choices. These choices forced segues and made for often nonexistent transitions with up to 7 second black screens.

Many other viewers thought that the Parenthood and Bunheads cast cameos were awkward and unnecessary. I loved it. The show is about life going full circle and is full of audience and story line wish fulfillment. Why shouldn’t it give Lauren Graham  (Lorelai) and the show creator Amy Sherman-Palladino some wish fulfillment and life coming full circle for themselves?

To me the writing issues lay in three aspects. One body shaming scene in Summer. An ongoing vaguely racist bit by Emily. An upper crust CT women being vaguely racist is true to live and her character. I simply dislike it because they don’t full develop that story line and it leaves off with a mini-mystery. Finally I disliked an Across the Universe style dream-esque scene between Logan and Rory. The transitions in edits and directing are so bad that is hard to follow and lacks flow.

I rolled with laughed at the now infamous framed tale of a local musical. This is a non-spoiler review so I won’t go into details. The complaints are that the cast are not locals and the bit goes on too long. Somehow I felt like it was just right. It let my non-fan friends and family jump into my binge and instantly understand the show’s sense humor. It also reminded me of past seasons’s local shows and Edgar Allan Poe Night, which were absolutely classic episodes.

The fairs and locals of Stars Hollow are the heart and soul of the show. Most reviews for this show were written by men and people in big cities, but the majority of viewers during Gilmore Girls hay-day were in small towns, suburbs, and rural America.I grew up in a place like that. I knew my neighbors, had a favorite diner and inn, loved the fairs and our version of the town gazebo, and I was on first name basis with the mayor and editor of the local paper. The charm is not just in the characters but it the fact that it feels like home, our home. Many viewers live in Stars Hollows at least in our nostalgic-filled, idealized, and rose-colored glasses version of our towns and our lives.

As a New England girl, it is this charm that reminds me of Little Women. Jo March has a similar career path, full of struggles like Rory. She also faces economy and class issues. The writing Rory does in this reboot and that Jo March did mimics the journey of their creators in a heartfelt way any writer can relate too. Both women move to New York in their twentys and long to travel. Rory does get to travel to Europe in the original series and does quite a bit of traveling in A Year in The Life but like Jo March, family keeps bringing her back home to New England. Both main characters are complex and sweet stories that I longed to go on enjoying. Thankfully there were numerous books on the life of Jo March but it is unclear it Gilmore Girls will continue.

Ratings are not in yet. Even if the viewership is high the show ended in the foreseeable way Amy Sherman-Palladino planned. The story has come full circle and has a bittersweet ending that is perfect, but you will be left wanting more.

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is a must see for fans and non-fans alike.

For more from Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino,  keep an eye out for the premiere of  their new show on Amazon. The pilot description for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,  says that this is about the adventures of a housewife who becomes a stand-up comic.

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7 Must-See Cinematic Depictions of WWI

It’s ok to admit it, you slept through All Quiet on the Western Front in High School. If we do remember part of it, that was probably all the mud and the rats. Although it is a fact that WWI absolutely had those issues in the trenches, the war was far more complex. In honor of the 100th anniversary of the battle of Somme let’s Netflix (hold the chill 😉 ) and try to understand more about what the Great War really meant.  Check these based-on actual events cinematic depictions of WWI to help you relate and connect to the lives of our relatives over 100 years ago.

Joyeux Noel (2005)

Maybe you remember this classic anecdote from history class; on Christmas Eve 1914 all sides of the military stationed at the Western Front halted fighting and declared a 24 hour truce to celebrate Christmas together and collect their dead. Yeah that last part is creep, but this sentiment is awesome and something you will probably never again hear of as modern war fair becomes more about technology. If you enjoy opera and a little bit of a love story this is the movie for you. PS there are tons of subtitles because the movie has 4 languages (French, Gaelic, German, and English)!

Testament of Youth (2014)

This is a major tear-jerker! My goodness, that trailer made me cry just remembering it all over again! I am so glad I watched this at home and not in theaters! The first time I watched it I cleared out two containers of tissues and freaked my husband out when he came home to find me crying and needing a hug. Seriously, this has numerous beautiful love stories and soul-crushing deaths. This is a cinephiles’s dream and every writers’s true desire, as the BFTA nominated film tells a story which centers around the life of the very real young writer, Vera Brittain.

A Farewell to Arms (1932)

WWI Old-school. This movie is a classic. Based on the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Ernest Hemingway and having since being remade, this film stands the test of time. Unlike novel it is not told in first-person and unlike the cinematic remake, it is not tainted by a post-WWII view. It shows the horror of war via a soundstage, but the stories of the struggles of the soldiers and the loved ones back home shine through the cellude and grayscale.

The Red Baron (2008)

I stumbled on to this gem on Egyptian satellite television. It’s a German production but takes the true and tragic tale to new highs. The cinematography of the flight scenes make you feel like you are part of the action and leave you very happy you’re in the comfort of home while watching it. Experience the evolution of the Freiherr Manfred von Richthofen from a spoiled rich boy to celebrated writer to leader of the WWI flying aces. PS if you enjoed The Peanuts Snoopy as a WWI flying ace this movie will show what it was all about and why Snoopy was so inspired.

Anzac Girls (2014)

I was feeling influenced by my new life in Cairo, so I took a leap of faith and got these dvds. This series focuses on the real lives of female nurses from Australia and New Zealand. The young women find themselves in Suez, Alexandria, and Cairo facing the repercussions of bloody battles at sea. All of the 20-something nurses go through coming-of-age scenarios and travel adventures. This WWI miniseries has the perfect balance of romance and adventure, but will make you tear up…it will probably have you Googling ‘Anzac’ and many other geo-specific terms!

Crimson Field (2014)

If you love ‘Call The Midwife’ than you’ll enjoy Crimson Field. The life of British Nurses along the front is not an easy one. Although this series is not focusing on real characters it depicts many of the real-life difficulties the soldiers, doctors, and nurses faced. It also includes many references to long forgotten real-life events and people. It’s a short one season series that is worth the watch.

Admiral (2008)

I love to explore historical events for different perspectives. This is a Russian biopic of Alexander Kolchak  a Vice-Admiral of the Russian Imperial Navy. The movie is told in flash backs with the first taking place during a battle in the Baltic Sea where the German Imperial Navy and the British Royal Navy had previously been having a fearsome battle.  Then we start to see how the Russian Navy reacted and changed the outcome of the battle. This is the perfect movie to end your marathon with because it shadows the lives of the Vice-Admiral. Rather than only focusing on WWI, the story  goes on to depict the Russian Civil War. There’s fighting, lush costumes and sets, and a sexy love-triangle with a married women and a poet. If you like War & Peace, Anna Karenina, and Dr. Zhivago then this movie is for you.

What are you waiting for!?! Go make some of my delicious popcorn and watch history in the best cinematic fashion.

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My Favorite Popcorn Recipes: Sriracha and Nutella

When its 3am and I’m not writing; I just want to cuddle up with hubby and watch a movie. Then we get to talking, next we’re thirsty, which reminds us were hungry and to end this ‘If You Give A Mouse a Cookie’ style vicious cycle, we start scavenging through the kitchen, foraging for just the right snack. I am always wanting naughty foods. I’m usually craving spicy chicken or chocolate, but then he asks if I can just make yummy stove-top popcorn.

That’s how the idea struck and I started making these; Sriracha Flavored Popcorn and Nutella Flavor Popcorn.

pretty popcornIt’s flavored, because sometimes I use hot chili flakes or jalepeno powder instead of sriracha or buy different brands of chocolate nut butter instead of Nutella because the name brand is so popular the Carrefour here in Maadi, Cairo is often sold out. And there was that one time I mixed melt dark chocolate with peanut butter messer but mmmm delicious! Without further adieu:

SRIRACHA FLAVORED POPCORN

sriracha is awesome

INGREDIENTS

1-2 Tbsp of Sriracha (your favorite hot sauce or hot pepper powder)

2 Tbsp of Butter

1/3 a cup of popcorn

Salt to taste

SUPPLIES

Big pot with lid

Big bowl with lid

Wooden spoon

Mesh spoon/ dotted spoon to remove popcorn from pan but avoid unpopped kernels

DIRECTIONS

  1. After preparing ingredients put the pot on medium heat and butter.
  2. Once the butter melts add the popcorn. Carefully using a wooden spoon to ensure are all the kernels are coated with the butter.
  3.  Place the lid on. As the popping starts take the handle and slide the pot back and forth over the heat to  regulate the temperature and move the kernels around.
  4. Let it pop for 3-5 minutes and then monitor it closely. As the popping slows down to approximately 7 seconds between pops and you kitchen smells of delicious popcorn, turn the heat off. Next is an optional step; put on oven mitts and pinch the lid down while holding the handles. This allows you to flip the pot oven and shake it about to let any remaining kernels have  chance to fall to the bottom, potential hitting a warm spot and popping open.
  5. Put the pot on a trivet and have your bowl and mesh spoon ready. As you open the pot use your lid as a shield and stand back because these babies like to pop up and burn you! Use the spoon to quickly transfer the Popcorn to the bowl. If you have kernels left you can try to pop them using the same Method as above or discard the kernels.
  6. Add salt and sriracha the stir or toss. Pro-tip use a bowl with a lid and shake it up to thoroughly coat it.

sriracha popcorn

Mmm, delicious spicy goodness. Just was you’re reaching for a cold glass of water you’re going to think…I wish I had some chocolaty-goodness to balance this out. Well here’s the perfect thing:

NUTELLA FLAVORED POPCORN

nutella faces

INGREDIENTS

1-2 Tbsp of Nutella (your favorite chocolaty nut spread)

2 Tbsp of Butter

1/3 a cup of popcorn

SUPPLIES

Big pot with lid

Big bowl with lid

Wooden spoon

Mesh spoon/ dotted spoon to remove popcorn from pan but avoid unpopped kernels

DIRECTIONS

*Please note this is repeating the same first five steps as above

  1. After preparing ingredients put the pot on medium heat and butter.
  2. Once the butter melts add the popcorn. Carefully using a wooden spoon to ensure are all the kernels are coated with the butter.
  3.  Place the lid on. As the popping starts take the handle and slide the pot back and forth over the heat to  regulate the temperature and move the kernels around.
  4. Let it pop for 3-5 minutes and then monitor it closely. As the popping slows down to approximately 7 seconds between pops and you kitchen smells of delicious popcorn, turn the heat off. Next is an optional step; put on oven mitts and pinch the lid down while holding the handles. This allows you to flip the pot oven and shake it about to let any remaining kernels have  chance to fall to the bottom, potential hitting a warm spot and popping open.
  5. Put the pot on a trivet and have your bowl and mesh spoon ready. As you open the pot use your lid as a shield and stand back because these babies like to pop up and burn you! Use the spoon to quickly transfer the Popcorn to the bowl. If you have kernels left you can try to pop them using the same Method as above or discard the kernels.
  6. Add Nutella of the chocolate  nut butter of your choice. Then stir or toss. Pro-tip use a bowl with a lid and shake it up to thoroughly coat it. If you like messy melt chocolate stop here and go eat. If you like something neater…
  7. Spread the popcorn out on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes. Make sure the freezer is set on high or the coldest setting.
  8. Once the chocolate firm pour it in a bowl and enjoy!

Screenshot_2016-07-18-10-03-06

I recommend eating the spicy sriracha  popcorn first and let the Nutella popcorn be the dessert of this movie snack feast, but do what you want. My husband likes whichever is done first and one time he even mixed them together!

nutracha
Maybe it’s not as gross as I think. I do love mole and spicy aztec chocolate, it’s probably not much different? I’ll give it a try, maybe the next time I make them 😉

He’s starting House of Cards, so I guess it’s time to go!  Let me know what you think in the comments below and don’t forget to share!

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