There are several rites of passage that tweens typically go through. Discovering your first zit. Wearing the wrong color shoes to school. Calling the teacher “mom.” Convincing an adult that you’re perfectly capable, at 12 years old, to be in charge of another child. Babysitting can be a fun, rewarding, and challenging experience. Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, and Stacey go through the entire range. While we focused on Kristy’s adventures during our discussion, the series explores the realities of things like dealing with difficult clients to navigating personal issues like friendship conflicts. Young readers looking for all the thrills of being a babysitter with none of the hassle might enjoy the following books:
- Best Babysitters Ever by Caroline Cala
It’s a tale as old as time. Malia, Dot, and Bree start a babysitting business to earn money after being inspired by Babysitter’s Club. They quickly realize that babysitting is more challenging than they anticipated, especially when they take on a particularly difficult job with a mischievous little boy. As the girls work to navigate the challenges of babysitting, they also confront issues of friendship and personal growth. Their babysitting mishaps give readers all of the usual relatable humor that comes from coming-of-age middle-grade books.
- Gabby Duran and the Unsittables by Elise Allen & Daryle Conners
When Gabby Duran moves to Florida with her family and becomes a babysitter, she’s surprised to find that the agency specializes in caring for children with unusual or otherworldly abilities. Gabby finds herself in charge of a diverse group of “Unsittables,” including a boy with tentacles, a girl who can turn invisible, and a young alien prince. As Gabby navigates the challenges of babysitting these unique children, she discovers secrets about the agency and her own family history that lead her on an exciting adventure. This book is great for anyone who loved Babysitter’s Club but wishes it was weirder.
- The Vampire Doll by Kat Shepherd
Tanya has never lost her cool and she’s not about to start, even in the face of a potentially haunted house. Oh, that haunted house is home to a large collection of dolls? Tanya still remains cool. What, one of the dolls seems to be getting more robust as the girl she’s babysitting grows weaker? That’s gonna be a problem. Tanya is going to need all of her friends to stop the doll’s curse from spreading and save themselves and the children they are caring for. Readers who enjoy this Goosebumps and Babysitter’s Club mashup will be delighted to learn that this is one book in a series of four.
Teens and adults well past their babysitter/babysitting years might try some of these titles:
- Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
If you think babysitting is hard, try adding the intersectionality of race and class privilege. Emira is a young Black woman working as a babysitter for Alix, a wealthy white woman. When Emira is accused of kidnapping the toddler while out shopping, a chain reaction of events is set off. Emira and Alix must confront their own biases and assumptions if they hope to find out what happened to Alix’s daughter. Reid does an incredible job of showing how Emira’s experiences with Alix and her social circle are reflective of how Black women are often expected to perform emotional labor in ways that are not recognized.
- I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick
When Anna Cicconi takes a summer job as a nanny in the wealthy vacation town of Herron Mills, she’s hoping for a fresh start. Shortly after her arrival, however, Anna becomes obsessed with the disappearance of a local girl named Zoe Spanos. She can’t help it; Zoe looks eerily similar to her. When Zoe’s body is discovered months later, Anna confesses to her murder, despite having no memory of the crime. The book is told in alternating timelines, with one following Anna’s present-day investigation and trial for the murder of Zoe Spanos, and the other detailing the events leading up to Zoe’s disappearance. As Anna delves deeper into the mystery, she uncovers shocking secrets about the town and the people who knew Zoe.
- The Yakuza’s Guide to Babysitting by Tsukiya; translated by Jenny McKeon
Kenji Tanaka is a yakuza enforcer (think along the lines of the Mafia) who finds himself tasked with babysitting the infant son of his boss’s mistress. It’s embarrassing. “The Demon of Sakuragi,” the right-hand man of the Sakuragi crime family, is reduced to nothing but childcare. Despite his initial reluctance, however, Kenji quickly becomes attached to the baby and takes on the role of a devoted caregiver. When the baby is kidnapped, Kenji must use his skills as a yakuza to track down the kidnappers and rescue the child. Is this a wholesome story? A violent one? Why not both?
Babysitting is a pretty common trope in horror books. The heightened sense of vulnerability and helplessness of the situation lends itself to all sorts of danger. The babysitter often finds themselves in danger when a supernatural or psychotic force targets them and the children they are responsible for. The babysitting scenario has been used in horror classics like When a Stranger Calls as well as more recent titles such as The Babysitter by R.L. Stine. As vicious horror readers (at least, in the case of Ella and Hannah), here are some additional titles that we couldn’t help but recommend:
- The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer by Liza Rodman and Jennifer Jordan Let’s start with a nonfiction horror book for maximum terror. Liza Rodman recounts her experiences as a child spending summers in Provincetown, Massachusetts, with a babysitter named Tony Costa. As the title suggests, Costa was later discovered to be a serial killer. Rodman reflects on her memories of him: he was charming and charismatic on the surface but also had a dark and violent side. The book does a great job of combining Rodman’s personal story with details of Costa’s horrific crimes and examines the impact that childhood trauma can have on a child’s perceptions of reality.
- The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
Rowan Caine is a young woman who is hired as a live-in nanny for a wealthy family (shocker, right) in a remote Scottish Highlands estate. The house is a state-of-the-art smart home with advanced technology built right in. Soon after arriving, however, Rowan discovers that the technology meant to make her job easier is malfunctioning. The family’s young daughter claims that the house is haunted. When one of the children in her care dies, Rowan has a hard time convincing herself otherwise. As she begins to realize that her safety is in jeopardy, the secrets of the family are revealed. Will she be able to fight against the accusations that she is responsible for the murder?
- The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
Myriam and Paul are a young Parisian couple who hire the seemingly perfect nanny, Louise, to take care of their two children. At first, Louise appears to be the ideal caregiver. She’s competent, compassionate, adaptable, and sweet. What could go wrong, right? As the story progresses, however, Louise’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic and unsettling. As the lines blur between professional and personal relationships, tensions continue to escalate. The Perfect Nanny is a chilling examination of the dark side of human nature.
Shhh, here are two more books that you’ll have to request via OCLC if you want them, but we can’t help ourselves:
This blog is created by Hannah and Ella in conjunction with the These Books Made Me podcast, a Prince George’s County Memorial Library System production. Check out the corresponding episode on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you normally listen to podcasts.