The Summer Before
A book review for parents
This tween chick-lit book is a prequel to the first book in the original "The Baby-Sitters Club" series. It is written by Ann M. Martin and is published by Scholastic Press, a division of Scholastic Inc.
The Summer Before is written for kids ages 9 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
As the summer before seventh grade begins, Kristy and Mary Anne are sad because their friendship with Claudia seems to be changing. Claudia feels she is growing up faster than Mary Anne and Kristy, and she wants to explore other interests, such as fashions and boys. At her birthday party, Claudia meets Frankie, who becomes her first crush. Claudia's older sister, Janine, likes Frankie as well, and Claudia's friendship with Frankie creates tension between the sisters. Miles away, Stacey is helping her parents prepare for their upcoming move to Stoneybrook. She is looking forward to a fresh start after being ostracized by her friends in New York City, a situation that has been further complicated by her parents' decision to keep her diabetes diagnosis a secret from those outside of the family.
All four girls enjoy baby-sitting, and Mary Anne is especially happy when her father, a strict widower, allows her to baby-sit on her own. When Watson, the boyfriend of Kristy's mother, asks Kristy to baby-sit for his children, she refuses because she dislikes the possibility of the two families becoming one. Kristy is devastated when her father fails to attend her birthday party, so Mary Anne uses baby-sitting money to throw a special celebration to show Kristy how much she is loved. After Claudia's friendship with Frankie ends, she realizes she has been neglecting her other relationships. Claudia, Mary Anne and Kristy have a heart-to-heart talk and decide that they have shared too much over the years to let their friendship go. Stacey and her parents settle into their new house, and she meets Claudia on the first day of school — the same day Kristy decides to start the baby-sitters club.
Mary Anne's father says a blessing for his deceased wife before every meal.
Kristy's father rarely has contact with her or her siblings, but her mother provides a stable home and responds with understanding to Kristy's frustrations regarding Watson. Mary Anne's father controls much of Mary Anne's life, including selecting the clothes she wears and her hairstyle. He realizes he can be overprotective at times, but he explains to Mary Anne that he only does this because she is all he has. Mimi, Claudia's grandmother, is sensitive to the changes Claudia is experiencing, and she helps Claudia mend her friendships and her relationships. While allowing Stacey a great deal of independence in some areas, her parents carefully supervise all aspects of her life relating to her diabetes. Although they keep her diagnosis a secret out of a desire to protect her, she feels that not disclosing this information has pushed her friends further away.
Other Belief Systems
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Which one of the girls do you relate to the most and why?
- What kinds of changes have you experienced in your friendships?
How did you respond?
Why were Claudia, Mary Anne and Kristy able to remain friends while Stacey and Laine were not?
- How do Janine and Claudia resolve their conflict over Frankie?
What could they have done differently to stop fighting earlier?
- Do you feel Stacy's parents made the right decision in not telling other people about her diabetes?
Why or why not?
How do you think her experiences might have been different had her family been willing to talk about her medical condition with others?
Stacey's parents consume alcohol with a meal.
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.