The Summer Before

Original Publication Date: 2010

Ghostwriter? No. Ann M. Martin dedicates this book to Jean Feiwel, David Leviathan, Brenda Bowen, and Bethany Buck. Special thanks is also given to "my nephew Henry for introducing me to Tail Trail and the naked mole rat, and to Haedyn and Holden Riley for inventing the game of Sticky."


This book is set in the summer before seventh grade starts, just before the BSC formed. It's written like a Super Special, with each of the original four girls narrating their chapters, so I've tagged it as such.

Kristy's chapters show a little more of why she was so opposed to Watson at first. The fact that her mother was getting so serious about another man meant that her father really wasn't coming back. She writes her father a letter in hopes that maybe she'll hear from him. It comes back "Addressee Unknown." Despite this, she holds out hope that maybe, just maybe, her father will show on her birthday (in August) to surprise her. He doesn't, of course.

Mary Anne wants to grow up a bit, but this is back when her father was over-protective. She does get a little break: for the first time, her dad agrees to let her baby-sit at the Pikes' with Kristy. The job goes well, and Mary Anne's father agrees to let her continue sitting, but always with another sitter, even if it's just for one child. By the end of the summer she's proven to him that she's mature enough to sit on her own. Mary Anne also wants to be sure to do something really special for Kristy, since she knows about the letter. She plans a day shortly after Kristy's birthday to celebrate her, anticipating that Kristy will be feeling down because she won't hear from her father. Mary Anne is right, and Kristy very much appreciates the effort.

Claudia is noticing that she's maturing faster than Kristy and Mary Anne. They seem a lot younger than she is, but that's not going to stop Claudia from being friends with them and inviting them to her birthday party. She's very excited about the party: for the first time, she's going to invite boys as well as girls, for a pool party (the Goldmans, who live next door, generously let the Kishis swim in their pool). The party is a lot of fun, and Claudia has Janine invite a few friends too. One of the friends is Frankie, who Claudia gets an instant crush on. He seems to like her too, which is a problem since Janine has a crush on him and invited him to get to know him better. Things get more awkward when Claudia and Frankie start spending time together. But then his friends come back from their summer activities and the age difference between the two becomes more obvious (he's Janine's age, about to enter high school), and he breaks up with her. Claudia realizes that she still has people she can rely on: her family and her friends.

Stacey is still in New York City when the books starts, coming off a horrible year of being bullied and excluded due to her recently getting diabetes and all the mess that has happened while trying to figure out a diagnosis and proper management. Laine had started to become distant before this, and the drama surrounding Stacey's diabetes just made things worse. Because of this, she's looking forward to moving to Stoneybrook, where her father has just been transferred. On the first day of school, she meets Claudia and the two bond quickly.

The book ends with Kristy narrating a chapter that recaps the beginning of Kristy's Great Idea and the germination of the Baby-sitters Club.

Established or continued in this book:

The Girls (and Logan):

Claudia candy: M&Ms

And in the last book, Claudia surprises me by pulling into the lead for crushes! She beats Stacey 14-13.

Kristy has a godmother, who sends her a present. No mention of a godfather, though (and I don't recall Claudia's niece Lynn having a godfather).

Kristy gets a fancy watch for her birthday, from her mother. And thus starts the DON'T BE EVEN A SECOND LATE TO MEETINGS Kristy.

Part of Mary Anne's chapters involve her going through a box of her mother's things. Among them is a set of dolls which Mary Anne...not really plays with, but...uses, I guess? And this is why Claudia thinks that Mary Anne still plays with dolls.

Mary Anne has bangs. Really?

Stacey notes that Claudia is wearing bell-bottoms on the first day of school and thinks Claudia is very fashionable. But when Ashely Wyeth wore them...

Their Families:

Kristy's mother started dating Watson in May of the year that Kristy was in sixth grade.

In Claudia's first chapter, her family sits down to a dinner of chicken, rice, and salad, which is exactly what we're having tonight.

When Stacey heads out in NYC, her mom doesn't tell her to "Have fun and be careful." Sad.

Some of Kristy's extended family members are mentioned, with names matching what they've been in other books.

Charlie spent one of his birthdays in Florida. I assume Kristy would have been there, but in Baby-sitters on Board she says she's never left the state (despite doing so in the Portrait Collections), been on a plane, or been to Florida. Certainly one can drive to Florida--I've done so from Seattle--but still. Long drive.

It's really nice to see Mimi in a book again.

The Club (and clients):

So, the deal with so many parties involving little kids? Stacey's surprise going-away party includes the kids she sits for in NYC, and the party Mary Anne plans for Kristy includes the kids they sit for.

Jenny Prezzioso adores Kristy. Too bad Kristy doesn't return the sentiment.


New-to-us teacher: Mrs. Alpin, sixth grade (subject unspecified); Mr. Conklin, sixth grade math;

New-to-us students: Darnell Harris and Polly Hanson (in the girls' grade). A previously-mentioned Kurt is confirmed to be in the same grade as well.

PSA Time:

I really like the point Kristy's mom makes about being mad at people. After a point, it's a waste of your own time and energy, especially when the other person has no idea (in her case, Patrick). It makes sense to remember you can't trust someone, but she rightly points out that spending all your time stewing about the past is unproductive.


That's it! The last of my BSC books. I'll do some summary posts next.

Mary Anne and her family rent the Goldmans' house for a while, but there's no mention of the pool. Or at any point in the other books.

Kristy plans a picnic dinner with her family so they can watch for shooting stars while they eat. What time are they eating? Because sun sets at about 8:30 in Connecticut in the summer. Plus there's not a reliable meteor until August...

At one point, Claudia uses mascara to try to make a "beauty mark" on her face (think Cindy Crawford's mole). My mom has told me that when she was younger, her classmates would do this and it was funny to watch the beauty mark migrate around their faces. My mom has a natural one so she didn't need to use Sharpies or mascara like her friends.

The numbers:

Starting 8th grade: 13

Halloweens in 8th grade: 6 (plus one in seventh)

Thanksgivings in 8th grade: 5

Winter holidays in 8th grade (that BSC members celebrate in the plot of a book, not just reference): Christmas-6, Hanukkah-2, Kwanzaa-3

Valentine's Days in 8th grade: 6

St. Patrick's Days in 8th grade: 1

Summers after 8th grade: 14

BSC Fights: 13

SMS Staff and Faculty: 71

Students (other than the BSC): 221: 127 8th graders (not including Amelia Freeman, who is deceased), 31 7th graders, 48 6th graders, 15 unspecified. Baby-sitters' Winter Vacation tells us that SMS has about 380 students.

Clients: 38 families

Types of candy in Claudia’s room: 153

Mary Anne-2

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