Best Babysitters Ever
by Cala, Caroline

Mayhem ensues in their town when three best friends, motivated by unlimited snacks, no parents, and earning money for an epic seventh-grade party, find an old copy of "The Babysitters Club" and decide to start their own babysitting business.

Caroline Cala worked as an editor at Penguin Random House before pursuing her lifelong dream to write. Her work has been featured byVogue,Refinery29,ELLE, Bustle, the Huffington Post,Design*Sponge,A Cup of Jo, and many others. Find her on Instagram @carolinecala. Best Babysitters Ever is her middle grade debut. 

Fans of the Baby-Sitters Club books are a natural fit for this debut novel about three enterprising girls, Malia, Dot, and Bree, who decide to start a babysitting business, despite the fact that they don't particularly like children. Their motive? To earn enough money to throw a huge party. The girls' plan hits a snag, however, when Malia's sister decides to start a rival babysitting service (the Seaside Sitters) to put them out of business. Malia has always felt inferior to her sister Chelsea, so Malia is doubly frustrated when she finally finds something she is good at, only to have Chelsea steal her idea. As the story moves forward, Malia hatches a plan to stand up to her sister and reclaim her business idea. Cala incorporates themes of sibling rivalry, jealousy, competition, friendship, manipulation, entrepreneurship, and first crushes into this realistic series starter. As the pressures of running a business and rivalries mount, readers will find themselves rooting for the best babysitters ever. Try with Raina Telgemeier's graphic novel Kristy's Great Idea? (2015). Grades 5-8. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

Inspired by The Baby-Sitters Club series by Ann M. Martin, three best friends start a babysitting business. Hijinks ensue. In her middle-grade debut, Cala introduces readers to a new gang of best friends intent on making fast money by wrangling messy children. Malia (or "Alia," according to her rebranding campaign) is a sporty girl with her sights set on throwing THE BEST joint birthday party ever with her two best friends, Bree and Dot. The only thing standing in their way is their lack of cash. Luck, or maybe fate (as Dot's "yogi-slash-tarot-card-reader" mom might claim), leads Malia to a free copy of Kristy's Great Idea-and inspiration strikes. It's not all smooth sailing. At one point Malia rallies her friends by telling them "Dreams are everything in life! Without them, we're just blobs with feet that go to school and do a bunch of stuff we don't really want to do." Thanks to witty banter, ample humor and excellent characterization, readers will enjoy following thi s group of young dreamers as they attempt to gain some independence in their preteen lives. Though at times the storytelling is a bit all over the place (the third-person narration alternates among the three), the characters are sincere and genuine. Cala delves into insecurities and worries that young readers will no doubt find familiar. Malia presents black and Dot presents white; "technically...half Jewish" Bree has "olive" skin and shiny black hair. A humorous homage that will appeal to lovers of quirky friendship stories. (Fiction. 11-13) Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Chapter One


Technically, the Baby-Sitters Club was someone else's idea. But Malia was the one who stole it, and she thought it was okay to be proud of that.
     The epiphany came during the worst week ever. Monday started off with an algebra test where she left half of the answers blank, followed by gym class, where she walked many, MANY semi-aerobic circles around the basketball court, upon which Connor Kelly-aka the only boy worth loving-was practicing free throws. Malia was wearing her new silver leggings and the ultra-curling mascara she'd borrowed from her best friend Bree Robinson even though it made Bree freak out because sharing mascara could apparently lead to eye infections. But Connor didn't look at her once.
     On Tuesday morning, Malia walked to school-yes, walked, on foot like some kind of pilgrim-because her evil big sister, Chelsea, cast her out of their regular carpool. One of Chelsea's dumb friends had a science project that was taking up Malia's usual spot in the back seat, and so she was left without transportation.
     Like that wasn't bad enough, on her way down the front walk, she dropped her phone, and the screen shattered into a billion little pieces. Malia could already hear her mom's voice the moment she saw it. "Ma-li-a," she'd say, drawing the name out like some kind of curse word. "You have to learn to be more responsible." Every time she said Malia's name, no matter the occasion, it sounded like it was laced with disappointment. After all, Malia wasn't turning out anything like Malia Obama, the brilliant first daughter after whom she was named. Instead, she was destined to be Malia Twiggs, which anyone had to admit sounded kind of bootleg. This is what led her to rebrand herself as "Alia," a campaign that had been met with moderate success. Malia was still constantly correcting people for including the M. But she had faith that eventually it would stick.
     It was only October and so far, seventh grade was turning out to be all kinds of meh. Even Malia's once-favorite pastime-killing time at the Playa del Mar Mall-had become insanely depressing. She and her friends wandered in endless loops, eating food-court chicken, and looking at all the things they had no money to buy. Her mom called it "window shopping" and said it was good for building character, but Malia called it "torture," since that's what it actually was.
     To make matters worse, seventh grade wasn't bad for everyone. Seemingly all of her classmates were bringing their A game, like Sheila Brown, whose thirteenth birthday party had featured an actual elephant, and Charlotte Price, who'd hosted the most lavish bat mitzvah the world had ever seen. Thanks to her high-flying classmates, Malia's own upcoming birthday was hard to look forward to. Her typical plan-a backyard party with her two best friends-was usually the highlight of her fall, but this year, such a gathering would pale in comparison. Malia had yet to come any closer to realizing how to make her joint-birthday-party dreams a reality.
     So anyway, there she was, broke and bad at math, with zero romantic prospects, and now she couldn't even check Instagram without the threat of cutting her fingers. It was almost too much to handle.
     "Wisdom of the universe, come to me!" Malia said, which is something her other best friend Dot Marino's mom told her to do whenever she felt confused. Dot's mom was a yogi-slash-tarot-card-reader, which, in their tiny hippie beach town, was actually less weird than it sounds. She was kind of nuts, but in this one instance, Malia figured it couldn't hurt to follow her advice.
     Malia continued on her walk for another block, when straight up ahead, she spied a bunch of cardboard boxes outside the local library, labeled FREE STUFF! Even she could afford free stuff! It looked like the librarians had gone on a wild cleaning spree, ferreting out any old books, magazines, and DVDs that no longer had a place on the shelves.
     The biggest box was overflowing with books-cookbooks, gardening books, an illustrated volume of dog breeds, and a guide to achieving optimum colon health. (Ew.) Malia noticed a little yellow corner peeking out from the middle of the jumble.
     She pulled it loose to reveal an ancient paperback. It was wrinkled and worn, and the bottom corner was entirely missing, like someone had tried to eat it and then changed her mind. The Baby-Sitters Club was spelled out in red-lettered alphabet blocks, followed by the title Kristy's Great Idea. The cover illustration showed four girls wearing the most basic clothes she'd ever seen. Like, there was a turtleneck. And loafers. And a vest. Malia had seen the newer version of this book floating around school, and a couple of her friends had even read it, but the original cover was really something to behold.
     Four friends and baby-sitting-what could be more fun? read the tagline. Um, she could think of about eight million things. Still, she couldn't explain why, but she felt like she was meant to find this book. It was a sign from the universe.
     Malia settled onto the rickety wooden bench in front of the library and read the first chapter. She learned how Kristy Thomas, a sports-loving tomboy with a mom who said things like "Drat!" had this big idea to form a babysitting club. She and her three friends met multiple times a week, answered a corded telephone, ate various things wrapped in plastic, and got hired to watch people's children. Weird, she thought. Is this seriously what people found fun in the '90s? The idea of minding kids for money had honestly never occurred to her before. She didn't read much more, but she didn't have to. She had an idea. Technically, she had Kristy's idea. Now it was time to recruit the rest of the club.

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