Monday, June 27, 2016

Book Review: Logan Bruno Boy Baby-Sitter

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Logan Bruno Boy Baby-Sitter (Baby-Sitters Club Special Edition)

Author: Ann M. Martin

Author's web page: (Found from the home page that highlights Martin's new series, but yes, there's still a page for the Baby-Sitters.)

Date: 1993

Publisher: Apple / Scholastic

ISBN: 0-590-47118-X

Length: 133 pages

Quote: “Coach Leavitt had canceled our track team practice, so I had decided to attend the meeting. That afternoon, all nine members were present…eight Nicky Cash fans versus me.”

To the girls in the Baby-Sitters Club, Mary Anne’s official boyfriend Logan seems just about perfect. Readers might have wondered what is going on in the life of a boy who not only hangs out with wholesome baby-sitter types, but occasionally baby-sits. Does he play sports? Does he have male friends? Is he, y’know, masculine enough to be a good role model for little boys he might baby-sit?

I read this book with some insights, and some nostalgia, because my brother was a boy baby-sitter. I know what was going on in his case. The parents asked me; our parents wanted me to get some work experience but didn’t completely trust the children’s father, who had made a pass at an older girl baby-sitter a few years earlier, so they laid down the law to both of us: we had to baby-sit as a team—and we had to baby-sit our own little sister along with the three other tots of her approximate age. I was sure I was doomed to a lifetime of unemployment. Actually, having “three of us and three of them” worked out pretty well; my sister could play quietly with the quieter little girl, I could keep an eye on the mischievous one, and my brother was fast and tough enough to keep the boy on a tight leash. All six of us bonded. Later, that bond helped my sister cope with the sudden transition to being the Only Child Left at Home.

I know what living with a boy baby-sitter is like, too. It was fun. My brother never listed baby-sitting, day care, or elementary education among the jobs he wanted to be prepared to do as an adult. His short list included farming, construction, carpentry, biological research, and beekeeping; after a successful “Career Exploration” experience he added adult education; with some prodding from male relatives he allowed a few years for minimal military service, after we’d fought a fire he listed fire fighting as a side interest, and with some encouragement from Mother he added evangelical preaching to the list. 

Despite a natural talent and one track trophy, my brother never took sports seriously. He did like running; he complained more than I did as it became obvious that I wasn’t built to be a star athlete, and even spoke wistfully of wanting to run with the high school track and cross-country teams. My brother might have liked to have known more boys his own age who shared his own interests, but accepted the fact that very few of the boys even in my class, four grades ahead, had reached his mental age yet. So possibly, when he was eleven and twelve, hanging out with a four-year-old boy was no less satisfactory, maybe even less embarrassing than hanging out with guys who were supposed to be thinking on his level and just…weren’t. 

End of memoir; on to the book. The boy baby-sitter Ann Martin knew best obviously shared some part of my brother’s experience. Logan is a top student, called a genius by envious schoolmates; he’s on the track team, and thinks of the other boys on the team as friends, but they’re just not intelligent enough to be close friends. Girls like Mary Anne are a little closer to Logan’s mental level, but not quite there yet, either. So when T-Jam, the leader of an eighth grade “gang” who spend a lot of time smoking cigarettes and working on high school gangsters’ cars, asks Logan to be his friend and tutor, why should Logan expect Jam to be a less satisfactory friend than the slower-witted boys, the girls, and the little kids he already knows? Maybe ol’ Jam, who wants so much to be more sophisticated, will be closer to Logan’s mental age…

Jam, of course, is less satisfactory than the other sources of social frustration Logan knows. Logan is just too nice to imagine what lay ahead with a friend like T-Jam. For starters, he’s never really thought about the fact that the way criminals bond and establish “honor among thieves” is by “getting something on” one another, so being part of the gang means being part of the kind of stupid pranks that get eighth grade boys bumped from prep school into reform school.

But this is a Baby-Sitters Club story, in which lots of respectable adults know how deeply decent Logan is, so you know the ending will be very, very nice. I don’t need to spoil it by saying any more…except to note that there are times when boys who aren’t at the head of their classes, aren’t rich, aren’t handsome, don’t have girlfriends, don’t live in posh suburbs, and would never be hired as baby-sitters, get into messes just like Logan’s, for similar reasons. Too often those boys don’t have character witnesses, and a stupid kid prank in which they may not even have participated can launch them into lives of crime. The Baby-Sitters Club are far too young to be allowed to get to know problem students in inner-city schools, of course, and can’t be blamed for never having done that…but this novel made me want to growl at them, “After you’re thirty or forty years old you’d dang well better teach in inner-city schools. See for yourselves what might’ve happened to Logan if he’d been Black and/or Latino and/or fatherless and/or merely poor.” Oh, maybe not—it didn’t happen to Ben Carson—but there’s nothing remotely typical about Dr. Carson. Ordinary kids in situations like his need help from adults. 

Like the other Baby-Sitters Club books, this one is available as a Fair Trade Book, which means that when you send $5 per book + $5 per package to either address at the very bottom of the screen, I send $1 per book to Ann Martin or a charity of her choice. (If you want one, I'll even dress a doll like Logan on the cover of this book; packages including dolls cannot contain other books, and they cost $20.) At least eight BSC books will fit into one package for a total of $45 (to us), thus $8 (to Martin or her charity).

"Men's issues" as a Blogspot Label? I've not used it before, but why not? Guys do face issues; this book happens to be about one of them.