This is a translated post of a French post. Click here for the French version.
When I was in elementary school in the ’90s, much like many girls in my generation, I loved The Baby-Sitters Club. The only difference? I read them all in French.
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In fact, before junior high, most of what I consumed was in French. So translations – whether books, movies or TV shows – bring to mind a sense of nostalgia. I grew up on this, for better or for worse. Some translations are really, really bad!
That’s one reason why I’ve been excited to re-read The Baby-Sitters Clubs books. I was expecting the worst, but I have to say I’ve been positively surprised so far!
Growing up, I loved that these were available in French. Mostly because I enjoyed reading the same stories my English friends and cousins read, but I wasn’t a strong English reader until junior high.
Even at a young age, you quickly realize that translations aren’t faithful to the original. All the more obvious when you’re Franco-Ontarian. Imagine you’re discussing The Baby-Sitters Club with your Anglophone neighbours and you realize that THE CHARACTERS’ NAMES AREN’T THE SAME. My eight-year-old mind was blown. It can be a tricky situation when you’re a kid.
You’d often hear on the playground that French versions weren’t the “real” version. They’re both real, but they are different. Although as a whole the story remains the same, there are always a lot of differences.
Often, the differences are small. For instance, jokes are adapted because you can rarely translate humour literally. But differences can be more important. Like changing characters’ names.
Like I found out early on, that’s the case for The Baby-Sitters Club. In fact, that’s the case for most of its translations, including the Québecois version. In France, they kept the original names. Indeed, there are two different French translations of this series. For those who are curious, here are the Baby-sitters’ French and Québecois names:
- Kristy Thomas: Kristy Park: Christine Paul Thomas
- Claudia Kishi: Claudia Kishi: Claudia Kishi
- Mary-Ann Spier: Mary-Ann Cook: Anne-Marie Lapierre
- Stacey McGill: Lucy MacDouglas: Sophine Ménard
- Dawn Schafer: Carla Schafer: Diane Dubreuil
- Mallory Pike: Mallory Pike: Marjorie Picard
- Jessica Ramsey: Jessica Ramsey: Jessica Raymond
It’s also worth noting that the Québecois series takes place in Nouville, a fictitious town in Québec. Throughout the series, other geographic elements are adapted to Canada. For example, Lucy (Stacey) is from Toronto and Carla (Dawn) once lived in Hull.
On to the 40th book in the series. I was especially excited to read Claudia and the Middle School Mystery. Not only was I a huge fan of Claudia as a kid, I also have a penchant for mystery.
The French title — translated literally to Claudia and the Cheater — leaves less to the imagination. Claudia is accused of cheating on her math exam. The BSC members step in to prove her innocence.
Math. That’s not Claudia’s strong suit. After studying, really, really hard for her exam, she rejoices when she gets an A-. But her teacher is less impressed. The student sitting right next to Claudia non only got the same grade, but made the same mistakes. And so, Claudia is disciplined for cheating.
Claudia is distressed — and who can blame her! She worked so hard and it seems so unfair that she’s accused of a crime she didn’t commit. On top of it all, she doesn’t know how to break the bad news to her parents.
The BSC members to the rescue! They launch an investigation and spy on the cheater who admits her crime to her friends. The cheater brags that she overhead Claudia talking about her study efforts. She explains that cheating on Claudia is a perfect crime because she’s not a strong student.
Interesting facts, but nothing can be proven. The Baby-Sitters realize these are useless unless they can prove them. In the end, Claudia’s teacher agrees to a test retake. And she succeeds!
But things don’t go as well for the cheater. The teacher also asked her to retake the test. Taken by surprise, her results aren’t good. In the end, Claudia’s reputation is restored!
This book was a really enjoyable read. It was one of my favourites in the series as a kid. When I started re-reading, I was expecting a mystery story — a crime to solve — but the story is more so one of injustice and friends who have your back.
It’s hard not to sympathize with Claudia in the impossible situation she finds herself in. It’s so frustrating to work hard to reach a goal and when achieved, find yourself accused of cheating.
The messages of teamwork and rallying for a cause still resonate with me. As a kid, in a still mostly black and white world, it was the aspect of injustice that struck a nerve. As an adult, I found the Baby-Sitters as remarkable allies to be especially memorable here.
It also struck me how logically they go about things: even when they overhear the cheater admit her guilt, they know they need proof. Even their solution in the end is reflected.
Growing up, Émilie read all the books she could get her hands on, even the encyclopedias in her parent’s basement. It’s no surprise she now works in communications. By day, she works at local community health centre, by night she’s loves to garden, craft, woodwork and collect whimsical objects. Toujours une fière Franco-Ontarienne! You can follow her on Twitter here.
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