“Well, there’s no question whatever about what’s wanted,” Uncle Al said. “Eleven people say there is a desperate need for baby-sitters.”
“Well, I’m not going to baby-sit,” I said. “That’s a sissy job.”
“It all depends on the attitude,” Uncle Al said. “Be a he-man if you want to and go chop wood all day for seventy-five cents or a dollar an hour. Or sit in a comfortable chair and watch TV while some three-year-old sleeps.”
There was something to what he said, but there are a lot of drawbacks to baby-sitting too.
“Don’t take care of tiny babies,” Aunt Mable suggested. “Baby-sitting is a very responsible job. Much more responsible, for example, than exercising someone’s horse.
“It may be a responsible job but it’s uninteresting. Nothing ever happens.”
“That’s the mark of a good baby-sitter,” Aunt Mable said. “Nothing should ever happen.”
Henry Reed is a 15-year-old boy eager to earn some money over the summer. He’s living in Grover’s Corner, New Jersey, and from the pay-rates Uncle Al is throwing around you can guess that it’s sometime in the 1950s or ‘60s. Henry and his friend Midge have previously gone into business together so they feel like old pros when it comes to launching Henry Reed’s Babysitting Service. What can go wrong?
From the first job, watching a very taxing troublemaker named Danny, to the frustrations involved with a quiet, disappearing menace named Belinda, to the ludicrous episode of watching over a raucous pet peacock, Henry discovers that baby-sitting is not such a piece of cake after all. He and Midge are a force to be reckoned with, however, and with persistence and clever creativity, they manage to outsmart the neighborhood kidzillas after all.
There are several Henry Reed books by Keith Richardson, and I remember loving them when I was a kid. They are written in the format of Henry’s journal entries. Henry is a likeable boy, and the stories are full of timeless humor. Robert McCloskey has illustrated them, bringing a delightful, Norman Rockwell-esque feel to the drawings. Best perhaps for ages 8-12, and a good option for an older, reluctant reader.