Author: Willo Davis Roberts. Release date: 1985. Publisher: Ballantine Books. ISBN: 9780449701775.
Review: This exciting novel, though somewhat out-dated for today’s cell-phone generation, is still full of enough suspense to appeal to ‘tween readers. Darcy Stevens is a very likeable heroine. She wants the Foster children to like her, but is not very confident if she is old enough o handle watching three kids alone in a big mansion. When she and the children are kidnapped, she doesn’t panic, but stays focused on keeping them safe and finding a way to escape. The author does an excellent job of making the kidnappers just mean enough to get the point across, without venturing too far into “scary” territory. Nothing violent or upsetting happens to Darcy and the children beyond them being kidnapped and held captive. This is an important point to make in that the premise of the story could actually be quite terrifying for young readers if not presented properly. Roberts creates just enough suspense to make the story very interesting and difficult to put down. Overall, ‘tweens will enjoy this exciting novel.
Reading level: Grades 4-8
Similar titles: The Kidnappers: A Mystery and Hostage by Willo Davis Roberts.
Personal thoughts: This was one of my absolute favorite books as a ‘tween, and I was delighted to get the chance to read it again as an adult. I remember finding it thoroughly engrossing, exciting and suspenseful when I first read it, despite my typical childhood fear of being kidnapped. I was impressed by Willo Davis Roberts’ ability to tell a story with a frightening plot but make it appropriate for younger readers. Although it is out-dated for this current generation (many of whom would undoubtedly think, “Why didn’t Darcy have a cell phone?”), I still find Baby-sitting is a Dangerous Job to be a fun read for ‘tweens. I was also saddened upon reading this novel to learn that Willo Davis Roberts passed away in 2004 at the age of 76, but know that her novels will continue to excite young readers for years to come.
Themes: Kidnapping, bravery, bonding experiences, child-abuse, running away, baby-sitting.
Awards/Reviews: Positive review from Publishers Weekly. Award-winning author.
Series Information: None
Darcy Stevens – Thirteen-year-old girl who gets a job baby-sitting for the Foster children. She is unsure of her ability to care for the kids, but her courage and tenacity come to light after she and the children are kidnapped.
Jeremy Foster – Six-years-old and oldest of the Foster children. He is mean to Darcy when they first meet, but becomes attached to her and helps her plan their escape after they are kidnapped.
Melissa Foster – Four-years-old and second oldest of the Foster children. She is not as mean as her brother, but plays some tricks on Darcy when they first meet. She becomes attached to Darcy after they are kidnapped.
Shana Foster – Two-years-old and youngest of the Foster children. She is very sweet, and charms the guard dogs into liking the children after they are kidnapped.
Dan Hazen – One of Darcy and the Foster’s kidnappers. He is not very smart, but is the kindest to the children.
Henry Hazen – Another kidnapper. He is not very kind to the children and does most of the work to get the ransom money for the children.
Pa Hazen – The ringleader of the kidnappers. He is very cruel and abusive.
Tim Stevens – Darcy’s older brother who she looks up to. He is very knowledgeable and kind to his sister.
Irene Pappagoras – Darcy’s best-friend. She is in love with Darcy’s older brother, Tim.
Diana Hazen – A friend of Darcy and Irene’s, and daughter of Pa Hazen. She has run away from home to escape her abusive father. Darcy and Irene help her hide out.
Annotation: Thirteen-year-old Darcy Stevens thought she had her work cut out for her when she took the job baby-sitting the three Foster children. Little did she know that she would have to keep herself and the children safe after they are kidnapped!