Henry Reed’s Baby-Sitting Service

Henry juggles the problems of baby-sitting.

Henry anticipates trouble in his jobs as a baby sitter, and comes up with honest, thoughtful solutions for unexpected events and mistakes.

Full Review

This is the fifth story portraying Henry’s enterprising talents.  It is written as a diary in which Henry periodically explains highlights of events over the previous few days.

Of interest to parents is the way Robertson uses Henry’s character to show young readers the attitudes and decisions that bring success.  For example, Henry repeats instructions given by his employers, to avoid confusion, and is careful to write them down, as he does with phone messages.  The story is really a contiguous series of sensible cause and effect relationships between Henry’s actions and their results.  Uncle Al put it as, “Just let things take their course“, by which he means, do the right thing and things will turn out right.

When problems arise he has to tell himself to keep cool and think his way through.  In one case his client has invited her husband’s boss and his wife to dinner and must pick them up from some distance away.   She tells Henry her husband will be home shortly, but that Henry must keep trying to reach him on the phone to tell him to bring steaks etc. home.  However, after she leaves, Henry learns the husband cannot get home until much too late.  Realizing that this would be a significant social gaffe for the couple, Henry calls a friend and they prepare a barbecue dinner for the four adults —in n: cause and effect!

At another client’s home, Belinda, the disappearing 5 year old gets him terribly worried at first, but when she reappears and suggests she had never left, he realizes she is up to some sort of trickery.  First he learns to wait her out.  Then he comes up with a clever plan.  He enlists Midge to babysit and gives her a walky-talky, while he hides to observe with the other walky-talky.   Soon the five year old believes her trickery will no longer work, and she stops hiding.  Again, they devised a cause, not to be related here, that had the desired effect.

Of course, real baby-sitting rarely has so many events to it as Henry experiences. We rarely see Henry coming up with activities for his charges.  From the point of view of showing the young reader what baby-sitting is about, this is a bit unfortunate.  The more a baby sitter brings to the job, to engage the children, the more the sitter will get out of it.

Although there is no overall moral conflict that builds to an urgent need for resolution, the series of events and minor conflicts do come to a climax of sorts.  At the late summer fair Henry is recognized for his entrepreneurial capabilities and seizes an opportunity to obtain a revenge on the worst of the Sebastian twins, without actually being mean.

The author does not dumb down the vocabulary for his readers, so the story is better for children that are willing to look up words such as disposition, mimeograph, macadam, siphoning, spigot, or dilapidated.