Jessi’s Secret Language (The Baby-Sitters Club, #16)

ISBN: 0590604104
ISBN 13: 9780590604109
By: Ann M. Martin Jean Feiwel Bethany Buck

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Baby Sitters Club Bsc Childhood Childhood Books Children Children's Books Childrens Fiction To Read Young Adult

About this book

Jessi makes her mark on the BSC when she studies American Sign Language and learns how to communicate with the club's new client, a deaf boy.

Reader's Thoughts


This whole series is great for girls between 11-15 years old. I read every last one of them as I was growing up.


All my sign language came rushing back when I read this. It was pretty cool!

Idea Smith

If a book were a person, 'Jessi's Secret Language' would be a very, very likeable one. This is the first Jessi book and it also introduces the Braddock kids, Matt and Haley. Matt is profoundly deaf and the Babysitters Club is asked to learn sign language so they can interact with him. Jessi takes on the challenge, in addition to rehearsing for the lead role in a ballet production. Jessi's commitment doesn't just have her learning a new language but helping Matt integrate better into his neighborhood and also bringing ballet to a bunch of hearing impaired 7-year-olds.This is a sweet book but original enough to be fresh and entertaining for all readers. I loved the character of Jessi, her sensitivity towards her charges and to her two best friends. This one is probably one of the best Babysitters Club books.


yup, I'm the dork that re-read this book well into her 20's.... gotta love a classic :)


Another one of my favs!


i always thought this book was a real yawn, & my opinion hasn't really changed much in the last twenty years. it's the first jessi book, but jessi is, sadly, not exactly the most compelling character in the series. i was never into horse stories, ballet, baby brothers, or whining about being eleven, so jessi never really captured my imagination.anyway--the A-plot involves jessi being hired on as a regular sitter for matt & haley braddock. the sitters haven't worked with the braddocks before, & there's a complication: matt is profoundly deaf. mrs. braddock coaches jessi on american sign language so that she can communicate with matt while she's sitting for him. haley is fluent & can help out, but apparently jessi is awesome at languages (much has been made in the fandom of her claim that she became "practically bilingual" after spending a week in mexico) & picks up ameslan right away. she likens it to dancing, because it is communicating through movement.this segues into our B-plot--jessi is auditioning at her ballet school for a role in their production of "coppelia". she hopes to land a townsperson role, if nothing else, but shockingly enough, she instead is cast as swanilda, the female lead. a few of the other girls in her class are jealous haters at first. jessi feels bad, because she's the newest student at the school, & the youngest en pointe student, & she knows that there weren't a whole lot of black people wandering around medieval europe (when/where the play is set), so jessi being cast as swanilda is historically questionable. but she dances her ass off & the jealous girls in her class eventually have to concede that jessi is a great dancer (even though she claims, repeatedly, that she's not interested in being a professional ballerina).the two stories come together when jessi meets a ballet classmate's sister, who is also deaf. jessi signs & asks if the sister is also a dancer. the girl says no, because she can't hear the music. jessi realizes that matt braddock has never been to the theatre or anything. she talks to mrs. braddock & matt's teacher at his special school for deaf children, & arranges for matt & his classmates to attend the opening night of "coppelia," with haley narrating each act & mrs. braddock translating in american sign language for the deaf students. the entire babysitters club, plus jessi's family, including her cousin, keisha, from new jersey, all attend the performance & it's a big hit. mr. & mrs. ramsey take everyone out for dinner after & jessi is sure to say that she orders ambrosia (sliced fruit covered in cocnut--ugh) instead of cherry cheesecake because she has to watch her weight for ballet. it seems really sad for an eleven-year-old to deny herself a slice of cheesecake after a huge, taxing ballet performance. but whatever. the babysitters are always doing things that have no relationship with their ages.oh, the whole secret language thing--okay, haley is sometimes upset that hearing kids in their neighborhood make fun of matt or think he's weird because he's deaf. she gets sick of defending him. so jessi spreads the word that american sign language is like a secret language, & the kids around town get excited about learning it. that way, matt makes friends who can sign with him, freeing haley up to make friends of her own without having to constantly look out for matt. the pikes all want to learn how to sign, & the triplets & nicky become friends with matt, while haley makes friends with vanessa. when shit like this happens, i imagine these kids filling out their college applications in ten years. knowing ameslan isn't a bad thing to have on your CV.

Hester Thorpe

I feel almost embarrassed admitting this but every now and then, when I'm tired of reading my "adult" books or I'm just not feeling the books on my bedside table, I'll wander over to the stack of paperbacks that I have up for trade on and pull off one of those to read. Nearly all of them are BSC books. I grew up reading these stories and loving these characters. I've read almost the entire series and amassed quite a collection of books over the years. After going to the ballet with Mom this weekend, I just kept thinking of this particular book in the series and needing me some Jessi. The thing I love most about these books as an adult is that i can read them in under an hour. They're popcorn books, just a few bites and it's gone. Try saying that about Game of Thrones!


I have serious problems with this book. Is ASL that easy?? Every kid seemed to learn it in a couple of weeks :S I guess I'm a bit biased because I watch "Switched at Birth" ( where many of the Hearing Impaired Community problems are addressed and people don't find it so easy to learn.In other themes... this is my first Jessi book (had never read one from her POV) and she kind of disappointed me but I don't really know why :S I guess I really felt I was reading an 11-year-old diary this time U.U

Ashely Nicole

Such a joy to read!I decided to read this book because I was feeling a bit nostalgic. I grew up reading these books and had all of them at one point. Jessi was always one of my favorites. I love the fact that she's a dancer. I love how she gets to learn sign language and mix it together with her ballet in this book. I love the way Ann M. Martin used her to tell the story. Very unique and easy to read way. Overall, this book took me back and made me feel good as I read it. I would definitely recommend it to other little girls around the world.


This was one of my favorite books in this series because I thought Jessi was a neat character and I loved that she was willing to learn sign language to be able to communicate with a deaf sitting charge, though there were some inaccuracies and even some faux pas in how it was presented. We also get to see Jessi in her dance classes, dealing with not fitting in herself (because she's new, because she's the youngest, and because--of course--she's black, and no one else is). And I liked the information that filtered in about the actual plot of the ballet that Jessi auditioned for, and the peek into the dance class. I took some dance when I was a kid but not ballet, so this was pretty neat to see. I was very interested in naming trends when I was a kid--actually, I still am--and I think this is the book that made me think "Haley" was a cool name. (It was the name given to the sister of Matt, Jessi's deaf charge.) Even though it bothered me that they suggested her name-sign was a flying H "like Halley's Comet," because that insinuated that "Halley's Comet" is pronounced "Haley" and it isn't. (It rhymes with "Alley," kids.) There was also a deaf girl named Adele in this book. That was the first time I heard that name and I liked it. I used both "Haley" and "Adele" as character names in future original works of fiction, and still remember that I got the names from this book. Anyway, I actually think that getting hearing kids to be interested in communicating with a deaf boy by calling it "A Secret Language" was kinda clever--I don't know if it would work, but maybe. And I liked that Matt's whole existence and personality didn't center around being deaf. He loved reading and playing baseball, and was able to play sports with the neighborhood kids without a significant amount of special treatment.

Elise Hedlund

Although I enjoy reading all the baby-sitters club books I especially liked this one. Jessi's secret language tells a wonderful story in descriptive words and a way that makes you want to read to the end the moment you pick it up. Jessi has some problems fitting in but she perseveres and helps others, not just herself. I recommend this particular book to most people, especially people who have some trouble fitting in like Jessi. Most of the other baby-sitters club books I would recommend to babysitters and future babysitters. All in all, I really enjoyed this book and I bet you will too.

Abraham Ray

I registered a book at!

Rachel Brand

This isn't one of my favourite BSC books - Mallory and Jessi never seemed to have such strong character development as the older characters - but I still enjoyed it a lot. This book covers a lot of issues - the difficulties of living with a deaf sibling, coping with jealousy, moving to a new neighbourhood and making new friends. Quite impressive for under 150 pages! BSC books are the best comfort reading for exam time. 8/10

Delicious Strawberry

It was always refreshing to see the Baby-Sitters Club encounter kids that were different in some way (for example, Kristin babysat an autistic girl) In this book, Jessi takes on the baby-sitting duty of a boy who is deaf. The book was well-written and researched. Yes, it's a kids' book, so it doesn't offer a complex perspective in the world of the deaf or anything like that, but for its reading level, the context was presented appropriately, and it was cool to see Jessi learn sign language.


Jessi, one of the newest (and youngest) members of the Baby-sitter's Club, gets a weekly job babysitting for a new family in town, the Braddocks. the Braddocks have two children--Haley and Matt. Matt is deaf, so Jessi begins to learn sign language to communicate with him.Being one of the only black people in their town, Jessi understands how it feels to be different and isolated from the people around her. She begins to realize, however, that Matt's deafness not only isolates him from children his age, but also Haley, who feels responsible for her brother, but sometimes wishes he could be "normal" like other kids. She has the idea to not only introduce the Braddock children to other kids their ages, but also teach the neighborhood children Matt's "Secret Language." Soon, all the babysitters are learning 'Ameslan' and teaching it to their charges.Having always enjoyed this series when I was a kid, I was pleased to see how well it held up when I reread this title. Martin does a great job of instilling a sense of empathy in the story, and also drawing parallels between experiences that might not seem immediately similar to children who are reading the story. By this I mean not only the fact that Jessi relates to how Matt and Helen feel as outsiders in their community, but also the similarity she draws between dancing ("telling a story with your body") and sign language. I think this encourages young readers to not only put themselves in the position of people who they don't think (at first) that they can relate to, but also start to see that something that might not seem normal--like sign language--is actually very similar to something that is very familiar, like dancing.

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