Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Baby-Sitters Club is Back, Y'all!


I was very glad when I started bookselling to find out that I'm not the only one who was obsessed with the Baby-Sitters Club, and that still remembering all the members of the BSC (along with their hair color and basic personality profile) is nothing to be ashamed of. Four out of five of the just-the-right-age ladies I meet will give me a knowing smile when I mention the BSC, and I can't tell you how many horror-struck faces I've seen when I have to break the news that unfortunately, the Baby-Sitters Club books are out of print, and no you cannot get them for your babysitting charge/niece/boyfriend's sister/whomever. People are attached to their BSC memories, and when we fanatics run into each other, we will often indulge in a long trip down memory lane as we talk about Stacey's long blonde hair and struggle with diabetes, the awesomeness of Claudia Kishi's outfits ("lavender plaid overalls" come to mind), and the grand old world of Stoneybrook.

Well, hold on to your overalls, ladies and gentleman, and your white lace bodysuits and your plastic fruit earrings, because Scholastic is reissuing the series, and we just got in the first one- you know what it's called already, right? (Correct answer: Kristy's Great Idea.) Also hot off the presses is Ms. Martin's newly-written prequel, The Summer Before. All I can say is that I'm ridiculously excited to finally be able to go to the shelves and hand #1 to the next person who comes in looking for the good ol' BSC.

A tangent:
Certain people sometimes question the "literary merit" of childrens' series like this. They think Nancy Drew is shallow and Goosebumps is worse. They would prefer that in about fourth grade all children be handed copies of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, and their favorite Shakespeare comedy, and not be let out of elementary school until they read, understand, and love them. It seems like a big part of our job in the Kids Department is to encourage parents and teachers to let kids discover and connect to books they choose and love, regardless of their place in The Canon. Not to the exclusion of the above-mentioned books, all of which are almost universally beloved and should be gifted and taught and treasured. But telling kids that the other books they like are dumb serves nobody.

My fourth grade teacher told us we were too old to be reading what she called "formula novels," which was a long list of her literary pet peeves and included the Baby-Sitters Club. I raised my nine-year-old hand and gave an impassioned defense of my favorite series, and she responded by saying, "All right class: raise your hand if you agree with Anna that the Baby-Sitters Club are not formula novels" (italics indicating extra venom). I raised my hand in that stretchy, high-as-it-can-go way, and my poor best friend, loyal to the end, looked over at me, sighed, and put her hand up as well. We were not the only girls in the room who read and loved the books, but we were the only ones willing to face the disdain of a grownup by admitting it. It was the first time a grownup didn't validate that it was cool to read and love books, who said instead that there were some books you should be embarrassed about, and it was humiliating. Was I technically a little wrong, in that they can get kind of formulaic? Yeah, but I was standing up for my principles. And you know what? I learned how to look up books in the library by myself because I wanted to find more BSC. And I babysat and nannied my way all through middle school and high school, following all the rules I learned when I was nine, and making my own money while learning a heck of a lot about responsibility and independence. And I read books she would have approved of anyway, because I liked to read, and now I work in a bookstore. So pooh on people who turn their nose up at "those" books, and thanks Kristy, Mary Ann, Stacey, Claudia, and Ann M. Martin. It was really a lot of fun.

-Anna
(Kids Books)

3 comments:

  1. Yes, oh double yes, and I am a living, breathing example that you can binge on Baby-sitters Club and Sweet Valley Twins books, then grow up to be an English major focusing on the Brontes. It's all good.

    My favorite BSC (though I don't like the title) is Boy-Crazy Stacey, in which Stacey and Mary Anne go to the beach as mother's helpers for the Pikes. Hmm, I wonder if I can come up with the names of all eight Pike children?

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  2. Oh man, I remember that one! But I'm not sure I remember all the Pikes. There was one set of triplets and one of twins, right? And Mallory was the oldest and then later became a junior BSC member. And weren't they redheads? Ah, sigh. Childhood obsession is so delicious. Not sure I will ever reach that depth of knowledge on any topic as an adult, and yet I probably had five or ten things (half of them book series) that I knew eeeeverything about.

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  3. Talked to you about this today. :) Love your entry, I completely understand where you are coming from! I put up with plenty of this in school.

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