Monday, 9 November 2009

The Babysitters Club


My Friend Amy is hosting a week's events in honour of The Babysitters Club series of books written by Ann M. Martin. I signed up to post today as the series of books were integral to my reading experience as a child. Between the ages of ten and twelve I devoured all of the books that were then published, which added up to seventy of the core series (funnily enough, they were ghost-written from just before that time) and ten of the Super Specials, which I adored. The only other series that I was likewise addicted to was the Sweet Valley Twins series by Francine Pascal, which I read at the same time, before I moved into my teens and onto Point Horror and the logical progression into Stephen King novels and my adult reading.

Regrettably all of BSC books that I owned as a child were left in a huge box in the attic of my old family home when my parents moved house along with almost all of my other books from childhood; if I had had any to hand I would have reread a couple in preparation for this week but I suspect that they would have lost the magic they held for me and perhaps it is better to cherish the memories. I read the books at a formative time but gradually grew out of them although I will always be attached to them.

I came across this fascinating article dedicated to the books on Mental Floss a few months ago, which was a lovely trip down memory lane and quite intriguing. I pity the poor intern/editorial assistant at Scholastic who had to create each handwritten BSC notebook entry for each individual member! For a while I too dotted my "i"s with hearts like Stacey to the chagrin of my teacher that year.

I enjoyed the diversity of the characters and although I couldn't compare myself in entirety to any of them, I most identified with Claudia and Stacey, who were my favourite characters. I think that the appeal of the babysitters was their universality; there were attributes of each that one could recognise in oneself and I don't think that any of them was solely a "type". Claudia Kishi's artistic creativity and her funky wardrobe were things I aspired for myself but not her atrocious spelling! Another fun BSC-themed Mental Floss feature is this diverting quiz: Kishi Creation or Fashionista Flop? I did quite well, even sixteen years on from reading the books!

By far I enjoyed the extended Super Specials more than any individual book and I reread these over and over. Oh how I wished to be an American middle-schooler from Stoneybrook, Connecticut, going to summer camp and ski lodges! The Babysitters Club books undoubtedly began my long obsession and love affair with Disneyworld and New York City; last year I finally visited Disneyworld for the first time but NYC still remains destination number one (the first special featured the babysitters on a cruise to Florida and the Bahamas and the sixth, New York! New York!, saw them visiting Stacey's father in her home-city).

I noticed recently that Graphix, a division of Scholastic, have produced graphic novels of four of the earliest TBC titles. Apparently these are contemporary yet faithful illustrated versions of the books, beginning with Kristy's Great Idea. This modern update of a series that defines part of my childhood intrigues me; I approve of attempts to bring the series to the bookshelves and library loans of a new generation of young girls.

One last point: I LOVED the UK cover-design of the books! The logo for which I had included above but here is a link to one of my favourite Super Specials (the quality is quite poor, otherwise I would have included it in post); each of the covers provided the window-glimpse into a scene from the novel, whether it be the group or the individual babysitter the book revolved around.

Were you a fan of The Babysitters Club or were your children or siblings? What was your favourite aspect of the series?



33 comments:

Stephanie said...

I loved the books but my younger sister was never very interested in them for some reason. I liked the Super Specials best because of the different perspectives, length, and how much they traveled.

Meghan said...

I also was a big fan of the special books. I read from so many series based on the BSC, but those were my favorites. They were longer and away from the norm, I think, which I really liked.

Dot said...

This has really cheered me up on a Monday morning! These books definitely encouraged me to read and I too loved Claudia and Stacey! My books were lost when my parents moved house as well but I will always remember them and queuing up in WH Smiths to buy the next one!!

verity said...

I've been looking forward to reading this post for a while; I hadn't realised that they were ghost written later in the series (I know that Sweet Valley was). I agree that the super specials were great - so much longer and more time for story development (it used to annoy me that EVERY book started with a description of the club and its members).

I hope the two that I sent you arrive this week.

Rachel said...

What a great post! Oh my goodness I was OBSESSED with this series and read every single one until I was about 13 or 14...I had all of the super specials but my favourites were the MYSTERY specials...classics, all of them...I forget the title but there was one set in a mansion in Maine and I must have reread that about ten times.
I no longer have my collection but if I have daughters one day I am going to religiously re-collect them for my (ahem...I mean THEIR) reading pleasure!!

Oh and embarrassingly me and my friend started up our own Babysitter's Club when we were 13 on the back of the books...it wasn't a success. Apparently the citizens of Stonybrook don't have as much of a problem with 12 year olds babysitting their kids as the citizens of my home town did!

savidgereads said...

I was a fan of this series though boys werent really supposed to be! I had forgotten all about them until saw this post. Ooh you have sent me off on a nostalgia trip I loved Nancy Drew too, again not a book for boys! You see I had gulty pleasure reads even way back then!

Paperback Reader said...

Stephanie, I think that's why I enjoyed the Super Specials more. I couldn't imagine my little sister enjoying them but they are tame compared to Harry Potter and other children's lit nowadays!

Meghan, I didn't read any of the spin-offs but loved the specials and agree that it was probably the length and exciting locations/extended storyline.

Dot, it's great for a Monday morning, isn't it?! I actually remember buying a lot of mine in bulk at a super cash and carry - they had a fabulous children's book sections and so many TBC! I'd go at the weekend with my mum and stock up for the week.

Verity, I knew SVH were but had no idea about TBC. The recap always used to irritate me too but I suppose it meant that people could enter the series at any point and know where they stood.

I'm looking forward to rereading them but also nervous... sometimes nostalgia should remain nostlagic!

Rachel, I was never interested in the mystery series, for some reason... I was obsessed too. I'm not having children but I'm tempted to rebuild my collection just for me!

It always struck me as funny how young they were for babysitting! I never babysat until I was years older!

Simon, I was trying not to be sexist in my post because I thought that some of my fellow book-lovers who were male may have shared my obsession! I loved Nancy Drew too and I forgot that Claudia used to have Nancy Drew books and junk food hidden all over her bedroom! Nothing wrong with guilty pleasures - they're often the best kind ;).

Julia said...

Oh my goodness, I was such a Babysitters Club fan and I've still got my whole collection (except for the Mysteries which I gave away fairly recently- they were never as good anyway) hidden behind my more intellectually high brow books. I had such a girl-crush on Dawn when I was about 9.

I read the Sweet Valley Twins (never Sweet Valley High though), but I always preferred the goody-goody BSC girls. It was such a let-down when I was 11 and wasn't allowed to stay home on my own, let alone babysit- "But Jessi's parents went away for a whole weekend and left her in charge of her little sister and baby brother!" (super special 4, Babysitters' Island Adventure). The BSC gave me such a skewed sense of reality...

Julia said...

Oh my goodness, I was such a Babysitters Club fan and I've still got my whole collection (except for the Mysteries which I gave away fairly recently- they were never as good anyway) hidden behind my more intellectually high brow books. I had such a girl-crush on Dawn when I was about 9.

I read the Sweet Valley Twins (never Sweet Valley High though), but I always preferred the goody-goody BSC girls. It was such a let-down when I was 11 and wasn't allowed to stay home on my own, let alone babysit- "But Jessi's parents went away for a whole weekend and left her in charge of her little sister and baby brother!" (super special 4, Babysitters' Island Adventure). The BSC gave me such a skewed sense of reality...

Paperback Reader said...

Julia, I love that you still own yours! I wish I had mine to hide behind the highbrow novels (my hidden guilty pleasures definitely).

I read some of the Sweet Valley High books but they never held the same magic as the younger series or BSC. Elizabeth was goody-two-shoes enough to have been part of the BSC!

"The BSC gave me such a skewed sense of reality" - how true!

farmlanebooks said...

I didn't read any of the Babysitters Club - I have no idea why this series passed me by. I loved Sweet Valley Twins, Sweet Valley High and then the Point Horror Series.

After reading your post and all the comments I feel as though I've missed out.

Paperback Reader said...

Oh, Jackie, that's a shame but don't rush out and read them now - you may think us all crazy! I can't remember any of my friends reading them (although some were into Sweet Valley) but I was definitely a BSC cult member on my own.

Jeane said...

I read them when I was young, but I can't remember how far I got in the series, or even which character was my favorite. I guess they didn't make that strong of an impression on me...

Jenny said...

Oh how I used to want to dot my Is with hearts, but the one time I tried it, my friend made merciless fun of me. I cleverly stopped doing that and dotted them with circles instead. I'm sure she didn't figure out what I was up to. :P

Paperback Reader said...

Jeane, I didn't remember offhand until I refreshed my memory. Characters were easier to remember but I think I liked them all in different ways.

Jenny, ha - the things we do to emulate our literary heroines!

Alana's Bookshelves said...

I was completely obsessed with these as a child. I would get the scholastic book orders from school and order a new batch every month. I don't have them anymore - my mother gave them away to my younger female cousins, but maybe one day I'll get them back.

New York City is still my number one destination as well - I will get there eventually!

Paperback Reader said...

Alana, I will too but thanks to the BSC it will have to be a winter visit!

I hope you also manage to claim your books back one day. I so wish I had realised as a child how much I would crave my childhood books once I was an adult. Sigh.

Steph said...

I LOVED these books too when I was younger. They are probably the first books I can remember really loving, and I was so obsessed with them. I even had a special bookcase for my books (and I remember that I would stock up on them when we would take trips to Florida, as the books were much cheaper in the States than in Canada). I cherished them for a good long while, but then ultimately sold most of them off at a yard sale when I was in my teens, but I had amassed about 100 of them I think! Talk about geekiness, I even owned a BSC boardgame, saw the feature film, and even owned a few of the episodes that were shown on tv. Ridiculous.

My favourite member was always MaryAnne, because she was quiet and liked to read, but was still the first one in the club to get a boyfriend (the dreamy Logan Bruno). I was so sad when they broke up... Because of her I tried to read Wuthering Heights, but on that point we had to disagree!

And yes, I loved the Super Special episodes too. I don't remember much about them at this point, but there was one where Stacey (?) starts a romance with one of Kristy's older brothers... That and the one where they go to Myrtle Beach(?) were probably my favourite!

dolcebellezza said...

I've never read these, myself, but I've had classes of children which Ate Them Up! I did read aloud Ann Martin's book A Dog's Life which is a beautiful, beautiful story of a dog finding its home. A bit of a tear jerker, actually, but well worth it.

Katie said...

You are so right -- the super specials were the best. I was really bummed when I go to middle school and didn't get to go on these awesome trips like the BSC.

And I cannot believe that someone did all of the BSC handwriting! Hello, new favorite book-related trivia.

Thanks for this, I really enjoyed your entry. :D

mee said...

I loved the BabySitter club series when I was young as well. Glad to hear it's also popular at the other part of the world. I read some Sweet Valley series, but thought it was just okay, not as good as the Babysitter club. I found one of the twins annoying if I remember it correctly :P

Paperback Reader said...

Steph, I am glad I could provide you with a nostalgic trip down memory lane! I barely retained any of the specifics of the books but more of an overall sense of the way they made me feel and some of the locations of the Super Specials.

bellezza, I must see if I can locate a copy of A Dog's Life - it sounds heartbreaking! For whatever reason, children respond well to Ann M. Martin.

Hi Katie, thanks for commenting! It's a brilliant piece of trivia, isn't it?! I'm so glad I came across the Mental Floss article recently as it fueled my obsession again. School trips here were NOTHING like they were in Stoneybrook!

mee, I don't think there were as huge here (we didn't have the TV show - did you?) but they were definitely popular amongst readers.
Jessica Wakefield was irritating but always dressed in purple, which I loved!

alitareads said...

I loved New York! New York! That was my most favourite Super Special.

leaningtowardthesun said...

Great trip down memory lane! I loved the babysitter's club books when I was younger too. I even kept reading when they later came out with the Babysitter's Little Sister series all about Karen.

Paperback Reader said...

Hi alita, thanks for commenting! I wish I remembered more about it other than that I fell in love with New York through reading it.

Danielle, I didn't read the spin-offs but I wish I had now! I love that so many people have enjoyed this post and nostalgia trip.

Rebecca Reid said...

I LOVED these books too. I read everyone that had been published (only 40 or so). I don't think I could handle them anymore, though!

Paperback Reader said...

Rebecca, I have a couple that Verity sent me but not sure what I'll think of them so many years on! I enjoy the nostalgia trip though and hopefully that extends to the stories themselves. I would love to reread the specials as I loved those so much.

Memory said...

I loved the Super Specials too! I liked that they were so much longer than the regular books, and I thought it was cool that all the Baby-sitters chipped in to help narrate each one.

I remember enjoying the mysteries, too. I had fun puzzling them out.

Paperback Reader said...

Memory, I preferred the specials too because of the extended story and multiple narrators; they were so much fun!

verity said...

Have you done any rereading yet? Am interested to know what you think a decade or two on...

Paperback Reader said...

Not yet but I have pencilled time in :). Shouldn't take me long at all but it's fitting it in amidst all of the other reading I have going on. I will definitely be dedicating a post to it though. Also, a decade or TWO?! I'm not that old! More like 16=17 years on. Hmph ;).

verity said...

Well, I wrote a decade, but then thought you might be insulted that I thought you were still reading them aged 18 :p

Paperback Reader said...

Verity, it is so close to two decades really and yesterday I forgot what age I was and had myself as a year younger!