the best friends you’ll never have

  • Rain Reign is this year’s winner of the Charlotte Huck Award from the National Council of Teachers of English. (I knew this book was destined to be taught in middle school language arts classrooms!) Congratulations Ann!
  • Stacey’s style, like Stacey herself, is always referred to in the books as being “sophisticated.” We know she likes to wear black, and buys clothes at Bloomingdales and other expensive places. She likes Betsey Johnson, which, while I wouldn’t exactly call it “sophisticated,” is pretty logical for what a stylish thirteen-year-old-girl would like.

    The covers, however, tell a different story. On many covers, she looks so mature that she ends up looking more like someone who would call the Baby-Sitters Club for a sitter, rather than its treasurer.

    Take the cover of Stacey’s Broken Heart, for example.

    Stacey, you are no Kathy Santoni.

    Only one image can come to mind for fans of both Full House and the BSC, and that is from the episode “Back to School Blues,” where DJ shows up for the first day of Junior High wearing the same outfit as the lunch monitor.

    I think we all can imagine Stacey showing up to school in the outfit depicted on the cover of Broken Heart and realizing she was dressed just like Mrs. Ensign.

    Now, later on, Stacey’s outfits are pretty much in line with how I remember the mid-90s. Lots of sweaters with stripes around the middle, for instance. Her hair is bobbed instead of permed. But really, is it sophisticated? To me, it looks just like what you could buy in any juniors’ department in the country at the time. So I’m not sure how they could have communicated that Stacey was a sophisticated dresser without it looking like she was middle aged mother or your typical teen. Maybe more black?

    Stacey’s fashion, like so many other things in the series, was told to us, rather than shown. How would you have dressed a sophisticated thirteen-year-old girl from 1986-2000?

    If you really think about it, the Baby-Sitters Club was a genius idea. Obviously, those at Scholastic and Ann know this already, since I am sure that it paid for many houses and several college educations. But they hit upon a formula that works very, very well when you consider the target audience.

    When writing for the middle grade reader, you’re generally advised to write about characters a few years older than the reader. That’s why so many successful books for this age group are about kids aged 13-14–old enough to be seem very glamorous to someone in fourth or fifth grade, but not old enough that they have to deal with issues that you’d find in YA. The BSC, written about seventh and then eighth graders (except for Mal and Jessi), fits this mold exactly.

    The Baby-Sitters Club added a little something extra, though, that you don’t see in Girl Talk, et al. And that “something” is… baby-sitting. Why was the inclusion of baby-sitting genius? Yes, baby-sitting is one of those things, like thirteen-year-old boys, that seems much more awesome than it is in reality. You’re a kid, you get baby-sat, it seems like the coolest thing in the world. But naturally, plotlines involving baby-sitting will also involve children. These children are, in many cases, the age of the intended reading audience.

    So what the Baby-Sitters Club was able to do was bring the glamour of middle school (everyone who has been through middle school is laughing at the idea of it seeming cool, but you know you thought it was!), but have characters who are the same age as the reader that they can relate to. This way, you get a series that covers all the basis: cool older kids, relatable younger kids.

    And that is why Scholastic editors from the late 80s-early/mid-90s were all able to buy yachts!*

    *Just kidding.

    I had surgery last month, which explains my lapse in posts. But I will now return to a more regular posting schedule.

  • I got this link in my Google Alerts, and I got all excited because from the alert, it looked like Ann had won the Newbery Medal. But she didn’t; she won the Schneider Family Book Award for “books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience,” also awarded by the American Library Association. Congratulations, Ann!
  • Girls Meets The Baby-Sitters Club Mashup: Characters from Girls photoshopped onto BSC covers with the titles altered appropriately.
  • From candykane on the BSC Boards, here’s an article on whether libraries should keep or discard the original BSC books. What’s your take? I’d want to keep them, obviously, but I’m aware of space limitations, wear and tear on paperback books that are nearly 30 years old, etc. I think a good compromise would be to have the new books (graphic novels and rereleases), and then have the ebooks available, if your library does that, for kids who get hooked.
  • I completely missed that this book was coming out. I guess there has been so much focus on Rain Reign that this book kind of slipped through the cracks. It is the last book in the Family Tree series, and since it also serves as a wrap-up of the entire series, its format is a bit different. Instead of just talking about Georgia, the main character in the book, it also focuses on the other three protagonists from the series, kind of like a Super Special.

    Out of all the books, this was probably my second favorite. I think Abby’s book was the most interesting. Also, one of the major issues with these books, especially since a fair amount of time passed from the time I’d read one to the time I’d read the next, is that I kept on forgetting things. Like I don’t really remember what the relationship was between Francie and George in the book before this one. I think these books could have benefited from a Chapter Two, or a literal family tree at the beginning that briefly explained things.

    Actually, I think the best way to read these books might be as one long novel. That way, you could remember the progression of the characters’ lives better. It really is one long story anyway.

    Overall, I thought this book was a satisfying end to the series, even if the kids in this book, whose childhood was the 2000s, got very, very excited at the prospect of watching an I Love Lucy marathon.

  • Happy New Year! Start the new year off right with Stacey’s “Bad Girl” storyline, since #83-#87 are now available on ebook.
  • Taking a little break until after the New Year. In the meantime, what’s your favorite holiday BSC book? Thinking about it, most of them are pretty strange. One of the most interesting is Mallory’s Christmas Wish, since it foretells the dawn of the Age of Reality Television. I think I might like Baby-Sitters’ Christmas Chiller the best.

    So I said I wouldn’t read it because I hate Sad Dog Books, but I broke down and got it anyway, since the reviews have been so positive.

    Rain Reign is a book about Rose, a kid on the autism spectrum who loves homophones. But the book keeps on calling them homoNYMs, and I’m going to put on my Karen Brewer hat and admit that this bothered me. Homonyms have the same pronunciation AND spelling, and homophones just have the same pronunciation. Rose actually goes into this the beginning, and says that her teacher says that homonym is used colloquially for homophone. This is true, but since Ann is writing an entire book on the topic, she could have used this as a springboard to correct this colloquial use that still makes probably even sociolinguists a little bit twitchy. Also, since Rose is very into following rules and not following rules is something that really upsets her, it seems odd to me that she has come to terms with this colloquial misuse of the term.

    Okay. That aside, it’s a decent book overall. I like how the dad was portrayed in a nuanced way, instead of just straight up as a villain. You understand that he wants to do his best for Rose, even though he really just can’t. For those of you with the same fears I have, I would say that this book ranks about 5/10 on the Sad Dog Scale. There is a happy ending for the dog, even though Rose is sad. But it’s not like this book, which destroyed me the only time I read it.

    Autism is a topic that Ann has centered a book around several times: Inside Out, which I think is excellent; Kristy and the Secret of Susan, one of the most maligned BSC books out of all of them; and a A Corner of the Universe, which I have not read, but received a Newbery Honor Medal. Considering the reviews for this one, I could see a Newbery Honor in its future as well. This book differs from all of those because Ann is actually writing in the first person from the point of view of a person on the spectrum, and not from the point of view of a family member or a baby-sitter. I think she did a good job, but it’s hard for me to judge, since I don’t have much personal experience myself.

    I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts if you’ve read it. Would I say that it’s a must for BSC fans? No. If you’re interested in well-written middle-grade/YA books on serious topics, then I’d suggest it to you. It has less “Ann quirks” than even Family Tree has (i.e., mention of certain things you’ll recognize from Ann’s likes/biography). I’m now thinking that it’s time for me to check out her other well-regarded books like Corner and Belle Teal. Ann is a much better writer than she was in her 80s days, and now that she can take her time with her books, unlike when she was working on BSC, she can come out with some really excellent fiction.

  • I often find that BSC articles on popular blogs were written by people who read a few of the books when they were ten and haven’t picked one up since, but How to Tell You Are in a Baby-Sitters Club Book on The Toast is right on the money.
  • Some audio of Ann talking about Rain Reign and reading an excerpt from the book.
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