Stoneybrookite

the best friends you’ll never have

I had some trepidation about the new series coming out on Netflix, because obviously, the Baby-Sitters Club means a lot to me, and my hopes were high. The major difference between this series and the 90s TV show and the movie is that this series was created and written by people who are of the age to have grown up with the series themselves. The creator and showrunner, Rachel Shukert, wrote two YA books about Old Hollywood that I loved (I always bummed that they weren’t successful enough to have the series continue). And the pictures I saw looked good, so I was concerned that it wouldn’t live up my to expectations.

If you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably watched it already, so you know the verdict: It’s great. It’s exactly what I, a BSC superfan, want from a Baby-Sitters Club TV series. It’s updated in the right ways, and has so many callbacks to the original that you know the people writing it are doing it because the BSC was a huge part of their childhood, too. And the acting is almost all fantastic. (They have managed to make Karen likable!)

I’ve already watched it through once, and I’ve decided that I’m going to read the book each episode was based on, and then rewatch each episode with a close eye.

One of the first things we see is a shot of Stoneybrook Middle School. This is exactly what it looks like in my head, down to the font on the sign.

SMS

We meet Kristy and Mary Anne. Kristy has gotten in trouble in class and has to write an “essay” on decorum (100 words is a paragraph, not an essay, and this has bothered me for years), but rather than just shouting “Hooray!”, this time Kristy stood up and said that all PEOPLE are created equal, and didn’t raise her hand. I love this rewrite, because it was something I would do and is fitting with the “girl power” sensibilities of the series.

We do have two moments that deviate from the book, or feel a little off. The first is this joke from Kristy. This feels more like the kind of joke the BAD GIRLS would make, with the hope that someone really can steal the key from the liquor cabinet.

The next is that in the show, Claudia lives next door, not across the street. I once stopped reading a book because they had someone wearing acid-washed jeans in 1983, but I think I’ll let this one slide.

The “eureka!” moment for Kristy is pretty much the same: Kristy’s mother, Alicia Silverstone (I was kind of meh on this casting at first, but Watson is a hot millionaire in this, so…) can’t find a sitter for David Michael (who, by the way, is the weakest actor in this show), and has to call around. There is a Sittercity-esque site, but it costs $80. So Kristy gets her idea, and it takes the same form as described in the 1980s: Call one number at a specific time, reach four twelve-year-olds. I think this is a little unrealistic for our times, since the ages at which it is acceptable to leave kids home alone has changed, but the only way around it would be to make everyone older. And whether or not modern parents would want to only be able to call three times a week is also a question–but again, we’ll just have to suspend our disbelief here.

Another place where we’ll have to suspend our disbelief is the size of Claudia’s room. It’s gigantic, and not messy. Who has that much empty space? I’m not sure of the point of making it that big, but furnishing it so sparsely.

Claudia's room

Claudia is also the shortest of the four girls, but the actress is adorable.

Kristy’s love for sports has so far just been on display in her U.S. women’s soccer team posters, but check out her emails! Lots of baseball stuff in there. I think it’s fun to see how much thought they’ve put into things like this. And you can even see the email from Claudia with the logo and her trademark spelling. (By the way, when I reread the book before my rewatch for this post, I noticed that the edition I have, which is a reprint from the collector’s set, did not preserve Claudia’s bad spelling. I guess they figured it taught kids bad habits or something.)

We also get to meet Janine in this episode, and she is the Janine from my head.

Janine

One interesting plot twist I noticed is that Watson plays a significant role in the early success of the club. He seems to be the one to come up with the idea of dues, he’s their first client, and their initial jobs all seem to come from him. In the book, they all already have their steady clients, and they’re just centralizing the process. Also, while they talk about doing a social media campaign, Janine tells them to just use fliers, but in the book, they also place a newspaper ad, so I don’t see why a small Facebook ad was out of the question here, even if you need to be 13 to have a social media account.

One thing that becomes apparent over the course of the series is that they had to fit entire books into a half-hour show, and a lot of aspects of the books got condensed. I have seen a lot of people say that they think each episode should have been an hour, and I agree. Watson and Elizabeth/Edie/Alicia Silverstone announce their plans to get married the first time Watson makes an appearance, and there is no Pinky and Buffy, and Boo-boo doesn’t run away. Instead, Kristy walks Louie over to Watson’s, even though it’s in a different neighborhood. (Kristy also managed to hide herself from him, even though there is no way he wouldn’t have seen her.) Mrs. Porter/Morbidda Destiny scares Kristy and Louie runs away. I think they condense the events of this book perhaps more successfully than they do in later episodes. I think there’s going to be a second season, based on the reviews and how much chatter I’ve seen about the series in non-BSC spaces, and if that happens, I hope they’ll increase the running time.

Overall, I think the show is, as Claudia would put it, grate. What did you think?

I vaguely remember the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series from my childhood. I took a lot of it in stride at the time, but upon reading a comment a while back on a post in The Toast‘s series “Children’s Stories Made Horrific,” I realized that these books were pretty messed up–letting your child get so dirty that you can plant radishes on their skin is disturbing, but I remember finding them fun.

So I thought that it was an interesting series to choose to bring back. Indeed, some of it reads as a bit odd now–Ann makes a note of saying that the town, now called Little Spring Valley, is unique because children are still allowed to run around by themselves. It’s a little strange in this day and age to read about children having group sleepovers at a childless stranger’s house. Minus the magic, it reminds me a lot of the Baby-Sitters Club–the parents in this town are all entirely clueless, and instead of trying to raise their own children, they call up someone else, who has no children, and leave the difficult parts of parenting to a stranger.

There is even a scene where Missy Piggle-Wiggle–the replacement for Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, her niece, who seems to be in her 20s–conjures up out of thin air what can only be described as a Kid-Kit. So while I had originally thought that this series was maybe an odd fit for Ann, it makes a lot of sense. Stupid parents are Ann’s bread and butter.

I hadn’t read a Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle book in 20 years, so I checked out a few on Open Library to jog my memory. While Ann’s book relies heavily on the magic version of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle–Missy has a chest of magical cures for bad behavior–the first book relies more on psychology, albeit in an exaggerated way. Basically, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle uses reverse psychology, a la Stacey at the Delaneys’. If your children don’t want to sleep, let them stay up until they’re so tired and want to go to bed on time themselves, and so on. In subsequent books, she suddenly has access to magic, and uses “cures” as well. Ann has also combined Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s two living situations–she lives in the Upside-Down House on the farm, which is also somehow in town, and the Upside-Down House itself is now magical, and kind of a dick.

I would say that my main issue with the book is that the parents seem more helpless than they did in the originals. Whereas the parents would try to discipline their children and call up their friends for advice before turning to Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle in the original books, the parents are now basically checked out and figure Missy can do their parenting for them. There is a recurring family in the book whose three children all require separate cures for their behavioral issues, but it’s clear from the moment they’re introduced that the only real problem these children have is that their parents pay absolutely zero attention to them. On the other hand, there are two children, Della and Peony LaCarte, who are held up by other parents and even other children as paragons of excellent behavior throughout the book, although we never see them, and I have to wonder if the reason that these are the only children who can behave themselves is because they are the only children in Little Spring Valley with parents who give a shit.

That’s my main problem with this book–these parents are just like, well, the Stoneybrook parents who needed 13-year-old girls to raise their kids.

Should you check it out? If you really enjoyed Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle as a child, or are an Ann completist–then yes. Is this book going to appeal to 2016 children? I’m not sure.

Ann Pop Culture Reference:

  • No Wizard of Oz/I Love Lucy/etc., but for some reason, she does have a child watch Paul Blart: Mall Cop, which makes me think that Ann had to search far and wide for an example of a terrible movie.
  • She does namedrop her favorite children’s books though, but it seems almost fitting for a reboot of a 40s/50s series, so I’ll let it slide.
  • I’ve been meaning to write a post about the 30th anniversary and all of the interviews and such that she’s done for that, but in the meantime, her new Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle book came out yesterday, and I’ll have a review for that once I read it.

    But also, today on my Facebook, a friend of mine reposted something from Autostraddle declaring that Ann is officially queer. Those of us in the community have known this forever–really, it was clear to me from Ann’s crazy Margot Kidder R. biography that so explicitly did not mention any kind of romance in her life–but the interview in Vulture quoted in the Autostraddle piece handles it this way:

    With her partner at the time, Laura Godwin (they’ve since broken up), she wrote four Doll People books, tales of what a child’s doll collection does when no one’s watching.

    We knew all this, of course, except for the fact that Ann and Laura broke up, since that’s not the kind of news that makes Page Six, but it’s just nice to see that she can, in her own shy way, let us into her personal life a little bit. I haven’t read any of the other pieces on her done in the honor of the 30th anniversary, since I wasn’t going to do it until I started writing about it, but as far as I know, this is the first time she’s revealed anything about her past relationships or anything like that. So, yay Ann, and I’ll let you know how I feel about this Piggle-Wiggle book.

    I got an email from my hosting company last weekend, telling me that the database for the wiki was too big and I needed to fix in two days or all of my sites would be taken offline.

    Fixing it required using things like MySQL and SSH, which are a little outside my comfort zone. I considered just deleting the wiki altogether. I didn’t want to lose my other sites and projects. But I thought about how much work had been put into it, and not only my own. So I learned what I had to learn, and the wiki, and the rest of my sites, are still up.

    The wiki is kind of a failure on my part, I admit. The MediaWiki software is complex, and we were kind of killed by a spam attack, to the point that another BSC wiki site sprung up in its place. Completing it so that it was the wiki I want would take up too much time that I, as someone who makes most of her money through freelancing, can dedicate to it at this point in my life.

    But still I wish it had accomplished my goal as a Complete Guide for the entire series. This will probably never happen now, but I’m still not going to delete it and completely destroy any possibility of that happening.

    Most readers of this blog already know that Peter Lerangis wrote movie novelizations, including the one for the BSC movie, under the pseudonym A. L. Singer. “A. L. Singer,” of course, is an anagram for “Lerangis.”

    What I’m about to say may shock you, but it’s perfectly logical. Take the “s” in “Singer” and move it to the front, and what do you get? “S. A. L. Inger.”

    Clearly, “Peter L.” has been hiding something from us all along. Lerangis is no Greek last name. It’s a clever anagram for Jerome David’s Peter’s true identity.

    J. D. Salinger stopped publishing after Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters/Seymour: An Introduction. But we know that he never stopped writing. Most assume that the work he did after withdrawing from the publishing world is kept in a safe somewhere, probably on his property in New Hampshire. But what if he did publish, perhaps stories about the Glass family with names and identifying details changed, and we just didn’t notice? What if he gave them titles like Jessi’s Big Break, about Franny’s brief time in a ballet company, or Logan Bruno, Boy Baby-Sitter, about Zooey dealing with bullies in Hollywood who want him to sell out?

    You may scoff and say, “Salinger is dead; Lerangis is still alive. He tweets all the time and goes on book tours.” I don’t need 39 clues to tell me that Salinger was extremely interested in longevity and could easily fake his death and pay someone to act as “Peter Lerangis” and go on book tours.

    For a writer who just wants to practice his craft and have people read his work without having to deal with angsty teenage fans and grad students who come to Cornish, NH to catch a glimpse of him, middle-grade series novelist is the perfect cover. No one would ever think to make the connection. Plus, both men were interested in theater in their youth. Clearly that’s a sign that the anagram is no coincidence and that they are, in fact, the same person.

    Besides, Thomas Pynchon is still alive.

    You may have noticed that it’s been silent around here for quite some time, and if you know me from the Baby-Sitters Club Boards, I haven’t been around much there, either.

    Which brings me to the central question of this post. I am now almost 30, closer to the age that Kristy thinks women should stop wearing bikinis that I am to middle school, closer in age to the clients’ parents than the sitters themselves. When I started reading the series, I was younger than many of the clients.

    I still actively read the books when I can. But after around 15+ years in this fandom, I’m not sure that I have all that much left to discuss. I’ve had this site for so long that even when I feel like I have something to say, I can look in my archives and see that I covered that topic already. And snarking the books isn’t really my thing either; a lot of things that others take issue with just don’t bug me, and a lot of the time, it ends up feeling kind of mean-spirited and shouty rather than funny.

    So I’m not sure where that leaves this site at the moment. I have been dedicating my time to other projects. I do think I will review Ann’s Mrs Piggle-Wiggle and whatever other new books she comes out with. I actually started writing a post about that with other properties she could retool, but I never finished it. I will also maybe write more about non-BSC children’s books. So I think at this point, it will either be an intermittenly updated BSC/Ann blog, or a more frequently updated blog about the kidlit of my youth in general.

    Thanks to all of you who still read this, despite my lack of updates :)

  • The TV series is leaving Netflix on June 30th. It is still available in the iTunes store, though, so don’t worry if you no longer have a VCR and you don’t feel like frantically bingeing on the whole thing before then. It’s also on Amazon Instant Video–not sure about Google Play.
  • The Toast/The Butter put up two articles about the BSC: Literary Ladies Cage Fight: SVH vs the BSC and Ayn Rand’s The Baby-Sitters Club.
  • The color graphic novel version of KGI is definitely in stores all over the US and Canada now, so pick yours up! I’ve heard on the grapevine that it’s selling well.
  • Out now on ebook: #99-#102
  • A full-color edition of KGI by Raina Telgemeier is coming out on Tuesday, and it will be available in hardcover, paperback, AND ebook versions. Two of my Canadian BSC friends already found the books in local stores, so if you’re in Canada, it looks like you can already get it.
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