the best friends you’ll never have

  • Interview with Ann Dowd, who played Kristy’s mom on the tv show and calls the series “that Baby-Sitters Club thing.”
  • The real Gabbie Perkins’s birthday was July 23rd, according to Ann’s Facebook page, so happy birthday, Gabbie! (We have the same birthday!)
  • In general, I like the Kishis as a family. They always seemed to eat delicious family dinners together, and there are some nice moments, like when Claudia and her dad are doing yardwork together in The Mystery at Claudia’s House. But there is one thing that really bugs me, and it’s their attitude toward Claudia and her schoolwork.

    Not that they threaten to make her drop out of the Baby-Sitters Club. Frankly, I think they should have; it ate up an enormous amount of time. The whole being-held-back/going-back-to-eighth-grade thing was on SMS’s shoulders. But the fact that they let her struggle so long in school without doing anything except sometimes making her go to the Resource Room and having her family help her with her homework. They do finally get her a tutor in Claudia Kishi, Middle School Dropout, but it’s too little, too late. Stamford Alternative Academy was a great place for her academically, but I understand why they pulled her out when it made her miserable.

    It is just so strange to me that the series emphasizes that Claudia doesn’t have a learning disorder, that she is of above-average intelligence, and that she is just lazy. Yes, Claudia doesn’t have dyslexia. But her problems at school could easily fall under Learning Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, if nothing else:

    May have difficulty forming a plan for their writing
    May read at a slower pace than peers
    May rely entirely on auditory information from class
    May have difficulty organizing or synthesizing information from text
    May demonstrate poor comprehension of written materials
    May be reluctant to participate or read out loud in class
    May have difficulty picturing mechanical processes or concepts
    May lose track of time easily
    May be unable to do mental math
    May have difficulty identifying the critical information for solving word problems
    May have difficulty visualizing patterns
    May have difficulty performing steps in proper order
    May have difficulty understanding spatial concepts
    May have difficulty drawing or understanding diagrams
    May have difficulty understanding and applying math vocabulary

    My brother has a learning disorder, and he underwent a lot of testing in the second grade and then we had a Occupational Therapist come to our house every week. He went to our school’s equivalent of the Resource Room in middle school. I don’t see how in the world the Kishis didn’t do more for Claudia and didn’t have her undergo testing to figure out what exactly is going on with her, and what can be done to give her the tools to make school easier for her. I would think that it would be their main priority, and that they would do all they could to help her.

    The other thing I don’t understand is why the series was so insistent that Claudia didn’t have a learning disorder and that she was just an underachiever. I feel like the series missed a big chance to discuss this issue, which I am sure many of the BSC’s readers were going through at the time, in a way that is more substantial than Buddy Barrett or Shea Rodowsky having dyslexia. Then her Chapter 2 could invoke that instead of “LOL no one can read Claudia’s notebook entries.”

    I think this may be the decision made in the series that I understand least of all. Anybody can see that the way Claudia was spelling in eighth grade was normal, and when they showed her thought process in school, I feel like it was even written like she has a learning disorder. Claudia isn’t even actually written as a lazy student; she is written as a student who is struggling and not getting the support she needs. If I could change something about the series, this would be it.

  • Happy 89th birthday to Ann’s dad, Henry R. Martin!
  • Super Mystery 3 is out on the 29th, so we can rest easy knowing that they are still rereleasing books that aren’t the regular series.
  • RIP Elaine Stritch. I wrote about how she is the only real person to make an appearance in the BSC books here, unless you count the people mentioned as having eaten at the Blumes’. I’ve always thought it was interesting that Ann purposefully included an actress who is real, yet probably no one in the target audience would have heard of. Jane, Ann’s sister, was Woody Allen’s assistant on September, which Elaine is in, so maybe that’s the connection.
  • The Eternal Bookshelf on the BSC.
  • Inspired by this series.

    KRISTY is a very successful entrepreneur. I see her being a serial entrepreneur, always with the next great big idea. Social media, innovative new ideas for charity start ups, whatever, she’s into it. Watson probably gave her some seed money for her first venture, but she made it back ten fold and now gets her funding like anyone else. I have never had a clear read on Kristy’s sexuality as an adult, but whoever she marries would probably end up being a stay-at-home parent, and Kristy has four kids and tries to make it to as many of their softball games as she can.

    CLAUDIA is a high school art teacher. New York was too expensive, and the practical Kishis wouldn’t support her art career financially. So she came back to Stoneybrook, and teaches art while taking care of her superbly dressed son with Alan Gray.

    STACEY is like Lauren Santo Domingo, only insanely good at math. Worked for LVMH before starting her own fashion-related company. Has one kid, a husband in finance, a nanny, a housekeeper, an apartment in New York, and a house in the Hamptons.

    MARY ANNE is a high school guidance counselor. She lives in a small seaside town in Maine, not far from Reese, with her husband, who is a chef at a restaurant frequented by wealthy tourists. Basically, she’s Susan Branch without the cookbooks.

    DAWN lives in California and works for an environmental non-profit. Her husband was a lawyer, but they fought a lot, and now she’s divorced with two kids.

    MALLORY lives in New York City and is a writer. I secretly think Mallory=Ann, even if Ann says Mary Anne was based on her. So just picture Ann’s life, and give her red hair.

    JESSI went to Dance New York soon after the series ended. After a stint dancing professionally, she now teaches dance and is married to a fellow dancer with a daughter named Mary Rose.

    ABBY decided she wanted to be on SNL. She didn’t make it, but turned her hilarious LA experiences into a successful blog, which landed her a position on the staff of a ladyblog. She is too independent for a partner of either sex, and prefers shorter affairs. She is thinking of adopting at a later date.

    SHANNON used her facility with languages and general all-around brains to get a job with the State Department. She is still looking for Mr. Right, but her experiences with her family growing up have deep down soured her on the idea of marriage and family in general.

    LOGAN stayed in Stoneybrook and married Dorianne Wallingford after she got pregnant at 19. He manages a sporting goods store. They have two boys and a girl. Dorianne writes an aspirational lifestyle/mommy blog, and she makes more money than Logan does with her sponsorships and whatnot.

  • The series I wrote about in my last post is still going on. I agree with HelenB’s comment on my post–these seem to be based more on the interests of the girls than their personalities. The former is accurate; the latter is way off. Mary Anne has married Logan and is an executive at a construction company. While I like Executive!Mary Anne, I hate Logan, and see Mary Anne doing something else with her life.
  • Seven California Diaries Moments That Made the BSC Seem So Immature on the Bustle.
  • Ann M. Martin was at the American Library Association’s Annual Meeting.
  • She is also fostering new kittens!!!!
  • Over at The Billfold, Nicole Dieker has started a series called “How the Baby-Sitters Club Does Money.” So it’s basically BSC fanfiction, only she’s probably getting paid for it. She is imagining what the BSC will be like as adults, and what their financial/work situations will be like.

    Now, as you might imagine, and as you probably do too, since you’re reading this blog, I always get a little protective whenever I see things written about the BSC outside of the fandom. Most of the BSC articles on BuzzFeed or Jezebel are going to be written by people who, at one point, “grew out of” the BSC, and probably haven’t thought about it in fifteen years or so. These articles frequently spell “Mary Anne” with a hyphen and “Jessi” as “Jessie.”

    So far, this series contains no such mistakes. I can see that the author at least has a lot of BSC info floating around in her brain, although perhaps she has devoted less real estate to this information than the average Stoneybrookite reader. After two parts of this series have been published, I can say that she is batting 500, in Krusher parlance.

    Her Mallory is enjoyable. Mallory has gained some prominence as a writer, even if she is self-publishing. I like any vision of Mallory in the future where she is not a loser. I bet that most of us relate way more to Mallory than we would ever admit. Also, she has Mallory be a part of a poly triad, and while it had never crossed my mind before, I can see that happening.

    The Kristy one, though, I was not so fond of. Kristy is a mommyblogger after having a bunch of kids and a bunch of failed businesses. I don’t see Kristy as the mommyblogging type. Starting something like Babble and then somehow convincing Disney to buy it? Sure. But blogging, and just sitting there and not bossing anyone around, just typing her thoughts and dealing with photographs and design? Take a look at her first journal entry from Friends Forever:

    First day with this new journal. Am inspired by Mary Anne and all she’s been through. Can’t imagine losing nearly everything I own in a fire. Can’t imagine losing nearly everything I own no matter how it happened. MA is being very brave. She managed to rescue her current diary (the little leather one with the lined, dated pages and the lock and key), which is about her only source of memories these days. Am going to start keeping journals and saving them somewhat fireproof. Think I’ll ask Watson if I can put them in his safe.

    Kristy never writes her journal entires in complete sentences. She doesn’t want to spend the time. And working part time in a bank? No way. I also can’t see her ever accepting handouts from Watson. Kristy has always been a hardworker and very ambitious.

    Now, I can see Dawn becoming a mommyblogger in the healthy living niche easily. She could use her blog as a platform to make herself feel better than everyone else, and her Vista diaries have been good practice for blogging. Mary Anne could get in with the Mormon mommybloggers with perfect houses and children, since she is so domestically inclined. But Kristy? Not enough power in just having a mommyblog.

  • RIP Walter Dean Myers.
  • #59-62 came out on Tuesday. I hope this doesn’t mean that they’ve stopped releasing the Mysteries or the Super Mysteries, since M7 and SM1 were released last month.
  • The musical adaptation of The Doll People, a book Ann wrote with Laura Godwin, is having its Midwestern premiere in Holland, MI. The director and playwright is none other than Jahnna Beecham herself. It seems she might have co-wrote it with Malcolm. It also mentions her books, but oddly does not mention her role as BSC ghostwriter.
  • Happy Fourth of July, American readers! Read Dawn and Too Many Sitters to get into a celebratory mood.
  • Now that I’ve read all of Ann’s non-BSC books from the early part of her career, it’s time to reflect on what I thought about them. Since I did not review most of them very positively, it may seem like I did not enjoy doing this. I did actually enjoy it, but the books themselves I probably would have enjoyed more if I were coming across them for the first time while still in the age group they were intended for, or if I were reading them with nostalgia. As far as quality goes, if these were classics of children’s literature, they’d still be in print, or would have at least been in print during my 90s childhood. So even if I have liked the post-BSC Ann books I’ve read, and can tell that there’s been a HUGE leap forward in quality, I couldn’t really expect these books to be any better than any other more-or-less forgotten 1980s children’s books.

    My main issue with these books is that I felt that these books sometimes took on too many serious issues at once, and didn’t get deep enough, psychologically. I suppose it’s hard to do that in the space allotted to a children’s book, and for the level you’re writing for, but I feel like people Lois Lowry and Judy Blume can deliver that. Obviously, not many children’s authors reach their levels, but still. They show it’s possible. I haven’t read A Corner of the Universe or any other of Ann’s Very Serious more recent books, unless you count The Family Tree series, but from what I have read, I haven’t had the same feeling of the stories being a very shallow portrayal of the issue she’s writing about. Perhaps it’s because Ann tackled issues that are SO serious, like suicide and missing children and losing a parent, before she was an author who was experienced enough to handle them, that makes these books read that way. Like, at this point of her career, she should have stuck to plots on a Stage Fright level, and not tried to tackle things that were so heavy.

    Another thing I noticed was that everybody in these books is wealthy, except for maybe the parents in Inside Out. Like, think of how many kids you knew growing up who had houses with a third floor. I mean, if you’re in an area with a lot of Victorian houses, it’ll be more common, but it seemed like half of the kids in these books had these humongous houses and their parents were all advertising executives or whatever and jetting off to St. Barths for their honeymoons. None of the main characters were treated as being from wealthy families, even though they obviously were. I suppose it’s not that different from Stoneybrook, with everyone’s dad being a lawyer and Stacey’s dad’s glamorous life, but the houses weren’t quite noticeably as extragavant. It is very noticeable in these books, and seems kind of tone deaf. I can’t say if a child reading it would notice all of the clues sprinkled in them about mega-wealth, though.

    The biggest surprise, though, was that the books I enjoyed the most–Inside Out and Ma and Pa Dracula–were books featuring male protagonists. I had always asusmed that Ann wouldn’t be very good at writing from a male perspective, but I think it actually forced her to stretch a little more and go outside of herself and she ended up with two books that were a lot better than the rest.

    These are the major conclusions I came to during this Readalong. If you’ve read them, what do you think of Ann’s early work as a whole?

    (Camp NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow! If you want to join my BSC cabin, email me at or leave a comment below.)

  • The Baby-Sitters Club: The Original Champions of Normcore? – from April, but I’m only seeing it now. Slideshow with breakdown of BSC style. I hate the term “normcore,” but whatever.
  • Book Review (Sorta): A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin – I’ve never read this book, but this review is pretty interesting and brings up some good points.
  • BSC Snark has a facebook group now. So if you don’t go on livejournal anymore, you can join in on discussions there.
  • What Your Favorite Baby-Sitter Says About You – a Buzzfeed listicle.
  • The Rosso family is back. This time it’s summer, which they’re spending in Fire Island. First off, I have to ask why Fire Island. No such explanation was needed in Just a Summer Romance, because Fire Island is a reasonable place for a New York City-area family to own a beach house. This time, however, the Rossos are going there for the first time, and they will be going for the entire summer, and Mr. Rosso will have live with relatives in NYC for the week, since the commute is too far. Now, considering the Rossos live in New Jersey, which has many fine beach towns within commuting distance of New York City, this decision is just baffling to me. Also, I can only imagine how expensive it is to rent a house with seven bedrooms for an entire summer.

    The house, by the way, is named Sandpiper House. Stacey and her father stayed in “the Sandpiper” during their trip to Fire Island. I am not sure if it is the same house, but I like to imagine it is, but I don’t know why Mr. McGill would rent a house with so many bedrooms. Perhaps he was anticipating the entire BSC coming. I did look to see if the Sandpiper is a real house in Davis Park. I did not find a house called that, but there is a street called Sandpiper Way, AND there was a club open from 1965-1979 in Fire Island Pines called The Sandpiper that was apparently the birthplace of disco. If Ann was hanging out in gay nightclubs in the 70s, she is much more interesting than any of us could have ever imagined.

    Anyway, like Ten Kids, No Pets, each chapter of the book is about a different Rosso kid. Once again, I think the book would have been improved if it were just about one of them, or if it were like a Super Special and each child had several chapters. For most of their stories, we just don’t have enough time to care. The only story where it feels like it has some resolution is Candy’s, where she thinks the house next door is haunted, because Hardy’s chapter of the book also focuses on this. Once again, Abbie’s chapter is at the beginning, and she meets Justin Hart, Melanie, and Lacey. She becomes friends with them, but because it’s at the beginning of the book, we don’t really know all that much about it, only snippets here and there from other characters. Bainbridge’s chapter, conversely, is at the end, and he apparently had a girlfriend all summer whom we didn’t hear about at all, and now her grandfather is sick and she has to leave. But we don’t really care, because we haven’t been following their story all along.

    I can see why these two books in particular have retained more popularity over the years than Ann’s other early books, but I find them almost frustrating to read as an adult. The chapters are just not long enough for us to really care about the characters and what’s happening to them. (I suppose if Ann were a master of the short story, she could do it, but, well, Cheever she ain’t.)

    Random thoughts:

  • Faustine: children’s literature’s first vegan?
  • Hannah is a little sociopath. She takes great joy in seriously scaring her sister Candy and ruining Abbie’s social life (by telling Justin Hart that Abbie has a crush on him). For these transgressions, Hannah gets punishments like “no allowance for a week” or “grounded for a day,” and never has to actually apologize to her sisters. Another Karen Brewer.
  • If you are a pain in the ass on a movie set, you get a bit part instead of just being an extra. Thanks for the lesson, Dinnie!
  • Lyme Disease is very easily cured. (Do not read Ira’s chapter if you have a phobia of clowns.)

    External links:
    Kirkus Reviews came to the same conclusion I did.
    BSC Chronologically‘s take.

    This was the last book in the Readalong. Thanks to everyone who read along and commented! I will post a wrap-up post on my overall thoughts about the books, and then for the rest of the summer, I’ll stick to the Monday blog post/Friday BSC link post schedule I mentioned in a previous post. I’ll also be participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, as I mentioned before, and I’ll be posting what I write on Babysitters100 (livejournal/dreamwidth). I have started a private cabin on there for BSC fanfic, so if you want to spend July working on a BSC fanfic, just let me know your screenname there in the comments and I will add you.

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