Stoneybrookite

the best friends you’ll never have

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.
  • I have written about Beverly Cleary before. One thing I have meant to blog about for a long time, and somehow never got around to doing, is Beverly Cleary’s First Love series, a quartet of YA (for the time) novels written in the ’50s and ’60s.

    Beverly Cleary is now 99, and in her most recent interviews, from the time of her 95th birthday, she is asked how her work has managed to stay relevant and popular for so long. She answers, “I think [it has remained popular] because I have stayed true to my own memories of childhood, which are not different in many ways from those of children today. Although their circumstances have changed, I don’t think children’s inner feelings have changed.”

    If you read her young adult books, I think this still holds true. She remains very true to the emotions of what it’s like to be fifteen and sixteen, and to enter the world of relationships for the first time. Now, I think some people might be under the impression that kids today grow up faster, but since the early ’90s, teen pregnancy has decreased and teenagers are waiting longer to have sex as a whole. While there have always been the Staceys who have tons of boyfriends in middle school, if you’re reading this blog, you were probably on the nerdy side and most likely didn’t attract any interest in that way until you were 15 or 16, like the girls in this series.

    I recommend all of these books, each of which explores an aspect of “first love,” as the series’ title might suggest. (I’m not sure if they were originally written as part of a series, or if later publishers/editors have just decided to package them this way.) Fifteen deals with self-esteem and being yourself around guys, and not acting like some bitch who presents herself as sophisticated. The Luckiest Girl is about understanding the difference between being in love and being in love with idea of someone, as well as the complexities of the mother/daughter relationship. Sister of the Bride may be the one that seems the most out of date, somehow, but it contains the themes of generational differences and what marriage is in reality vs. fantasy. It also contains the important lesson of, “if you need to bake cookies every day to keep a boy coming around, don’t bother.” Another interesting thing in Sister, which I absolutely would have never known if I hadn’t read this book, was that at the time of publication (1963), it was considered that young people were getting married younger than ever. I had always assumed that this was a demographic trend that went steadily up with time, not up and down.

    Anyway, Jean and Johnny, for me, is the one that really feels the most real, the one where there are scenes that are hard to read because I just cringe with secondhand embarrassment and recognition. Jean is helping set up decorations at a lodge where there is a dance going on. She is asked to dance for the first time in her life by a very cute older boy, who also happens to go to her school, the titular Johnny. It may seem reminiscent of Dawn and the Older Boy, but it is far more realistic and relatable. (Travis’s motive has never made sense to me.) She acts the way many girls with a crush do, and she tries to sneakily track information down on him and see him at school when she thinks he’s not looking. He does start to notice her, and pay attention to her, but, as her family says, she shouldn’t accept crumbs from a boy like Johnny.

    I think it’s a book about how you move through stages in adolescence, sometimes rapidly. In the beginning, both Jean and her best friend, Elaine, have crushes on Kip Laddish, a teen idol with a weekly TV show. As the story progresses, Jean moves onto her crush on Johnny, leaving Elaine behind. At the same time, Jean’s older sister, Sue, has moved beyond crushes like Jean’s on Johnny, which was really not that much more based in reality than Jean’s crush on Kip, to a dating a guy whom she may well marry. Despite the things that may date the book, like sewing being a class that a high school girl would take, it all rings as very true and universal. In her memoirs, Cleary mentions a professor she had in college who stated that the proper subject for the novel is the universal human experience, and Cleary just nails that so well. The feelings and experiences in these books feel universal, even if the particulars of your own experience are different.

    The relationships in the BSC, in contrast, have always seemed flat to me. They are simply adult relationships, minus sex. I don’t think there’s ever been a person in the world who has said, “My eighth-grade boyfriend was just like Logan Bruno!” It is just as much fantasy as Middle Earth is in Lord of the Rings. At 28, I still don’t feel like I’m reading about middle schoolers. They seem to conduct themselves like my peers.

    In Beverly Cleary’s books, it’s like going back in time, and not just in the sense that these books were written 50, 60 years ago. She conjures up exactly what it is like to be that age, and to have a boy like you for the first time, and to go on your first awkward dates. I STILL feel like I’m not as mature and adult as the BSC, and over twenty years has passed since I read Kristy’s Great Idea for the first time.

    Part of it is, I think, the way middle-grade/YA books are written. Middle-grade books are written for an audience that is younger than the people who feature in the stories, and same with YA. The world they depict is just as much a fantasy for their readership as the world of actual fantasy books are. BSC definitely presents a fantasy–a world of fancy vacations, mysteries, independence from adults, and mature, yet sexless, relationships.

    Jean and Johnny, the other First Love books, and really all of Cleary’s other books (besides the mouse ones) are firmly grounded in truth and the universal human experience. They are books about the emotions and experiences that accompany our lives as we grow and mature. The relationships in the BSC are presented in a way that is unrealistic because everything is unrealistic, and that is what is appealing about them. The relationships in these four books are presented in a realistic way that rings true, and that is what makes them enduring.

  • Ann was on the radio.
  • #95-#98 now out on ebook!
  • While cleaning my room, I found a pretend magazine I started writing and never completed sometime around January 2000, when I was thirteen. Why was I creating fake magazines at 13? Because I had no friends. I was a Mallory without the Club. The cover claims that there will be an article inside on “Through the Eyes of a Misfit Queen: Life on the Other Side of the Fence” (obviously autobiographical) and “21st Century Girl: Living in the Now!” and “Quiz: Your Social Stereotype.” I wish I had written these, because they would have been funny to read now, but I only wrote three things: a Letter to the Editors Page, an FAQ (where I explain that the magazine was handwritten because no one has time for Microsoft Publishing), and…

    “BSC: An (Almost) Shocking Exposé.”

    Here is the text in full.


    Ahh. The Baby-Sitters Club. In their passage to adulthood, most, if not all girls, read at least one. Currently, there’s almost 200 altogether.

    So there’s got to be a subversive message in there somewhere.

    And…

    THERE IS!

    In Logan Likes Mary Anne! (#10), Logan says that no girl every fooled around with him the way Mary Anne did, they usually try to prove how well they can “dance.” I guess Mary Anne really came out of her shell, hmm?

    For a book aimed at elementary school kids, it sure doesn’t promote abstinence. They might as well have titled it Mary Anne Gets Laid.

    In the movie Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Austin Powers refers to Alotta Vagina as “the village bike: everyone’s had a ride.”

    The village bikes of the BSC are Stacey and Claudia, hands down. A tag team of skankiness, they just can’t seem to settle down. At least Mary Anne is monogamous.

    Dawn, poor, poor Dawn. Although we don’t know what happened in California (you need the California Diaries for that), apart from a pen pal (tee-hee), she never had a good relationship. The only real relationship I can remember is that older man, Travis, who just USED her. Maybe Mary Anne can give her a few pointers on boy pulling. Sisters should stick together in times of crisis, Mean Mary Anne!

    Even Mallory and Jessi, the sixth graders, get more action than Dawn. I can’t remember many long-term relationships in sixth grade, but apparently these two are experts. Quint, Curtis, Ben–who can keep track? They’re a tag team of skankiness-in-training.

    ***DISCLAIMER***
    This is in NO WAY to be taken seriously! Also, we have no right to use Ann M. Martin’s characters and stuff.

    Next Month: Analyzation [sic] of The Giver. Stirrings, anyone?

    KRISTY: INNOCENT TOMBOY?

    For someone who didn’t care about makeup or clothes, Kristy sure had a full dance card.

    First there’s that old standby, Alan Gray. She poured Yoo-hoo down his shirt once. A bizarre mating ritual, sure, but erotic nonetheless.

    Let’s not forget her cruise ship affair, a 70-something named Rudy. THERE ARE GRANDKIDS INVOLVED YOU WHORE!

    Her third main lover is Bart. She got grounded for monkeying around with him on a couch with no parental units around, then claimed he was moving too fast for her. Tsk. She called Mary Anne for advice, hah.

    Lastly, there was Steve, Kelsey’s BMOC. Kristy was smart enough to turn him down. That boy was STD city.

    ***

    So ends my “articles” for my “magazine.” I don’t know why I was so mean and focused on slut-shaming. That’s the magic of middle school, I suppose.

    I would actually start the first incarnation of this site a year or two later. I used to have a version archived here, but the link no longer works for complicated technical reasons that has to do with the fact that I made it so that if you go to stoneybrookite.org/.com/.net, it all goes to this blog. In the coming weeks, I will post my old writings on the BSC on this blog.

    Did you ever write stupid things like this as a child/adolescent? Were you as mean as I was?

  • 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!
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