the best friends you’ll never have
Recently, Ann revealed that a Baby-Sitters Club reunion book is not off the table. I started thinking about A) whether I would want one and B) what I would want it to be and C) what Ann is likely to write.
The Summer Before was okay, but didn’t reveal all that much that was new because it takes place before the start of the series. So a reunion book would be much more exciting, in my opinion. There are several options.
Any other ideas? What would you like to see?
The weird thing about blogging like a subject like the BSC, which ended (unless you count The Summer Before) fourteen years ago, is that eons can pass with no news at all, and then all of the sudden there is a TON of news.
First of all, two new books by Ann, The Doll People Set Sail and Rain Reign, have come out. Because of RR especially, Ann has been doing some interviews, including the Elle one I linked to recently and one at Bustle. The best part of the that interview is where she says that she now thinks Dawn would be an environmental lawyer or something like that, whereas before she just said Dawn would be in California. Taken with the way she answered the question about a potential reunion book in the Elle interview, I hope this means that this is something that Ann is beginning to really consider. I think it would be awesome if she did something like Meg Cabot is doing with The Princess Diaries and The Mediator, where she is writing new books about the same characters for a slightly older audience (SUZE AND JESSE OMG!!!). Hell, I’d even be okay with a Karen in middle school book, or something; to my knowledge, Ann has never written for adults or older YA.
The other extremely exciting thing going on is that Scholastic/Graphix is rereleasing the first two graphic novels in color. Not only will it look cool, and obviously I will need these in addition to the non-color copies I already own, but to me, it’s a sign that the ebooks are generating enough interest for Scholastic to pour some real money into BSC. My hope would be that the color versions will be so successful that Raina will be asked to do a fifth book. Of course, we don’t even know if Raina would even want to, or if she’s too busy with her other projects. But still, we could dream. What book would you want? The Ghost at Dawn’s House is the obvious choice, but seeing Sea City in Boy-Crazy Stacey would also be fun.
I am taking all of this renewed interest in the series that has been going on in the past few years as a very good sign, and will keep on hoping for a reunion book!
If you’re at all interested in children’s literature, and have a special spot in your heart for children’s literature aimed at girls written in the ’80s and ’90s, then you’ve probably already read the interview with Lois Lowry on the New York website.
The Anastasia I grew up with, as pictured in a random eBay auction
The Anastasia books are getting rereleased, and as they normally do nowadays when they rerelease books, some changes are being made. The one that is the most odious to me is that the title of Anastasia, Ask Your Analyst is being changed to Anastasia Off Her Rocker, which sounds dumb to me. The publishers didn’t think that the original title would be appealing to kids now, but frankly, I don’t see how it was any more appealing back in my day–by then, they didn’t call psychiatrists/therapists/psychologists “analysts” anymore. Kids read the book because they loved Anastasia. But I digress.
On the one hand, I’m really excited to see the books in print again. I’m also excited at the prospect of Lois Lowry finishing the tenth Anastasia book she started after Anastasia Absolutely came out, and the publishers said Anastasia books weren’t selling well enough to keep publishing them. (Boo, publishers!) But on the other hand, it does raise some interesting questions, the first being–why do we have to edit books for the current generation? Sometimes I can understand it, like if there is content that is now offensive, like how the original scene in Mary Poppins where they went and visited peoples of the woirld was later revised to have them visit animals instead.
But things like exchanging Margaret’s pad belt for adhesive with wings rub me the wrong way. Yes, it confused me when I was younger, and when we got the Internet, it was probably one of the first things I looked up, since it had confused me so much. And I suppose that today’s kids’ parents are of a generation that never had to deal with sanitary pad belts, so kids can’t ask their parents. But to me, things like this help retain the flavor of the period the books were written in. Anastasia is an interesting case though, because she was based on Amy Carter and ended during the Clinton administration. So her period stretches for a fairly long time.
But that period has definitely passed. I feel like there is a huge difference in the way my generation lived as children without the Internet and how children now live. So many plots would be ruined by cell phones. I don’t even think that the Baby-Sitters Club would be possible now. There’d be no reason to have meetings, probably, and kids wouldn’t be allowed at 11, 12, 13 to go sit at the houses of people their parents don’t know. I think it’s telling that Scholastic switched from releasing edited paperback versions of the books to simply releasing them as ebooks as-is. I don’t think the market for the BSC is there for kids now, at least not enough to warrant the cost of editing, all-new cover art, and printing, but there is a market for people to buy them for nostalgia purposes, or for a handful of kids to want to download them to their iPad or Kindle after being introduced to them by their parents.
I’m definitely going to check out the Anastasia books for comparison purposes, even if it’s just to help encourage Lois Lowry’s publishers to have her complete that last book. Do you think publishers should update books for new generations, or do you prefer a period feel?
One of the many things I learned from the books is who Balanchine was. He is mentioned in Jessi’s Awful Secret:
There’s a look in ballet – dancers are thin, square-shouldered, and have a more-or-less oval face. I’ve heard that it started because the great choreographer George Balanchine wanted his corps de ballet (all the dancers who aren’t the stars) to look alike. Since his death, this has started to change. That’s what people say, anyway. It seems to be true.
Now, this basically blames Balanchine for a hell of a lot. Not only is it blaming Balanchine for image issues in ballet, but, especially since it is in Jessi’s voice, also carries implications of Balanchine only wanting women who look alike in terms of race as well to be in his corps. Also, while I’m not a ballet scholar–although I have studied ballet history and the work and influence of Balanchine in particular before–this does not even appear to be a true statement. In Lincoln Kirstein’s Program Notes, about Balanchine’s 1971 staging of Serenade, he writes: “If there is a star, perhaps it is the corps de ballet, which Balanchine, at the start of his American career, intended to strengthen past anonymity or any subordinate position” (Source).
This, of course, could still be interpreted as dancers still looking alike, while their work is elevated en masse. In Ballet 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving the Ballet, Robert Greskovic writes:
In concept, “individuality in the corps” is something of an oxymoron. Or so it has been until more recent times, notably in the era of George Balanchine. The founder and guiding light of the New York City Ballet altered the concept of regimented uniformity of the corps de ballet. Balanchine’s vision of the corps de ballet definitely included the dimension of individuality. It allowed for personal distinction within its ranks. Answering criticism for his company’s lack of strict regularity in the dancing of his corps de ballet, Balanchine likened likened his preferred, individualized effects to those of an unclipped garden” (p. 167).
Now this, to me, does not sound like a guy who wants all of his ballerinas to have oval faces. The reason why I’m bringing all of this up is that in the September 22nd issue of The New Yorker, there’s a profile of Misty Copeland. This article provides insights into the issue of race in ballet that I think are helpful for understanding and looking critically at the way Jessi’s dancing is described, putting the whole “dancing major roles en pointe at age 11″ thing aside. Once again about Balanchine, Rivka Galchen, the author of the profile, writes:
The original dream of a uniquely American ballet was of a company that mixed whites and “Negroes”—the term used by George Balanchine, one of the co-founders of New York City Ballet. Balanchine had been influenced by working with Josephine Baker, the black American dancer who became a celebrity in France during the twenties. His vision was only occasionally realized: in his famous “Agon,” he choreographed a pas de deux for Diana Adams and Arthur Mitchell, a white woman and a black man. “Agon” was performed in 1957, to critical celebration, even though it could not be shown on television until 1968. Balanchine also made Maria Tallchief, who was of Osage heritage, an early star of the New York City Ballet. (For a time, he also made her his wife.)
I suppose that the point of this post was just to direct you guys to the profile, because it is very interesting. Also, I felt like clearing up some things about Balanchine, because Suzanne Weyn (a ghostwriter I usually like, since she wrote all of the juicy Stacey stories) created an image of Balanchine in my head as someone “who wanted his corps de ballet to look alike, but since his death ballet dancers are not as overly conscious about their looks and weight” (from the Complete Guide). An entire generation of girls, hating Balanchine. Poor guy.
If there’s one thing that the fandom seems to 100% agree on, it’s that Jessi’s handwriting is too damn hard to read. Many cheerfully admit that they skip the sections where she has handwritten something, or even say that they can’t read cursive at all. (I have actually had people my age–28–tell me to rewrite something in print so that they can read it.)
Now, cursive, and whether it’s worth teaching kids how to do it, with the ubiquity of computers and all, is a hot-button issue. Personally, I am glad that laptops in the classroom only really became a thing after I finished college, because the clackety-clack of 20 or so keyboards going simultaneously would have driven me crazy, plus it’s easier to think with a pen in your hand. Anyway, that is not what I’m writing about today. Back to Jessi and her poor, maligned handwriting.
My rereading of My Own Two Feet that I mentioned last week also resulted in several Wikipedia/Google k-holes about common handwriting systems in the United States. Beverly Cleary, having gone to school in the ’20s and ’30s, learned the Palmer Method. When you look up the Palmer Method, it looks a lot like Jessi’s writing.
Apparently Oakley was just very behind the times in their writing program, because by the ’50s, the Palmer method was on the way out, to be replaced by Zaner-Bloser, which is what I learned, and which has more in common with Mary Anne’s writing than Jessi’s.
Now, of course, if kids do learn cursive today, they learn D’Nealian, which is stupid and ugly. But let’s stop insulting Jessi’s handwriting. It is a part of American cultural heritage! And I have never understood the whole “hard-to-read” thing, anyway. Jessi’s handwriting 4 lyfe!