the best friends you’ll never have

Browsing in Main Street

I have a sister who just turned ten, and is thus part of the target demographic of the Main Street series. Unfortunately, she is a not a Reader. For her, reading is something torturous forced upon her by evil parents and teachers to interrupt her computer and television time. She would rather, I think, do math problems than read a book. (My little brother, however, is following the example of his other siblings and reads voraciously and far above grade level, so that is some comfort.) So despite the fact that I do have an “in” to this age range, I don’t really know much about what kids that age like to read nowadays apart from Hannah Montana novelizations.

A question that the upcoming BSC prequel/reissues raised for me is what it all means for the fate of the Main Street series. Now, I like Main Street. I like how it focuses on the lives of both and the adults and the children. You rarely got insight into the adult world in the BSC–it was all about the fantasy of thirteen-year-olds leading independent lives. The girls in Main Street are fairly independent for their ages as well, considering that most parents nowadays wouldn’t let a fifth grader go more than a one-block radius from home without an adult present, but adults in Main Street are not just there to be parents who need their lack of parenting skills to be supplemented by some eleven and thirteen-year-olds who pretty much know everything about child-rearing. No, in Main Street they have their own problems and lives and interesting plots. Mim and Mr. Pennington, hot stuff, right?!

Yet I’ve always wondered, ever since I first heard of the series, about how well it is possible for Main Street to sell. Girls who hang out at their grandmothers’ sewing store? That does indeed sound like something that Ann M. Martin would fantasize about, but perhaps not something that would interest preteen girls. The books, while they do deal with heavier issues than the BSC, retain a kind of slow, old-fashioned pace, kind of like Mayberry RFD. Perhaps I am just buying into marketing hype, but that doesn’t seem to me to be the kind of thing that KIDS TODAY! would be into. I would have been into it, but I was also a loser with no friends who sat in my room making weird crafty things.

Anyway, the fact that the focus seems to be shifting back to the BSC makes me wonder if this is somehow a bad sign for Main Street. On Amazon, the most recent Main Street book came out at the beginning of last month. It’s ranked around 10,000, which seems pretty respectable to me. There are no listings for a next Main Street book, though. Perhaps it just means that Ann has been busy with the prequel and the presumed editing of the reissues to write another Main Street book. If the prequel does well, it could be feasible that Ann would do more with her BSC characters, which I think would not bode well for Main Street.

What do you think? Has Main Street been a success? How do you think that the upcoming BSC excitement will affect the series?

Yes, I know that it has been about two months since I last posted. What have I been doing? Well, I moved. I moved to a place where I could not take my BSC books. I have been quite distracted by my real life, and in all honesty have not been thinking much about the BSC. My mind has been occupied by things like, “How can I pay my tuition if I can’t get a student loan because my university has no association with the US banking system?” and “Oh fuck my head hurts from this hangover.” I had a few topics I wanted to write about, but I just never got around to forming the ideas to the point where I could write a meaningful blog post about them.

BUT THEN SOMETHING TOTALLY UNEXPECTED WAS DISCOVERED YESTERDAY, THE BIGGEST NEWS SINCE THE YEAR 2000 WHEN THE SERIES ENDED. If you care enough about the BSC to follow this blog, then you probably about know about it. Adri posted this yesterday in the BSC livejournal. I haven’t read the comments yet, because I wanted to write this post completely unbiased. But anyway, A NEW BSC BOOK IS COMING OUT APRIL 1ST. It is a prequel called The Summer Before, which takes place the summer before seventh grade. You can read the summary in the link to the BSC lj.

What are my thoughts on this? I have many.

  • Is this the start of a series of prequels? Will we have books that take place when the sitters are even younger? Or is this a one-off thing?

  • Perhaps, instead of a bunch of prequels, we’ll next have The Summer After, which would take place after Graduation Day. Now, I have mixed feelings about the idea of a “reunion book” in general. I kind of prefer us all being able to imagine what happened to the girls ourselves.
  • While a prequel is exciting, we do all know, say, what happened to Stacey the summer before seventh grade. The Claudia plot, though, intrigues me.
  • How will it be written? I imagine it will be more like Main Street than BSC. I doubt we will have, say, a Chapter Two.

  • Speaking of Main Street, I wonder how this will affect Ann’s Main Street effort. Will she abandon it in favor of more BSC? Or is this, as I noted above, just a one-off thing and will not affect Main Street at all? Does anyone know how well Main Street has sold?
  • This is perhaps the most important question of all: Does this indicate a potential, at least partial, re-release of the series? It’s hard to imagine having a prequel released for a series that has been out of print for years. Although the graphic novels are still in print, and the book will only be about the original four, so perhaps Scholastic doesn’t deem a re-release necessary.

    I will go more in depth about my various thoughts about this news in subsequent postings. But I just wanted to get something up here, and just bang out a few of the reactions floating around my head. What reactions do you guys have to this news?

  • I’m not going to do a review of the two latest Main Street books, as I didn’t bring the books with me and I read them nearly two months ago. I will say that I think the series is on an upward trajectory in terms of quality and these two books focused more on the lives of the townspeople instead of just the four girls, which I enjoyed. I think Ann recognizes that this is a series which those of who read the BSC religiously are also going to pick up, because I think the stories have a wider appeal, age-wise, than the BSC did.

    One thing that bothers me about Main Street, though, is that I’m not sure that I would be reading it if it weren’t by Ann. Actually, I’m certain that I would have just never discovered it in the first place, but if I had by chance picked it up, I’m not sure it would held my attention. What I like about Main Street is… the Ann-ness. The Wizard of Oz and I Love Lucy references! Names of people I recognize from BSC, like David Leviathan, BSC editor! The BSC to me has the qualities of a security blanket, and Main Street has some of the same qualities and familiarity that the BSC possesses.

    I know that not everyone who is a fan of the BSC likes Main Street. Some find the subject matter–small town! sewing!–not terribly interesting. And some have also criticized Main Street for seeming so PC, like everyone in Camden Falls has some kind of special chapter 2-defining characteristic that the people who were mean to the Ramseys when they first moved to the ‘Brook would have an issue with. In Camden Falls though, everyone gets along!

    So, do you read Main Street? If it weren’t written by Ann, would you still read it?


    Best Friends is the latest book in Ann’s newish series, Main Street. You can read my reviews of the previous MS books and other MS-related posts here.

    In this one, Flora’s best friend from her old city is coming to visit Camden Falls, and Olivia is freaking out because Olivia finds herself boring and uncool in comparison. Also, Camden Falls is celebrating their big 350th anniversary, Olivia’s parents are opening up a store, Nikki is worried her dad will come back, and Ruby is starring in a play for the aforementioned 350th anniversary celebration.

    Something that is glaring about Main Street for the dedicated BSC reader, those of us who know Ann’s obsessions so well it is like they are our obsessions. Those of us who automatically think of Ann whenever they see something related to “I Love Lucy” or “The Wizard of Oz” know what I’m talking about. Just like in BSC, Ann makes no pretense of hiding them.

    The most jarring and distracting one in this book is undoubtedly the name that Ann chose for Flora’s back-home BFF, which could not possibly be a coincidence. Her name is Annika Lindgren.

    Confession time: When I was younger I loved Astrid Lindgren’s books, particularly the Pippi series and the Children of Noisy Village series. I sincerely wanted to learn Swedish and be transported back to the time of Astrid’s childhood so I could live the Noisy Village life. I also thought that Annika (which is the name of Pippi’s female next door neighbor friend) was the most beautiful name ever, and I wanted to change my name to it. Apparently Ann likes the name to, hence we have Annika freaking Lindgren in Main Street.

    Moving on. One thing I don’t think Ann understands very well is poverty. In Stoneybrook, having a dad who was a partner in a law firm makes you “middle class,” when we all know from Sex and the City that partners in a law firm make BANK. Nikki is the token poor of Main Street, and Ann always makes sure to mention that everything at the Sheridans’ house is rundown. Nikki’s notebook is even “battered.” While it’s possible that Nikki found the notebook somewhere and it was already battered when she got it, my assumption is that the less you have, the things that you do have are more important to you and you would take better care of them. In my mind, it’s the kids who live in Kristy’s neighborhood who would have the battered notebooks, because they can always send out the housekeeper to the store to buy them five new beautiful Lisa Frank notebooks with dolphins and pandas on the cover. It’s just like, OK Ann, we get it; Nikki’s poor–but you don’t have to make every object she owns totally busted.

    The Fongs’ dogs are named Mouse and Rosie, just like Ann’s cats were named. Mouse is a clever name for a cat, but for a dog it just doesn’t make sense. Sorry.

    I read recently on a comment on The Dairi Burger that in Eleven Kids, One Summer, one of the eleven kids becomes friends with the characters from Just a Summer Romance. I would like this kind of thing to happen in Main Street. Not that Jackie Rodowsky would visit Camden Falls or something, but just a nod to universe of Stoneybrook and Palo City and Reese and Sea City. Something very subtle. I want Camden Falls to be on the same map as these other fictional places. I don’t even know why, but it is a very appealing idea to me.

    Just so you all know, the newest Main Street book is shipping from Amazon! Mine is on its way, and I will post a review after I finish reading it.

    Ann has also written a missive over at her site, which pretty much just pimps the Main Street online interactive stuff.

    Finally, something I keep meaning to mention–if you have a website which deals with the Young Adult lit of our childhoods, send me the link and I will put it on my blogroll. While I don’t link non-YA lit sites, I do appreciate all of the people who have non-YA lit sites who have linked this blog. Thanks!!

    Sorry this post has been so long in coming. I have been very busy and also very tired.

    Let’s start with the cover:


    This is, I think, the best cover yet. This is because the artist’s problem with bodily proportions are halved but only showing the girls from the waist up. Flora and Ruby both look cute on the cover, although I think Flora appears a bit underdressed for the weather. It looks like she’s wearing a hoodie, which one shouldn’t really wear when there’s snow on the ground. The picture of Main Street in the background is nice, though. One thing I’ve forgotten to mention is that each of the books has a fold-out map of Camden Falls in the front and a special rendition of some aspect of the town in the back. This is a treat for people like me, who love books with maps.

    Main Street is interesting because I am not quite sure who the target audience is. The BSC books always said RL 4 on the back, which I assumed meant that it is for a fourth grade reading level. The Main Street books say RL-009-up, which I assume means ages 9 and up as I can’t really see a freshman in high school reading it (so says the senior in college writing the review). Amazon confirms my suspicions with “Ages 9-12″ on the purchase page. I think that in terms of content, MS falls between BSC and CD. MS actually deals with very mature subject matter, only the subject matter, unlike in CD, is generally not the girls who are directly doing these mature things. No one is anorexic, no one tries drinking, no one has an abusive boyfriend. But it does deal with issues in a way that BSC does not. Nikki’s mother and father are both alcoholics, and there’s some family violence that occurs. This plays an especially large role in ths book. MS also deals with death, disability, and dementia. Wow, these books are sounding really cheerful.

    There are, of course, Classic Ann Hallmarks sprinkled throughout. While the last book saw the girls dressing up as characters from Wizard of Oz, this time the reference is only a metaphor that Flora uses. Also, children’s books are namedropped fairly often. I think I would know an Ann book just from the stuff she always references. I feel like I have a very good understanding of Ann’s likes and dislikes, and I have yet to read the biography that Scholastic published.

    On the death-of-parents front, I feel like this book does a little better than the first two. But still. Flora and Ruby are really well-adjusted, considering the fact that, you know, both their parents died suddenly and they had to leave everything they had ever known.

    I have read that Ann plans to let the girls age, which is an interesting thought considering the 9-12 reading level. The Alice McKinley books, which I love, are a good example of aging over a series. I haven’t read the last four or so Alice books, although I would very much like to collect the entire series, but I know that the books grow with Alice–the themes get more mature as she gets older, and are intended for age that Alice is in the book. I’m not sure how it’s going now that Alice is in 11th grade, but we’ll see when I read those I guess. Phyllis Reynolds Naylor also did three prequels to the original, and I read that she is a going to a novel of Alice’s life from 18-60.

    While we’re on the subject of Alice, as a sidenote: they’ve made a movie, and I think they cast Alice ok–Sally from Mike’s Super Short Show, if you remember the Disney Channel bump programming from three years ago–but they made LUCAS GRABEEL Lester. I’m sorry, but Sharpay’s gay brother does not equal Alice’s beer-swigging, womanizing older bro. And LUKE PERRY is Ben. That is even funnier.

    So yeah, I wonder how they will deal with the aging of the characters. Are they going to tilt the books slightly older with each new school year? I don’t know if MS will be as long running as a Alice, but it will be interesting to see what happens when Flora goes to middle school. I hope the series keeps going. I was so sad when Friendship Ring (by Rachel Vail) kind of abruptly ended. I really enjoyed that series. I guess the series market is a hard one–publishers are looking for the next Harry Potter, or at the very least the next BSC, and if the series can’t deliver it’s over, despite the quality of the books. I saw some Main Street books at the grocery store, which I’m taking as a good indicator of sales.

    So yes, if you are a BSC fan I would suggest reading Main Street. And buying the graphic novels so we can get more of them!!!!

    So yesterday I read Main Street No. 2, Needle and Thread.


    Sorry I can’t find a bigger picture. Anyway, trust me that the cover picture is hideous. Whoever drew it apparently has same disease Hodges Soileau has, which is that he makes young black girls kind of look like ugly men.

    On to the important stuff.

  • Ann has changed “stitch-and-bitch” to “chat-and-stitch.”

  • Lisa Papademetriou recovered from her amnesia enough to write some book for tweens that is advertised in one of the pages at the back of the book.
  • Ann’s Wizard of Oz obsession has returned. The girls dress up as Wizard of Oz characters for trick-or-treating. Does Ann watch any other movie?

    Overall I’m enjoying the Main Street series. As I said before, I feel like they’re better written than BSC but I still feel like the death of the parents and the emotions that come with that is being brushed over. Do they have the same “pull” that BSC has? No, because it’s more… realistic. Plus lightning does not strike twice. But they’re still enjoyable.

  • So I am back from the land in which Ann currently resides and the area that is the model for Camden Falls. I realized that Ann is really rich and an author who doesn’t need to commute, plus she doesn’t have kids who are in school or anything. Therefore, she has the option of finding her dream town and making it her home. She did. There was nary a Target or a strip mall in sight. Only quaint little shops and restaurants. My question: why did she place Camden Falls in MA and not the Hudson River Valley? I have never been to Massachusetts, so perhaps there is an area in Massachusetts which quite resembles the Hudson Valley. But still. Ann, why not represent?

    I found this pic of Woodstock Wine and Liquors that illustrates what a Camden Falls store must look like:


    Anyway, I have two extremely exciting blog posts planned. One is an expose of the Stamford, CT area. The other is a review of the second Main Street book, which I just purchased tonight. I know, I know, I’m writing a lot about Main Street, but I feel like it’s relevant because it’s a series written by Ann. So yeah, full post tomorrow.

    Also, Claudia renamed herself Amy Secrest and started selling her jewelry online. Thanks broken_angel99 for posting this on the bsc livejournal!

    At the request of Puck, I’ve set up an RSS feed. Also, I’d like to point out that fonts are available to download and the Old Stoneybrookite is available for viewing. So. On with the blog post.

    As I mentioned yesterday, recently I took a trip to Borders and purchased many things, including Welcome to Camden Falls. Today I’m going to take the time to do a review of sorts.


    image from Booksense.

    First thing that really struck me was Flora and Ruby’s in case of emergency person: Annika Lindgren. Annika=name of Pippi’s best friend. Lindgren=last name of author who wrote the Pippi books. Cute, Ann. And like Mallory, Ruby is not allowed to wear glitter nail polish. Ann really likes glitter. She thinks it is so powerful that parents must ban it. Honestly, what’s the difference between a sparkly sweatshirt and a non-sparkly sweatshirt, or nail polish with glitter or nail polish without? It’s not like Mal wanted to wear a shirt that didn’t cover her stomach or with a naughty phrase emblazoned on it. She just wanted to reflect light.

    The paragraph about how the Row Houses were a ~rainbow of different races~ made me want to puke. Main Street, while the target audience is 8-12 year olds, focuses on much more mature themes than the BSC books. Nikki’s dad is an alcoholic. Mrs. Willet’s Alzheimer’s is dealt with in more emotional depth than Uncle Joe’s was. Robby’s mental retardation is also shown with more depth than Whitney Cater’s. Yet I feel that the death of Flora and Ruby’s parents is dealt with oddly and the deaths of Abby and Mary Anne’s parents were done better. The death of Mrs. Winslow was done extremely well and so were Sunny’s emotions before and after her death. Flora and Ruby, on the other hand, do not demonstrate much emotion over the death of their parents. In five months they’ve managed to move on and have happy lives. While it’s good for them and all that, I don’t think it’s a realistic portrayal of elementary schoolers who were suddenly orphaned. Even when Flora found her mother’s diary her reaction was more “Here is something that connects me to Camden Falls” than “Here is something that connects me to her mother that will maybe give me insights into her and her life that I will never be able to ask her about myself because she was taken from me before I had the chance.” Maybe Ann knows something about the psychology of ten-year-olds that I don’t but I just think it’s weird.

    The other unrealistic aspect of the book is Camden Falls itself. Ann says in the back of the book that she likes creating a very important setting for her books that become characters unto themselves. This is obvious from reading the BSC; Stoneybrook is definitely an integral part of the series. Camden Falls feels so idealized, and so fifty or sixty years ago, that it feels hard to believe. It has clearly defined independently-owned businesses that fulfill a specific purpose in town life and there is no overlapping. Stoneybrook at least had a national department store (Bellair’s) and all the houses in the Claudia side of town were basically identical. Ann says that Camden Falls is partially based on Woodstock, NY, and as I am coincidentally going to that area on Monday I will report back to y’all about whether or not this is Woodstock reality or weird fantasy. I would, however, like to see a Main Street where Wal*mart threatens to come to Camden Falls.

    Overall I enjoyed it and will purchase the next book. It’s more interesting than I thought it would be.

    Main Street Website

    I just went to Borders and picked up some stuff that came out while I was away: 2 of the graphic novels and the first main street. Obviously sometime soon I will write about what I think.

    Also while I was in Borders I saw a copy of Dawn and the Impossible Three for sale. Is it an old copy… or is scholastic experimentally rereleasing the books? We can dream, can’t we?