the best friends you’ll never have

Browsing in Nostalgia

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?

Not long ago, there was a post on the BSC Snark livejournal comparing the TV actresses to the movie ones. Veteran BSC snarker 3-foot-6 mentioned that she felt that the tv show did a better job capturing the feelings of the books because the books were really more of a late 80s/mid 90s thing, whereas the movies came out in 1995. She says,

I recently decided the reason the movie sucks is that it was just made too late. The whole movie is so quintessentially 1995 – baby doll dresses! Girl power soundtrack! – and the books are so rooted in the late 80s and early 90s. The whole fashion/slang/culture aesthetic is off just enough that it doesn’t feel familiar to fans. Whereas the TV show is right there in the horrible fashion and shitty dialogue wheelhouse of the books.

This is an interesting point, because, as someone who started reading in 1993, the books that I read when they were new, which probably began around the 70s or so, are the ones that feel the most BSC to me. I understand that this is a blasphemy for many in the BSC fandom, since by this time, the quality had dropped down considerably and Ann was only writing outlines by this point. But like I have said before, BSC has never been something that I’ve read for the quality in the first place; it’s something I’ve always read for a feeling, for a fantasy. The books that came out in the mid-90s and later are the ones that conicide with my own childhood. They are the ones that didn’t already seem kind of outdated when I read them the first time around. Kristy’s Great Idea already felt a little old when I read it the first time at the end of first grade.

I’m not sure, actually, why so many people consider the BSC to be an 80s series in the first place. Yes, it started in 1986, but sales-wise, the series peaked in around 1992. Mary Anne and Dawn’s parents hadn’t even gotten married yet by the end of the 1980s. Only 29 regular series books, three Super Specials, and six Little Sister books had come out by December 1989. Going by numbers, the BSC is really more of a 90s phenomenon, in my opinion.

Perhaps I feel this way because I only became aware of the BSC series when I started school, and barely remember the late 80s. To me, the BSC is rooted in my childhood, which 1995 would probably be considered the apex of, and long-time readers of this blog or people who have interacted with me on various fora know that I make no bones about much preferring the ghostwritten books, ones that focus more on interesting topics such as boy drama and malling-used-as-a-verb.

I do realize that this is an unpopular opinion, though. Agree? Disagree? Should we do a final four bracket of the various BSC ghostwriters and Ann, ending in a Peter Lerangis vs Ann M. Martin smackdown? OMG I might actually do this.

Luxken27 has been going through her personal VHS stash and has posted some interesting videos to the Baby-Sitters Club LJ Community that I’ve never seen before.

The first is an Ann M. Martin interview from 1992, where the Mickey Mouse Club picked one very lucky girl to spend the day with Ann M. Martin. It offers some interesting behind-the-scenes looks at the process of creating the books way back when. Also, I do not believe the girl realized her dream of becoming just like her favorite author. Bummer!

And here are some cast interviews dealing with the movie. It does not provide a voyeuristic view into Scholastic publishing, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

Also, in VERY IMPORTANT BIG DEAL NEWS, Boy-Crazy Stacey is up on Amazon. Thanks wanderingfrog for the heads up!

I started writing this in August and finished it today. Yes, I do have many drafts of unfinished blog posts sitting around. Some of them may eventually get finished. But you may never get to read “Ben Hobart: Manboy of Mystery,” sorry. Also, I haven’t heard anything else about a new B&B-H since.


Recently Six months ago, I read that Beavis and Butt-Head, like Futurama before it, is soon coming back to TV with all-new episodes. I am of two minds about this: one is that I really love B&B-H, and the only thing in my childhood that could tear me away from spending all weekend inside reading BSC books was spending all weekend inside watching B&B-H marathons. But somehow, it seems to me that new episodes of TV shows past their glory days somehow fall flat. When I watched the new Futurama, something about Bender seemed totally off to me, and I really had no desire to watch anymore after the first new episode. I have a feeling that I’ll feel the same way about B&B-H: for five minutes I’ll be excited about the OOOH SHINY of a new B&B-H episode, and then… eh. Probably because for me, the best part of the show is when B&B-H watch music videos, and I hate music today, for the most part. I don’t give a shit what B&B-H say about Lady Gaga because she’s neither awesome (Nirvana!) or totally full of amazing amounts of suckiness (the Scat-Man guy). To me, it’s just… eh.

Or it might be totally awesome and I’ll love it. You never know.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because that is how I have felt about The Summer Before. It took me a long time to get around to reading it (shipping charges are a bitch and it’s better to wait), and I still haven’t really decided how I feel about it, which is why it’s taken me almost two months a long time to get around to writing about it.

The BSC “graduated” the same year I did, and the first book came out the month after I was born–I was actually supposed to be born in August, but I was a scheduled c-section and the doctor was on vacation during my due date. I was THISCLOSE to being in perfect symmetry with the BSC! Sadface. To me, it always felt like a special thing that the BSC ended before I made it to high school. I was never one of those people who was clamoring for a reunion book. I much preferred to be free to imagine what the girls would be doing, rather than knowing that Kristy became class president in senior year and then majored in business or whatever.

So I was glad that they went with a prequel instead; this way, we are still free to imagine their futures and write fanfiction. (I used to write it, and this morning I totally got into the idea of writing some Emily Bernstein fanfiction, but I probably won’t.) [Note: I have since started participating in Baby-Sitters Club 100.] But still, even with just a prequel, there is something strange about removing the BSC from their time and writing it now. First of all, I don’t think thirteen year olds and eleven year olds really baby-sit anymore. Most eleven year olds I know still need a baby-sitter of their own. Even with the updated rereleases of the series, which remove references to things like VCRs and The Cosby Show, the world has changed in the past 25 years in way that almost renders the entire series moot.

As a rule, I’m generally opposed to remakes and revivals. I’m working on a thesis dealing with punk at the moment, and one of the things in one of the books I just read, Punk Rock: So What?, basically says that punk revivals invariably ring false, an attitude that I have always agreed with. You can listen to Nirvana and enjoy it, just don’t start a neo-grunge band. Because outside of the cultural context and time into which it was born, grunge just doesn’t make sense. It becomes something false and manufactured from some idea of nostalgia.

While I enjoyed The Summer Before, for the most part, I’m not really in favor of any more BSC books, and still have conflicting feelings about it. The series’ time has passed, although new generations can and should continue to enjoy it. But outside of the late 80s/early 90s, when it was contemporary, I’m just not sure how it’s possible that the concept can really “work,” how legitimate a new BSC book can be.