the best friends you’ll never have

Browsing in real life

Recently on the BSC Boards, there have been a few topics started with pictures of what various BSC members’ houses could potentially look like. This is a subject I enjoy thinking about, and the idea of what the closest thing to Stoneybrook in real life is something I’ve written about in the past.

I think it’s a dead end to try to imagine Stoneybrook as actually being in Connecticut, and looking at towns in Connecticut to try to figure out a reasonable analogue to Stoneybrook, as I did here, is futile. This is because Stoneybrook’s inspiration is actually the Princeton of Ann’s youth. I have explored this subject in this post. The only major difference I can see is that Stoneybrook is on the Long Island Sound, and Princeton is landlocked. (This geography only comes into play in a handful of books, though, such as Claudia and the Lighthouse Ghost and Island Adventure. And I’m pretty sure Mary Anne and Logan do some homework on picnic tables by the water at one point.) I even have doubts that Ann has even been to Connecticut, much less spent some time in 1985 driving around Fairfield County, trying to find the perfect town to base Stoneybrook on. I think long-time Stoneybrookite commenter Eowyn was pretty much on the money when she said in response to the “Origins” post that Ann probably placed Stoneybrook in Connecticut because the Ricardos moved there. Westport, if you read the wikipedia article, seems to have a lot in common with Stoneybrook, although it’s certainly big enough to have its own post office and isn’t directly adjacent to Stamford. But I digress.

The main point I’m trying to make here is that poring over a map of Fairfield County and trying to find a town that you can take a BSC pilgrimmage to is a waste of time. For maximum BSC thrills, forget about Connecticut and go to Princeton. You can see sites from Ann’s childhood (her school is marked for demolition, though) and probably find her childhood house, and familiar place names abound. Rosedale Road is there, and there’s a Cherry Valley Road, and a Slate Road (okay, not Slate Street, but close enough). Anyway, my point is, I think there’s a real case to be made for taking Princeton as the best foundation for Stoneybrook that we have, and if we look at Princeton, we can probably find the closest picture for how Ann imagines Stoneybrook. So in the coming weeks, I’m going to write a few posts on the subject. First post will be on Kristy’s ritzy neighborhood.

After the Challenge, instead of kicking my posting butt into gear, I’ve sort of moved into a phase where I’m less interested in BSC stuff: no motivation to post here or work in the wiki, less time spent on the various BSC communities I belong to… This happens from time to time, I suppose.

I’m not a big “fandom” person, so it’s not like I lose interest in the BSC and start, say, blogging about Community. I think it’s only natural that after nineteen years, sometimes I want to do nothing more than to read and think about the BSC, and other times I’m more interested in living my life outside of Stoneybrook. I mean, I started reading the series when I was the same age as Karen Brewer and now I’m old enough to teach at Stoneybrook Middle School or have a BSC client of my own. I’m older than Wesley Ellenburg!

I tend to retreat into BSCland when I’m feeling uneasy or a bit sad about my own life and want something comforting. But now I’m busy trying to start a career and balancing that with a social life and dipping my toes into the world of adult responsibility. I do hope to post more, and to add to the wiki (which you can all do too). But for now, I’d like to ask a few questions:

1) How long have you been reading the BSC?
2) Do you find that your interest in the series waxes and wanes with the seasons/life events/whatever?

I went to Ann’s home town recently. It was fun because I am a nerd (duh) and it gave me an idea of what Stoneybrook looks like in Ann’s mind. Although of course, I was there NOW and not in the 1950s or 1960s. But it was nice to walk along the streets and to understand the layout of the town and compare it to how I imagine Stoneybrook.

The Stoneybrook-Fairfield County, Connecticut-Princeton, NJ relationship is a favorite subject of mine. I’ve written about it twice: here on the Princeton/New Jersey BSC connections and here, where I examined Fairfield.

Recall that for Stacey, the trip for New York City is mentioned somewhere (can’t remember which book) is stated as being 2 hours on the train. I actually went to the Metro North website and checked out the timetables, and a trip from Stamford to New York City takes between 43 minutes and 1 hour 9 minutes or so. The 2 hour time estimation, however, sounds far more accurate for the trip from PRINCETON to New York City. Again, I ask the question of Why didn’t Ann just stick Stoneybrook in New Jersey? I have only been in Connecticut briefly, but I do feel that Stoneybrook far better represents the area of New Jersey that Princeton is in more than it accurately depicts that particular corner of Connecticut.

I wish I had taken pictures when I was in Princeton to show you all, but I just didn’t think of it at the time. Next time I go there, I definitely will.

Everyone who has read an “About the Author” page in a BSC book knows that Ann is from Princeton, NJ. Those who have conducted further research know that Stoneybrook is more or less modeled after the Princeton of her childhood. I was in a BSC Geography Wikipedia Spiral earlier today, examining Fairfield County (where Stamford is located) for possible locations and analogies to Stoneybrook, and then I went to the Princeton page for clues of what Stoneybrook must be like. I hit paydirt in the “history” section of the page:

Originally, Princeton was known only as part of nearby Stony Brook.

The town of Stony Brook, NJ no longer exists today–it is still the name of tributary of the Millstone River, however, and Stoney Brook is indeed an alternate spelling. So it is safe to say, I think, that Ann did not get the name of “Stoneybrook” from the other places that bear this name. There is also a Chatham in New Jersey, and the county that Princeton is located in is named Mercer–both fictional neighboring towns of fictional Stoneybrook.

Why didn’t Ann just put Stoneybrook in New Jersey?

It’s also interesting that the only real place mentioned in the books, besides major cities (NYC, LA, Boston, Philadelphia, DC), is Stamford. This sticks Stoneybrook in a concrete geographical location, yet Ann does not mention the real neighboring coastal towns of Stamford, Darien and Greenwich. Perhaps this would stick Stoneybrook in a too obviously wealthy situation, even though everyone is a lawyer so it’s obvious that the sitters are more or less upper middle class, or even upper, for Kristy Post-Watson and probably Shannon as well. Instead, the towns surrounding Stoneybrook are pretty generic and have generic names with Hersey roots. I suppose that Stamford isn’t a well-enough known city–people have heard of it, but probably can’t name any interesting facts about it or place it on a map of Connecticut–that Ann can get away with glossing over what really surrounds Stamford. And stick in some familiar New Jersey names dear to her Princeton-raised heart.

EDIT: Myu pointed out that Timothy Carmody in Baby-Sitters on Board! is from Darien:

I cleared my throat. “Where are you from?” Maybe he would be from someplace exotic like Tahiti or Los Angeles. At least that would give us something to talk about.

“I’m from Connecticut,” he replied. “How about you?”

“Hey, I’m from Connecticut, too! From Stoneybrook.”

“No kidding. I’m from Darien. That’s not too far from Stoneybrook.”

My geography is terrible, so I wasn’t sure, but I figured Timothy knew what he was talking about.

I am trying to figure out how it is possible that Claudia doesn’t know about a town that borders Stamford. Also, why was Timothy only a vacation boyfriend if they lived so close to one another, but I guess that when you’re 13, even being a town or two away is kind of long-distance.

The wiki has seen a lot of edits since it’s been reopened! Go and check it out, use it to look up and random things, and edit it to help us reach our goal of cataloging, well, everything in the BSC universe.

One of my favorite parts of the Complete Guide is seeing which things are marked with a “*”, for “Only in Stoneybrook,” and which ones are real. Ann/the ghostwriters mention a lot of books, tv shows, movies, etc. beyond Little Women, I Love Lucy, and The Wizard of Oz.

But aside from the odd Jasion Priestly reference in the later years, most of the “celebrities” mentioned exist only in the BSC fictional universe. Even when an author appears on Claudia’s WSTO radio show who is obviously based on Goosebumps author R.L. Stine, he is called Ted Garber, author of the Fright Nights series. (Although now that I think about it, if R.L. Stine did make an appearance, the series could’ve been criticized for advertising another Scholastic property.) Even without googling a name, fans of the books can pretty much take it for granted that if a famous person actually makes an appearance in the books, they’re made up.

There is one exception to this rule I’ve been able to find, however, and it’s a puzzling one. It takes place in California Girls:

“Guess what,” said Derek. “Today we start working with a special guest star.”

Mallory’s eyes widened. “Who?

“Elaine Stritch.”

Mal and I must have looked puzzled, because Derek said, “She used to be on Broadway all the time. And she’s been in a Woody Allen movie.” (Obviously Derek knew more about such things than we did.)

Now, the reference to Stritch being in a Woody Allen movie (September, I actually like this movie a lot, rent it from Netflix!) does lend some legitimacy to her appearance. Jessi and Mal decide to obtain Stritch’s autograph for Terry, because he is really into movies, and at the end he says that he’s in a Woody Allen phase, perhaps to due to The Autograph. But otherwise, it’s just a bit strange. It wouldn’t have hurt the plot at all to just have some random madeup actress and say that they had worked on Broadway and in feature films. And I’m not saying that Elaine Stritch hasn’t made a significant contribution to theater and film, but she’s not exactly the kind of the celebrity name that kids in elementary school and middle school would recognize.

So why does Elaine Stritch get the honor of being the only Real Person to have a cameo appearance as herself in the BSC? Are she and Ann friends, and her grandnieces were big fans or something? Does Elaine Stritch herself have a secret collection of BSC books that she turns to when she’s feeling down, and wrote Ann, begging for a walk-on part? Is Ann a huge Elaine fan, and her VHS copies of her films are all worn down? (This last one actually seems doubtful to me, because none of her films were ever mentioned in the series.)

It’s puzzling, to say the least. But next time you’re watching 30 Rock, and Colleen Donaghy is on, you can impress your friends and family by sharing with them your keen grasp on Elaine Stritch trivia and letting everyone know that she is the only real person to have appeared in the BSC series.

EDIT: I did just realize that Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves and maybe some other people are mentioned as having eaten at the Blumes’ house. So that’s another celebrity crossover, albeit not one as mystifying or as significant as the Elaine Stritch one.


In this picture, Elaine has obviously just finished telling Kenneth the Page all about the time she met Mal and Jessi.

In the 90s, I remember seventies stuff being pretty cool. That is how we ended up wearing bell bottoms and velveteen tops in 1997. The last few years have been all NEON! RAYBANS! LEGGINGS!, culling its sartorial influences from the 80s. There’s a 20-year cycle of fashion, when things have faded from memory just long enough to stop seeming hideously ugly.

Thus, we have started to see a 90s revival, both in fashion and in entertainment. Beverly Hills, 90210 is back on air, as is Melrose Place. Of recent book releases, the book I’ve heard the most about is Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music by Melissa Meltzer, which has insipired even those who weren’t even alive at the time to listen to Bikini Kill.

It’s no surprise, then, that both the Baby-Sitters Club AND Sweet Valley are coming out with new books. (Yes, the long-awaited Sweet Valley Confidential is being released.) Had these books been released five years ago, only those of us diehards in the fandoms would have cared. The sales would have resembled those of the attempted revitalization of the series that was Friends Forever, if that. But now enough time has passed since the heyday of these series to mean that people who were readers the first time around might have kids of their own of BSC/SV-reading age. Those who don’t have kids might check out the books just out of pure nostalgia, and old enough now to not be embarrassed about being seen buying them Teachers and librarians, also of the first generation of readers, can introduce the books to the kids they work with. When the graphic novels came out, I think it was just slightly too early for all of this. Only the hardcore fanbase seemed to be interested, for the most part, and I don’t remember as many writeups across the internet. Jezebel, for one, has been following the reissues/prequel story for as long as the fandom has.

While ten years ago, Ann said she was simply “done” with the characters, perhaps the real implication of her words were that, outside of her hardcore and aging fanbase, the public was done. They were a relic, overshadowed by new phenomena like Harry Potter. Even a graphic design upgrade and less focus on baby-sitting couldn’t obscure the fact that their time was over. They were innocent books without anything supernatural. But now twenty- and thirty-somethings seem to all be infected with a sense of early 90s nostalgia.

Maybe Ann saw the marketing opportunity and seized it, or her editors gently suggested it to her. Or perhaps, she, too was nostalgic for the BSC’s heyday, and wanted to revisit these characters.


These shorts are totally something that Hodges Soileau would have had one of the girls wear on the cover. Except that these cost $110.

Further proving my point that the fashions really didn’t need to be updated at all.

The Baby-Sitters Club is rife with examples of glaring violations of child labor laws. Logan works as a busboy at the Road Spud. Laine poohs baby-sitting in favor of working as a cashier at Flowers and Bows, the boutique on the Upper East Side (or West? Please, someone with Stacey’s Ex-Best Friend handy, let me know!). Stacey works at Kid Center in Bellairs.

But in later books, someone seems to have sent Scholastic a memo saying, hey, THAT IS ILLEGAL. Sunny says that Ducky is the only friend of hers who can work at Winslow Books, because he is sixteen. Maureen Spencer says that none of Stacey’s friends can work at her new, as yet unopened store, since they’re not old enough. While in many ways the series got more unrealistic as time went on (oh hai princess in Stoneybrook and field trips to Europe), when it got to be CA Diaries/FF time, things seem to have become more realistic. Nothing in the plots of either series are as outlandish as things often found in later BSC.

Another thing I noticed in my reread of Stacey’s Problem: Samantha is one glamorous woman. She is a former model turned fashion photographer. Now, this kind of woman is not going to date just some normal guy. I would imagine that she would probably end up with someone high-powered and rich, because that is the kind of person she would come across in her work. We’re told over and over again that Watson is Very Rich, yet Stacey buys all her clothes at Bloomingdales (which is not cheap–Stacey is rocking the cost equivalent of Marc by Marc Jacobs in eighth grade), she went to a fancy private school in Manhattan, they had an apartment overlooking Central Park, Ed takes Stacey to fancy restaurants and Broadway plays all the damn time. So how come the obvious was never stated, that Stacey is very wealthy as well, in addition to being sophisticated? It seems odd to mention Kristy’s wealth in every Chapter 2 and not say anything about Stacey’s.

In January, one of the most beloved members of the Baby-Sitters Club forum on Proboards passed away after a long struggle with illness. We decided that the best way to honor our friend Afton’s (Aln1982) memory would be a book drive done in conjuction with the Lisa Libraries. As many of you may already know, the Lisa Libraries is Ann’s own charity, which was set up to donate children’s books to libraries in need. We have set up a wishlist on Amazon. Once purchased, the books will be sent to me, and a special bookplate will be inserted. Then I will transport the books to the Lisa Libraries, and afterwards they will be distributed to libraries, bringing Afton’s love of reading to children across the country.

So if you can, please consider donating a book, in honor of someone who was very special to all of us in this BSC community.

It has been a time of great upheaval, for me, for the fandom.

First, there was some drama on livejournal wherein the BSC ebooks livejournal was deleted. For those of us who can’t really keep our books where we live or who gave away our childhood collections, this was a sad day indeed. And then there was some brouhaha because livejournal laid off a bunch of people in its US office, but I don’t really think that’s worth getting as worked up about as people are, because I think it has more to do with livejournal’s relative popularity in Russia versus the United States, and that our livejournals will be safe for the foreseeable future. And that includes all the awesome BSC livejournals/communities out there, all of which are linked in the left sidebar.

Second, there were fears about the new CPSIA law, and how it might affect the secondary children’s book market in the United States. From the way the law was written, it seemed as if people would not be able to resell any books published before February 10th, 2009, which would obviously include Ann’s entire BSC oeuvre. Our worst fears were unfounded, however, since the government has issued a statement saying that the secondary market is exempt. This is still bad news for books currently on the shelves, and will raise prices for everything kid-related, THANKS CONGRESS, but at least you can still complete your collection if need be.

Lastly, I have decided that I am going to expand this blog slightly from being just BSC-related, to cover other literary/pop culture topics of interest to me. Fear not, the focus will still be BSC and BSC will be the heart, but I have lost steam and inspiration on just BSC-related topics and I do not like seeing this blog dormant for weeks and months on end. Stoneybrookite will not lose its BSC-flavor, but simply adding that Stoneybrook crunchy goodness to more things in life.

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