the best friends you’ll never have

Browsing in reissues

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!

My computer was broken for a week or so. It wouldn’t hold a charge. But I got it back now, which means I can start my planned revamp of Stoneybrookite for 2011. New layout, more updates, lots of work on the wiki

Also, in case you haven’t heard about it yet, the series now has an official facebook page. Scholastic is keeping it updated with news and links, so like it and interact with your fellows fans on facebook! Unlike other places Scholastic has created for the BSC, this page is intended for us–those of us who grew up with the series and are reading it for a second (third, fourth, fortieth..) time.

If you read Ann’s facebook page, there’s often little tidbits of Important Information hidden among the poorly-spelled missives of her younger fans (LOL I HAEV READ ALL OF THE BOOKS!). Such as: on November 30th, Ann let the following slip:

I’m glad that you’re enjoying the series! As of now, the first eight BSC books are on schedule to be re-issued.

The last I had heard, only the first seven were scheduled and I believe Amazon is only up to Kristy’s Big Day, to be released in February. They seem to be selling well enough, since the last time she mentioned how many will be rereleased on her page, I believe she only said seven. So let’s hope that soon she’ll say nine, then ten, and….

So Ashley of dibbly-fresh sent me the new editions and The Summer Before (those who pay close attention the fandom will know why soon ;) ), and I, naturally devoured them all. I’ll write about the prequel later, because I have more to say about it and probably should read it a second time before I sit down to do a thorough post about it, but here’s what I think about the rereleases.

The text is quite large, but the same font, so after a while, it’s less noticeable. I’ve read that they were aiming a slightly younger target audience, so this, and the graphic covers, makes sense. The handwriting is now fonts, and not the fonts that were created for the CD-roms. I suppose, going along with the new lower target audience thing and the decreased emphasis on learning cursive in schools–I’m shocked at how many even my age can’t read cursive–I’m not surprised. I’m sure it increases readibility. Plus, Claud’s “how did this girl ever get out of the first grade” spelling errors have been taken down a notch. She now seems like a perfectly capable twelve-year-old who isn’t the greatest speller, but at least picks up a book once in a while, even if it is Nancy Drew. If they get to Claudia and the New Girl, I wonder what they’ll do with the spelling test scene, where they go through Claudia’s spelling thought process.

After reading about the Sweet Valley rereleases, where they got rid of 1BRUCE1, I was scared about what I’d find. But they did a nice subtle job, one that I only noticed if I was really looking hard–and I’ve been reading these books constantly for nearly 20 years now. They changed “tape deck” to “stereo,” for instance, and frankly, even when I was a kid no one said “tape deck” any more. Charlotte’s favorite tv show is no longer The Cosby Show; she now has a favorite board game instead. Kristy, however, still says “One false move and I’ll punch your lights out,” and if I were an editor I would have taken that out, because what the hell are the best baby-sitters in town doing, threatening violence against their clients? WTF, Thomas?

So all in all, I think they did a damn good job here. In fact, I was kind of hoping for MORE edits, just so it’d be DIFFERENT and exciting. But whatever, yay Scholastic. I do wonder, though, if the lack of more edits to modernize it will lead to reviews like the latest ones on Amazon for the new Alice McKinley book, Alice in Charge:

The dialogue between Alice and her friends falls flat. They simply don’t speak the way teenagers talk. In fact, sometimes when various characters talk, they seem to serve only to hammer home the moral lesson Alice is learning. Naylor (or her editors) seem to want to avoid dating the books. This is admirable, but it makes Alice and her friends much less relatable and their world feels inauthentic. The books contain a few token references to Facebook and Starbucks, but are otherwise so devoid of pop culture that these token references stick out like someone’s parent trying to be “hip to the scene.” The characters often listen to “a CD.” CDs are dinosaur technology to your average high school student. The names stick out to me as well. Many of them seem to be literally like `50s era names–Penny, Fran, Rosalind, etc. There’s nary a Taylor or a Brianna to be seen.

As a long-term fan, I like that the overall feel of the books wasn’t affected. But after spending time with girls in the target age group earlier this month, I’m not sure how much they’ll connect with it. Plus, it seems now that eleven-year-olds are sittees, not sitters. They’ve available for preorder on Amazon up until Kristy’s Big Day, and like I said in my last post they planned to do the first seven at least, so we’ll see if we get any after that.

An interesting tidbit about the rereleases that I had never read before:

Scholastic has plans to reissue the first seven books with new covers. And if there’s a strong response, more books could follow.

(from here)

I knew that the rereleasing wasn’t indefinite, but I had not yet known where the line had been drawn. So it’s up to Claudia and Mean Janine, I guess. I would think, though, that Boy-Crazy Stacey or Logan Likes Mary Anne! would be a better stopping point, though. B-C S is so fun and in Sea City, and LLMA is book #10 and we get a sort-of resolution to Mary Anne’s storyline. Plus, more romance.

Maybe it’s because CMJ was made into a graphic novel? I don’t know, seven just seems like an odd stopping place to me.

Better head out and buy all of them so that this is a non-issue!

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.

I feel like it’s high time that I wrote something here on the rereleases, but I’ve had a hard time deciding how I feel about them. I am kind of bummed that 2010 is shaping up to be the biggest year in BSCland since ten years ago, when the series ended, and I’m not living in a country where I can really fully participate in what’s going on. The only way I’ll be able to access any of the new books until July is if Amazon decides to put them on the Kindle (go to the pages for the books on and let them know you want them on the Kindle! Do it for me, and, I guess, fans who want to read the books on the subway without anyone else knowing and other BSC fans living abroad who have an ipod touch and the Kindle app), or if someone types up an ebook of them and I can find it somewhere, although I feel that the attitude of the fandom will be similar to the attitude that is taken toward the graphic novels and Main Street. They’re in print, so let’s vote with our dollars and let Scholastic know that these should continue to be published.

Anyway, now that the personal stuff is out of the way, one of the biggest controversies is how the series will be updated. We know that the clothes and hairstyles will be changed to reflect current trends–although, frankly, are trends today (leggings! oversize!) all that different, except now we’ve combined acid-wash jeans and leggings to make JEGGINGS? I’m wearing jeans with zippers on the bottom right now, a style I first was made aware of by the Club. Fresh! Also, the new outfits I’ve heard of so far (featured in the prequel) sound way more hideous. From the USA Today blog post:

Claudia was wearing willowy black pants, cinched at the waist with a drawstring, and a boldly patterned summer shirt with ties that she was adjusting around her midriff. Her
midriff would have been bare, but Claud had slithered into a lacy black tank top before she’d put on the shirt. On her feet were delicate silvery sandals, and her hair, which was looooooong and thick, was held away from her face with two silver combs.

I kind of feel like this isn’t much different from the outfits featured in the series in the late 90s, rather than something a modern 13-year-old would concoct out of thrift store finds and Forever 21. I think Modern Claud would dress like Tavi.

Another issue the reissues bring up is what they’re planning on updating besides the fashions. One thing that has never really sat right with most people in the fandom is the “We don’t care if Jessi is black! We’d like a girl if she were PURPLE and a good sitter!” Even other series of the same time, such as the Saddle Club, didn’t make such a big deal about having a character of a different race, if they reissue the series up until the point where Jessi comes into the picture. See also: Claudia being “exotic.”

Also, I’m sure they’d have to update medical stuff in regard to Stacey. Perhaps she’ll have an insulin pump decorated with glitter or something for her by Claud!

As far as Kristy and Mary Anne go… I don’t know what they’ll update for Mary Anne, because Mary Anne’s early wardrobe seemed very fifties even in the 80s and 90s. I’m having a hard time with modern readers buying the excuse that Watson and Elizabeth need to get married right away so they don’t end up living in sin.

What do you think they’ll update? What would you be sad to see go? What would make you glad?

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?