The Babysitters Are Back!
In 2009, Scholastic announced that it was reissuing the series—with brand-new, updated covers—and publishing original prequel, after the demand from now-grown fans became deafening. Mothers wanted to read the books to their daughters, teachers to their students. In a world of Gossip Girls and vampires, The Baby-Sitter's Club could provide young girls with positive role models, characters their parents would be pleased for them to emulate. So Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia and Stacey are back. Whether you think of them as old friends or a baffling phenomenon, you'd do well to introduce them to your kids—just don't be surprised when they're dressing up as Claudia and demanding return trips to the library.
Author Ann M. Martin opened up to Oprah.com about the lessons she hopes to teach kids and why the books still hold up two decades later.
Ann M. Martin: I think they endure because a lot of the themes are fairly timeless. Friendship, family, issues at school. And, of course, babysitting, which really I think translates to your first opportunity to be responsible for somebody or something else. Taking care of a younger kid, which I think is a very important step in a child's life. But, ultimately, I think friendship is probably key.
RB: Why do you think kids take to the Baby-Sitter's Club books so much? For parents who don't understand the phenomenon, or never read the books themselves, why will their children love the BSC?
AM: I think most kids can find at least one character that they really identify with. I used to get letters all the time saying things like "I'm like all of the characters in the club. I'm like Stacey because I like fashion; I'm like Claudia because I like art." They'd list all of the girls. So I think kids find the characters easy to identify with. And that leads them right back into the issues of friendship, which are so important to children at that age. They're important to anybody at any age, but I think especially for kids who are just coming away from being really little and more attached to their family and stepping outside of the that a little bit. They're starting to form their own friendships, and that's what's going on with these books.
What surprises Ann M. Martin most about these books?
AM: I think it was the character of the girls, not just the fact that Stacey was a fashionista and Claudia liked art. It was more the fact that the girls—even Mary Anne, in her own quiet way—were very confident. They just decided that they were going to start a business and they were going to run it and make it work and be as independent as they could be, and I think that that appealed to kids.
RB: What lessons do you hope your readers come away with after reading your books?
AM: Mostly, I hope that kids are entertained and have an enjoyable reading experience. I hope that they come away with images of girls who are positive role models who are take-charge. These are girls who have formed their own business. They're responsible, they try to solve their own problems without adult help unless its absolutely necessary, so they're creative, and, mostly, confident. I think that's really important for kids—boys and girls—to see.
RB: Did you ever expect the level of success the series achieved, or are you still sort of surprised at what a phenomenon it became?
AM: I was surprised in the beginning. We all were. Nobody had expected it. It was supposed to be a four-book miniseries—one book about each of the main characters—so when we began to get this incredible response, we were all pretty shocked. And then 25 years later, I was equally surprised. And I was more surprised to find out about the now-adult fans who like the books than I was to find out there were 8- and 9-year-olds enjoying them. But it was a pleasant surprise.
Get Ann M. Martin's recommended reading list!
AM: Oh my god, don't get me started! They're probably the books that I especially loved as a kid, but there are so many of them. The Roald Dahl books, Mary Poppins, the Wizard of Oz books, Dr. Doolittle. One of my favorites, and I'm pleased to know that it's still in print, is Mr. Popper's Penguins. And Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is one of my all-time favorite books.
RB: Are there any newer titles you'd recommend?
AM: One of my favorites is the Brian Selznick's book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, that came out about three years ago. I love Pam Ryan's books, Karen Hesse's books...there are a lot of them.
RB: I know you've written another series since The Baby-Sitter's Club, the Main Street series. What else have you been up to?
AM: Apart from that series, all single novels and all for about the same age group. Belle Teal, Corner of the Universe, A Dog's Life, Everything for a Dog and, with another friend of mine, Laura Goodwin, three books—well, it sort of is turning into a series, [but] it didn't set out to be—The Doll People. We're about to start working on the next one of those.
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