Hello! Welcome to the first installment of my Nostalgia Series where I re-read some of the books I loved when I was a kid and see how I feel about them now. This time ‘round, it’s The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin – just the first 8 books.
What I remembered:
Before I started re-reading the series, I sat down and tried to remember everything I could about the series. Although it was a really pivotal set of books for me when I was growing up, I was actually amazed at how little I remembered. I have to say, BSC was the only reason I even knew there was a state called Connecticut – but you can bet I pronounced it phonetically until I actually visited the USA and was told that is not how it is pronounced.
From memory, my three favourite characters were Mary Anne, Mallory and Dawn – but I can’t remember if I actually loved them as characters or if their names were just the most memorable to me. I do remember going into my first English class when I was at school in the USA and there was a girl called Mallory – I think she was the first person I ever knew called Mallory besides the BSC character.
Most of all, I associated BSC with feeling grown up. I never read all the books because I exclusively read hand-me-down editions that never seemed to make it to me in the right order but the source of the books was older, cooler girls who I admired, so I always felt older and cooler whenever I cracked open whichever edition made its way to me.
While I was reading:
First to the characters – I knew that I didn’t like Kristy from page one. She never did anything to redeem herself either. Claudia seems to think she is very alternative and a bit of a special snowflake, while Stacey is really relying on ‘I used to live in NYC’ for half of her personality, also did not trust her after she wanted to be treasurer – maybe I’m just reading too much into the motives of 12-year-old girls. I was right on my memory of Mary Anne and Dawn – I freaking loved them both and I am definitely a Mary Anne.
I am so glad Janine (Claudia’s apparently genius sister) mentions the apostrophe issue: is the Baby-Sitters Club a club full of sitters or does the club belong to the sitters? It bothered me from the second I laid my eyes on it, so I’m glad there was a mention of where the apostrophe should go.
I was really surprised and impressed at how many harder-hitting topics Ann M. Martin included: divorce, sickness (diabetes, cancer, strokes), academic pressure and freaking kidnapping! There was actually quite a lot stuffed into just these first 8 books and I was impressed at how Martin was able to include so many topics at a middle-grade level – that’s not to say I think middle-grade fiction is simple (far from it!) but I do think it takes a fairly good writer with a good understanding of their audience to weave these kinds of topics in a way that isn’t dumbed down but is still eye-opening for younger readers!
I have to say, a lot of the time I was less than enthralled – I love character development, rather than books stuffed with plot and let me tell you, these books are all plot – but we do have to remember that I’m 23 years old now and these books are no longer for me. I know as a kid, I was absolutely obsessed with these books and I would have loved that they were so full of exciting things happening.
After finishing reading:
There are a few things that make my skin crawl in these books – especially in ‘Boy Crazy Stacey’. I worry a little bit that so many of us read these books as we were growing up, some of the messages being thrown at us about boys etc are very worrying. None more so than Kristy’s words in ‘Claudia and the Phantom Caller’ when she says that her Mum was right all along that “Boys only tease you because they like you”. Of course, it’s something we all hear all the time, but it is saddens me that such iconic books that are still getting passed around today have these little messages in them.
I also remember BSC being stronger on the friendship element. It’s true that without the friendship, the books would probably fall apart, but these girls are far more catty than I remember. They snap at the tiniest things and let those tiny things be the basis of huge fights – they have no problem not talking to each other for a MONTH in ‘Mary Anne Saves the Day’!
I feel like I’m being really negative which I’m sad about because I actually enjoyed revisiting the club in Stoneybrook again! There were little bits and pieces that came back to me as I read and I was surprised when I recognised characters as the story progressed.
What made the experience really enjoyable though was listening to the podcast ‘The Baby-Sitters Club Club’. Jack Shepherd and Tanner Greenring read through each of the books and discuss it each week bringing out themes you might never have noticed in the classic books – if Marxism, corporate espionage and religious allegory wasn’t on your mind when you read BSC it will be now! Besides being absolutely ridiculous the series is so funny it will have you wheezing. You don’t have to re-read the stories before you listen (each episode has a recap of the plot – in various levels of quality) so it’s perfect if you need a laugh and don’t have time to re-read!
By the end of reading it all, I really liked that I had read the beginning of the story – who knows which books I read in the past, so it was good to hear the origins story! If any of the other books cross my path (especially some of those Super Specials – I remember loving those!) I’ll definitely read them.
Excuse me, I need to go take a Buzzfeed quiz to find out which Baby-Sitter I am. Fingers crossed for Mary Anne.