Putting the “e” in BSC: Aimee Friedman on her love of The Baby-sitters Club
By Guest Blogger on November 15th, 2012
Yesterday we announced The Baby-sitters Club will be released as ebooks next month, with their classic cover art! Throughout the rest of the year, we’ll have some special guest posts from Scholastic employees, editors, authors, and more about what The Baby-sitters Club means to them. First up? Aimee Friedman, Executive Editor at Scholastic.
Things you should know about Aimee and her BSC love:
- she started reading The Baby-Sitters Club at age eight
- her favorite BSC book is #9: The Ghost at Dawn’s House
- the character she related to most? Stacey!
I was riding the elementary school bus home one afternoon — gazing out the window and daydreaming — when my best friend handed me a bright-pink paperback. She had ordered it via the Scholastic Book Club flyer and it was, she said, amazing. It was called The Baby-Sitters Club #15: Little Miss Stoneybrook…and Dawn. I was intrigued. I loved to read, but was becoming a little weary of the old-fashioned “classics” my mom tended to press on me (I’d just finished Treasure Island). But this book looked fresh and new and current.
At home, I tore through the novel in one sitting, familiarizing myself with the concept and the world: A group of girls — tantalizingly older than me, but not so much older as to seem alien — babysit kids in their town while juggling their own sets of failures and triumphs. Each layer of the story was fun and fascinating: there were the babysitting gigs, peppered with colorful characters and often some amusing disaster. There was the parallel personal drama for the central girl, involving family or boys or school. And finally, there was the dynamic of the group itself — the all-too realistic tensions and bonds that exist between female friends. Ann M. Martin’s unadorned but lovely writing was straight-forward and accessible, familiar and welcoming: just like I imagined Claudia Kishi’s bedroom headquarters to be. I was hooked.
I went back to the beginning —The Baby-Sitters Club #1: Kristy’s Great Idea —and played catch-up, tearing through juicy tales of prank calls, secret illnesses, and friendship rifts and repairs. I grew increasingly invested in the characters and their rich storylines. Of course, I found parts of myself in each girl. Like Stacey, I was a native New Yorker who enjoyed shopping as well as math, but I could be shy and overly sensitive, like Mary Ann. Like Mallory, I wanted to be a writer, or, failing that, a ballerina like Jessi. I coveted Claudia’s parrot earrings, admired Kristy’s leadership skills, and relished the details of Dawn’s California-cool life. I rejoiced when Mary Ann snagged herself a boyfriend, shivered with glee when Dawn found a secret passage in her house, and mourned when Claudia lost her beloved grandmother. I’d pore over the covers, examining the outfits and hairstyles with near-scientific focus, and memorize the back cover copy in a way that possibly only someone with a future in publishing could.
The books came out monthly, but I would rush to the bookstore every week, breathless with hope that the new installment had arrived, maybe maybe a couple days early? The release of a Special Edition (for the record, Baby-Sitters on Board is without peer) was cause for jumping up and down in the aisles of Brentano’s. I ordered the BSC board game, and for my bedroom, a light-switch cover adorned with that unmistakable alphabet-block logo: a nod to childhood and a wink toward growing up.
I grew up, and slowly, my BSC obsession began to wane. I stopped purchasing each new title, though I would still seek them out in the bookstore, skimming the pages to see what was happening in Stoneybrook. (I was surprised but interested to learn about a new member, Abby). I started reading other books, for older audiences, but my favorites were always those grounded in the same realities as the BSC: stories of relationships, of girls and women navigating their way in the world.
In many ways, the BSC was the making of me as the reader, editor and writer I am today. The books inspired me; when I look at my journals from that time, they’re filled with scribbled stories written very much in Ann M. Martin’s voice. (Call it my first stab at “fan fiction”). And, like many fledgling writers, this was how I eventually found my own voice as an author. The series also laid out for me a wonderful model of girl empowerment: here was a group of young women running their own business, taking the initiative, and reaping the rewards of their hard work. Moreover, these girls were remarkably supportive of one another; there was a refreshing lack of mean-girl antics or clique-driven bullying. At the same time, the stories were never preachy; the relationships and interactions were complex enough to ring true.
Now that I am lucky enough to work in children’s publishing (at Scholastic, no less — the home of the BSC!), I seek out these positive, affirming elements in the books I acquire, and try to weave them into the books I write. It feels like “giving back” to Ann M. Martin — a thank-you of sorts.
Today, the BSC is a “classic” in its own right, one that remains relevant and still timely. My hope is that girls today — the daydreamers on school buses, the readers both avid and reluctant, the aspiring writers, editors, dancers, entrepreneurs — discover this series, and share it with their friends. There’s a whole other generation waiting to share in Kristy’s great idea. Let’s keep the club going. New members will always be welcome.
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