Let's get a few things out of the way first.
I was rabid for Baby-Sitters Club books in my preteen days. In fact, my best friend and I formed our own Baby-Sitters Club, though we were too young to baby-sit. What did we do in our club, which seemed to meet primarily during recess on the big wood toys in the back of Lincoln Elementary's playground? We talked about it instead. She was the "Stacey" and I was the "Claudia," which surely says a lot more about the kind of people we aspired to be than who we really were. Well, both Claudia and I were down for the Nancy Drew books. But that's about it. Fashionable, artistic dresser? Oh please.
At that same age--third and fourth and fifth grade--I was penning my first "novels." A mystery series, actually, that I ambitiously copied out into blank books, had my dad type up at work, and mailed off to publishers and agents I found listed in the Writer's Market at the public library. (I was not successful.) While "The Secret in the Satin Gown" and so on were inspired by said Nancy Drew books, my byline came straight from the Baby-Sitters Club. Ann M. Martin, you see, was a hero to me. So I identified myself (in my dutiful 'About the Author' page) as Anna L. Clark.
I rented the Baby-Sitters club movies. I collected as much as I could--regular books, Super Specials, the spin-off series about Kristy's little sister, even a calendar. So what I'm saying is: The Baby-Sitters Club books were a big part of my development as a reader and as a writer; I had such fun with them and I still feel sentimental about it.
Perhaps it's not surprising then that I have mixed feelings about the news that there's a Baby-Sitters Club prequel planned for publication starting in April with a book penned by Martin herself: "The Summer Before." Coming shortly after will be re-published, re-packaged and "slightly revised" versions of the early books in the original series.
From The New York Times report:
The Baby-Sitters Club,” which ran from 1986 through 2000, garnered an ardent following among preteenage girls throughout its run of 213 titles, with the publisher ultimately printing 176 million copies. The series, which followed the baby-sitting adventures and friendships of four 12-to-13-year-old girls — Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia and Stacey (the cast expanded to eight main characters later in the series) — spawned several spinoffs, including a mystery series and a collection of books about Kristy’s little sister. All of the books are now out of print.
David Levithan, the editorial director at Scholastic and an editor of “The Baby-Sitters Club,” said the publisher decided to bring back the old series because of requests from fans who wanted a comeback.
Martin, who created the series and wrote sixty of the books (fewer than I'd thought) proposed the prequel idea to Scholastic with the intention of covering the lives of the core characters in the summer before they start seventh grade, when the series opens. Curiously, the re-packaged series is being aimed at a slightly younger age group -- girls aged 7-10, rather than 8-12. Perhaps the publisher thinks young girls are too sophisticated too early nowadays to appreciate the glimmering innocence of Stonybrook, CT.
“This whole generation of girls who had grown up reading ‘The Baby-Sitters Club’ were now teachers, librarians or mothers,” Mr. Levithan said. “And at any opportunity they had, they let us know they wanted them back. We couldn’t go to a convention without having women come up to us and say, ‘You’ve got to bring these books back.’ ”
About those revisions:
Editors at Scholastic updated some of the references to technology and outdated fashions in the reissued books. So a “cassette player” has become “headphones” and a “perm” has become “an expensive hairstyle.”
Which is just hilarious. While it feels weird to see things I was attached to changed, I ultimately say cheers to the whole world of Kid Kits and boyfriends from Louisville and the Junk Bucket and rambunctious children and genius sisters. Maybe it will resonate so strongly with another kid.
Image Credit: The New York Times