Inspired By Baby Island
September 7, 2016 9:37 AM   Subscribe

Ann M. Martin on the Enduring Appeal of The Baby-Sitters Club and Rebooting Another Children’s Series. "It’s hard to overstate the ravenousness with which young girls would devour these $3.99 tomes. At the time, a Baby-sitters Club book was about as close as we could get to a Snapchat-style look into the life of an early-’90s 13-year-old. The books were where a lot of young women first learned what it was like to experience divorce, the death of a grandparent, a first boyfriend, or a lost kitten." posted by ChuraChura (40 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you love the BSC and aren't listening to The Babysitter's Club Club yet, you really should start! It's very funny.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:39 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


by the way did you give mallory my real phone number? = OMG LOL
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:42 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Ann M Martin co-wrote Longer Later Letter and Snail Mail No More with Paula Danziger (The Cat Ate My Gymsuit).
posted by brujita at 9:46 AM on September 7, 2016


I'm delighted that she's working on a Piggle-Wiggle book. I loved those when I was little, although I never supposed they would come back in my time. They're about kids getting what's coming to them, a topic which children love, but which makes grownups nervous.

The Babysitters on Board cover takes me back to sitting in a car's backseat on a long trip, reading that very book, having conflicting emotions about it. Series about girls hanging out together were so aspirational to me. In those books, kids could just run out and meet each other whenever they wanted to. No one had to give them a ride. And nobody asked whether they were old enough to look after themselves, a contested topic in my house.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:52 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Related
posted by k8t at 9:53 AM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


I spent a not insignificant portion of my childhood trying to get my socks to roll like Claudia's.
posted by phunniemee at 10:01 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


And she's queer!
posted by valeries at 10:18 AM on September 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


Yeah, this is the big "it's not just gossip on weird livejournals from 2007, she is actually queer" casual confirmation article in addition to being an interesting profile.

If you romanticize the time before everyone was interested in boys, I've found, there's a good chance you are not that interested in them to this day.
posted by Tesseractive at 10:26 AM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


I loved these books as a kid. I am re-reading them now as an adult, and they are really, really weird, especially the insanely specific descriptions of what everyone is wearing.
posted by all about eevee at 10:27 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


the time before everyone was interested in boys

what the fuck, dude, Logan likes Mary Anne and Mary Anne likes Logan back and it's about time that girl got some hunky smooches anyway, she is bookish as hell
posted by Greg Nog at 10:28 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


what the fuck, dude, Logan likes Mary Anne and Mary Anne likes Logan back and it's about time that girl got some hunky smooches anyway, she is bookish as hell

Except if Mary Anne is the one most closely based on Ann herself then...I don't know where I'm going with that except I'm probably projecting

I liked the time when there was a blizzard and Logan used cross country skis to bring supplies to the stranded babysitters, I'll give him that
posted by Tesseractive at 10:33 AM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


When Martin was growing up, she recalls, “one of my many favorite books was called Baby Island. I just loved it, and it was so preposterous: It was about a couple of girls who are on a big ship traveling somewhere, and they get shipwrecked with a boat full of babies and they all wind up on this desert island and the older girls are in charge of the babies.

HOLY SHIT THIS WAS ONE OF MY FAVORITE BOOKS IN FOURTH GRADE

I GOT IT AS A PRIZE FOR WINNING THE SPELLING BEE

I COULD CHOOSE EITHER THIS OR HOMER PRICE, THE BOOK ABOUT THE RASCALLY BOY INVENTOR AND I CHOSE BABY ISLAND

AND MY TEACHER GAVE THIS WEIRD SURPRISED LOOK THAT I REALIZED LATER WAS BECAUSE OF GENDER ROLES
posted by Greg Nog at 10:33 AM on September 7, 2016 [40 favorites]


Remember when the girl in Baby Island put garlic in all the food? And the pirate made a sling so that one baby could learn to walk? And when they made a baby bottle out of a glass bottle and a cork with a hole in it? And the cruise ship didn't sink after all, they were cast away for nothing? I too read that book a whole bunch of times as a kid. I think that's where I learned what hardtack was?
posted by Tesseractive at 10:37 AM on September 7, 2016 [11 favorites]


tbh the only part that's really stuck with me is how obsessed Jean was about learning that psalm by heart

EDIT: HOLY SHIT YES THE HARDTACK
posted by Greg Nog at 10:40 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


I admit that I am sad I didn't read Baby Island. Since I was actually babysitting (and getting terribly underpaid for it) when Babysitter's Club came out it held zero appeal. I preferred The Girl with the Silver Eyes and other fine books by Ms. Roberts.
posted by emjaybee at 11:23 AM on September 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


I actually talked my teacher into reading Baby Island out loud to the whole class in second grade, I loved it so much.

Also, my mom would pay me for babysitting my little sisters with Babysitters Club books. And when I got older I traded my whole set into a used bookstore for about $200 in credit. I never even got a chance to use all that credit before the bookstore closed years later.
posted by jenjenc at 11:29 AM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I preferred The Girl with the Silver Eyes and other fine books by Ms. Roberts.

oh my god that was the book we got assigned in third grade and I read ahead because I read very very quickly and it wasn't bad and who stops after one chapter anyway and my asshole teacher confiscated it from me because I didn't follow the rules. FUCK YOU MRS MULHOLLAND THAT WAS A TERRIBLE WAY TO TEACH CHILDREN
posted by sciatrix at 11:37 AM on September 7, 2016 [16 favorites]


$3.99? In my day they were $2.50. Every month, the new BSC and the new Sweet Valley for a cool $5!

(And The Girl with the Silver Eyes was amazing! At last I walk among my people)
posted by Flannery Culp at 11:46 AM on September 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


I actually made a kid kit that I used for babysitting, and yes, became many children's favorite babysitter because I actually played with them and brought new toys to play with. It's not like I learned a ton from reading through the BSC books (especially after getting sufficient tips in the first few), but it's more applicable info than I learned from most of the books I read. (Sweet Valley Twins, you were never useful in any way, ever.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 12:00 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I actually made a kid kit that I used for babysitting, and yes, became many children's favorite babysitter because I actually played with them and brought new toys to play with.

Me, too! It was extremely effective. I was able to buy my car (still driving it!) at 16 because I had been the most in-demand babysitter in my area for years. Thanks, Ann.
posted by phunniemee at 12:12 PM on September 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


When I was in maybe 5th grade, no lie, my two ultimate fashion inspirations whom I tried to model myself after on a daily basis, were Claudia Kishi from BSC and Mrs. Frizzle of Magic School Bus fame. I am not kidding when I say I tried real hard to make those ladies proud. My first day of school at my new middle school, I wore a bright red maxi skirt, high top sneakers, and a red and white striped shirt that made me look like a very awkward candy cane with remarkably developed breasts for an 11 year old. And bless me, I could not understand why other kids looked at me like I was a bizarre new species of child.

I pretty much still try to dress like Claudia and Mrs. Frizzle, the only difference being that I long ago stopped giving any fucks about other people's eye-gazes upon my person.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 12:13 PM on September 7, 2016 [11 favorites]


the death of a grandparent, a first boyfriend, or a lost kitten

That's a lot of death. Were they bludgeoned insensible with the club, do you suppose? I imagine it to be a pink shillelagh.
posted by Grangousier at 1:01 PM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


I loved The Girl With Silver Eyes!
posted by ChuraChura at 1:28 PM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


Oh man, The Girl with the Silver Eyes! Creepy telekinetic YA protags for life. I loved that one too.

Man, this is a real walk down Scholastic Book Order memory lane.
posted by Tesseractive at 3:04 PM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


y'all, come on. Claudia was cool and all, but STACEY MCGILL.
posted by floweringjudas at 3:37 PM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


I always thought Stacey was stuck up and aspired to be Kristy, although I knew I was probably more of a Mary Anne.
posted by chainsofreedom at 4:04 PM on September 7, 2016


My ex's family was supposedly friends with Willo Davis Roberts. I am deeply bummed I never got to confirm this in reality, given my love for that book.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:36 PM on September 7, 2016


One of my nieces, Clementine Swan, was very into the BSC books. Back in the day she gave me a list of the BSC books she didn't have in hopes that I'd pick them up for while in some thrift store or other (I'm a thrift shop devotee). I'm afraid I was the kind of aunt who told her that since she was already reading the BSC books I'd rather give her other books she maybe wouldn't ever read unless I gave them to her. Clementine is now 30 with a home and two children of her own and so many of the books I gave her are still on her bookshelves, while her BSC collection got passed down to her younger sister (and to their youngest sister in her turn) once she outgrew them many years ago.

But I still feel kind of bad for disappointing her.
posted by orange swan at 4:58 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sigh. I so badly wanted to be a Claudia, and I was so very, very much a Mallory.
posted by nonasuch at 6:50 PM on September 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


I read Baby Island about a million times, after I discovered it in third grade. It set off my fascination with disaster planning. The Girl Who Owned a City, My Side of the Mountain, The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler, The Cay (hardtack alert), The Day After (VHS!), all the other nuclear movies, Red Dawn, really even the Outsiders - they all prepped me for reading Animal Farm, Brave New World, The Handmaid's Tale and all the other disaster scenarios.

But the Babysitter's Club? I couldn't stomach it. It was all these long, detailed descriptions of clothing and it felt like I was reading a novel-length Tiger Beat magazine. It makes me wonder if it was the same writers. The girls seemed to have no aspiration to more. And, darn it, they did absolutely nothing to help me plan for the possibility that everyone over 12 might die of some disease or that I might be stranded on a desert island with multiple babies and some hardtack.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 7:19 PM on September 7, 2016


Guys, Baby Island is from 1937 (!!!) and was re-issued in 1993 as an e-book. Your local library may have it available. Thanks to you all for the info!!!
posted by holyrood at 7:21 PM on September 7, 2016


I couldn't stomach it. It was all these long, detailed descriptions of clothing and it felt like I was reading a novel-length Tiger Beat magazine.
You should read the Baby-Sitters Club graphic novels by Raina Telgemeier! Actually, everyone should. Telgemeier is a master of visual storytelling; she can deliver paragraphs worth of story in a few wordless frames. The only disappointing thing about the graphic novels is that there are so few of them.
posted by mbrubeck at 8:09 PM on September 7, 2016


Sleepover Friends, anyone... Anybody? Just me?
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:20 PM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Am I the only one who read that book about the family forced to live in the Siberia camps, leading to weeks of hoarding dry goods and bandaids in an old doll trunk, just in case? I was a deeply nerdy child and read a lot of books, many of which were musty bulk buys from the ol' used book barn so I was prepared for these likely situations:

Siberian work camps
Ability to create teleportation portals with my mind
Desert islands, preferably with caves; dolphins
How to ID a cave fish and befriend Trixie Belden
Tanning deer hides
Dragon fights

Things I was less prepared for, before the box of Babysitter Club Books arrived:

Friends
Outfits?
Children, care and feeding of
Scrunchies
Business plans and optimization of assets

Obviously they were not very good books but somehow they were, all the same. I somehow missed Baby Island, though, and now harbor a deep fear that my neglected hardtack skills will not serve me well in the coming squalling storm.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:15 PM on September 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


Some 20+ years ago, when I was 12, I wrote Ann M. Martin a letter. She responded, answering all my questions and apologizing for taking so long. I was so pleased, I went and told my English teacher (a tall, very muscular former Boston police officer) at the time, who was also pleased for me.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 1:35 AM on September 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


I bought most of the babysitters club books twice. The first time as they came out (yay school book orders) but by the time I was a teenager I felt I had outgrown them and gave them away. ?Then in my early twenties my little sister grew up and wanted to read them and so I went out searching for them in thrift shops. Sigh. She called the other day to ask if she could declutter them. No, under no circumstances, no. I learned that lesson already and besides, I still reread them on family visits.

I learned about diabetes and autism and that giving twins rhyming names is a Bad Idea.

The weird thing is I don't remember particularly liking any one character. And even at the time the fashion stuff struck me as weird. But then Aussie kids of that age are usually in either school uniform or casual play clothes like Kristy so the obsessing over what to wear to school was alien.
posted by kitten magic at 3:31 AM on September 8, 2016


I am obsessed with illustrations of Claudia. I mean, the clock tights, I totally remember reading about the clock tights! This style of drawing was one of my favorites, but the original blog (although updated recently) does not seem to host the originals anymore.
posted by like_neon at 5:39 AM on September 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


Strange that they didn't mention the Rina Telgemeier graphic novel versions. My 3rd grade daughters are devouring those right now.
posted by uberfunk at 5:32 PM on September 8, 2016


Oh wow, so I've been thinking about the Baby-Sitters' Club all week because of this and something occurred to me. I really really loved Claudia being Asian American, and specifically loved Mimi. At 8 years old, I didn't know anything about Japanese culture or the Japanese-American experience, but I had just met my dad's birth family, and reading about Claudia's Asian granny who taught people how to knit and grudgingly liked Wheel of Fortune - just like my Chinese great-granny who did the same things - made me feel less strange and different, espe when compared to my classmates' white suburban lives. I don't even picture Mimi as a Japanese woman; in my head she's Grandma Levchenko. I was wrecked when Mimi died in book 28 or so.
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:38 PM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Oh my god, that podcast. Holy crappity.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:44 AM on September 11, 2016


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