A night with the creator of the Baby-sitters Club, Ann M. Martin

The-Summer-BeforeIt’s not often that you get to encounter someone famous that you admired growing up, which is why it was such an honor for me to meet Ann M. Martin, author of the Baby-Sitters Club series, last night.

The Baby-Sitters Club was created 25 years ago, and spawned several spin-offs and sold millions of copies worldwide. The books were about friendship, growing up, and – of course – baby-sitting. Readers were first introduced to the original four BSC members (Kristy Thomas, Claudia Kishi, Stacey McGill and Mary Anne Spier) in Kristy’s Great Idea, and over the years the club expanded to include more sitters from diverse backgrounds – including a boy!

As a child, I was addicted to the Baby-Sitters Club; the pages must have somehow been laced with crack. I constantly needed a fix, and I got one every month, as the books were cranked out that often during the series’ heyday.

Now, ten years after the final BSC book, they’re back. Martin has written a prequel, The Summer Before, delving into the lives of the original four baby-sitters before the club started. It was released yesterday, and to celebrate, Women in Children’s Media and Scholastic sponsored a special event, “The Baby Sitters are Back.” Attendees were treated to an intimate conversation between Martin and David Levithan, editorial director at Scholastic. He first started working on the BSC with Martin as a 19-year-old intern, and knew stuff about the series that even the most die-hard super fans in attendance didn’t. Levithan told the audience that introducing Martin was “like introducing Sarah Palin at a tea party event,” and it was true. She laughed as he said this, and took her seat to hearty applause.

Levithan asked her questions both that he had come up with and that the audience had submitted earlier. Martin was soft-spoken, and told the audience that she identified most with shy Mary Anne, but wished she were more like tough, take-charge Kristy (her favorite character). She also said she didn’t expect the level of excitement that accompanied the release of The Summer Before and the re-issuing of the first few BSC titles.

Much was discussed, so here are some of the highlights:

*The sitters seemed a lot younger to Martin in the beginning of the series than later.

*She was surprised with how easy it was for her to fall back into writing about the BSC.

*It was easiest for her to write about super-sophisticated, she-of-the-permed-hair Stacey.

*The biggest mistake she made was to write Stacey out of the series in #13, Good-bye Stacey, Good-bye. She had her move back to New York City because many readers had asked her to write about a friend moving away. This caused an avalanche of reader mail, and Stacey was brought back as soon as possible, in #28, Welcome Back, Stacey!

*She wrote the earliest books longhand, and now writes for about five hours a day.

*Some of the changes in the re-releases include updates to Stacey’s diabetes treatment. Also, the pay scale for babysitting has been increased, and “thongs” have become “flip flops.”

*One of the most memorable gifts Martin received from fans was a videotape from two girls in Australia singing their own original song about the club, as well as a clay figure of Louie, Kristy’s dog.

*The reason why the girls stayed in eighth grade for most of the series is because logistically, for the series to go on for as long as it did there was no way they could age. “It did become challenging by the end of the series,” Martin said.

*She enjoys reading contemporary fiction and non-fiction. She’s recently read The Thirteenth Tale (“loved it”), The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and Olive Kitteridge. A recent re-read was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

*It just so happens that soon after creating Stacey, her cat became diabetic.

*Dawn was harder for her to write about. “I didn’t feel like I knew her as well, and didn’t spend a lot of time in California,” she said. (No offense, but as a Californian, I could tell. We don’t all shun red meat or have long blonde hair and perma-tans!)

*Claudia’s crazy outfits came about after poring over catalogues and magazines and seeing what kids were wearing on television.

*She knew the series was a hit when book number six appeared on the B.Dalton Best-seller List.

*The reason behind two Sabrina Bouvier (one in elementary school, one in eighth grade) characters? It was a simple mistake.

*Her views on the girls today: Kristy is “probably the head of something, maybe a business”; Claudia’s an artist; Stacey’s doing “something in fashion, not necessarily design, but maybe the business end”; Mary Anne’s a teacher; Jessi is still “passionate about dance, but not a professional”; Dawn is “permanently in California.” Other than that, she doesn’t have any “strong feelings” about Dawn and Mallory.

After the Q&A section, attendees were able to have copies of the prequel signed by Martin. Fans took photos with her, and she was kind enough to sign older books that had been brought as well. There were a lot of things I wanted to say to her — that I’m pretty sure the money my parents had spent on BSC books was in the trillions, that my friends and I started a club that lasted approximately twelve seconds — but I held myself together and just told her that I was a huge fan as a kid and some other gibberish (I honestly can’t remember what else I said). Martin was so gracious accepting all the praise we were heaping on her, and I thought about how incredible it must feel to make that much of an impact on people. She still seems a bit stunned by it all, telling  the audience, “It’s amazing to think that 25 years ago was the beginning of all this, and that 25 years later there are still so many passionate people. It means a great deal to me.”

Comments (132 total) Add your comment
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  • Meg

    I was obsessed with these books as a kid…I collected everyone all all the spinoffs. The older girls in my family passed them down to me and I passed them down to the ones below me…I do have to say it always bothered me that they never left 8th grade…especially since a lot of what they did seemed older than 8th grade. I think my parents still have a box of these books in their house with my name on it…I never got rid of them…It’s good to know they are bringing the BSC back!

  • Leslie

    I too loved these books when I was a kid; I inherited the first few from my older sister, and I think I eventually had around 40 or 50 of them myself. Mary Anne and Stacey were my favorites. I always liked the “special” books where they would go on a trip or something- I remember one being to a ski lodge? They were always a bit longer too.

    • BLM

      The “special” books were the best! I think they went on a cruise too (after winning the lottery) and to camp. Dawn was always my favorite, so it’s a bit dissapointing to hear Ms. Martin didn’t have any strong feelings about her. Great blast-from-the-past article!

  • AG

    I, too, was a BSC fanatic with dreams of forming my own local club. In third grade, I wrote a letter to Ann M. Martin, and to my delight she wrote back (and answered all of my questions). What a graceful woman.

  • Adriana

    I adored her series growing up, and I still have a soft spot in my heart for the characters and Martin. I could pick up a book and easily enjoy it and reminisce about the first time I read it :)

  • Kate

    I was way obsessed with these books when I was in elementary school. The girls seemed so much older and cooler than me. I got all those huge dolls and when they made a movie adaptation, I cut my hair like Mary Anne. My friends and I had a Best Friends Forver Club…because we were 8. And therefore could not baby-sit.

    • Mrs M

      This makes me incredibly happy! My friends and I tried starting a baby sitters club too, probably about three different times. It didn’t exactly work like it does in the books. But these books are what got me hooked on reading.

  • RLH

    I absolutly LOVED these books!!!! I read all over them over and over and over again!! So glad to see they are back!!

  • Leeli

    Wow, that’s awesome. I was totally addicted to these books when I was younger. I still think about them at times.
    I wanted to have a club as well after reading her series.
    And yes, as a Californian, I love red meat! I always thought that part was funny that people from the east coast thought that way about Californians. But back then, people did have those impressions that we went to the beach everyday. They only knew what they saw on TV.

  • Bedo

    Loved these books as a kid!! Probably wouldn’t mind picking up her new one and reading it just for fun, even though I’m an adult now. =)

    • Leigha

      I would like to pick up her new one too. It doesn’t matter we are adults not. This was part of our childhood!

  • esther

    OMG those are my fave books when I was young!!!!!!! My favorite were Kristy and Claudia!! Now I really miss reading the books….I wish they would republish the books in my country (I’m not from the US)!

  • Kim

    Poor Mal was always the black sheep of the BSC…fan sites always say that they think Ann secretly hated her. And now we have proof!!
    In seriousness, the only author I ever wrote a fan letter to was Ann Martin, and my mom was kind enough to not tell me it was a form letter.

    • Jen

      lol, Mallory was pretty lame – c’mon she loved reading books about horses…

      • Vanessa

        Good one Jen!

      • Diggity

        She was also not cute, got mono and all the kids at school picked on her so bad she went to boarding school. Martin must have written her based on someone she couldn’t stand.

      • charmecia

        jessi was pretty lame too
        jessi liked reading horse stories also

  • Allie

    i loved this series!! and the movie when i was younger too. i remember abcfamily showed it a year ago and i flipped! lol. love it!

    • Nat

      Did anyone else read “Babysitter’s Little Sister” series? My sis read the BSC series, but I was too young (I’m 22 now), so I read the Little Sister series. The stories were much simpler…the main character would break her leg, or learn to ride a bike.
      I absolutely loved the movie made from BSC.

      • V

        There was no way you were too young for the BSC books…I’m only 23 and I was totally reading them all almost as they were coming out…

  • Lisa

    I’m 25 and totally picking up the prequel!

    • Diz

      I’m 30, and I’m there with you! :)

      • Cheyenne

        There are no words to describe how bocdiauos this is.

    • b

      I’m 30, and was way too excited when I found it at a book fair a few days before the official release date. :^D

    • Megan

      I just asked my mom to bring me to Book World like I did when I was eight haha.

      I used to read one of these a day. Not even kidding. Over and over and over!

    • Katie

      I’m 30 and I’m a teacher now…so I’ll be looking for the prequel in my students’ book orders ;) I also have a bin of the classics in my classroom library!

    • Suze

      26 and ditto. Glad I’m not the only one!!! I recently bought my first house and my whole BSC collection came with me (thank you dad!) and I started to reread some of them.
      PS. Dawn was my favorite.

      • charmecia

        hi
        dawn was my favorite also looking back
        as well as stacey
        mary anne
        and claudia
        i even liked mallory for a while
        although i was a lot like mallory growing up
        (i lived with strict grandparents also,only i lived with them all my life lol)

  • Allie

    also, does anyone remember a book series where a girl who has native american ancestry and her friends pretend they are disney characters? i remember reading them when i was younger but i can’t remember the name at all! she also had tons of animals for pets.

    • Jenna

      I remember those! They were the “Disney Girls” series by Gabrielle Charbonnet. All of the characters were based on Disney Princess. The one you were thinking of is “One Pet Too Many,” about Paula, based on Pocahontas.

      • Allie

        thank you!!

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  • Chris Robins

    So excited about the prequel! I’ve also really enjoyed the Baby-Sitters Graphic Novels that scholastic put out not too long ago. They seemed like they were updated a bit as well (in a good way) and still very faithful to the originals. So much for the fans to enjoy!

    • Brian

      I just wanted to share my BSC “story.” I’m a 29 year old male librarian who read the BSC when he was younger. I went with my grandmother to a discount store and I wanted a book, so she suggested a book called “Jessi Ramsey: Pet Sitter” which was CLEARLY about taking care of your pets. Well, you know it wasn’t! And then I bought Stacey’s Mistake. I couldn’t get enough of these fun girls and their crazy sitting misadventures. At one point, I wrote Ann, ashamed (like that would stop me from reading them), asking her if other boys read the BSC, and she assured me that many did! So, yes, I bought the prequel, and numbers 1 and 2, and I can’t wait to read them.

      My favorite book of all time was Babysitters on Board, which I read until the pages fell out.

      • Eden

        One of my best friend in Elementary school was a boy who loved BSC> I was such a massive fan that it rubbed off on him.

        I too loved Babysitter’s on Board! I now work on a cruise ship year round and obviously it is nothing like they made it out to be – my inner 8 year old is very dissappointed!

      • etm

        Brian, that is so cute!!

      • charmecia

        i loved babysitters on board
        as well as the babysitters island adventure
        (claudia was smart in that book)
        california girls was m,y favorite
        cause like mary anne having a love for new york
        i have a love for california
        and would love to hear about california adventures and stuff

  • Brie

    BSC was such a great series growing up. I stopped reading when I was about 14, but I have such fond memories of it.

    I always wondered what would happen when the girls grew up. Mallory was always writing short stories, so she probably became a proficient writer. Kinda sad that Jessi didn’t go into professional ballet; she was crazy about it.

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