Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Happy 30th Anniversary The Babysitters Club!

It started with Kristy's Great Idea....

and turned into one of the most endearing and enduring Middle Grade-level book series - Ann M. Martin's The Babysitters Club. I was at the right age range and reading level to start reading this series when it was first published and borrowed many books from my school and public libraries. I could not get enough of these girls and their adventures.

From the get-go, this pre-teen series was everything that today's bookish professionals want from children's literature:

1) Entrepreneur spirit, without Venture Capital or Silicon Valley. Long before Sheryl Sandberg wrote Lean In, Kristy and the girls formed not just a club, but a business to serve the local community, hone their business and inter-personal skills, and make them some spending money. Kristy was the original Boss Lady.

2) Diversity. Claudia was my favorite. She was also the first Asian-American character I ever read about in any of the books geared to my age range. She defied the stereotype usually reserved for Asian-Americans: she was artsy and not good at math (no wonder why she was my favorite - we both hated math) and ran into personality conflicts with her family. Her family, notably Mimi (Claudia's grandmother) and Jeannie (older sister) also make multiple appearances Stacey had diabetes, which is how I learned about the disease and how to manage it (damn, sometimes an ice cream craving needs to be satisfied!). Dawn was from California and a vegetarian. Jessi was African-American, knew sign language, and wanted to be a professional dancer.

3) Issues.  Often books help children deal with hard issues, and The Babysitters Club was no exception. From friends moving away (Dawn), Stacey's management of her diabetes, Claudia's Mimi dying, and the troubles with relationships, especially with boys and family.
4) Various, non-perfect but good kids. The girls are point blank real and differ from each other enough that the reader could identify with at least one of the girls in the books. Unlike a lot of children's literature today that uses badly behaving main characters to anchor series, TBC does discuss consequences and repercussions for breaking rules.

4) Various girls, no brats. The girls that made up the club were relatable, good hearted, and faced consequences for their actions but also helped each other solve problems. Unlike a lot of children's book series now, the girls of TBC were not brats who made a mess for others to clean up.

I had many hours of reading enjoyment thanks to The Babysitters Club. In addition to the book series, there is a movie, a television show, and line of dolls. With the first generation of kids who read the series now adults with kids of their own, the series has received renewed interest and attention (see links). The series has also undergone updates to the covers and received the graphic novel treatment to appeal to new readers. I can't wait to share the books with my own daughter in the future.

Happy 30th Birthday to The Babysitters Club...and thanks to Ann M. Martin for your writing.

Complete List of Book Titles:
12 Facts
An Artist Reflects
Bustle on TBC 30th Anniversary

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