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I Heart The Babysitters Club

When I was around fourth grade, I discovered the Babysitters Club book series by Ann M. Martin. I loved them. For Christmas that year, my parents gave me all of the books published to that date (there are about twice as many now). I couldn’t get enough of Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne, Stacey, Dawn, Mallory and Jessi (Abby came later). All of the girls, even with their disparate personalities, were people I would have wanted to be friends with. They were open, trustworthy, and generally good, but they were also very real. They made mistakes; they had fights; sometimes one of them even left the club, but they always came back to each other.

Recently, I picked up one of the books at a book sale. It was $1, and I figured it was worth it for nostalgia’s sake. (The set my parents bought me were long ago given away; my mom is well-known for her continual de-cluttering.) As I read it, I started to appreciate it for more than the nostalgic value. Often now, when I go back to books I’ve previously read, I am disappointed in the quality of the writing. Reading/writing is just like anything else; the more you know about it, the more discerning you are. Now that I’m more educated and experienced in writing, I need higher caliber books, and I have little patience for low-quality writing.

But I received a pleasant surprise. As I read through my book sale find, now viewing it from a writer’s standpoint, I became very impressed with Ann M. Martin’s work. Here’s why:

1. Even though they’re young adult novels, they address very real issues. Throughout the series, Martin covers parental abandonment, divorce, death, adoption, depression, chronic illness, eating disorders, and racial discrimination, to name only a few. She handles them in a very upfront and age-appropriate way. The format of each book serves to temper any difficult subject matter; each tackles a real-life teenage problem, interspersed with more lighthearted babysitting adventures.

2. The writing aims high for the age level, introducing new vocabulary, and always adhering to proper grammar, which is more than I can say for many of the adult novels I’ve read lately. (The one I just got for free from the Kindle store made several references to “my parent’s house,” even though both of her parents live there. I guess that’s why it was free. And yes, the misplaced apostrophe was enough to make me stop reading.)

3. Martin creates believable characters with flaws and fears, and writes in all of their voices equally well. This is especially apparent in the Super Special books, which alternate characters in every chapter.

4. The books are a lot of fun. What kinds of hijinks will the Pike family (eight kids) get into this time? Will Kristy’s stepsister Karen ever get over thinking their neighbor is a witch? Every few books, a new family is added, with new kids and interpersonal dynamics, and they’re all enjoyable to read about.

I came to a realization after re-reading this book. I remembered the first novel I tried to write, when I was about twelve. It was similar to a BSC book in that it was written in multiple perspectives (four girls on a beach vacation). I never finished it (and I’m sure it wouldn’t have been good if I had) but the memory made me realize that it was the impetus for writing a multi-perspective novel as an adult. I loved writing my novel that way, and I’m happy to think that the idea germinated so long ago.

By the way, if any of my family members are paying attention, I’m officially collecting BSC books now. I want them all!

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