The Story of The Baby-sitters Club
Hi, readers! It was 1985 and I was 27 years old when I had my first conversation about what would become The Baby-sitters Club books. Jean Feiwel, an editor at Scholastic, wanted to talk to me about an idea she had for a four-book series with that title. She imagined a club consisting of four girls; each book would feature one of the girls. It was my task to figure out what a baby-sitters club might be, and to create the characters and come up with storylines. At the time, we had no idea that the series would continue for fourteen years! Since this is long before any of my current readers were born, let me tell you a little bit about the birth of The Baby-sitters Club....
The first thing I did (after deciding that the club would actually be a baby-sitting business) was create the characters. I wanted the girls to be close friends, but I also wanted them to be very different from one another. Kristy, the founder of the business, is based on my childhood best friend. She's the most out-going of the group and always has big ideas. I based Mary Anne's character on me, which meant Mary Anne is shy, fond of quieter pursuits such as knitting and sewing, and is a conscientious student. Claudia is a neighbor of Mary Anne's and Kristy's in the fictional town of Stoneybrook, Connecticut, and while she's their age, they always felt that she was way more sophisticated than they were. Claudia brings her friend Stacey into the club after Stacey moves to Stoneybrook. The girls have different kinds of families, widely varying personalities, and face different kinds of challenges. I enjoyed writing about how they interacted with and supported each other.
The four books came out over the course of one year, and I was happy when Scholastic asked me to write two more.and then two more. Then they asked me to write a book a month so that twelve new books would be added to the series each year! This was an incredibly busy, happy, creative time for me. One of the characters who often appeared in these books was Kristy's stepsister Karen, a feisty six-year-old. I loved writing about Karen, and two years after the publication of the first BSC book, Karen debuted in her own series called Baby-sitters Little Sister.
For fourteen years, the BSC books explored the strength of the girls' friendships, and their commitment to the task of handling a busy baby-sitting business for the parents and kids who counted on them. The books explored topics such as diabetes, the death of a grandparent, autism, divorce, blended families, and moving.
When I was writing the BSC books I was lucky to have many opportunities to meet and talk to readers at bookstores and during school visits. I also received thousands of letters from kids who suggested storylines or just wanted to share their lives with me. Most heartwarming of all to a lifelong reader like myself, I heard from teachers and parents who told me about children who had never enjoyed reading but were now avid readers since being introduced to the series. And guess what? Many of these readers have grown up and been in touch again to let me know that they are now teachers, librarians, writers, and bloggers, all stemming from a love of reading as a child.
When the time seemed right - when I felt that the stories had been told and it was time for the girls to move on - I wrote the final book in the BSC series, Graduation Day. In this last book, published fifteen years ago this month, the BSC members graduate from Stoneybrook Middle School. It's a time for them to look back on the funny, poignant, challenging, and rewarding memories that they have shared together, and to look forward to the adventures that await them in high school. It's an honor for me to know that so many readers over the years have shared these memories, and that the BSC books continue to be discovered by a new generation of readers.
P.S. Check out these fun facts compiled by my friend and BSC editor at Scholastic, David Levithan:
Total number of BSC books: 213
Total number of pages in these 213 books: 31,570
If you put each BSC book in a stack, its height would be: 7.5 feet
Average height of a thirteen-year-old girl: 5.25 feet
First printing of Kristy's Great Idea: 35,000 copies
BSC books in print as of November 2000: over 180,000,000
Number of inches these books would stretch lined up vertically: 1,346,109,875
Number of feet: 112,175,822.9167
Number of miles: 21,245.421
Number of Empire State Buildings covered by this distance: 77,203
Number of times you could walk between NY and Paris on this line of books: 5.84