Celebrating 30 Years of the Baby–sitters Club
Hi, readers! Over thirty years ago, I made the exciting (and somewhat scary!) decision to quit my job as a children's book editor and become a full–time author. To support myself and my writing, I accepted all kinds of freelance work. I wrote movie tie–in storybooks, created text for the inside flaps and back covers for new books, and continued to do some editing.
I was grateful for every assignment that came my way, but the most important and tantalizing project came from my then–editor at Scholastic, Jean Feiwel, who asked me to write a four–book series about girls who baby–sit. I was thrilled. When I was growing up in Princeton, New Jersey, my best friend Beth and I loved to baby–sit and loved to start neighborhood clubs. Jean left it up to me to create the characters and the storylines, and that's how the Baby–sitters Club series began.
Each of the books would feature one of the four original members of the BSC – Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, and Stacey – so I thought a lot about who I wanted these girls to be. Claudia and Stacey were a little more sophisticated for their age than Kristy and Mary Anne (think fashion and boys). I based Kristy, who has lots of energy and big ideas, on my childhood best friend Beth. Mary Anne resembles me as a child – quiet, conscientious, and quite shy. The girls are very different from one another but get along well, work together well, and ultimately become close friends despite their differences.
The Baby–sitters Club books were immediately popular with young readers, and Scholastic signed up more titles. The original four–book series grew and grew, until a new title was being published every month, and then the Baby–sitters Little Sister series featuring Karen, Kristy's young stepsister, was launched. (Fun fact: By the time the series ended in 2000, there were over 176,000,000 BSC and Little Sister books in print!)
Although I had already written several stand–alone novels, the BSC was the first series I'd written, and I soon found that one benefit of series writing is not having to say goodbye to your characters at the end of the book. I knew we'd meet again in the next one. I also discovered that when a series continues as long as the Baby–sitters Club books did, the characters begin to generate plots for future books based on things that happened in past books, almost as though the characters take on lives of their own.
The BSC years were a busy and happy time in my life, and I traveled all over the country and also to the UK to meet young readers. Additionally, I received thousands of letters from readers who told me which books were their favorites, what character they most identified with, and in many cases, suggested ideas for new books. Over the course of the series, the BSC members dealt with many challenges, including the death of a beloved grandmother, divorce, blended families, anorexia, racism, and sitting for children with special needs. But first and foremost, the books were about baby–sitting adventures, growing up, and the importance of friends and family.
Today, I'm in touch with readers of all ages. Through rereleases, eBooks, and Raina Telgemeier's graphic novels, I now hear from a new generation of readers who are discovering the series for the first time, reading the same books many of their parents read when they were their age. And I hear from adults who read the books when they were kids and are kind enough to share how the books encouraged their love of reading, and in many cases, influenced their decisions to become teachers, librarians, editors, journalists, or writers.
Celebrating the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the BSC series has been a wonderful trip down memory lane for me. I'm happy to have the chance to once again say thank you to Scholastic, to Jean Feiwel, David Levithan, and my other editors throughout the series, and to the dedicated readers who eagerly followed the adventures of Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, Stacey, and the Baby–sitters Club.
P.S. If you'd like a printable checklist of every BSC and Little Sister book, visit https://www.scholastic.com/annmartin/bsc/babysitters.pdf.