30 years ago, in 1986, a group of teenagers in a fictional Connecticut town started the greatest entrepreneurial effort in the world, it got lots of young girls reading, and made everyone want to do what they did for a living.
I’m not referring to a prostitution ring.
30 years ago, the bedroom of a Connecticut home became the meeting place for a group of teenagers who called themselves The Babysitters’ Club, the brainstorm of neighborhood girl Kristy Thomas, who gathered her friends Claudia, Mary Ann, Stacey, and soon after, Dawn, Mallory, and Jessi (among others who joined after I was far too old for this book series). The “Great Idea” for this book series came from Jean Feiwel, an editor for Scholastic who found the potential of a series of novels about babysitting after a novel called Ginny’s Babysitting Job proved popular. She then contacted Ann M. Martin, sparks flew, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Boom. This happened.
When publication of the series ceased in 2000, there were 213 novels. I’m not much of a bragger, but I read about 75 of these novels. Not in number order, mind you, but yeah, that’s what was available at the time. I may have read more, I’m not sure, but I read at least through #75. I also read the Super Specials. The books piled up on my bookshelf, and I loved the series the way I love the books I read now. To say that I was a fan…well, I was. No one does something with consistency for four years and says “Nah, I didn’t like it.”
Ok, there are things we do for four years that we don’t like in the end, but book series are not one of those things.
I started reading the novels in 1992, when I was in third grade, and stopped reading them when I finished sixth grade in 1995. In between these novels, I was reading R.L. Stine’s Fear Street novels, the Ramona Quimby books, and a spin-off of the Baby-Sitter’s Club, Baby-Sitter’s Little Sister, which was about Kristy’s younger stepsister, Karen. I also read those until sixth grade, even though they were a little beneath the age level of the original series. That and I was a fast reader.
And there was the TV show, thirteen episodes strong (and not too old for at the time), and the movie, which I saw after it was out on video (but admittedly was too old for). It was nice to know that these book existed. In a society where girls are expected to grow up and be sophisticated, it was nice to know there was a time when girls were girls, and had mad entrepreneurial skills to create a booming babysitting business. No talk of websites, cell phones, text messaging, or dressing like a slut. These girls were wholesome thirteen-year-olds, and the series ended before the times changed way too much.
Was Stoneybrook a bit Utopian? By today’s (and my now-cynical) standards, yes. Stoneybrook, Connecticut was the perfect place to live, the kind of place that only exists in kiddie books and movies about people trying to escape from the dark forces that create Utopian societies. Wait, that’s a whole other discussion. This is supposed to be a nice tribute!
I’m not sure what kiddie literature is like now, but I’m sure it is more realistic than this was. But that didn’t matter in the time my generation grew up in.
I’d like to think this was what made my love of reading the thing it is today, or in the very least, contributed to it. That and the contribution to my patience for reading extended book series.
Thank you Scholastic, Ann M. Martin, and the girls that made reading fun.