Wednesday 1 June 2011

Monday Spotlight (on Wednesday): Ann M Martin

When I was younger (say from age eleven to around fourteen), there was a holy trinity of writers whose work I absolutely had to read all of, like, right now: Judy Blume, Paula Danzinger, and Ann M. Martin. And you know when you're younger, and you think that because you read a lot compared to other people, and you've read a fair few of people's books, that means that you must have read everything that author ever wrote? I actually did read every single thing that the last two of the three wrote. There are a few Judy Blume that I missed, but I'm working on it!  All of these three wrote about girls of a similar age to me, struggling with all the problems young teenage girls think are armageddon causing, and they were inspiring, interesting, and most of all funny about them, and I for one couldn't get enough.

Started in 1986, with Kristy's Great Idea, the Babysitter's Club was originally intended to be a four book series, but as it became increasingly popular, the publishers commissioned more and more books, eventually extending to several spin -off series, including Babysitter's Little Sister,  and California Diaries, as well as a 1995 movie, starring Larissa Oleynik, later to play Bianca Stratford in 10 Things I Hate About You, as Dawn Schaeffer. 

If I were a boy reading The Babysitters Club books, I really have no idea what I would think about them. As it is, I'm a girl, and for the early part of my adolescence, I absolutely worshipped them. For me, the BSC was like a rite of passage: they were the first books I obsessively collected. You could blame them for being the trigger to my current acquisition fever.

When I was fourteen, I owned almost every book in the series, plus all of the 'Specials', and many of the Babysitters Club Mystery Series. The collection had been built up over at least a couple of years, through gifts, library sales, and the careful saving up of pocket money. To this day, the best Christmas present I've ever got was the year my little sister, on Christmas day, gleefully presented me with a stack of about twenty Babysitters Club books, all of which she'd snagged from under my nose at various library sales. I didn't leave the house for about a week after that; just holed up in corner with a blanket, a packet of biscuits and a pile of books.

At around about the age of sixteen, I decided I really didn't have the space in my tiny little box room, where I literally had books in ever single available space, to store books I barely read anymore. Not wanting to get rid of them, as I always regret getting rid of books, I gave them to my younger sister. BIG mistake. She was only ten, and not quite old enough for them, and so, as space was very limited in my house, they went to my old primary school. Just to give you an idea, The Babysitter's Club series consists of 131 books, 15 specials, of which I had 7, and 36 mysteries. That's a lot of books to lose, and I was totally gutted. Now, however, I've started collecting them as I go round car boot sales.

The past weekend, I was at aforementioned car boot sale, and spotted a BSC book, Claudia and the Perfect Boy (number 71, for those who are interested..), in near perfect condition, for 10p! I re-read it, it took me approximately an hour, and was all the things I remembered it being. I can see why I loved it when I was thirteen, and for the nostalgia, I still love it, but I wouldn't read them now for their own merit. While the girls of the BSC are wonderful for their fashion tips, sleepovers, hiding junk food and Nancy Drew books in their bedrooms, thinking up crazy awesome schemes, all of their many troubles with the opposite sex, and mostly for being young girls who strive towards financial and personal independence, The Babysitters Club books don't resonate in the way that books like, for example, The Secret Garden do. If you read them as a child, they're still great. But if you didn't, you really do need a child to be present to make them enjoyable.

That said, I will be attempting to gather my collection back up again. My fiance is cowering in a corner, anticipating the house being entirely taken over by books, but for me, they're part of my past, and part of the beginnings of my obsession, and it's important to remember that.

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