This summer, every Monday and Wednesday, I am hosting a series of guest posts here on my blog, a series called Middle Grade Memories. In this series, authors, agents, librarians, and editors talk about their favorite childhood middle grade books. I’m beyond thrilled to share their middle grade memories with you.
Below is the fifth post in the series, by Cristin Terrill, a YA author and one of my agent sisters (as she is also represented by Diana Fox). Cristin recently sold her YA debut, All Our Yesterdays, to Disney-Hyperion. Woo-hoo! Read on as Cristin talks about one of her favorite childhood middle grade series, The Baby-sitters Club. Then check out the giveaway!
I thought for a long time about which book I would write about here, weighing all those classics I devoured then and still love now, like The Giver and The Westing Game. I wanted my pick to be something substantial and timeless.
But then I really thought about the young person I was, the bookshelf that I made a beeline for at the local store, the kinds of books I dreamt about writing when I grew up. And as much as I’d like to say my personal prepubescent crack was something sophisticated and literary like Frances Hodgson Burnett or Roald Dahl or another master of children’s literature, the truth is the most important story to me was one about a few eighth-grade entrepreneurs with really bad hair.
It all begins with a great idea… Kristy Thomas’s brilliant business plan to form a club of friends to babysit for neighbors gets off to a flying start with Claudia Kishi (vice-president), Mary Anne Spier (secretary), and new girl Stacey McGill (treasurer). Friendships are forged, adventures begin, and life lessons are learned.
I inhaled this series, and the pride of my elementary school life was the bookshelf that housed every single book from Kristy’s Great Idea to somewhere around Mary Anne to the Rescue, plus – obvs – all of the Super Specials and Super Mysteries. My cousin and I traded them like they were baseball cards, which didn’t stop me from eventually buying the ones I’d borrowed from her with Christmas or birthday money (‘cause of the bookshelf, couldn’t have one missing!).
My friends and I played “which babysitter are you?” a decade before we started declaring that we were totally a Miranda or a Charlotte. I was a Kristy who desperately wanted to be a Stacey, and I really, really wanted to be a babysitter. (Too bad no one actually HIRES preteens to watch their children in the real world, so thanks for getting my hopes up, ladies!).
What I loved most was the continuity and community of the books. Aside from the fact that the characters never aged (which led to the awesomely awkward subplot where Claudia was demoted a grade), Stoneybrook felt like a real place. After a few dozen books, all of its inhabitants were familiar to me. I knew Charlotte Johanssen was Stacey’s favorite charge, while Mary Anne would always prefer the Perkins girls. (Personally, I had a soft spot for Nicky Pike and Shannon Kilbourne.) I knew that trips to the Stamford mall, where Stacey would get her “permanent wave,” were a big deal. Friendships changed and evolved, but they always stayed strong. It was everything my life as a shy loner who moved a lot wasn’t and that I desperately wished it was.
The Baby-sitters Club also inspired me put pencil to paper as a fiction writer for the first time. My grand vision was of a series about a diverse bunch of kids who ran their middle school paper and solved mysteries and exposed corruption as little investigative reporters. The characters – like the driven and bossy editor Kate or the free-spirited and funky arts reporter Vanessa – were totally NOT the babysitters with different names. Not even a little.
Tragically, my early drafts of The Rosewood Times (double-meaning!) are lost to history, but I think I can fairly accurately recreate them:
“We’re on a deadline, people!” Kate barked. “I need to get this edition to the printer’s yesterday!”
“Take a chill-pill, Kate,” Michael drawled from the desk where he was working on the front-page layout. Kate rolled her eyes. He was just jealous she had beaten him for editor and not at all secretly in love with her. Just because the Rosewood Times had boy members who would make for some cool romantic tension, unlike some preteen series in existence, didn’t mean Kate had time for that dumb stuff.
Vanessa rushed into the journalism room, where the staff of the Rosewood Times hung out at all times with no teacher supervision because that’s totally realistic.
“You guys won’t believe this!” she gasped. “Bubba the Bulldog has been stolen!”
Vanessa’s cheeks were flushed with having run across campus. She wore a super hip and cah-razy outfit of [insert five paragraphs of description here].”
(PS, I would still totally write the crap out of this. Probably with less dialogue tags, too. Editors, call me!)
But really, if I could ever write ANYTHING that inspired one tenth of the devotion in a kid that The Baby-sitters Club inspired in me, I could die happy.
I’m Cristin, and, yes, the spelling is a burden. Thanks, Mom!
I live in Washington, D.C. with one dignified cat and one deeply ridiculous one. I work in the theatre, hold the world’s most pretentious post-grad degree, and bake a mean margarita cupcake.
I also write young adult novels. My debut novel All Our Yesterdays will be released by Disney-Hyperion in Fall 2013, and I’m represented by Diana Fox of Fox Literary.
Someday I want to be a real grown-up, but I doubt that will last.
To celebrate Cristin’s post, she is generously giving away this completely awesome The Baby-sitters Club-themed book fair kit!
Is this not too cool?! Erasers! Stickers! A vintage BSC paperback! And more!
To win, simply comment below and tell us about your experience with The Baby-sitters Club series. Have you read and loved these books? How did they influence you? Do you have a favorite book out of the series? A favorite character? What are your middle grade memories?
For an extra entry, tweet about this post and include the link to your tweet in your comment.
This giveaway begins now and ends Wednesday, June 20 at 11:59 a.m. EST. The winner will be announced shortly thereafter. This giveaway is U.S./Canada only.
EDITED 6/25: This giveaway is now closed. Congrats to the winner . . .
Gina, I will be emailing you shortly with more info. Thanks to all who participated, and stay tuned for more Middle Grade Memories posts as the summer continues!
Love Middle Grade Memories? Check back on Mondays and Wednesdays throughout the summer for more in this series!
You can view previous Middle Grade Memories posts below: