October 11th, 2014

Lucy Woodward, happy

The Baby-Sitters Club Graphix by Ann M. Martin and Raina Telgemeier

Twenty years ago, Ann M. Martin and Scholastic had a great idea: The Baby-Sitters Club. What began as a modest book series about four middle-school best friends, their baby-sitting jobs, and their families became an international phenomenon, spawning over 100 books, a television show, a film, and more. The series and its spinoffs will appeal to readers of all ages all around the globe.

Scholastic has re-released four BSC books as graphic novels packed with adorable art by Raina Telgemeier. The Baby-Sitters Club Graphix line includes:

Kristy's Great Idea (BSC Graphix #1; originally BSC book #1)
Living in a house with two older brothers, one younger brother, and a single mom, things can get pretty hectic, but Kristy loves it. An athletic seventh-grader known for her outspoken ways and big ideas, Kristy is especially close to her younger brother, David Michael, so she doesn't mind baby-sitting him. One day, when her single mom needs someone to look after David Michael and no one's available, Kristy has her best idea ever: she'll form a baby-sitters club with her best friends, Mary Anne and Claudia! They'll hold regular meetings at one of their houses, and parents in the neighborhood can save time by calling one number instead of having to search around for an available sitter. It will be perfect! The first few meetings go really well, and Kristy and her friends quickly get a bunch of sitting jobs. Some are filled with fun and games while others have extremely fussy toddlers and large, unruly dogs. Uh-oh. Has Kristy taken on too much?

The Truth About Stacey (BSC Graphix #2; originally BSC book #4)
Stacey McGill is the new girl in town. Before she moved to Stoneybrook, she lived in New York City. With her permed hair, cool clothes, and breezy-but-mature attitude, her new friends think she's wildly sophisticated. The truth is Stacey's a little shaky. She misses her old friends and the big city. Though she likes being a member of The Baby-Sitters Club, she's worried that they'll find out her big secret - she has diabetes. Can she keep her illness under control - and under wraps?

Mary Anne Saves the Day (BSC Graphix #3; originally BSC book #3)
Mary Anne Spier is an only child. With her late mother a distant memory, she really depends on her dad, her best friend Kristy (who is as loud as Mary Anne is quiet!), and her other friends, artistic Claudia and sophisticated Stacey, to bring her out of her shell. But she kind of likes being IN that shell. She also really likes being the secretary of the Baby-Sitters Club and baby-sitting kids in the neighborhood. When the members of the BSC have an unexpected fight, everything goes topsy-turvy, and Mary Anne feels very lonely. A little while later, she has a baby-sitting emergency. Can she muster up the courage to save the day?

Claudia and Mean Janine (BSC Graphix #4; originally BSC book #7)
When compared to her older sister, Janine, Claudia Kishi always feels inferior. Janine's a genius. She gets straight A's and excels in anything having to do with school and learning. Claudia has problems with her spelling, reading, and writing, and she is lucky to get C's in her classes at Stoneybook Middle School. Claud would much rather paint than do homework, and she secretly snacks on junk food. Claudia and her best friends Stacey, Kristy, Mary Anne, and Dawn are proud members of The Baby-Sitters Club. When Claudia's baby-sitting, Janine is studying. While Janine reads textbooks, Claudia reads Nancy Drew mysteries. One thing the girls have in common is their love for their family. Though Claudia worries that her parents might be more proud of Janine than of her, she knows that her grandmother Mimi loves her unconditionally. When one of their relatives gets really sick, will the Kishi sisters finally put their differences aside?

Please note that all of these summaries are my own, and apply to the original novels as well as the graphic novels.

Raina Telgemeier has done a fantastic job with the BSC Graphix. Not only does she provide adorable artwork, but she remains faithful to the original stories. The text - the majority of which has been pulled straight from the books - was approved by Ann M. Martin. There are a few little contemporary updates - a word here, a gadget there - but, happily, the stories and the words remain 99.9% unchanged. For example, the brief references to G.I. Joe and Rainbow Brite in Kristy's Great Idea remain in tact. (That made me incredibly happy because I am as big a fan of Rainbow Brite as I was of the BSC - maybe even bigger!)

With her aforementioned adorable artwork, Raina Telgemier has created characters that not only look their age but are dressed appropriately. She has captured the essence of these familiar faces and their personalities. The characters change clothes often, which is rare in comics, but their wardrobes are always modest. Tomboy Kristy wears comfortable, sporty attire; shy Mary Anne wears her hair in braids and dons schoolgirl skirts due to her father's strict rules; fashionable Stacey has cute tops and jeans; and creative Claudia shows off funky ensembles that are her trademark. On the cover of the novel, Kristy sports a shirt for 06, but one could interpret that as 2006 or simply think 06 is a player number. The clothes don't scream "trendy" at one extreme, nor "1986" in the other. In fact, the only part of the pictures that differed from my mental pictures of the girls were Claudia's bangs, which are dyed pink on the covers. Other than that, the illustrations stay completely true to the book's descriptions of the girls, their relatives, and their clients. Telgemeier conveys the girls' emotions and energy very well.

The graphic novels are around 180 pages in length. Kristy's Great Idea begins with Kristy suffering in a classroom on a hot afternoon - just as readers remember it. The stories are timeless, focusing on friendship, first crushes, families, and school. The original characters were twelve years old and in seventh grade when the books began; the majority of the readership is composed of students in elementary school and middle school. The books discuss respect, loyalty, and responsibility, mixing in plenty of fun, secrets, and slumber parties.

I really wish Scholastic would contract Raina to create more BSC graphic novels. Those who read the books in the 1980s and 1990s may now share the original books with their own children, students, and younger siblings - and add these well-done graphic novels to their own collections! BSC Graphix are a must-have for libraries - public, school, or home - and for bookstores. Get them, read them, share them!

This piece was originally posted in 2008, when the graphic novels were first released. In October 2014, this post was edited to add:

In 2015, Scholastic/Graphix will be re-releasing the BSC graphic novels in full color! The interiors will be colored by Braden Lamb, who was also the colorist for Raina's original graphic novel Sisters.

Related Posts:
Spotlight: Ann M. Martin and The Baby-Sitters Club
Interview: Raina Telgemeier
Book Review: Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Bildungsroman Tag: BSC (The Baby-Sitters Club)

I also posted these reviews at Young Adult Books Central.

books

Wild Things! by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter D. Sieruta

If you are fond of anecdotes and children's literature, pick up WILD THINGS! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature, written by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and the late Peter D. Sieruta. Packed from cover-to-cover with funny stories and little known facts about famous authors, secret feuds, inspired illustrations, and classic characters, this is a great resource for readers and writers alike.

This fun book contains true tales, the stories behind the stories. If you've read up on your favorite classic authors, you may already be familiar with some of these occurrences, such as the chapters and characters cut from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but there are also plenty of things that aren't widely known, as well as gems that are worth repeating. One of my favorite sidebars detailed the time author Richard Michelson was mistaken for Leonard Nimoy - while having dinner for the real Leonard Nimoy, whom the fans thought was his father.

The real lives of beloved authors and the inspiration behind the books we know and love can be surprising. WILD THINGS shares funny bits as well as sad stories: the authors who remained closeted for most if not all of their lives, worried it would affect their book sales and public image; the books which were not championed or honored until after the writers had passed away; the ghostwriters who never got their due; the illustrators who purposely added details to their artwork which may or may not have been appropriate; the authors who had multiple career paths, intertwined or wholly separate; the people who felt overshadowed by others in their field; and those who were not pleased with their celebrity status, preferring to stay below the radar.

WILD THINGS! was clearly written with respect and appreciation not only for stories but for storytellers. The trio of researchers, Bird, Danielson, and Sieruta, are also reviewers and bloggers. They know their books and know their audience, and in this volume, they acknowledge the work and the lives of a plethora of authors, ranging from Louisa May Alcott to J.K. Rowling, from Kay Thompson to Lemony Snicket. Give this book to your favorite children's librarians and literature buffs - they will dig it.

Learn more about the book and watch exclusive interviews with various authors and artists at http://wildthings.blaine.org

Read my interview with Julie Danielson and Betsy Bird.

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