Fuse #8

Monday, March 13, 2006

Review of the Day: Kristy's Great Idea

I've pumped this up but I haven't gone so far as to actually review it. Now I have. Those of you above the age of 35 will scoff at me for it, but I tell you here and now that this is a generational thing. You get it or you don't.

Let me tell you a little something about "The Baby-Sitters Club". When the series first came out in the 1980s I was like millions of other little girls around the country. I wolfed those puppies down like they was popcorn. Couldn't get enough of them. Ann M. Martin (who later went on to garner herself a Newbery Honor or two) only intended to write four books (one for each club member) but popular demand was so strong that she started writing more and more and more. If you were to walk into your local library you'd find dog-eared, yellowing, crumbling paperback editions. The series has never been republished, so libraries are forced to hold onto the dying original copies with their lamentable late 80s/early 90s hair and fashion. But do these covers deter the kiddies from reading them? Hardly. My library shelves literally cannot keep these puppies in stock. Put a new one (which is to say, a donated one) on the shelf and VOOM! It's gone the next day.

Which is why the people at Scholastic are geniuses. Right now I am holding in my hot little hands a brand-spanking new "Baby-Sitters Club" book. It's the first book in the series and it has been utterly and completely graphic-novelized (is that a word?). Scholastic has been veeery slowly cornering the market on high-quality literary graphic novels for children. I'm not talking about superhero comics or manga or any of that run-of-the-mill material. I'm talking about things like Jeff Smith's, "Bone", done in full color twelve-episode editions. Really high quality stuff. Now they've given us "The Baby-Sitter's Club" in graphic novel form and the timing could not be better. At this moment in time million of women who grew up with these books are now having children of their own. It makes me feel old, but it's true. There's a real love for this series and with one fell-swoop Raina Telgemeier's drawings are going to attract an entirely new breed of reluctant reader to the books. Imagine it. You get kids, GIRLS, who are often reluctant readers themselves but who don't have their own "Captain Underpants" equivalent (unless they like "Underpants", which is cool). Now they have a great series to get interested in. They'll read the graphic novel then probably want to read other books in the series and start (cue the heavenly choir) reading real books in the end! It's bloody brilliant, people!

If you ever read the first book in the series, "Kristy's Great Idea" then you'll know what to expect. It's fairly straightforward. Kristy is this tomboy who starts a club of baby-sitters. It's a business model with Kristy at the head. Her best friend Mary Ann (who Willow on the show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" could easily have been modeled on) is Secretary and shy. Claudia is cool, Asian, the Vice President, and not the greatest student gradewise. Then there's Dawn who I never liked much as a kid but that was just me. She's from New York City and is diabetic. Each girl carries about an unwholesome amount of personal baggage but that doesn't really matter because all the books really are about is (awww) friendship.

Because the internet makes things so convenient, I was able to quickly locate Ms. Telgemeier's website and ask her how the creation of this book came about. Here was her response: "It was sort of an organic idea that was generated between my editors and I. They were wooing me to do SOMETHING for them, but none of us knew what. I pitched a few original projects, all of which needed some re-thinking. Somewhere along the way, in conversation, they asked me, "So...what did you read as a kid?" I laughed and said, "Um, The Baby-sitters Club!", because while I read plenty of stuff, that was one of the defining series from my pre-teen years, and the books really stuck with me. So my editors said, "Hey, maybe you should try your hand at a GN version of that! Wanna give it a try?". Batta, as they say, bing. Until now Ms. Telgemeier has not done much to garner attention. So I was infinitely relieved to find that though she occasionally does do a somewhat Manga style drawing here and there when a character is surprised, the pictures really aren't in that vein. Since the words haven't been updated there was also a little fear that the books might read like historical novels. It's a relief then to see the girls wearing clothing and hairstyles that don't look as if they arrived in tandem with the newest "Tiffany" album. There are occasional references to things like "Rainbow Brite", but since "Rainbow Brite" has been reintroduced to children today, I don't think this jars in the least. No, all in all Telgemeier has done a lovely job with the first book and if response is strong I'm hoping that she goes on to do the rest in the series as well. At least the first 100.

Of course, the book isn't done in color. I suppose that would take an awfully long time and jack up the price as well. Still, after seeing "Bone" all bright and beautiful I was a little let-down to see Kristy, Claudia, Mary Ann, and Stacey in plain old black and white. I got over it. All in all, this is a truly enjoyable book and a great bit of nostalgia for anyone who first read the series when "Blossom" was on tv. Do not hesitate to hand it to a kid you know. They will undoubtedly gravitate towards it, now more than ever.


At 6:16 PM , Blogger Kristi(e) said...

Actually, Stacy is the one from NYC with diabetes. Dawn is from California, free-spirited and eats lots of tofu because she likes it. I've edited this comment down to only a few sentences from the ten I originally had. (I was unhealthily obsessed with the Baby Sitters Club as a girl. It's kind of sad, really.)


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