baby sitters club book

In defense of “The Baby-Sitters’ Club”

This might seem completely out of the blue, and many people might not get the context of it all, but recently, I’ve seen a lot of posts making fun of the books I grew up reading. Those of y'all who grew up in middle-class America know what I mean: the kind that shows up at the “purchase” rack in front of the library, already 10-or-so years old, costs $1-$3, the kind you have a thousand of at home before you donate them back to the library system. 

A notable representative of these books is the “The Baby-Sitters’ Club” series, a book series from the 90s that started as a four-book miniseries but by the end of it contained, last I knew, around 200 books, including spin-offs. It was marketed at grade-school girls, following the adventures of four friends who decided to kick off a club for baby-sitters, make spending money, etc. It’s also the butt of a thousand internet jokes. 

And, sure, some of the books are cheesy. I say that as an eighteen-year-old who’s well on their way to college now. But as a kid, they touch on so many important themes. 

Forgive me if I don’t remember details; I read the series last when I was in fifth grade  

There is, of course, the obvious: the series follows four grade-school girls (eighth grade, so aged 14-15), who take initiative and start a business of their own and make it work. It tackles responsibility and teamwork and cooperation, and balancing hobbies with schoolwork with family life

But there’s also so many of the books that follow and address specific problems, problems following a diverse cast of girls with diverse problems that are often addressed in healthy ways… problems rarely addressed in mainstream media  

Stacey is diabetic and has divorced parents, one of whom lives in New York, is a bit naïve, and has a tendency to get herself into trouble. She doesn’t only have plots revolving around living her life, learning to accommodate her new eating habits, etc., but she also has books about topics like peer pressure and saying ‘no’ to friends and getting mixed in with the wrong crowd  

 Kristy has a tendency to be selfish and bossy, which works okay when you’re the middle child of… five-ish? Her parents recently got divorced and remarried. She has books dealing with that, with learning not to jump into things, with learning how to resolve disputes between her and the girls in a healthy manner.

Claudia is Chinese-American. She’s an incredibly talented artist in a family who favors the sort of intelligence her sister possesses- school smarts. A direction in which Claudia isn’t really that talented… to the point where she thinks she’s adopted. 

(A book that doesn’t just deal with talking things out as a family, but also features accommodating babysitting a neurodivergent, likely autistic child, if I remember correctly.)

On the left: another book starting Claudia, as well as a babysittee… a child struggling with the ‘gifted child’ problem before it became mainstream to even question the ‘gifted child’ mentality. Little Rosie felt like her life was being sucked dry of whatever she enjoyed or showed any aptitude in because it was turned into a full-blown affair with her parents; when she said she liked music, her parents made her take many daily hours of piano, when she mentioned she liked reading, etc., etc. She ended up hiding the fact that she loved to draw from her parents, afraid they’d suck the joy out of that, too, by taking it out of her hands and making it a ‘gift.’ 

On the right, Mary Anne dealing with a boy who’s been through a traumatic experience, helping him  address it and talk it through with his parents. 

And Mary Anne. Mary Anne. She grew up in an extremely strict, conservative household with her single father, who treated her as if she was a little child. 

Mary Anne, who hasn’t been allowed to even decide how to wear her hair, is now placed into a situation where a charge of hers is suddenly taken very ill… and learns to ask her father to take a step or two back. 

Dawn’s family is torn apart when her parents divorce. One of them moves across the country to California. After ages of exhausting back-and-forth, Dawn moves to California, too. 

Later, Dawn’s mom and Mary Anne’s dad get married, and they have to get used to living together. Also a very important issue, as they are total opposites. 

Mallory is the eldest child of eight (nine?). Jessie is an African-American girl who wants to be a professional ballerina and deals with institutionalized racism. I’m not even sure if that’s all the members right now. Abby is a Jewish girl who has to deal with establishing a separate identity from her twin sister, as well as numerous familial issues (including her mother’s irresponsible younger sister leaving her newborn baby on their doorstep because she’s suddenly taken very ill but doesn’t want her family to know).

What I’m saying is, it’s a series that tackles a great deal of situations that little girls, the target audience, may encounter in their lives. And for the early 90s, that’s progressive as hell. 

anonymous asked:

D'ya think Armand, in this day and age, would follow certain fashions. I wanna see him in vans and turn up jeans with dinosaur socks on and a red tee just texting all casual. (I'm actually wearing this outfit. It gave me the idea). Anyway, bye!

I think Armand would enjoy dressing in certain Looks and seeing the different reactions they provoke. Everything a costume, a game–clothes to make him look older or younger, to make people notice or overlook him.

I also bet that left to his own devices, he sometimes throws together Claudia Kishi-from-BSC-level “creative” outfits of clashy wonderment!

(Anybody else out there remember the obligatory paragraph of description devoted to Claudia’s OOTD in chapter 1 of every Baby-Sitters’ Club book she didn’t narrate?)

booksthatbleed10 Books That Stayed with me

I chose ten books that I read and re-read during childhood since these were the books that turned reading into a full-blown obsession. As you can see these books have been through a lot!

  1. Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume. 

  2. Matilda by Roald Dahl.

  3. Fudge-A-Mania by Judy Blume.

  4. Charlie and The Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl.

  5. The Tap Dance Mystery (Eagle-Eye Earnie series) by Susan Pearson.

  6. The Cartoonist by Betsy Byars.

  7.  Sideways Stories From Wayside School by Louis Sachar.

  8. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.

  9. The War With Mr.Wizzle by Gordon Korman.

  10. The Baby-Sitters Club (series) by Ann M. Martin.


To know my journey as a Black disabled woman, you have to know my past.  

I was born with OI (Osteogenesis Imperfecta), better known as brittle bones disease.  My beloved Grandmother raised me in a loving home, & showed me what unconditional love was about.  I have part of her name, & have always been proud of that name - Vilissa.  Unbeknownst to me until I reached adulthood, Vilissa is French, & means, “to love & cherish life.”  How fitting of a name for a young disabled Black girl who was smart, caring, loving, fun, kind-hearted, sassy, loved to learn, & knew how special she was by the praise she received at home, at school, and from those she met.  

The young Vilissa would experience many successes as she went through school, which empowered her because she knew she was just as good, if not better, as anyone else.  Her excelling in every subject motivated her to do well in the subjects she loved - reading & writing.  She had no idea how powerful words would be to her as an adult, but at this time, she loved reading her Baby-Sitters Club books, & writing in countless journals, sometimes creating worlds & characters that didn’t exist, but her imagination & ability to tell a story grew profoundly.  

As I grew into my teen & adult years, I changed in ways that I didn’t imagine, but the loving, supportive foundation I had in my younger years caused me to be steadfast as I grew & navigated an able-bodied society.

This is Part 1, showing my years from 1st birthday to 12 years old.  

Social Media & Language Learning: AO3

Today’s choice may seem a bit unconventional.  For those who aren’t familiar with it, AO3(or Archive of Our Own as it isformerly called) is a fanfiction publishing site.  It has hundreds of thousands of works (no I’m not exaggerating) created by fans as extensions or alternate versions of their favorite shows and literary works.  I myself became a fan and a member a few years back when I dove heavily into Johnlock (from the BBC Sherlock fandom) and just couldn’t get enough.  What I didn’t realize at the time was what a language learning goldmine the site could potentially be.

Where is it?

To publish and to read some fics that authors have locked down you need an account.  This is done through a waitlist system but I got through in under 24 hours.  You can also receive invites from others who are already members.    You can read most fics without being a member though, so feel free to browse around before committing to yet another e-mail sign up.  (I will say AO3 is one of the least bothersome this way- they only e-mail me updates of the fics I ask for, rather than trying to “engage me with more content.”)

When/How is it most helpful?

In my opinion, AO3 is most helpful for Intermediate learners all up.  (Beginners please feel free to prove me wrong- this is after all just my viewpoint.)  Here are the 3 ways I see it as a potential language learning gold mine.

1.  You can search for fics BY language.  If you go to Search and choose Works, the site gives you a plethora of options for narrowing your fic choice.  One of these is Language.  Currently AO3 has fics in 53 languages and this seems to be growing all the time.  Such a great way to get fun and manageable reading practice!

I suggest the first round you just narrow by Languages to get a feel for the quantity available in your target tongue.  After that, experiment with all the other narrowing fields.  You can bump the Word count down to make it more manageable or pick Fandoms of interest.  Even if you are not generally a fan fiction reader, there is bound to be some show or book on there that you enjoy.  The beauty of the fan fiction element in language learning is the content is somewhat familiar, making it much more likely to be comprehensible input than reading a completely unfamiliar work.

(For those who are thinking “yeah but isn’t all fanfiction smut?”… no, it’s not and you can narrow your search options by ratings as well for just that reason.  Pick a level you are comfortable with.  If you are me and think much of explicit content on there is no worse than what you can pick up in the local romance section and frankly often better written, there’s plenty for you as well. ;))

2.  Up for more of a challenge?  How about writing a short piece of your own? You don’t have to publish a novella- a short 100 words or a drabble or two about a couple favorite characters from a well-loved book or novel is just fine.  It can be an interesting challenge, while letting you rely on and make use of much of the new vocabulary you picked up reading these fics.  You also can put a note in your description nicely asking for feedback on your language as much as the writing and may find a friend or two that can help correct your errors.  As with any site, realize that there be trolls and mean-spirited folk out there, though not many in my experience on the site.  If you are unfortunate enough to encounter one, remember they are the sad one who can’t support someone in their language learning venture and thus to be pitied and ignored, not dwelt upon.

3.  Want a challenge but are not the creative writing type?  Many authors LOVE for people to do translations of their work. Some even post in their notes that they welcome this.  You could do from your Target Language to English or vice versa.  A note of etiquette- if the author DOESN’T explicitly state they’d like translations done, ask in a comment first.  You’ll rarely get a no, but it shows respect for their work. Also, make sure you cite the author of the text when you post.  There are guidelines for this on AO3’s FAQ section.

4.  Pretty advanced and looking to work on pronunciation?  You could record a podfic of a favorite piece in your target language.  This is basically you creating an audiobook version for readers to enjoy.  Many authors appreciate this as well.  Obviously if you are doing this in your target language you want to already be fairly fluid and have reasonable pronunciation.  But many will forgive you a few trespasses in return for the time you have sacrificed.  You can always re-record if you don’t like it.  Multiple re-readings aloud have been shown to be a great way to boost fluency and pronunciation.

Why use it?

I promote AO3 for language learning mainly because it’s comprehensible input.  If you are able to find Fandoms you already enjoy (and chances are you will), then you get to work with familiar storylines while learning new vocabulary and structures.

Remember as a kid how you probably loved a favorite series such as Boxcar Children or Baby-sitters Club or Animorphs?  Part of the reason those types of books appeal to us when we are learning to read (and yes, 3rd and 4th graders are still “learning to read”… one could argue we all are as we are constantly taking in new vocabulary and content) is that their repetitive structures and base storyline help us comprehend anything new they throw our way.  Fan fiction can be argued to be the adult version of that- often re-telling the same story but in a new way.  People extend stories, change endings, create alternative universes, but they keep some essential elements which can make reading so much more manageable.

I also feel that it is an overall supportive and safe environment for one to try their hand at writing a bit of their own work in a new language.  While, as I cautioned earlier, there are jerks out there, they seem to be few and far between.  Most people are going to be understanding, especially if you mention in the description that you are trying this in your new language.  In fact, you may find many are appreciative, especially if their language is lacking many fics.

Translation as a learning strategy has been widely scorned and to some degree I understand why.  But for high intermediate and advanced learners who still want to go further you’d be hard pressed to find a better way. Translations force you to DEAL with difficult vocabulary and structures, rather than work around them as us seasoned learners generally do.  And you really are providing a service in doing so on these sites, so you can increase your karma while you’re at it. ;)

Who should use it?

I recommend AO3 to learners who like fiction and who are in the intermediate stage of language learning or above.  Beginners are welcome but may find it frustrating.   A good starting strategy may be to seek out a fic that is available in both your native language AND your target language (a translation one way or the other) so that you can compare the two as you need. 

AO3 offers unique, but authentic content in your target language in a way that is often more comprehensible than tackling a brand new story or series might be.  It can also be a great way to enhance your vocabulary and your translation skills.  And who knows, you just might find an author or a piece to fall in love.  

May the fiction force be with you my Polyglot Peeps! Until next time!