Sunday, June 27, 2010

Summer Reading, Part III: Summers Past

I think I've said it here before, but I will say it again. I was a bookworm growing up. While I always loved arts and crafts, I really loved reading. I spent the summers participating in the summer reading program at the public library, and I had a extensive collection of paperbacks squirreled away in my bedroom. And while I don't read for fun with the fervor I used to, I think my summers spent reading have served me well.

Last weekend I was driving back to Iowa City from my parent's with my sister and 9 year old nieces. They each had their nose in a book in the backseat. Eventually, Grace began discussing her Baby-sitters Club book. I was OBSESSED with these books when I was her age. I immediately began impressing her with my knowledge of the Baby-sitters Club: Mary Anne's mother died and her father was strict; Claudia was Asian and loved art and junk food, but was terrible at math; Kristy was a tomboy whose parents were divorced and she lived with her mom and her dad was mostly absent(but her mom remarried during the series) and her favorite sport was baseball; Stacey used to live in New York and had diabetes. She had trouble stumping me. My knowledge of useless trivia about the Baby-sitters Club is only matched by my knowledge of useless trivia about the Brady Bunch.

But then she started talking about Stacey getting her cell phone taken away for too much texting and she lost me. Cell phones? They didn't have cell phones. They had to meet in Claudia's room because she actually had a phone in her bedroom (a teen line, no doubt). My sister and I quickly realized that the books have been revamped and re-released with new modern details. The horror! In fact she was reading "The Summer Before", a newly published prequel to the Baby-sitters Club series. In my mind, the Babysitters lived in the 1980s, and never grew up.

So I told my nieces how I read almost every single one of those books (well, until I was too old to read them), and had a huge box that included almost the whole series. But sadly, they were sold at a garage sale. Grace, of course, asked, "Why?" And I told her that she was just a few months old at the time, and I didn't think anyone would ever want them. And she retorted with, "What? Didn't you think I'd ever be able to read or something?" Touche.

So I did a little internet research and one thing led to the next, and the next thing I knew I was bidding on eBay for lots of the original Babysitters Club books. I was singularly obsessed. And when I posted on Facebook, I discovered that others felt the same way. A friend from college reminisced with me.

In the midst of my eBay bidding reality kicked in and I realized that picking up a 130+ book series 5 books at a time was going to be expensive, so I decided to check Craigslist. Finding nothing, I posted a "Wanted" ad. And Craigslist being what it is, within 24 hours a local woman offered to sell me a nearly complete set of the ENTIRE SERIES along with the "Little Sisters" series. I solicited advice from my colleagues on a reasonable offer for a piece of my childhood. This sent my officemates (most of who are female and about my same age) down memory lane, and we all agreed about how much we had loved the books. My cubicle neighbor told how the Baby-sitters Club took her from the bottom reading group to the top within a single summer. I knew I had to have them, so I made an offer, and worked out the details with the seller. I'm not going to tell you what I paid. Some of you would think that it's a ridiculous amount and others would think that it was a steal. I'll save myself the judgment, but when it was all said and done it was less than 25 cents per book.

I told Rykert and my sister that one of them would have to come with me. Because I watched 20/20 and had seen the horror stories. I could just see the headline: "Local Woman Missing: Lured by Promise of Baby-sitters Club Books". I was joking. Sort of. I met the seller at a gas station in a nearby small town. Alone. Of course, it wasn't ominous at all. And I made it back alive, and a few hundred books heavier. When I transferred the books from her car to mine they seemed unassuming in a couple of reusable grocery bags and a small plastic container. The entire drive home I worried that I had just made a lemon of a deal. But when I got home and took inventory, I was overwhelmed. The gravity of my purchase hit me, and I realized that I may have gone over the edge on this one.

BSC Collection 03
This is the top layer of the books...

The Baby-sitters Club series included 131 books each providing a synopsis of the club and then written from one of the members perspective. There were also 15 "Super Specials" written from the point of view of multiple characters and usually involving a vacation or other event. (I got most of those too...)

BSC Super Specials

The original books were first published in 1986 and the final in the original series was published in 1999. The club members were frozen in time in the 7th grade for most of the series, but would eventually move to the 8th grade. The original Baby-sitters Club books also inolved a series a "Mystery" books that spawned an additional 50 books. If that wasn't enough, the series also had a spin-off called the Baby-sitters Little Sister which told the stories of Karen, one of the the club members step-sister. The Little Sister series produced an additional 128 books. I didn't read the Little Sister series, but now find myself in possession of the bulk of it.

BSC Little Sister 01

The books I purchased are not a complete set. Obviously the original owner grew up and stopped reading the books at some point, and that's where the collection ends. I'm missing about 30 of the original books, a few of the "Super Specials," and most of the "Mystery" collection.

My obsession also got me wondering about how these books have stood up over the years and whether the updated versions were really necessary. So, I went to the bookstore and took a look at one of the newly released books:

BSC Kristy's Great Idea

While I don't intend to re-read the entire series or dedicate this blog to my journey through them, I do think I will re-read #1 and then also take a look at the new version to see where they've made changes. In the meantime, I'll offer the collection to my nieces. I think the Little Sister books are below their reading level, so if they aren't interested, I will probably resell them. I also have a stack of duplicates that I'll probably resell on eBay.

4 comment(s). Tell me what you think!:

Sarah said...

Oh wow. I loved the BSC. I think my parents still have most of the books in their attic. Over the last six months or so I have thought of digging them out and trying to complete the collection. But I do want to re-read all of them! I am curious how my memories stack up the the real thing.

And... there are 'updated' versions? Horrors.

RadioactiveUnicorn said...

So awesome!

L said...

@ Sarah: I think I might re-read them. A friend from college and I are considering starting a virtual BSC book club.

Emily said...

I'm slightly concerned about you but the girls will be thrilled to check them out from your library.

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