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Bri Meets Books

Children's and YA literature reviews.

Category Archives: graphic novel

(Bri note: I’m really excited to make this post. I love this series so much. I might even write my dissertation on it one day. Also, I would write a BSC book entitled “Mary Anne and the Suspicious Kitchen”)

The Christmas list from when I was eight years old included the wish “All Baby-Sitters Club books.” Of course I didn’t receive all of them (I’m not sure my young self even realized how many there were in the series), but at age twenty five, I am this close to achieving my dream. Only 20 something to go!

The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann Martin, to me, is an iconic series. The chronicles of a pack of friends with a love for children and a knack for business, the books tackle social issues – eating disorders, death, child abuse – well without the saccharine taste of an afterschool special.

Comic creator Raina Telgemeier offers a new look at the BSC with her new graphic novel series from Scholastic’s Graphix! imprint. The first three novels, Kristy’s Great Idea, The Truth About Stacey, and Mary Anne Saves the Day, are available now, with the fourth and final installment, Claudia and Mean Janine arriving in November 2008.

Raina’s intepretation of the BSC world is flawless, and the original books’ contents are only enriched when read alongside the illustrated version. What makes the series so well-done is a fan’s touch: Raina read the BSC when younger, and when approached by Scholastic to work on the Graphix! imprint, she mentioned she was a fan of the series. And now we have four books out, thanks to her. Rather than illustrating the first four books in the series, Raina chose a book for each character she felt best represented them.

Raina did an interview with me on the series. Be sure to visit her website at and read her webcomic Smile, the true story of her youth’s dental misadventures. You’ll also find a list of conventions where you can meet her!

If you could write an original Baby-sitters Club novel, what would the title and plot be?

I thought all of the plots had already been written! Honestly, I haven’t read ALL of the books in the series, so anything I come up with, there’s probably already a book about it. Claudia flunks a grade? Yes. Dawn moves back to California? Yes. The BSC goes on a trip to Europe? Yes…

For a series that takes place in the 1980s, your works translate almost seamlessly from the novels to graphic novel form. Were there any challenges in the adaptations, particularly keeping the original spirit of the series, yet making it appealing to today’s younger and new-to-the-BSC audience?

Thanks! Part of me really wanted to keep the 80s flavor intact. I guess because I grew up in the 80s and feel nostalgic about my childhood, but also because I really enjoy period pieces! But, my editors felt that kids who were reading the stories for the first time now, would enjoy them better if the characters felt current. It was definitely challenging trying to come up with outfits for Claudia and Stacey, who are supposed to be really trendy—trying to make them seem hip and mature, but not so specific that 5 years from now, they’ll seem dated. Kristy and Mary Anne were a little easier: Mary Anne dresses like a schoolgirl, and Kristy wears jeans and t-shirts. All of the characters are archetypes, so I tried to play those up as much as possible.

The world of Stoneybrook is meant to be a sort of suburban Pleasantville, not specifically the past, present, or future. If I were to update the stories completely, the girls would all have cell phones and they’d probably run a website instead of having meetings, and the whole set-up of the club would be totally different! So, nobody has cell phones (well, Stacey’s mom and Claudia’s dad have them) and nobody’s on MySpace and the girls don’t chat via IM. I hope today’s kids will suspend their disbelief while they read the graphic novels! The books were realistic fiction, and the graphic novels are idealistic fiction.

The original novels lack illustrations. When you draw storyboards for each page, how do you decide what should and shouldn’t be included?

This is where my training and experience as a cartoonist come in. I’d been writing and drawing comics for years, and they all start the same way: I sit down and sketch out each page with dialogue and character placement and rough action. That’s the way I write. Working on the BSC has been pretty similar, except I’m going with the stories in the pre-existing novels. I pretty much go one scene at a time, visualizing the scene in my head, trying to think about camera angles and narrative flow and what’s important for the reader to see, as opposed to having things explained through words. I end up cutting out most of the exposition, in favor of drawing everything out. Sometimes I drop scenes and conversations that are redundant, because there’s a lot more back-and-forth in prose. For example, the club is standing in the hallway at school discussing their problem with the Baby-sitters Agency. Kristy will say, “We can’t talk about this here!” And then they go to Claudia’s house and pick up the conversation again. That would make for a pretty boring (and LONG) comic, so I’ll take out the scene at school and just jump right to Claudia’s room.

I also keep a sense of comic timing in mind, because humor and comics go so well together. I often add bits of dialogue, gestures, and extra beats to make things work. It’s challenging, but fun!

Out of the three published titles and fourth upcoming book, what was your favorite scene to depict?

There have been several! Kristy chasing Buffy and Pinky (the giant dogs) around in book 1 was really fun. Stacey’s day in New York City in book 2 was neat, because I live in New York and actually went to all of the places she did to take reference photos. I like the scene in book 3 where Mary Anne takes her hair down—I’d been looking forward to drawing that for a while. And in book 4 there are actually a ton of really awesome scenes that I don’t want to give away, but that I’ve given my all to.

The Baby-Sitters Club has such a diverse fanbase ranging from twenty-somethings who grew up reading Ann Martin’s series, and now discuss the books from both an academic viewpoint and a fan perspective, to the younger generation that’s just now discovering the BSC. Why do you feel these books are so timeless, and readers turn to them again and again?

The concept still works. Four girls get together and start a business to help out people in their neighborhood. There’s not much grrrl power or feminism in the context, it’s just fact. I think there are a lot of girls (myself included) who LOVE the idea of being successful, but not singled out for being a successful girl.

I’ve also seen how people project themselves into the characters, which is a mark of good writing. I always identified with Kristy (impatient), Claudia (artist), and Dawn (Californian, vegetarian). It’s fun talking with friends and seeing who they relate to the most.

From an artist’s perspective, what’s your favorite BSC cover?

I still really like the very first edition of the very first book, where the girls actually look like they’re 12, and are all involved in the conversation. The composition’s really solid, too. I paid homage to that image, by re-creating it for the title page of the first graphic novel in my series.

The Baby-Sitters Club television series lasted only 13 episodes, sadly. What book of the series do you feel would’ve made a great episode?

Seeing Dawn at home in California would have been fun. I’m sure location shooting was not in the budget, though!

If you could have lunch with any member of the BSC, who would it be? Where would you go and what would you talk about?

Hmmm…probably Dawn, because we’d have the most food choices in common. And we could trade thoughts on growing up on the west coast and moving to the east coast. Plenty to talk about, there!

If you could live inside any children’s book, what title would it be and why?

Harry Potter! Who wouldn’t want to go to a school to learn wizardry and witchcraft? I want to try all of the food they eat, see the talking portraits, ride on a broomstick, and wear an invisibility cloak.

Thanks to Raina for the interview! Check out her website to see if you can catch her at a convention,buy original BSC graphic novel panel art, and more.

Feel free to comment and respond to these questions as well!