Scholastic is announcing today that the first 20 books in the bestselling Baby-Sitters Club series will be rereleased in ebook form beginning Dec. 1. Each title will feature a classic cover illustration by Hodges Soileau, the artist who illustrated dozens of BSC novels. Additionally, the series’ Facebook page is debuting a new Facebook app, which will allow fans to preview new ebooks, see nostalgic memorabilia, and take quizzes — then retake those quizzes upon learning that the BSC member they’re most similar to is Mallory.
Does this mean that a full-fledged BSC revival — maybe a “where are they now?’ book, à la Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley Confidential — is in the works? It’s possible, according to Scholastic editorial director David Levithan — though right now, “we are starting with the old material and seeing what happens,” he said in an interview. The publisher is hoping that the reissued series will appeal to both current kids and fans who grew up with Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, Stacey, and the rest of the BSC gang: “We want it to be comfort food for the older reader, but at the same time really to get to the new fans,” Levithan explained.
In case you need a refresher: The Baby-Sitters Club followed the adventures of a group of teenage (and tweenage) girls who formed the titular organization in Kristy’s Great Idea, first published in 1986. While author Ann M. Martin was originally asked to write just four installments, the series eventually ballooned to 217 titles, including 131 regular books, 15 Super Specials (the baby-sitters travel cross-country! The baby-sitters get shipwrecked on Nine O’Clock Island!), and 36 quasi-ridiculous Mysteries.
Though The BSC‘s last book — in which its main characters finally graduated middle school — was published in 2000, the series has remained incredibly popular among young readers and less young Internet users, who blog about obsessively rereading Baby-sitters books and what may have happened to the Stoneybrook gang after they grew up.
In 2010, Scholastic published a prequel to the series and reissued slightly updated versions of its first few volumes; some references to old-fashioned technology were changed (for example: a “cassette player” became “headphones”). But this time around, says Levithan, “we decided not to touch them” — the books are “time-neutral” enough not to seem dated. Scholastic may have also wanted to avoid irking the nostalgia contingent; who wants to buy a version of the books where Claudia incessantly takes “selfies” and it’s no big deal for a 13-year-old to have her own phone?
And in the end, of course, it’s the characters and their relationships that keep The Baby-Sitters Club relevant — not the series’ temporal setting. While Ann M. Martin told EW via email that she’s “just as astounded as anyone else that today there are blogs dedicated to discussing the lives of these characters,” she also understands why her series is still so popular: “The books tackle real life themes and issues that still resonate today — friendships, family, and seeking independence.”
And although she wishes she had “figured out a different way to handle the way the characters aged” when the series began, Martin is otherwise utterly happy with The BSC — “I have no regrets and I’m thrilled to see how many readers who grew up on the series eventually became writers, editors, teachers, journalists, bloggers, etc.”
Guilty as charged.