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I am too young to have my childhood books updated!

February 12, 2010

I think I just sprained a childhood memory.

Jezebel reports that Scholastic is updating the Babysitter’s Club books.

First of all- I have such fond, strong memories of those books. Lining up pastel on my shelf, in numbered order, punctuated by the bulk of the SuperSpecials. I met Ann M. Martin when I was 9. It was a bit like meeting God and the Tooth Fairy and Elvis… and if she hadn’t been so laid back, and sweet and somewhat befuddled by her own fame, I might well have hyperventilated.

But, perhaps more importantly….the notion of updating YA series books ticks me off. It comes from a rationalization of “making the books more modern and relevant” but… I feel that masks a massive discredit to kids who are reading. And there are countless, thoughtless ways it’s going to hurt the story! I remember reading book 2- Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls, and being deliciously scared out of my mind by the sinister breathing on the other end of the phone.

To quote Jezebel’s Margaret

If the series really is a “classic” then wouldn’t changing the text so Claudia can receive phantom texts rather than phantom phone calls be considered sacrilegious? As a child I appreciated The Secret Garden without Mary taking a jet to Mr. Craven’s ’80s bachelor pad.

“Updating” a classic does a massive discredit to the girls they expect to read it. So Claudia and Stacy’s fashion sense is pure late 80s with overalls and beads and scrunchy socks… wait a month- it’ll show up in American Apparel as charmingly retro. (Did I mention- I’m too young for books I read when I was 8 to need updating!)

My own age anguish aside- what worries me about this updating is the way it undersells young readers’ abilities to imagine things that are different than what surrounds them. Or— to look something up if it seems odd or antiquated. What does that say about their ability to cope with real historical change and information? Are we going to have biographies revised next? I can see it now “One if by land, and two if by sea” being compared to Facebook status updates.

I grew up on the Babysitter’s Club. and Nancy Drew (the originals, thank you- even at 9 I thought the updated “Casefiles” were tacky) and Cherry Ames! Which one do I still love? Cherry Ames- it’s a well written, immersion in a historical period, a totally different view from my own. Because I couldn’t identify with Cherry’s worldview, I loved the books. I still do. It’s like nostalgia for a period I didn’t experience.

After getting all this out of my system, I am grateful for two things. No word yet on doing diabolical hypocrisy to girls’ body image like the Sweet Valley Books…

And secondly… I am glad that Ann M. Martin is writing a prequel now. Because I am going to read it out of curiosity.

And afterwards– I may very well need a drink.

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 12, 2010 10:47 am

    I couldn’t agree more. To think YA readers won’t even bother with a story set in any time other than the present shows a remarkable lack of faith. Kids aren’t THAT self-centered. A well written book can grab a reader regardless of when or where it takes place. I don’t see anyone rushing to modernize Little Women, The Secret Garden, or The Outsiders, and I’m pretty sure those books remain popular.

    I met Ann M. Martin a couple times when I was younger. She used to do in-stores at the local children’s book store. I gave away most of by BSC books years ago, but I still have the seven or eight that she signed for me at those in-stores lined up in a nice pastel row on my bookshelf

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