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Five questions for Caroline Cala

If you were a young reader in the nineties (or even if you weren’t), there’s a good chance you remember Ann M. Martin’s Baby-Sitters Club books. Author Caroline Cala definitely does, and her hilarious series-starter Best Babysitters Ever (Houghton, 10–12 years) brings Kristy’s great idea of yore to modern readers — whether or not they’re familiar with the original.

1. Were you a fan of the original BSC?

CC: Yes! I remember stumbling across Kristy’s Great Idea in a tiny independent bookstore in my hometown. I couldn’t even wait to get home to start reading it, and I tore through the first few chapters in the backseat of my mom’s car. I still have my collection of the original books!

2. Are you a Kristy? A Claudia? A Mallory (the writer)? And in regard to your own book…are you a Malia, a Bree, or a Dot?

CC: Well, I’ve always wanted to be a Claudia. Her artistic talent, her courageous fashion sense, her junk-food stash, her personal phone line…but in truth, I’m probably more of a loafers-and-blazer-wearing, NYC-loving Stacey.

As for the new characters, I’m a combination of Malia, Bree, and Dot. I’m idealistic (and stubborn) like Malia and an only child like Dot. Much like Bree, my appreciation for glitter knows no bounds. Come to think of it, I’m a little bit of every character in the book…including Dot’s mom!

3. How closely are the upcoming books tied to the originals? Are there phantom phone calls in our future?

CC: Other than the inspiration Malia gets to form the club after finding Kristy’s Great Idea in the first chapter, these books are very much their own. So no phantom phone calls for now. Although these days I guess the equivalent would be more like a phantom social media account or an anonymous internet troll.

4. Do you think Kids Back Then were more “wholesome” (à la BSC) than they are today?

CC: There were definitely aspects of pop culture that were more “wholesome” back then. I look back on not only books I read growing up, but TV shows, song lyrics — even fashion trends, like those flower hats everyone wore in the ’90s — and can’t help but feel nostalgic for what seemed like a simpler time. But ultimately, I think Kids Back Then were very much the same as they are now, with similar dreams, hopes, desires, insecurities, pressures, worries, questions…it’s just that the landscape has changed.

5. Any adventures in babysitting you’d like to share?

CC: A good sitter never sits and tells. 🙂 I will say, while nothing in the books is lifted directly from any real experiences, there are some things (ahem, a booger collection) that were inspired by actual babysitting adventures.

From the January 2019 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Shoshana Flax About Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College. She is a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

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