Say Hello to Your Friends*…in full color

In the heyday of Livejournal, several friends and I joined one of its fan communities: babysittersclub. For a while, it was quite an active community (and it still sees some activity). Its members, most of them probably ‘90s kids like myself who’d grown just old enough to be nostalgic, posted detailed questions and answers about Ann M. Martin’s Baby-Sitters Club series, announced books they were interested in buying or selling, shared excitement when they happened to see a street with one of the characters’ short, fangirling and fanboying (yes, both) occurred in spades. I rarely posted myself, but commented regularly on others’ posts, and generally felt validated by this space that acknowledged how thoroughly cool it was to love the BSC.

telgemeier_kristy's great ideaIn 2006, the community was abuzz with the news that some of the books would be adapted into graphic novels. And then an FAQ post appeared from a Livejournal user with the handle “goraina.” Cheery, friendly Raina Telgemeier subsequently posted often enough to feel like part of the community, and other members embraced her four graphic novel adaptations. She made some changes, skipping some of the books so she could get to the meatiest possible story about each of the original four baby-sitters. (For instance, book #6, Claudia and Mean Janine, gives more insight into Claudia's character than book #2, Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls, so Raina skipped ahead and adapted #6.) Raina wasn’t some outsider brought in to create these graphic novels. She was a BSC fan, and she got it. She captured the characters’ enthusiasm. Kristy’s confidence. Mary-Anne’s naivete. Claudia’s famous crazy outfits.

Fast-forward a few years, and a familiar style popped up among the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards, specifically in 2010 Nonfiction Honor Book Smile. I, of course, had a copy signed for a friend who was also a babysittersclub community member on LJ. Raina recognized my friend’s username. Fandom is a wonderful thing.

If you’ve followed kids’ graphica, you know what happened next. Raina’s work grew more and more popular with Drama and Sisters, both of which I would’ve loved with or without the BSC connection, though I might not have discovered them as quickly. The phrase “graphic novel” used to only conjure up images of superheroes and adventure stories; Raina’s funny realism is much more my thing — I mean, I did grow up reading The Baby-Sitters Club — so her work was a perfectly-tailored way into graphica.

martin_claudia and mean janinePresumably because of her later books’ popularity (there’s another one coming, you guys!), the BSC graphic novels are being re-released in full color (with color by Braden Lamb, who was also the colorist for Sisters). The first one, Kristy’s Great Idea, came out in April of last year, soon followed by The Truth About Stacy and Mary Anne Saves the Day. And today, Claudia and Mean Janine, the fourth and final entry in the graphic series, hits bookstore shelves in its full-color incarnation. Check out Raina's blog post for a look back at her process — and some BSC fanart from her childhood!

Realistic graphic novels, especially middle-grade ones about girls, are more common these days, and though I don’t know enough to say for sure that Raina started the trend, she definitely played a role in its popularity. And as any BSC fan will tell you, that’s dibbly fresh.

*Who remembers this theme song?

Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, associate editor of The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in writing for children from Simmons University. She has served on the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award and Sydney Taylor Book Award committees.

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