Ann M. Martin’s Great Ideas by Kirsten LeClerc
It’s 5 a.m. and I just ugly cried through the whole second half of Rain Reign. I’m thankful that my husband and daughter are still sleeping, so no one else is around to bear witness to my display of emotions. I reflect on the story of Rose, an exceptional girl who is fixated on homonyms, rules, and prime numbers. Martin has so realistically portrayed Rose and her father, a gruff mechanic who likes to spend his evenings at the local bar. I’m pretty sure I met him, or perhaps his doppleganger, when I lived in New England. It’s a wonderful story about family and the tough choice a young girl makes to do what she believes is right for her beloved pet.
I’m not sure why I was surprised that this book brought on a wave of emotions. The same thing happened a few years ago when I read about Squirrel and Bone in A Dog’s Life and Everything For A Dog. Ms. Martin is certainly a master storyteller when it comes to tales about man’s best friend.
If I look back further in my reading life, I have devoted hundreds of hours of my time to Ann M. Martin’s writing over the past 25 years. I clearly remember the day I first read her work. I was entering third grade, and my older cousin passed along one of the Baby-Sitters Club books, saying “You’ve got to read this! These books are so good.” The reading was slightly above my level, but I stuck with it and fell in love with Stoneybrook and the lives of Claudia, Stacy, Kristy, Mary Ann, Mallory, and Jessi. I began binge-reading the series and continued for the next two years. I don’t think it was a coincidence that my reading level skyrocketed during that time. Whenever I hear or read about the benefits of series books, I think of the Baby-Sitters Club.
I outgrew the series when I went to middle school and moved on to Sweet Valley High, but the BSC has always held a special place in my heart. I have loved seeing how popular Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novel adaptations have been with my elementary students, and when I found out that some of the Baby-Sitter’s Club titles had been reissued with new covers, I ordered them for my school library’s collection right away.
A recent conversation with a 4th grader cemented my belief that Ann M. Martin is one of those rare authors who can connect with multiple generations of readers. A student came up to me recently in the media center and said, “Mrs. LeClerc, why don’t we have the rest of this series? I read this book, and it’s so good, but the only other one I see is number 5, and I don’t like to skip around in a series.” She held up book number one in Martin’s Main Street series. “Really, it’s sooo good. It’s like one of the best books I’ve ever read.”
We checked the catalog together, and I realized that books 2-4 had been marked lost at some point. I assured her that I would order the missing books as soon as possible and let her know when they arrived.
“In the meantime, do you want to try one of the author’s other books?” I asked. She nodded, and we checked the shelf. She wasn’t looking for a dog story and The Doll People didn’t interest her, but she was intrigued by Kristy’s Great Idea. I had to remind myself not to gush about it too much, not to go on and on about my love for the Baby-Sitters Club. I casually said. “That’s a really good series. I enjoyed it when I was in elementary school.” She said, “Yeah, it looks pretty good. I’ll try it.” And just like that, the BSC gained another member.
So, Ann M. Martin, keep doing what you’ve done so well for so many years. Hardcore BSC fans will continue maintaining sites like the BSC wikipedia. I will keep liking your Facebook posts about the fictional characters that meant so much to me as a child.
I will continue to recommend your books to patrons of my school library. And the next time you publish a book about a dog, I’ll be sure to have a full box of tissues on hand before reading.
Kirsten LeClerc is a teacher-librarian in Asheville, NC. She is on Twitter @kirleclerc and blogs occasionally at http://bookswithcharacter.blogspot.com.