When people hear the name Ann M. Martin, they naturally think of her wildly popular Baby-sitters Club series. What was supposed to be just a four-book set turned into a 130-book saga, not counting the 120-book series for younger readers, Baby-sitters' Club Little Sisters and other spin-offs.
Why did these quick books about four very different middle-school friends take off on the bestseller lists? The secret must lie with Ann's gift for remembering her feelings throughout childhood and young adulthood. She was a babysitter herself, and a lot of the things that happened to the babysitters on the job happened to her or her friends. She also remembers what it feels like to lose a parent, have an annoying little sister, and deal with family secrets.
As a child, Ann loved to tell stories. Before she could write, she would dictate them to her mother. She says that she was a pretty moody teenager, but it helped to have parents who were creative and easy going. She kept babysitting in high school and continued once she was in college. She graduated from Smith with two degrees: one in psychology and one in early childhood education. Her first job out of college was working with learning disabled kids at an elementary school. She picked up a lot on how kids do and don't fit in and how it makes them feel. These were more memories that would make their way into her stories.
She next decided to work with children's books. Ann was an editor at Pocket Books, Scholastic, and Bantam, all large publishing houses. Her first book, Bummer Summer (not a BSC book!), deals with parents' divorce, remarriage, and a really terrible time at sleep-away summer camp.
Although she has written many books about children, she doesn't have any of her own, although she enjoys spending time with her nieces and nephews. You can write Ann through her agent: Amy Berkower, Writers House, Inc., 21 West 26th St., New York, NY 10010.
Fun Facts about Ann and Her Books
- She was born in Princeton, New Jersey, on August 12, 1955.
- She ran her own library as a child and charged her friends overdue fines.
- She has 180 million books in print in nineteen languages.
- The BSC (Baby-Sitters Club) series was made into a movie and a television show.
- During the height of the BSC craze, she was churning out two books per month. She did get other writers to help her keep up with the demand.
- She starts writing at 5:30 in the morning.
- The first BSC book was entitled Kristy's Great Idea.
- The last BSC book was entitled Graduation Day.
- Baby-sitter Kristy is based on her best friend from middle school, Beth Perkins
- She loves to do needlework, just like BSC member Mary Anne.
- Many girls, inspired by her stories, have started their own baby-sitter clubs.
Beyond the Babysitters
These books by Ann Martin are great reads for girls who are in-between childhood and their teen years:
Me and Katie (the Pest)
Wendy's little sister is an adorable, piano-playing genius, and Katie is just an average girl. With all the attention Katie gets, you'd think she'd be able to let Wendy have one activity to herself. But no, when she finds out Wendy will be having riding lessons, the Pest just has to steal the show… again!
This is a sequel to Stage Fright.
With You and Without You
Liza's beloved dad is going to die. The family knows this. He's been sick for a long time, and the doctors say he's only got a few months left to live. It's hard and almost unreal to Liza as they try to make his last Christmas a good one. But even with the chance to say goodbye and do all the special things one final time, Liza and her family have difficulty facing what comes after his death.
Belle's family might be poor, but so are most of the kids at Coker Creek Elementary. Like the rest of the women in her family, she has a good heart and stands up for what she knows is right. When the first black children come to integrate her school that fall, she's determined to be a steadfast friend, no matter what anyone says.
P.S. Longer Letter Later
Ann Martin teams up with another terrific author, Paula Danziger, to tell the the stories of two very different girls (one dyes her hair, the other likes cross-stitch) who keep their friendship going across the miles, even when things get tough.
Their friendship continues in Snail Mail No More.
A Corner of the Universe
"Oh, Ho! Hattie Owen!"
Hattie's Uncle Adam bursts on to the scene of what should have been just another quiet and lonely summer. Adam is different from anyone Hattie has ever met. His emotions are wild, twisting from joy to fear to anger with the suddenness of a carnival's roller coaster. In this life-changing season, 12-year-old Hattie learns that secrets can be destructive, love often comes with pain, and you should never be afraid to lift the corners of the Universe and see what others won't. A Newbery Honor Book.
On the Web
Ann H. Martin: Transcript of a Live Chat, July 6, 2004 at New York Public Library
"Welcome to our author chat with Ann M. Martin. Ms. Martin is the author of Corner of the Universe, The Babysitters Club series, and Here Today, the story of 11-year-old Ellie who struggles to keep her family together while her mother pursues the dream of becoming a movie star. Welcome, Ann! We've got lots of questions."
Biography Resource Center: Ann M. Martin
Solid articles from Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Contemporary Authors, and Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults. Very good for school reports. You will need a CRRL library card to use this.