Mandy’s post at Forever Young Adult is like looking at the bookshelves of my past. Sometimes I wish that my childhood reading consisted only of Madeleine L’Engle and Frances Hodgson Burnett and Diana Wynne Jones. Although I loved those writers, too, a lot of my early reading consisted of MG series like The Baby-Sitters Club, The Sleepover Friends, and The Gymnasts. A lot of my Christmas/birthday/yard sale money went to these books. Probably not a surprise if you’re a regular reader of the Friday Fifteen.
When you decide to devote your life’s work to children’s literature, admitting you devoured these books feels a little like being a professional chef and admitting that you used to love a good ol’ bowl of Lucky Charms. But maybe there is a little nutritional value in those series. Most of them are written like standard tv shows–a plot that’s easy to follow, characters with one or two defining characteristics, and easy conflict resolution. Not great for deep writing, but it allows young readers to easily follow plots and characters. It’s a good way for young readers, especially those who have difficulty reading, to tackle book series.
Because of their familiar characters and structure, these books are also pretty easy to mimic. I remember writing lots of BSC/Sweet Valley Twin knock-off books. These stories won’t ever see the light of day, but they were a good way for me to explore writing.
Maybe these series were all written by committee. Maybe they were never going to win a Newbery medal or be taught in classrooms across the world. But they sure had a special place on my bookshelf as a kid.