The Baby-Sitters Club® Goes Graphic!
Translating successful Scholastic book series into graphic novels was an idea David Saylor and Janna Morishima of the Trade Publishing group had been discussing for some time. But it wasn’t until they met artist Raina Telgemeier that the graphic novel version of The Baby-Sitters Club came to life.
“Finding Raina was the trigger,” says Saylor, Vice President and Creative Director of the Trade group, including the Graphix imprint under which the series will be published. Morishima, the Trade group’s Editor-at-Large, tells the story: “I first met Raina and saw her work at an exhibit for ‘Friends of Lulu,’ an organization that promotes women in comics. She was showing a mini-comic about herself as a 12-year-old reading Barefoot Gen, a famous Japanese comic about the bombing of Hiroshima. The way she dealt with such a serious subject while injecting liveliness and a real 12-year-old sensibility struck me, and I knew we wanted to talk with her.”
When Telgemeier came in to Scholastic for a meeting, she mentioned that as a girl she had been a huge fan of Ann M. Martin’s The Baby-Sitters Club, a series that follows the lives of a group of friends who share a baby-sitting service in a fictional town in Connecticut. Telgemeier said she would love to recreate the books as graphic novels. “It was really fortuitous,” recalls Morishima. “We didn’t meet with her for this specific reason, but once we found out she was a fan we started work almost immediately.”
Remaining True to the Original
The first graphic novel in the series, Kristy’s Great Idea, debuts in April, the next title is due out later in 2006, and Telgemeier will do two more books after that. Saylor points out that the timing between releases has to balance audience hunger for the books with respect for the artist’s time, since creating graphic novels is a very labor intensive process with every page hand-drawn, first in pencil, then ink.
Saylor and Morishima say the stories and characters in The Baby-Sitters Club adaptations will remain true to the original. “When we first started thinking about the project,” says Morishima, “we discussed whether or not we should update things. For example, the girls in the stories are constantly on the phone. Should they be cell phones?” Ultimately, the group decided they should not, since the world of The Baby-Sitters Club represents an idyllic place and time.
While the books are still written for 8- to 12-year-old readers, Saylor says the group anticipates a “nostalgia market” as well. “People in their 20s who grew up with these books will want to read them in this new format,” predicts Saylor.
More to Come
While Graphix has already produced two successful original titles—Bone and Queen Bee—The Baby-Sitters Club will be the first adaptation of previously published material into graphic novel format. Graphix will also launch adaptations of the Goosebumps books later this year.
Saylor says that the market for graphic novels is a great place for Scholastic right now. “Originally comics were written for children,” he explains, “but over time comic book publishers started catering to adult males. But kids still want and love comics, and research shows that graphic novels help get reluctant readers reading.” Saylor notes that having the Scholastic name on graphic novels is like a seal of approval for many parents and teachers that conveys this is good for my child, and so, he says, “who better than Scholastic to be publishing these books?”
Ink Link: For graphic novel teaching tips and more information about Bone, Queen Bee, and The Baby-Sitters Club graphic novels, visit www.scholastic.com/graphix.
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Employee-Turned-Author: Ann M. Martin
Before Ann M. Martin became a household name among families with aspiring The Baby-Sitters Club® members, she worked at Scholastic in New York. She started as a copywriter, later becoming the associate editor of Tab® (book club for teens). Martin began writing during this time and Scholastic purchased paperback rights to her first book, Bummer Summer. From that point on, Scholastic continued to publish many of her books, including the well-known The Baby-Sitters Club series.
Sources of inspiration: “Most of my inspiration comes from memories—remembering what it was like for me when I was a young person. A lot of things have changed in the world, on the surface, but I think the feelings and emotions of being a kid remain consistent.”
Early influences: “I was an avid reader when I was young. I particularly enjoyed books that were light fantasy—The Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins. I don’t think those books per se influenced my writing, but reading in general was very much a part of life in our house. My parents read aloud to us. It was an atmosphere of books, books, books!”
Thoughts on Raina Telgemeier’s interpretation of BSC for Graphix: “Although my father was a magazine cartoonist, I wasn’t a big fan of comic book art until I read my first graphic novel, Pedro and Me, several years ago. I was surprised at how compelling a way this is to tell a story. Now I see on every page of Raina’s work how her art brings the story to life in captivating and unexpected ways.”
copyright 2017/18, Carole Dicton