Over the weekend, I found a box half-full of Babysitters Club books in my basement. The box included very few standard titles, instead populated with Super Specials, Super Mysteries, and the Portrait Collection, a subset of autobiographies written in the voices of individual characters.
Since I laid hands on the box, I’ve at least skimmed through two Super Specials and one Portrait Collection. (I picked Dawn, because my recollection of hers was particularly fuzzy.) Unlike some of my more dubious entertainment choices during childhood (I’m looking at you, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers), the books hold up. They’re not plagued by dated references or era-specific issues. Instead, the problems the characters face are ageless: family issues, fitting in, and grappling with an undeniable attraction to the opposite sex.
Perhaps the most appealing part of this series is the emphasis on friendship. Though the girls feud every now and then, their affection for each other, years in the making, is far too strong to keep apart for too long. While they all have their own best friends, there isn’t a single girl who isn’t close to all the others.
When I was a kid, I yearned for friendship like theirs. What I have today is much closer than anything I had while I was reading the books; though my closest friends are spread throughout America, they’re just as loyal and varied as the girls in the club. (And they break the single-gender barrier, which is nice.) More often, I mentally compare my best, strongest friendships to that which ties Harry, Ron, and Hermione together in the Harry Potter series. Though I can’t think of any relationships that began with taking down a mountain troll, the everyday tragedies and triumphs–deaths, marriages, cross-country relocations, and the like–are there, and these connections weather them all.
The most powerful literature reflects relationships in their rawest, most realistic forms. Much of adult-targeted books have this, but it’s more obvious in children’s literature, in stories like Harry’s, Frog and Toad’s, and the gang at the 100 Acre Wood. There is much to learn from all these characters. Though we may not all have a Pooh or Piglet of our own, we can be that kind of friend to anyone around us who deserves it. They are simple and sweet, prepared for both the mundane and the adventurous. Perhaps most importantly, they’re loyal, through every trial, tribulation, and unremarkable day, and we should all hope to be so gracious to the people we’re fortunate enough to know and love.