An Ode to the Series of my Childhood

The Baby Sitter’s Club. The Holy Grail of the late 1980s series. The series that inspired millions of tween girls everywhere to start baby sitting clubs of their own. Did any of those ever get past the first planning meeting, btw? If you’re a girl and you’re reading this now, chances are you were just obsessed with Kristy and Co. as I was.

(And if you’re wondering where the girls are now, The Huffington Post has you covered).

Sweet Valley Twins. My gateway drug to Sweet Valley High. I will admit to being a Jessica fan over an Elizabeth fan. Elizabeth was a boring goody two shoes who made me roll my eyes at the tender age of ten. Jessica might have been an obnoxious pathological liar, but boring she was not.

The Sunfire Series. Oh my gosh, the Sunfire Series. Historical romance packaged for the YA market. Every book focused on a different girl living in a different time period. I devoured every single one of these, but DANIELLE was my hands down favorite. 1814 New Orleans. A girl who falls in love with a dashing young pirate. Need I say more? Others I remember are LAURA, about a suffragette during World War I, MERRIE, about a girl aboard The Mayflower (which I bought only because her name was close enough to Meredith), EMILY, about a pampered New York socialite living in the late 19th Century, and JENNIE, about a telegrapher during the Johnstown Flood. According to the magic of Wikipedia, there were 32 books in this series, which begs the question: Why aren’t these in print anymore? I would totally read them now.

The Sleepover Friends. This one was not rocket science. A group of four friends (Patti, Kate, Stephanie and … someone else?) had sleepovers every Friday night, and hijinks ensued. Naturally. The book that will always spring to mind is the one where Patti became “weird” (their words, not mine) and started drinking pineapple juice for lunch. And I, as a gawky, insecure little 10-year-old, loved pineapple juice, so thanks for the complex, Sleepover Friends. I made my mom stop buying it because of you.

The Gymnasts. If we’re talking about books I read over and over and over again, The Gymnasts wins the gold. (See what I did there?) I didn’t even do gymnastics, but I followed the escapades of Lauren, Cindi, Jodi and Darlene (see how I can even remember their names without looking them up??), and when I was done, I flipped back to page 1 to read them again.

The Saddle Club. I didn’t really know much about horses before I picked up this series at my local mall’s B. Dalton (or was it Waldenbooks?) Nor did I even really like horses. And honestly, I remember nothing about this series other than the fact that I read like every one of them. But it feels wrong not to include it when I owned nearly all of them.

Pen Pals. If I’m being completely honest, I have to admit to having a love-hate relationship with this series. I loved the premise—four girls at an all-girls boarding school become pen pals with four boys at a neighboring all-boys boarding school, waaaaay before email—but it featured one of the most unlikable characters ever to grace the pages of a book, so I distinctly remember wanting to throw these books across the room quite a lot. Nevertheless, I do still remember all of these characters’ names too, mostly because I figured out early on that the first letters of their names spelled PALS, as in Pen Pals. Palmer Amy Lisa Shanon (with one ‘n’ for whatever reason). You weren’t pulling one over on twelve-year-old me, Sharon Dennis Wyeth!

The Drina Series. This series is a close second with The Gymnasts in the “Most Frequently Read” category. I was nuts over ballet when I was a kid, and … who am I kidding? I’m still nuts for a good ballet book. There weren’t a lot of options, save Drina, so I read the crap out of these books, even though I realized at ten that Drina was the biggest Mary Sue I’d encountered to date. Drina could do no wrong. Her mom was a world-famous ballerina who died tragically young (naturally), so Drina had this amazing natural talent and got the lead in everything she tried out for and never had any setbacks whatsoever. But it was about a ballet school in London, so I was willing to overlook all of that nonsense.

The Fabulous Five. I remember reading the Taffy Sinclair books, which centered on a group of girls who tormented Taffy in ways that required states to eventually enact anti-bullying laws. The Fabulous Five was a spin-off of those books and focused on Taffy’s tormenters and their escapades in middle school, which … I guess they learned their lesson in there somewhere? No? Anyway, what I remember about this series is that there were like a bazillion characters. In addition to the Five, there were five boys (duh) and another set of five female friends to act as the rivals, and then I think Taffy was in there too, and everyone’s families, and how am I supposed to keep track of all of these people, I’m ten? But I tried my best.

What about you? What were your favorite series as a kid?

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15 Responses

  1. Laura Hughes says:

    Wow, what a blast from the past! So awesome!!! I thought I was the only one who still remembered Pen Pals and Fabulous Five!!! *Happy Sigh* It’s too hard to narrow down my favourite series! I was a mega Sweet Valley fan but I think Saddle Club were the most read, followed by the Baby-Sitters Club Super Specials.

    • Meredith says:

      YES. The Super Specials! I literally read the one where they go on a cruise and then to Disney so many times that the spine cracked and the pages fell out. And glad to know someone else has even heard of Pen Pals and The Fabulous Five!

  2. Oh, I love this post SO MUCH! I knew I wasn’t alone in my love for the BSC and the Wakefields (totally liked Jess more too!), but I honestly believed I was the only girl to ever crack the spine of a THE GYMNASTS book. And, like you, I reread those suckers as if they were award-winning literary brilliance.

  3. Mary Mary says:

    Here’s what I read — The Sunfire books (I read most but not all, my favorites being Emily, Jennie, and one about a girl in Alaska. Why aren’t they in print anymore?), The Gymnasts, and PenPals. Wow! I feel like I just took a trip down Memory Lane!

  4. I was OBSESSED with The Babysitter’s Club when I was little. 🙂

  5. Karen Strong says:

    Loved Sweet Valley High. It inspired me to write my own high school drama soap opera series when I was in 10th grade. It was the only “girl” book series I read — I was usually reading Star Wars Jedi stuff. Ha, ha.

  6. AJS says:

    Yesssss… Each one of these is the reason that TO THIS DAY, I can’t read/ watch anything out of sequence. It makes me crazy. I re-read the Gymnasts so many times I am pretty sure the first one just evaporated. The BSC SuperSpecials were the BEST because they took longer to read. And as a road-trip book? PERFECTION.

    I read another series too – the lead character (or one of them) was Esme. Of course when I Google it I get Twilight. Sigh. Can anyone help jog my memory?

  7. Miss Adena says:

    Oh man, you sure nailed it.

    Now, do you remember the one book about a girl who’s parents divorced and her mom started making really gross food like tofu shakes? And she was really embarrased to eat her lunches at school so she would hide under the bleachers….? anyone? I have been dying to track a copy down purely for sentimental reason.


  8. Adelissa says:

    I was and still am obsessed with sunfire romances and i own all 32. Jennie, Rachel, Marilee, Margaret and Susannah were prob my favs, i also loved Elizabeth but it feels like a rip off of witch of blackbird pond. I was also sweet valley obsessed as well as bsc. Being a perfectionist, overprotected good girl, I identified with Elizabeth and Maryanne. One series i didnt see listed was girl talk. I read those a lot as well.

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