As Audible brings Ann M. Martin's beloved books to a new generation with the first ever audio recording of the series, spoke exclusively with the author about the many lives of the timeless franchise.

By Maressa Brown
audible covers
Courtesy of Audible

If you came of age in the late '80s or '90s and loved to read, chances are you were a fan of Ann M. Martin's book series The Baby-Sitters Club. The novels, which were published by Scholastic between 1986 and 2000, followed a tightly-knit group of entrepreneurial friends in Stoneybrook, Connecticut: boy crazy, outgoing Stacey, artistic Claudia, shy, aspiring writer Mary Ann, athletic Kristy, eco-conscious, crunchy Dawn, and later, Junior Officers Mallory and Jessi. We couldn't help but identify with one or two of Martin's memorable characters (think "She's such a Kristy!" or "I'm definitely like Dawn").

Given how much the characters and their stories meant to the first generation who connected with them, it's no surprise that the series was adapted to the small screen in 1990 and the big screen in 1995 and is now in production once more for Netflix. In an effort to bring the BSC to the next generation, and to allow OG fans to take a heartwarming walk down memory lane, the first ever audio recording of the books hit Audible today, Tuesday, August 13. All 131 titles are now available, with books 1-5 performed by Elle Fanning. The remaining volumes are individually read by a cast of actresses including Brittany Pressley, Ali Ahn, Emily Bauer, Lauren Fortgang, Bahni Turpin, Erin Moon, Stephany Einstein, and Vanessa Johansson.

Ann M. Martin says she was especially pleased with Fanning and the rest of the cast. "I love the narrators who were chosen and how they bring the books to life," she shares. "There's something so incredibly personal about hearing a story read aloud by somebody."

Elle Fanning in Studio Recording
Credit: Audible

She also noted that several of the actresses were fans of the series while they were growing up, which added to their passion around the project. That heartfelt connection to the books is one that is now being passed from Gen X and millennial parents down to their Gen Z kids, a moving fact that's not lost on Martin.

She says the effect of her body of work (in addition to The Baby-Sitters Club, Martin various standalone novels and other series) in general has been "incredibly rewarding ... knowing that I have touched the lives of kids and adults, as it turns out, and especially getting letters from kids who say that they were not avid readers until they discovered my books and became avid readers and went on and read all other kinds of books, which is exactly what you want to hear."

The BSC author also celebrates the fact that OG fans are passing the books on to their children. "I do love hearing from a lot of kids that their parent—moms, especially, but some dads—read the books when they were young and recommended them to read now," Martin says. "That’s really heartwarming."

While Martin's youngest readers might not know a world without smartphones or Alexa, she understands why the series continues to resonate with new generations.

"It’s really the themes of the books are timeless," she says. "If you think about it, the stories are mostly about friends and friendships among the girls, school issues, families, and those sorts of things haven’t changed at all. And the characters are so different from one another, but they work well together and are a close-knit group of friends. Even though they might fight, they make up, and I think that just like nowadays, the kids are writing to me, and telling me which character they identify with or which traits from all of the characters they identify with. So, it’s interesting that I’m not hearing things today that are terribly different from what I heard 30 years ago."

One thing that has changed, of course, in the last three decades is that Martin's original fan base has grown up and pursued a variety of career aspirations, many of which their love of the series helped shape. "I have to say it’s very gratifying to hear 25 or 30 years later from all of these adults who read the books when they were growing up and have become writers, bloggers, librarians, teachers," Martin says. "It's really wonderful."

It's easy to see why the iconic novels served to empower women to follow their dreams. For many young readers in the '80s and '90s, The Baby-Sitters Club served as an introduction to feminism by celebrating entrepreneurship and female friendship. Martin, who attended Smith College, a private women's liberal arts school, from 1973 to 1977, says that while she didn't consciously intend to write a feminist series for kids, she appreciates that BSC organically became one.

Ann M. Martin Portrait
Credit: Scholastic

"Feminist ideals were very important to me, and I cared about them a lot," Martin says. "It wasn't as if I set out to write a series that was going to be feminist and empowering for girls, but I certainly wanted those things included in there, and I was glad when they seemed to have wound up in there, but felt natural."

It seems being pleasantly caught off-guard has become a constant in Martin's career. Whether BSC is being green-lit as another TV show, graphic novel series, or Audible recording, the series continues to thrive and endear itself to new waves of fans.

"It's been rewarding to see it launch as something that we thought was going to be sort of sweet and simple and turning into something that was so much more than that," Martin says. "The series ends, and then, it has another life years later, which is pretty similar to the life it had before in terms of the level of excitement and dedication and the passion of the fans. The series just seems to be taking everyone—and by everyone, I mean my editors and publishers and I—by surprise, and that's been pretty lovely."

Those of us who grew up with and continue to hold a special place in our hearts for the seminal classic couldn't agree more.