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Relics From a Bookworm’s Childhood

Mandy revisits her literary past, starting with exhibits of severe swimfandom. (Prepare for lots of Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley Whatevs.)

Relics From a Bookworm’s Childhood

When I was single-digits in age, I moved a few times (plus I was/am a huge nerd), so my mementos from that time are mostly books. (Sadly, among the lost artifacts is the first story I ever wrote: a straight-up plagiarism of Disney's Aladdin, except Raja the tiger became Raja the mitten. Naturally.)

My mom thinks it'll be nice to keep these books for my future kids. As the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff would say, PARENTS JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND what their grandchildren would be subjected to.

(I'm not trying to completely Regina George these books; I did think fondly of them once. But I also thought fondly of Nick Lachey once, so my opinion was highly questionable.)

First up are the books that I obsessively collected. I started swimfanning long before Erika Christensen gave me a term for it. (And what exactly is the appeal of Jesse Bradford? Granted, I've never actually seen Swimfan, and the addition of a pool and the subtraction of a shirt can dramatically improve hotness (see: Olympics). But why do girls like Torrance Shipman and Erika fawn over him? (Personality schmersonality; I'm shallow.))

"Jesse Bradford hot"? I don't think so, Google.

ANYWAY. Let's begin with the two women who co-owned my childhood soul.

Ann M. Martin:

Considering how much I personally funded the private island that Ms. Martin surely owns, this gets me at least a timeshare, right?

Not only does my collection include novels from the main Baby-Sitters Club and Baby-Sitters Little Sister series, but there's also the Super Special: Island Adventure (whose tagline teases the BSC being shipwrecked, though sadly not permanently), Special Edition Readers' Request: Logan's Story (with the cover having a football player stand proudly while emasculated Logan looks on), and the Portrait Collection (the gimmick being autobiographies as an assignment. Teachers of Stoneybrook: unless Nikki Reed is in your class, that is a TERRIBLE life choice to read 200 pages on the lives of 25 thirteen-year-olds).

Then there are some great examples of why I was a marketer's dream. Playground Games came with chalk, jacks, a ball and some string (for Cat's Cradle, and not the noose to rescue you from embarrassment of needing written instructions for hopscotch). There's The Complete Guide to the Baby-Sitters Club, and you know you've fulfilled your swimfan duties when you can spot mistakes and identify at what point in the series the guide stops. I also own the Guide to Baby-Sitting, despite recently realizing that I've actually NEVER baby-sat anyone -- but at least I know what Kristy & Co. would do! Secret Santa is a bunch of Christmas (and Hanukkah! DiversiTeens!) cards and letters, and it came with friendship necklaces. Actual BFF charms (that I would never give to any BSCer now). 

And the MOVIE! (I couldn't find it, but by now I doubt you need photographic evidence to believe that I own the VHS.) Of course, it featured Rachael Leigh Cook as Mary-Anne! Mary-Anne was my fave, mostly because I liked her handwriting -- and she could spell, CLAUDIA. And even though glasses transform her into the ugliest anthropod in the history of existence, RLC was my Mandy Moore before the arrival of Mandy Moore, Brunette Actress (I didn't care for Mandy Moore, Blonde Singer because of the cringeworthy spoken portion in "Candy").

Anyway, I would have watched RLC in anything. Including a WB pilot that didn't get picked up, in which she was (woefully miscast as the tall, blonde, butt-kicking and name-taking) Gaia Moore from the Fearless books by none other than...

Francine Pascal:

Strangely, I never read any Sweet Valley High books (which was probs for the best). I did, however, buy a big chunk of the Sweet Valley Junior High series, which used some wonderfully late-'90s covers. Although if the twins and some Visible MinoriTeens are what constitutes The Cool Crowd at SVJH, then maybe Sweet Valley High isn't that bad...? HA HA JUST KIDDING.

Other books that I singled out are Sweet Valley Kids: Elizabeth the Tattletale (because that's SUCH an Elizabeth move), more terrible cover fashion on Sweet Valley Twins, and The Unicorn Club (as in, No Elizabeths Allowed!). Weirdly, the Sweet Valley Kids one is advertising the TV show on the cover. YO I THINK YOU HAVE THE WRONG AUDIENCE.

I don't know what I found so relatable about these blonde, blue-eyed, all-American California twins, since exactly NONE OF THAT describes me.

Speaking of blonde twins from California...

Olsen Twins:

I'm not proud, you guys. (And judging by those covers, neither should they be. Except for, you know, the billions derived from girls like me.) And if there were novelizations for So Little Time, the show they made in their teens, I'm sure I would have bought them too. 

(Who could have foreseen that Elizabeth would become the best Olsen? I actually haven't watched any of her movies, but she just looks so pretty and healthy, and she was once linked to my beloved Alexander Skarsgard, so OBVS I want to be her when I grow up.)

HOWEVS, I shall be forever grateful for their movie Passport to Paris, which featured les Olsens frolicking en France avec un garçon played by Ethan Peck! And now I need to Google binge current pics of him, because he looks far too young here than I'm accustomed to ogling seeing him. 

Anyway, back to the subject of novelizations... 


(Technically, there's one actual book-then-movie, but I probably bought the book BECAUSE of the movie. And despite not being the target demographic for Jennifer Love Hewitt's chesticles displayed so prominently in the foreground.)

I swimfanned so hard that a merely visual experience did not suffice. Noooo, I had to relive and savour the story in textual form. As you can see, this phenomenon spanned quite a few years, from Pocahontas (to go along with my matching bed sheets, of course) to Clueless (which, if memory serves, wasn't even a stuffed animal or TVCher and Dionne storyline). 

So yeah. I loved me my pop culture. But none more so than... 

Spice Girls:

Not pictured: the CDs, the many posters, and (sigh) the dolls. Not even in prestine, mint condition; any resell value was demolished by my child hands.

Apparently I took "Spice Up Your Life" as a mandate. Because SPICE I DID.

But REALLY, ten-year-old me? You needed two copies of the same biography? Couldn't you have thumbed through one beforehand to see that the content is ENTIRELY identical, but just in a different size? How could you coerce your parents into spending so much money on this, as opposed to something sensible -- LIKE A PONY! (™ Veronica Mars)


And now it's YOUR turn, dear readers! Did you (or do you still) do any extreme swimfanning? And do you have proof of Jesse Bradford's alleged hotness?

Mandy Wan's photo About the Author: Residing in Edmonton, AB, Mandy unabashedly loves YA lit, frozen desserts, and terrible puns.