Literary Tourism

Literary Tourism: The Baby-Sitters Club Pilgrimage Tour

Jen Sherman

Staff Writer

Jen is an urban and cultural geographer who did a PhD on public libraries and reading. As a researcher, her interests are focused on libraries, reading, book retailing and the book industry more broadly. As a reader, she reads a lot of crime fiction, non-fiction, and chicklit. And board books. All the board books. You can also find her writing about books for children and babies at Instagram: shittyhousewife / babylibrarians Twitter: @jennnigan

I recently read that Ann M. Martin is donating her literary papers to her alma mater, Smith College, and that outlines of later Baby-Sitters Club books will be in the college’s Mortimer Rare Book Room. As the lifelong BSC geek that I am, I immediately began dreaming about a trip out east to visit the library and see the papers. Then I was struck with an idea, perhaps even on the scale of one of Kristy’s great ideas: a BSC pilgrimage tour. A trip where I could visit the places where the baby-sitters have been, the real life places that inspired their fictional counterparts, and an attempt to find Stoneybrook, the wonderful fictional town in which the series takes place.

Real places of significance

  1. Smith College and the Mortimer Rare Book Room and the collection of Ann M. Martin’s papers. Apparently Special Collections will be closed between June and August 2017 for relocation, so I’ll be sure to plan this pilgrimage tour accordingly.
  • Princeton, New Jersey, the town where Ann M. Martin grew up.

    Real places the baby-sitters visited

    1. New York City. Of course I would have to make NYC a stop! This was the city that got the most air time in the series outside of Stoneybrook. There were a few Stacey books that took part in NYC when she visits her dad, one of my favourite mysteries, Jessi and the Jewel Thieves, and of course there was Super Special #6, New York, New York! I’d go to Tavern on the Green, the Lincoln Center, on a Circle Line Manhattan Island cruise, perhaps arrive by train into Grand Central Terminal and grab a bite to eat at the Oyster Bar. And no BSC pilgrimage tour to NYC would be complete without a stop at Bloomingdale’s.
    2. California. On the other side of the country, there was a state that also featured heavily thanks to Dawn, the BSC’s resident bi-coastal girl. The address of Dawn’s dad is in Palo City, California, which apparently is not actually a real place in California. But Dawn’s California home is close to John Wayne Airport and Anaheim (and Disneyland), so I’m going to guess that the Schafers live somewhere in Orange County. To be honest, the California part of the BSC pilgrimage tour is just going to be Disneyland and a beach, probably Newport Beach. Oh, I suppose I ought to go to Universal Studios too, if I were to try and truly recreate California Girls!

    Finding Sea City

    Sea City, the fictional seaside town where the Pikes went for a holiday every summer and is the setting of great books such as Boy Crazy Stacey, Mary Anne and Too Many Boys, and Sea City Here We Come! is inspired by a few different places on the Jersey Shore. If you wanted to experience Sea City, you might want to try Surf City, Avalon, or Stone Harbor.

    Finding Stoneybrook

    Stoneybrook, Connecticut is the town the baby-sitters call home, where parents trust eleven-year-olds to look after their children, almost everything is within a short cycling distance, neighbours know each other and are friends, and is what I imagine the perfect small town in America to be. I love Stoneybrook. I know it’s not real, but that’s not going to stop me from trying to find it.

    Stamford is the closest big city to Stoneybrook, so I must stop there. It’s where Jessi goes for her dance classes, so I feel that seeing a performance at Connecticut Ballet would be entirely appropriate.

    Hartford is where Stacey once had a Mathletes competition, so I’d make a stop there too.

    As for Stoneybrook itself, there are a few towns* that are possibilities: Westport, Darien, or New Canaan. These are all fairly affluent towns, and Stoneybrook seems to be a town that is on the higher end of the wealth scale. Watson Brewer lived in a mansion at the ‘rich’ end of town, but even in the not-rich part of town, the adults there worked in industries like law and finance. They all have trains to New York City, as Stoneybrook does. The populations are not particularly ethnically diverse, with over 90% of the population being white, and this is also in line with what we know about Stoneybrook. To be honest, on this pilgrimage tour I’d want to head to all three towns—I imagine I will find a little bit of Stoneybrook in all three.

    So, would anyone like to join me on this tour? We could read the books as we travel around, and take a BSC book discussion group on the road!

    *Many thanks to fellow Rioter Elizabeth Allen for her suggestions for towns that could be Stoneybrook.