Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Where Are They Now: BSC Ghostwriters: Part I

I was inspired by this post when looking up Ann M. Martin books at the library. Turns out Ann M., in addition to all her other books, wrote a foreword to Five Little Peppers and How They Grew-- a sweet book about the wholesome adventures of five kids where the phrase "My whockety!" is considered A Bad Word. This series makes the Brady family look like sex crazed raunch masters. And it is so the book that Ann wishes she wrote.

But Ann wasn't the heart and soul of the BSC--the ghostwriters were! So what do the ghosties wish they were writing?

Peter Lerangis. The most popular of the BSC ghostwriters and the only guy, Peter has a wild streak that I can only assume Ann tolerates because he's the little brother she never had. (Or because he's blackmailing her with a tape recording of that time she drank a few too many schnappes at the Scholastic Christmas Dinner and made the outburst, "J.K. Rowling is a boring old biddy!") Lerangis writes the fun books. Like the Stacey is a dirty slut books (Stacey and the Bad Girls) and the books that mock the "WE LOVE BABIES" thing (Claudia and the World's Cutest Baby) rather than encourage it.

He's got a lot of adventure books out for kids, but that's not what he really wants to write. Check out his snappy dialogue in Stacey vs. the BSC:

Robert: "A Fiesta Burger? What's that?"
Andie: "After you eat it, you fall asleep."
Alex: "That's siesta, not fiesta!"
Andie: "Oh no, there goes my perfect score on today's Spanish quiz!"
Alex: "Very funny."

Lerangis so wishes he were writing a TV series. He can do edutainment (those hilarious Spanish remarks), and he could do gross out humor (he's the one who introduced me to the phrase "toe boogers," after all).

Lerangis is meant for Nickelodeon. Not current day "We need to compete with High School Musical--shovel more beautiful people on" Nick. Old school Nick. Nick with little Pete's dancing sexy lady tattoo, slimed Alanis Morisette, and entire cartoons devoted to flatulence. Can't you see him writing for Pete and Pete or Clarissa Explains It All?

Ellen Miles. Ellen is basically Ann-lite. She writes books like Kristy and the Haunted Mansion and manages to make the high point of the book focus less on a creepy Gothic mansion or ghosts, but rather on (wonder of wonders) a sewing shop. You just know that at Scholastic parties, Ann and Ellen sit together coming up with names for fictional sewing shops and hoping that Bravo will do a reality show for middle aged women who sew stuffed cats. (Hey, they killed their golden goose by 86ing Project Runway--anything's possible.)

In her spare time, Ellen writes a series called the Puppy Place. Ellen's BSC books tend to be the most cutesy wutesy of all. Think Kristy and the Baby Parade. So what does Ellen wish she was writing, apart from BSC and Puppy Place? I briefly considered The Boxcar Children, but rejected that right away. It's a fairly wholesome series and the female characters cook and clean house. But I think Ellen would find parts of it a bit too subversive. While one of the characters, Jessie, does sew (a plus!), she makes her younger brother Benny a toy teddy bear, and Benny requests a bear with a long tail, so he can pull it. I think Ellen would faint dead away at both the offense to sewing and at the stuffed animal abuse.

But then I came upon Mr. Wellington, a rather dark children's book about a cute squirrel who gets separated from his family, written by a gruff Ernest Hemingway doppelganger whom I briefly encountered at this year's Book Expo. I realized that this is what Ellen wishes she wrote. It's got everything she loves: literary appeal, kid friendliness, and baby animals living in shoes.

Stay tuned for the rest this afternoon.

In other news, in a little over a month, it'll be Dibbly Fresh's one year anniversary. In anticipation of this momentous occasion, I've given him his present early. It's a brand new banner. (I hope he gets me a new case of eyeliner or the twenty disc best of Motown series. Hint hint.)