by Judy Newman with Alexie Basil
There is a long and successful tradition at Scholastic Book Clubs of people who work here becoming famous authors with hugely successful book series.
Ann M. Martin started writing the Baby-Sitters Club series while working as an editor on the TAB Book Club. Scholastic’s Editor in Chief at the time, Jean Feiwel, would review the Scholastic Book Clubs weekly sales reports and see that books about babysitting seemed popular with middle grade readers.
From that idea, Jean and Ann came up with the series, which has 35 original titles (with many more subsequent books added since!), more than 175 million copies in print, and was made into a movie. The Baby-Sitters Club has also been recently reimagined as a graphic novel series, and will soon be rebooted as a 10-episode dramedy on Netflix.
R. L. Stine was known as Jovial Bob Stine when he worked at Scholastic Book Clubs in the ’80s as the editor of Bananas magazine. He started writing joke books—such as 101 Vacation Jokes, 101 Wacky Kid Jokes, 101 Silly Monster Jokes, and 101 School Cafeteria Jokes—because there was a big need for funny books for kids to help draw them into reading.
Later, Joan Waricha and Jane Stine (Bob’s wife) left their jobs at Scholastic Book Clubs to form Parachute Press and, once again working under the editorial direction of Jean Feiwel at Scholastic, published Goosebumps.
What started as a series of funny and scary chapter books published monthly for middle grade readers now has more than 400 million copies in print, with editions published in 32 languages, a TV series, and two major motion pictures starring Jack Black. Goosebumps has inspired scores of spin-off books, merchandise, and Halloween costumes, and is still going strong 27 years after the first title, Welcome to Dead House, premiered in the Arrow Book Club for 99 cents in 1992.
Other current and former Scholastic Book Clubs employees—including Brandi Dougherty, Steve Metzger, Betsy Howie (Lainey McBride), and Linda Ferreira (L. A. Peacock), among others—continue to write books for Scholastic Book Clubs. Who knows which author will become a sensation next?
Many writers start their careers while working at Scholastic Book Clubs but then leave their “day jobs” here to pursue writing careers full time.
Ed Masessa, our longtime colleague at Scholastic Book Fairs, is the author of the very successful Wandmaker’s series. After retiring several years ago, Ed now lives in Florida with his family, where he continues to write.
Others, like Lucille Santarelli—known to millions as Lucille Colandro, author of the There Was an Old Lady books—still works at Scholastic Book Clubs as she has for the past 24 years.
David Vozar wrote several picture books, including Yo, Hungry Wolf!, a clever reimagining of the nursery rhyme illustrated by Betsy Lewin that Publishers Weekly described as “ingenious.”
This week’s Dollar Deal, The Absent Author, inspired these memories for David:
“The Absent Author opens with kids gathered at a bookstore for a signing. Mysteriously, the author does not show up.
“This got me thinking about all that the author was missing. After I wrote Yo, Hungry Wolf!, I received several letters from classes inviting me to visit them. In my entire professional career, very little has come close to rivaling the satisfaction of meeting the kids and spending the day talking about my book and those that they imagined I would be writing next.”
I always thought the reason so many successful children’s book series come from the imaginations of Scholastic Book Clubs employees is because we work so closely every day with teachers and children (and their parents) in virtually every elementary school in the country. Those weekly sales reports Jean Feiwel pored over when she was at Scholastic now come out daily. We literally know every day in real time what kids want to read and where trends are emerging.
But I have also realized more recently that Scholastic Book Clubs employees are so close to the real power of books and reading to change children’s lives that they are inspired—and super motivated—to contribute to that magical connection a great book can make in the hands of a great kid.
In my many visits to classrooms during the school year, teachers and kids tell me they want funny books (with illustrations) that are a little bit edgy about interesting characters and are easy to read.
I started telling stories about two families (the Bobs, who are slovenly, and the Tweets, who are fastidious), focusing on the youngest member of each family (Dean and Lou), and the community they live in (Bonefish Street).
Eventually I started writing these stories as rhyming advanced readers and found a brilliant illustrator, Kristy Caldwell, and now we are just about to publish the fourth book in the series.
I was a combination of shy and terrified in becoming a published author, so I decided not to use my real name. Like Wallis Wallace—the fictional headliner of this week’s Dollar Deal—I, too, write under a pseudonym.
I chose “Pepper Springfield” because I thought it was easy to remember and quirky enough to fit in with the characters on Bonefish Street that Pepper writes about. But it turns out the combination of these two words—Pepper and Springfield—leads to me getting a lot of Google Alerts about pepper spray incidents in the many towns named Springfield all around the country.
Making author visits as Pepper Springfield is pretty thrilling—and a little scary—for me. But I agree with David—it is so inspiring and truly satisfying to talk with a real child who is not related to you, who tells you whether they are more like a Bob or a Tweet and then “kidsplains” to you the plot of the book you wrote.
I find writing rhyming chapter books with 48 stanzas among the hardest things I have ever done, but it is the incredible feedback from kids—particularly those who tell me the Bobs and Tweets made them “like books”—that keeps me going.
Check out this funky community on Bonefish Street!
Jerry Pallotta (my good friend and a multi-million-copy-bestselling author, whose The Icky Bug Alphabet Book will be featured here as a Dollar Deal in a few weeks) doesn’t technically work at Scholastic Book Clubs, but he has been so connected to Clubs for so many decades that he is almost an honorary employee.
Part of the job of being an author is making visits to bookstores, schools, and libraries. Sometimes authors love meeting their readers. For other, more introverted authors, perhaps being out and about is no fun at all.
Jerry is one author who loves meeting kids and teachers. He spends at least one hundred days a year visiting schools all around the country.
We picked The Absent Author—the first installment in Ron Roy’s hugely successful A to Z Mysteries series—for this week’s Dollar Deal because it is a fantastic introduction to the mystery genre and what it means to be an author.
As Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose, the three clever kid detectives of the series, race to discover what happened to the missing bestselling, beloved—and a little bit mysterious—author Wallis Wallace, they suspect he has been kidnapped on the way to a book signing!
Like all good mysteries, each clue in The Absent Author (and in every alliterative mystery in the series) serves a purpose as the intrepid kids put all of the pieces together.
“Ron Roy’s A to Z Mysteries series is a wholesome, funny bunch of sleuthing stories that have just enough twists to keep readers interested, and enough clues that readers can solve the mystery before Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose.” —Common Sense Media
It’s no secret how much we all love A to Z Mysteries: The Absent Author. The Book Boys have a blast coming up with their own mysteries in the Make Your Own Mystery Challenge; third grade teacher Shannon Langston shares how she uses the book to help kids flex their close-reading muscles in Book Talks; Ron Roy himself reveals his inspiration for writing mysteries in Behind the Scenes; and we present teachers with a fun create-your-own A to Z Mysteries book cover classroom activity in Cooked Up from a Book.
We hope you enjoy this week’s Dollar Deal, The Absent Author, and are inspired to share the fun of reading and trying to solve mysteries with all the young readers you know.
This Book Is Available from Scholastic Book Clubs