Jenna Bush Hager is a super fan of the classic YA series "The Baby-Sitters Club." So naturally she was thrilled to welcome author Ann. M. Martin to the latest episode of "Open Book."
"Ann, your books, I can't even tell you what they've meant to me. They were the first series that my sister and I read compulsively," Jenna gushed, adding that the books taught her and twin sister Barbara that "girls can be empowered."
Jenna recently handed down the bestselling series, which debuted more than 30 years ago, to her 7-year-old daughter, Mila. The books remains so popular with young readers, they inspired a live-action Netflix dramedy, which was renewed this week for a second season.
The enduring appeal of "The Baby-Sitters Club" brings Martin joy.
"I mean, truly, I didn't expect it to reach more than one generation of readers, and I think I'm sort of amazed by it myself every day," she said.
"I love hearing from readers, whether they are people who are in their 40s, who read the books 30 years ago, or whether it's from kids like your daughter, who have just discovered the book," she continued. "I feel sort of awestruck myself, and here it is, 35 years later."
When she sat down to write the books, Martin wanted to tell the story of a close-knit group of friends "who each had her own set of problems or challenges. But who worked well together, who were best friends despite, you know, fights and disagreements."
As she kept working on the series, she realized she could tackle important subjects.
"I realized that I could discuss topics that were not only important to me, but that I I thought would be important for other kids to read about," said Martin. "I didn't want the books to be preachy, but I wanted to present these things. And it was everything from diabetes to living with a family with divorced parents, to racism."
All the characters in the series are near and dear to Martin's heart, but if she had to pick a favorite?
"My favorite character is Kristy, simply because she set the whole series in motion," she explained. "The first book was hers, and she's the president of the club, but she is my polar opposite... I am much more like Mary Anne, who is the shy one, the quiet one who sort of follows along sometimes with what the others wanna do."
Martin also has a good idea of what all the girls would be doing now as adults.
Kristy would absolutely have ended up "being in charge of something," she said.
Like the country? Jenna asked.
"She could run the country, she absolutely could," Martin responded. "It would be a big, daunting job but, yes, she could do that."
Claudia would be working with her art, of course. Mary Anne would be a teacher. Stacey would have a job in fashion.
"I think Mallory grew up to become a writer, and Jessie, a dancer or maybe a choreographer. And Dawn is out there, still trying to save the planet," she added.