The Baby-Sitters Club: Claudia and the New Girl by Gabriela Epstein, the ninth volume of the Scholastic Graphix graphic novel adaptation of Ann M. Martin’s beloved series, is available at your local bookstore and library beginning today, Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021.
To mark the occasion, The Beat caught up with Epstein via email to find out more about the artistic inspirations behind Claudia and the New Girl and pulling off the fantastic fashions in the newest Baby-sitters Club comic!
AVERY KAPLAN: There are several famous works of art that make appearances in Claudia and the New Girl! What inspired you to include these art works? Do you have a favorite?
GABRIELA EPSTEIN: Yeah! I’ve always been interested in art history, so getting a chance to showcase famous pieces was super fun. Especially Frida Kahlo‘s Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird — she was one of my favorite artists growing up, and I figure Claudia would also enjoy the drama of her portraits.
When I was a kid, a lot of the media I consumed made references that punched above my weight, so I’d have to look them up and they would lead me down fascinating rabbit holes I never would’ve found otherwise. I figured I’d put some in this book to hopefully get kids googling artists they’d never heard of and maybe spark some new interests for them!
KAPLAN: Early on in Claudia and the New Girl, Claudia’s new friend Ashley takes a look at Claudia’s portfolio. Do you have any particular experiences with an intense portfolio examination you’d like to share?
EPSTEIN: Haha, that’s my everyday life! I do remember getting my portfolio reviewed by the Rhode Island School of Design at National Portfolio day when I was a teen. The lady took one minute and told me to apply elsewhere— I cried for hours after. But, then, I ended up graduating from there a few years later! Life is funny that way.
KAPLAN: One of the pages of Claudia and the New Girl includes a recipe for Rice Crispies Treats (what a fun inclusion)! What’s your favorite snack?
EPSTEIN: Nothing beats watermelon when it’s in season.
KAPLAN: Everyone in this book has such great outfits! What was the process of designing everyone’s outfits like? Did anyone’s sartorial preferences present a particular challenge as a creator?
EPSTEIN: Thank you! Fashion was not my forte going into this, so I had to do a deep dive on Pinterest to figure out which stores each girl would probably shop at, then build outfits from there— I got a lot of help from Gale Galligan on that! I think the biggest challenge was mixing up Claudia and Ashley’s wardrobes, since they’re both artsy. But, I imagine Claudia leans more into street fashion while Ashley prefers a more bohemian aesthetic.
KAPLAN: I understand this is your first graphic novel! Was there anything unexpected about the process?
EPSTEIN: This whole process was a huge learning curve for me, but I was able to take it all in stride thanks to the support of the incredible editorial and design team at Scholastic Graphix.
I think the biggest unexpected aspect was all the hours of designing and drawing backgrounds! In other works I could usually make stuff up to serve the short stories I told, but in the BSC there’s a lot of very specific buildings and places they visit that already have detailed designs for them, but only for certain parts— a window, a bedroom, etc, so it becomes a game of filling in the blanks in a way that makes spacial sense, unites the house, and sits well with the design of the rest of the book. If you look at my copies of the BSC books, they’re filled with post-its for reference on door handles, sofa placements, etc. I think I’ve taken more notes on the BSC novels than any book I read in school, haha.
KAPLAN: Was there any character that you particularly enjoyed portraying?
EPSTEIN: I always love drawing Claudia and Kristy— they’re so dramatic and make the funniest expressions!
KAPLAN: Is there any activity that has been especially comforting for you during the COVID-19 pandemic?
EPSTEIN: Sports! My roommates and I have picked up volleyball and badminton. I hadn’t played sports since my hockey days in college, so it’s been so fun to get back into a groove of learning and playing something that takes a group effort.
KAPLAN: Have you been reading any comics lately you’d like to recommend to our readers?
EPSTEIN: Yes! For middle grade readers, I recommend Twins by Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright. It’s a fun and heartfelt story on finding your identity that I wish I’d had when I was that age! For YA readers, I recommend Trung Le Nguyen’s The Magic Fish. It’s a beautiful articulation of love bridging generational divides that resonated deeply with me.
You can read the first few pages of Claudia and the New Girl, along with some details about the history of the Graphix’s BSC graphic novel adaptations, here.