Betsy was given beautiful presents at that fifth birthday party. Besides the little glass pitcher, she got colored cups and saucers, a small silk handkerchief embroidered with forget-me-nots, pencils and puzzles and balls. But the nicest present she received was not the usual kind of present. It was the present of a friend. It was Tacy. (from Betsy-Tacy, page 14)
Betsy-Tacy was first published in 1940, and while the story takes place at the turn of the century, it really is timeless. Betsy Ray is 5 years old when she meets Tacy Kelly, a girl of the same age who lives across the street from the Rays at the end of Hill Street in Deep Valley, Minnesota. Betsy and Tacy soon become inseparable, meeting on the bench at the end of the road and picnicing on the Big Hill.
Betsy-Tacy lacks a major plot point, as the chapters basically are singular adventures that carry over a handful pages, but the book is engaging from start to finish. Although the book was written with young readers in mind, I really enjoyed it, and it brought me back to my own childhood when I spent my days outdoors with the neighborhood kids and the backyard was a canvass on which I painted and traveled to new worlds. Betsy and Tacy fly in the sky on a cloud, with Betsy's whimsical stories fueling their imaginations. They dye Easter eggs, make sand art, covet a chocolate-colored house with a stained glass door and a tower, and pretend to travel in a horse and buggy to what they imagine is the glamorous city of Milwaukee. They wear their finest dresses and pretend to be their mothers as they call on their neighbor, Mrs. Benson, and they make room for another friend, Tib.
Maud Hart Lovelace based the Besty-Tacy series of books on her own growing-up years, and I love the HarperCollins reissues because they feature a section at the back of each book with pictures of the real people who inspired Lovelace and a blurb about which parts of the book really happened and which parts were fictionalized. Lovelace describes the antics of Betsy and Tacy with much affection, and while the language, the clothes, and mannerisms are a bit dated, Betsy and Tacy really are no different than modern girls of the same age. Until I received the series as part of the TLC Book Tour (my tour date is tomorrow, when I'll review the 5th book in the series), I hadn't heard of Betsy-Tacy, but this is a case of better late than never! I can't wait until my daughter has time to read these for herself, and I'm sure she will enjoy them as much as I am.
Betsy-Tacy is a charming and amusing start to a classic series that reminds me of the Anne of Green Gables books I love so much. The illustrations by Lois Lensky are lovely and really help bring Betsy and Tacy and all of Deep Valley to life. I highly recommend this book (and the whole series) to children and adults alike. It's not every day that I read a children's book that causes memories of my own childhood to flash vividly in my mind.
Disclosure: I received a copy of Betsy-Tacy from HarperCollins for review purposes.
© 2009, Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not copy or reproduce content without permission.