Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill by Maud Hart Lovelace

Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill is the third book in the Besty-Tacy series and was originally published in 1942, but the story takes place in 1902.  Betsy, Tacy, and Tib each turn 10 years old in the beginning of the book, and hitting the double digits is a big deal for the girls.  They fall in love for the first time...with the King of Spain, Alphonso XIII, who took the throne that year at the age of 16.  Betsy, Tacy, and Tib all want to marry him (with Tacy and Tib mainly going along with Betsy's infatuation), but they think Tib with her dainty frame and accordian-pleated dress (specially made for a school dance performance) would make her the perfect queen.  They pen a letter to the young king:
Dear Sir,--
We are three little American girls.  Our names are Betsy, Tacy, and Tib.  We are all in love with you and would like to marry you but we can't, because we're not of the royal blood.  Tib especially would like to marry you because she has a white accordian-pleated dress that she's going to wear when she dances the Baby Dance.  She looks just like a princess.  So we're sorry.  But we're glad you got to be king.  Three cheers for King Alphonso of Spain.

Yours truly,
Betsy Ray,
Tacy Kelly,
Tib Muller.  (page 45)

While Besty, Tacy, and Tib dream up ways to make Tib queen, Betsy's older sister, Julia, has plans to become Deep Valley's summer queen on account of a song she sang at school.  A signature drive to allow the residents of Deep Valley to choose the queen leads to Betsy, Tacy, and Tib going over the big hill to a neighborhood known as Little Syria for its large population of Syrian immigrants.  The girls learn that the things they'd heard about the residents of Little Syria are not all true, and they discover a new culture and new friends.  But their trip over the big hill causes the fight between Betsy and Julia to grow bigger than before, and they must think about whether crowning a queen is more important than their relationship.

Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill is the first book in the Betsy-Tacy series to have a plot that creates tension and lasts more than a few pages.  At age 10, the girls are growing up, and of course, with growing girls there's bound to be drama.  Maud Hart Lovelace's characters seem so real, and getting to watch them grow up and evolve over the course of the series makes them feel like friends.  When I'm reading the Betsy-Tacy books, I feel like a kid again, and I lose myself in Betsy, Tacy, and Tib's adventures.  Lovelace keeps the story light, though she touches upon a heavy topic -- discrimination.  Young readers can learn a lot from Betsy, Tacy, and Tib's willingness to stand up for the young Syrian girl they met on a trip up the Big Hill.  Lovelace describes the Syrian immigrants' desire for the American dream and their hopes for the younger generation, and she shows how taking the time to get to know someone and not brush them off because they are different can create long-lasting relationships.

I've only just discovered the beauty of Lovelace's classic series, and while I can't put the books down, I'm not ready for Betsy, Tacy, and Tib to grow up.  If you haven't yet made friends with the girls, I urge you to get your hands on the Betsy-Tacy books.  I think if you loved L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables books, you'll love Betsy-Tacy.  The Montgomery books hold a special place on my shelf, and I'm pretty sure that by the time I finish the Besty-Tacy books, Betsy and Tacy will be shelved right next to Anne.

Don't forget my other Betsy-Tacy reviews:

Betsy-Tacy and Tib

Disclosure:  I received a free copy of Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill from HarperCollins for review purposes.


Serena said...

It's Betsy-Tacy review day here! I had not heard of these books until now.

Jenners said...

So cute!!! I remember writing a letter to John Travolta back in the day and telling him I wasn't like all his other fans and would really be good wife when I grow up. This kind of reminds me of that!

Unknown said...

I really have to get my hands on these books. The girls sound completely endearing and I hope to make my daughter like them too.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I wrote a love letter to Tommy Shaw from Styx back in my younger years. I'm still a little bitter that he married Meredith Viera.

Kailana said...

This is the only book by her that my library doesn't have! So annoying!

Anna said...

~Serena: I hadn't heard of them until Trish contacted me about the TLC tour. Better late than never, though.

~Jenners: Too funny!! I don't remember writing any fan letters, but I did have tons of celebrity crushes at that age. Davy Jones, for one. LOL

~lilly: I think you definitely should introduce them to your daughter. Mine liked the first book, and she's looking forward to having time for the others.

~Sandy: LOL!!

~Kailana: That really stinks! Maybe you can get it through inter-library loan?