Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace

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.


Jeane said...

I think I remember reading Besty-Tacy and a few others in the series when I was young. This edition really has a lovely cover.

Serena said...

These sounds like cute books.

Kailana said...

This is such a cute series. I listened to this one on audio and really enjoyed it!

Sandy Nawrot said...

I have heard SO much about this series. Where have I been? This looks like something my mom would have read, but she didn't know anything about it either. I saw you have several posts on the series, so I'm off to read them!

bermudaonion said...

I can't figure out how I missed these books, but they sound delightful.

Alyce said...

I've been enjoying seeing reviews of the Betsy-Tacy series around the blogosphere. I never read these when I was a kid.

Anonymous said...

The audio version features Tony award winning actress Sutton Foster as the narrator. She starred in _Little Women_ and _The Drowsy Chaperone_ and _Thoroughly Modern Millie_(for which she won the Tony). It's an excellent reading--I hope people will buy more of them--maybe they will record additional volumes.

Ti said...

I've read this one and I will be reading some of the others during read-a-thon but I really enjoyed the first book. Oh to be young again!

CLM said...

I have enjoyed reading the first four books aloud to nieces and nephews!

Anna said...

~Jeane: I wish I had learned of them when I was a kid. And I agree about the cover!

~Serena: They certainly are!

~Kailana: I'm glad you liked it. I'd love to hear how the audio sounds.

~Sandy: My mother wasn't a big reader, so I'm pretty sure she never read them. Better late than never, right?

~bermudaonion: I think they are one of the best kept secrets of the literary world. LOL

~Alyce: I hope you give them a try. I think you'd like them.

~Anonymous: The audio version sounds delightful. I can't believe they only have the first book on audio, though.

~Ti: I hear you. It totally made me miss my childhood.

~CLM: That's great! I think the first four books are perfect for young readers.