Thursday, October 15, 2009

Heaven to Betsy by Maud Hart Lovelace

Julia's crowd, after calling out greetings, paid little attention to them.  As for Tony and Betsy they forgot that the others were there.  They did not speak to each other; they were too intent upon their dancing.  Betsy danced on the tips of her toes.  Standing so, she was just about Tony's height, and they moved like one person.

"I believe I like dancing better than anything else in the world," Betsy thought.

The music stopped, but to Betsy's amazement Tony's arms didn't fall away.  Instead they tightened, and she felt a kiss on her cheek.  She looked, confused, into Tony's laughing eyes.

"Wasn't it smart of me to stop under the mistletoe?" he asked.

They were in the doorway between music room and parlor, and there was indeed a mischievous white-berried spray hanging above them.  Blushing, Betsy pulled herself away.  (from Heaven to Betsy, page 210)

I hope you're not all sick of Betsy-Tacy week here at Diary of an Eccentric; I didn't plan it that way, but I'm thoroughly enjoying myself.  As you can see, our little Betsy has become a young woman.  In Heaven to Betsy, the fifth book in the Betsy-Tacy series, originally published in 1945, Betsy Ray is 14 years old and starting her freshman year at Deep Valley High.  As if the changes that come with starting high school weren't enough, Betsy's parents uproot the family from Hill Street to High Street.  Granted, the family still lives in Deep Valley, Minnesota, but Betsy has grown to love living across the street from her best friend, Tacy Kelly, and while the new house has gas lighting and heating (big advances at the turn of the century) and each of the Ray girls has her own bedroom, Betsy isn't ready to leave her life on Hill Street behind.

But that's soon forgotten when she and Tacy start school.  In Heaven to Betsy, Maud Hart Lovelace introduces several new characters -- Betsy's new girlfriends Carney and Bonnie and several boys who befriend Betsy, walk her to and from school and parties, and hang around the Ray house for food and entertainment.  There's Cab, her neighbor; Herbert, a local boy all the girls think is cute; and Tony, a newcomer whom Betsy nicknames "the Tall Dark Stranger."  Tony is Betsy's first real crush, and it takes her on an emotional roller coaster ride.  And we can't forget Joe, the boy she met in a store during a summer trip who ends up being Betsy's academic competitor.

Betsy makes the transition from childhood to young adulthood fairly seamlessly, making friends left and right and having a grand time.  Heaven to Betsy didn't stir up any fond memories of my high school experience (that's a period of my life I'd rather not revisit), but the emotions Betsy experiences with her first crush are universal.  I remember being nervous around boys I liked, and when things didn't go like I'd hoped, I remember not wanting to get out of bed.  Like Betsy, I'm sure every girl has wished she looked like someone else.

I've read five of the Betsy-Tacy books so far, and Lovelace's writing continues to amaze me.  There really isn't anything extraordinary about the characters, the setting, or the events that take place within their pages, but Lovelace brings them to life in a way that readers connect with the characters, feel as though they are part of the Deep Valley community, and remember their own growing-up stories.  And the personal connection is deepened when you flip to the back of the book and see pictures of Lovelace's family and friends who inspired the characters in Heaven to Betsy.

This book has a more grown up feel to it than the previous Betsy Tacy books.  The illustrations by Vera Neville portray a more mature Betsy, and Lovelace also touches upon more serious subjects like religion  (Betsy and her sister Julia feel at home in one church, which is not the church their parents attend) and Betsy and Tacy's desire to do more than just become wives and mothers.  As much as I'm loving the Betsy-Tacy books, I wonder what it would have been like to read them as a child and to have grown up right along with Betsy.  I'm sure I would have found comfort in these books and a friend in Betsy.

Read my other Betsy-Tacy reviews:

Betsy-Tacy and Tib
Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill
Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown

To learn more about Maud Hart Lovelace, visit the Betsy-Tacy Society.

There are Betsy-Tacy reissue celebrations planned for certain cities.  Here are the remaining dates:

10/23/09  Bainbridge Island, WA, at the Kitsap Regional Library
11/07/09  Highland Village, TX, at Barnes & Noble
11/08/09  St. Paul, MN, at the Red Balloon Bookshop
04/17/10  Dallas, TX, at Dallas Heritage Village

To check out the rest of the Betsy-Tacy blog tour dates, click here.  And check back here in the near future for reviews of the final five books in the Betsy-Tacy series.

Disclosure:  I received a free copy of Heaven to Betsy from HarperCollins for review purposes.


Serena said...

Woah! It has been Betsy-Tacy week here...not that I mind...I think this sounds like a cute series of books, though I think I'm a bit old for these...I was never the normal kid, so I probably wouldn't have read these either. I didn't read Anne of Green Gables...until much later in life and I don't think I read it all.

Julie P. said...


You are not too old for these books. I'm older than you are and I love them!!! Anna's review is excellent and she has expressed so many of my feelings!

bermudaonion said...

I'm so glad you're enjoying this series - I think I need to check it out.

trish said...

You have such a nice, easy reviewing style, Anna! You make me want to jump right into the books.

I like the part you excerpted! Though I agree, that I'll refrain from reliving my own high school experiences while I read the books where she's in high school! ;-)

Thanks for being on the tour! said...

Wow sounds like a lovely book. Please enter me in the contest!!

dancealert at aol dot com

Anna said...

~Serena: Julie is right, you're definitely not too old! The only one that's a bit youngish is the first book, but it's cute and a fast read and it sets the stage for the rest of the books. Actually, I think The Girl would be able to read the first four, but she might not "get" the remaining books until she's a bit older.

~Julie: Thanks! I hope we convinced Serena to give them a try.

~Bermudaonion: Please do! I think you'd enjoy them.

~Trish: No, thank you! I'm so glad I decided to participate because I've fallen in love with these books.

~Brenda: It is a lovely book, and I appreciate you stopping by. However, please note, I'm not holding a giveaway for this book.

Anna said...

Just wanted to point out that I'm not holding a giveaway for the Betsy-Tacy books. I hope you all will give them a try, though!

Violet said...

You know I had never even heard about Betsy-Tacy series until recently. they do sound like something I would enjoy though.

I enjoyed all your Betsy-Tacy reviews even if I didn't comment on them, sorry :)

holdenj said...

I can never get sick of Betsy!
Thanks for spreading the word so eloquently!

Ladytink_534 said...

Aw! Sounds like a sweet story. This somewhat reminds me of Meet Me in St. Louis for some reason...

Tricia said...

I love books written in this era and I've never heard of these! They sound too cute!

(P.S. Next year we'll have to coordinate for the book festival! It would be fun for The Girls too. :)

Bybee said...

I discovered the Betsy-Tacy series in 8th grade. The first one I read was Betsy In Spite Of Herself, which is next in your queue. Then I had to go back to the library and check out and quickly read the beginning of the series and Heaven To Betsy before happily moving on.

I love the look of the new covers. I'm glad they kept the same style and I'm so glad this series is getting new deserves to!

Esme said...

I am going to check out this series-have you been reading them to "The Girl"?

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say you're doing a great job with the Betsy-Tacy books. My sisters and I grew up with them and it's good to see them being reintroduced. My personal favorite "Emily of Deep Valley" is peripheral to the series and a more adult book. I hope you can get to it. --Joy

Memory said...

I've GOT to read some of these books next year! I've heard a lot about them recently, (and not just here!), and they sound wonderful.

Kristen said...

These do sound sweet. I wonder if my daughter would like them.

Kailana said...

I have read the first three books so far! I am waiting for the fourth book to come in for me at the library.

Anonymous said...

I am loving the fact that new readers are discovering these underappreciated gems. I grew up reading these books (my mom introduced me to them, as she read them as they first were published), but apart from my sister and one good friend, I never knew anyone else who had read them until I became an adult. (And this despite growing up in Minnesota, where the books are set!)

I was an eager reader as a kid and read all kinds of books -- mysteries, biographies, fantasy, historical, young adult "issue" novels, sports stories (though I wasn't athletic), contemporary fiction, etc. I never understood how folks could only read one or two genres of books and refuse to even try something out of their normal range of interest. You might be surprised into liking something you'd ordinarily think wouldn't interest you at all. Good writing can do that, and the Betsy-Tacy books, if nothing else, are well written. They're well worth a try, even if you do decide they're not your cup of tea! But Betsy is a very likeable, very human, heroine.

Anna said...

~Violet: Thanks! And no worries about commenting. I read a lot of blog posts and don't always comment.

~holdenj: Thanks!

~Ladytink: It was very cute! I hope you give it a try.

~Tricia: Definitely! That would be great!

~Bybee: I, too, am glad they've been re-released. I wouldn't have heard of them otherwise!

~Esme: She and I read part of the first book together, and she enjoyed it, but she's had too much school-related reading to do. I hope she can read the first 4 soon, but I'm not sure she'll be interested in the rest of the series until she's older.

~Anonymous (Joy): Thanks! I hope to eventually read Lovelace's other books. We'll see...

~Memory: I hope you give them a try!

~Kristen: The first four books are perfect for young readers. You could give the first one a try with your daughter to see how she likes them. It's pretty short.

~Kailana: I hope you get to read the entire series!

~Anonymous: I wasn't sure I'd enjoy these as an adult, but you're right, Betsy is very likeable and the books are well written. I'm loving them so far.