August 14, 2013 by Heidi
Welcome to Minnesota! Home of my favorite sports teams (the Vikings and the Twins, of course), and enough A&Ws to make even this girl happy. I’ve never met a Minnesotan I didn’t like, and I would have gone to school there if mental images of that much snow didn’t send me running off to the west coast instead.
Personal favorite? On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
What’s your favorite Minnesota read?
Title: Betsy-Tacy [Goodreads]
Author: Maud Hart Lovelace [Website]
Illustrator: Lois Lensky
Standing: Book 1 in the Betsy-Tacy series.
Genre: Children’s, Historical
Published: June 1st, 1979 by Perfection Learning (first published in 1940)
Format: Paperback; 122 pages.
Source: Borrowed from my local library.
There were lots of children on Hill Street, but there were no little girls Betsy’s age. So when a family moved into the house across the street, Betsy hoped they would have a little girl she could play with. Sure enough, they did. The girl’s name was Tacy, and after a while she and Betsy became such good friends that everybody thought of them as one person – Betsy-Tacy. Betsy-Tacy did all kinds of things. They made a playhouse from a piano box. They went to their first day of school together and even sat in the same seat. They rode in the milkman’s wagon. And Betsy made up wonderful stories that they kept as their own special secrets. Then they met Tib, who came to share in their games.
Ever since their first publication in the 1940s, the Betsy-Tacy stories have been loved by each generation of young readers.
Minnesota is a state I have long loved, but somehow when it came time to choose the Minnesota book I would read for Booking It Across the US I was stuck. I enjoyed Shiver, but never got into Linger enough to give it another go. I’d grown up on Garrison Keillor’s tales of Lake Woebegon and On the Banks of Plum Creek, but never had I heard of Maud Hart Lovelace. Once again, Allison from The Allure of Books came to my rescue and suggested Maud Hart Lovelace, which was heartily seconded by Hannah of So Obsessed With who had just completed and reviewed the entire Betsy-Tacy series, which was more than enough to convince me of Maud Hart Lovelace’s charm.
Betsy-Tacy, the first book in the Betsy-Tacy series captures the experience of childhood so adeptly. Indeed, Maud Hart Lovelace seems to truly remember what it was like to be a child–the fears, the joys, and the pure imagination. Being more of a children’s book than one aimed at Middle Grade kids, Betsy-Tacy falls a bit out of the parameter of books I normally read, and yet, with my love of stories such as the Little House books, it is safe to say that had you handed this series to me as a child I would have gobbled it up. The Betsy-Tacy series comprises a number of volumes following Betsy (and her friends Tacy and Tibs) throughout their lives from the age of 5 up through high school graduation and even marriage. I will admit that I wasn’t in complete love after merely consuming the first installment, but I could see myself or any reader growing greatly attached as the series moves on.
While Betsy-Tacy lacks the magic and adventure that we see in many of today’s children’s books, it has moments that ring so unarguably true that no child would fail to relate in some way. Betsy is a child with a fantastic imagination, and her and Tacy use this to turn their simple world of a street-side bench and a piano box into the most fanciful adventures. Betsy and Tacy do not experience their friendship instantly, but start off rather poorly due to shyness and a misunderstanding. As they grow to inseparable, the girls still share experiences that many children today must face despite the years in between. While one gains a sister and has to deal with the notion of no longer being the baby of the family, the other loses one due to sickness. For me, the most poignant moment of this book was when the two girls are talking about heaven–it is one of those moments where we as adults are reminded that the mind of a child is at times the most wise.
Though I did enjoy Betsy-Tacy and the illustrations by Lois Lensky that most certainly enhanced the story, I am uncertain that I will continue with this series. However, I loved reading about Maud Hart Lovelace and her life in the historical section included in the back of my copy, and it did make me interested to try some of her work, such as Early Candlelight, which was also recommended to me. Maud Hart Lovelace creates a beautiful portrait of a town and childhood very similar to her own, one I sincerely hope children will remain interested in for many more years to come.