Booking It Across the US | Minnesota and Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace

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August 14, 2013 by Heidi

Booking it Across the US

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.

Minnesota Reads

Personal favorite? On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
What’s your favorite Minnesota read?

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Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart LovelaceTitle: 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.

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8 comments »

  1. I doubt I’ll pick this up because it’s geared towards a younger audience, but it seems like something I’d have really enjoyed if I were younger. Lovely review, Heidi, and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s novel is my favorite read from this state as well! :)

  2. My fave MN book is also On the Banks of Plum Creek, of course. Proud LIW fangirl right here!

    I enjoyed the Betsy-Tacy books when I was younger. I don’t remember how many I read, but I was really into historical fiction as a kid and Betsy-Tacy fit nicely into that :)

  3. I read Betsy-Tacy a few years ago, and I feel the same way. I definitely enjoyed this book, but I was never curious enough to read the rest of the series.

    It really is true, though, how wise children can be. I’m glad you liked this for the most part.

  4. Ann says:

    If you don’t read any of the other books in the Betsy Tacy series, you are missing out. Although she starts with the girls at age 5, she follows them through high school & into their 20s, including career & marriage. Betsy’s high school experiences have a surprisingly contemporary feel to them, in spite of the time setting. The teenager emerged in the first decade of the 20th century, and these books capture it. And, unlike many of the books written for girls, Betsy has the ambition to become a writer and, unusual for the time, is fully supported in that goal by her parents and later by her husband. Many of today’s successful women writers (regardless of genre) were inspired to become writers by these books, including Anna Quindlen, Judy Blume, Mitali Perkins, and Christine Dudley. Meg Cabot and Heather Vogel Frederick are big fans who read them as adults. Try them!

  5. charlotte says:

    I agree with Ann–it’s well worth keeping going! Or at the very least, do try Emily of Deep Valley, set in the same place, but about a different girl (obviously), who has graduated from high school but can’t leave her grandfather to go to college like she really wants to.

  6. Holly says:

    I’ve LOVED this feature, Heidi. You are so creative! I wish that I would’ve thought of it. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to comment more. I missed my hold on Betsy-Tacy when it came in at the library this summer. My son and I will have to try it another time for sure.

  7. I agree with Ann and Charlotte, too! And I’d actually recommend just skipping ahead to the fifth book, Heaven to Betsy, if you aren’t really loving the books where she’s younger. You really won’t miss anything vital to the story/characters by skipping the next three. The forewords in the books I read were all written by contemporary authors (like Ann mentioned) about how Betsy helped them realize their dream of becoming an author. Anyway, I agree that the first few books are sweet but they didn’t make me fall in love with the series (like you said, I felt like I was a little too old to appreciate them as well as I might have)… but the later books definitely made me a huge fan of this series. When I first read these books, I was in high school and I’m pretty sure I didn’t read the first four.

  8. Eszter says:

    I have wanted to read the Betsy-Tacy series, since I learned how obsessed Hannah from So Obsessed With is with this. And as we both are fans of L.M Montgomery and Jane Austen, I am sure, I will like this too. However, I’ve always wanted to read the Little House series too, but haven’t yet. I have so many books to read!

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While the source for each book I review is posted within its review, please assume unless otherwise stated that books reviewed on Bunbury in the Stacks were received free from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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