Betsy-Tacy

For the March installment of Carrie’s Reading to Know Book Club, Annette at This Simple Home chose any title by Maud Hart Lovelace.

I had never read anything by Lovelace: I had never heard of her when my kids were younger.I have a special fondness for her last name: at some point in my childhood I wanted a more romantic sounding, flowy name, and I came up with “Crystal Lovelace.” 🙂 I don’t think I ever told anyone and I don’t think it lasted long.

I read a bit about her online and liked the fact that the Betsy-Tacy stories were based on her experiences as a child, and the first books were written on a young child’s reading level and then progressed in difficulty through the next books, so a child could “grow up” with the books. They were written from 1940-55 but the stories take place in an earlier era (late 19th, early 20th century) in Minnesota.

I thought I might enjoy some of the later books better, when Betsy and Tacy are older, but I like to begin at the beginning, so I read Betsy-Tacy and Betsy-Tacy and Tib. I was afraid they might be a little too “sweet,” but they weren’t: they were fine.

The first book tells of Tacy’s family moving in across the street from Betsy’s and how their friendship got off to an inauspicious start due to Tacy’s shyness, but soon they became almost inseparable, causing everyone who knew them to link their names together. I enjoyed reading about their imaginative play. Usually Betsy is supporting and encouraging shy Tacy in situations such as the first day of school, but when Betsy gets a baby sister that she’s not too excited about at first, then Tacy, who has many siblings, encourages Betsy. At the very end of Betsy-Tacy, they find out a new girl lives in the chocolate-colored house they’ve always admired, thus setting the scene for Betsy-Tacy and Tib.

People thought that adding a new girl to such a close friendship as Betsy and Tacy’s would cause problems, but the girls forge new bonds. Tib is a little different – she is more practical and often doesn’t “get” their pretending and states the obvious, but “Betsy and Tacy liked her just the same.” It’s interesting to get a child’s viewpoint on how cutting a lock of each other’s hair to put in a locket turns into a disaster, or how a club about being good made them especially bad one day. I often had to remind myself when my kids were young to look at things from their point of view, not to excuse wrongdoing, but to remind myself their thought patterns and the process whereby they came to do what they did was often much different from what I would have thought. Children’s books are good for that, and for creative solutions, such as the time the girls were allowed to play and make houses out of some old wood that then had to be stacked and put away. Instead of the father thundering that the children needed to stop playing and leave so the work could be done, he came up with a new play scenario so they could demolish their “house” in fun and not in tears.

Betsy and Tacy share common antagonists in their older sisters, although they do admit they are nice and helpful sometimes. This has nothing at all to do with the books, but it got me to thinking about being the oldest sister. It’s easy for older children to seem bossy when they are often put in charge or asked to tell the younger one it is time to come in or whatever. I’m the oldest of six, and I don’t think I have a reputation as the bossy older sister. I’ve tried not to be that way as an adult, and I don’t think I was as a child, though my sisters and brother might offer a different opinion if I asked them. 😀 My brother is four years younger and my oldest sister eight years young, and the next three followed a little more quickly, with the youngest being born when I was 17. A while after my parents divorced my brother went to live with my dad, and I was the official babysitter and acknowledged second-in-command to my mom. I don’t remember their being any resentment about that — it just seemed to be the way it was, and it may have been helped by the difference in our ages. A sibling closer in age might not have accepted it so easily, seeing me more as a peer, and I might have been more tempted to “lord it over” them if we were closer in age, trying to establish a shaky and unrecognized authority. But in our extended family, there is a sibling and spouse who very much hold on to the “we’re oldest, we’re in charge, we’re wiser” card (which really bugs me as another “oldest.” 🙂 ) I don’t know why I am going into all this and I may take this paragraph out — the view of the older sisters as antagonists just got me thinking. I was originally thinking maybe if an oldest child wasn’t put “in charge” except when really needed, that might lessen some of the younger children’s resentment, but I don’t know: human nature being what it is, people under the same roof are usually going to have some difficulties to work out one way or another.

The fact that reading (even children’s books) makes me think is one of the things I like about it, but to get back to these particular books: a part of me would love to continue on reading through the series. I’d love to see how the girls grow up. But the other stacks of books in my house and on my TBR list need attending to, so maybe I’ll come back to them another time. I do plan on introducing them to my grandchildren some day, especially if they are girls (I am very much planning to be the reading Grandma. Maybe reading and baking. 🙂 ).  But I might get back to the series even before then.

Thank you, Carrie and Annette, for introducing me to this series!

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

5 thoughts on “Betsy-Tacy

  1. Pingback: What’s On Your Nightstand: March 2013 | Stray Thoughts

  2. I’m so glad that you left that paragraph IN! It was fun getting to know you a little (lot?!) better through this post, Crystal Lovelace! 😀 (I love it. I always liked the name Polly growing up.)

    I’m the oldest but I was always told that I was NOT the mother. Maybe I tried too hard? Or I don’t know really. At any rate, my brother and I were two separate entities.

    I’m glad you gave these books a try! I love that they are quick reads and I do plan on reading them to my girl when she’s old enough. I look forward to that.

  3. Pingback: Saturday Review of Books March 30, 2013 | Semicolon

  4. Pingback: Books Read in 2013 | Stray Thoughts

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