Thursday, October 29, 2009

Heaven to Betsy discussion

Boston area Betsy-Tacy fans gathered in Waltham tonight to discuss Heaven to Betsy.
More than Words had created a great display of the new Betsy-Tacy reissues!
Below, Stephanie, Lisa and Kathleen discuss cover treatment.

***************************** Above, Constance, Julie, Lisa and Kate display their Betsy-Tacy tee shirts.
Next, Lucy and Kate learn how to play Consequences.
Here are our three favorites:
1. Fuzzy Tom met sweet Tib at the Big Hill on Saturday at noon. He said, "My time is my own!" She said, "Betsy-Tacy rules!" He sang at the top of his lungs. She ordered lots of pizza. And the world said, "She's a flibbertigibbit." And the consequence was: she ran for president.
2. Outgoing Tony met famous Julia at Yellowstone on Saturday morning. He said, "Can you spare a dime?" She said: "I want the brass bowl for Christmas!" He lent her a book. She dropped the brass bowl on the floor. And the world said, "See! This is what happens when you don't listen to me!" And the consequence was: Nobody got any fudge!
3. Chagrined Robert met smart Anastasia at Fenway Park on Tuesday. He said: "I don't like baseball." She said, "What time does the party start?" He flapped his arms. She put on a purple feather boa. And the world said: they are role models for our children. And the consequence was: Betsy moved away from Mankato.
Several attendees were reading Betsy-Tacy for the first time, one was sure she had read the books growing up in California, others were rediscovering a childhood favorite, and some (like me and my mother) had never stopped reading the beloved tomes. Thanks to all who attended and to More than Words for hosting!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Noel Coward's novel

I am still surprised that Jonathan Yardley did not respond to a letter I sent him last year about a book he'd been seeking, Gramercy Park, but I still enjoy his columns, particularly the "series in which the Post's book critic reconsiders notable and/or neglected books from the past." In November 2007, he devoted a full column to Laura Ingalls Wilder - if only he would devote that kind of space to Betsy-Tacy.

This week's article focuses Noel Coward, and in particular, his one novel, which is called Pomp and Circumstance. Yardley says "it is Coward to the core: a deliciously witty and ingenious entertainment that puts on full display his 'talent to amuse' (his own phrase, from the song 'If Love Were All') and his deep affection for distant, exotic and preferably sun-drenched parts of the world. It was received with considerable enthusiasm when it appeared, and -- this will come as no surprise to anyone who knows Coward's work -- holds up very well indeed after half a century."

I wish someone would bring it back into print so I could choose it for my book group!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

October is "Convert a Betsy-Tacy fan" month!

Here are some success stories:

At the top is Becky, who has enthusiastically read the whole series since meeting me in February! Becky is one of my most successful converts. I started her with Heaven to Betsy but after a few chapters she revealed herself as a series purist and demanded Betsy-Tacy. Although we grew up in the same town, accessing the same library, Becky had never come across Maud Hart Lovelace prior to meeting me (such deprivation!), but is a fan of other classic series, such as the All of a Kind Family. I bet Becky is wondering what she will do once she has read Emily of Deep Valley. . .

Next is my friend and former colleague Tawen, a brilliant lawyer who is studying in Hong Kong this year. Although I know fantasy is her preferred genre (and suspect that like me, she does not normally read series out of order), I sent her Betsy and the Great World because I thought it suitable given that she is embarked on an adventurous year herself. Having moved to the US as a teen, she missed out on a lot of children's classics, so I am sure she will love Betsy-Tacy. And I like the idea that someone is reading Betsy-Tacy in Asia! Remember, it just took one person to make Anne of Green Gables a phenomenon in Japan (and WWII)!Below, on the left is Nicole, who signed up to participate with her teenage daughter. She reports that both loved Heaven to Betsy. Of course, the real test is whether they hunt down the rest of the series. Below, on the right is Carrie, who I chose carefully, not only because she was once the only other person in a group of friends who had heard of and read Summer of My German Soldier but also because she has a daughter about 8 - prime age to read Betsy-Tacy. No word yet from Carrie: she can run but she can't hide.

Betsy-Tacy fans come in all sizes - and genders!

This Betsy-Tacy fan was up past his bedtime, which is why he wasn't smiling with joy over his new tee shirt from Willard's Emporium! Or could it be because his aunt bought it one size too large? Or possibly he was hoping for some Everything Pudding?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

News for Knitters or Crocheters

The Pine Street Inn, a very worth Boston organization that assists the homeless, is planning its third Knit-A-Thon, and is requesting 9 x 9 squares which will be assembled on November 8, 2009 to provide blankets for its Supportive Housing Program. This program provides permanent housing to women and men whose lives have been derailed by homelessness, giving them a new lease on life. Second, the participants knit 9” squares that are sewn together to create afghans for the Supportive Housing Program. Upon moving into their new home, each tenant receives a beautiful, unique, handmade blanket. Last year, they received thousands of squares, made 40 blankets in one day and raised nearly $20,000 to support the program.

Register for the Knit-a-Thon by contacting Marissa Pinksten at or at 617.892.9185. Knit or crochet 9”x 9” squares. They accept any yarn, any color, any weight, and any pattern. Each afghan requires 35 squares, but you don’t need to make an entire blanket’s worth. Please label the squares as “hand wash” or “machine wash" and please weave in your tails! Send or deliver the squares to:

Robyn Belsky, GE Healthcare, 116 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116 - to arrive before November 8th.

This seems like a great opportunity for those who cannot finish enough squares for an afghan (moi) or have odd lengths of yarn around (also moi).

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mother's Banana Bread

This is in response a question from my friend Lisa (known for her fondness of the Maize and Blue) today whether anyone really likes banana bread, and would choose it over a brownie or a lemon bar. Well, the brownie would have to be pretty stale or full of nuts for me to pass it up. But I am fairly sure I would pick banana bread over a lemon bar, and I suspect Lisa just hasn't had the right banana bread. This is the recipe I grew up with and even a non-cook like me can whip it up relatively quickly.

In fact, although my mother copied this recipe down for me from memory when I left home, I believe it originally came from the American Women's Cook Book that once belonged to my grandmother. Most annoyingly, it was recently featured on AbeBooks as being one of the bestselling out of print cookbooks. Annoying, I say, because my mother donated it to the Roxbury Latin Yard Sale several years ago.


1/2 cup (one stick) margarine
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed banana* (about 3; it helps if they are mushy)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder


Cream shortening and sugar together in medium size bowl. Add eggs, mix well. Add lemon juice to bananas and stir gently into batter. Add baking powder to flour and sift into bowl. Mix thoroughly until flour is completely absorbed.


Bake in loaf pan (I think mine is 8.5 x 4.5) at 350 for just under an hour until top is firm and slightly brown. Stick knife in - if still gooey in center, cook for 5 more minutes.

Serve warm and with butter! Or cold - it cuts better once it's cooled.


* My brother always had a Johnny Malone-like ability to eat all the bananas just as my mother was about to make banana bread.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Shipping up to Boston

I am pleased to hear that ALA Midwinter is going to be in Boston this year, just a few blocks from my office. I have attended ALA conventions twice, once tagging along with my mother, then a librarian at Northeastern, and as an exhibitor in 1999 in DC, but those were in the summer and it is in the winter that the Newbery Medal is awarded. For those who are interested, there is a blog at School Library Journal that actively discusses the potential contenders.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Constance and Tiny

My name is Constance. I am locked up in an evil mansion.

Say hello to Constance, a sweet, grateful, good little girl—NOT!
In fact, she’s a mischief-making, rule-breaking imp with a wicked gleam in her eye. Wherever she goes, trouble (and her enormous cat, Tiny) surely follow. That’s why children will go absolutely mad for her: Constance does exactly what they dream of doing in their naughtiest moments…and she’s never repentant.

Making the delicious Constance stories even more fun: the comic contrast between the deadpan text and the outrageous illustrations. Like the cheeky character herself, the pictures always say the opposite of the words.
However, the New Yorker does not care for this character, calling her a manipulator of demonic proportions! Isn't this writer taking the book(s) just a bit too seriously?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Literature of Childhood

How fun - Harvard is offering its alumni the opportunity to take a course with a noted Folklore and Mythology Professor, something I haven't done since the days of Hugh Flick* and Albert Lord!

Through the Looking Glass: The History, Philosophy and Literature of Childhood

“Childhood is unknown to us,” yet there are many different routes we can take to understand its deep complexities and compelling appeal. Join Professor Maria Tatar and alumni worldwide online as you look at the wonders and curiosities of childhood reading and study the revelatory power of classic tales. Register to take part in this exclusive program that will take you down the rabbit hole, into the wardrobe, and through the looking glass."

It consists of twelve online lectures, available through a special website or through podcasts, plus additional commentary from the professor, student discussions sessions and bonus guest lectures with authors Lois Lowry, Michael Buckley, and Gregory Maguire.

Sounds like more fun than my last two degrees, don't you think?!

* Since I last saw Hugh Flick (which I guess was at my sister's Yale graduation), he has been busy, having acquired a JD and MBA. I suppose he could say the same about me but he also has a PhD in Sanskrit and two Master's Degrees and his undergraduate Harvard degree! He was my roommate's thesis advisor; her topic was Sea Serpents.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Join us to discuss Heaven to Betsy!

The Greater Boston Betsy-Tacy Society invites you to
discuss the beloved, timeless books of Maud Hart Lovelace,
back in print by popular demand!

What: Heaven to Betsy by Maud Hart Lovelace, ISBN 9780061794698
In a new edition with Betsy In Spite of Herself, illustrated by Vera Neville, with an introduction by bestselling author Laura Lippman

Where: More than Words, 376 Moody Street, Waltham, Mass.
When: Thursday, October 29, 2009, 7:00–8:30 p.m.
In Heaven to Betsy, Betsy is a freshman at Deep Valley High School.
There are new friends to make and old friends to catch up with,
studies aplenty—including Latin and the dreaded algebra—hikes, picnics,
singing around the piano, choir practice, parties, making fudge—and boys!

More Than Words: Empowering Youth to Take Charge of Their Lives by Taking Charge of a Business. For more information, contact them at 781/788-0035 or visit