Sunday, April 16, 2023

Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace – for the #1940Club

Title: Betsy-Tacy
Author: Maud Hart Lovelace
Publication: Thomas Y. Crowell, hardcover, 1940
Genre: Juvenile historical fiction
Setting: 1900s Deep Valley, Minnesota
This week, Karen of Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings and Simon of Stuck in a Book hosted the 1940 Club in which we all read and write about books published that year.  Naturally, I could not ignore a book by one of my favorite authors, however many times I may have read it.

Description: It was difficult, later to think of a time when Betsy and Tacy had not been friends. The house across the street from the Rays had been empty for years and Betsy hoped a girl her age would move in. When the Kelly family arrives on Hill Street, the children include Katie, the same age as Julia Ray, and Tacy, the same age as Betsy. Tacy attends Betsy’s fifth birthday party and the two girls hit it off. Betsy received many gifts that day. But the nicest present she received was not the usual kind of present. It was the present of a friend. It was Tacy.

Betsy and Tacy have many adventures together. Picnics on the bench at the top of the hill with Mrs. Kelly’s unfrosted cake while Betsy told Tacy stories. They turn a piano box into a playhouse. They start school together – Tacy is bashful and tries to run home but Betsy runs after her and persuades her to come back to school. They play with paper dolls and color Easter eggs, using the leftover dye to tint sand. When Tacy’s baby sister dies, only Betsy is able to console Tacy. And they fall in love with the sound of distant Milwaukee, then are delighted to make a new friend, Tib Muller, who has left that melodious city for their own Deep Valley.
My Impression: The Betsy-Tacy books grew out of bedtime stories that Maud Hart Lovelace told her daughter Merian about growing up in Mankato, Minnesota at the turn of the century. Like Maud, Betsy wants to be a writer and she practices her storytelling on her friends until she is old enough to write poetry and stories. In this first book of the series, Betsy celebrates her fifth birthday by meeting Tacy and gaining her friendship. The book is written at a second or third-grade level and the characters get older as the series continues, following Betsy, Tacy, and their friend Tib until they are adults and World War I has begun. The series also increases in difficulty as it progresses so that once Betsy reaches 14, the books are well suited to girls approaching teenage years. I recommend that adult readers begin with Heaven to Betsy, fifth in the series, in which Betsy begins high school.

Why do people love the Betsy-Tacy books so much that they pilgrimage to Mankato, MN to see the house Maud Hart grew up in? This house, along with the house across the street owned by the Kellys, have been purchased by the Betsy-Tacy Society and can be visited by fans. Readers love the Ray family - Betsy’s maddening but supportive sister Julia; her little sister Margaret; fun loving Mrs. Ray who thinks her daughters can do no wrong; and upright Mr. Ray who supports his elder daughters’ career ambitions at a time when that was unusual. Mr. and Mrs. Ray welcome the girls’ friends to their home: Mrs. Ray plays the piano so they can dance and Mr. Ray is the genial host of Sunday Night Lunch. Most of this does not happen in the first book but few readers stop with just one! I recently gave two books to the granddaughter of a friend and just got this note – it is always gratifying to introduce a new reader to a favorite author.
Source: Personal copy.  I also read this for The Intrepid Reader's 2023 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.


kaggsysbookishramblings said...

Thanks for this, and for all your reviews this week - great to have your involvement in the 1940 Club! :D

TracyK said...

Great review and with a good overview of the series too. Sometime I have to try the book you suggested for adults to start with. That is a lovely note from your friend's grandchild.

Lory said...

Oh, I didn't realize this would have fit for the 1940 club! I hope you introduced some new readers with this review. I was too disorganized to read anything for the club this week, but I'll have to give it a reread before too long.

Jennifer said...

What an absolutely lovely note to have received! I didn't realize the Betsy-Tacy Books fit the 1940 Club but I hope people discover them through your review. I loved them as a kid and still love them. I don't own them all. Maybe I need to remedy that.

Marg said...

I hadn't heard of the 1940s Club. I suspect that there would be lots of interesting books reviewed as part of that.

Thanks for sharing your review with the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge