Friday, October 16, 2009

Books: Betsy-Tacy Reading Challenge

We're half-way through the month of October and I'm done!  I've read all 10 of the Betsy-Tacy books ... I pre-read the four younger ones (and String Bean and I are working through those together) and then I read all six of the teen and young adult ones.  What a great series.

I think the reason the books have such a loyal and vocal following is that these books ring true -- in every book you get the sense of family and love and loyalty and the simple pleasures.  The sentiment is a bit akin to Dorothy clicking her heals and saying "there's no place like home, there's no place like home."

And home can be the little cottage across from Tacy's house on Hill Street .... or the house on the windy junction of High and Plum Streets ... or the house in Minneapolis ... or the house she settles into in married life -- they're all home!  Why?  Because Betsy always has her family around her in lifeperson or in spirit.  The letters that fly back and forth during times away ... or the phone calls to catch up ... or the late-night sessions: all keep the family connected and strong and involved.

I think that these book read so well today because many of us miss those days: the days of staying in the same town for years and building up friendships and connections that stand the test of time.  We miss the long, hand-written letters that people used to write, the ones that have been replaced by IMs or txt-msgs or emails.  We're all so busy now in our own worlds we don't have time to share with our family or friends.

Betsy-Tacy books give us back those times to share.  The B-T books give us a slap in the face that says we can have much of this back again ... in addition to our IMs and emails when those are needed. 

Now, having read these ten books, which is my favorite? 

For me, my favorite is Betsy's Wedding. This should really be titled "Betsy's Marriage" since the wedding is done right at the beginning but the book goes on to show how Betsy and her husband are able to balance married life with working/writing and impending war.  The book is a great portrayal of what marriage can and should be: a meeting of two lives that become interwoven into one life, with some give and take, some sacrifice and obedience, some hard and stressful times.  But all of the life is imbued with love ... and because of the love, all comes right in the end.

That said, I think the favorite for anyone reading these books is going to be based on where the reader is when he/she reads the book.  For my 9-yod, her favorite is Betsy-Tacy and Tib, because String Bean is part of a triumvirate of friends and sees herself and her two friends in each of the characters.  When String Bean is in high school, I'm sure she'll find that the high school books become the favored reading. 

And that's at the core of the BT books -- because the characters grow through the books, the reader can grow with Betsy.  The reader can start out a young girl and become an active, happy, popular woman without sacrificing her family and friends, without losing the heart!  The reader can see herself in Tacy's natural friendliness to boys without romance, or Tib's inability to find love until she acts like herself.  The reader can see that families all have their differences and yet, if real love is present, than all works out in the end. 

Maud Hart Lovelace wrote these books about her own growing up years; growing up in the first half of the 20th century in a small town near Minneapolis.  These books were written from the heart, to show a world filled with love in a time when the World was filled with war.  Both of those worlds still exist, but the BT books help us to see that love of family and love of friendship will always win out against the war-torn world.

If you've never read the Betsy-Tacy books, either to yourself or your children, here are the books, listed in chronological order.  I think you'll find they become favorites in your house, too.
  1. Betsy-Tacy -- at 5 years old the friendship begins
  2. Betsy-Tacy and Tib -- at 8 years old, the pair find a third to join in
  3. Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill -- at 10, the girls are starting to spread their wings a bit
  4. Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown -- at 12, the girls begin to really see the world around them
  5. Heaven to Betsy/Betsy Inspite of Herself -- 9th and 10th grade pass with a bit of teenage angst
  6. Betsy was a Junior/Betsy and Joe -- 11th and 12th grade get the girls ready to launch on the world
  7. Betsy and the Great World/Betsy's Wedding -- Betsy's world tour and marriage don't slow down the friendship or love of family

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