I can’t tell you where my love for Betsy-Tacy started, only that I’ve loved this series for as long as I can remember. I only owned but a few of them, the rest I hunted carefully, in the branches of our county library system, in the stacks of our tiny town public library (up the ramp to children’s, middle set of bookshelves, right hand side, second case from the wall, almost to the bottom shelf) and even got to place a few interlibrary loans (a completely magical enterprise). When the whole series was reissued a few years ago I couldn’t resist snapping up a complete set.
When I first started teaching third grade, I carefully tucked the first four in the series into my classroom library hoping they’d be picked up and cherished. Of course, with their well-loved covers and yellowing pages they sat neglected until I became sure enough of myself as a teacher to press them into the hands of these modern little girls I teach. Girls who have been raised on text messages and Miley Cyrus strutting across a stage half naked. I needn’t have worried. Despite being removed from Betsy’s era by nearly a century (can you imagine!) the books went like hotcakes. I kept methodical waiting lists, patiently answered questions about petticoats, pompadours and milkmen and beguiled them by showing them internet links to The Betsy-Tacy Society and The Maud Hart Lovelace Society. But the moment when I knew I had truly won them over (who am I kidding, Maud Hart Lovelace won them over) was when the school librarian asked them to write down requests for her to purchase for the school library. There among the requests for Diary of a Wimpy Kid, More Dan Gutman!, and anything Hannah Montana were slips requesting the Betsy-Tacy series.
Like many of my favorites, Betsy-Tacy is historical fiction. The series starts out in the halcyon days of Betsy’s childhood in Deep Valley (based closely on Maud Hart Lovelace’s childhood in Mankato, MN). She and Tacy are just five and have all sorts of adventures that only require a good imagination (rather than a steady stream of electronic toys). This first book in the series is short and sweet, a lovely read-aloud or read-alone. Because of the historical setting, there may be some difficult vocabulary for children. I’ve found many third graders can read this independently if they’re checked in upon. The most confusing part for young readers is that Betsy makes up fantasy stories that star her and Tacy. There is little transition between these sections and some children become confused as to what is really part of the book and what is one of Betsy’s stories.
Editor’s Note: To read more about the books in the Betsy-Tacy series, head on over to Between These Pages. Want your own copy? Betsy-Tacy books are available from Amazon in either paperback or hardback. (Or get the whole Betsy-Tacy Treasury!)