As promised, here are my reviews of the first four books in the Betsy-Tacy series. I pretty much just copied and pasted the very same review I posted on Goodreads, though I did add some quotes and pictures.
A delightful book that celebrates the innocence and imagination of childhood. This book is written for a very young audience and makes a perfect read-aloud. When I was little, all I wanted was a friend like Tacy. :) I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: growing up is okay, but nothing compares to the magic of childhood—when simple things can become most adventurous and exciting. This book is the first in a series of ten books about Betsy (plus two books about other characters in which she is mentioned). The reading level and plots DO increase as the books progress and the characters mature. So don’t give up on the series if you are an older reader and find this one boring. (Though I still think it is charming!) This is a series that no childhood should be without.
"We'll have lots of fun," said Betsy. "You and me and Tacy. Lots of things will happen." And so they did.
** spoiler alert ** I think I like this one even more than Betsy-Tacy. Maud's descriptions are balm to my soul. For example:
It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside. (p. 4)
Such a beautiful turn of phrase. I also really love all of her descriptions of wildflowers and sunsets. :)
For some of the things they did, like the flying (Chapter 2 and 3), I thought that it seemed a bit odd that eight-year-olds wouldn’t know that you can’t fly. But perhaps they were just really innocent and had not ever been told otherwise. Maybe kids today are a bit more cynical because of the media and so many other outside influences? I don’t know.
Poor Tib! I kind of dislike that her dad says she can’t be an architect. There’s nothing at all wrong with being a housewife, but I just feel sorry for her that that option was imposed on her at the exclusion of any other career ambitions (p. 49).
The "Everything Pudding" story (Chapter 5) is fun but am I the only one who cringes at the waste of food? (p. 64) Haha, I'm such a miser. I still love the story, though. I feel kind of the same way about the haircutting thing. I can relate to their mothers’ reactions on that one! They all have such beautiful hair. But…I actually did something very similar when I was little (cut off half my hair—just one braid), but for decidedly different reasons. My plan was more premeditated and not at all sentimental; I just really wanted a haircut!
I thought it was interesting that the girls liked to talk about God. It did bother me a little that their view of faith was so, well, depressing. There is truth in what Betsy and Tacy say (that we are “born bad" (p. 100), etc.) but they don't mention the hope in Jesus’ redemption! Christianity is not a dour religion. I wish the girls understood that more. They seem very receptive to things of a spiritual nature, and I think that is true of a lot of children. I just wish that instead of deploring their bad actions, they had tried to do GOOD things and reward those. But, I suppose the whole story about the stones (Chapter 8) wouldn’t be quite as entertaining that way. :) I understand that, but I also think that kids have a great potential—an underestimated one—to really do good and be holy. I think the sentence at the end of Chapter 8 really expresses this:
In silence the three of them looked at the sunset and thought about God.
I find that really beautiful and sweet. :)
It's interesting to first read these as a kid and then come back many years later and read them when I am older. And guess what? I still love them! (Though I may be over-thinking some things here a little.) Children's books or not, this is one of the most delightful series you could ever hope to read.
** spoiler alert ** My enjoyment in rereading this series is increasing exponentially as I continue. I really think the books just get better and better. :)
Poor Tib gets left out in this title, though she is still very much part of the story. The information at the back of the book says that Maud's original idea for a title was "Betsy-Tacy and Tib are Ten", but her publisher disagreed.
I love how Tacy and then Tib move in to defend Naifi when all the boys are so cruelly teasing her (Chapter 5), and Mrs. Muller's response to the incident (p. 75). I wonder what ever happened to Naifi? I don't recall her being mentioned in subsequent books.
The friction of Julia and Katie versus Betsy, Tacy, and Tib is a big part of this book. I feel like Maud portrays the younger sister/older sister relationship very realistically. Even though the story is told from the younger girls' perspective, we can see Katie and Julia's side, too:
Julia and Katie were good big sisters, as big sisters go, and Betsy and Tacy were no more exasperating than other little sisters. (p. 78)
I also find the part when they all finally make up to be really sweet.
Another favorite incident is when the girls are collecting votes for who will be queen. It is interesting to peek into the homes of so many Deep Valley residents. I had forgotten about "the deaf and dumb family" (p. 93) and I thought the mention of them, and that they taught Betsy, Tacy, and Tib sign language, was really neat. I would've loved to learn more about them. Oh, and it's fun how at the end of that chapter I felt perfectly furious at Katie and Julia sitting there eating their cake and ice cream after getting all those votes at the Ice Cream Social. :)
I also wondered: did the King of Spain write to them in real life? It seems a little improbable, but I suppose it could happen.
Those are just a few of my favorite parts of this book, though I thoroughly enjoyed the entire story.
They soon stopped being ten years old. But whatever age they were seemed to be exactly the right age for having fun.
** spoiler alert ** Another perfectly delightful volume in the Betsy-Tacy series. This book might be my favorite of the first four, though I really don't know how I could ever choose.
I have SO many favorite scenes in this book: Betsy writing in the maple tree, when Betsy gets her desk, Betsy going to the library, window shopping, bobsledding, "Flossie's Accident" (at first I thought it was weird but now I find it hilarious), Mrs. Poppy's party, Christmas morning, the reunion with Uncle Keith...etc. there is basically not a part of the book that I don't love. The wintery parts in this story are especially cozy. :)
This book serves as a perfectly toned bridge in the series. Betsy, Tacy, and Tib are starting to grow up: Betsy can go downtown on her own, Tib gets an important role in a play, and even shy Tacy admits that she finds Herbert Humphrey cute. While Betsy has always wanted to be a writer, in this book she first starts to take steps to make that goal happen. Despite the fact that the girls are now twelve, they are not too old to annoy Julia and her beau, invent elaborate stories, or try to hypnotize the impish Winona.
I get such a kick out of Betsy. She's flawed but wonderful. I love how she is such "a talker."
Betsy liked to talk. Her father always said she got it from her mother, and her mother always said she got it from her father. But whomever she got it from she was certainly a talker. (p. 112)
I have a great fondness for most of the main characters in these books, though--right down to Miss Sparrow! Maud has such a matter-of-fact, yet tender, insight into human nature, and I always feel refreshed after spending time with the town and people she wrote about.
With the recently re-reprinted Betsy-Tacy Treasury, all four of these books are available in one volume. (Just so you know, I'm not paid or rewarded in anyway for mentioning that.)
This post is part of the Maud Hart Lovelace Reading Challenge.