Discovering Betsy-Tacy: Betsy was a Junior/Besty and Joe

Betsy was a Junior by Maud Hart Lovelace

Tib is back! She has left Milwaukee to rejoin Betsy and Tacy in Deep Valley. Julia has gone off to college and when she returns home with the news of fancy sororities, Betsy decides that’s just what The Crowd needs. But the sorority distracts Betsy from school and causes ill-feelings throughout the school.

Betsy and Joe by Maud Hart Lovelace

We all knew this was coming. The day Betsy and Joe finally get together. But before we can get there, Betsy has to decide what Tony means to her now that he has expressed his feelings. Meanwhile, Julia is off seeing the world and writing home about it and Tacy might actually be showing some interest in love herself.

My Thoughts:

Once again, I simply love returning to Deep Valley book after book. The boys, the dances, the friendship, the drama all remind me of my own time in high school nearly a century later. I am sad that I only have two books left. It’s taking me awhile but I am savoring my time with this series.

Previous Betsy-Tacy reviews: Betsy-Tacy; Betsy-Tacy and Tib; Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill; Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown; Betsy Heaven to Betsy; Betsy in Spite of Herself

Betsy in Spite of Herself [A Belated Review]

I didn’t quite finish Betsy in Spite of Herself in time to complete the Maud Hart Lovelace Challenge hosted by A Library is a Hospital for the Mind, but I am hoping Sarah will forgive my tardiness.

Once again I was completely enchanted by Betsy Ray. Betsy in Spite of Herself follows Betsy through her sophomore year of high school.  She faces challenges at school, a trip to the big city of Milwaukee to visit Tib, and her First Big Love Affair (as Tacy calls it). She makes great attempts to change her personality throughout but the real Betsy comes shining through.

Again, I am struck by the similarities of Betsy’s high school life in 1908 to mine in 1998. Apparently the passing of almost a century is not enough to change the high school experience of boys, friends, parties, grades, and the self-conscious worries all teenage girls must have.

Reading the Betsy-Tacy books is like curling up with a blanket and a big mug of hot chocolate on a cold night. Even though I didn’t read them when I was younger, there is something comforting about it. I can’t believe I let an entire year pass between reading Heaven to Betsy and Betsy in Spite of Herself. I will not make that mistake again, so stay tuned for more Betsy-Tacy posts this winter. In the meantime, you can read the other challenge posts here.

The Return of the Maud Hart Lovelace Reading Challenge

I have essentially given up on challenges. I’m not good at them. As soon as I sign up, I lose all interest in the books I’m supposed to read. But I actually finished this challenge last year and I love that Sarah is hosting it again.

Here are the rules (taken from the host, A Library is a Hospital for the Mind):

1. Select which Lovelace book (or books) you wish to read during the coming month.

2. Write a post announcing your plans to participate in the challenge. You can include your reading list or just use the post to spread the word about the reading challenge to your readers. Then sign up here by linking your name and blog to the challenge (see Mr. Linky below).

3. Email me if you would like to post the MHLRC button on your blog or website. (libraryhospital AT gmail DOT com).

4. Return throughout the month to learn more about the opportunities to win either Emily of Deep Valley or Carney’s House Party/Winona’s Pony Cart thanks to the generosity of HarperCollins Publishers who have offered to mail complimentary copies to the winning participants in this challenge. The other give-aways will include Betsy-Tacy themed totes and other Maud Hart Lovelace related gifts. Check back each Sunday during the month of October to see what is being given-away and how to enter for a chance to win.

5. Visit around the blogs of other MHLRC participants. It’s a great opportunity to get to know fellow bibliophiles and find out what books they love.

6. Come back on Sunday, October 31, 2010 and link up your final Maud Hart Lovelace related posts/reviews or reading challenge wrap-up.

I am going to be really easy on myself this time and only sign up to read one book – Betsy in Spite of Herself. But, I will give myself extra credit if I can also read the next two Betsy-Tacy books: Betsy was a Junior and Betsy and Joe.

If you’ve never read any Besty-Tacy, this is a great opportunity to start. I was a newbie during this challenge last year. If you haven’t revisited the books in awhile, why not sign up and read a couple? And if you haven’t read the newly reissued (thanks once more, I believe, to Book Club Girl) companion books, Emily of Deep Valley or Carney’s House Party/Winona’s Pony Cart, this is a perfect opportunity.

I hope you all sign up. Betsy-Tacy fans are kind of awesome and I promise you will have fun.

Discovering Betsy-Tacy #5: Heaven to Betsy and Maud Hart Lovelace Challenge Wrap-up

Heaven to Betsy

Knowing she looked pretty now, feeling successful and gay, Betsy smiled.
“How do you like high school?” she asked.
“I like it.  Do you?”
“I think it’s just Heaven.”
“Heaven to Betsy!” he said.

When I first considered reading the Betsy-Tacy books, Emily told me that I had to at least get to Heaven to Betsy to make my decision about them even if it meant skipping earlier books to get there.  I didn’t skip any books, but I have been anxiously awaiting the high school books.  The Earlier books are fine, but definitely meant for young readers.  Emily was right.  Heaven to Betsy was simply wonderful and could be enjoyed by anyone.

Heaven to Betsy is the first of the older Betsy-Tacy books.  I got my hands on one of the new editions that bundles it with Betsy in Spite of Herself (which I’m itching to read but making myself finish some other books first).  In Heaven to Betsy, Betsy is just starting her first year of high school.  It opens with her away from home for the summer and feeling very homesick.  When she returns, she finds out her family is moving and she will no longer live across the street from Tacy.  Tib has moved back to Milwaukee by this time.  All of these changes put Betsy in a “mood.”  But this all changes when she starts making new friends and becomes very, very interested in boys.  All of her adventures as a teenager left me grinning from ear to ear as I read.

Reading about Betsy’s high school years really didn’t seem that different than my high school years.  Passing notes, talking on the phone, gossiping, and hanging out with friends.  “The Crowd” as Betsy’s group of friends was called was similar to the group I hang out with (including the swapping of affection).  Of course, my friends and I had an even less creative name and just referred to everyone as “The Group” which was sometimes broken down to “The Boys” and “The Girls.”  Betsy experiences her first crush, her first kiss (on the cheek), and her first heartache.  Growing up in 1900s Minnesota didn’t really seem that different than growing up in 1990s Michigan was for me.

The Rays are such an amazing family.  Mr. and Mrs. Ray have the kind of marriage that must make even happy couples jealous.  And what wonderful parents they are – always listening to their children and understanding their troubles.  When Betsy and Julia want to become Episcopalians, their Baptist parents see that they are serious and allow them to make that important decision.  This book also made me wish I had a sister.  Although I love him, my brother was no Julia.

The Rays home seems so cozy and inviting.  I want to have a home like that someday.  I love the idea of Sunday Night Lunch.  Anyone can stop by and Mr. Ray does the cooking.  A night for friends, family, and fun.  Go here to check out a real life Sunday Night Lunch.

At first, I was afraid that Tacy was getting left behind as Betsy experience high school, but throughout the book you can tell they are still close and the book ends with a touching scene of the two of them.

I can’t wait to keep reading these books.

Maud Hart Lovelace Challenge Wrap-up

By finishing Heaven to Betsy, I have completed the Maud Hart Lovelace Challenge (my first completed challenge ever!).  For this challenge, I read:

  • Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill
  • Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown
  • Heaven to Betsy

My favorite book was, of course, Heaven to Betsy, but I enjoyed them all.  Thanks to S. Mehrens of A Library is a Hospital of the Mind for hosting this challenge.  If you want to read other reviews,click here.

Discovering Betsy-Tacy #4: Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown

Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown by Maud Hart Lovelace

This is the last of the younger Betsy-Tacy books, before Betsy grows up and goes to high-school and beyond.  Betsy, Tacy, and Tib are now 12 and they are starting to grow up.  They can go downtown on their own (hmm…wonder where the title came from) and they take an interest in the theater for the first time.

The book takes us through some more adventures with the trio and like Over the Big Hill, it is more of a fluid story than the first two books.  This was another Read-a-Thon book and it was really a great one for the evening hours.

My favorite thing about this book was all of the “modern conveniences” that are introduced.  The Rays get their first telephone (which I imagine to be a lot like my family getting it’s first computer when I was 10 or the internet when I was 14 or even that first car phone my dad had that came in a bag).  And best of all – there is a HORSELESS CARRIAGE!  And it can go 16 miles per hour!

I must say that I really enjoyed this one, but I am most excited for the later books.  I’ve started Heaven to Betsy and I’m just loving it.  Boys, clothes, gossip – all in 1906.

Discovering Betsy-Tacy #3: Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill

I enjoyed this book a whole lot more than the first two books.  Instead of simply some nice little stories packaged into one book, this one actually had a plot.  Betsy, Tacy, and Tib have turned 10 and their book is growing up as well (they do have two numbers in their ages after all).  At the beginning of the book, they fall in love with the new, young Spanish King.  But this facsination soon turns into crowning a queen of their own.  Unfortunately, similar plans are being made elsewhere and a family fued is brewing.   The result is, of course, a happy one for all and the adventure along the way is very entertaining.

I absolutely loved Little Syria!  I love the idea of a little middle-eastern town in the middle of Minnesota (is this part real?).  The characters were wonderful and the lesson to young readers about tolerance and acceptance is important.  This also seems way ahead of its time (I have a feeling this is going to be a theme).  Given the way people view Arabs today, I have to imagine they were not well-received 100 years ago.  Kudos to Maud Hart Lovelace for writing this.

I also learned (from the back of the book) that the illustrator, Lois Lenski lived in Tarpon Springs, FL.  My copy actually said that she lives there.  Seeing as she pased away in 1974, I think my library has a very old copy of this book.  Anyway, Tarpon Springs is the town we lived in when we first moved to Florida and the town where Ben still teaches high school.  It’s always a little fun to learn facts like that.

I also learned something about myself.  I should not check two books in a series out at one time.  First I started reading Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown before I realized that was the fourth book.  Then I accidentally returned Book 4 when I meant to return Book 3 and I had to re-request it.

I’m still hoping to tackle the next two books this month as part of the Maud Hart Lovelace challenge.  The Readathon should help.

Maud Hart Lovelace Reading Challenge

How perfect that this reading challenge hosted by S at A Library is a Hospital for the Mind coincides with my first reading of the Betsy-Tacy series.  The challenge only goes through October 31, so I’m not going to be too ambitious, but I will plan on reading the next three books in the series by then:

  • Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill
  • Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown
  • Heaven to Betsy [I’m very excited to get to the first high school book]

Here’s hoping the library cooperates.

[Originally posted at michellen.vox.com.  For the original post and comments, click here.]