The Betsy Books

by Melanie Heuis­er Hill

book coverMy daugh­ter and I are fin­ish­ing what we call “The Bet­sy Books” — the won­der­ful series of books by Maud Hart Lovelace that fol­lows Bet­sy Ray and her friends as they grow up in Deep Val­ley, Min­neso­ta.

When I first read the Bet­sy Series, I start­ed with Bet­sy and the Great World and Betsy’s Wed­ding and did not dis­cov­er the ear­li­er books until we moved to Min­neso­ta, where they were all gath­ered togeth­er on a shelf in the library. My daugh­ter was intro­duced to the books in order, how­ev­er — we’ve read them togeth­er, and she lis­tened to the first two books over and over again because my moth­er record­ed them for her.

[A Small Aside: Record­ing books is a won­der­ful thing for grand­par­ents to do! Most computers/phones are equipped to make a pret­ty decent record­ing of a sin­gle voice. Doesn’t have to be fan­cy — my Mom just read the books aloud as if she were in the room read­ing to her grand­kids. Some­times she makes com­ments and asks ques­tions etc. When she’s fin­ished, she sends the book and the CD along in the mail — half of her grand­girls live far away, but all of them get the books and record­ings. What a gift!]

This week, daugh­ter and I are fin­ish­ing Emi­ly of Deep Val­ley—then on to Bet­sy and the Great World and Betsy’s Wed­ding. I can’t wait! I have such fond mem­o­ries of read­ing these books over and over again — I can remem­ber where I was sit­ting when read­ing many of them. We’ve had a won­der­ful time this last year or so read­ing the high school antics and angsts of Bet­sy and “The Crowd”. The details of shirt­waists and pom­padours, par­ties and danc­ing, train trips and con­tests are a hoot. We’ve had to look up vocab­u­lary, ref­er­ences, and songs (there’s a Bet­sy-Tacy Song­book!) here and there, and we’ve learned a lot.

bk_Betsy-Tacy-Songbook-coverThis is a great series  to read over sev­er­al years — fun to read about the five year old Bet­sy, Tacy, and Tib when your read­ing part­ner is five. (The books are writ­ten at age appro­pri­ate lev­els, as well — the ear­ly books are great “ear­ly chap­ter book” reads.) Now that my read­ing part­ner is about to enter her teens, we’ve been read­ing about The Crowd in their high school years. As the Deep Val­ley friends head off to col­lege, we mar­vel at how dif­fer­ent and how sim­i­lar her brother’s expe­ri­ence of head­ing out will be. He won’t be tak­ing a trunk on a train, that’s for sure.

We live in Min­neso­ta, home of the fic­tion­al­ized Deep Val­ley, which is real­ly Manka­to, Min­neso­ta. My Mom, daugh­ter, and I have vis­it­ed the sites in Manka­to — tremen­dous fun can be had there. There are cel­e­bra­tions held every year — the Bet­sy-Tacy Soci­ety does a valu­able and tremen­dous job of keep­ing the sto­ries and the lit­er­ary land­marks from the books alive and well.

I did not read this series with our son. Maybe we read the ear­li­est books when he was very young; but I don’t think he would find the tales of Mag­ic Wavers and house par­ties all that inter­est­ing. Although I despise the notion of “girl books” and “boy books,” I don’t know many men enam­ored with this series. Prove me wrong, dear read­ers! Tell me you read Bet­sy Tacy and Tib each year. Tell me your broth­er per­pet­u­al­ly reads the high school books, or your hus­band slips a vol­ume in his suit­case when he trav­els. Per­haps you have a co-work­er who keeps his child­hood set on his office cre­den­za?

Should these men not be in your life, grab a girl­friend and take in this year’s Deep Val­ley Home­com­ing! Or, if you’re male and intrigued, take your wife/sister/daughter. Maybe I’ll see you there.


7 Responses to The Betsy Books

  1. Kathleen Sills Waldron June 13, 2015 at 7:45 pm #

    Long-time fan, have a daugh­ter named Emi­ly, my hus­band has read all of the books (as an adult, after he met me). You need to join Maud‑l, the list­serve, which had been around for over 20 years! I will dig up the info and send it to you or you may be able to Google it. — Kath­leen Wal­dron in Phoenix, AZ

  2. Kathleen Sills Waldron June 13, 2015 at 7:47 pm #

    Has, not had, and Lau­rie B‑Z will give you the info. 🙂

  3. Mary June 13, 2015 at 9:21 pm #

    I read the first four books to my two sons when they were young and they loved them and think they will love read­ing them to their chil­dren, and so will I ! Thanks for the tip on record­ing the books . A per­fect thing for a grand­moth­er to do !
    My hus­band has lis­tened to Bet­sy-Tacy on audio , as read by Sut­ton Fos­ter and loved it . He often rec­om­mends the books to his co-work­ers and has even passed out B‑T book­marks with series infor­ma­tion .
    The answer is yes, men and boys can and do love Bet­sy-Tacy ( and Tib) and the women who love them , too .

  4. Linda June 13, 2015 at 10:11 pm #

    I wish you would have all the books in audio. They have all the Anne of Green Gables books in audio.

  5. Melanie June 15, 2015 at 8:12 am #

    So won­der­ful to hear of the men and boys read B‑T-T! Love it! I sus­pect­ed if I put the ques­tion out there I might get good replies. Thank you all for shar­ing. Kath­leen, I actu­al­ly know Lau­rie B‑Z! Mary, we are huge fans of audio books, but I don’t think I’ve ever lis­tened to B‑T-T.…perhaps this can be reme­died on the car ride to take my son to col­lege. Nev­er too late! Lin­da, I’m with you – Anne of GG done well in audio would be won­der­ful. Upcom­ing Red Read­ing Boots on Anne Shirley – my absolute favorite books ever.

  6. Ben August 13, 2016 at 2:50 pm #

    I just stum­bled across your post now, so you will prob­a­bly nev­er see this com­ment, but I am a 40 year old man who dis­cov­ered the Deep Val­ley books in my pub­lic library when I was ten. I had a love-hate rela­tion­ship with them when I was young, I guess because I did­n’t want to love any girl-books so deeply, but now my set of eleven orig­i­nal edi­tions (along with the paper­back of Car­ney’s House Par­ty) are among my most promi­nent­ly dis­played books at home, and if I don’t reread them all every sin­gle year, it’s close. I def­i­nite­ly nev­er read one with­out read­ing the rest. The hair and hat descrip­tions aren’t my favorite parts, but there actu­al­ly isn’t as much of it as fans make out there is. It’s the rich char­ac­ters I love. The turn­ing point in my rela­tion­ship with the books was when I vis­it­ed Lovelace’s grave in Manka­to (I saw all the hous­es too, of course, but the gravesite was where I was real­ly affect­ed) and real­ized I was in the pres­ence of an old, close friend.

    • Melanie Heuiser Hill August 16, 2016 at 11:18 am #

      Ben – what a won­der­ful tes­ti­mo­ny! I’m so glad you left a com­ment – made my day to hear your sto­ry with these books!

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