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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

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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