September 24, 2012
Yesterday's New York Times Book Review contained an essay by Perri Klass on the Betsy-Tacy series. I love this series even though I didn't discover it until I was an adult reading to my own daughter. We read all ten books, and because this was the first chapter book series that I read to her, she would cry when we got to the last chapter and ask me not to finish the book. We loved the characters and their adventures.
As a parent, I recommend this series to all mothers and daughters. I especially love the positive female relationships and the fact that once Betsy and Tacy meet Tib in the second book, they have the best of times when all three friends are together. (No girl drama or "three's a crowd," here.) As a reader and a writer, I recommend this classic series to all aspiring children's book authors as a model text. (Ms. Klass points out in her essay that the early books, aimed at a younger audience contain simple sentences and vocabulary, while the later books contain more complex sentences and richer vocabulary.) As a teacher, I recommend this series as an opportunity to incorporate Common Core learning standards by layering in nonfiction and the arts. When the series opens it is 1897 and Betsy is about to turn 5. By the tenth book, Betsy's Wedding, it is 1917 and World War I is raging. What a wonderful opportunity for examining the historical backdrop to the plot. Also, music figures prominently in each book. Thanks to the Betsy-Tacy Society in Mankato, Minnesota, you can order cds of The Music of Deep Valley, featuring songs from the books. Of course, we know that music counts as text, so here is another way to analyze the cultural contributions of the time.
Speaking of time, I love the way this series stands the test of time, and reveals that young people's emotions haven't changed much in the last hundred years. As Betsy enters high school, she becomes more interested in her social life than her studies, and consequently loses the essay writing contest to a boy who was never as good a writer or student as she had been. Most of all, I love that this series is based on author Maud Hart-Lovelace's own childhood experiences.
If you haven't read this series yet, I urge you to go to the bookstore and buy a print copy. Notice, I didn't write order it on your Nook or Kindle, or check it out of the library, because I would love to see these books stay in print. The only way to keep older books in print is to create a demand for them. Believe me, this series is worth the investment.