Friday, July 1, 2016

Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace

Lately I’ve been looking to Christian fiction for light, quick reading, but surgery without anesthesia would have been less tortuous than the contrived plots, poorly developed characters, wooden dialogue and  tacked-on Christian platitudes found there.

So, after looking for love in all the wrong places, I picked up the children’s classic, Betsy-Tacy, and breathed a sigh of relief. This is the first in a series of books about two little girls living in Minnesota at the turn of the 20th century. Tacy (short for Anastacia) and Betsy are five when they meet and soon become inseparable; each chapter is a vignette of their imaginative adventures.

The stories are sweet in a way that you won't find in most modern children's lit, but they are not syrupy since the children experience the real-life trials. In the midst of these challenges Betsy and Tacy and their families demonstrate patience, kindness, faith, and friendship.
Chapter 8, "Easter," was my favorite because of the natural, tender way in which death and resurrection are discussed by the girls. After Tacy’s baby sister dies, the two walk and talk together early in the morning. Their conversation is clearly a mixture of things they've heard from their parents and their own childish understanding of heaven. 

They went up the Big Hill until they found a tree with branches low enough to reach, and they climbed that and sat there. Somewhere a bird was singing a little up and down song. They couldn’t see him but they could hear him. His busy up and down song was the only sound in the world. Hill Street was still sleeping, but the color in the sky was spreading. Gold sticks in the shape of a fan were sticking up over the hill.
            After a while Tacy said, “It smelled like Easter in the church. Baby Bee looked awful pretty. She had candles all around her.
            “Did she?” asked Betsy.
            “But my mamma felt awful bad,” said Tacy.
             Betsy said nothing.
             Of course, said Tacy,” you know that Bee has gone to heaven.”
             “Oh, of course,” said Betsy.
             But Tacy’s lip was shaking. That made Betsy feel queer. So she said quickly, “Heaven’s awful nice.”
            “Is it?” asked Tacy, looking toward her. Her eyes were big and full of trouble.
            “Yes,” said Betsy. “It’s like that sunrise. In fact,” she added, “that is heaven. We can’t see it during the day, but early in the morning they let us have a peek.”
            “It’s pretty,” said Tacy staring.
            “Those gold sticks you see, those are candles,” said Betsy. “There’s a gold-colored light all the time. And there are harps to play on; they’re something like pianos. But you don’t need to take any lessons. You just know how to play. Bee’s having a good time up there,” said Betsy, looking up at the sky.

The Betsy-Tacy books would make wonderful read-alouds for little girls. They are a calmer version of the Anne of Green Gables’ books. The subtle messages of family, friendship, and imaginative play along with light-hearted, well-written prose make them a treat.

I've only read one other Betsy-Tacy book, Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown, but I hope to read all the others in the series someday. Delightful.




Carol said...

Surgery without anaesthesia - how apt!

Farm Girl said...

I have always loved Betsy and Tacy books. I loved reading them to my daughters.
I agree, I just can't so modern fiction anymore. I find myself going back to older and older authors.

Carol in Oregon said...

Delightful review, Hope! Thank you! And you know my mantra about children's literature for light reading. It's just so satisfying, isn't it?

Beth said...

I discovered Betsy-Tacy books (starting with Heaven to Betsy) when I was a teen. I read them several times during those years. It wasn't until I was older that I discovered she had started the series when Betsy was a little girl. I think it may time to go revisit them.