Bear with me as I take a break from my usual highlight of modern, just-published kidlit to travel back to the last century to share a beloved author with you...
I discovered the Betsy-Tacy-Tib series in elementary school. Like Betsy, I wanted to be a writer and had a friend like Tacy, a girl who loved to play pretend and listen to my stories. She’s still a treasured friend after all these years...and I still love these books.
Betsy-Tacy doesn’t get as much attention as Anne of Green Gables or Laura Ingalls, but she should. Like those books, Lovelace offers a character-rich slice of life in different era. But if like me, you can't get enough of Lovelace, did you know she wrote other children's books--some set in Deep Valley?
The Trees Kneel at Christmas
After Grandmother explains why the trees in Lebanon kneel at Christmas, Afify and Hanna hope to witness a similar miracle in Brooklyn's Prospect Park. (synopsis from Amazon)
This is a picture book Christmas story about Lebanese refugees and their traditions, a beautiful book written with Lovelace's wonderful ability to portray children's experiences in thoughtful ways.
Winona’s Pony Cart
Winona Root is almost eight years old. More than anything in the world, she wants a pony for her birthday. She wishes so hard for a pony that she's sure to get one--at least, that's what she tells her friends Betsy, Tacy, and Tib. It's only when the exciting day grows near that Winona begins to wonder: What if her father meant it when he said she couldn't have a pony? (synopsis from Amazon)
This is the most “middle grade” of the extra books about Deep Valley. While I love Winona in the Betsy books, especially how she stands up to Betsy in elementary and is full of fun in high school, I didn’t love her in the Pony Cart. Like a lot of girls, Winona wants a pony, and her parents respond in an interesting way. However, I didn’t like how this story ended. Not my favorite of the “extra” books.
Young Adult (though these might appeal to middle grade readers as well)
Carney’s House Party
It is the summer of 1911, the Carney Sibley is back home in her beloved town of Deep Valley, Minnesota. She's looking forward to hosting a month-long house party, with guests including her Vassar college roommate Isobel Porteous and old chum Betsy Ray. With lots of the old Crowd and a new friend--wealthy, unkept, but loveable Sam Hutchinson--around, the days are filled with fun. And romance seems to be in the air. But Carney can never be romantic about anyone but Larry Humphreys, her high school sweetheart, who moved to California four years ago. Then Larry returns to Deep Valley and sets the town abuzz. Will Larry purpose? And will Carney say yes? (synopsis from Amazon)
This was the book I expected not to like. A book about a month-long sleepover? But it is so much more than that. I loved the depictions of early days at Vassar (an all women’s college at the time) and the resolution of the Carney-Larry question. But mostly, I found Carney to be an interesting character. She's one of the smartest of the girls in the “crowd” and attends an exclusive college, even though she just wants to be a housewife. In Lovelace books, girls can like embroidery and be smart. The romance in this book is very sweet and gives an interesting glimpse into dating rituals of those times.
Emily of Deep Valley
Emily Webster, an orphan living with her grandfather, is not like the other girls her age in Deep Valley, Minnesota. The gulf between Emily and her classmates widens even more when they graduate from Deep Valley High School in 1912. Emily longs to go off to college with everyone else, but she can't leave her grandfather.
Emily resigns herself to facing a "lost winter," but soon decides to stop feeling sorry for herself. And with a new program of study, a growing interest in the Syrian community, and handsome new teacher at the high school to fill her days, Emily gains more than she ever dreamed... (synopsis from Amazon)
This is probably my favorite extra book, if not my favorite Lovelace book. Emily sacrifices her dreams for her family and is put upon by her insufferable high school friends. But eventually she learns to make the best of staying home from college by reaching out to the Syrian refuges in Deep Valley. It inspires me every time I read it to bloom where I’m planted. Well worth your time.
Have you read the Betsy-Tacy-Tib books? What is your favorite classic author for children or adults?
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To check out more Marvelous Middle Grade suggestions, check out Shannon Messenger's blog.