Monday, April 20, 2020

Why Best-Tacy Books are Still Relevant 80 Years Later

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of the Betsy-Tacy series, which was published in 1940, but the books are set at the turn of the last century. The series is loosely based on Maud Hart Lovelace's experiences growing up in this time period.

I fell in love with these books as a child and can still read them with the same wonder. I related to Betsy and her desire to be a writer from a very young age. And like Betsy, I have a friend like Tacy, a kindred spirit I met at six. We're still in touch (through snail mail, of course!), though we live miles apart.

If you’re looking for a comfort read, don’t look any farther. And since it’s Lovelace’s birthday on Saturday, I thought this would be a great time to revisit her.

But apart from the nostalgia and the desire to read about a simpler time, what makes these books relevant now?

Here are a few thoughts:

1. Betsy is a woman of her times, yet before her time. I love that Betsy never questions for a second that she can be a woman and a writer. A wife and a writer. She is a trail blazer, yet she doesn’t think family and a creative passion are mutually exclusive (unlike in the most recent Little Women.)

2. Betsy has wonderful, strong female friendships. It is so rare to see strong female friendships in  middle grade and young adult fiction. Boy-girl friendships are far more common. Maybe authors are trying to appeal to both boys and girls. But as some of my best memories of my childhood were with my girl friends, I’d love to see more of this in modern kidlit.

3. Betsy grows with you. Lovelace did something groundbreaking with her books for that time. The books when Betsy is young are simpler in language and plot for the younger middle grade reader. The books about her teens are geared in language, themes, and complexity to readers in what we now call the young adult genre. 

4. Betsy has adventures. One of my favorite books is Betsy Tacy and the Great World. This novel is loosely based on Lovelace’s travels in Europe. Who can forget the scene when Betsy is in England waiting to hear if England will declare war (WWI) on Germany? Betsy is the kind of character who goes places.

5. Betsy has the best family. It’s lovely reading about a family that has so much fun together as Betsy’s family with their music nights and Sunday suppers and muffins on the first day of school. Although think I might skip Dad's onion sandwiches myself. 

These books are rich in the details of ordinary life. And that’s why we love them. They make us feel like our lives, however ordinary, can be exciting too.

If you'd like to celebrate Maud Hart Lovelace's 128th birthday next Saturday, here more information about the virtual celebration: Betsy Tacy Society Page.

What kind of book to you like to read for comfort? Have you read any Maud Hart Lovelace? What is your favorite? Tell me in the comments!


  1. I haven't heard of this author. Glad you still enjoy them. I'm reading a lot of mysteries these days, and I'm planning to read the first Nancy Drew mysteries next. I'll have to see if I enjoy them as much now like you do with these books.

  2. I've been rereading some of my vintage teen lit from the 1950s. Times might be bad, but no one is expecting my daughters to get married and stay at home! Don't know why I find the books comforting, but I do. Might have to reread Weber's A New and Different Summer today.

  3. I've never read this series, but you make it sound so great! I find it especially neat that Lovelace aged the series up over the years—that's still a pretty rare thing to do today! Thanks for the great post!

  4. I am not familiar with the author or this series, which I find very appealing. My grandmother was born in 1896 and I would love to read something that might give me a peek into her life. Lovely review!

  5. Add me to the list of those who have never heard of the series or author. Since I enjoy reading about this time period I will have to search them out. Thanks for featuring on MMGM.

  6. I've not read any Betsy Tacy stories since high school...and I don't have a single one on my shelf. My poor Dagny! I must remedy this immediately. We love Little Women. For comfort I return to my childhood adult favorites--AJ Cronin and Lloyd C. Douglas.

  7. So so so very right on! For all the aspects that would keep today's publishers from publishing these books now, my (contemporary) kids loved them, as did all their class mates. Their first grade teacher was old-school, and she recommends these to all the children she teaches.

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  9. I haven't heard of these books or this author. But the books sound like a lot of fun and I love the spirit of the characters that you described. Thanks for sharing. :)

  10. I love these books. I bought Betsy Tacy for my daughter when she was six and almost immediately was sent to buy the rest of the series. She gobbled them up. Thanks for the walk down memory lane.

  11. I LOVE the Betsy-Tacy books! I didn't read them as a kid (I didn't know they existed) and only learned about them in my mid-twenties. But then I devoured them! I love the ones when she's a kid, and also the high school ones. I even went to visit the houses in Mankato! That was fun. The bench. The chocolate-colored house...

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