In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Historical fiction, Minnesota-style

Dear Annie,

Mona was a fan of the Betsy-Tacy books.  I'm fond of the progression of the first few: Betsy-Tacy, Betsy-Tacy and Tib (a third friend is added -- almost no triangle situations), Betsy-Tacy Go Over the Big Hill (venturing out...), Betsy-Tacy Go Downtown (venturing out into small-town society).  They're 12 years old in that one.  Then Betsy, like Anne of Green Gables, just keeps getting older, finding boys, etc.  We quit after #4.  I'm curious what Cyd thinks of the later books.

They're lovely books, but there's a phenomenon with them which exists around other books too: that of the organization of obsessive fans.  In this case, it's The Betsy-Tacy Society, which has bought Betsy's and Tacy's houses in Mankato, Minnesota and is now restoring them.  The books are the thinly fictionalized stories of Maud Hart Lovelace's childhood around the turn of the previous century.  I once met a woman who was an active member of the society and went to frequent (yearly?) gatherings where everyone came in period costume.

As for the infant mortality -- sigh.  I always mention it to parents who are thinking of buying the book.  I'd say maybe half decide not to get it because of that.  Being blind-sided by Baby Bee's death -- as you almost were on the subway -- is no fun.  Yet missing out on the books altogether for that reason feels not quite right either.  Maybe I'll start recommending skipping that chapter.  We got through many books (most notably stuff about women's roles, but it works with medical advances too) saying, "Things used to be different [fill in: for girls and women/ when people got sick/ when kings and queens ruled...], but the world has changed now.  Those things don't happen, or don't happen as much."



1 comment:

  1. I love reading your blog mostly because I still love reading children & YA literature as an adult. I LOVE the Betsy-Tacy books. Even the ones through young adulthood. For so long, no one I knew had even heard of them - it wasn't until adulthood that I realized there were such rabid fans out there!

    (Hi Aunt Debbie - I went to college with Annie & Jeff).