Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace


Goodreads: Betsy-Tacy
Series: Betsy-Tacy #1
Source: Library
Published: 1940


No little girls the same age as Betsy Ray live on Hill Street until the day Tacy arrives.  Betsy and Tacy soon become fast friends, enjoying picnics on the bench, playing store in their piano box, and calling on the neighbors.  The greatest adventure of all, however, comes when a new girl moves into town.


I had a copy of this book as a child and I felt much about it then as I do now–I feel that I ought to like it, but somehow I fail to connect with the story.  It seems like a charming little thing, a story set in days gone by featuring the idyllic childhood of a couple of friends, one of whom aspires to be a writer and makes up adventures featuring herself and her comrades.  One might almost mistake it, from the summary, for an L. M. Montgomery book.  But something vital is missing, the something that makes L. M. Mongtomery’s works feel timeless to me.  That something is a little like the heart.

To say so seems almost sacrilegious.  I realize that many have grown up with these books and love them dearly.  Betsy, Tacy, and Tib are, to some, friends.  The volume I borrowed from a library–a compilation of the first four books in the series–indicates as much with its various introductions from authors like  Ann M. Martin and Judy Blume.  Both attest to how much they loved the Besty-Tacy books and to how the Besty-Tacy books shaped them.  But when I read Besty-Tacy, I felt nothing.

I just did not care that Betsy and Tacy played in a piano box or that they took a walk up the hill and sat under an apple tree.  I suppose these events should have been significant to me, perhaps reminding me of my own childhood or making me reflect on the innocence of children or on the joy of childhood imagination, or something.  But it didn’t.  I continued reading the book with the hope that some spark inside me would come alive, but I read in vain.

I think, in part, this is because nothing much happens.  One expects that the children would have a fight or get into some sort of scrape, but they seem to live perfect lives.  Even when they do something somewhat naughty, no one really seems to care.  A little scolding in vaguely referenced and that is all.  It seems as if there are no stakes in this story and that these ideal children could not be real.

I feel badly about not loving Betsy-Tacy, almost as if there must be some sort of defect in me for not seeing what so many others have seen–something in this story to love.  But there it is.  I plan to continue reading the series just in case something happens later that helps me to see the light.  Unfortunately, I do not expect much.

*This post is part of the Year of Re-Reading Challenge being hosted by Lianne at Caffeinated Life.

4 thoughts on “Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace

  1. Ann says:

    Interesting point of view. Maud Hart Lovelace based the stories on her own childhood, which she admitted was idyllic. Anne was fiction based in the formula orphan books popular at the time. Betsy-Tacy itself is about 5-year-olds. The girls do not reach the age of Anne Shirley at the beginning of Anne of Green Gables until the fourth novel. The Anne books take place at an age more comparable to the “high school” Betsy-Tacy books, which are written in a different style, for an older audience. I read both series repeatedly growing up, and loved them equally. I did not relate to Anne until I was 8 or 9, but I started reading Betsy-Tacy when I was 6. By the time I was interested in the Anne books, I had stopped rereading the first three Betsy Tacy books because they were no longer as relatable. I related much more to teenage Betsy, as I related more to Anne. I only grew to appreciate the first four books when I started reading Betsy-Tacy to my daughters. I discovered how beautifully they are written, in a way I didn’t appreciate as a girl. Comparing a 5-year-old Betsy to an 11-year-old Anne is perhaps nt the best match-up. A better comparison for Betsy-Tacy would be Little House in the Big Woods, or Anne against the Betsy-Tacy “high school books.” Good stuff — thanks for writing this.


    • Krysta says:

      Thanks for commenting! I did not mean to compare Betsy or Tacy specifically to Anne Shirley. I wrote that the premise of the book–childhood friends, one of whom wants to be a writer, live an idyllic childhood–sounds like the summary of an L. M. Montgomery book. Since Betsy and Tacy are only five at this point, perhaps a more apt comparison to a specific Montgomery book, if you want one, would be Betsy-Tacy to Magic for Marigold; Montgomery’s Marigold starts as a baby and reaches, I believe, twelve by the end of the book. Marigold has not the spunk of Anne, but her adventures still appeal to me more than Betsy’s and Tacy’s, probably because she makes mistakes that have real consequences. Though I realize that the Betsy-Tacy books are based on Maud Hart Lovelace’s childhood, that unfortunately did not make me find the episodes more interesting.

      I understand that the books gain in complexity and length as the characters age, which is why I mentioned at the end that I was willing to give the later books a chance even though I did not enjoy the first book as much as other readers made me feel I should. I am not sure I would have liked the earlier books even as a child, though, because I read this when I was young and did not enjoy it much even then. At this point, though, I have read the first four stories and my perspective does change by the time I finish book four.

      Thanks so much for the response! It’s interesting to see how your own thoughts on the books changed as you did!


  2. Briana says:

    I read this as a child, as well, and the only thing I remember about it was finding it completely unremarkable. Obviously the book has an audience somewhere, but I think it’s a bit worrisome if even members of the very young target audience finds the book dull. I think it’s brave you tried revisiting the book as an adult, since I would assume I’d find it even less interesting now.


    • Krysta says:

      I read that Maud Hart Lovelace was inspired to write the books because people enjoyed hearing about her childhood, but perhaps some stories are more interesting when you know the person telling them. If my grandparents, say, told me a story about walking up a hill, I might like it because it would tell me something about how they were as children. But just saying you walked up a hill and stayed up there and considered staying up and building a house doesn’t actually have a lot of narrative drive.


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