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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Maud Hart Lovelace's Betsy-Tacy series about three white girlfriends is a gentle walk through the idealized simplicity of life in the Midwest in the 1940s. Similar to the Little House on the Prairie books, the girls' early lives are filled with paper dolls, games packed with imagination rather than toys, and in later books, horseless carriages, travel, love, loss, and an appreciation that the world is a big, complicated place. There's surprising depth to the early simplicity; when Tacy's baby sister dies, the girls talk about where she must be, and in later years, they like to sit on the fence and talk about God. Given that the first book was published in 1940, some of the ideas and phrasing are dated (regarding gender roles, different cultures) but not offensive. Despite being set in an earlier time, the girls' evolving world is relatable because of the universal emotions so open on the page: wanting to be popular, wanting to win a contest, missing a friend who has moved, and facing the internal struggles of growing up. This series is a beloved classic for a reason, and fluent readers will want to both fly through the pages and savor the story. For readers new to chapter books, the words and sentences are simple but interesting, and the books are long enough to give them a real sense of accomplishment without being intimidating.
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What's the story?
The BETSY-TACY series starts when 5-year-old Tacy moves in across the street from 5-year-old Betsy, and the two become inseparable. Soon joined by Tib, the series follows the best-friend trio as they grow up, from playing house in a piano box and sharing a desk at school, to the social scene in high school and young love, to careers and travel and heartbreak, but always returning to the foundation of their treasured deep friendship. Set in 1940s Minnesota, the series is semi-autobiographical, and Lovelace gives readers an idealized look at life in a very different time period.
Is it any good?
This series is a beloved classic for a reason. If the Betsy-Tacy series were just about old times or just about friends, it would be a bunch of simple stories. But there's a depth and realness to the girls; their internal struggles as they grow up are relatable no matter the time period. Their failures and successes are open and honest on the page, and young readers will likely see part of themselves in Betsy, Tacy and Tib. The girls' struggles -- particularly Betsy trying to take her writing seriously while figuring out how to be social in high school -- are just as relevant today as they were when the horseless carriage was new.
Since the series starts when the girls are 5, older readers might find it too young at first, but they should hang in there because the girls age quickly and the stories become more relevant.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Betsy, Tacy, and Tib use their imaginations in every game they play, how they turn a walk up a hill into a chance to fly above town. These girls have very little outside entertainment, and certainly no screens in 1940. How do you think having TV, movies and apps changes the way you use your imagination?
Betsy, Tacy, and Tib have different personalities and face the world in different ways. How are you and your friends different? Do your differences make friendship easier or harder?
What other books are set in this time period? Do the characters act the same way as Betsy, Tacy and Tib, or are they different?
- Author: Maud Hart Lovelace
- Illustrator: Lois Lenski
- Genre: Friendship
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date: January 1, 1940
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 144
- Available on: Paperback, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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