Yesterday I mentioned a (chapter) book series that meant so much to me that it would get its own post. It was the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace. Someone gave me a beat up (which I always interpreted as loved), secondhand box set of the first six books in the series (Betsy-Tacy, Betsy-Tacy and Tib, Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill, Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown, Heaven to Betsy, and Betsy in Spite of Herself) when I was a kid and I still have them. I’ve often wondered why the set didn’t include the last four books (Betsy Was a Junior, Betsy and Joe, Betsy and the Great World, and Betsy’s Wedding), but it didn’t.
Although they’re called Betsy-Tacy books, and Tacy is a key figure in all of them, it’s really Betsy’s story from the first word of the first page of the first book. It’s a coming-of-age story, spread across 10 books, about a girl growing up in a small town in Minnesota at the turn of the 20th century.
I always felt a special connection to Betsy, from the gap between her front teeth (mine was eventually fixed through years of painful orthodontia) to her love of writing (though her goals were loftier than mine). Unlike Betsy, however, I didn’t have a Joe Willard in high school. And, special connection or not, I can’t really explain why I still go back and re-read the entire series every few years.
Like I said, I was only given the first six books in the series. For years, those were the only books I could get my hands on. It didn’t matter where I looked, I couldn’t find any of the last four books. They weren’t in the Oxford Public Library, they weren’t in any stores (and I went to Borders a lot when I was in high school). I once found a copy of Betsy and the Great World at a library in Wilmington, DE before one of my trips abroad in high school. You can bet I took it on the trip with me, and rejoiced at having found one of the four books I’d been looking for for years, but I was also bummed to be reading it out of order. (As I recall, none of the other three books was listed in the library’s catalog, or else I would’ve kept trying my luck there.)
All was not lost, however. I eventually found the last four books in the series when I was in college (sophomore year, I think). Unsurprisingly, I loved them too. Someday I would like to get a matching set of all 10 books, but in the meantime I’ll keep my mis-matched set. Actually, I’d also like to eventually give all 10 books to each of my little cousins (technically my first cousins once removed), but I’m afraid that it will be hard to find the books. And there’s no way I’m giving up my beloved copies, no matter how cute my little cousins are.
So there you have it. Unlike all of the books I mentioned yesterday (with the exception of Little Women, which I am overdue to re-read), the Betsy-Tacy books are the only books I read in elementary school that I was still reading in high school (and beyond). The Betsy-Tacy books are definitely comfort food for me, though I don’t only reach for them when I am sick or stressed. In fact, the last time I read any of them was last year when I had a random urge to read Betsy’s Wedding. Good times.