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April 28, 2006 11:51 AM   Subscribe

When I was a kid, I loved Maud Hart Lovelace's Betsy, Tacy, and Tib books. What's similar?

I also had an enormous crush on Joe Willard (but really, who wouldn't?).

I liked the younger books (like Betsy-Tacy) as much as the middle (Heaven to Betsy) and later ones (Betsy's Wedding). I don't care what age group your recommendations are written for; adult books would also be fine. Thanks!
posted by booksandlibretti to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I loved that whole series too -- still do, madly! Other books that sort of hit a similar nostalgic note for me are the four Katie John books and The Moffats. Secret Lives is a bit darker and weirder but another one I've read about four million times. All are for pretty young readers but they're so charming that I dip into them regularly for a quick dip into childhood memories.
posted by kittyb at 12:26 PM on April 28, 2006

I reread all the Betsy-Tacy ones last summer. *guilty* I guess I have to blame it on Joe.

I've been trying to remember the name of the Katie John books for awhile. I loved those, too, but I don't think I ever read them all -- something to look forward to! Thank you!

I should clarify, for the original question, that I'm also interested in the time period of the Betsy-Tacy books. Betsy's a member of the high school class of ought-nine, and goes to Europe around 1916, so that should help place it.

I also dig guys with press hats, so around 1915-1920 for that, say?
posted by booksandlibretti at 12:34 PM on April 28, 2006

First of all, do you know about the Maud-L listserv, an email list for Betsy-Tacy fans? And about the Betsy-Tacy Society? Even if you don't want to join, you should poke around their Web page and enjoy the kindred spirits. (Here's another good BTT page.)

I used to be on the Maud-L list, but it was a little too much mail for me, so I've limited myself to the Lenora Mattingly Weber list instead. She wrote the Beany Malone and Katie Rose and Stacy Belford books, about girls growing up in Denver in the 1940s through 1970s.

Can you identify what you like about Betsy-Tacy? Is it the era they're set in, the fact that the girls are such good friends, etc? Have you read other girls' series books? Do you like ones where the girls solve mysteries (Trixie Belden, Donna Parker, Nancy Drew) or career series (Sue Barton, Cherry Ames, Career Romances for Young Moderns) or simply friendship books (my own fave, Lenora Mattingly Weber, fits here, as do books by Anne Emery and Rosamund duJardin.)

One series that reminds me of Lovelace is Catherine Woolley's Ginnie and Geneva series. Also, Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" books. Some feel "Little Women" has similarities. And of course, the Anne of Green Gables series is mentioned a lot.
posted by GaelFC at 12:39 PM on April 28, 2006

L.M. Montgomery's books should suit. Not just the Anne of Green Gables series, but the Emily of New Moon books and the numerous standalones and short story collections. Many of those books are set in P.E.I., which is a more maritime version of the semi rural environment of the Betsy-Tacy-Tib books. The time period of all of her books is very similar, with the changing times (and fear of change from the traditional older generation) as a common theme. Some of them are more kid oriented, but many of the stories really are better for adults. Also, for an enormous literary crush, check out Barney in The Blue Castle, which is just one of the best books ever.
posted by pekala at 1:25 PM on April 28, 2006

I absolutely loved the Betsy-Tacy series! I never finished Betsy's Wedding though - I don't think (psychologically-speaking) I was able to bear the prospect of having the story end.

I second L.M. Montgomery and Eleanor Estes. The latter wrote some other non-Moffat books that might appeal to you. You could also check out the Boxcar Children series. Totally different subject-matter, but still very engaging.
posted by anonymous78 at 1:46 PM on April 28, 2006

Thanks for the links, GaelFC; I've known about some, but I'll check out Lenora Mattingly Weber, plus the other names you mentioned (and Laura Ingalls Wilder, L. M. Montgomery, and I go way back -- and I agree they're similar in important ways).

pekala, it is really unfortunate that you led me to this when I have a giant paper due on Monday. Bookstores I can avoid until then, but Project Gutenberg...not so much.

To clarify, I'm more interested in the time in which the books were set than in which they were written. I also think the quality of the writing is important; Nancy Drew doesn't do much for me, and although I've read some Cherry Ames (including a flight-attendant variant?), it's nothing I really care about. I do like their friendship, and their romantic relationships.

I guess what I'm looking for is the setting and time period, and some of the themes and typical characters. I like the semi-rural small towns, the way intellectuals are valued, the whole Horatio Alger thing -- and, as mentioned above, any time you can shoehorn in guys in press hats, I think you should. The small, easily overcome problems are also reassuring for light reading. The roughly turn-of-the-century time period, especially in a rural setting, seems to be shorthand for a lot of these things. And the fact that it's kids' lit means it tends to avoid the big problematic social issues of the time.

Betsy, Tacy, and Tib also included little gimmes to interest me -- Julia wanted to be a classical singer, and so did I; Tacy was Irish, and so was I -- stuff like that. That's probably part of why it was one of my favorite series.

On preview: anonymous78, I was crazy about the Boxcar Children -- in a different way, though, I think. I had all the books published through 1996, but my favorites were always 1-4. And I think you owe it to yourself to finish Betsy's Wedding; she and Joe are so perfect together!
posted by booksandlibretti at 1:58 PM on April 28, 2006

Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons series is similar -- smart, clever kids in England in the 20s/30s who have adventures during summer vacation, living in their own childish world with easily-overcome problems and lots of great details from the time period.

I would also suggest Elizabeth Enright's Gone-Away Lake, which is set at the turn of the century and is about kids who spend the summer in a small summer-home community and have adventures where nothing goes too terribly wrong.

If you like kids' fantasy, you might enjoy E. Nesbit, who wrote many charming turn-of-the-century stories about smart, bookish, determined kids who have magical adventures.
posted by nevers at 2:18 PM on April 28, 2006

Although it's urban instead of rural, the All-of-a-Kind Family series has the same time period and family dynamic.
posted by nonane at 2:32 PM on April 28, 2006

Apparently I've already read too much in this vein! The last couple are great, great suggestions, but I'm already familiar with them.

Preemptively, I've also read the Five Little Peppers series, and almost everything by Alcott (and you should too, if you like this stuff).
posted by booksandlibretti at 2:43 PM on April 28, 2006

You might also like Noel Streatfeild's books.
posted by JanetLand at 3:39 PM on April 28, 2006

Have you also read Edward Eager and/or Eleanor Cameron? Philippa Pierce's Tom's Midnight Garden?

Jennifer L. Holm's Our Only May Amelia is a turn-of-the-century American frontier novel but doesn't quite immerse you in a kid's world in the same way, as I remember.

Sadly I'm now out of ideas.
posted by nevers at 4:09 PM on April 28, 2006

God, this thread could have been my reading list when I was 8 or 9. I would suggest the Green Knowe books as something that appealed to me at roughly the same age that I read most of these books.
posted by MadamM at 5:00 PM on April 28, 2006

Oh, my God, this thread is bringing back so many memories. I'll try not to gush over past favorites and bring up some which haven't been mentioned. Elizabeth Enright has already been mentioned, but I'm not sure the book that was mentioned is part of the Melendy Quartet-- it's about four siblings who move, with their father and housekeeper, to a house out in the country known colloquially as the Four-Story Mistake (which is also the title of the first book). I have been enjoying recently (oh, shut up, I'm not really too old) Eva Ibbotsen's books, which tend to be full of witches, creepy-crawlies, ghosts, etc., but bring back some of that fun mid-twentieth-century-children's-lit feel for me. I'm assuming you've already read Daddy Long Legs.

L. Frank Baum wrote a series of girls' books under the pseudonym Edith van Dyne. I wasn't horribly impressed but they were moderately enjoyable and they're definitely the right genre-- I think part of it is that I'm not a big Oz fan, either.

It's not children's literature, but I'm currently enjoying Cornelia Otis Skinner's Our Hearts Were Young and Gay, which is the true story of how she and her friend Emily traveled to Europe in the 1920's after graduating from college (Bryn Mawr, I think). It's a hilarious book and sort of a real-life version of the girls' books of the period, I think.
posted by posadnitsa at 7:26 PM on April 28, 2006

You guys are awesome. Best answers all 'round!

I have a whole list now. (Theoretically, I asked for a young cousin who's about the right age . . . but, uh, I can't let her read them without me, can I?)

It definitely does not have to be kids' lit. Our Hearts Were Young and Gay is now right on the top of my list; it sounds just like Betsy and the Great World for grown-ups. I can't wait for summer vacation so I can track all these down!
posted by booksandlibretti at 7:46 PM on April 28, 2006

Wanda Gag (Millions of Cats) and L.M. Montgomery both kept journals which are now in print--LMM's through Oxford University Press Canada (Gag even mentions Delos Lovelace!). Lois Lenski wrote two autobiographical novels, Skipping Village and A Little Girl of 1900. Oh! Beverly Cleary's Emily's Runaway Imagination.

I didn't read the Betsy-Tacy books until my early 20's, when there was an article in the New York Times Book Review about girls in books who write.

The Betty Smith books, too. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was my favorite when I was 12.
posted by brujita at 11:04 PM on April 28, 2006

Oh man I loved those books. I will forever be grateful for the librarian at my elementary school who turned me on to so many wonderful books!

Have you ever read anything by Zilpha Keatley Snyder? She is best known for her books about the Stanley kids (such as The Headless Cupid) but I'd suggest The Velvet Room, The Changeling and And Condors Danced. Great, great author.
posted by radioamy at 11:57 PM on April 28, 2006

Oh man!!!

I loved loved LOVED that whole series. I still remember all sorts of stuff, like the fact that Betsy was engaged to Joe Hunt before she married Joe, weird things like that.

I wonder where I can get my hands on a set of them now.
posted by hollygoheavy at 5:57 AM on April 29, 2006

Oh I loved all these books!

Don't forget the Flambards books by K.M. Peyton, set just before the Great War.

In "Flambards", the first novel, Christina is an English orphan who is sent to live with her Uncle Russell, a crotchety, crippled old man with 2 sons -- the elder son Mark is handsome and reckless and loves foxhunting, and is like his father; the younger son, William, hates horses and loves to fly. Christina, who I think has money, is definitely being groomed (ha) to marry into the family. Classism, chauvinism, horse-ism, socialism, etc... abound. Dick and Violet are bro/sister, right? I think Mark gets V pregnant and Christina has a crush on Dick but the real division is between the brothers and which one Christina will choose.

They also made Masterpiece Theater production from it that you can get on DVD. I still remember the theme music!
posted by mdiskin at 9:49 AM on April 30, 2006

(I love how everyone's answer starts with "Oh man!" or "Oh my God!" -- it made me grin.)

You guys rock, and I'll be tracking down a lot of these books. Some of these suggestions seem wonderful.

The only nit I have to pick, hollygoheavy, is that Betsy was engaged to Bob Barhydt during college, before marrying the Joe Willard we all love so well. But the good news is that the Betsy-Tacy books are all back in print, so you should be able to find copies anywhere. The new run has covers like this. (When I was a kid, I had this line of covers, but this kind for the high-school/post-high books. The memories!)
posted by booksandlibretti at 1:29 PM on April 30, 2006

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