At last, after twenty-three years, I’ve read Betsy-Tacy! Now there are only ... eleven more books in the series to go. I did like the story, very much, as expected. It was difficult, though, because earlier this summer I read Strawberry Hill by Mary Ann Hoberman, a new novel inspired by a love for Betsy-Tacy. I wish I had read the original first; the taste of Betsy-Tacy was constantly reminding me of Strawberry Hill, when Betsy-Tacy should have been the standard. It truly is the stronger story.
There are lots of children on Hill Street, but no little girls Betsy's age. So when a new family moves into the house across the street, Betsy hopes they will have a little girl she can play with. Sure enough, they do--a little girl named Tacy. And from the moment they meet at Betsy's fifth birthday party, Betsy and Tacy becoms such good friends that everyone starts to think of them as one person--Betsy-Tacy. Betsy and Tacy have lots of fun together. They make a playhouse from a piano box, have a sand store, and dress up and go calling. And one day, they come home to a wonderful surprise--a new friend named Tib.
Lovelace knows just how children think and reason and speak: playing paper dolls, for one. The girls divide their categories exactly right: servants, fathers, mothers, sixteen-year-olds, ten-year-olds, eight-year-olds, and then five-year-olds and babies. “The five-year-olds were the most important members of the large doll families. Everything pleasant happened to them. They had all the adventures. The eight-year-olds lived very dull lives; and they were always given very plain names.”
Or when the girls climb farther up a hill than they’ve ever been before, and it’s lovely up there under a tree, and Betsy says suddenly, “Let’s live up here,” and they immediately begin mapping out their house and planning how they’ll survive, and it’s absolutely thrilling and not a bit implausible. I remember that.
Their picnics, their dressing up to call on neighbors, the stories Betsy tells, every amusing episode is woven together by the end, and with the promise of many more adventures to come with the new neighbor Tib, Betsy-Tacy beckons the reader toward further delights.