Heaven to Betsy

On May 19, 2008, my daughter and I attended the Betsy-Tacy Book Discussion sponsored by the Greater New York Chapter of the Betsy-Tacy Society. (You can find both of these organizations in the sidebar under “Websites I Like.”) The book discussions are held every other month, and we look forward to them. This time we discussed Heaven to Betsy, which chronicles Betsy’s freshman year in high school. (Scroll down to “The Never-Changing Bonds of Friendship” post for more information about Betsy and her friend Tacy.)Heaven to Betsy

Heaven to Betsy is an excellent book. Perhaps because she kept diaries of her high school years and referred to them while writing her books, Maud Hart Lovelace captures beautifully the joys, sorrows, and insecurities experienced so intensely by a fourteen-year-old girl. True, Betsy’s life is idyllic: she has a devoted family, loyal friends, boys who are fascinated by her, and a cozy home and neighborhood. But she still wishes her hair was naturally curly and her skin was naturally creamy and that her sort-of-friend Bonnie wasn’t taking away her sort-of-boyfriend Tony.

This book, and the other Betsy-Tacy high school books, are not The Clique or Gossip Girls. They are, dare I say, wholesome, and engrossing, highly readable, and ultimately uplifting. The overriding theme of all the Betsy-Tacy books is that Betsy, like everyone around her, is unique and deserving of love and respect for that uniqueness alone. So what if Tacy isn’t boy-crazy, like the rest of the girls; that’s Tacy. So what if little sister Margaret is solemn and quiet; that’s Margaret. So what if Betsy is the only girl in her crowd who writes stories and poems; thank goodness for that!

Sadly, the high school Betsy-Tacy books are out of print. The Betsy-Tacy Society conducted a letter-writing campaign a few years ago to keep them in bookstores, and that worked for awhile, but books about trendy, snarky teenaged girls must sell better than books about centered, polite teenaged girls like Betsy and Tacy. If you read the first four books in the series, however, which are in print and available in most libraries, I can almost guarantee that you’ll want to go on and read the “older Betsy” books. You can find used copies on Amazon.

As author Judy Blume wrote, “Some characters become your friends for life. That’s how it was for me with Betsy-Tacy.” When we sit at our book discussion — women of all ages, women from Manhattan and women from New Jersey, single women and women with grandchildren — we all speak about the wonderful people who inhabit the Betsy-Tacy novels as our dear, dear friends. Could you use some new fictional friends?

The series:

Betsy-Tacy and Tib
Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Bill Hill
Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown
Heaven to Betsy
Betsy in Spite of Herself
Betsy Was a Junior
Betsy and Joe
Betsy and the Great World
Betsy’s Wedding


3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    […] Gaissert posted on one of my favorites, Heaven to Betsy, at The Expanding Life. Sounds like Susan and I share a common grief over the out-of-print status […]

  2. 2

    Mariah Boone said,

    I adore the Betsy-Tacy books. I love the way that Betsy is not punished for being herself, like most heroines of literature – only when she is not true to herself. I also love the way her parents believe so passionately in supporting their daughters’ interests.

  3. 3

    CLM said,

    Beautifully put! I wish you would forward your thoughts to Susan Katz at Harper Collins.

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