For more than a year now, Elizabeth and I have been slowly reading through the Betsy-Tacy series, whenever we have a few minutes to read together. The book begins in the early 1900s when Betsy and Tacy are 5 years old. Elizabeth was 11 when we began reading the first book, and I feared that she might think the book about 5 year old friends too juvenile for her advanced 11 years. I needn't have worried. She and I both were immediately caught up in the delight of Betsy's and Tacy's world.
Hill Street came to regard them almost as one person. Betsy’s brown braids went with Tacy’s curls, Betsy’s plump legs with Tacy’s spindly ones, to school and from school, up hill and down, on errands and in play. So that when Tacy had the mumps and Betsy was obliged to journey alone, saucy boys would tease her: Where’s the cheese, apple pie?” Where’s the mush, milk?” As though she didn’t feel lonesome already! ~ Betsy-Tacy
The language is beautiful, full of colorful early-1900s phrases and descriptions, and the illustrations by Lois Lenski fit the characters perfectly. The entire Betsy-Tacy series reminds me of what the Little House books might have been if the Ingalls family lived in a town instead of on the prairie.
Now that we are on the 5th book in the series, I can really appreciate how Maud Hart Lovelace expands their world over the years, from just their homes and street at ages 5-6 to the neighborhood beyond theirs at age 8 to the high school with its expansion of friends and activities. I also appreciate that it gives me a gentle book to introduce my own fledgling teenage girl to the world of boys and relationships with the innocence of that time. When we read the line, "she tried to conceal her gratification at having a masculine escort", Elizabeth and I laughed and laughed. Some of the language and even the perspective of that time just sounds so foreign and humorous to us now.
We didn't begin reading with a nice vintage set like some of the photos I've seen, but after an inexpensive Kindle purchase for the first book, we bought the Betsy-Tacy Treasury for the next few books. Since then we've stuck with that printing of the series, although you can get the first book, which I would highly recommend as a read aloud for any boy or girl between the ages of 5-10, for a bargain at Amazon right now.