Number 100: Betsy-Tacy
Betsy-Tacy is a children’s book written by Maud Hart Lovelace. It is the first book in a nine book series featuring the characters Betsy and Tacy. It is loosely based on the childhood of Maud Hart Lovelace. How this book got on NPR’s list for teens I do not know. It is a book for a first time reader. It holds no narrative tension as the story is only about the friendship of Betsy and Tacy, and in the first pages the narrator tells the reader that they were always the best of friends and never had any quarrels. With that being the one and only plot device, the story slugs along and the reader experiences Betsy and Tacy taking on their fifth year of life together through birthday parties, first day of school, and a bottled sand store endeavor. Though, it must be said that the endeavor with the sand was successful because they were both offered a nickel a piece for a bottle, a payment which both of the girls could hardly fathom. There is definitely a generational gap with this book, since it is set in the late 19th century. Also, what the hell is a pussy hood, because Betsy kept trying to put one on her head. Go ahead, Google “pussy hood.” What you will get are images that are borderline racist because Google thinks “hood” means “black.”
Maybe the reason NPR chose this book is because of the Harry Potter affect. This happens when the book is originally written for a younger audience and then the author keeps writing specifically for that one audience so the books mature in content. That’s what I’ve found online (wikipedia) about this series. The girls in the books age and mature, as do the plots and situations, I’m sure. But, not for this book. It is still interesting to wonder why NPR chose Betsy-Tacy because on their blog, which discusses the reason for their decisions, they’ve said that they eliminated several books because teens now a days just aren’t interested. For instance, Pride and Prejudice wasn’t chosen because it “is just not a book teens are lining up to read.” (http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2012/07/24/157311055/best-ya-fiction-poll-you-asked-we-answer blog found here).
The same could be said about this book, but there are just so many uninteresting elements of this book it is hard to even imagine 8 year olds lining up to read this one. Though, there does seem to be quite a following with the Maud Hart Lovelace Society (http://maudhartlovelacesociety.com/). It seems people crave nostalgia more than quality.
I agree with NPR that this book should be at the very bottom of a list, but I also say that it shouldn’t be on this specific list. The next time NPR does a top 100 teen books list, I guarantee Betsy-Tacy won’t make the cut.
There is a part of me that is tempted to read the rest of the series to see the growth and the maturity of the writing come to life, but I’ve spent too many hours working toward an English degree reading drudgery and I honestly don’t care. I’m moving on to the next book. Hopefully that one will have a cogent story line which continues from one chapter to the next, and maybe there will even be some tension in the narrative.
So, this post wasn’t very optimistic, and if you look back at my intro blog you will see that that was one of my goals. But, hey, at least I’ve left room for growth, just like Mrs. Lovelace did with her story. Well now, wasn’t this a well-rounded blog. Maybe I’ll do better on the next one.
Wife: I do not recommend.