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. And from the moment they meet, Betsy and Tacy become such good friends that everyone starts to think of them as one person – Betsy-Tacy. Ever since their first publication in the 1940s, the Betsy-Tacy stories have been loved by each generation of young readers. (Abridged synopsis from Goodreads).
I chose Betsy-Tacy to be my ninth classic of the year after I came across it while browsing my bookshelves. It’s a book I haven’t read for a long time, perhaps 16 or 17 years. I remembered really enjoying the story and the illustrations as a young child so I thought it’d be perfect for my classics challenge and my attempt to read more children’s classics.
Betsy-Tacy is the first book in a series, first published in 1940. It tells the story of two five-year-old girls – Betsy and Tacy – and the antics they get up to right up until marriage. I didn’t know it at the time, but the series has 10 books! I only have the first book, showing how Betsy and Tacy first met (which did not go as planned for poor Betsy!) to how they came to be the best of friends. I adore how charming the book is. It’s full of picnics on a hill, playing with paper dolls, turning a piano box into a playhouse, and dyeing sand the colour of Easter Eggs and putting it in fancy glass bottles to sell. It’s old-fashioned and quaint and seems so far away from childhood today, but actually, even though I grew up in the 90s, it was actually quite similar. I loved to cross-stitch, turn the most unusual places (i.e. a very large fallen tree branch) into the most magical places, and I even had a kit where you’d put coloured sand into water, mould it, and put it into bottles! It was lovely to cuddle up with a blanket and go back to a time when the entertainment technology we use day-to-day didn’t exist, only imagination.
Betsy-Tacy is a lovely story that’s very idealistic in a white-picket-fence sort of way. Betsy and Tacy rarely suffer deep heartache or trouble, and when they do, it’s brushed over quite quickly because it’s simply not that sort of novel. It is meant to be delightful and charming, even with Betsy wailing about her new sister: ‘It’s a perfectly unnecessary baby’. It’s in the vein of Little House and the Prairie and Milly-Molly-Mandy and has some wonderful illustrations, which really do add to the sweet story (although, as I’ve said before, I wish all stories had illustrations in them). It’s an extremely quick novel to read, but hopefully I’ll be able to find the next 9 books to see what happens to our two heroines. The tenth classic up next is another children’s novel – What Katy Did.