Betsy-Tacy: The most beloved book series you never heard of

in Nonfiction by

“[As] far as I can tell, a young adult novel is a regular novel that people actually read.”Stephen Colbert to author John Green on The Colbert Report, June 23, 2014

Maud_Hart_Lovelace
Maud Hart Lovelace

Ask Meg Cabot, Judy Blume or Anna Quindlen which authors inspired them and one of the answers might surprise you:  Maud Hart Lovelace.

Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace may just be the best book series you have never heard of. This series of 13 books spans children’s and young adult literature as the author relates her own, somewhat idyllic, life in the early 20th century, set in fictional Deep Valley, Minnesota. The books chronicle the instant lifelong friendship of three friends, Betsy, Tacy and Tib, from the moment Betsy welcomes Tacy to her 5th birthday party through marriage at the outbreak of World War I. A successful historical author, Lovelace created beautifully written, historically accurate, yet timeless novels.

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Original artwork for
Betsy Was Junior

Maud Hart Lovelace may have been writing about life at the turn of the last century, but picture skinny jeans and cell phones, and Betsy’s struggles and triumphs (especially in romance!) feel authentic and real. Betsy and her friends follow the latest fads and gossip.  We get Betsy’s despair when she loses the boy she loves because she is unwilling to outright reject a boy who is in love with her. As a young reader, 10-year-old Anna, recently exclaimed, “Oh my god, Mom, it’s like Twilight! I just need to know who Betsy marries!”

At a time when the goal of most girls is marriage, Betsy’s ambition is to be a writer, and she has her parents’ support. When she drops out of college, they send her to Europe to get the life experience essential for a writer. When she marries, she is never asked to give up her profession. The novels address racism, faith and morality in a respectful, matter-of-fact manner that does not detract from the central story.

No wonder the series claims a loyal fandom that, if not in size, rivals the devotion to Twilight or The Hunger Games.

Long before fandoms were a “thing,” Betsy-Tacy fans formed two separate organizations dedicated to preserving and promoting the Lovelace books. The Betsy-Tacy Society, headquartered in her hometown of Mankato, MN, has over the years purchased and restored the childhood homes of Maud and her best friend, Bick “Tacy” Kenney. There are an email discussion list, Facebook page, Twitter feed, and several local chapters of fans. This coming weekend the Society is hosting Deep Valley Homecoming, a multi-day, public event complete with tours, costumed interpreters, and speakers.

The Betsy-Tacy series is so beloved that Nora Ephron included them in the 1998 movie, You’ve Got Mail. In the film, the bookstore owner, played by Meg Ryan, recommends the series to Tom Hanks’ 9-year-old Aunt Annabelle. HeavenToBetsy-pb-c

Besides Ephron, Cabot and Quindlen, the list of authors inspired by Betsy-Tacy includes Ann M. Martin, Mitali Perkins, Laura Lippman, Melissa Wiley, Stephanie Lucianovic, and Lorna Landvik. Heather Vogel Frederick featured the series in one of the volumes in her popular Mother-Daughter Book Club series. Novelist Christina Dudley is including one of the novels, Emily of Deep Valley, in her summer Mother-Daughter Dim Sum Book Club.

“I reread these books every year,” Lippman has remarked, “marveling at how a world so quaint—shirtwaists! pompadours! Merry Widow hats!—can feature a heroine who is undeniably modern.” BetsyWasJuniorFINAL

In a recent issue of PARADE Magazine, performer Bette Midler proclaimed Betsy-Tacy as her childhood favorite. She summed up how so many fans feel: “I don’t care how old I am, I will read them again and again and again.”

For more information on Deep Valley Homecoming, visit www.betsy-tacysociety.org/events

Find out more about the Mother Daughter Dim Sum Book Club at http://christinadudley.blogspot.com

 

Be sure to enter the Betsy Tacy giveaway, sponsored by the Betsy-Tacy Society. The giveaway includes a two-book volume containing Betsy Was A Junior and Betsy and Joe with a foreword by Meg Cabot and a fabulous list of Betsy Tacy merchandise listed below:

  • Deep Valley Homecoming tote bag
  • Deep Valley Homecoming hand fan
  • Reproduction bookmark from the publisher of the Betsy-Tacy books, Thomas Y. Crowell Co.
  • Reproduction autographed bookplate. Maud Hart Lovelace autographed many of these bookplates and sent to fans requesting for her autograph. Maud personally answered each and every fan letter.
  • Reproduction of Betsy’s Wedding booklet
  • Reproduction of Betsy’s Wedding invitation used as promotion for the book.
  • Maud Hart Lovelace Signature Pen
  • Deep Valley Mural poster autographed by artist Marian Anderson

 

This giveaway ends Sunday, July 6 12:00 pm ET

is a theater, film and sci-fi nerd who met her fabulous Australian husband while vacationing in Walt Disney World. She lives with him, their two perfect daughters, and the most lovable dog in the world in the Pacific Northwest.

3 Comments

  1. Wonderful article about one of my top five favorite authors! Can’t wait to share photos and memorabilia from our pilgrimage–er, trip–to Mankato with the rest of the Mother-Daughter Dim Sum Book Club!

  2. Thank you for writing this article about these wonderful books. Lovelace truly created a series that has stood the test of time. I enjoyed eagerly reading the series for the first time growing up in the 1990s, and new readers that I introduce the books to still find delight in the enduring wisdom, humor, beauty, and friendship found in the world of Deep Valley.

    What an awesome prize package!

  3. I have loved these books for decades and frequently re-read. They have educated me, amused me, cheered me, taught me a smattering of German and a spattering of Italian, and given me answers to many Jeopardy! questions. The greatest gift though, has been camaraderie. As a longtime member of the online (pre-Facebook) Betsy-Tacy listserv, I have made such wonderful friends. We have laughed and cried together, love each other deeply and are there with comfort and joy when anyone needs a hug. And our rallying cry has always been, “I thought I was the only one!” To discover others feel the same about these beloved books is joy indeed.

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