Wednesday, April 11, 2012

wordy Wednesday: favorite book series for kids

Didn't you just love reading book series as a kid? There's nothing better, for a young bookworm, than finding out that the end of a book is not, in fact, the end of your experience with those characters. I burned through The Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew, and The Babysitter's Club. I fell in love Madeleine L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time books (not to mention the Austin family series), Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe, and with the Alice series. I even read some Trixie Beldens (not as many as Beth, though!) and spent lots of time with Agent Arthur on road trips.

But my favorite series as a kid? The Betsy Tacy books.

Set at the turn of the century in Deep Valley, a fictionalized version of Mankato, MN, these stories are loosely based on the life of author Maud Hart Lovelace. The main character, Betsy Ray, is a lively, creative little girl (and, eventually, young woman) who has a stubborn streak and a penchant for the dramatic, not unlike Jo from Little Women. She has two very dear friends -- Tacy (short for Anastacia), a shy little redhead from a big Irish family, and Tib (short for Thelma), a spunky German-American girl -- who accompany her on most of her adventures throughout the books, which follow Betsy from age 5 to her mid-twenties.

One of the best features of these books is that they grow up along with the characters and the reader; the difficulty of the text increases with each novel, which makes them age-appropriate at every level. As a result, Betsy's exploits always feel relatable to the reader, from making up fanciful stories and fighting over who gets to be the May queen in the early books to cramming for exams, falling in love, and taking a trip around the world by cruise ship in the later stories.

Lovelace's books were originally published in the 1940s, and I just adore the illustrations that accompanied those versions of the series. They were reissued in the 1970s and again in the 1990s, and though the new look perhaps appeals to a more modern audience in some respects, I think you can't get much better than those lovely first covers.

(image -- and you have to read the accompanying article!)

If you'd like to read an excerpt or two from these darling books, here's one from an early book when the three girls are so excited to turn ten years old ("It's the beginning of growing up!") and another from Betsy's high school days when she learns her lesson about helping some fellow students who slacked off on their summer reading assignment (guess that happened in 1910 as well as in 2010!).

Though I'm all for letting kids read what they want, these are the kinds of stories I hope my daughter and I will read together one day -- sweet, wholesome, imaginative, fun.

Anyone else a Betsy-Tacy fan? I'd love to reminisce with you! Or tell me about your favorite book series growing up (did you read these? I want to do a post about them, too!).


  1. I've read almost all of the children's series you mentioned above, but I've never read the Lovelace books. They sound kind of amazing...I might have to pick them up for Avery one day.

    (I still have all my Nancy Drew, Babysitter's Club, and Anne of Green Gables books. I've read every single one, and I'm saving them for Avery.)

  2. My favorites were the Ramona books, the Laura Ingalls Wilder books (until "On the Shores of Silver Lake," when everything got depressing), the Chalet School series (my mom would pick up new ones for me when she went on business trips to the UK), the BSC, and Noel Streatfeild's "Shoes" books (though I don't really know if that's a series since the characters aren't really recurring). I hope to have a daughter someday so I can share them with her!

  3. Wow! I've never heard of Betsy Tacy and I was a voracious reader! Maybe I'll go back and read some now;)

    I read ALL the rest, constantly plus anything about the Sweet Valley Twins, including even about after the college years. Redic. But a good silly beach read.

  4. Oh!! I forgot about The Littles! How I loved The Littles. I have all of MY DADS from when he was younger so they are yellowed and fragile and well worn/loved.

    I highly recommend!

  5. I read and loved so many of the series that you mentioned! The Boxcar Children, Babysitter's Club, all of the Little House on the Prairie (and spin-offs!) books, the American Girl books, The Wrinkle in Time series, like Fancy Pants, I loved The Sweet Valley Twin books, Harry Potter...and on, and on, and on. Listing all of these, I'm realizing that my "I have a baby and no time to read" excuse is pretty lame!

  6. I absolutely LOVED the Alice books! I can't even count how many times I've read the Agony Of's still hysterical even now! I also remember reading Betsy mom picked them out for me at the library and I remember the old time-y smell and illustrations. Great post!

  7. I never read any of the Betsy-Tacy books... inf act, this is the first I've heard of the series! But besides the Babysitter's Club, I loved Encyclopedia Brown. I can distinctly picture where those books were in our elementary school library, and that's saying a lot since I have very few early childhood memories.

  8. Ok so I'm fairly young haha but I adored reading and had so many favorite books. My favorites were: Nancy Drew mysteries, The BabySitters Club, The American Girl Books, The Wizard of Oz series, Alice In Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass, Grimm's Fairy Tales, Cam Jensen series, etc. and I really loved these 2 books about this doll that came to life. They were called Caitlin's Holiday & Doll Trouble. So many books! I hope to pass all my old books down to my future children.