YOU WOULD THINK THAT, having grown up only 1 ½ hours west of Mankato, I would have read the Betsy-Tacy books as a child. But the fact is, I never heard of Mankato author Maud Hart Lovelace’s books until I had children of my own.
Perhaps it’s because I lived in Laura Ingalls Wilder country that I knew nothing about these delightful books of historical fiction. And without a library in town, I relied on teachers to shape my literary world. Either they never knew of the Betsy-Tacy books, or they chose to focus instead on Wilder’s Little House series, which I truly love.
But I also love the Betsy-Tacy books that follow main character Betsy Ray from age five into childhood and marriage. The stories take place in Deep Valley (Mankato), are set at the turn of the century and are based on Lovelace’s life. I first read the books to my daughters 17 years ago, when they were six and four.
I remember snuggling on the couch, my girls leaning into my shoulders, as I read the mischievous adventures of Betsy and her friends, Tacy and Tib. Oh, how we laughed at the trio mixing together Everything Pudding with ingredients like bacon grease, vinegar, onions, sugar, raisins and red pepper. The “yuck” factor endeared that story to us.
The artwork of Lois Lenski (in the first four books) helped us visualize Betsy, Tacy and Tib, who could have been my daughters’ friends—playing house, going for walks, cutting each other’s hair, mucking in the mud.
These fictional friends became so dear to us that we soon nicknamed my youngest daughter Tib. Like Tib, Miranda had curly blonde hair and maybe a bit of naughtiness in her. To this day, we still fondly call her Tib on occasion.
And then when my son, Caleb, was born years later, we started occasionally calling him Cab, after Cab Edwards, Betsy’s friend in the book series.
With all of that background, you’ll understand why I’m excited about the recent re-issuance of the six high school books (in the 13-book series) as Harper Perennial Modern Classics. The “new” books go on sale today.
And on Saturday, the Mankato-based Betsy-Tacy Society is celebrating with a book release party from 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. at the Betsy-Tacy houses, 332 and 333 Center Street in Mankato. The afternoon features reenactors, music and refreshments. And, of course, you can purchase Betsy-Tacy books.
For more information, go oline to www.betsy-tacysociety.org. You may also wish to read a feature I wrote about the Modern Classics for the September/October issue of Midwest Mix Magazine. Go to www.midwestmixmagazine.com.
Just one more bit of exciting news: Emily of Deep Valley and Carney’s House Party will also re-issue next summer as Harper Perennial Modern Classics.