Betsy and Tacy are back

Maud Hart Lovelace, born and raised in Mankato, Minnesota, had a very happy childhood. And her memories formed the basis of a wildly popular series of children’s books featuring two young girls named Betsy and Tacy who live in the fictional town of Deep Valley.

Now the first four of those popular children’s books have been re-issued in a new volume called ‘The Betsy-Tacy Treasury.’

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Evidently these stories (which I’m embarrassed to admit I’m just discovering) are near and dear to the likes of Judy Blume, Nora Ephron, and Anna Quindlen, among others.

In the New York Times, Pamela Paul recently pondered the books’ popularity:

Why all the excitement over a series of stories about everyday life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the fictional town of Deep Valley, Minn. – a stand-in for the author’s real hometown of Mankato, Minn.?

It could be the little touches that resonate with all young girls: The established perfidy of older sisters. A “chocolate colored” house. A nearby hill that looms over the backyard symbolizing the acquisition of independence. And of course the idealized friendship between Betsy Ray and Tacy Kelly, epitomized in that magnificent hyphen linking the two names together, testament to their girlish bond.

But does it also have something to do with the notion of five-year-old girls being allowed to dine outdoors together on a bench between their two homes, no grownups lurking overhead? Or two young friends mounting the big hill – on their own? Or the prospect of a mother leaving three schoolgirls at home unattended one afternoon, with instructions to heat up their own cocoa on the stove?

In the sweet, safe sanctuary of Deep Valley, Minn., more than 100 years ago, such things were possible, at least in Betsy-Tacy’s universe. It’s a far cry from the overprotective, omni-parented world of 21st-century America with its myriad threats, real and imaginary. After reading aloud a few chapters to my own six-year-old daughter recently, my daughter sighed and said simply, “I want to live in this book.” She’s probably not the only one.

Are you a Betsy-Tacy fan? If so, what makes their stories so appealing?