Right in the middle of the Top 100 Chapter Books is Betsy-Tacy (1940) by Maud Hart Lovelace. As this is the start of a semi-autobiographical series that began as bedtime stories to the author’s daughter, it has a lot of heart and obvious love for the characters.
What it’s about: Betsy has been waiting for another five year old girl to move on to her street and soon Tacy’s family obliges by buying the house directly across from them. After a hiccup or two, the girls become fast friends, having fun and helping each other through everything from the first day of school to the loss of a sibling.
Age level: Grades 2-4
Best part: I loved that the story explored the highs and lows of childhood. Nothing was dwelled on over-long but everything seemed to be given the right weight.
Worst part: Possibly the Catholic family with a dozen kids but it was just a passing annoyance and, as the characters were based on real families, I’m not sure it can be considered a stereotype. There really wasn’t much I didn’t enjoy about this story!
This really was a lovely little story. From the girls dressing up and going “calling”, complete with Betsy’s mother’s calling cards, to their entrepreneurial experiments (selling sand in jars that had been colored with leftover Easter egg dye), I found the girls charming. They weren’t faultless but nothing they did or had happen to them was simply for drama’s sake. I’m actually quite intrigued by the fact that the series of thirteen books was written for readers to continue aging along with the characters, ending with Betsy’s Wedding, a YA book. I’m sure that I will end up grabbing the rest of this series at random over the years when I need small, uplifting filler reads.
I think I’ve read The Tale of Despereaux before but I can’t remember for sure because there is a movie version that I know I’ve watched with Z. I do love other Kate DiCamillo books though so I’m sure it will be a good read! Then I have three favorites saved for the end of the project, rereads that I know I will enjoy.