Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Heavens To Besty by Maud Hart Lovelace

268 pages
Harper Trophy
A division of Harper Collins Publishers
Copyright 1948, reprinted 1980

Heavens to Betsy is the fifth book in the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace. This story opens in the summer of 1906, which leads up to Betsy and Tacy's freshman year in Deep Valley High School.

It doesn't take long for the reader to realize Betsy is quickly growing up to be a lovely young woman. At fourteen she's wearing her hair up (instead of in braids), her skirts are longer (nearly covering her ankles), she's taking on new challenges, including writing contests, joining choir, and exploring a new church. And then there's the social realm of her life -- Betsy's friendships expand to create "the crowd" who together enjoy dozens of parties and festivities throughout the year. She's even falling in love for the first time... to a tall, dark stranger (T.D.S!) All this definitely makes Heavens to Betsy a fun read.

As I've mentioned in the past, the Betsy-Tacy books are a childhood favorite of mine. Perhaps that accounts for the warm fuzzy feelings I get whenever I'm reading a book from the series. Betsy's world, including life as a freshman in Deep Valley High School, is just so interesting, exciting, and entertaining that I actually found myself almost wishing I had been a teenager in the early 20th century and lived in a town like Deep Valley... almost.

I've always been fond of the Betsy's family, but became even more so after reading Heavens to Betsy. Mr. and Mrs. Ray exemplify marriage, parenthood, friendship, and hospitality at its very best and it in turn is carried on by Betsy and her sisters. And even though the Ray family members do have their differences they always work things out with love and respect. Their house is a home to all who enter, filled with love, laughter, and even intellectual discussions. The Ray home is the type of home I wish to have -- loving, supportive, entertaining, and a haven to all.

In addition to the wonderful characters, interesting setting, and entertaining plot, I also find Lovelace's writing style enjoyable to read and easy to follow. Her books always have interesting story plots with subtle, but important lessons, and are so full of detail that it is never a problem to imagine every day life in Deep Valley in 1906 as clearly as if I'd seen it myself.

As you can tell I loved re-reading Heavens To Betsy. I don't know that it is my favorite book in the series, but it definitely ranks up near the top. On a scale of 1-5, 1 being horrible and 5 being excellent I would rate Heavens to Betsy a 5. I just love this book.

The only objections a reader might have with this book has to do with the casual and lighthearted use of a Ouija board by Betsy and her friends during some of their Christmas parties. Although I don't know a whole lot about life in the early 1900s I will venture a guess that the use of Ouija boards by families like the Rays was more as a form of entertainment than anything serious. Still some readers may object, but I think this shouldn't stop them from reading and enjoying this book.

Personally I don't think I can over emphasize how much I love this series and that readers who have never read the series should be sure to add it to their TBR lists. If you are a fan of Anne of Green Gables, Emily of New Moon, and the like, I can pretty much guarantee you will really enjoy these books.

While my first reading of the series was by way of library copies I did purchase the entire series about 10-13 years ago when Harper Collins Publishers was reprinting, since then the books have slipped back out of print. While I treasure the copies I have I hate the cover art (see above) as it poorly represents the books. The interior artwork (at the beginning of each chapter) by Vera Neville is far superior.

Readers who wish to obtain their own collection of Betsy-Tacy books may be able to find used copies through used book sellers and Amazon (editions and prices vary from low to high). Some readers may even get lucky and find copies at their local library, but there is some good news.

For the first time in over a decade Harper Collins Publishers is republishing the last six books in the Betsy-Tacy series! The print release date is set as September 29, 2009. For more information check out the Harper Collins Publishers website. (And note the cover art, it's by Vera Neville!)

Please note: the books are being combined with two novels per publication (i.e. Heavens to Betsy/Betsy In Spite of Herself cover Betsy's freshman and sophomore year, Betsy was a Junior/Betsy and Joe cover her junior and senior years, Betsy And the Great World/Betsy's Wedding cover the years following graduation.) The books will be selling for $14.99 and will be in paperback. This is indeed exciting news for all Betsy-Tacy fans.

~ O di immortales!


Anonymous said...

I loved those books too, especially the ones about the high school years.

By the way, have you ever read any of the "All of a Kind Family" books by Sydney Taylor or "The Happy Little Family" by Rebecca Caudill? If not, check them out. Great family read alouds!

imasoapfan said...

Thanks so much for the news of the republications of the later books!

Kara said...

Hooray for the reprinting! This series is among my all-time favorites, and I bought used copies off the Internet several years ago out of fear they'd be difficult to find for my own kids someday.

I just discovered your blog, and I love it. Your reading tastes are nearly identical to my own. Thank you for all the book recommendations! I love re-reading my faves, but it's great to have new ideas. Makes me excited to visit the library again.

ibeeeg said...

Your review has inspired me to pick up a Betsy book. I am thinking that my 10yod may like this series.