1. Maud Hart Lovelace. I have very few selective "favorites" in life. When it comes to authors I have many I like, but few that could be called "favorites". But if I had to name just one author out of all that I enjoy it would have to be Maud Hart Lovelace. I love her writing style, I love her sense of humor and I find her stories fascinating. I just love her books.
I also love that the Betsy-Tacy series is based on Maud's real life experiences, her friends and family, and the thoughts and feelings she had as a young girl and a young woman. When I read them they are not only a delightfully entertaining, but they feel real as if I am reading the adventures of a friend. Maud was born with some amazing gifts. Writing was one and the other was the ability to capture her life and put it down on paper for others to enjoy and relive through their imagination.
But writing aside, I also have a lot of respect for Maud as a person. When I read The Betsy-Tacy Companion (the only thorough biography of Maud Hart Lovelace) last year I grew to appreciate her even more. Maud had a happy and fulfilling life. She was loving and kind and was loved by her friends and family. She brought joy through her books as well as her day to day life. She had true faith and I can only imagine she must have been a wonderful person to know and call "friend."
2. Joe/Delos. Some may argue that Joe isn't really based on Maud's husband because Betsy meets Joe as a young teenager and Maud didn't meet Delos until well into her 20s. And yet, it appears a great deal of Joe is based off Delos. With this in mind I have always favored Betsy's Wedding because it is the first opportunity the reader gets to really know Joe/Delos. Within this book it is also clear how great a match Joe and Betsy are. They are truly happy together, the best of friends and lovers. From what I've read this was also how it was for Delos and Maud and that makes me happy; happy to know that while the fictional couple appear to live "happily-ever-after" the fact remains the real-life couple did too and that's what really counts in the end.
"Delos and I are mutually agreed that marrying each other
was giving the perfect answer to life." ~ MHL, 11/28/1931
3. The importance of reading. I love reading and writing and almost anything book related. So it fits well that one of the aspects of Maud Hart Lovelace's books that I love is how important reading is to the characters within. Betsy loved to read and write, as does Joe. And Emily and Carney have their share of reading in the Deep Valley books. Betsy's early visits to Deep Valley's public library are a big deal in Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown and although the library takes a lesser role as Betsy becomes distracted with boys during high school Maud still manages to include the library and reading in general as an important and beloved aspect of life for Betsy and her friends.
In recent years I've found it especially fun to note the books mentioned within a book I am reading. Sometimes I find new titles to read and other times I can't help but laugh in agreement when a character expresses an opinion about a book I've also read. One of my top favorite reads of all times is Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Shuttle. I was thrilled last year when I discovered this was a book that Betsy also read with her friends (see Betsy Was a Junior, Chapter 7). I think in a way it is almost an inside joke between authors and readers when a book is mentioned within a book. I love it.
4. The timelessness of her books. Maud's stories are set 50-100+ years ago (depending on which one you pick up and read) and there are definitely aspects of the books that date them, yet they all give a feeling of timelessness. Times may have changed, but overall people don't change. They still have the same basic hopes and dreams fears and desires it's just how they are manifested that has changed. I love how rich the characters are. Family matters; character and ethics matter; faith matters; the American dream matters. I love the fact that the lessons learned within each story are just as applicable today as they were when they were written (or in some cases, when they occurred).
5. The music. There are LOTS of songs woven into Maud Hart Lovelace's books. I am so glad she chose to include so much of the popular arts -- music, theater, books, etc. I think it is fascinating for readers of the 21st century to see what was popular for young people 100 years ago.
One of my many favorite scenes in the Betsy books is the one when Joe FINALLY asks Betsy for a dance and she scratches a name for him. It is the point in the series where the reader finally gets a glimpse of what is to come:
"In five minutes the news had spread around the hall. Joe Willard had asked Betsy Ray for a dance. She had scratched off a name to give him one... The tenth dance ended and there followed the brief intermission during which boys took leave of their old partners and sough new ones. Betsy waited for joe. He did not come. Mamie Dodd started to play the piano. It was a new song Betsy liked, "The girl I'll call my sweetheart, Must look like you..."I really wanted to find the music or lyrics from the song that Betsy and Joe dance to, but it seems to be lost in the passage of time. I did however find a similarly titled song, Let Me Call You Sweetheart written by Leo Friedman that the Betsy Tacy Society has included in their CD Maud's Music of Deep Valley. (I should mention here I really WANT a copy of this CD!) It was written the same year, 1910, and although the lyrics are different I think it is close enough to count. I chose a piano solo as it reminded me of Mamie Dodd. I can almost see in my mind's eye Joe whirling Betsy across the floor as she thinks, "I wonder what about next year..." Enjoy!
Couples moved out to the floor, circled. Still Joe didn't come.
Betsy stood alone. She would stand there only a moment She knew the proper thing to do if you were stranded without a partner, although she had seldom found herself in that undesirable predicament. She started to move toward the cloak room but first her eyes circled the hall and she saw Joe almost running up the stairs...
Betsy smiled. Joe put his arm around her and they moved out onto the dance floor. He danced well, not smoothly like Dave, nor with Tony's rhythmic skill but with zest and in perfect time. He whirled her as she had never been whirled before." (Betsy Was A Junior, Chapter 22)
Happy friday and happy reading!