Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Betsy-Tacy Guide to Birthdays

About this time over the past few years (except last year when we were in England and away from our books), N. has asked me to reread parts of the Betsy-Tacy books to him as he gets ready to celebrate his birthday (I read him the first four books in the series over the summer he turned 5).  Three years ago we reread the opening chapters of the first book, Betsy-Tacy, in which Betsy becomes friends with Tacy, the new girl across the street, at Betsy's 5th birthday party.  Two years ago we reread all of Winona's Pony Cart, a novel ancillary to the main series, in which much of the plot involves the 8th birthday party of Betsy, Tacy, and Tib's vivacious friend Winona.  This year as he approached his double-digit birthday, N. asked to hear Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill, which begins with Betsy, Tacy, and Tib turning ten, memorably singing (to the tune of "Battle Hymn of the Republic") "O Betsy's ten tomorrow/ And then all of us are ten!/ We will all be ten tomorrow,/ We will all be ladies then!"

I think N. is drawn to these books at this time of year because they explore so effectively the complexity of birthdays.  The strange behavior of the new girl (which turns out to be merely extreme shyness) hangs somewhat darkly over Betsy's fifth birthday until Betsy gets to know Tacy.  Winona gets herself in a scrape by boasting about the pony she's deluded herself into believing she will receive as a birthday gift and inviting nearly all the children she knows to her party, rather than the select group her mother expects.  Later, Betsy is eager to turn ten and begin to be more grown up, but at the same time she worries that the fun of childhood will be over.  One's birthday can be a strangely emotional day, and Betsy, Tacy, and their friends seem to offer N. annual, familiar comfort and camaraderie.

Bonus reading: I rant about reading Betsy-Tacy to boys here.  I enthuse about first reading the Betsy-Tacy books to N. here.

1 comment:

CMR said...

so true! I need to reread them.