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It is, however, far more exciting!!!  How did I not know that Harper-Collins has re-printed the last four Betsy-Tacy books?!!!   Betsy Ray is completely, totally, and utterly irrevocably to blame for my childhood propensity of writing hysterically overwrought tragedies while sitting in trees.   She is also the source of my deep-seated wish to have a desk which is actually a Victorian steamer trunk and which can double as a window seat, because, dude, that  is awesome.

Seriously. If you're looking for a series of children's/YA books with strong, believable heroines who get into almost as many tangles as Anne Shirley, but who (with classic Midwestern pragmatism) aren't half as schmoopy,  go read Maud Hart Lovelace. The series starts in turn of the century Deep Valley Minnesota, when the characters are 5, and follows them up until their early 20s and the start of the First World War. (If you can, find the editions with Lois Lenski's illustrations.)  
I don't know if it's because Lovelace was writing from her own experience of growing up, but there's still a wonderful freshness to the books - they're technically historical fiction, but they never feel like it. There's no shoe-horning in of detail or superfluous information, everything about the age is presented naturally through the characters' perspectives and experiences. They're immensely, quietly, progressive in their own way in terms of representing women and family.  I love the fact that  Betsy's parents are wholly supportive of their daughters without giving them a free pass on anything important.  I love it that the Ray girls' respective desires to be a writer and an opera singer are not presented as rebellious or to the exclusion of having a family, but instead are presented as natural and achievable goals to aspire to in addition to having other hopes and wishes. I love it even more that Betsy and Julia are flirtatious, principled, love pretty clothes and perfumes, are able to recognize when they make mistakes, are able to communicate like civilsed human beings with their parents, are occasionally selfish and jealous and struggle not to be, are brave enough to follow their hearts on matters important to them.  I love it that Mr. Ray makes the best onion sandwiches in Deep Valley, and Lovelace gives us the recipe.  There's a marvellous generosity of spirit throughout.

...If anyone wants, me, I'll be over here in this tree, eating fudge and reading Lady Audley's Secret.


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February 2011

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