Tuesday, February 19, 2008

B is for Betsy

Haywood, Carolyn. 1939. B is for Betsy.

I'll keep this one short and sweet. I read this book because I've been going way way back this month. (Who knows why???) Anyway, as far as books from the thirties go, this one is charming enough. The heroine is, of course, named Betsy. And the plot is episodic. Each chapter is a new adventure. Most of them center around life at home and life at school. It's not that the book is bad, it's just a bit dated. You can love it, I hope, and still admit that it's dated. (If you grew up with this book and loved it and want to share it with your kids, I don't want to offend you by saying it's "dated." But as an adult reader I've got to be honest and say that I'm not so sure that today's young readers are going to be as charmed with it as their grandmothers may have been. You may pull it off if you do it as a read aloud, but I don't know that a kid would pick this one up on their own and stick with it. Not without some motivation or guidance or exuberance from a trusted adult.)

Another point--that may be neither here nor there. But I think *sometimes* your response to a book is dependent on when you read it. Some books that I only "like" now, I probably would have loved as a kid. Some books I loved as a kid, if I was reading them for the first time as an adult, would only merit a "like" as an adult reader. It's just something to consider.

First sentence: "Betsy lay in her little white bed. She had been awake a long time. Outside her window the birds were calling "Good Morning" to each other, but Betsy did not hear them. All summer long she had jumped out of bed as soon as her eyes were open. She had always run to the window and thrown sunflower seeds out to the birds for their breakfast. But this morning Betsy was so busy feeling unhappy that she forgot all about the birds. Betsy was unhappy because today was the first day of school. She had never been to school and she was sure she would not like it."

159 pages.


Paige Y. said...

I guess I can agree with dated, but I must admit this was one of my favorite books and I read it out loud to my oldest when she was 5. I won't way it was her favorite read-aloud, but I do think she liked it. My personal favorite in this series was Snowbound with Betsy. Being from the South, it was always a dream to be shut in by a blizzard ( and not even The Long Winter changed my mind) -- I still love snow and wish we would get more. I'm sure those from the North would be glad to send some my way but unfortunately it doesn't work that way.

Becky said...


You have MADE my day!!!! I bet you didn't expect that! First I'll address what you said, I think it would work as a read aloud. I think it would take adult-child interaction to make the book work. What I was saying and I'm not sure I said it that clearly was that I didn't think a kid would randomly pick it up from the shelf and read it. Though it would depend on the shelves.

I went to a private school growing up with a very limited library. Limited in part by size--small school, small budget--but also limited by content. I'm sure this one would have been welcome on the shelves--it very well may have been--and in that case, I think it would work. But up against the newest and the bestselling of today's era...I don't know that this one would pop off the shelf.

How did you make my day? I think--though I can't be 100% sure--but I think you may have solved one of my longstanding--what was the name of that book--dilemmas. I have been trying so hard to remember the name of a book. All I could remember was that it had a girl named Betsy and that there was a blizzard. I couldn't remember the cover, the title, or the author's name. I *think* you may have done it. Now if only I can find a picture of the cover or read a summary :)

Anonymous said...


It's so wonderful to know that this book is still around. I have a bit of a story to tell you about my experience with the Betsy "series".

I am 27 years old. I am originally from Mansfield, OH and I am an African American female. (stay with me.)

My mother told me about these books when I was in elementary school. She wrote the name of the books and the author on a little piece of paper that over time, I grew to cherish. I absolutely LOVED library days at school because of these books. I got one every week, and I honestly believe that they are why I am such an avid reader now.

Betsy was nothing "like me"...but I identified with her...something about her "life" and her adventures captured me as a child, and have stuck with me since then. She was a huge part of my childhood, and that is what led me to google her just now. I happened upon your page and was almost in tears...I thought I was one of the only people in the world that had read these books.

Anonymous said...

I am 40 years old, and my mother was a librarian at my Primary school back in the day. B is for Betsy was my favorite book. I read it all the time. I have tried and tried to remember the name of the book, but all I could remember was a little girl getting in trouble for picking violets, and Mr. Kilpatrick. Since I have little girls, I really wanted to figure out the name of this book I loved so much. It so happens that I am now a librarian myself, and a teacher at my school was raving about how her son loved this old-timey book. I took a look at it, and was so happy to find "my" book. I have read it with my girls and they laugh out loud at parts, and learn from others. Needless to say, Betsy lives on!!