Following on the heels of The Borrowers in my headphones is another of Fuse No. 8's Top 100 Children's Novels (number 70), but this one I read for the first time: Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace. Here we are introduced to the two little girls Betsy and Tacy, who meet right around the turn of the 20th century when they are five years old, and grow up together in the small town of Deep Valley, Minnesota over the course of 10 books.
The stories are linked, but episodic, making them perfect for a read-aloud bedtime. Betsy and Tacy go to school, explore their neighborhood, experience some losses and joys, and make a new friend. The book is chock full of creative play (let's sell sand, let's pretend we're traveling to Milwaukie, let's fly to the clouds). My favorite was when the girls played dress-up and went calling -- using Betsy's mother's calling cards. Their neighbor, Mrs. Benson, invites them in and serves them a drink fondly remembered from my own childhood, cambric tea.
Much as I enjoyed this, unlike the legions of these books' loyal fans (read a few quotes from some of the more well-known ones here) , I don't need to read another one -- at least not without a child nearby. They are sweet, very girly, and -- fan of both historical fiction and gentle teen romances that I was as a child -- I have no idea how they passed me by. So, I'm glad to have had the taste at this late date.
The audiobook is read by Sutton Foster, a stage actress and singer (and winner of a Tony Award for her performance in Thoroughly Modern Millie [loved the movie]). Foster brings a youthful innocence to her narration, never stooping to sound like a five-year-old, but definitely using her voice to demonstrate the wonder and enthusiasm that Betsy and Tacy have for their ever-widening world. It's really a pretty subtle performance, while entirely accessible for young listeners. There's cheerful music at the beginning and end of each disc (all two of them) that adds flavor to the story as well.