Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Understood Betsy

by Dorothy Canfield.

Someone I know - maybe Mad Hatter Mommy, another children's librarian? - mentioned in an offhand way the book Understood Betsy, and that it had been an old classic they'd read and loved as a child. I had never heard of it! So I ordered it from another library branch, and dug in.

To my surprise - it was funny. It takes gleeful little pokes at the modern science of childrearing and at applying psychology to raising young people, it makes fun in a sly, tongue-in-cheek way that is not mean, but is unmistakeable. and predictably, when Betsy escapes this dreary, fear-inducing, crippling environment by mere happenstance and is sent to live with her "most dreadful" cousins on a Vermont farm? She flourishes under their no-nonsense but quietly loving ways, blossoming into a sturdy, sensible, fun-loving girl with ideas and a fierce heart of her own.

And when, at the end, she is to go back to her original guardian aunt, she is terribly sad, but determined not to hurt the aunt's feelings, she puts on a brave face. In the end, though, the aunt will be traveling with her new husband, and it is agreed to the secret delight of everyone, that Betsy should stay right where she is.

There is nothing in this old gem from 1917 that will come as much of a surprise - it all happens just as it should for a book like this, but the tale is captivating, quickly moving, and wryly humourous enough to be a true delight. Thanks to whomever happened to mention this one and pique my curiosity!

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I LOVE this book and love that I recently discovered your blog!
I am a children's librarian as well and I would say that Anne, Betsy and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm round out my personal favourites from childhood.

My copy of Betsy is taped together and falling apart, but I could never get a new one!
Mmmmm, it wasn't me. I've never heard of it. Now I'll have to see if we have it here.
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