GUEST POST BY JUSTINE McDANIEL

School: University of Puget Sound, 2012
Dream job: International journalist/editor-in-chief of The New York Times
Favorite musician: A Fine Frenzy
Favorite place: Bodega Bay and Grover Hot Springs (the beach and the mountains)
Fun activity: Choreographing modern dance with friends

BETSY-TACY
By Maud Hart Lovelace
Copyright 1940-1955

This article was first published Oct. 18, 2010

When I first thought of reviewing a book, my mind went straight to two series: J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” and “Betsy-Tacy” by Maud Hart Lovelace. Since Harry, Ron and Hermione have already won over millions, I decided to write about the less well-known but equally beloved “Betsy-Tacy.”

I was introduced to Betsy Ray and her best friends, Tacy and Tib, when I was seven. The childhood adventures of five-year-old Betsy immediately intrigued me. Despite the fact that the series begins in the late 1800s, it’s easy to relate to as Betsy plays with friends, learns with family and creates stories and adventures. The first four books cover Betsy’s childhood. It is impossible not to become enamored with Betsy’s yellow house and the family that inhabits it; Deep Valley, their friendly town; and the Big Hill, where the girls invent tales and face problems.

The fifth book, “Heaven to Betsy,” picks up at the beginning of Betsy’s freshman year, and I rediscovered the series around the same time in my life. As Betsy and her classmates embark on the twisting journey through high school, everything beloved about the first four books remains: Betsy’s determined ambition to become a writer, her picnics on the hill, and the presence of her loving family. But Betsy is not perfect. Over the four years, she inadvertently neglects her schoolwork and family, changes herself to impress a boy, fights with friends – things everyone experiences. And, like everyone, she comes to a better understanding of herself as she works things out.

It is because Betsy is so human that she’s so loveable. You won’t find stereotyped tales of cliquey cheerleaders within these pages, but rather, characters with experiences so real it is like you are living them yourself. Reading about Betsy’s trials and tribulations is like going to an old friend for advice: she’s always there, and she’s learned the lessons the hard way along with you.

Everyone surrounding Betsy is enticing, drawing you into their world with a friendly wave and a smile. You can always depend on Tacy; Tib’s return to Deep Valley lifts your spirits. The schemes and soirées of the Crowd, Betsy’s group of friends, are analogous to those I’ve had with my friends, despite the fact that we graduated almost exactly 100 years after they did. And you will fall irrevocably in love with Joe Willard, just as Betsy does the first time she sees him, and eagerly follow his story through the six books of Betsy’s teenaged and adult life.

I won’t describe every facet of Betsy’s life that has ensnared me, every character who feels like my friend and every moment I fall in love with each time I read the books. Anyone who picks one up will feel the same. As Betsy navigates her way through life’s ups and downs, she also finds her way into our hearts, and that path is one that will be treaded again and again.