The event was held at Brookline Booksmith and organized in conjunction with the publisher, HarperPerennial — which also reissued the three “high school and beyond” books last year, and the double-book Carney’s House Party and Winona’s Pony Cart. Now, with the original four Betsy-Tacy books, a new generation of readers can “grow up” with Betsy, and those who enjoyed the books years ago will love the new paperback releases with all the additional background information they include.
My 8-year-old daughter accompanied me as we I drove to Brookline on Saturday [note: this was one of J's travel weekends, and I had made sure it was packed with FUN! Lots of activities kept everyone, from 6-year son to 40-something Mom happily distracted. All four kids attended a release party for Ruckus Media on Friday night, it was the weekend of cherpumple, and now we were heading to meet the New Betsys (the New England chapter of the Betsy-Tacy society) as well as the truly new fans (raising our hands here) ... nonstop fun!].
It took a bit longer than I planned to get in there (have I told you that my GPS hates me!?? She sounds so disappointed when I veer off her instructions, with an audible sigh she states “recalculating”), so we missed the actual reading by Mitali Perkins. Yes, Mitali Perkins, who wrote the heartfelt and personal foreword to the reissued Emily of Deep Valley, was hosting the event, reading from the novel (truly a timeless classic), and leading discussion.
We made it in time for the Q&A. Readers asked questions about the flaws of each character, discussed favorites (books and characters), and subtly sided with the outcomes of various romances (to wit, Joe vs. Tony got pretty heated!).
I have to tell you, I still feel on-the-outside-looking-in with Betsy-Tacy … the novels are fantastic, appealing to both my daughters and me. I don’t yet have the Lovelace blood coursing through my veins, and was a bit envious perhaps of the shared background and history of the New Betsys in the room. Oh, how I wish I had read the Betsy-Tacy books when I was a girl! I think I’ll have to read each book a dozen times to be able to hold my own in conversation with them, but I may be up to the challenge!
As you may know, Maud Hart Lovelace based the novels on her own life growing up in Mankato, Minnesota. I especially enjoy the extras in these reissues – the biographical material, history, and photos. Emily of Deep Valley has a section on Vera Neville, the illustrator whose drawings grace the pages of the “high school and beyond” books.
Speaking of Vera Neville, guess who else was at the event?! Her niece, Pat Neville-Downe! I understand that she was the model Vera Neville used when drawing one of the characters (help me out here … which girl did Pat sit in for?).
This group picture shows the group of New Betsys who stayed and chatted after Mitali signed books (there were at least twice as many people in attendance – long-time fans and new converts). In the front row are Pat Neville-Downe, Jennifer Hart (aka Book Club Girl), and Mitali Perkins. I’m on the left in the white shirt, with my daughter in front of me (will ID the others in the picture if/when I get their permission).
My daughter loved attending the event with me (not just because of the tea and cookies!). She liked “being with all those other people who like to read” and “can’t wait to be old enough to read the ‘older’ Betsy-Tacy books.”