Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Betsy-Tacy Kind of Day

have not read the Betsy-Tacy books.

As such, my spending the day in Mankato, Minnesota (birthplace of author Maud Hart Lovelace) with Lovelace historian Kathleen Baxter and Betsy-Tacy savant Melissa Wiley

…was either an act of bravery or leap of stupidity.

Or both.

Have you read the Betsy-Tacy books? Have you been to Mankato, Minnesota? You really should if you haven’t, you know—come to Minnesota, that is, (because we’re so nice) but also read this amazing series. Bring everyone along with you on this literary journey—your girls, your mom, your grandma, your goddaughter…

Heck, why not get the guys on board? There’s history here and loads of characters…

Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself.

So yes, swallowing my pride and shouldering my camera, I set out to see Mankato, Minnesota. The day was, if I may reference yet another writer, practically perfect in every way.

Melissa Wiley and Kathleen Baxter
~ Melissa Wiley and Kathleen Baxter ~

Kathy Baxter was an amazing tour guide. She is the author of the excellent Gotcha! series and a gal who really knows Kids’ Lit. What’s more, she is a fount of knowledge when it comes to Maud Hart Lovelace and even—you need to brace yourself here—had a personal correspondence with Lovelace herself.

And met Cab.

had tea with Carney.


Moving along…

Tacy's House

Outside Tacy's House

The three of us arrived mid-Sunday morning, where we met up with several members of the Betsy-Tacy historical society.

Inside Tacy's House
From left to right: Jackie Hilgert, Kathy Baxter, Melissa Wiley, Susan Brown

They were a warm, fun-loving bunch who served us fresh berries and homemade granola bars. More importantly, they let us into Betsy and Tacy’s homes! First we gathered at the home of Tacy (real name: Frances “Bick” Kenney) and then we crossed the street to Betsy’s house.

Lissa’s knees began to knock.

On Our Way into Betsy's House

Our tour guide Bob Brown really knew his stuff and shared story after story from Betsy and Tacy’s past. I’m not sure if he knew who all Lissa was—for example, that she is a huge promoter of the series and has written the foreward for one of the Deep Valley books—or if rather, as a true historian who loves his job, he simply couldn’t resist telling all the tales.

Bob and Lissa

Not surprisingly, I had a lot of fun watching Lissa’s reactions.

Melissa Wiley and Bob Brown

I could tell that she wanted to answer his questions; I could tell she was struggling with her inner Hermione.

Gracious and well-mannered guest that she was, however, Lissa looked & listened & said very little.

Betsy's House

(That’s the mark of a truly great writer, don’t you think?)

(Not that I know much about it.)

Truth be told, Lissa knows the Betsy-Tacy books by heart and loves the characters like they were friends. Her day in Mankato was a dream come true.

Betsy's Garden

In fact, there were several times throughout the tour that Lissa fainted clean away.

Still Giddy

Not really, but she was quite excited.

For good reason.

She sat on Winona’s wall, for heaven’s sake!

Winona's Wall

She walked up the hill! She sat on the bench!

The Bench

For a lover of all things Maud Hart Lovelace, Mankato is the place to be.

What a fun bunch!

Tacy's House

What a knowledgeable crew!

Lissa and Jackie Hilgert

What a glorious day for this future fan!

Tib's Chocolate-Colored House
~ Tibb’s Chocolate-Colored House ~

Okay, I’m the one who’s giddy now—giddy at the memory, giddy with hope, giddy at the thought that I have all these books to look forward to.

Hi, Betsy! Hi, Tacy! My name is Margaret…

Betsy's Garden

…and I am very, very pleased to meet you.

A caboodle of all things Maud Hart Lovelace:


  1. How funny, just the other day I was browsing Amazon and found this series, and was thinking of ordering them as a Christmas gift for my 7 year old. I think I may now be convinced to do so! =0)

  2. We love the Betsy-Tacy series, although, we've only read 2 so far. We'd love to go, but this is the next best thing!

    Love your new hairdo and love you in jeans....never seen it before and love those boots!

    Looks like you both had a great time!

  3. I read the first three books as a girl. My 11 year old just finished up the first three. I enjoyed reliving it with her.

  4. margaret you are too funny. "channeling her inner hermione".

    we've read the first few, but we're going to have to re-read these and then move on in the series.

    and then i'm going to have to show my daughter these pictures. she'll be so excited. thanks for sharing!

  5. Love love love! What fun. Wish I was there with you both!

  6. How fun! This is how we felt when we traveled to Walnut Grove this summer. Very giddy!

    My 7yo has read the first two Betsy-Tacy books (more than once), and she is getting the third book for her upcoming b-day. She would love a trip to Mankato. Now, I just need to read the series, too, so I can join in on the excitement with her.

  7. I read the series as an adult when I was looking for good literature for my eldest daughter (now 20). It was such fun to find something I hadn't read. I checked out all the books from the library and finished the series before my daughter did. Some of the books I had her wait to read since they had boy themes. My favorite Lovelace book is "Emily of Deep Valley."

  8. Margaret, you are a gem, a joy, a wonder. I couldn't ask for a better scrapbook of our day! You made me LOL with "channeling her inner Hermione" because you ARE SO RIGHT!! I was!!

    Thank you, my dear, from the bottom of my heart---for coming with us, adding your own spark and fun to the day, and for the post, the pictures, the laughs, the FOOD, the fun with your beautiful children, and above all the gift of your friendship!

  9. I just read Emily of Deep Valley because, well, my name's Emily, and I read Melissa's blog, so I KNEW these books were being reissued...and now I can't wait to read the rest of them! (Betsy and Tacy make a brief appearance in EoDV).
    Help me here, though, folks: Where do I find them? Kid lit section? Regular fiction? THe only reason I saw Emily was because she was on the new releases table! HELP!

  10. So jealous! What a fantastic day!

    Thanks for sharing it.

    word verification is: bhorsey, lol. I guess I'll have to "horse" around a little bit today. ;)

  11. Thank you for this beautiful photo essay, what a treat! I have only this year discovered Betsy-Tacy; I have no clue how I have missed the books all these years! I want to come back to MN now and visit like you all did. Thanks again!

  12. Hi Margaret! Thanks for visiting the BT houses and Mankato. It's always fun for us who see them every day to see them through the eyes of a first-time visitor and longtime fan.

    If I may be so bold to tell you and your followers that the Betsy-Tacy Society sells all the books (and other things) on its web site and when you purchase through us (versus Amazon or B&N) half the cost of your purchase goes directly to ongoing preservation of the houses and literary outreach. (We are a 501(3)c non-profit.)


    Now get reading, girl!

  13. I loved these books as a kid! I had no idea this was in Mankato. I'm so disappointed that my only daughter is not the least bit interested in this kind of "historical girly" stuff (Laura Ingalls, Anne of Green Gables, none of it.) I guess I'll have to wait for a granddaughter some day. (But not too soon!)

  14. Oh what coincidence. I was just checking out your blog (because my friend told me how great it was, true, true) and here you have this post about the Betsy-Tacy books. I have never read the books but just received them in the mail yesterday from Amazon. They will be a gift for my to be 7 yr olds birthday this next Monday. From the sounds of it I am sure she is going to love them.

  15. I forgive you for not ever reading the series, only because you are not a NATIVE Minnesotan. Get reading!

  16. What age are these books for? -- I have a dear friend who's daughter is letting her (grand)daughter read Judy Blume (and she is QUITE young - yikes!) I have no girls -- but I myself recently read one from the series - and will be certain to continue on. What a fun day it looks to have been! BUT I guess I am not a natural-born writer because there is no way I could have been so quiet! LOL!

  17. LOL! "struggling with her inner Hermione" BEST LINE EVER!!!
    So glad you gals had a great time.

  18. LOVED your post - looks like you had a fabulous day... hmmm I'm now thinking we may have to plan a trip to Mankato...

    We loved this series with oldest daughter, now ready to re-acquaint with youngest two! (If fact, oldest daughter and her bf called themselves Betsy and Tacy for years!)

    You crack me up Maggie - "channeling her inner hermione". :-D!

  19. Anonymous7:21 PM

    Indeed! My girls and I have read the Betsy-Tacy books. Gosh, they are so good. I hope that you and your girls get going on them. You won't be sorry!

  20. Anonymous7:45 PM

    Hi Margaret,

    My family and I traveled from SD to Mankato a few weeks ago to visit the homes of Betsy and Tacy. I read aloud the first four books in the Betsy-Tacy series to my three youngest girls, and they each went on to read the rest of the series. I am anxious to read the remaining books myself. I loved your post today and all of the photos!

    Mary in SD

  21. What fun!
    Well, you know that my middle daughter's blog name is Betsy Ray, and you should have seen Ramona's face just now when she saw Lissa sitting ON THE BENCH! (I am just these days reading the books to Ramona and she's fallen in love, just as my older girls did. As I did.)

    Will you take us to Mankato when we come visit you, too?

    Pretty please?

  22. Oh, my old friends Betsy and Tacy! And,oh!, have I every been to Mankato! M-A-V-E-R-I-C-K-S! MAVERICKS! MAVERICKS! GOOOOOOOOOOOO STATE!!!

  23. What a great essay, thank you so much Margaret and I can't wait to hear what you think once you read the books - you have so much reading pleasure ahead of you!

    as to the question on the age level, I think the first four books are great for girls 5-12 and the high school and beyond books are great for girls 9 and up.


  24. So have you managed to read them yet? I hope so!!


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