The Minnesota Post recently made a list of best Dynamic Duos–in movies, literature, history, etc. And on it, much to the pleasure of the Betsy-Tacy Society and other BT fans is Betsy and Joe as “Literary Romantic Couples”–alongside some couples that are definitely not found in children’s literature.
And though I certainly adore the fact that Betsy and Joe are listed–after all, the last chapter of Betsy and the Great World is one of the greatest romantic cliffhangers of all time, I can’t help but think of some of the other great couples of kidlit history. In no particular order:
Ma and Pa Ingalls. She follows him across the midwest, each time hoping for a better life, making homes in places that must have been very, very lonely. Until she puts her foot down. He plays his fiddle, makes jokes, and fiercely loves his family. As a kid, they never would have been on the list. As an adult, I admire how they stuck together, never argued in front of the kids, and both made compromises for each other.
Anne and Gilbert. Though they ultimately became a somewhat boring couple in the later books, the early stuff is fabulous. From the teasing and the competition to pushing each other when both have college dreams deferred, it’s an incredibly satisfying friendship–at least for Anne. Gilbert loves her from the beginning, and it is sometimes very frustrating how long it takes Anne to see what’s right in front of her nose. But he’s always there–rescuing her and waiting patiently.
Betsy and Joe. Though mentioned above, they deserve their own paragraph. Betsy, daughter of one of the world’s greatest families, falls in love with orphan Joe. And there are lots of adjustments to be made, mis-understandings, the usual heartache in young love. But the misunderstanding almost kill the reader as they wait and wait for what has to happen. And when it does! Again, one of the best romantic cliffhangers and resolutions Ever.
Miss Allen, the Library Lady and Charlie. The sisters of All-of-a-Kind Family already love the Library Lady, as she is the one with the books. And Charlie is the mysterious peddler that works with their father who brings them treats. By accident, the girls bring them together again–discovering a tragic love story that was rightunder their noses. So satisfying–and a wonderful realization of childhood fantasies. What kid wouldn’t want to help out some of their favorite adults in that way?
Mary, Dickon and Colin. Sometimes, love triangles happen. And though the kids in The Secret Garden don’t really get to that part of life where romance really takes off, there is definitely some jealousy going on for Colin and Dickon. Both fall in love with Mary, for very different reasons. But perhaps the true romance here is the garden itself and the story behind it. Sigh.
So, what am I leaving out? Any other fabulous romances? And another question: how did these stories shape your own childish thoughts about romance?
When I was a kid, reading through Montgomery, I had this idea that true romance took years to develop. Seriously, how long did it take Anne and Gilbert to finally get together? And then there’s the story of Leslie Moore–talk about depressing. And all the other minor characters throughout her novels and short stories–people that had to wait 10, 20 years to be with the one they loved. Yikes!
Or what about the unfortunate idea that the man you’re really meant for will marry your sister? I am still not over the whole Jo/Laurie/Amy thing. Luckily, I had no sisters.
So while there are some great models, there are some truly frightening romantic scenarios in kidlit. Perhaps I should blame my childhood reading on my very practical attitude towards romance. Even as I continue to believe that my Joe is out there somewhere. . .