My poor, neglected blog. I knew it had been a long time, but I hadn’t realized it had been over two months. Sheesh! And it’s not like I’ve quite dropped off the face of the earth or stopped reading–just the usual very busy fall. So what brings me back, finally, to this little corner of the internet? An old favorite, of course.
This summer, I met two very special little girls and became their occasional babysitter. They live in the neighborhood, are an absolute hoot, and plus, it’s a wee bit of extra money for the trip to Hawaii (yes, part of my absence was spent in Hawaii) and some major house projects. As soon as I met Grace (age 9) and Sophie (age 7), I knew that these kids were ripe for my influence–there were books all over their house, and Sophie has one heck of an imagination. I knew right away that these girls needed to meet Betsy and Tacy. And about a million other of my favorites too–right now, there’s a wee bit too much Disney Fairy stuff in their life.
Now, I’ve been a book evangelist for the kids in my life for years. I give books as gifts, cross my fingers, and hope for the best. Rarely do I hear anything, though I’m always thrilled when I do. I’ve had some pretty good success with nephew Bobby (we had a very memorable text conversation after he finally read Hunger Games), but never, ever with any of my favorites. The closest was when I gave Katie a copy of Anne last year–she took it to dinner with her but was too distracted by the Bob Armstrong dip to actually start reading it. But hey–a kid that takes books to dinner–that’s my kind of kid.
The first time I babysat Grace and Sophie, I brought Betsy-Tacy with me. I knew that they had reading time (specifically, read aloud time) before bed and very carefully introduced my book. Right away, they seemed intrigued, closely examining the pictures and asking questions. And each time I came back, they made sure I had brought the book and we read a few more chapters.
I don’t know that I’ve ever gotten to share one of my favorites like this before. It is pure magic. They’re listening so hard and get so wrapped up in the story. My favorite moment with them was when we read the Easter Egg chapter, the chapter in which Baby Bee dies. I was a little nervous about this bit, mainly because I wasn’t sure how much their parents had talked to them about death and dying. When we got to the line “She didn’t come over the next day, nor the next, for Baby Bee died.” Sophie gasped. Like really gasped with the whole wide-eyed shocked expression on her face. We stopped for a minute to talk about how there weren’t as many good medicines back then, so sometimes people died. And then we got to the part where Betsy explains to Tacy: “But she gets all the news. . . Do you know how she gets it? Why, from the birds. They fly up there and tell her how you are and what you’re all doing down at your house.” At this point, ever practical and literal Grace says “That’s not how it is at all.” I almost burst out laughing, but managed to keep a straight face.
The last time I watched the girls happened to be Sophie’s 7th birthday. I wanted to get her a little something, so picked up a clothespin doll from our museum store. Sophie was completely enraptured with the little brown-haired doll and said (at absolutely no prompting from me!): “It’s Betsy!” That wasn’t at all my intention when I gave it to her, I swear! After all, this is a grown-up doll, not a little girl doll. But she played with Betsy all night and has requested a red-headed doll. And that night, they chose to read an extra chapter of Betsy, rather than have some time to read their own books. My work here is done. Though the next time I come over, I’m thinking about making sand jars, and that will probably really send them over the top.
For Christmas, guess what these little girls are getting? Why, the new Betsy-Tacy Treasury, of course! Isn’t it awfully nice of Harper Collins to publish this right when I have such good little converts? They’re going to eat up all the extra information and photos and biographies with a spoon.
Have you been able to successfully share some of your kidlit history favorites? Any great stories?