Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Understood Betsy

For many years this book sat on my bookshelf. A hardcover with no design and crunching yellowed pages it was one of the books that my mother had owned since she was a child and that I generally stayed away from. I read many books as a child and my mother read many books to me. But there were only a few select books that I picked from my mothers collection, usually because there were bright pictures within it that attracted my childish attention. Understood Betsy was not one of these books. I stayed away from the old age of the book, not liking it's scent, although now I adore the smell of old books.

But always my mother would go back to this book. Always she would stroke the spine and say in a calm voice, "I loved this book as a little girl. I loved the pictures. I would stare at them for hours and look at all the little details." She'd pull the book off of the bookshelf, holding it with care since it was so worn with age, and flip to a couple of the pictures. Two little girls snuggled in a large bed together, curtains hanging around the bed frame, all drawn in black ink.

That was the image that I remembered even though I never read the book. Those two little girls snuggled up tight as they lay in bed. One girl had dark hair, one had blonde, and it reminded me of my cousin and myself when we were little girls. One blonde, one brunette, curled up together in a big bed sharing secrets only children know.

I read the book just recently in a torrent of words and page turns. It was adorable and made me feel comforted, that I should curl up into my own bed and snuggle with something warm (IE: my cat). Betsy is a little girl who is taught to be very timid and incapable of taking care of herself. But when she is suddenly sent away from her overprotective aunt to live with distant relatives (those heathens!) she is placed into an entirely different world where adults expect children to have their own minds.

So develops the story of this frightened little girl learning how to fend for herself and be independent. She grows strong in more ways than one and learns that just because she is a child it doesn't mean that she always has to depend on others.

The pictures were what my mother loved in this book and although they are simplistic I can see how they will appeal to a child. With large pretty eyes and cute period dresses there are even the most subliminal of objects in each picture that are easy to miss.

I honestly don't know if new copies of this book have the same artwork but I hope they do. It certainly adds to the element of the books. It's such an adorable story, certainly something for a parent to read to their child before bed. There are certainly many overtones of how society was at a certain time and how it was actively changing- even in the book. But I don't want to linger about that. What I want to linger over is the fact that this is a lovely book about a little girl that can be enjoyed by any little girl with imagination.

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