Monday, May 7, 2012

Books of our youth: Lessons from Betsy-Tacy

The latest guest post in my series on the childhood books we never forget is by Charity Tahmaseb. Enjoy!

How many writers get to deliver newspapers to their favorite author’s childhood home? I may be one of the few. Not only did I grow up in the same town as Maud Hart Lovelace, author of the Betsy-Tacy series, I lived close enough to her old neighborhood that, for a time, my paper route included Betsy's, Tacy's, and Tib's houses.

While I read (and reread) the entire series, the four books that made up Betsy’s high school years entranced me. I can't remember how young I was when I first discovered them, but they fascinated me in the same way my daughter is awed by teenagers today.

Why couldn’t I get enough? It was simple. Everything I needed to know about high school, I learned from these books:

--Don't let boys push you around. If they've snatched the coveted back row desks you and your best friend have already claimed, it's okay to get fierce.

--Don't completely make over yourself just to snag the rich, hot boy, even if he has an equally hot car. This has a way of backfiring.

--Don't start a yearlong project the weekend before it’s due, no matter how hilarious this is for the reader.

--Remember that popularity isn't everything. It may cost you something you really want, like new friends and that essay contest.

--Remember, when a boy tries for more than you want to give, it's more than okay to say no.

--And most importantly, remember than when faced with a love triangle, Edward and Jacob have nothing on Tony Markham and Joe Willard. Not. At. All.

On the surface, my high school years were nothing like Betsy’s. And yet, even now, one hundred years after the books take place, the emotions still ring true. This is what drew me in as a child/teen, why I’m itching to reread them today, and why, like Maud Hart Lovelace, I used a fictional version of my hometown (and hers) in my first young adult novel.

Charity Tahmaseb lives and writes in Minnesota and like Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy, is addicted to making lists. She is a co-author of The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading.

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