Title: Back to School with BetsyBack to school with betsy
Author: Carolyn Haywood
Pages: 135
Reading Level: 8-11
Star Rating: ★★★★

I bought Back to School With Betsy thinking that it was part of the Betsy-Tacy series. Wrong! (Oops…) As it turns out, I think I like it better than the only Betsy-Tacy that I’ve read.

The Story.

Betsy and her friends Elle and Billy are horrified to learn that their favorite teacher, Miss Grey, will not be returning to teach them in the fall. She’s getting married! How perfectly horrid of her! Not even the arrival of a new neighbor, Mr. Jackson, in the house next door is enough to cheer them up completely.

But when they find out that Mr. Jackson is the man that Miss Grey is marrying, they are ecstatic! Imagine having Miss Grey living next-door all the time! How fun that will be! Perhaps the year won’t be so rotten after all…

Praises.

Back to School with Betsy was very sweetly told. Here are a few of the things that I liked about it.

Betsy has a very good relationship with her parents. She loves to cuddle up on her father’s lap and listen to stories from his childhood. They have fun laughing and joking together. This cute scene occurs when Betsy has been studying Mexican culture at school.

Mother gave Betsy an old lace curtain which Betsy wore over her head. She called it her “mantilla” and felt very Spanish indeed.

Father said that he felt Spanish too. “Fact is,” said Father, “I feel so Spanish I think I will get some tamale plants and raise some tamales in our vegetable garden.”

Betsy laughed and laughed. “Oh, Father!” she cried “Tamales don’t grow on plants. They’re not vegetables. Tamales are made of cornmeal. I don’t believe you know any Spanish. You’re just making it up.”

“Is that so?” said Father. “Well, I know that a burro is a donkey and a hacienda is a farm and an iguana is a lizard and a fiesta is a nice long nap.”

“No, it isn’t,” laughed Betsy. “A fiesta is a holiday and it is like a big fair. A siesa is a nap, Father.”

Father laughed and said that he guessed he didn’t know much Spanish after all. [pgs. 71-72]

It was sweet to see the father and daughter playing around with each other. This next scene occurs when Betsy is scared to go next door. She goes, and when she comes back, finds her mother watching her.

That night, after Mother heard Betsy say her prayers, Betsy said, “Mother, were you standing at the garden wall all the time?”

“Yes, Betsy,” replied Mother, “All the time.”

“And were you watching me all the time?” asked Betsy.

“Yes, dear,” said Mother, “all the time.”

Betsy thought for a moment. Then she said, “That’s just the way God watches me, isn’t it?”

Mother leaned over and kissed her little girl. “Yes, my precious that is just the way God watches you.” [pg. 15]

Instead of getting upset with her mother for ‘hampering her independence’, Betsy is appreciative and immediately draws a spiritual application. What a clever girl! Betsy also loves her baby sister very much and thinks that playing with her is “like playing with a lovely big doll.” [pg. 107] But Betsy wants more babies, and she tells her mother that the next time they get a little baby, she wants a “little black baby”. When her mother tells her that it is impossible for she and her husband to have a little black baby, Betsy responds,

“Well, I know,” said Betsy, “but couldn’t we get one all ready-made? I forget what you call babies that you get all ready-made.”

“You mean ‘adopt’ a baby,” said Mother.

“Yes,” replied Betsy. “Couldn’t we ‘dopt one?” [pgs. 109-110]

Isn’t that cute? This last scene occurs in school after Betsy’s picture has been torn up by Thumpy, the dog.

“Come here to me,” said Miss Ross.

Betsy went up to Miss Ross. Betsy’s face was covered with tears. Miss Ross put her arm around Betsy. “Now, Betsy,” she said, “how did you get the little picture of the Indian on the burro? Where did it come from?”

“I thought of it,” said Betsy.

“Well, nothing has happened to your thinker, has it?” said Miss Ross. “Thumpy hasn’t torn up your thinker, has he?”

This made the children laugh because they all knew that Thumpy couldn’t tear up Betsy’s thinker.

Betsy wiped her eyes and nose. “No,” she said.

“Well then, you’re all right,” said Miss Ross.

“You can think it again.”

Betsy felt much better as she took her seat. [pgs. 80-81]

: ) A thinker… D’aww.

Cautions.

Probably the biggest problem I had with Back to School with Betsy was the appearance of Santa Claus. First, Betsy’s class decorates her school room with pictures of Santa Claus (among other things). Then, Betsy’s father tells her of a dream he had as a little boy in which he met Santa Claus. Later, he arranges for Betsy and her friends to have a sleigh ride and hires Santa Claus’s ‘twin brother’ to drive it. Although initially believing, the children come to suspect that the ‘twin brother’ is in reality their favorite policeman, Mr. Kilpatrick.

Three of the ten chapters occur at school. No one misbehaves.

Although initially upset that Miss Grey is going to be married, the children soon warm up to the idea – but only after expressing the greatest indignation over the idea and wondering why on earth she would want to do such a thing.

Mr. Jackson tells the children that if they sleep with a piece of wedding cake under their pillow, they will dream about the person they are going to marry. Here is the ensuing scene.

The next morning Billy came running into Betsy’s house. “Hey, that wedding cake didn’t work,” he cried. “I dreamed about my grandmother all night. Who ever heard of marrying your grandmother?”

“And I dreamed about goldfish,” said Betsy. “I’m not going to marry goldfish.”

When Ellen arrived, Betsy said, “Ellen, who did you dream about?”

Ellen looked at Billy. Then she looked down at her shoes and said, “I’m not going to tell you. It’s a secret.” [pg. 55]

One of the illustrations shows Star, Betsy’s baby sister, undressed.

In one scene, Betsy forgetfully disobeys her mother (it’s not on purpose). Her disobedience causes plans to go wrong and she is genuinely sorry.

One of Betsy’s friends has a little boy who is constantly throwing fits. His behavior is not condoned, but it is used as a point of humor.

‘Gee’ is used twice.

Conclusion. I liked Back to School With Betsy. It’s not perfect, but it’s very sweet.

Review © 2013 Laura Verret

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