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Understood Betsy

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  6,740 ratings  ·  399 reviews
For all of her nine years, fragile Elizabeth Ann has heard her Aunt Frances refer in whispers to her "horrid Putney cousins." But when her aunt can no longer care for her, Elizabeth Ann must leave her sheltered life to live in the wilds of Vermont with those distant relatives.

In the beginning, Elizabeth Ann is shocked by country living--pets are allowed to sleep in the hou
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Hardcover, 229 pages
Published October 15th 1999 by Henry Holt and Co. (first published 1916)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jenne
This is like totally some kind of Montessori school propaganda, those bastards!!
But it's also really sweet, it's kind of like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm or Anne of Green Gables or something, but it's all about how to be self-sufficient and be educated at your own level and have self-confidence and stuff.
Plus applesauce.
Matthew Mitchell
I am such a big softie.

This morning, Isaac and I just finished reading Understood Betsy together (again).

You might guess from the cover that manly men like Isaac and I wouldn't care for this book. You'd be wrong. Understood Betsy is a book about an overprotected girl who unhappily goes to live with some extended family who actually understand what a little girl needs to thrive.

Betsy learns how to do things for herself, how to make friends (and be a true one), how to be a productive member of a f
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Elizabeth
I always wanted to read this when I was younger, since it had my name in the title, but I just couldn't get interested. Now, with Kindle + public domain, all things are possible!

I'm not sure what Ms. Fisher was wanting to do with this book, but it really isn't so much a kids' story as an extended scenario on how adults should behave towards children. All Betsy's inner feelings are documented so very densely, but she always seems to be reacting and discovering based on what some adult around her
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Nickie
Imagine you are nine years old, raised by an overly protective Aunt to the point that you have never accomplished anything on your own in your life. Then one day you are sent to the "horrible cousins" in Vermont. Immediately, without criticism, you are made to see that you can change, do things and think things for yourself. Betsy, as a nine year old discovers an amazing world of ability and excitement for living, learning, playing, eating, and actually having and being a friend.

Plus Betsy learn
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Shannon
Jan 29, 2010 Shannon rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Aimee Guest, Mikkee Hall,
Recommended to Shannon by: Anna Truss
Shelves: youngadult
After my ten year old read this book, she said to me, "Mom, this might be my favorite book EVER." This is high praise from a child who averages more than three books weekly, so I decided to see why she loved it. After finishing the book this morning, I asked her exactly what she loved about it and was told, "Oh... I love the way Betsy transforms from a weak girl to a strong one and the way she helps the little boy in the book and well, everything about it."

I have to agree with my daughter that B
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Kitty
A book written for 8-10 year old girls, but one I still enjoy rereading as an adult. I love the descriptions of Vermont and Vermonters, so much that on a vacation to Vermont, I made my family take a detour through Dorothy Canfield's hometown so I could find the farmhouse that she uses as a setting for Understood Betsy. The point she makes that children should be allowed to make their own decisions and learn to think for themselves wasn't lost on me - I only hope that I can do as good a job with ...more
Duane
Published in 1916. This is a charming little children's story that was quite popular in the early 20th century. It's the story of nine year old Elizabeth Ann (Betsy), orphaned and living with her aunt in the city. It's a medium size city in a medium size state in the middle of the US. (sounds like where I live). Because of her sisters illness, Betsy's aunt has to go out west to be her nurse and Betsy has to travel to Vermont to stay with her distant cousins, the Putney's, who live on a farm. It' ...more
Elizabeth K.
Okay, it's not really that new to me because I read it as a kid, and then again for the NYBT book discussion group. It was amazing to me how many years have gone by since I've read this (although I did read it multiple times as a child) and SO MANY of the scenes and details were instantly familiar. You would think I had read it yesterday.

Let's see, orphan Betsy lives with her milksoppy aunt and cousin, and when her aunt becomes ill, she is sent to live with other relatives in Vermont, who are h
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Sara
Such an interesting little read. This book felt like Little House On The Prairie meets Anne of Green Gables meets Betsy and Tacy to me. Timeless values that illustrate the resourcefulness, genuine intelligence and innate goodness of children (yes, the author is a big fan of Montessori) against a rustic rural backdrop. I cried for pages during the establishment of the sewing society and laughed joyfully over Betsy's treatment of the calf when Aunt Frances comes to the farm. I found myself half wi ...more
Theresa
Nov 21, 2007 Theresa rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: children in general
This is a book about a young girl named Betsy who lives with her elderly aunts. When her parents died, they rushed to take care of her. They always are watching out for the least possible sign of any illness or distress of any kind, and quickly trying to make it better. But one day one of the aunts gets very sick and the girl is sent to another part of the family. This family is thought to be too rough and unsympathetic to raise such a sensitive child, but that's the way it has to be. So Betsy m ...more
Kirei
I put off reading this because I heard it was a preachy book on how to raise a child. So finally I started it as a read-aloud to my son. I got so interested that I read the book silently to myself in one day!

It is a book on how to raise a child, a lot like "The Secret Garden". In the story, Elizabeth Ann lives with her nervous but loving aunts. She never does much for herself and is taught to be fearful. Then one aunt get sick so Elizabeth Ann moves to a farm where she turns into Betsy. She is l
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Lisa
LOVED this book! I found it on a list of recommended classics for young girls and this was the only book that I hadn't read on that list. It's a wonderful story that I would liken unto Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie, and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. I was reading more about the author of the book and she is the one that introduced the Montessori way of teaching children to America and this book was written to showcase those principles. There are really great lessons taught in t ...more
Jennifer
I loved this book! Why did I wait so long to read it? Pure joy. :)
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
Aug 26, 2015 Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who are still kids inside, or who have kids
I first bought this book when I was about 10, the first book I chose for myself at a bookstore. It was magical to me; I read so many stories of little girls who were sent to the country/the mountains/the seaside "for their health" that it took me several years to realise it was never going to happen to me--the doctor was never going to look grave, shake his head, and tell my mother that I was "run down" and that I needed to take a long sea voyage "if she's going to have a chance."

In this case, E
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Jay Ginsburg
My mother read this book as a girl, and I did too. Betsy was a role model for me, inspiring confidence and pragmatism. Now I am gathering copies of the book for my granddaughters.
Cynthia Egbert
I loved this book more deeply than I can express, I will be posting some quotes below that will give you an idea. But I love the author and what she was trying to accomplish just as much. Here is her thoughts on choosing books for our children, "There is no set rule of thumb for this or that child which can be followed by parents as a cook follows a recipe, beating her eggs and thinking about something else. To help your children to the right reading, right for them, requires everything…not only ...more
Briana
Disclaimer: I'm sorry, my inept attempts at communication fail to do this book justice...

One of my favorite children's classics of all time. I'm rediscovering it as I read to my sisters...

A lot of times, children's authors cater to simple entertainment, which is not altogether bad...but of course, it remains mostly at a superficial level, with characters doing a lot, but not really evolving in personality. (Or doing neither *cough*ElsieDinsmore*cough*) The character development in Understood Be
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Kristine
"That room was full to the brim of something beautiful, and Betsy knew what it was. Its name was Happiness."

So ends (on page 211) Dorothy Canfield Fisher's beloved juvenile classic UNDERSTOOD BETSY, first published in 1916.

We immediately meet the pale, anxious 9 year old orphan Elizabeth Ann who lives in a "medium-sized city in a medium-sized state in the middle of the country" where she has been raised since infancy by lovingly devoted relatives, in particular, the kindly yet hovering Aunt F
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Susannahcox
Understood Betsy is one of those stories that serves as a better guide to my parenting and homeschooling than many how-to books on my shelf. Elizabeth Ann's (Betsy's) growth from fearful, self-conscious, over-protected child to confident, loving girl gives the reader a strong impression of what a wholesome upbringing really looks Iike. One of my favorite scenes has Betsy transitioning from a mass-schooling mindset to a small one-room schoolhouse, where she is nurtured and instructed as an indivi ...more
Longfellow
Read this because it is one of my girlfriend's all-time favorites, which she first read, I believe, when she was nine. I think I have an idea of why she likes it so much.

Elizabeth Ann (Betsy), the protagonist, turns ten years old during the novel, and during our time with her she learns several great self-truths: she can be independent, make decisions, and take care of herself; in thinking for herself as well as asking herself "what would Cousin Ann do?" she discovers her capacity for problem s
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Gillian Brownlee
This was one of my favorite books as a kid. I reread it today for a trip down memory lane, and it was just as wonderful as I remembered!

Elizabeth Ann (or Betsy, as she is later called) is the epitome of child-like wonder. She looks at the world and sees all of the wonders that it can hold, and doesn't shy away from new experiences even if they make her nervous.

If I ever have kids, I'm reading them this book. I get the feeling it will never stop being relevant.
Suzanne
This is one of the best written books for girls around 10-12 that I have ever read. It's great in that it doesn't in any way write down to them. I remember feeling thrilled at picking up on small details that were not spelled out, like (bit of a spoiler alert) when Elizabeth starts being called Betsy. It was one of the first books I read that showed that very well meaning adults can sometimes be terrible parents, and that even young girls are capable of making life decisions that are important. ...more
Heather
It had been a few years since I first read this one, so I put it back in the line-up since my memories of the story line were quite faint. I know the main character is a girl, but her growing up story is not limited to just girls. Leaving one household and moving to another provides Betsy the opportunity to really live, to be aware of life, to know what she was capable of doing and being. And this understanding brings her full circle when she is reunited with her original caretaker, her Aunt Fra ...more
Etherealfire
I inherited the Anne books and Understood Betsy from my mom. And like my mom, I read and re-read and still to this day re-read this book. This book, the Anne books and the Earth Children's series are the books I never get tired of reading and have become an intimate part of my life, like a tattoo, like family. I love this book for the simple life lessons, the sweetness and simplicity of the time and the locale and the unexpected pluckiness and inner strength of our young heroine Elizabeth Ann, w ...more
Sandy D.
A delightful kids' book, suitable for all ages. It holds up really well for having been first published in 1916, and is the story of a timid 9 y.o. girl who moves from the big city to live with her aunt in rural Vermont. It is a fairly short and simple story - a bit like "The Secret Garden" but without the suspense and the secret, and with butter-making and schoolwork instead of the gardening. Good description of growing independence, which was apparently influenced by Maria Montessori (my libra ...more
Rachel
This book is really, really cute. It fits very comfortably into the Anne of Green Gables neighborhood (it's less wordy and descriptive which, all due respect to Anne of Green Gables, is a good thing). It's also not-so-secretly a parenting/education advice book! Suffice it to say, I was emphatically unsurprised to learn that Dorothy Canfield Fisher was one of the earliest proponents of Montessori education.
Lesa Loves Books
Sep 27, 2014 Lesa Loves Books rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: kids, parents, teachers, bedtime book
Delightful! Can't believe I'd never even heard of this book or read it as a kid! If I had, I'm sure it would have been reread as often as Little Princess, Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm etc.

My little boy liked it too... so glad he chose it as our bedtime book. Hoped he would... I offered 3 choices: Rescuers, a Bobbsey Twins , and Betsy. Betsy and a big black are on the cover of our edition... thought that dog might sway the vote. ;)

So what is it a
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Vivian
Meet Elizabeth Ann, orphaned and taken in by a maiden aunt who dotes upon her and gives her the best possible care according to the latest child rearing books of the day. Elizabeth Ann is perfectly secure and content. But her aunt worries about her and consults a doctor about how pale and thin Elizabeth Ann is, and her lack of vitality. The doctor pronounces that she is perfectly healthy and that all she needs is... Then he glances around the room at the maiden aunt, the elderly aunt, and the ho ...more
Melissa E
This was such a great read aloud. We had some fantastic conversations about charity, family work, and resourcefulness because of Betsy's story.

I'll definitely buy this one and read it again.
Ginger
Sweet and lovely. Why isn't this book so well known.
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Understood Betsy 1 3 May 18, 2015 01:11PM  
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Dorothy Canfield Fisher (February 17, 1879 – November 9, 1958) was an educational reformer, social activist, and best-selling American author in the early decades of the twentieth century. She strongly supported women's rights, racial equality, and lifelong education. Eleanor Roosevelt named her one of the ten most influential women in the United States. In addition to bringing the Montessori meth ...more
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“What's the matter?" asked the teacher, seeing her bewildered face.

"Why—why," said Elizabeth Ann, "I don't know what I am at all. If I'm second-grade arithmetic and seventh-grade reading and third-grade spelling, what grade am I?"

The teacher laughed at the turn of her phrase. "you aren't any grade at all, no matter where you are in school. You're just yourself, aren't you? What difference does it make what grade you're in! And what's the use of your reading little baby things too easy for you just because you don't know your multiplication table?”
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