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Understood Betsy

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  5,592 ratings  ·  351 reviews
A warm and charming portrayal of life in the early 1900s. Sheltered 9 year old Elizabeth Ann has always heard her Aunt Frances talk about "those horrid Vermont cousins." Now she is terrified. Aunt Frances can no longer take care of her, and she has been sent to stay with her New England relatives. "Betsy" gradually comes to enjoy the challenge of living with her country co...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published 1996 by Sonlight Curriculum (first published 1916)
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8th out of 295 books — 109 voters


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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...more
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...more
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...more
Shannon
Jan 29, 2010 Shannon rated it 5 of 5 stars
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...more
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
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...more
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
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...more
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
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.
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...more
Cheryl
I actually preferred this to the novels about Rebecca and Anne and would rank it up near The Secret Garden. I know that if I'd had access to it as a child I would have reread it often. Sure, Fisher has an agenda, but she has a bewitching writing style, too. (Ok, some readers might not like the first part, in which she's addressing the reader directly, but it gets more graceful as it goes along.)

I love now and would have loved then the chance to learn how to make butter, how to help a disadvanta...more
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...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...more
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
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
Lesa Loves Books
Sep 27, 2014 Lesa Loves Books rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
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
Melanie
I really enjoyed this book.
Elizabeth Ann starts as a sheltered, frail girl and grows into a responsible, smart young lady, all by being given the freedom and the love she needed.
One of my favorite quotes:
"It is possible that what stirred inside her head at that moment was her brain, waking up. She was nine years old, and she was in the third-A grade at school, but that was the first time she had ever had a thought of her very own. At home, Aunt Frances had always known exactly what she was doing...more
Carrie
This is a nice story about a girl who goes to live with some relatives on a farm. This girl "Betsy" ends up learning many new things through hands-on experiences. There is a pleasant message of learning and progressing in life through everyday experiences. Caution to Jamie - you may not like this because there were parts of it that reminded me of "Miracles on Maple Hill" : )
Laura
Lindsey and I both loved and benefited from this classic about a nine-year-old girl who is timid and virtually helpless, largely because of the personalities of the grown-ups around her. Then she is sent to live with her awful Putney cousins--and everything changes. A great reminder of how good it feels to embrace our agency, think for ourselves, and teach our children to do the same.
Miriam
Elizabeth is a very sheltered and timid little girl who lives with her elderly aunts in a big city. When her aunt becomes ill, she is sent to live with distant cousins on a farm in Vermont. At first she is upset by their very different lifestyle, but gradually she comes to enjoy trying new things and learning to do some things for herself.
Melissa
This is one of my family's favorite read-alouds of all time. We've read it twice before; now it's 7yo Beanie's turn to hear it (she was two years old last time around), but Rose is listening in, along with anyone who happens to pass through the room and be grabbed by the story. Which is to say: anyone who happens to pass through the room.
Misha
A sweet novel set in Vermont about an orphan girl who goes from being coddled with one pair of aunts to being given responsibility with another set of aunts/cousins. Fisher's parenting and education (montessori) beliefs are clearly illustrated in this nostalgic read. Good for Anne of Green Gables fans.
Trace
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book...loved the beautiful theme of relationships... loved reading about Betsy's adventures towards self-reliance. Simply but beautifully written - I was caught off guard by the happy tears I shed at the ending...lovely book.
Lisa
Alternate title: "Baby's First Book of Montessori". May also be suitable for neo-Luddite children.

I liked this when I was younger and more earnest, but God, it rivals the Little House on the Prairie books in its over the top preachiness.
Wendi Klaiber
What a delightful story of a young girl who develops courage, strength, and a love for others as she is taken into the family of the infamous "Putney" family. My daughter and I read this book aloud...what a cherished time spent together!
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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
More about Dorothy Canfield Fisher...
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