Like a lot of readers (I imagine), I spent a considerable amount of time alone when I was young. My sister is eight years older than myself, and was fLike a lot of readers (I imagine), I spent a considerable amount of time alone when I was young. My sister is eight years older than myself, and was frequently out of the house, and both my parents worked long hours. During the summers, however, I would go to San Diego and live with my grandparents. I had a best friend there, also a reader, also kind of a lonely kid, and together we shared and traded books over the course of at least 14 summers.
One of the many wonderful books that she instructed me to read was this one, which I still remember after all these years. I think I was about ten when I read the first novel in the series, The President's Daughter, which I checked out from the San Diego Public Library down the street from my Bobe and Zade's house. The book struck such a huge chord with my little pre-adolescent heart. I identified with Meg completely: she was smart, prone to sassiness, often lonely, and she had a powerful, successful mother whom she loved and admired, but about whom she had complicated feelings. My own mother was (is) a righteous bad-ass of an attorney, of whom I was extremely proud, but also resented and would have liked to have seen more of. Furthermore, I was completely enchanted by the novel's premise: Meg's mother becomes the first female president of the United States. I remember feeling thrilled by this, but also thinking it was an obvious fantasy(!)--this was in 1987 or 1988. I wish my ten year old self could have seen just twenty years into the future.
I gobbled up the following novel, White House Autumn, and then finally, this one, for which I was totally unprepared. Where the first two novels were authentic, non-condescending portraits of a complicated young woman struggling to adjust to a bizarre new life, the third novel went to a really dark place. It may sound soap-opera-esque or melodramatic, but in Long Live the Queen, Meg is abducted. I've never forgotten the eerie, disturbing characterization of her captor, whose terrifying ego and sociopathic charm threatened my sleep. But worse, or more terrifying, than that was Meg's escape. If I remember correctly, she broke her own fingers with a large rock in order to extricate her hand from its cuff. The rest of the (incredibly sad) novel was about Meg readjusting to life post-trauma. I think that a large part of this novel's pull for me was the way that, similarly to the horror movies with which I was obsessed, it distracted me from the more more prosaic but equally unhappy-making terrors hovering on the perimeters of my own life, which were mostly adult, and therefore not fully understood, but fully felt nonetheless, by me.
It's strange how this one small novel, not a classic in any cannon of childhood literature, recalls so much for me, so quickly: my summers in San Diego, my long lost friend Jessica Koziol, my first awakenings of a political sensibility, the taste of the Rainbow Sherbet from the Thrifty's next door to the library (25 cents a scoop!), the smell of the Eucalyptus trees in the canyon near my Bobe and Zade's house, my child's view of my mother, my nebulous fears of the world, and those dilatory, unretrievable afternoons of reading for hours, and hours, and hours, with nothing to do and nowhere to be.
Looking back, I think Betsy-Tacy had a profound effect on my child self's notion of what might be truly important in this world, namely friendship. TLooking back, I think Betsy-Tacy had a profound effect on my child self's notion of what might be truly important in this world, namely friendship. The events in the Betsy-Tacy books are pretty mundane, unlike those other Minnesota-centric novels I loved as a child (hello, Little House!) but these novels taught me that friendship itself is a gripping story, an adventure, a tool for transforming the quotidian, prosaic everyday world into a secret, magical place.
Maud Hart Lovelace based her novels on her life, and today you can actually visit Mankato, MN (the setting for Betsy-Tacy) and see The Big Hill, Betsy-Tacy's bench, etc. I don't recommend it if you are an inveterate sentimentalist such as myself, because you WILL cry. ...more
This first installment in the Little House series has always been my favorite (although I love them all, and am letting this single review stand in foThis first installment in the Little House series has always been my favorite (although I love them all, and am letting this single review stand in for the series entire), probably because A. As the first Little House book I read, I hold a special affection for its magic (it was my entree into an amazing other world) and B. As other smart reviewers have pointed out, there's something sort of sad about the fact that it chronicles the only chapter in Laura's life in which she was surrounded by her extended family; there's an earned halcyon quality to the story.
As a child I loved learning about the details of pioneer life. I loved Laura's ambivalent relationship to Nell (I too, had an overshadowing older sister), and I loved the half-understood glimpses of Laura's parents' married life. If I close my eyes right now I can conjure perfectly their tiny cabin, the loft where they slept, etc. God, to read now as I read then!
When I visited Pepin, WI a few years ago in order to see the Little House museum there (the site of Little House in the Big Woods), I was shocked to discover that there are no--NONE, NADA, ZILCH--big woods left. The replica cabin is in the middle of a field. This discovery broke my heart....more
This is one of the books I read on long, delicious afternoons in San Diego in the summers of my childhood. My Bobe and Zade and I would walk to the liThis is one of the books I read on long, delicious afternoons in San Diego in the summers of my childhood. My Bobe and Zade and I would walk to the library and pick out a pile of books, stopping at Thrifty's on the way home for nickel scoops of ice cream (my favorite: rainbow sherbet). I can't even think of this book without feeling a rush of immense love for my grandparents.
One day when my Bobe had first moved to Minnesota (sometime in the late '50s) and she was trying to be a dutiful faculty wife, attending functions, she met Carol Ryrie Brink at some sort of party (I think her husband was also a mathematician at the University). My Bobe's first thought was "What's she doing here?" (Bobe missed the sunshine and comparative sophistication of Los Angeles.) Then she began gushing. Embarrassed, she apologized to Ms. Brink, who said, "Do you see anyone else here fawning all over me? Continue!" ...more
My mother read this out loud to me when I was maybe five or six, and I've reread it since then countless times. I loved the anticipation I would feelMy mother read this out loud to me when I was maybe five or six, and I've reread it since then countless times. I loved the anticipation I would feel as a child of "going on a journey." Each part of Bilbo's quest was so distinct to me. I wish I could read that way now....more
Anne Frank is one of my personal heroes. This book is huge for me. I first read it when I was nine or ten, and have reread it every few years since (eAnne Frank is one of my personal heroes. This book is huge for me. I first read it when I was nine or ten, and have reread it every few years since (esp. after Otto Frank released previously ommitted sections dealing with Anne's sexuality, her feelings about her mother and about Otto, etc.). As I age the book offers new meaning at every reading; while it is painful, I feel like I owe it to Anne, and all the silenced children like her whose stories will never be heard....more