Sunday, November 22, 2009
Shelf Discover Challenge Report: Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
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 house and children are expected to do chores! But with country living comes independence and responsibility, and in time, Elizabeth Ann finds herself making friends and enjoying her new family. When the year is up and Aunt Frances comes to get her niece, she finds a healthier, prouder girl with a new name--Betsy--and a new outlook on life.
I will admit, even though this book is touted as being really famous and a landmark in children's literature, I had never heard of it before I picked up Shelf Discover. The reason how I picked up this book was that I randomly opened the book and chose the book the pages landed on. This happened to be the lucky one. This book is an oldie (orginally pubilshed in 1912) but it's a goodie.
This story takes place in the early 20th century. Betsy has been raised by two aunts who treat her well but raised her to quite prim and proper. She has never really done anything for herself and has grown up being treated more like an old lady than a little girl. Betsy however is not spoiled. She just hasn't had a chance to really enjoy her life. One of her aunts becomes ill so she's moved to another house with distant relatives. While there she discovers there's more to life and learns to do chores, take care of herself, and run around and be a kid. One of my favorite scenes was Betsy learning that she could eat as much as she wanted. Previously in her old home she had only been allotted one small share of the quart of cream, but here she could have all she wanted. She was shocked and amazed that this was possible. The entire book is filled with stories like that, Betsy discovering how much more to life it was with her new family.
Even though this isn't a prairie story a la Little House, it still reminded me very much of that lifestyle. It's a simpler time that doesn't depend on gadgets or fancy do dads to get the story across. I was also reminded very much of Caddie Woodlawn with how the story was told with each chapter being a potential separate story. The only thing I thought a bit weird was that Betsy is never referred to as Betsy in the book, she's always called and mentioned as Elizabeth Ann.
I would recommend this book for middle grade girls who like stories about girls their age and the time period. It's a really good comfort read as well for adults.