Our family really enjoys read-aloud time. We started reading long chapter books many years ago, and it has just become part of our nightly routine. I have struggled from time-to-time to try to pick appropriate, quality books, and often search the internet for suggestions. I have decided to make a conscious effort to write reviews of the books that we read as a family in case others are also looking for similar suggestions.
We just finished up a wonderful book called Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. I had been looking for this book because there is a humorous chapter from it in one of our A Beka readers. We always get such a laugh when we read that selection, that I figured that the whole book would be a good read-aloud choice. I was delighted when I found out that Understood Betsy is one of the books that can be downloaded onto Kindle for free at this link.
This book is about a girl who lives in the early 1900’s. Betsy had been raised by her aunt to be quite a spoiled, sheltered child who was completely self-centered. Because of her aunt’s illness, Betsy moves to another household where her life changes dramatically. She is not very impressed with her new home at first. She was appalled by the simple, country life of her new family, and had no idea how to do the simplest of household chores. As time goes on, however, Betsy learns that she can do many things that she didn’t think she could do, and that this simple life was actually fun. In the process, she gets her focus off of herself and onto loving and serving others. By the end of the book, Betsy’s life has completely transformed, and when given the opportunity to return to her spoiled ways, she chooses to remain in her simple, country home.
There was only one thing that kind of bothered me as we read this book, but it ended up resolving itself within a chapter or two. Betsy meets a boy who is raggedy and neglected. She and her friends come up with a plan to help this boy by trying to “fix him up” to be “desirable” in hopes that a man will adopt him. As an adoptive parent, this kind-of bothered me. I definitely did not want our adopted daughter to get the idea that we adopted her simply because she was “cute” and “fancy” enough. We openly discussed this issue and explained to all of our kids that every child is worthy of a loving home, no matter how “cute” or “homely” one is. What was interesting in Understood Betsy, however, is that even though Betsy and her friends did make nice clothes to “fix up” this boy, his step-father ruined the clothes. It wasn’t until the boy was back to his bedraggled self that he was adopted into a new home. I was pleased with that–it’s not outward appearance that makes one worthy.
Other than that, the book was very humorous and enjoyable. Many chapters had my kids laughing out loud. We especially enjoyed one of the final chapters in which Betsy and her Aunt are discussing her future. They both don’t want to hurt each others’ feelings, so they beat around the bush to an almost ridiculous degree! Isn’t that how things often go?! This book is very clean–something that is very much appreciated by the Prairie Family.