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Understood Betsy

by Dorothy Canfield Fisher

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About Book

Anyone who fondly remembers how the fresh air of the moors puts a blush in the cheeks of sallow young Mary in The Secret Garden will love Dorothy Canfield Fisher's Understood Betsy just as much. First published in 1916, this engaging classic tells the tale of a thin, pale 9-year-old orphan named Elizabeth Ann who is whisked away from her city home and relocated to a Vermont farm where her cousins, the "dreaded Putneys," live. The Putneys are not as bad as her doting, high-strung Aunt Frances warns, however, and Elizabeth, who had been nurtured by her aunt like an overwatered sapling--positively blooms under their breezy, earthy care.

Elizabeth Ann's first victories are small ones--taking the reins from Uncle Harry, doing her own hair, making her own breakfast--but children will revel in the awakening independence and growing self-confidence of a girl who learns to think for herself... and even laugh. Along the way, "citified" readers of all ages will get a glimpse into the lives of people who are truly connected to the world around them--making butter ("We always bought ours," says Elizabeth Ann), experiencing the "rapt wonder that people in the past were really people," and understanding the difference between failing in school and failing at life. Fisher is a wise, personable storyteller, steeped in the Montessori principles of learning for its own sake, the value of process, and the importance of "indirect support" in child rearing. She also captures the tempestuous emotional life of a child as few authors can, crafting a story that children will find deeply satisfying. And in the end, readers will have grown as fond of the happier, stronger "Betsy" as the gentle, unassuming Putneys have.

Loving care was dolloped on this 1999 reissue of an old favorite--with sweet new pencil illustrations by Kimberly Bulcken Root, and an introduction and afterword by Eden Ross Lipson that offer a historical context for the book and its author. (Ages 8 to 12) --Karin Snelson

From Publishers Weekly
Fisher's beloved novel, first published in 1917, makes a smooth transition to audio in the latest from Chinaberry. Orphaned as a baby, nine-year-old Elizabeth Ann is taken in by her kindhearted great-aunt Harriet and cousin Frances, who aim to raise her in a loving, proper and cultured home in the early 1900s. Pale, thin, nervous Elizabeth Ann experiences a new kind of upheaval when Aunt Harriet becomes seriously ill. The situation requires that Elizabeth Ann be sent from her city home to "those horrid Putney cousins" (in Aunt Harriet's opinion) who live on a farm in Vermont. The change in scenery and attitude does Elizabeth Ann a world of good; in the country air where she is expected to do chores and where she can romp around and play with the animals, Elizabeth Ann becomes Betsy, a robust and happy girl. Her transformation is the heart of what remains a warm family tale, despite a few dated references. Reynolds gives a solid if sometimes precious-sounding performance, adopting a careful, pleasant storytelling tempo. Ages 6-11. (June)
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From AudioFile
This work is a series of vignettes from the tenth year of Betsy, a city girl who finds herself thrust into the household of her Vermont cousins at the turn of the last century. She finds country life strange at first. However, she grows to love her new family and home. Some may find the story and setting quaint, but as one hears how Betsy grows and bonds with her new family as they live and work together, many will rejoice in the young girl's spunk, initiative, and courage. Jeanne Reynolds has an experienced voice, which ably brings Betsy and her older cousins to life. Her performance is steady and deliberate; pronunciation and enunciation are exact and may seem almost slow in the narrative portions. Reynolds's characterizations are lively and display great expression. M.T.F. © AudioFile 2001, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine

Book Description

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.

Understood Betsy has delighted generations of young readers since it was first published by Henry Holt and Company in 1917. Kimberly Bulcken Root's charmingly detailed illustrations capture the winning spirit of this classic.



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