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Understood Betsy Hardcover – Oct 15 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (Oct. 15 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805060731
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805060737
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 13.2 x 2.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 363 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,106,058 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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First Sentence
WHEN THIS STORY begins, Elizabeth Ann, who is the heroine of it, was a little girl of nine, who lived with her Great-aunt Harriet in a medium-sized city in a medium-sized State in the middle of this country; and that's all you need to know about the place, for it's not the important thing in the story; and anyhow you know all about it because it was probably very much like the place you live in yourself. Read the first page
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By CanadianMother TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 11 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is purely delightful. I'm reading it to my 8-year old daughter and there have been many times when I had to stop reading because I was laughing so hard! The warm, friendly, conversational tone in which the book is written works so well combined with the lovely and oftentimes very funny story.

I can't recommend this book highly enough for mothers to read with their daughters. It will make you giggle, warm your hearts and give you lots to think about when it comes to things like parenting, education and growing up.

I would add that although Understood Betsy was written a long time ago, the language is by no means difficult like some books from that time period are. In fact it's quite easy to understand for young children because of the casual, conversational tone. Betsy is 9 years old, but any child from age 6 to 12 would probably love this book--and I am an adult, and I love it.

Definitely a new favourite!
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Format: Hardcover
We have a mother-daughter book club, and just yesterday, had our meeting to discuss Understood Betsy. Our girls range in age from 8 to 12, and I'm ever amazed at the wisdom and deep thought these girls put into their reading. Yesterday's meeting didn't disappoint.

Despite being an avid reader as a child (my biggest battle with our librarian was the six-book limit she enforced), I had never read Understood Betsy until last week. I spent one glorious afternoon on my bed reading and wiping away tears. My eight year old, who had already read it twice, wandered in and read me a chapter.

I fell in love with, and identified with, a number of the characters. Cousin Anne, the dour and capable one, who motivated Betsy to be resourceful and sensible. Poor Aunt Frances, shivery and frightened of life, yet longing to give Elizabeth Anne (later Betsy) the best that she could. And Betsy herself, so inept and weak at the outset, transformed to a strong, capable, humourous girl by the end. I cried as I cheered her on in her discovery of just how much she could accomplish, when surrounded by people who believed that she could. I loved the discussion that Betsy and Aunt Frances had towards the end of the book, when they each, simultaneously and gradually, break through the thicket of careful words to stand in the clearing and speak the truth.

At Club, we discussed the power of the spoken word, the danger of stereotypes, the pros and cons of being the older "helper" child vs. the younger "learning" child, what type of "personality" we had, and how we'd like to incorporate new strengths into our character. This book was a fantastic diving board into so many topics of discussion and learning.

We all recommend it highly.
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By A Customer on Feb. 23 2004
Format: Hardcover
I have never forgotten this book! I am 37 and I believe this to be my very first favorite book. Over the years I have thought of this book and its simple charm. I recently found an old box at my mothers and was thrilled to find this delightful book. I read it right away and find I still love it as much as when I was a child. I have a 9 year old daughter and we are reading it together. The story reminds you of a simpler time and of the way you would love to of been raised. Hooray for Understood Betsy...still one of my comforting favorites.
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Format: Hardcover
My mother bought this book for me since I was a very shy and reserved child. She is a teacher and wanted to help me overcome the shyness. We read this book together and as Elizabeth Ann became Betsy, I began to open up as well. The growth of this little girl is evident and you really want her to achieve things. She is so likable as well as the other characters in the book. Dorothy Canfield Fisher should be congratulated in this "growing up" kind of book. This is a must read for any girl, even the not so shy to understand what others go through. I can't wait to read it to my 4 year old and 11 month old girls! A real treasure of literature.
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By A Customer on March 20 2003
Format: Paperback
I give this book as gifts to adult friends that I really care about -they might never find it on their own since Understood Betsy is disguised as a children's book. It is really a book to guide us through adulthood and keep us ever mindful of how blindingly clear the right decision is and what we need to truly thrive.
Here's a teaser . . Cousin Ann's response to Betsy's (in her early days on the farm) whining about not doing well on a test should be tatooed on every pushy, entitled, wish-I-could-have-an-Ivy-League-decal-on-my-car parent.
I envy anyone who is about to begin this book . . ..
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By LZ-1 on March 6 2003
Format: Hardcover
I almost wrote "My Favorite Children's Book", but that would be misleading, because I can still read and enjoy it now. It doesn't condescend to children and appeals mainly to genuine emotions, not sentiment, so it really holds up over time.
The plot, briefly, is about a nine-year old orphan, Elizabeth Ann, who lives with her aunt and a cousin. When her aunt falls ill, Elizabeth Ann has to go live with some rural Vermont relatives, whom the rest of her family has never liked. At first Elizabeth Ann is afraid of them, too--they immediately shorten her name to Betsy--but she eventually overcomes her shyness and blossoms in the rural environment. She also learns to be much less nervous and uptight.
What really makes this book stand out are its digressions. The author, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, often informally addresses the reader: one chapter is called, "If You Don't Like Conversation in a Book, then Skip This Chapter!" The most insightful sequences show Betsy discovering that not all learning takes place in school; measuring butter with her aunt, she is astounded to discover that "an ounce" exists in real life. She thought it was only found in textbooks. But you have to read the book to see how well this is pulled off.
When I was a child I owned an edition with an afterward by Peggy Parrish, which pointed out how modern the book was for its time (it was published in 1917.) Indeed, the women and men share all the tasks, and Betsy is forbidden from nothing because of her gender. That makes this book a really excellent and inspiring gift for young girls, although its message of equality is never heavy-handed.
Occasionally there are sections that are too sentimental, and not really necessary to the story, but the rest is so good that this is easy to forgive. Conclusion: Buy it for a child, but read it for yourself first!
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