One of my favorite books growing up was Betsy's Playschool, by Carolyn Haywood. A few months back when we made a trip to Powell's, I thought I'd hunt for it. I made it to the H's and looked up Haywood and, to my surprise there were a lot of other books by Carolyn Haywood. I had no idea what she wrote or that we ever wrote anything other than Betsy's Playschool but I was delighted to make this personal discovery. (Some of you might just want to bean me over the head for my ignorance in this case!)
Unfortunately, I didn't find a copy of Betsy's Playschool but I did find out that there was a whole series of Betsy books that have recently been re-published and made available to modern readers. I'm delighted to know this because Haywood just feels like a classic. She's fresh and delightful and returns her readers back to the 1940's in a completely charming and believable way.
I may not have found my favorite title of Haywood's but I did snatch up some new friends, one of which is seven-year-old Mary Primrose Ramsay. This is the story of a young Merry who is being sent by her parents in England to live with some American relatives during World War II. It tells of her adventures and mishaps as she settles in to life in a new country while her father is off serving the King and her mother is also doing war-related work. To keep Merry safe, she is sent away. Merry ultimately does well with her new life in America but naturally she hits some bumps along the road. She "talks funny" and uses different vocabulary. That said, she does make friends and enjoys her relationship with her American aunt, uncle and cousin.
Although the cover art is modern, the illustrations inside are the originals by Carolyn Haywood. They have such a vintage feel to them and I LOVE it!
I adored this story and I'll be snatching up and scarfing down anything I can lay my hands on by Haywood. You know -- you have your American Girls collection which attempts to teach young girl's about life in America during different decades and various time periods. As I was reading about Merry, I couldn't help but think of Molly. The difference is that Merry is tried and true 1940's. Haywood was living and writing in the 1940's. There is a certain quality and life that her characters have that Molly doesn't quite capture. (Don't get me wrong. I like Molly. Very much, actually.) But if you want to "go to the source" and read a book about a girl who lived during 1940's, and you can find a simple and enjoyable story written during that decade, well....to me the choice is easy. I'll take Merry with all due respect to Molly!
If you find a Carolyn Haywood book - pick it up! Nothin' to regret!
Earmarked for ages 6-10
Entertaining for the thirty-somethings as well. ;)