Fisher, Dorothy Canfield. Understood Betsy. Illustrated by Kimberly Bulcken Root. Henry Holt, 1999. ISBN 0-805-06073-1. $17.95. 229 pp. * 3+ FI Reviewed by Donna J. Jorgensen When Elizabeth Ann was orphaned at six months of age, her Aunt Harriet and Aunt Francis took her in. Aunt Francis, in her great love and determination to give the child everything, hovered over her and showered her with sympathy.” The result was a thin little girl afraid of everything. Years later, when Aunt Harriet (really Francis’ mother) falls ill, Francis is forced to take her away for her health, and Elizabeth Ann goes to live with her Vermont cousins, though Aunt Francis dreads the idea. As soon as she arrives at the Vermont farm, Elizabeth, now Betsy, is given responsibilities and much love, and she blooms into a self-confident, caring young girl. In the end, Betsy comes to understand that Aunt Francis loves her, but she chooses to stay in Vermont. Although Understood Betsy was published in 1917, I had not previously read it a pity for me! The passage of a frightened little girl into a strong, confident child is believable and rewarding. The book has not lost any charm in 80-plus years. An introduction by Eden Ross Lipson tells how much she has loved the book, as have her daughter and granddaughter. At the end, an afterward explains the enthusiasm Fisher had for the Montessori method of child rearing and the evidence of that in her novel. This is a wonderful little book.”
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