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Make A Cameo At The (Deep) Val Party

Our resident Besty-Tacy expert is back with a review of Carney's House Party and Winona's Pony Cart.

Make A Cameo At The (Deep) Val Party

Susie, our resident Betsy-Tacy expert, is back! You can read her review of the first four books here, books 5 and 6 here, book 7 and 8 here, and books 9 and 10 here.

BOOK REPORT for Carney's House Party and Winona's Pony Cart by Maud Hart Lovelace

Cover Story: Meh
BFF Status: Nay
Swoonworthy Scale: 3
Talky Talk: Disposable and Classic MLH
Bonus Factors: Special Features, The World Wide Web, Woman's College, New Adult
Antibonus Factors: Replacement Kitten Syndrome, Lazy Illustrations
Relationship Status: Reunion Run-In

Cover Story: Meh

Nothing really to say here. It's a picture from the book. I doubt the cover alone would make you pick the book up, but it's not heinous.

The Deal:

In Winona's Pony Cart, Winona Root wants a pony for her seventh birthday. Will she get one? (Spoiler alert: yep).

In Carney's House Party, Carney Sibley must make an important decision while hosting old and new friends for the summer in Deep Valley.

BFF Status: Nay

I've got nothing against Winona or Carney. They're swell girls. If it were just an FF charm minus the B, I'd hand it over in a second. But I already have a couple of amazing besties from Deep Valley.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

If it were published today, Winona's Pony Cart would be classified as an Early Reader. There’s no swoon anywhere near this book.

College age Carney is allowed romance, including a few scandalous premarital kisses. She is torn between Larry Humphrey, the boy she's been in love with since childhood but hasn't seen in six years, and Sam Hutchinson, a rich, easygoing guy she's just met, who might be a little more fun than stalwart Larry. Both boys have their virtues but neither beau brings the swoon of Joe Willard. Hence the low score.

Talky Talk: Disposable and Classic MLH

Pony Cart was written in 1953. It feels more like a contemporary of The Bobbsey Twins* than the original Betsy-Tacy books. The plot is straightforward and the prose is only a step or two up from "Run, Dick, run." While it had a few charming moments, it could have been written by any children’s author from that era.

House Party is more of a style with the later Betsy books. High praise.

"She realized suddenly that the rain had stopped. There was a delicious freshness in the air. And at that moment the heavy clouds overhead shifted. The moon came out, spreading the world with such light that it didn't really matter, after all, about the flashlight."

*Looks like The Bobbsey Twins predate Betsy-Tacy by about thirty years, but my parents stocked our bookshelves with a second hand collection of them, along with Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. All written in the Fifties and containing as much depth as a puddle.

Bonus Factor: Special Features

Both books take place in the gaps between the original series. Pony Cart comes between 1 and 2. House Party between 8 and 9. Neither are Betsy stories, but she appears in both. It feels like the short films you sometimes find on Pixar or Marvel DVDs that exist on the fringes of the main story.

Bonus Factor: The World Wide Web

I originally read these books in the dark times before the internet. It's a totally new experience to hit up Wikipedia and find pictures of Carrie Nation, the king of Spain, and Merry Widow hats. I even found a recording on YouTube of Chauncey Alcott singing "My Wild Irish Rose."**

**Sadly, some things are best left to the imagination.

Bonus Factor: Woman's College

Carney goes to Vassar. Dude, women's colleges in the early twentieth century sound kind of awesome. There's nightly sing alongs and piano classes in the old stables and the Vassar Daisy Chain. Sign me up—oh wait, corsets. Never mind.

Bonus Factor: New Adult

Carney's House Party was New Adult*** sixty years before the genre existed. It's all about taking that next step into adulthood.

***Okay, minus the smutt factor.

Antibonus Factor: Replacement Kitten Syndrome

I'd read Winona's Pony Cart about ten years ago, but I had no memory of it. Going in this time, I was expecting something along the lines of the first two Betsy-Tacy books. Unfortunately it didn't hold up. Lovelace wrote those books in the thirties and this one in the fifties. The market had changed. Those books were told a a series of vignettes that stretched over a period of months. Pony Cart follows perhaps a week in Winona's life. And though an attempt is made at giving Winona a personality, she never felt as fleshed out and distinct as Betsy, Tacy, or Tib. While I wouldn't call those early books complex, they’re A Song of Ice and Fire compared to Pony Cart.

So it was like getting a kitten when you're young, and loving that adorable, energetic little furball. Years pass, you both grow up. Maybe it loses some it's vigor as it matures, but it doesn't matter, it's your cat. And now it's even more cuddly, and less likely to warp the vertical blinds. Win-win. And then it dies. And you get another kitten. And it's cute, and energetic, and the most annoying thing in the world! And why won't it stop meowing at the wall? There's nothing there for Christ sake! It's not a bad cat really, but it's not your cat.

Antibonus Factor: Lazy Illustrations

I've always loved Vera Neville's illustrations, but something felt off about the ones in House Party. Like the inker used too thick a line. Some of the detail was lost. But worse than that, Carney is never shown with glasses. It's her primary physical trait.

Casting Call:

As I discovered when trying to cast the first for books, googling child actors is difficult and creepy. So instead I'll cast the Winona we get to know as part of Betsy's high school crowd.

Oona Chaplin as Winona

Leighton Meester in Glasses as Carney

It's really hard to find a female celebrity who wears glasses in public. Tina Fey being a rare exception. I honestly don't get why more celebs won't cop to not having 20/20 vision. Super attractive people look super adorable in glasses. It's a fact. Casting Leighton also lets me cast Blake Lively as Isabel, Carney's rich, blonde, narcissistic, Vassar roommate.

Rich Sommer as Sam

Sam is a jovial guy, who doesn't put a lot of effort into appearance. And is described as a little husky. Male actors tend to fall into two categories, super buff hunks or Kevin James. I don't think Rich fits the description perfectly, but I've always liked him, even if Harry Crane has turned into an asshole lately.

Relationship Status: Reunion Run-In

"Hey, remember when...?"
"Totally! And when...?"
"The best!"
"Hey, is that Betsy? I've got a ton to catch her up on. Great seeing you again!"

FTC Full Disclosure: I purchased my own copy of this book ages ago. I received neither cocktails nor money for this review.