Book Club, Girls’ Edition: “Understood Betsy”

 
Understood Betsy
 
When I was a little girl my grandmother gave me a copy of “Understood Betsy” by Dorothy Canfield Fisher.  As winter approached and we began to make plans for our January book club, I knew this was the perfect choice.
 
Understood Betsy is the story of Elizabeth Ann, a young girl who is being raised by her maiden aunts – at least, she was until one of the aunts takes sick and needs to go to a warmer climate to recover.  Elizabeth Ann is sent to live with other relatives nearby, and when their circumstances change, as well, she is shipped off via train to live with those Putney cousins in Vermont.  On this mountainous Vermont farm, Elizabeth Ann begins to think for herself – and has all sorts of adventures.
 
Undestood Betsy is a fantastic story – one you’ll want to read again and again.  We had a great time celebrating this book Betsy-style – and we hope you will, too.   
 
 
After talking about the book, we built a fire with a flint and steel.  Since there was a polar vortex happening outside our Southern home, this was quite appropriate, and we appreciated the warmth of the fire.  It made our meeting extra special to be cozied up to the fireplace!
 
 
 Next we made butter from cream.  None of the other girls had done this before, and they quickly got tired of shaking the jar. 

 



They appreciated the finished product, though, and enjoyed squeezing out the buttermilk like Betsy did, although they didn’t like the taste of the buttermilk!

Since we weren’t sugaring, and it wasn’t snowing, there wasn’t an easy way to recreate Betsy’s waxing of the maple syrup in the snow.  I did learn a few things about New England and maple syrup from visiting my grandmother as a kid, though, and so we churned our own vanilla ice cream.  While the churn was going, we did a blind taste test of real maple syrup and a fast food restaurant’s syrup.  (The real stuff was identified by nearly every child by appearance alone, and every single one choose it in the taste test.)  After our ice cream was ready, we topped it with maple syrup, New England-style, and headed back to the fire for our snack.




In the book, Betsy and her friends make a new outfit for a little boy in the hopes of helping him get adopted.  While we’ve taking on several simple sewing projects, I opted not to try to make pants.  Instead, we knotted scarves for a scarf mission in Scituate, Massachusetts.

When each girl finished making her scarf, she decorated a simple card to go with it.  They were really creative with these!


We had a great time celebrating Understood Betsy style, and we really packed a lot into the few hours that we had.  This is the perfect winter book – and since it takes place about a hundred years ago, there are many skills to practice throughout the reading.

Have you read Understood Betsy?

What are your thoughts?

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