MANKATO — With wide eyes and smiling faces, Christina Dudley and her two daughters stood on Betsy’s porch, absorbed their surroundings and asked questions as varied as the flavors in Betsy, Tacy and Tib’s everything pudding.
Looking down the street, they asked where Tib’s house is and where Mrs. Benson lived. Pointing up toward the “big hill,” also known as Sumner Hill, they asked about Prospect Heights. There were questions about the bench perched on the side of the hill and whether, if you climbed to the ridge above, you could really see Tinkomville, the James Avenue neighborhood called “Little Syria” in Lovelace’s Betsy and Tacy books.
Bob Brown had an answer for almost every question. The few he didn’t know were answered a short time later by his wife, Susan, after she checked a history book. The Browns met the Dudleys Monday morning and provided a private tour of the local Betsy-Tacy Society’s gems, the real-life homes of Maud Hart Lovelace, also known as Betsy, and Frances Kenney, Lovelace’s best childhood friend and the inspiration for Tacy.
“How many times do you get to go and stand inside a book?” Dudley said, explaining the tour had been well worth the trip from her home in Bellevue, Wash.
The Dudleys could have spent their spring break vacation on a crowded beach in California or Florida, standing in line at Disneyland or throwing the dice and hoping for nice weather at Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills. Christina Dudley opted, instead, for a trip to Deep Valley, the Mankato-influenced place Lovelace created for her Betsy and Tacy books.
Her suggestion for a literary trip received mixed reviews from her three children. Lucy, 9, loved the idea. Holly, 13, had to be bribed with a side trip to the Mall of America. Jackson, 11, said he had no interest in joining the rest of them on a “girl book” trip and stayed at home.