The Betsy-Tacy children’s books were written between 1940 and 1955 by Maud Hart Lovelace, a resident of Mankato, Minn., a small city located in a rural area of the state famed as much for the blue tint of its rich soil as for being home to some of the country’s most respected children’s educational publishers. The series of 13 books about two girls named Betsy and Tacy, who live in the 1900s in a town called Deep Valley, are a celebration of turn-of-the-century smalltown life, family traditions, and enduring friendships. The series has been beloved by generations of readers for more than 60 years.

This is the house in Mankato that Tacy would have lived in, that is, if she could walk out of the pages of the books and into our world. Actually, Tacy’s House is the real-life home of Lovelace’s best friend, Frances “Bick” Kenney. It stands across the street from Lovelace’s real-life home, Betsy’s House. Both houses have been restored to their original charm by the Betsy-Tacy Society, a nonprofit organization founded in 1990 to preserve the legacy of Lovelace and her writings, especially the Betsy-Tacy Books.

Since 1992, the Betsy-Tacy Society has gathered every three years to celebrate Lovelace’s life and work. This year’s convention marks the fifth time the members of the Betsy-Tacy Society have met in the real-life Deep Valley—Mankato. The 2009 Betsy-Tacy Convention, which drew just over 200 attendees, took place July 17—20. The highlight of this year’s convention—besides shopping for Betsy-Tacy swag, of course—was the keynote address on the convention’s final morning by another prolific author, beloved by today’s generation of girls: Meg Cabot (The Princess Diaries), who has been a huge fan of the Betsy-Tacy books since she first read them at age 30.

Cabot wrote the foreword to one of the three reissues of the Betsy Tacy high school books, which feature two novels in each volume and will be released on September 29 by HarperCollins. Cabot’s foreword appears in Betsy Was a Junior and Betsy and Joe.

Even though she'd had those problems with Delta Airlines and her luggage, Meg said she had a great time roadtripping to Mankato, declaring, “It was inspiring to attend an event with so many people who not only love books, but female-empowering books like the Betsy-Tacy books, and who've worked so hard to keep the memory of the author alive... even restoring her house with reader donations!”

All photos courtesy of Tracy van Straaten.